VOLAR

SCMP STYLE AWARDS
Feb 26, 2008

The winners in the nightlife and entertainment category, club owners Benedict Ku, Jaime Ku, Ina Yip and Ray Ng, based their unique brand on non-commercial music. Their club Volar brought European electro-rock to clubbers in the city.

Benedict Ku said: “I don’t think it’s a risk. We thought that we needed to bring something different to Hong Kong – give people excitement to come out.”

Mr Ng added: “It was more like setting a trend.”

Mr Ku, 34, and Mr Ng, 37, said they started going to clubs in their teens and still loved clubbing and chilling out with friends. Mr Ng said that when he was still working as a lawyer, he could not afford the time to party, which caused him much distress. “Now I just spend four days [clubbing]. I used to go out six days [a week],” Mr Ng said.

Both agreed that Hong Kong was the perfect place for nightlife because it was easy to hop between different clubs and bump into a variety of people on the same night.

5+1_Annapurna

The history of Italy’s finest cashmere knitwear is also the story of Annapurna S.p.A. in Prato. Since its foundation in 1978, the company whose name reminds us of a place in the Himalayan mountains, has been benefiting from an exceptionally favorable blend of knowledge and skill. Annapurna S.p.A. owes its impressive growth and leading position in the high-grade cashmere trade to the intuition of Mrs. Aida Barni. She is one of those enterprising women who have committed themselves, and their name, solely to the philosophy and achievement of top quality.

Primarily, Annapurna’s production uses only double-threaded worsted cashmere imported from the Himalayas that is extremely and subtly twisted to create a softer, more resistant and more elastic yarn than conventional single-threaded cashmere. Use of the topmost cashmere, unique design and wide color palette has earned Annapurna a reputation for luxurious Italian knitwear. 5+1 Annapurna is a new line presented by Annapurna S.p.A.

National Day 2000 by Alfian Sa'at

2001-03-17 – 14:50:19

Dear Singapore,

You’re going to be 35 this year. You were born in 1965, which is the same year that you became an orphan. So every year we celebrate your birthday and also–the anniversary of a separation.

This is an image I can’t seem to get out of my mind: a birthday for the orphan. Teachers and classmates surround the orphan boy, sing him a song, and ask him to make a wish. It is the same wish that he has made every single year. Then he blows out the candles, they clap, and he sinks his knife into the cake. Because he is the birthday boy, they let him have the rose-shaped biscuits. He goes to bed with the smell of chocolate cream on his fingers. But what comes after that? What is the meaning of his birthday? Why does his presence in this world also have to coincide with the absence of those who brought him into it?

Maybe you think that I’m looking too far ahead. Why can’t I live just for the present? Why should my eyes be permanently aimed like cannonballs into the fortress wall of the future?

But isn’t that what you’ve taught me to do?

I was born in 1977, which is 12 years after you. According to the Chinese calendar, this would make the both of us snakes. The Chinese supposedly don’t like to have snake babies. I can only guess why: snakes are venomous, they are predatory, they are bad omens. They also shed their skins.

But no animal sheds its skin like you. The generation before mine was the last to see the National Theatre. My generation’s gift to the next is the rubble of the National Library. I could name many more casualties of your developmental frenzy: Van Kleef Aquarium, Chinatown, Kampung Wak Hassan, Capitol Cinema, Noah’s Ark, Sungei Buloh, Pulau Ubin. My inheritance is a legacy of collective amnesia.

I am a snake child too. And sometimes I feel like shedding this skin. Or rather, seven layers of skin: There is one with a permanent sheen of sweat, a souvenir from the current heatwave. There is one with cane marks. There is one where a patch is still burning with the memory of a touch. There is one dye-stained with the green of my army uniform. One tattooed with my I/C number. An iridescent one, coming from pure blue mornings when everything became abundantly clear, the hieroglyphs of clouds spelling out all I needed to know. And finally one bruised by nights when I was dreaming of inhabiting another life.

I went to KL some time last year, and it felt like home. I met all kinds of people involved in all kinds of activities committed to the enlargement of civil space: environmental activists, AIDS activists, people who run women’s shelters and small presses. How easy it would be a few years down the road to shed this skin of my citizenship and begin anew in a place like KL, where the people do not have to continually, helplessly witness spectacles of loss.

But the skin is not a garment. And whatever lacerations inflicted on it, I cannot peel it off and discard it like a tattered rag. The skin must heal, scars must purse their lips, ulcers close their eyes, scabs brushed off crumb by crumb. But healing takes time. And time for you is a luxury.

What I want from you, Singapore, is the recognition that you run the risk of being unrecognisable. Maybe it is economic necessity that propels your constant facelifts. But I don’t want you to shrug off successive incarnations like split-second sleights-of-hand. When you break my heart, Singapore, I don’t want it replaced with a new one, beating to the synchronous rhythm of the Singapore Heartbeat. I want the fracture to close up and heal, however long it takes.

Now I want to return to the orphan boy. Like you and me, he is a snake child too. On the night of his birthday, he lies in his bed and slips into a dream. He sees his parents, who are sitting under a tree. But in his dream he is a snake. He slithers up to his parents and in an outpouring of affection, coils around their bodies. He thinks, like him, that they will be able to shed their skins and return, rejuvenated, for another round of caresses. But they are crying, touching the red welts on each other’s bodies. They run away, and he is alone. Again.

On National Day, Singapore, you will embrace me in your python loops, and the blood will rush into my eyes, exploding in fireworks, and my strangled throat will break into song. But what about the marks you leave behind?

This is what I imagine: after a night of costumed bodies and showers of fire, a melancholy kind of dawn. Silent, except for the sound of brooms raking the ground, drink cans rolling down stadium steps. Black bags of rainbow-coloured confetti. Folded parachutes. Blisters from tight-fitting shoes. Flags dragged back into HDB flats like August laundry from the September rain.

Singapore, give me time to catch my breath. Give me time to examine the sheath of broken skin you have left behind in my hands as you slipped away. And you will return next year, the same snake, but with a different skin, while I can only remain the same. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if you came back to this same spot, to shower me with your reptilian love, only to find–that I am no longer here.

I just want to strike this one bargain with you. You stay the same for me, and I will stay behind for you.

I will stay.

Love,

A Singaporean.

Swiss bank UBS reports huge loss after subprime debacle

Eat this, GIC Special Situations Group!

Swiss bank UBS reports huge loss after subprime debacle

22 hours ago

ZURICH (AFP) — Swiss banking giant UBS plunged to its first-ever full-year net loss on Thursday after losing 18 billion dollars in the US subprime mortgage crisis.

Bank chairman Marcel Rohner said the losses were “unacceptable”.

UBS revealed a net loss of 4.4 billion Swiss francs (4.0 billion dollars, 2.7 billion euros) in 2007, compared to a profit of 12.3 billion Swiss francs in 2006.

“We are obliged to confirm these unacceptable results,” Rohner told a telephone conference on the figures.

“While most of our businesses continued to be very profitable, the sudden and serious deterioration in the US housing market, in combination with our large exposure in sub-prime mortgage-related securities and derivatives, has driven us into loss for the year,” he said.

Analysts said the losses were in line with expectations as UBS had already said two weeks ago it would post a full year loss of around four billion francs.

Helvea analyst Peter Thorne warned that UBS is less attractive to investors than its rival Credit Suisse, which on Tuesday announced full year profits of 8.5 billion Swiss francs after limiting its subprime exposure.

UBS’s balance sheet “remains a worry for investors,” the London-based analyst said.

“Our preference for betting on a recovery in financials is with Credit Suisse where exposures are lower and known, and management has for more credibility,” Thorne added.

In the fourth quarter alone, UBS lost 12.45 billion Swiss francs against a profit of 3.4 billion francs in the same period a year earlier.

“Last year was one of the most difficult in our history,” Rohner said.

In the fourth quarter, writedowns linked to the US housing market amounted to 13.7 billion dollars.

For the year as a whole, its exposure was 18.1 billion dollars, making UBS the third-worst hit bank after Wall Street giants Merrill Lynch, with 19.4 billion dollars, and Citigroup 21.1 billion dollars.

UBS said it expected 2008 to be “another difficult year” given plunging stock market values and growing fears of a recession in the United States.

However, the bank’s chief financial officer Marco Suter said there were unlikely to be any more “big surprises” with regard to subprime writedowns.

“We are not expecting any new major surprises and we are continuing to reduce (subprime exposure) in January and February,” he told reporters.

“We were clearly over-exposed in the high-risk US housing sector and ill prepared” for the financial crisis, Suter admitted.

UBS acknowledged that part of its market risk control framework proved inadequate as the subprime crisis gathered pace in the second half of 2007 but said it has taken steps to improve its oversight systems.

In December, UBS turned to Singapore’s state invesment arm (GIC) and an unnamed Middle Eastern investor to help restore its balance sheet.

GIC said it would inject 11 billion Swiss francs into UBS, giving it a stake of around nine percent and thus making it the largest single shareholder, while the Middle Eastern investor was to put up two billion Swiss francs.

Some shareholders have voiced unhappiness with the plans to raise funds from foreign, state-controlled investment bodies, fearing the terms of the deal could put existing investors at a disadvantage.

UBS’ share price has taken a pummelling in recent weeks and Thursday was no exception.

The bank’s shares were down 7.76 percent at 37.68 Swiss francs in late afternoon trade on the Zurich stock exchange, bucking an otherwise positive market trend.

Think

“Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself.”

~ Doris Lessing

Mark Twain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

~ Mark Twain

FT Weekend: Air care for frequent fliers

Air care for frequent fliers

By Emma Jacobs

Published: February 2 2008 02:00 | Last updated: February 2 2008 02:00

A petite woman with an elfin haircut, in a black waisted tunic and 4in heels, stands before a group of immaculately tidy men and women. She is delivering a lesson but she has one instruction just for the men – they must never wear Lancôme juicy tubes at work. Mim Allgood will, however, permit tinted moisturiser, clear mascara and lip balm.

That’s because Allgood is teaching grooming to a group of wannabe air stewards and stewardesses in an unprepossessing metallic grey building near Gatwick airport. Inside, the Virgin Airlines campus is like being in Britney Spears’s Toxic video – everyone wears their compulsory post-box red uniforms and the women’s hair is swept up in French pleats and rolled ponytails.

It’s a relatively easy look to maintain on the ground but how do flight attendants manage to look so groomed and fresh at the end of a long flight while passengers’ skin is blotchy and their hair frazzled? Even in the relative luxury of business class, the pallid zombie look, a by-product of the aircraft’s recycled air, is hard to avoid. So perhaps a few tips from the airline grooming classes at Virgin and Silverjet will help to even the score.

Allgood’s class is peppered with women who look like they’re in the qualifying heat for a Miss UK competition. Everyone is impossibly glossy and neat. But the overall message from this seminar is that frequent flying is bad for your skin. The air in the cabin is dehydrating, and moving between climates and time zones will increase your skin’s sensitivity. More worryingly, frequent flying can be ageing. Remedial and preventative action must be taken.

“When you start flying, your skin will become very dehydrated. Look at a bowl of fruit in first class. At the start of the flight, it’s really juicy. At the end, it’s wrinkly and shrivelled. Same for your skin. Even oily skin,” Allgood warns. “People with oily skin often think they escape dehydration because they look shinier at touchdown. But it’s not true.”

The mantra is: drink lots of water, limit tea and coffee, and avoid alcohol. It’s not just imbibing water but also spritzing it on your face and hair, if it’s prone to frizz. However, steer clear of sprays that are pure water. Marcella Knibb, the Silverjet instructor, puckers her face in disgust at the very thought of them. Water sprays dehydrate your skin by sapping it of any existing moisture so she advises using one with refreshing, hydrating additives such as aloe vera, mint or lavender. If you don’t like spraying liquid on your eyes, then squirt it on cotton pads first. Skin wipes are also a good way to refresh your skin but steer clear of the ones they give away on aircraft – the lanolin in those can be an irritant. Go for ones such as Dermalogica’s skin purifying wipes, which have the added benefit of not being included as a liquid for airport security rules.

Ideally, passengers, not cabin crew, should take make-up off at the start of a flight. But if that is unrealistic, then at least some products are no-nos. Red and yellow dyes in make-up, including red lipstick and fake tan, are dehydrating. We are all fiercely warned away from YSL’s Touche Eclat, which is too drying to wear on a flight. In fact, we should restrict our use of the magic wand for special occasions and never wear it as a concealer – it reflects light so highlights rather than hides spots.

The best make-up for flights is mineral-based such as the ranges produced by ID Bare Minerals or Jane Iredale, which use 100 per cent minerals and no preservatives or oils. Unlike a powder, the crushed minerals won’t be absorbed into pores and nurture spots. “It’s so pure, you can sleep in it,” laughs Allgood. She catches herself: “Although don’t. Always take your make-up off.” Also beware of make-up exploding because of cabin pressure. If you reapply mid-flight, always put a napkin on your lap in case of leaks.

We are advised that, whenever possible, we should use flights for a bit of pampering. Knibb takes us through a flight’s pampering routine and instructs us to scrape our hair back, cleanse and tone. If you’re prone to spots, try pinning your hair back on a flight as flopping fringes will only exacerbate the problem. Then, she suggests using a multivitamin concentrate or Dermalogica’s skin hydrating booster and then moisturiser such as Dermalogica’s anhydrous barrier repair. “Don’t worry about nipping to the toilet to rub in body lotion. It’s only the exposed areas – face, hands and neck – that dry out on flights,” she points out. “If you have the guts, put a face mask on, though not a clay-based one to save embarrassment. [Try] a clear one, perhaps a rose hydrating mask by Aromatherapy Associates.” Allgood would go one step further and put an eye mask on, such as one by Guinot. She recommends dunking the tube in some iced water to make it extra soothing. Steer clear of eye drops as they’re drying.

If all these potions look like they’re going to breach security rules, you should pick up samples from beauty department stores. They’ll fit into the airport’s clear plastic bags.

For those who haven’t the time or inclination to pack a range of products or go through a mile-high beauty routine, Elizabeth Arden’s eight-hour cream is “an essential”, says Allgood. According to Rebecca Wadsworth, a member of British Airways’ crew, her colleagues swear by it as the ultimate multitasking cream. It can be rubbed into cuticles, heels, on your face, on your lips before applying lipstick, on your hands and to calm any rashes.

But the ultimate beauty no-no on a flight is alcohol. On this topic, everyone agrees that water or maybe a drink with Vitamin C is best – and if you’re in the mood for a cocktail, try a tomato juice or water with fizzy Vitamin C as an alternative.

Er, what about something stiffer? “If you need to calm your pre-flight nerves, substitute alcohol with cotton wool dipped in lavender and put it in a sealed plastic bag – open it up and smell it when you need a boost,” suggested one flight attendant. Not quite the substitute you were hoping for? Herbal tea was the other accepted alternative.

But if you just have to have a drink, then be sure to have two glasses of water for every alcoholic beverage. That way, your repeated trips to the loo will give you a bit of exercise and prevent swollen ankles.

‘Make yourself feel better with a pampering session’

Elle Macpherson, model and businesswoman: “After long-haul flights, I go to the Luzmon Clinic in Kensington, London, to relieve jet lag and for rebalancing. Luzmon technology is thermostimulation, a combination of electrostimulation and infra-red heat and works wonders for detoxification.”

Sean Harrington, managing director of Elemis: “There’s a lot of dead time when you travel, so if you can make yourself feel better in the sky with a good pampering session, then why not? I think a scrub is always good to do or even a face mask that you can leave on, so that when you get off the plane, you don’t look exhausted, especially if you have a business meeting straight away.”

Amanda Wakeley, fashion designer: “I always get cold on flights, so I wear different layers of my ultra-fine cashmere that I can peel off as I warm up. I find that Australian Bush Flowers travel essence is unbeatable in countering jet lag. I also advocate going straight to the gym post a long-haul flight – it gets your circulation flowing properly and again counters jet lag. I am also a great believer in mind over matter: set your watch to your destination’s time as soon as you board and begin to imagine you are already there.”

Susan Harmsworth, chief executive of ESPA International, a spa and beauty company: “I swear by the Bose noise eliminators that reduce jet lag by cutting out the sound of the engines during flight.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

SIA shoddily handled extra baggage allowance request

I HAVE always associated Singapore Airlines (SIA) with exceptional customer service, but was disappointed before even boarding my flight.

I am a student going overseas on a six-month study attachment and am facing great difficulty in squeezing all my necessary baggage into SIA’s 20kg Economy Class Checked Baggage Allowance. Hence, I wanted to see if there was any solution other than paying high overweight baggage charges. This was the start of my frustration.

First, I called the Baggage Office number on their website. The baggage officer informed me that I could request for a Baggage Allowance Waiver with valid reasons by calling SIA’s Reservation Hotline. Several attempts to call the hotline were met with a dead tone. When I finally managed to get an officer on the line, I was informed that they had no authority to grant such waivers. He then said that I should call their ‘baggage department’ and directed me to SIA Cargo.

The officer at SIA Cargo directed me back to the Reservation Hotline. The second reservations officer then told me that if I required additional baggage allowance I should have booked my ticket via a travel agent, as there was some extra baggage benefit. Having booked my ticket several months back, this was not a viable alternative. Upon further enquiry, I was told that I should e-mail SQ Reservations with my request. The short reply to my e-mail was that they could not grant my request due to ‘high operational costs’.

My issue is not with being denied the waiver but with the constant redirection of my request to yet another inappropriate department and the shoddy way in which it was handled. With its reputation as a world-class airline, I expected better of SIA. I can only hope that such substandard service is the exception rather than the rule.

Angela Ang Jie Ling (Miss)