Monday, February 23, 2009


Oscars tonight. I'm sure it wasn't at all bad. Jackman is said to have been good. Well, all things "Jack"... (Git it?!?) Slumdog something or other won some stuff. Good. Best song. Really swings. Them Indians isn't just good at math. Hope that doesn't make me sound like I'm not with it. I'm happenin. Sorry if I don't hang with your rap music. Just not my thing, dude. Now can you just drop it?

So. India. On the ascent. Good. I like India. It's not actually a country. It's an empire. What, well over 20 languages? That's not a country. The Raj unified it, and the locals done okay by it. Well, there's that Pakistan thing, East and West, but there's some influence at work other than purely Indian, in those benighted lands. I know an Indian guy. I made some reference to its independence, and he rattled off the day and time it happened. Patriotism, you see. Our first Fourth of July was a Thursday. I didn't want to get political. It's his country slash empire, after all -- but there would be no India, without the Brits. They got rid of the Thuggee cult. They stopped sati. Call me an imperialist, but I think it's a good thing. Sadly, every culture has to retain some backwardness -- perfection being an obnoxious quality. It's why I'm not popular. Ironic. Jealousy, is what it is.

Speaking of which: "Everybody wants to look really good," says Manish Shah, a distributor for a beauty product popular in India. "There's a lot of interest in this product and quite simply it makes people look really good." My word. I'm quite a handsome man, but even the lily might use some gilt. What is this wonderful product? Does it really work? What does it do, and where can I get some?

The product is F&H, and yes, it really works. It will make you handsome. Or in my case, even handsomer, if such a thing is actually possible. And how does it work? Does it make one's face more symmetrical? Even out blotches? Make one's nose smaller? Spackle in old acne scars?

Well, it doesn't make your eyes blue, which is the best color for eyes, and it doesn't make your hair blond, which everyone knows is the best color for hair. It doesn't make you tall, or even taller, which is obviously highly correlated with masculine beauty, and is the best thing to be. No, great though all of these things are, F&H does something even better.

It makes your skin ... lighter.


Fair & Handsome.

It does a quarter billion dollars' sales, in India.

"If people have an inferiority complex because of their skin colour," says Shah, "then this product will really help. It does what it says. It makes you fair and handsome."

There's a TV ad for F&H starring Shahrukh Khan, Bollywood’s biggest star. Biggest star in the world. Three point something billion fans. Tom Cruise plus. You wouldn't understand.


I saw the ad and had no words. Only sensation. I once tried to imagine what it would be like to be such and such a person. At that moment I was transported into an altered state, and saw the world as he might have seen it. It was a frightening experience. I haven't dared do it since. I once sat as a lad in a high school classroom listening to a conversation about abortion, and then in my mind's eye I saw an abortion, from inside the womb. That's why I am pro-life. Empathy. It is a curse.

I am tall and fair and blue-eyed. I like that, because it is what I'm used to. I think it is a fine thing to be. If I were short and dark I would like to think I'd be pleased with that, too.

That's me, preaching.

It just seems a betrayal of parents, and of ancestors, and yes, if you insist, of race, to use chemicals to lighten your skin. But that's just me. It may be that my empathy is insufficient to this challenge. But you don't understand me, either.

"Taking offense at the products is 'a very Western way of looking at the world,' said Ashok Venkatramani, who is in charge of the skin care category at Unilever’s Indian unit, Hindustan Lever. 'The definition of beauty in the Western world is linked to anti-aging,' he said. 'In Asia, it’s all about being two shades lighter.'"

It might even be true.

On the other hand, Shahrukh Kahn? He's Moslem. There's hope, then. Dude rocks. For reals.

He looks a little pale, though. Hope he's feeling well.


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