Picture the scene. A banker,
reluctant to give out a large cash loan to a desperate man, asks:
"But do you have any valuable assets to offer as collateral?" The
applicant points to his upper lip, saying: "Yes. My moustache."
"Don't be ridiculous," says the banker. But no. That's not what
happens. This is Planet Earth, Weirdest Place in the Galaxy. So
what ACTUALLY happened was that the banker said: "That'll do
nicely," and handed over the money. True story.
In the Arab Emirates, male facial hair is being used as collateral
for loans, I hear from a reporter researching facial hair. One of
the most feared punishments for wrongdoing in that region is moustachectomy, which is the forced shaving of the upper lip, a
traumatic experience which victims liken to castration, although I
don't suppose many of them have actually been castrated, not more
than once, anyway.
Facial hair is in, in a big way. Thousands of people in India
joined in the Australian tradition of turning November into
Movember, or "grow-a-moustache" month, and almost all were men.
That's one of several problems with this trend. First, many women
find it extremely hard to grow moustaches, so it's only a matter
of time before all female Earthlings take
out a class action against the organisers for trillions of bucks.
Second, baldies (like the present writer) cannot grow moustaches
as it makes us look like gay guys from the 1970s, not a good look.
Third, many men (and women) in China cannot grow moustaches at
all, because Chinese people are more highly evolved than regular
humans, or so a friend from Shanghai tells me. I was about to tell
him he was talking rubbish, but held back, in case he wasn't. I
know for a fact that Chinese WOMEN have weird superhuman powers,
having encountered them regularly.
The Shanghai gentleman said it takes him a year to grow a
moustache, and even then it is so sparse that it looks like a
long, thin, flat spider perched on his lip.
Poor him. Moustaches boost male confidence, psychologists say. In
parts of India, police officers have even been given government
grants for moustache cultivation. (Not sure what they spend the
money on, perhaps that Gro-Fast fertiliser you get in gardening
The following day I saw a report on the BBC that Turkish doctors
are offering moustache implants for men (or presumably, eccentric
women) who feel their upper lips are too naked. Simply book
yourself into an Istanbul hospital and come out with a thick,
luxurious Lech Walesa-style growth which curtains your whole
mouth, filtering out bugs, acid rain, particulate matter, etc.
Anti-sexism campaigners are calling for the immediate arrest of
everyone on Earth. This is because pretty much every country is
littered with "Men Working" signs, which are blatantly sexist,
according to Esther Leung and Anya Das, two feminist readers.
They were inspired to protest after reading that anti-sexists at a
US college recently demanded the removal of Men Working signs at a
construction site (although one report said that after they were
removed, several people fell into holes).
But what should the signs be changed to? "Men AND Women Working"
is fine in Asia, but is inaccurate in the West, where buildings
are erected by guys only. "Construction Persons Working" is
"Illegal Immigrants Working" would be more honest for many places.
One reader said the ladyboy district of Bangkok and most of San
Francisco should have signs with extra quotation marks: "Men"
Working. Having seen the astonishingly low level of activity at
building sites around Asia, I would move the quotation marks along
a bit, making it: Men "Working".
One reader, whom I will not name because he will (and should) have
his house burned down, said we could simply balance out all the
Men Working signs around the world by placing "Women Working"
signs in every kitchen. Careful.
A reader from Delhi pointed out that the word "man" comes from the
Sanskrit word "manu" which means "human being", so we should
"simply use the original term". Okay in principle, but "Manu
Working" looks weird to me, especially since the only guy I know
called Manu has a severe allergy to working, thinking, lifting a
finger, or indeed any activity which involves using more than a
single calorie of energy.
Reader Ann Teoh tells me there's uproar at hairdressing salons in
Kelantan, Malaysia. Prudish officials have made it illegal for
hairdressers of one sex to give haircuts to customers of another,
indicating that doing so is equivalent to having sex. Officials:
just try it. You are going to be SO disappointed.
If traffic jams keep growing at present rates, key highways in
Asia will be permanently gridlocked, greenies say. People will
have to abandon vehicles and go back to walking and cycling, which
would be a good thing.
It is already happening, campaigner Elly Sung told me. I believe
it. This columnist visited Bangkok recently, and the drive from
the airport to town took so long that I pretty much had to turn
around straight way to head back to the airport.
Last week during a traffic jam in Russia, drivers took 24 hours to
move one kilometre. This is extremely slow, comparable to the
speed of a snail crossing a desert or a Greek businessman paying a
tax bill. In China, a single traffic gridlock on the Beijing-Tibet
road lasted NINE DAYS, and one on the Mongolia-Beijing road in
Hebei lasted ELEVEN DAYS. Picture the scene: HUSBAND: "Bye, honey,
I'm just popping out to the shop to buy some milk." WIFE: "Okay.
See you in a month!"
"But for the gridlock plan to work, we need governments to
encourage reckless amounts of car production," said Elly.
"Luckily, almost every government in Asia is co-operating."
The Russian government just put out an official message that
citizens will NOT die from the so-called Mayan "end of the world"
prediction on December 21. Phew. Russian citizens can get back to
their normal pastimes, i.e., dying from alcoholism, snow storms
and gun violence.
When Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway visited a friend's baby
twins at the hospital in New Delhi recently, staff assumed she was
a domestic helper, the media said. This is ridiculous. We're
talking about one of the most important, most challenging, most
respected roles in the world. Being a domestic helper is tough: no
mere princess could manage it.
Talking of royals, friends of the UK's Princess Kate say she may
name her baby after where it was conceived - which means it will
have an Asian name. King Malaysia? Queen Singapore? Good thing
they didn't stop in Hong Kong. The kid would have ended up as King
Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveler. Send comments
and ideas via www.mrjam.org