Archive for August, 2008

the power of scent

Most of my friends know how much I am in love with the book Perfume, the story of a man who has a genius sense of smell but no scent of his own. He devotes his entire life to creating the perfect fragrance for himself–only to see the irony that only he, the creator, is unaffected by it. He tries to love himself by getting a scent that had also enthralled him, but he felt nothing while others were swooning over him.

I feel like I’m going a bit tangent from the point of the book when I’m talking about scent itself, but it interests me how powerful scent can be. Scent is inescapable. You can look away from something but you can’t block its smell that easily. In a world that humans perceive mainly through vision, scent could be seen as the more subconscious entity. Something that people have less control over.

In Tom and Jerry, or any other cartoon in fact, the characters are dragged by the smell of food. It makes then stop and drop whatever they are doing, and seduces them into following wherever this thin trail of something goes.

In today’s world, we have aromatherapy. According to this science, smell can control how you feel–something that even I can’t take care of by myself. It has also been said that what you smell is most directly connected to your memory, and that smell is even a way for people to find partners. All these jobs that I can count for the sense of scent, something that is easily ignored and thought of as insignificant, is amazing.

I usually need to feel like I’m in control of myself, but I am a serious sucker for scents. Whenever I’m hanging out I have to drag whoever I’m with into the Body Shop. When I was in the airport after BEIMUN last year, I spent my whole time sniffing around in the perfume department; I felt bad for being in there for so long that I bought a Calvin Klein. And it smells SO GOOOOD.

Maybe I like scents so much because it feels like a simple happiness and not something extravagantly gaudy–which can’t really be established in any other way that the visual sense. Maybe it makes me proud that I’m overcoming a sense that is so dominant in my life and prioritizing another sense over it.

Either way, I LOVE SMELL. I would raid Bath and Body Works if it opens in Korea…arggg come here already…

A few examples of Bath & Body’s wonders:

something special that found its way into my purse! i get really happy when I'm opening my purse because of this.

This thing makes me REALLY happy whenenver I open my purse 🙂

my all-time favorite!

this feels like



this little treasure feels like:

Maybe scents are so powerful because they connect with your memory, and let you relive moments in life that you love. Or hate.

One of the most thoughtful presents would be something that has a scent that lets you remember a memory you cherish.


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At what age should children get their first cellphone, laptop or virtual persona?


I got my first cellphone when I was in 4th grade, but I would have probably gotten one sooner if I had lived in Korea for the whole time. Same goes for my first mp3 from 6th grade. On the school bus, I see first graders calling their parents on cellphones while waving at them, and my brother singing along to his iPod with his friends. At home, my brother would roll around on the bed, and ever since he received a nintendo DS the model cars that used to be scattered about the bedspread are nowhere to be seen.

I think that kids should have:

  •  access to at-home technology, like desktops, by about 3rd grade,
  • small electronic gadgets like cellphones and iPods to take outside at about 5th grade or middle school

That’s based on the needs of the child by this time–3rd grade is when school starts assigning research projects, and middle school is when you start wanting to hang out without your parents hovering from a 50 m distance. So basically technology is needed only to keep up with the social goings-on, following the unfortunate flow of popular culture.

But the best years for a child are definitely when they are not chained to these devices that are mandatory 24/7. I remember reading an SAT passage that talks about technology and how it never leaves you be. The phone will ensure that you are never alone–and that thought is scarier the more you think about it. When in constant exposure to technology, there comes a time when walking down the street is awkward without background music blasting in your ears, and your hand feels empty when it’s not clutching an ever-vibrating cellphone.

Without these little gadgets, a child’s life would be freer. The world is basically one’s own–when I spent my childhood in England, I would roll about the grass and climb the trees in my garden; I would ride a bike to the park and run around the pond with my friends, and then get a 99 pence cone from the icecream van. A child should cherish this time for outside, because there is so much in the world to see and because a virtual experience is never quite the same as the real thing. Once a kid is connected to youtube, he will spend the summer doing nothing but exercise his fingers and gradually become immune to the tire that computer screens rub onto his eyes. Those are the kids in South Korea, running home to play video games until bedtime, constantly checking their phones for a textmessage. It’s sad, really; it seems as if technology is a cord that plugs them into captivity.

Basically, I agree with Piaget about access to technology being limited based on a child’s age. Piaget brought a structure to the development of psychology and cognitive activity, known as the theory of cognitive development. With his four stages– the sensorimotor period (years 0–2), preoperational period (years 2–7), concrete operational period (years 7–11), and formal operational period (years 11 and up)–he categorizes the assistance and materials necessary for a child to have in order to best develop his/her brain.

Just like how life is made of baby steps that lead you up to something greater, and just how organisms evolve through time to be even more complex and advanced, a child’s brain needs to be carefully nurtured through its different stages. Technology is part of it, and it must be wisely placed into one’s life by the parents.

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After reading about the lipsynching incident in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, I was actually not surprised. Lipsynching? The obsessive emphasis on the face? Media-hyped standards of beauty? The strive for perfection? Does this all really seem new to you? Today these phrases are as ubiquitous in popular culture as hello and goodbye. So when people were shocked about China being “fake,” I think they are overreacting.

The world, as well as the Chinese citizens who apparently expressed outrage at the incident, must realize how much China is depending on the Olympics to determine its future. China sees this event as THE opportunity to step out of its long-held developing country status to one of those prestige countries who hold the world on the palm of their hands. And especially as Asian countries go, perfection is the key. One must do everything right in order to succeed, and it is no wonder that the very basic principles that force Asian students to kill themselves for a 2400 on the SAT and a 4.0 GPA are reflected in grand-scale projects like the Olympics.

So why was it necessary, and “within the national interest,” to recreate a scene from Singing in the Rain and replace a pretty girl’s voice with someone else’s? Because the world, especially led in this aspect by the Western culture, is obsessed with looks. I don’t need to say any more than “Hollywood.” Maybe add “Lindsay Lohan.” Today is an age of photoshopped beauty–wanting a “natural beauty” with “amazing singing skills” is actually too much to ask for, and the international community criticizes China for this decision it is clearly being hypocritical. China desperately wants to please the Western world, and would be willing to do hold an event that does not receive any negative criticism. You should give it a break after the tongue-lashings about Taiwan and the general Western disapproval of communism.

Although I can understand China, I don’t applaud it. The only people I feel bad for are the children involved. The government should have been more transparent in its decisions; I’m sure that as long as they were told about their roles, this wouldn’t have had much of an impact. I don’t know why it would be a problem telling Peiyi that Miaoke has more experience on stage (hence the stage presence), but because her voice is better they would record her. They shouldn’t tell her about the “looks” part, of course, and the two girls are different in level of professionalism.  

I am also sure that the organizers of the Olympics didn’t have much of a choice, due to the arbitrary decisions of the higher officials. Maybe the higher government has to break out of its imperialistic self-respect, and this wouldn’t have been so much of a problem.

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