Saturday, August 16, 2008


As usual, I interrupt the weekday nostalgia programming for the weekend present-day stuff..

If you've been keeping up with the Olympics you've probably heard about the Milli Vanilli switcheroo that took place at the opening ceremonies, at which 7-year-old Yang Pelyl provided the vocals for "Ode to the Motherland" but stood backstage while 9-year-old Lin Miaoke lip synched them in front of the stadium crowd.

The sleight of voice was done because Pelyl had the better voice but Miaoke had the better looks.

Worldly and connected foreign visitors to the games were told by their trusted Chinese confidantes in-the-know, Psst, what you're looking at is a counterfeit but if you come with me up these stairs, I've got the real thing for you.

Put these two in a beauty contest and Miaoke would probably be considered the better looking of the two, but to me, Pelyl looks more her age than her counterpart. And there's certainly nothing wrong with Pelyl; she's a cute seven year old.

Are kids expected to look perfect? That got me thinking about the Korean dramas that are so popular these days, that yes, I admit I watch. So many of the women in these dramas are gorgeous. Not a flaw to be seen. But are they for real? Tales abound of rampant plastic surgery.

When the station switches to clips or shows that feature the general population of South Korea, the everyday women you see on the streets look nothing like the glamour girls in the dramas.

There's certainly nothing wrong with using makeup judiciously because people want to look their best but when appearance becomes all important, when it's all form over substance, then it has gone too far.

I think I'm normal when I say I like to check out the opposite sex when I'm at the store or eating out or wherever, and I appreciate a pretty face or nice figure as much as the next guy. But under normal circumstances where people are just themselves, we're all just normal people.

I'm a perfect example - Among various flaws, I've got one eyebrow that is higher than another, something that is made even worse because my uneven brows make my spectacles appear lopsided. The woman who cuts my hair helps me out by trimming the top of the higher one (something I never thought of doing and I guess it never occurred to my previous barbers) so it is less noticeable now, although my latest inspection revealed it's time for another trim. Before Julie and I got married we went to one of those Chinese wedding parlors where they put makeup on both of us before taking pictures. You look at our wedding pictures and we are two different people in there, not the everyday Julie and Rickie.

Another example: Not long after we had started dating, I went over Amy's house and there was something different about her. I kept looking at her and I just couldn't put my finger on it but something was not the same. She knew I was inspecting her and finally she asked what was the matter.

"You look... uh, different, today."

"Like how?" She asked.

"I don't know." I kept studying her. "You look more, um, sort of faded? I don't know how to explain it."

Then she started laughing. Her sister Grace was there and she was cracking up as well. "I'm not wearing mascara today. No eye makeup."

"Oh," I said. I couldn't believe it would make that much difference but now that I knew, I could see the effect. I had gotten so used to seeing her with makeup that she looked odd sans makeup, but I quickly got used to it and it made no difference to me. Amy was Amy.

What both cracks me up and horrifies me is when I see younger girls who are just getting started putting on makeup. They promote the Dracula look until someone gives them a clue to lighten up. Of course, excess application is not exclusively the domain of the young; once I worked with a woman who had a severe case of raccoonitis. She came to work like that every day so I know she wasn't auditioning for the part of the McDonald's Hamburglar.

So what am I trying to get at through all this rambling? That, like the old Temptations song, beauty is only skin deep. We are what we are underneath and that's what sticks; and often, as in the case of the Olympics, it is sad that people feel the need to put on another face (or voice), as it were.

My last example, and also a rant: I loved Disney's Beauty and Beast. Up until the end, that is, an end in which the Beast is transformed from his beastly appearance into a "handsome" prince. All throughout the movie we get to know and love the Beast but in the end, flesh is replaced by plastic and Disney tells us that's the happily-ever-after ending. I just thought that was totally wrong. I mean, Shrek is Shrek and the Beast is the Beast. But, I must also remember Disney is Disney. Would the opening ceremonies have been different had they produced them?

I love this scene:

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