Latest Religious Messages
-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.
-According to testimony in Perth, Australia, in November, one retired priest, Thomas Byrne, 80, bit off the ear of another, Thomas Smith, 81, in a brawl over a parking space. Father Byrne and Father Smith are residents of the same retirement home in the Perth suburb of Dianella.
-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: (1) 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. (2) 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: (1) 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. (2) 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.
-Update: 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.)
-Police were seeking a 6-foot-3 man concerning an attempted child-abduction in November after a father intervened as the man led the father's 2-year-old daughter toward an exit of the Fashion Square mall in Charlottesville, Va. The father alerted Fashion Square's security, and the cops took the man into “custody,” which turned out to mean escorting him off the property and warning him not to return (catch and release?).
-Questionable Product Launches: (1) 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. (2) 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).
“In beautiful La Jolla Cove,” wrote The New York Times in November, describing the cliffside-vista community near San Diego, “art galleries and coffee shops meet a stretch of unspoiled cliffs and Pacific Ocean” -- unspoiled, that is, until recently, when seagulls took over. Now, because of California's showcase environmental regulations, use of the cove has been restricted, and cleaning the bird droppings from the land is subject to a permit-application process that might take two years. Some residents profess not to mind (“Smells just like the ocean,” said one, “but maybe a little 'heightened'“) while others are appalled (“As soon as we pulled up, it was like, this is awful”). Even though the smell grows “more acrid by the day,” according to the Times, residents' and visitors' only short-term hope is for cleansing by the traditional winter rains (which, fortunately, do not require California permits).
People Different From Us
Update: There was no one more different from us than Dennis Avner, last reported here in 2005. Having transformed his body through surgery, tattoos and implants, he had almost completely adopted the persona of a cat (“Stalking Cat,” as he was known in the body-modification community). Mr. Avner had tiger-stripe tattoos covering most of his body, dental implants sharpened to points to resemble tiger teeth, and metal-stud implants around his mouth to hold his long, plastic whiskers. Ear and lip surgery had made his head more catlike, and special contact lenses made his eyes appear as ovals. Mr. Avner passed away in Las Vegas in November at the age of 54, reportedly of suicide.
Least Competent Criminals
Rookie Mistake: Joseph O'Callaghan, 31, was sentenced to nine years in prison by a court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in November for having robbed an armored-car guard in 2011. He had made off with the guard's cashbox, but since he had accosted the guard on his way into Northern Bank, and not on his way out, the box contained no money.
(1) For two months, up to Nov. 20, the water company serving Johnville, Quebec, had left standing a utility pole even after the Quebec highway department had rebuilt Highway 251 to a location that left the pole squarely in the middle of the new two-lane street (which thus became a popular sight for fans of incompetence). Fortunately, during the two months, no accidents around the pole were reported. (2) A 35-year-old man was shot to death in Wilkinsburg, Pa., in September when he took a break from a game of dominoes on a second-floor balcony around 11 p.m. and urinated over the rail. Unfortunately, an unidentified man was walking below. He yelled, “Yo! Yo!” and fired several gunshots, killing the urinator.