Sat, May 10, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch:Please hand(some) me the sick bag

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

A few readers have written to me expressing doubts about what I said I might have been up to during my recent sabbatical, especially as there were a number of untrue media reports regarding my whereabouts.

One scurrilous piece from the Chicom state media even alleged that I was attending a Dalai Lama-al-Qaeda “terrorist training camp” in Dharamsala, and while I can confirm I did spend some time in northern India, it was to get some richly deserved spiritual R&R rather than attend Olympic Flame Extinguishing 101.

I was not, as has also been rumored, shuttling between Taiwan and Lapland with suitcases of money trying to establish diplomatic relations. Besides, everyone knows that Beijing already has Santa wrapped around its little finger. The elves’ jobs were offshored a long time ago.

Seriously, I was just taking a break. However, I did manage to keep one eye on global goings-on while relaxing in my solitary retreat in the Himalayas (I am still a journalist, after all). And it is a good thing that I did, because I could keep my eye on the reams of rubbish written about my beloved country and head honcho-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) following the presidential election.

As most of you are aware, anyone who spends time in India is sooner or later likely to be struck down with a stomach affliction of some kind. But it wasn’t the Delhi belly or the Karachi crouch that had me praying to the porcelain god. No, it was a single piece of Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) dross that had me giving my esophagus a vertical shake-up faster than any viral vindaloo ever could.

This piece stood out like a tall, blond foreigner at a night market. Entitled “Taiwan says its next leader world’s most handsome,” it reared its ugly head sometime around April 15.

With a title like that, and the personality cult construction that has been going on in the local media since March 22, I had some idea of what to expect. But the intensity of the brown-nosing in this piece would have been enough to make even Peanutissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) blush.

“Finally, we have a president who is good-looking and speaks fluent English,” DPA quoted Li Ping, a retired professor, as saying — as if these were the most important qualities for a president. “He will be a good representative of the Taiwan people on the international stage.”

Now I don’t know what Professor Li taught during his academic career, but it most certainly wasn’t international relations. Is he not aware that, once inaugurated, Ma will be about as welcome on the international stage as Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) at a Suffragettes convention?

“I bet he is the world’s most handsome president,” gushed Liu Yi-hsue, a Taipei schoolteacher, before qualifying it with “at least among Asian presidents.”

Why the sudden change of heart, Ms Liu? Either Ma is the most handsome politico in the universe, or he is just some average-looking Joe that nobody outside of Asia has ever heard of. Or do you think he’s devilishly handsome because that’s what you’ve been told to think by the media for the last 20 years?

But it gets worse, as later we learn that the young Ma quickly outgrew the moniker “Fat Ma” — his nickname from elementary school days — to develop “an athletic build, a chiseled face, dark hair and white teeth.”

Chiseled by whom exactly? His friendly neighborhood “visually challenged” masseuse? And how many people have teeth of a color other than white?

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