Plastic surgeons in Turkey and France told CNN in November that mustache implants have suddenly surged in popularity as Middle Eastern men use their increased lip bushiness to convey power and prestige. Surgeons extract follicles from hairier parts of the body in procedures that cost the equivalent of around $7,000 and show full results in about six months. An anthropology professor told CNN that, by tradition in Arab countries, a man of honor would “swear on my mustache,” use mustaches as collateral for loans, shave off a vanquished foe’s mustache as a reward and gravely insult enemies with “Curse be upon your mustache!”
At the religious festival of Pon, thousands of Muslims travel to Gunung Kemukus, on Indonesia’s main island of Java, to have the required sexual intercourse with a stranger. The experience, which supposedly brings good fortune, has become heavily commercialized, but nevertheless, about half the participants are “pure,” in that no money changes hands. More than a quick tryst is involved, according to an October Global Mail dispatch. The pilgrims must first pray, then bathe themselves, then select their proper stranger, then bathe themselves afterward (carefully saving the water for later re-use), and finally return seven times at 35-day intervals to refresh their ritual.
THIS WEEK IN LIQUORED UP ANIMALS
For centuries, some residents of India’s Madhya Pradesh state have allowed themselves to be trampled by garishly dressed animals in periodic attempts to have their prayers answered. The November “Ekadashi” (the 11th day of certain months of the Hindu calendar) this year began with prayers, followed by the liquoring up of the animals (cows in Ujjain and buffaloes in Bhopal, for example) to “remove their inhibitions,” according to a WebIndia123 report. Even so, according to local press reports, hardly anyone ever gets hurt.
THINGS PEOPLE BELIEVE
Personalities are heavily influenced by blood types, according to the Japanese. People with Type A blood are thought to be “sensitive perfectionists and good team players, but over-anxious,” according to a November BBC News dispatch, while O’s are “curious and generous but stubborn.” Some industries market blood-type-specific products ranging from soft drinks to condoms. And names given by their parents heavily influence a person’s fortunes in life, according to many Thais, but that means relief from misery is just an official name-change away, according to a November Wall Street Journal dispatch from Bangkok. Services-for-fee are available to help find prosperous names, with one smartphone application suggesting five for the equivalent of about $10.
SAUDIS REMAIN FREEDOM-CHALLENGED
In September, officials in Jeddah detained 908 female Nigerian visitors who were not accompanied by appropriate male guardians as required for all females in the kingdom under age 45. (Women older than that are allowed merely to carry notarized permission slips from husbands, sons or brothers.) That the Nigerians were in the country only to make the required Muslim Hajj pilgrimage did not deter Saudi authorities. And Saudi immigration officials in November began a text-messaging service to notify husbands if a woman attempts to leave the country (at an airport or across a border) without the official “yellow sheet” authorizing her departure.
MEETING CHOPSTICK DEMAND
Japanese and Chinese traditions absolutely reject the idea of reusing wooden chopsticks, and for many years Japan’s (and then, China’s) forests easily met chopstick demand. But Japan requires 23 billion pairs a year, and China 63 billion, which the wood industry (even China’s) eventually could not provide. In 2011, Korean-born Jae Lee built a factory in Americus, Ga., near forests of poplar and sweet gum trees that proved the ideal combination of softness and hardness for the sticks. In 2011 and early 2012, he supplied Japanese, Chinese and Koreans with 20 million pairs of “Made in U.S.A.” chopsticks every week. (In June, Georgia Chopsticks LLC was inexplicably closed by court order, even though its sales had remained brisk.)
QUESTIONABLE PRODUCT LAUNCHES
The Demeter Fragrance Library (maker of such “classic” scents as “Dirt,” “Crayon” and “Laundromat”) has added to its line with “Sushi” cologne, reported the website FoodBeast.com in November. Fortunately, the scent is not that of raw fish, but “cooked sticky rice,” seaweed, ginger and lemon essences. And a company called Beverly Hills Caviar recently installed three vending machines in the Los Angeles area that sell nothing but varieties of caviar, ranging from pink mother of pearl ($4) to Imperial River Beluga ($500 an ounce).