Dean Owen

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

chat Contact the author

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

Sleeping with Elvis

Sleeping with Elvis

Heaven knows why I came up with that title. Actually there was a warped thought process behind it. In just under six hours, the pit-lane exit will be opened and the cars will embark on a reconnaissance lap before taking formation for the start of the 2016 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg will take pole, followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton. At 8:00pm local time, the cars will roar off the starting grid in an ocean of artificial light that can be seen (and probably heard!) from the moon. The race is one of the highlights of the Formula 1 season being a pretty cool night race on a street circuit. I have fond memories of driving to work on those pristine streets. It is a truly great circuit with a stunning backdrop.


Back in November of 2007 while stationed in Singapore, I was enthralled at the announcement that Formula 1 would be Sleeping with Elviscoming to Singapore the following year. When offered a position in China, I despaired that I would miss out on the first race. But not many people know that Formula 1 in Singapore dates back to September 1961 when the Orient Grand Prix was held on a circuit comprising the Upper Thompson Road. The following year, the race was renamed the Malaysian Grand Prix, and when Singapore gained independence, it naturally took on the name the Singapore Grand Prix starting 1966. This continued until 1973 when the race was discontinued. The official reason given were safety concerns with 7 fatalities over the short 11-year history of the race. This was a fast and furious circuit with corners and bends with names like “Devils and Snakes”.


What prompted this little article was a recent conversation I had with my mother. I was prodding her for information on a Cooper speed record attempt at Monza when she suddenly had a flashback of her meeting with Lee Kuan Yew. "Lee Kuan who?" I hear a few of you mumble. Most of you will know the name and a bit of history, but for those that don’t, Lee Kuan Yew is a pretty big deal. He was Singapore’s first Prime Minister and essentially a founding father of a nation that went from third world tropical island just North of the Equator with almost zero natural resources, to first world nation and 3rd most competitive country in the world (IMD World Competiveness Yearbook). She'd never mentioned this before. It was a big deal! And I was thinking, how could I explain this to a predominantly Western audience?  I thought of the movie “Into the Night” where Michelle Pfeiffer’s character Diana says:


“Elvis wouldn’t do this, I knew him”

Charlie responds “You may have fucked him, but you didn’t know him”.


Perhaps using Elvis is a wrong analogy. Perhaps Gandhi, Mandela, or Kennedy might have been more appropriate. But suggesting this meeting was like meeting Elvis worked well as click bait. I mean you are here right? Yes I could have called it "Meeting with Lee Kwan Yew" and on hindsight, maybe that would have worked just as well. Sorry... 

 

Although I do not know much about the visit to the Istana back in 1963, I do know that it was an official invitation to the drivers of the Grand Prix.

Arthur Owen finished 5th that year following gearbox troubles, but would return the following year in a 1980cc Brabham-Climax BT8A only for the race to be cancelled after practice.


In just a couple of hours, I will sit back in my armchair and watch the race. I am not a Formula 1 fan. I’ve been to a number of Grand Prix races, and frankly, it’s boring stuff these days. But tonight’s race is different. I will imagine conversations held on that day 53 years ago, the day my parents met Elvis.




Title Picture: Arthur Owen navigating “Devils and Snakes “ in a 1980cc Brabham Climax at the third Malaysian Grand Prix held at the Upper Thomson Road circuit. Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

Clipping: Chronicle of Singapore by Peter Lim (Editor)

Sources: Motorsport Magazine “Singapore Fling” March 2006 – “Dancing with the Devil” October 2008



Dean Owen is Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment.


thumb_up Relevant message Comment
Comments

Dean Owen

5 years ago #27

#31
Thanks, I can't say it was that exciting to watch. Mind you, having been to a number of races, I do actually prefer watching F1 on TV. I remember fondly watching Keke and Alain Prost duelling it out on the circuit.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #26

#27
"I have never been overconcerned or obsessed with opinion polls or popularity polls. I think a leader who is, is a weak leader. If you are concerned with whether your rating will go up or down, then you are not a leader. You are just catching the wind ... you will go where the wind is blowing. And that's not what I am in this for." Lee Kuan Yew. CityVP Manjit, your commentary is so deep and insightful, I do look forward to long form articles from you on topics of this nature.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #25

#26
Yes, it was his humanity that resonates above all. In the coming years, you will see some quotes that will make you wonder. He did say some outrageous things. But most believe that this was out of caring and passion.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #24

#24
I am not convinced that the upcoming changes to Formula One will alter fans perceptions of the sport that much. Wider bodies, bigger wings, fatter tyres will give the cars more downforce, but doesn't that reduce the driver skill component (while increasing the athletic component)? The only racing I tend to watch these days is the Blancpain GT Series. When I can, I like to do track days at the various circuits in Asia, mostly Sepang, Zhuhai and Shanghai. If you ever make it to Kuala Lumpur, you can rent out some Lotus Elises and Exiges (Lotus was bought by Malaysia's Proton in 1996) and do a few laps. I might do a track day article some time soon. Thanks for stopping by.

CityVP Manjit

5 years ago #23

#25
Dear Dean, history is a funny animal. People who probably thought before they left this world that their contribution had been forgotten, get revived many decades later. Such is the case of Ada Lovelace. After new biographies were released her place in the pantheon of great contributors https://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/lovelace.html This shows me that people we think are lost to history emerge again to the prevailing consciousness of the time. This article from the guardian shows how the lost history of Emperor Ashoka Maurya was refound, and the symbolism that is now associated with Ashoka are to be found in symbols that are found on the front of an Indian passport (the three lions) and in the center of the Indian flag "Ashoka's Wheel". https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/16/ashoka-india-emperor-charles-allen-review The problem with politicians is that it is a political act to be concerned about one's legacy, but the truly great leaders become the mythologies of future generations and it all depends on how history is written and discovered and the evolution of the prevailing society that seeks that renaissance of history or evolution of a civilization. The bad guys IMHO occupy too much real estate in our collective minds, for they are only relevant to the degree that it transformed the good guy. This is Nelson Mandela's findings, he said in the Long Walk to Freedom that without the struggle, he would have been an ordinary man, and that men much greater than he perished in that struggle - such is the flow and meanings ascribed to greatness. It was the struggle that made these men extraordinary - and there is a lifetime of learning if we simply studied the life, mind and ways of great women and men.

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #22

#21
This stood out Dean Owen, written about Lee Kuan Yew's wife's stroke: "He had the same hope for our world. He fought for its better instincts even when the evidence was ambiguous. " Just as he sat by her bed every night after her stroke reading to her feeling she may hear him (paraphrasing). Thanks for sharing the link to Kissinger's Eulogy of Lee Kuan Yew.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #21

#23
I think your first impressions of the man are very astute. He could never rise above the infighting and corruption that plagued Malaysian politics. His response to the 1997-98 Asia Financial Crisis and handling of the crisis is open for debate. His response to the sell off was to impose capital controls rather than address the fundamental issues behind the sell off. Basically he tried to ring fence the Malaysian economy from people like George Soros who he called a moron. He will surely have a mixed legacy.

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #20

Dean Owen, I agree with you that F1 racing is pretty boring these days. Formula racing is supposed to level out the cars, and put the burden on the drivers and the back-up teams. In other words, make it a battle of talent, skill,and daring. But what most don't appreciate is that when you race to a strong "formula" you actually increase the role of big money to support technological advances that may only yield a three decimal fractional increase in performance. I remember club racing years ago, when it cost many thousands of dollars to polish, harden, balance, port, and exhaust-tune a production class car engine, while in a modified class, you could gain a big performance increase by simply bolting on a 4-barrel Weber carburetor (or maybe two for a V-8) at a cost of a few hundred dollars. On a different point, I know that this runs counter to the majority of race fans, but I've always preferred closed-wheel racing on street courses. Monaco, Miami, Long Beach, Watkins Glenn. I would love to watch some of the Asian street races in person. And since I presently traveling to Hong Kong and Taiwan about every other month, I am going to contact you for a schedule and a recommendation as to what might be worthwhile. Thanks for a good piece. I am really enjoying your race-related writings.

CityVP Manjit

5 years ago #19

#18
All I know about Malaysia is that they acted as the antagonist which is fine because it kept Lee Kwan Yew sharp. This is the first time I have heard of Mahathir and my first impressions indicate to me that for a leader that ruled Malaysia for 22 years, I am tempted to see him as the malaise of Malaysia. The other impression that is most immediate is that power, status and money seem to be in the initial story-lines I have had a chance to read about Mahathir. That is not the case with Lee Kwan Yew. Not only did Lee Kwan Yew have a sharp business mind, but he was a systems thinker and he put in places sharp minds who understood what Lee was trying to accomplish, had the acumen and ability to carry through plans and over-time built strong loyalty to Lee - in other words those who could relate to his cognitive ability and long-term vision/plans. Lee had swift adaptive capacity. Mahathir may indeed have had a powerful mind and I am only guessing at that from a very brief initial read, but did he want to keep power or distribute power? Did he have the cognitive facility to create a flow that connected strategy with grassroot transformation? If he had, I would have heard about this man. I am not interested in who Lee's antagonists were. In Karen Anne Kramer ~ CNN Women Leaders 2015 buzz there was a story of Karen being told to bake cookies, and your humour about their "nuts". That is not my instinctive response. I don't want to occupy mind with side-characters that don't need to be elevated into history or one's memory. Unless you can draw me into something that sharpens my mind to the brilliance of Mahathir, maybe he could have been a rough diamond, but I don't feel his shine. The very first moment I had heard about Lee, my entire being was alert - I knew I had found greatness.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #18

#15
Henry A. Kissinger on Lee Kuan Yew - https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-world-will-miss-lee-kuan-yew/2015/03/23/80867914-d172-11e4-8fce-3941fc548f1c_story.html?utm_term=.b98152ebeb19

Dean Owen

5 years ago #17

#16
A very nice and astute observation there. Back then it wasn't a night race, but the relatively skinny wheels and powerful Coventry Climax engine ensured these cars did often get some air time. Only 12 of these were made, and one of them crashed at the Candlestick Park circuit killing driver Bart Martin. Perhaps if they had you as a design engineer, you would have removed the headlights and they would have been more successful.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #16

#14
Seriously CityVP Manjit. Your two comments on this thread are absolutely brilliant and politically on point. As you mentioned earlier, it might take decades for LKY to get the recognition he deserves. I can imagine years from now literally thousands of posts entitled "Ten lessons to be learnt from Lee Kuan Yew" from content writers in social media wonderland. I would rather read one article from you. Would also be interested in your views on Mahathir (who many will remember had a run in with Soros).

Dean Owen

5 years ago #15

#12
Yes, Monaco consistently has the lowest average speed of all the Grand Prix circuits, but it is like comparing apples and oranges (street circuit vs racetrack), and actually the drivers always speak highly of the circuit (probably because many live in Monte Carlo)

CityVP Manjit

5 years ago #14

A nation is blessed when a mind like Lee Kwan Yew arises to lead it, the reality of Lee is that he went to single party dominance because there was no one in the opposition who matched his ability to see decades ahead and connect the global dots - and the people of Singapore knew this and they could see the results of Lee's thinking and decision. Lee cannot be compared to his contemporaries, he can only be compared to the greatest minds of history - and he knew it and he wrote about it, and he knew that so long as her persevered, he and only he could turn a small city into a global powerhouse - for becoming that powerhouse was the best defense against all those that wanted to either claim Singapore as their sovereign territory, or so infest it with political corruption that special interest and not the will of Singapore ruled. When we look at the state of American politics today, it is a failure of its education and media systems to not find one political figure who even comes close to the strategic and historical brilliance of Lee Kwan Yew. Who cares if Americans do not know Lee Kwan Yew, if they knew even a bit, they would vote for leaders who match Lee's stature, rather than the present compromise they now face as they find themselves voting for nepotism or for narcissism. Special interest and corruption is what Lee knew where enemies of the state - and he built a united front against it and he outwitted, out-maneuvered and now is a legend of Singapore.

CityVP Manjit

5 years ago #13

#11
A nation is blessed when a mind like Lee Kwan Yew arises to lead it, the reality of Lee is that he went to single party dominance because there was no one in the opposition who matched his ability to see decades ahead and connect the global dots - and the people of Singapore knew this and they could see the results of Lee's thinking and decision. Lee cannot be compared to his contemporaries, he can only be compared to the greatest minds of history - and he knew it and he wrote about it, and he knew that so long as her persevered, he and only he could turn a small city into a global powerhouse - for becoming that powerhouse was the best defense against all those that wanted to either claim Singapore as their sovereign territory, or so infest it with political corruption that special interest and not the will of Singapore ruled. When we look at the state of American politics today, it is a failure of its education and media systems to not find one political figure who even comes close to the strategic and historical brilliance of Lee Kwan Yew. Who cares if Americans do not know Lee Kwan Yew, if they knew even a bit, they would vote for leaders who match Lee's stature, rather than the present compromise they know face between voting for nepotism or for narcissism. Special interest and corruption is what Lee knew where enemies of the state - and he built a united front against it.

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #12

an intriguing article (sorry cannot say buzz and use all this stripy vocabulary :-)) Indeed was in Monaco recently how can you drive that fast in such narrow roads , trails even...

Dean Owen

5 years ago #11

#10
CityVP Manjit, you wrote exactly how I felt. I doubt anyone would blink at a Lee Kuan Yew story if printed in North America. Ask a New Yorker who he was and I'm pretty sure you get a blank face. No disrespect to North Americans. They have plenty of domestic news and history to ponder. But people in Europe and Asia perhaps have a more global perspective. I totally agree with your assessment in every respect. I desperately wanted to make this story more about Lee Kwan Yew, and you are right, he deserves to be written about for years to come, and he deserves an audience beyond Europe and Asia. The problem North Americans will have in comprehending the political astuteness of this great man might be to do with a political system that centered around a strong single party central government. Lee Kuan Yew governed for 30 years. The truth is, a strong central government works well if it is the right govt that holds the people first. Certainly a wrong govt can have disastrous effects.

CityVP Manjit

5 years ago #10

Lee Kwan Yew was one of the great political minds of the 20th Century and that people do not know him perplexes me. What little people do know is usually from people who cite Lee as an autocratic leader and criticize him in that context. What they fail to do is focus on all the forces that were setup to undermine and eradicate Lee - both Malaysian and Western powers. How he survived this political onslaught is the actual context that leads to understanding why he was so tough and disciplined. He was not a dictator but one of the sharpest minds in political history. Not only could he see what Singapore needed to be, he also knew what needed to be done to bring it to global prominence. He delivered and did that with uncompromising resoluteness. The deep reverence that the people of Singapore feel for him has never translated to him being viewed as a global historical figure. Sometimes history has move several decades before historians can take a new fresh look at a specific leaders achievements. As I am a student of high capability leadership, Lee Kwan Yew is a subject of study for me - his written works are extensive and his legacy absolute. To understand the workings of his mind and comprehend the context in which he had to make his decisions is a massive learning opportunity for those know his background and story. Perhaps Dean can now go one more step and create a buzz specifically about this leader. The irony here is that I nearly missed this buzz because I did not connect with "Sleep with Elvis" - but if the buzz was called The Brilliant Mind of Lee Kwan Yew", I would be studious of it and enjoy every single paragraph of perspective and contribution.

CityVP Manjit

5 years ago #9

Lee Kwan Yew was one of the great political minds of the 20th Century and that people do not know him perplexes me. What little people do know is usually from people who cite Lee as an autocratic leader and criticize him in that context. What they fail to do is focus on all the forces that were setup to undermine and eradicate Lee - both Malaysian and Western powers. How we survived on this political onslaught is the actual context why he was so tough and disciplined. He was not a dictator but one of the sharpest minds in political history. Not only could he see what Singapore needed to bring it to global prominence but he delivered and did that with uncompromising resoluteness. The deep reverence that the people of Singapore feel for him has never translated to him being viewed as a global historical figure. Sometimes history has move several decades before historians can take a new fresh look at a specific leaders achievements. As I am a student of high capability leadership, Lee Kwan Yew is a subject of study for me - his written works are extensive and his legacy absolute. To understand the workings of his mind and comprehend the context in which he had to make his decisions is a massive learning opportunity for those know his background and story. Perhaps Dean can now go one more step and create a buzz specifically about this leader. The irony here is that I nearly missed this buzz because I did not connect with "Sleep with Elvis" - but if the buzz was called The Brilliant Mind of Lee Kwan Yew", I would be studious of it and enjoy every single paragraph of perspective and contribution.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #8

#4
Indeed. He commanded a huge amount of respect the world over. Chinese leaders were said to often consult with him on nation building. Certainly not an orthodox character, and often controversial, but a giant in the history books.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #7

#2
Singapore and Monaco are special indeed. I do hope Singapore manages to renew their F1 contract. The Monaco track needs widening. It is so difficult to overtake. I think they should at least widen the tunnel I used to roller-skate through. Thanks Laurent. I love it when you say excellent prism, and I know you don't say it often.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #6

#1
Yes, an incredible man who sadly passed away last year at the age of 91. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/22/singapore-lee-kuan-yew-dies-91

Dean Owen

5 years ago #5

I think the results illustrate how dull F1 has become. Rosberg wins, followed by Ricciardo and Hamilton, in the exact order they started.

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #4

Not many nations will see his like again. Lee Kwan Yew not only fathered a nation, but gave Singapore freedom from colonisation and introduced social practices that were, and in some cases still are, the envy of the world. It was a truly sad day when Lee Kwan Yew 'left the building'.

Paul Walters

5 years ago #3

Dean Owen click bait ? hmm all those Elvis fans out there will be rushing to see who exactly slept with Elvis. Thanks for the post and I do concur, Formula 1 is a little boring!

Laurent Boscherini

5 years ago #2

Thank you dear Dean Owen for sharing your interesting and stimulating post. Singapore Grand Prix F1 as Monaco Grand exhales something very different from all others... Excellent prism !

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #1

Classic and raw line from the movie, Into the night. I dont consider your title bait and switch, very fitting. Quite interesting PM, considering where he took the country. Enjoy the Grand Prix! Love your header photo, cool!

More articles from Dean Owen

View blog
4 years ago · 2 min. reading time

The Lamma Way of Life

It almost feels as if I have lived there for many ...

4 years ago · 2 min. reading time

A Speck of Red

The cool and clinical nature of the room offered n ...

4 years ago · 2 min. reading time

Are You On Line?

Meet Choco, Cony, and Sally. · These are the sign ...