• Day 61: How Sandra Bullock is Like Singapore

    Date: 2010.04.28 | Category: Uncategorized | Tags:

    What does it take to make sure you’re not a victim? Sandra Bullock knows.  Nobody has heard a word from her since her marriage collapsed 10 days after she won a Best Actress Oscar. Word got out her husband Jesse James was a cheating hound with a penchant for tattoed strippers and Nazi paraphernalia.  Poor Sandra.

    Today, Sandra owns the cover of PEOPLE magazine and the cover line is all about her “secret” adopted son, Louis. “Meet My Baby!”

    Mention of her impending divorce from Jesse is relegated to what they call the “deck” in the magazine trade.  Jesse James had his moment in the sun.  Bullock didn’t amass a $75 million fortune and win an Oscar for being totally dumb.  She took a hit but decided to advance the story with her own plot point as fast as possible.

    Make no mistake, Bullock made sure the 10-page PEOPLE cover story, for sale Friday, left nothing to chance when it came to letting the world knew she nothing of Jesse’s affairs or Nazi salutes.  Jesse’s become her bitch, too, with his own statement flagellating himself. But the story’s no longer  so much about him.

    This is called genius PR.  This is called getting lemons and then making lemonade that outsells everyone else.  It’s about the war of life.

    Which brings me to… Singapore.

    I just returned from a quick trip over the border to Johor Bahru, Malaysia and now I’m back in the ultra-modern city-state of Singapore that looks like a gorgeous,  souped-up, skyscraper-filled sci-fi version of the ultimate but lost forever American City.

    It’s not just that there’s a Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on every corner and copies of last week’s National Enquirer in doctors’ offices. (English is the first language here.)

    Check out the Marina Bay Sands “integrated resort” a.k.a hotel and casino that had its soft opening yesterday and dwarfs anything in Vegas – or Chartres for that matter.

    I had a few minutes to spare so I dropped by and rolled down to the casino to play 10 Singapore dollars in the slot machines but spent most of my time eyeballing the tough Cantonese women huddled around the blackjack croupiers and thought to myself, if we’re (Americans) up against them God help us.

    The croupiers are young and (I think) trying not to look nervous.  They probably are nervous because this is Singapore’s first casino and they had to undergo croupier school here just to learn this new trade.

    Singapore’s got a new casino and a hotel the size of Xanadu for one reason.  They’re making sure they stay competitive.  About this they know a lot.

    Singapore has an interesting story:  Not long ago it was a colonial outpost/typical Third World country but worse off than most because it’s a tiny enclave not much bigger than Manhattan island with zero natural resources.

    In 1965, six years after legendary Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew took over the country after it broke from British control, Singapore took a huge hit.  It was supposed to merge with what is now Malaysia and be part of a new super-country independent from British rule.

    For complicated reasons, some involving race riots, Malaysia decided to dump Singapore and not merge with them.  Singapore was cut loose, on its own in the world with not much going for it. (To this day, they have to buy their water from Malaysia.)

    Yew, in 1965, publicly called the forced separation a moment of “anguish.” It was not at all part of his plan.

    But Yew had some serious Sandra Bullock qualities. Meaning self-pity and playing the victim was not how he saw himself and Singapore. So Singapore went to Plan B. It took a while.

    Singapore was so poor in the 1960s and 1970s that many people today who are in their 40s and 50s remember walking to wells every day to get water and carry it back to their homes.

    Fast forward t0 2010.  Singapore is the fourth richest country per capita in the world.  It could have just as easily become a perpetual slum.  Those 40- and 50-somethings, at least some of them, are driving BMWs.

    How they did it is best left to the economists and political scientists.  I have enough trouble writing convincingly about Asian food.

    All I can say – when you’re in a bad firefight – you want to have people like Bullock and Lee Kuan Yew in your foxhole.