No time for pictures, but I just checked out the Zara/Ted Baker warehouse sale. Wasn’t sure if it would be much, but since it’s the holidays, I went to check it out.
Not much going for the Ted Baker section, but the Zara sale does hold some fabulous buys!
Prices start from $2 for tops to $10 for shoes, and $20 for jackets and blazers. There is a small array of men’s clothing and shoes available.
It’s still going on tomorrow and Saturday, 9am-6pm at 190 Macpherson Road.
I picked up 3 gorgeous pairs of heels, and a few pieces of clothing.
If you can, hurry down tomorrow! There may still be good buys! Be prepared to dig and practice sneaky-trying-clothes tactics.
Warning: goods sold are defective, so be sure to check for (intolerable) missing buttons, tears, spoilt / stained areas, etc, before making your purchase.
Payment by cash and Nets accepted.
The Singapore Solution
The best part of this article for me are the witty quotes that the writer has gotten out of his wonderful Singaporean interviewees. I cite “We’re not North Korea, but we try” and “The cop is inside our heads”. But that’s not all. I personally find the writer’s style refreshing and sincere. Well, read on and form your own opinions anyway, I urge you!
How did a sleepy little island transform into a high-tech powerhouse in one generation? It was all in the plan.
By Mark Jacobson
If you want to get a Singaporean to look up from a beloved dish of fish-head curry—or make a harried cabdriver slam on his brakes—say you are going to interview the country’s “minister mentor,” Lee Kuan Yew, and would like an opinion about what to ask him. “The MM?Wah lau! You’re going to see the MM? Real?” You might as well have told a resident of the Emerald City that you’re late for an appointment with the Wizard of Oz. After all, LKY, as he is known in acronym-mad Singapore, is more than the “father of the country.” He is its inventor, as surely as if he had scientifically formulated the place with precise portions of Plato’s Republic, Anglophile elitism, unwavering economic pragmatism, and old-fashioned strong-arm repression.
People like to call Singapore the Switzerland of Southeast Asia, and who can argue? Out of a malarial swamp, the tiny island at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula gained independence from Britain in 1963 and, in one generation, transformed itself into a legendarily efficient place, where the per capita income for its 3.7 million citizens exceeds that of many European countries, the education and health systems rival anything in the West, government officials are largely corruption free, 90 percent of households own their own homes, taxes are relatively low and sidewalks are clean, and there are no visible homeless people or slums.
If all that, plus a typical unemployment rate of about 3 percent and a nice stash of money in the bank thanks to the government’s enforced savings plan, doesn’t sound sweet to you, just travel 600 miles south and try getting by in a Jakarta shantytown.
Achieving all this has required a delicate balancing act, an often paradoxical interplay between what some Singaporeans refer to as “the big stick and the big carrot.” What strikes you first is the carrot: giddy financial growth fueling never ending construction and consumerism. Against this is the stick, most often symbolized by the infamous ban on chewing gum and the caning of people for spray-painting cars. Disruptive things like racial and religious disharmony? They’re simply not allowed, and no one steals anyone else’s wallet.
Singapore, maybe more than anywhere else, crystallizes an elemental question: What price prosperity and security? Are they worth living in a place that many contend is a socially engineered, nose-to-the-grindstone, workaholic rat race, where the self-perpetuating ruling party enforces draconian laws (your airport entry card informs you, in red letters, that the penalty for drug trafficking is “DEATH”), squashes press freedom, and offers a debatable level of financial transparency? Some people joke that the government micromanages the details of life right down to how well Singapore Airlines flight attendants fill out their batik-patterned dresses.
They say Lee Kuan Yew has mellowed over the years, but when he walks into the interview wearing a zippered blue jacket, looking like a flint-eyed Asian Clint Eastwood circa Gran Torino, you know you’d better get on with it. While it is not exactly clear what a minister mentor does, good luck finding many Singaporeans who don’t believe that the Old Man is still top dog, the ultimate string puller behind the curtain. Told most of my questions have come from Singaporeans, the MM, now 86 but as sharp and unsentimental as a barbed tack, offers a bring-it-on smile: “At my age I’ve had many eggs thrown at me.”
Few living leaders—Fidel Castro in Cuba, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe come to mind—have dominated their homeland’s national narrative the way Lee Kuan Yew has. Born into a well-to-do Chinese family in 1923, deeply influenced by both British colonial society and the brutal Japanese occupation that killed as many as 50,000 people on the island in the mid-1940s, the erstwhile “Harry Lee,” Cambridge law degree in hand, first came to prominence as a leader of a left-leaning anticolonial movement in the 1950s. Firming up his personal power within the ascendant People’s Action Party, Lee became Singapore’s first prime minister, filling the post for 26 years. He was senior minister for another 15; his current minister mentor title was established when his son, Lee Hsien Loong, became prime minister in 2004.
Lee masterminded the celebrated “Singapore Model,” converting a country one-eighth the size of Delaware, with no natural resources and a fractured mix of ethnicities, into “Singapore, Inc.” He attracted foreign investment by building communications and transportation infrastructure, made English the official language, created a superefficient government by paying top administrators salaries equal to those in private companies, and cracked down on corruption until it disappeared. The model—a unique mix of economic empowerment and tightly controlled personal liberties—has inspired imitators in China, Russia, and eastern Europe.
To lead a society, the MM says in his precise Victorian English, “one must understand human nature. I have always thought that humanity was animal-like. The Confucian theory was man could be improved, but I’m not sure he can be. He can be trained, he can be disciplined.” In Singapore that has meant lots of rules—prohibiting littering, spitting on sidewalks, failing to flush public toilets—with fines and occasional outing in the newspaper for those who break them. It also meant educating his people—industrious by nature—and converting them from shopkeepers to high-tech workers in a few decades.
Over time, the MM says, Singaporeans have become “less hard-driving and hard-striving.” This is why it is a good thing, the MM says, that the nation has welcomed so many Chinese immigrants (25 percent of the population is now foreign-born). He is aware that many Singaporeans are unhappy with the influx of immigrants, especially those educated newcomers prepared to fight for higher paying jobs. But taking a typically Darwinian stance, the MM describes the country’s new subjects as “hungry,” with parents who “pushed the children very hard.” If native Singaporeans are falling behind because “the spurs are not stuck into the hide,” that is their problem.
If there is a single word that sums up the Singaporean existential condition, it is kiasu, a term that means “afraid to lose.” In a society that begins tracking its students into test-based groups at age ten (“special” and “express” are the top tiers; “normal” is the path for those headed for factory and service-sector work), kiasu seeps in early, eventually germinating in brilliant engineering students and phallic high-rises with a Bulgari store on the ground floor. Singaporeans are big on being number one in everything, but in a kiasu world, winning is never completely sweet, carrying with it the dread of ceasing to win. When the Singapore port, the busiest container hub in the world, slipped behind Shanghai in 2005 in total cargo tonnage handled, it was a national calamity.
One day, as part of a rehearsal for the National Day celebration, I was treated to a veritable lollapalooza of kiasu. Singapore armed forces playacted at subduing a cabal of “terrorists” who had shot a half dozen flower-bearing children in red leotards, leaving them “dead” on the stage. “We’re not North Korea, but we try,” said one observer, commenting on the rolling tanks, zooming Apache helicopters, and earsplitting 21-gun salutes. You hear it all the time: The only way for Singapore to survive being surrounded by massive neighbors is to remain constantly vigilant. The 2009 military budget is $11.4 billion, or 5 percent of GDP, among the world’s highest rates.
You never know where the threat might come from, or what form it will take. Last summer everyone was in a panic about swine flu. Mask-wearing health monitors were positioned around the city. On Saturday night, no matter how stylo milo your threads, there was no way of getting into a club on trendy Clarke Quay without a bouncer pressing a handheld thermometer to your forehead. It was part of the unending Singaporean state of siege. Many of the newer public housing apartments come with a bomb shelter, complete with a steel door. After a while, the perceived danger and excessive compliance with rules get internalized; one thing you don’t see in Singapore is very many police. “The cop is inside our heads,” one resident says.
Self-censorship is rampant in Singapore, where dealing with the powers that be is “a dance,” says Alvin Tan, the artistic director of the Necessary Stage, which has put on dozens of plays dealing with touchy issues such as the death penalty and sexuality. Tan spends a lot of time with the government censors. “You have to use the proper approach,” he says. “If they say ‘south,’ you don’t say ‘north.’ You say ‘northeast.’ Go from there. It’s a negotiation.”
Those who do not learn their steps in the dance soon get the message. Consider the case of Siew Kum Hong, a 35-year-old Singaporean who thought he’d be furthering the cause of openness by serving as an unelected NMP, or nominated member of parliament. With only four opposition MPs elected in the history of the country, the ruling party thought NMPs might provide the appearance of “a more consensual style of government where alternative views are heard and constructive dissent accommodated.” This was how Siew Kum Hong told me he viewed his position, but he was passed over for another term.
“I thought I was doing a good job,” a surprised Kum Hong says. What it came down to, he surmises, were “those ‘no’ votes.” When he first voted no, on a resolution he felt discriminated against gays, his colleagues “went absolutely silent. It was the first time since I’d been in parliament that anyone had ever voted no.” When he voted no again, this time on a law lowering the number of people who could assemble to protest, the reaction was similarly cool. “So much for alternative views,” Kum Hong says.
The Singapore government is not unaware of the pitfalls of its highly controlled society. One concern is the “creativity crisis,” the fear that an emphasis on rote learning in Singapore’s schools is not conducive to producing game-changing ideas. Yet attempts to encourage originality have been tone-deaf. When Scape, a youth outreach group, opened a “graffiti wall,” youngsters were instructed to submit graffiti designs for consideration; those chosen would be painted on a designated wall at an assigned time.
Similarly, the government has maintained a campaign against the use of “Singlish,” the multiculti gumbo of Malay, Hokkien Chinese, Tamil, and English street patois that is Singapore’s great linguistic achievement. As you sit in a Starbucks listening to teens saying things like “You blur like sotong, lah!” (roughly, “You’re dumber than squid, man!”), Singlish seems a brilliantly subversive attack on the very conformity the government claims it is trying to overcome. Then again, one of Singlish’s major conceits is the ironic lionization of the flashy, down-market “Ah Beng” culture of Chinese immigrant thugs and their sunglass-wearing Malay counterparts. You know that won’t fly in a world where the MM (“minister de-mentor” in Beng speak) has advocated “assortative mating,” the idea that college graduates should marry only other college graduates so as to uplift the national stock.
Perhaps the most troubling problem facing the nation is a result of its overly successful population control program, which ran in the 1970s with the slogan “Two Is Enough.” Today Singaporeans are simply not reproducing, so the country must depend on immigrants to keep the population growing. The government offers baby bonuses and long maternity leaves, but nothing will help unless Singaporeans start having more sex. According to a poll by the Durex condom company, Singaporeans have less intercourse than almost any other country on Earth. “We are shrinking in our population,” the MM says. “Our fertility rate is 1.29. It is a worrying factor.” This could be the fatal error in the Singapore Model: The eventual extinction of Singaporeans.
But there is an upside to all this social engineering. You could feel it during the “We Are the World” production numbers in the National Day show. On stage were representatives of Singapore’s major ethnic groups, the Chinese, Malays, and Indians, all wearing colorful costumes. After riots in the 1960s, the government installed a strict quota system in public housing to make sure that ethnic groups did not create their own monolithic quarters. This practice may have more to do with controlling the populace than with true multiracial harmony, but at the rehearsal, as schmaltzy as it was, it was hard not to be moved by the earnest show of brotherhood. However invented, there is something called Singaporean, and it is real. Whatever people’s grumbles—and as the MM says, “Singaporeans are champion grumblers”—Singapore is their home, and they love it despite everything. It makes you like the place too, for their sake.
Flea Titan @ Demsey Hill!
I will be heading down later, for a short bit, post some maintenance work on my face (plucking brows!)
I believe it may be time for a haircut too.
I don’t have to go for national service to enjoy this video.
Chao Chee Bye is Smelly Girl Downstairs.
Gentlemens. The 0.5 is means you have the courtesy lion in you.
G is for Gentlemen-ness.
A slice of Singapore, for those on exchange, or who are just…overseas.
My Friday evening was spent walking around Chinatown and its neighbouring areas, snapping pictures like a tourist.
It’s a good reminder though, that there’s more interesting architecture around Singapore besides its HDB flats and Esplanade.
Somehow, it just seemed like a quaint island on that Friday night.
Popped into Books Actually and Polymath & Crust at Ann Siang too. Was soooo tempted to pick up some un-needed stationary, but didn’t.
I did however, stumble across a pictorial collection on the sentimental landscape and things of Singapore- like those old school toys from your childhood, that old school concrete and coarse sand playground- that seem to be on the verge of disappearing. It was a quaint little book, pity I can’t quite recall the name. But it does prompt the question- what do you miss about old school Singapore?
Saturday night was spent playing a waiting game- waiting half an hour to get into Wasabi Tei, and another half an hour to get my food. I do love sashimi though. The rest of the night was spent at Borders perusing Lonely Planet: Egypt, where I’ll be visiting in December, if all goes to plan!
I’ll also be visiting the Gulf states in the Middle East during December, and was (desperately) searching for inspiration on whatintheworld can I pack into a backpack that will last me a 3 week trip, where I will be required to dress corporate, covered up (more than I’m used to), and to various places like the Pyramids, to coffee houses, to the nightlife?
Poor students don’t buy Elle magazine, we take pictures of what’s inside.
I am now desperately seeking the following items:
1. Lonely Planet: Egypt (at a cheaper price, please)
2. Legging Pants seem like an great imperative now. Easy to pack, infinitely modesty-aiding.
3. Will be rummaging my wardrobe for tops to match. The criteria: must cover my arse. I am not a fan of flashing my butt to the world.
Bishan Library, represent!
via MSN UK
This should undo about 20% the damage that Miss Ris Low has done.
“I am studying…(5 seconds later) Still.”
“You know, I like to wear REEEEDDD (shouted in case you couldn’t hear her before), something that shouts BOOMZ (wtf is boomz), that shouts ME (again in case you can’t hear her normally)!”