Sunday, August 17, 2008

with pimples and wrinkles

Hhmm... I once read that we ladies should not spend our money on clothes and accessories, but... on face creams and skin treatments! BTW, I like Michael Phelps' dimples... ^___________^ ________________________ The Straits Times 17 August 2008 [THE EX-PAT FILES] 'Face' is such a big deal in Asia Andrew Raven She won the hearts of the millions who watched the opening of the Beijing Olympics with a stirring version of a revolutionary ballad. But it turns out the preternaturally adorable Lin Miaoke was little more than the eye candy for the most expensive karaoke session the planet has ever seen. While the nine-year-old was being lauded for her pitch-perfect rendition of the Ode To The Motherland, an organiser revealed the voice behind the song actually belonged to another girl. She had ben yanked from the lavish opening ceremony at the 11th hour. The reason: A top-ranking Communist Party official reportedly thought her chubby cheeks and crooked teeth presented the wrong image of China. "The audience will understand that it's in the national interest." the show's musical director told a Beijing radio station. This is the most recent in a slew of almost comical steps China has taken to burnish its image during the Games. The episode is also another reminder for me of the intense Asian reverence for face. While I've been in the region for two years now, I'm still sometimes amazed at the hoops states will jump through to present a sterling image to the world. That's not to say that Western countries are not guilty of similar things. In the lead-up to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the United States, the police rounded up thousands of the city's homeless and bundled them off to jail. But with these Games, China has taken the image concept to a whole new level. It has closed factories in Beijing and banned half the capital's cars from the roads in a bid to cut down on air pollution. It has banished migrant workers, who are prone to the pesky habit of demonstrating. It has created so-called protest parks where people are theoreticaly allowed to vent their frustrations. (So far, no one has been granted the required permits to do so.) And last week, officials revealed that the spectacular firework footprints that wowed television audiences during the opening ceremony were largely fake. When I was working in Vietnam, I also noticed this intense drive to keep face. While the country is fast modernising, its politics are still shady, its legal system often borders on laughable and its press is largely muzzled. The result of all that is criticism from Western politicians and consistently low rankings on international human rights reports. And, like clockwork, each perceived slight is followed by an extensive rebuttal from the government in newspapers, on television and over the radio. State press once called a US congresswoman who criticised the arrest of dissidents an "arrogant" colonialists bent on no less than destabilising the country. It's an interesting experience to see the apparatus of government take such umbrage at criticism. In the West, leaders are used to being battered in the media and most barely bat an eyelid. The irony is that the effort to keep face often backfires -- and belies a deep insecurity. In the wake of China's anthem fiasco, the country's critics are having a field day. The nation's blogosphere also errupted, with many taking the government to task. Predictably, the Party wiped the Web clean of the news stories and Internet posts relating to the singer swop. The chatter was not the kind of thing Western governments, less obsessed with face and less paranoid about insurrection, would waste their time on. They were the geo-political equivalent of the annoying "popping" sound my younger sister used to make with her lips during family road trips decades ago. "Oh just ignore her," my mum would say. "She's not even touching you." The writer, born in Canada, is a copy editor with The Straits Times. He has been living in Singapore for 10 months.


Teguh Santoso said...

Hi, Elizabeth,
So you're now in Singapore,
a pretty wonderful place to do
nip/tuck sessions to make up your face, eh, as your article touched
down the issue?

Thought you were a colleague in Bandung.
Sorry, how's life going on then?

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