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Remembering Lars Tunbjörk: Legendary Color Photographer of the Absurd

Celebrated photographer Lars Tunbjörk died on April 8

“Come closer to the common mystery.
Attend to the ordinary…
It is the wisdom that sees the ordinary with amazement.”
Lao Tzu’s Tao-Te-Ching, c 400BC/f.Kr.
—from Office (Editions Journal, 2002) by Lars Tunbjörk

Lars Tunbjörk, who died on April 8, originated from Boras, Sweden, a place that inspired most of his life’s work and set him on a path to become one of the most influential visionaries in contemporary color photography.

Early in his career Tunbjörk, born in 1956, was inspired by the Swedish masters such as Christer Stromholm. But, he soon discovered his own style by taking a cue from the American photographers of the 1970s like Stephen Shore and William Eggleston. While leaving behind his black and white photography to create his signature ultra-vibrant color documentary work, he produced a record of Swedish society and the ironies of modern life around the world.

His early series Landet Utom Sig (Country Beside Itself) shot in 1993, was an incisive depiction of contemporary European life on holiday and launched his lifelong pursuit of the absurd incongruities of our society’s pursuit of pleasure and later looked at the landscape of the office to document our work/life imbalances.

Tunbjork’s work is best experienced in the photo book format. He used the medium in innovative ways to build loose narratives and to showcase his extraordinary projects. He released more than 10 photobooks, which include Home (Steidl, 2003) and Vinter (Steidl, 2007). With the now rare book Office (Editions Journal, 2002), he came to preeminence, with Martin Parr and Gerry Badger describing him as “an acute observer of modern life”.

His photographs belong to many major collections of museums from the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in Stockholm, to the Centre Pompidou and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. He was a member of L’Agence Vu for almost 20 years and worked prolifically as an editorial photographer for The New York Times Magazine, GEO, and many other publications including TIME. He was represented by Paul Amador Gallery in New York.

Tunbjork’s images amplified the most mundane and absurd aspects of modern life in a surreal way, using the hard light of flash photography, which became his signature style and influenced a generation of photographers after him. He never used light for mere effect but crafted it like a master painter to accentuate color and amplify the humdrum details of the everyday. Whatever subject he was documenting, suburbia or offices spaces, he did it in such a revealing way with a stark, clear-eyed honesty layered with an sense of dark humor.

Tunbjork also used photography to speak about the dark parts of his own life and how he saw the world. Specifically in Vinter, he photographed his own struggle out of the hollow depths of a depression he suffered after a heart attack. In the book, he paints a picture of his hometown and its inhabitants, and turns inward to reveals his own scars in a self-portrait of his chest stitched closed after surgery. Through his images, he builds a loose narrative out of the darkest season of the year and perhaps one of the darkest parts of his life to find some kind of reckoning with a place. In the book’s accompanying essay, curator Anna Tellgren says, “his photographs serve as testimonies to the state of things, but without any claims of delivering the whole truth.”

Working with Lars was a gentle experience. He was always soft spoken and patient. Lars didn’t need dramatic locations or action packed situations to make photos. He just needed to see life unfolding in the most ordinary way and, in that, he had the uncanny ability to articulate and reveal the beautiful and conflicted world he saw through his camera.

One time, I was asked by our editor to try to reinvent our approach to campaign photography during the 2008 elections and I asked Lars if he was up for the challenge. In his most humble and modest way, he accepted and went to Iowa by himself for two weeks to cover the caucus in the cold and lonely Midwest. To capture our democratic process in action each day he drove for hours and hardly slept, barely said much and never complained about the insanity of the ever-changing campaign schedule. Each night, he filed extraordinary photographs of some of the hardest people to shoot—politicians.

Watch a short video produced by Agence VU and Femis, and directed by Pierre Maïllis Laval

I’ll always be grateful for his dedication. I’ll always remember the photos he made of Rick Santorum at a Buffalo Wild Wings. That day, Dec. 30, 2011, which Lars spent driving for hours to follow the various candidates, Lars lingered after the event had ended and all the press had left. Santorum, surrounded by his staffers, stayed for dinner and Lars was able to photograph him praying over a mountain of Nachos. The resulting photography perfectly deconstructed all the artifice and craft of the political theatre and showed something real about the candidate. This was Lars’ approach — subtle and without judgment.

I remember asking him to keep an eye out for signs of the campaign in the Iowa landscape, and he sent me back a photograph of a totally empty frost covered barren field. He said, “that’s what Iowa looks like right now”. It was a beautiful and sad picture, carefully crafted as only he knew how. Lars made you feel like you weren’t alone and that someone else understood the great abyss that stands before us.

He will be greatly missed by many of us.

Lars Tunbjörk is survived by his wife and his two daughters.

Paul Moakley is TIME’s Deputy Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise. Follow him on Twitter @paulmoakley.

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.

TIME obituary

Comedy Legend Stan Freberg Dies at 88

Radio star, actor, author, recording artist and comedian Stan Freberg poses for a portrait on Oct. 17, 2008 in Los Angeles.
Harry Langdon—Getty Images Radio star, actor, author, recording artist and comedian Stan Freberg poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on Oct. 17, 2008.

A satirical retelling of American history is one of his most acclaimed works

Stan Freberg, the American comedy genius known for his satirical recordings and extensive credits in radio, TV and film, died Tuesday. He was 88.

Freberg died of natural causes at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif., his son, Donavan Freberg, told the Los Angeles Times.

The California native began a career spanning more than six decades by doing voice impersonations for Cliffie Stone’s radio show and Warner Bros. cartoons in the 1940s. In 1949, he entered the television business by co-writing and providing voices for characters on the puppet show Time for Beany, which aired in Los Angeles in 1949.

MORE: Read TIME’s 1999 story on Stan Freberg, ‘Maestro of the Mike’

Freberg rose to fame in the ’50s through his comic records and syndicated radio shows lampooning American popular culture. His album “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America,” in which he provides a satirical retelling of American history, is one of his most acclaimed works.

In the decades that followed, Freberg continued voice work in several TV shows and films, including the animated Walt Disney classic Lady And the Tramp (1955) and the comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

Freberg also launched a career in advertising, creating hundreds of commercials and receiving more than 20 Clio Awards for his TV and radio spots.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME Advertising

Pillsbury Doughboy Inventor Rudolph R. Perz Dies at 89

A Pillsbury Doughboy balloon float at the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York November 28, 2013
Eric Thayer—Reuters A Pillsbury Doughboy balloon float at the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York November 28, 2013

The "Poppin' Fresh" creator imagined a doughboy popping out of a Pillsbury dough can

Pillsbury Doughboy creator Rudolph R. Perz died Wednesday aged 89. He invented one of the most iconic characters in modern advertising for the home baking brand.

According to General Mills, which owns Pillsbury, the chubby baking icon first debuted in a 1965 Pillsbury crescent roll advertisement, boasting 87% brand recognition three years later among American consumers. Perz, a copywriter for the Leo Burnett advertising agency, designed the trademark character while imagining a soft doughboy popping out of a Pillsbury dough can, naming his creation “Poppin’ Fresh.”

Perz used stop-motion clay action to animate the doughy kitchen helper and give him a mirthful laugh when tickled in the stomach. The Pillsbury Doughboy character has since spawned everything from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day floats to doll playsets, in addition to helping millions of American housewives and husbands bake cakes and rolls.

“We are saddened by the loss of Rudy Perz. Nearly 50 years ago, he created one of America’s most loved and adored characters, the Pillsbury Doughboy. Our thoughts are with Rudy’s family during this difficult time,” Pillsbury president Liz Nordlie said in a statement.

Perz’s funeral will be held in the Chicago area this weekend.

TIME obituary

Creator of the Pet Rock, Gary Dahl, Dies at Age 78

Product shot of Pet Rock, fad from mid-1
Al Freni—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Product shot of Pet Rock, fad from mid-1970s, displayed w. its own carrying case.

Gary Dahl's invention of the pet rock made him a millionaire after it went on sale in 1975.

Gary Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock—”one of the most ridiculously successful marketing schemes ever,” Newsweek once said—died at age 78 on March 23.

Dahl first came up with the concept as joke while working as a freelance copywriter, but the idea of a minimal-effort “pet” and its clever packaging resonated with the times—and quickly made him a millionaire after the rocks went on sale for $3.95 apiece in 1975, the New York Times reports. “People are so damn bored, tired of all their problems,” Dahl told People that year. “This takes them on a fantasy trip—you might say we’ve packaged a sense of humor.”

Dahl eventually came to regret the invention, however, and returned to advertising later in life: despite a trademarked name, knock-off businesses flourished; two of his original investors sued him in the late 1970s, and he paid a six-figure judgment; his subsequent inventions, like the Original Sand Breeding kit, failed to take off in the way Pet Rocks had; and aspiring inventors steadily flocked to him seeking advice. “Sometimes I look back and wonder if my life wouldn’t have been simpler if I hadn’t done it,” he told the AP in 1988.

[NYT]

TIME Accident

Man Killed by Mother-in-Law’s Falling Headstone at Pennsylvania Cemetery

He will be buried close to where he died

An elderly man visiting his mother-in-law’s gravesite in a Pennsylvania cemetery was killed by her tumbling headstone on Monday.

Stephen Woytack, 74, was fatally crushed at St. Joseph Cemetery in Throop while adorning the grave for Easter, according to ABC affiliate WNEP.

“It happened so quickly,” his wife Lucy Woytack, who was with him at the time, told the Times-Tribune.

Woytack used to visit the cemetery with his wife annually and was known to the caretaker staff.

“Usually, I come down and talk to them right away; [but] I went around the other end to start picking up the Christmas ornaments, and [his wife] came running up, ‘Help me, the stone fell on Stephen,’” said cemetery caretaker Ed Kubilus.

Headstones are known to occasionally shift in springtime due to the seasonal thaw and dampness of the ground.

“It is unimaginable to think that a visit of a faithful couple to the grave of loved ones in anticipation of the celebration of Easter could have ended in such a tragic manner,” said Bishop Joseph Bambera. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the deceased and his family.”

Woytack will be buried near his mother-in-law at the cemetery, not far from where the headstone struck him.

[WNEP]

TIME Singapore

Global Leaders Pay Respects After the Passing of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore Obit Lee Kuan Yew
Joseph Nair — AP A live broadcast by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the death of his father is watched in a reception area at a hospital where the city-state's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed away on March 23, 2015, in Singapore

The nation’s architect was lauded for being a visionary and fostering relations between Asia and the U.S.

Messages of condolence flooded in from the East and the West on Monday as the world paid tribute to Singapore’s founding father and first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, following the former strongman’s death at the age of 91.

Lee died in the early hours of Monday morning local time at Singapore General Hospital, after being treated for severe pneumonia and then an infection since his initial admission over a month ago.

The former head of government has been largely credited with fostering the environment that allowed the former British colony to transform into a flourishing bastion of international business and innovation.

“The first of our founding fathers is no more. He inspired us, gave us courage, kept us together, and brought us here. He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans,” said Lee’s son and serving Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a televised address. “We won’t see another man like him.”

Flags were at half-mast across the city-state as Lee’s compatriots began observing a week of official mourning. A state funeral has been scheduled for March 29.

During his time as head of government, Lee was also viewed as an adroit statesman who helped foster ties and understanding between Western powers and rising nation-states across Asia.

“Minister Mentor Lee’s views and insights on Asian dynamics and economic management were respected by many around the world, and no small number of this and past generations of world leaders have sought his advice on governance and development,” said U.S. President Barack Obama in a statement.

Former President George H.W. Bush echoed these sentiments. “I will always be proud that Lee Kuan Yew was my friend,” he said. “I respected his effective leadership of his wonderful, resilient and innovative country in ways that lifted living standards without indulging a culture of corruption. I was also proud of the progress Singapore and the United States achieved together as partners. Because of the example set by Lee Kuan Yew’s singular leadership, let me add I am confident that the future will be bright for Singapore.”

Chinese Foreign Minister spokesperson Hong Lei described Lee as the bedrock of the Sino-Singaporean relationship and a visionary on the continent.

“Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is a uniquely influential statesman in Asia and a strategist boasting oriental values and international vision,” said Lei.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Lee was both a “far-sighted statesman” and “a lion among leaders.”

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia called Lee “a close friend of Indonesia and renowned as the founding father of modern Singapore.”

“As a great leader and a statesman who truly loved his people, he was also known as an influential political figure in Asia,” he added. “Under his leadership, Singapore has succeeded in transforming itself into a major economic hub for the Asian region and stands in equal footing to other developed nations of the world.”

Amid the tributes, advocacy groups also cautioned against ignoring the strongman’s authoritarianism and checkered record on human rights in the wake of his death.

“Singapore still is, for all intents and purposes, a one-party state where political opponents are targeted and contrary views muzzled — and that too is a part of Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy that many of the new generation of Singaporeans are none too happy about,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

In his homeland, though, the overriding feeling was one of mourning a beloved patriarch.

— With reporting by Yenni Kwok

TIME Singapore

‘Father of Singapore’ Lee Kuan Yew Dies at 91

Singapore's first and longest-serving Prime Minister was the architect of a remarkable transformation

TIME once made Lee Kuan Yew cry. It was the fall of 2005, in Singapore, during nearly five hours of interview spread over two days. The conversation had turned to family and friends, and faith as a source of strength in the face of adversity. “I would not score very highly on religious value,” said Lee, then 82, still in good health, and a sort of Minister Emeritus. Yet when he talked about the illnesses and deaths of loved ones, Lee allowed himself a rare moment of vulnerability: his eyes welled up.

MORE The Man Who Saw It All

Emotional is not a word associated with the hardheaded, severe and supremely disciplined Lee. Neither, seemingly, is mortal — Lee was so enduring a public figure for so long that he appeared to transcend impermanence. But in recent years a mellowing Lee openly broached the subject of dying: he felt himself growing weaker with age, he said, and he wanted to go quickly when the time came.

The time was 3:18 a.m. local time on March 23, when, at 91, Lee, who was Singapore’s Prime Minister for three decades, died in the 50th year of independence of the city-state that he molded into one of the most sophisticated places on the planet. Lee had been admitted to the Singapore General Hospital on Feb. 5, initially for severe pneumonia and, despite brief periods of improvement, his condition deteriorated rapidly over the weekend following an infection. Seven days of national mourning have been declared with a state funeral scheduled for March 29.

A Man Apart
Lee’s life traced a long arc of modern East Asian history: the last vestiges of colonialism; the advent of affluence; the introduction of democracy, albeit flawed and limited; the spread of globalization; the decline of Japan and the rise of China; and, now, the retreat to nationalism. He was not so much an architect of change — his stage, Singapore, was, perhaps regrettably for him, too small to be a global player — as an observer of the way of the world, on anything from nation building to geopolitics to terrorism, and everything in between. Over six decades of public life, Lee preached, berated, pontificated and counseled not only his own people but also those of other countries, whether the advice was solicited or not.

MORE Late Singapore Leader Lee Kuan Yew Had Opinions on Everything

Overseas, Lee was largely seen as a statesman — foreign political and business leaders have long praised him: “legendary” (Barack Obama); “brilliant” (Rupert Murdoch); “never wrong” (Margaret Thatcher), to cite a few of countless such tributes.

At home, Lee was above all the man in charge. His ethos was both broad and narrow, often controversial, and always trenchant. Government required a long reach to be effective. Economic development needed to precede democracy, and, even then, civil liberties should be restricted and dissent monitored and, when he deemed so, curtailed. The community trumped the individual. “Asian values” is what Lee and his ilk called their credo. Though Singapore holds open elections, and Lee’s party had always won big — partly because it delivered, partly because it commanded the most resources — he was not always a fan of democracy. “[Its] exuberance leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions which are inimical to development,” he said. “The ultimate test of the value of a political system is whether it helps … improve the standard of living for the majority of its people.” Whether Lee intended it or not, his template for Singapore became a model for many authoritarian governments that saw its success as an example of how prosperity could be achieved while controlling freedom.

The personal became the political too for Lee. Members of the educated elite were encouraged to marry one another so as to improve the gene pool. Citizens were told to flush public toilets. Most kinds of chewing gum were banned to prevent its littering. The de facto covenant was this: Singapore’s officials would run the city state (largely) effectively and cleanly — making it an oasis in Southeast Asia — and, in return, its citizens would toe the line. “If Singapore is a nanny state, then I am proud to have fostered one,” Lee unapologetically wrote in his memoirs. Even in disagreement, Lee’s critics had to admit: he knew his mind. “I always tried to be correct,” he once said, “not politically correct.”

And astute, especially when maintaining an equidistance between China and the U.S., East Asia’s top two rivals. Beijing and Washington both trusted him as a friend who enhanced their understanding of each other. Even as Lee invested sovereign funds in China, he provided safe harbor for U.S. warships. In fact, he was an open proponent of a robust U.S. military presence in Asia to help keep the peace. By pinning down North Vietnam during the 1960s and ’70s, he said, the U.S. bought much of the rest of Southeast Asia time to develop and ward off communism. Till the end, he remained an admirer of American entrepreneurship and ingenuity.

China, he figured, had some catching up to do, particularly on the soft-power front. His attitude was that its leaders should be engaged but not indulged. “They are communist by doctrine,” he told TIME in 2005. “I don’t believe they are the same old communists as they used to be, but the thought processes, the dialectical, secretive way in which they form and frame their policies [still exist].” As early as 1994, Lee seemed to foresee the current maritime tensions in Asian waters when he said: “China’s neighbors are unconvinced by China’s ritual phrases that all countries big and small are equal or that China will never seek hegemony.” But he also argued that China deserved respect: “China wants to be China and accepted as such, not as an honorary member of the West.”

Lee’s arrogance was partly rooted in his strong intellect and his prodigious ability to look beyond the horizon. Today, chiefly because of the foundations he laid, Singapore, tiny and surrounded by hostile neighbors when it was born, has not only survived but flourished — a widely-admired banking, tech and educational hub whose GDP per capita is among the highest in the world; a place that constantly innovates and experiments; the Little City That Could.

Historymaker
Lee Kuan Yew was born in Singapore on Sept. 16, 1923, to a father he grew distant from and a 16-year-old mother who adored him. The family had lived in the colony for more than half-a-century by the time of his birth, absorbing the culture of the indigenous Malays and the colonial British. Called Baba Chinese, they believed in English education, could afford servants, and enjoyed a higher social standing than the poor, often illiterate, recently arrived Chinese immigrants who worked around the city’s riverfront docks as lightermen, rickshaw pullers and stevedores. Though Lee’s father himself rose only to be the manager of an oil depot for Shell, the wider clan was established and well-off.

It would be a brief idyll. The 1929 crash hurt the family’s finances, and his father began to gamble. “My father would come home in a foul mood after losing at blackjack and other card games,” Lee wrote, “and demand some of my mother’s jewelry to pawn …” His mother not only saved her jewelry from her feckless husband but also ably raised her four sons and one daughter, selling cakes baked from tapioca when flour and money grew scarce.

In 1940, when Lee took his final high school exams, he scored first among all students of his age across Singapore and the Malayan federation to which it belonged. But, by then, war was tearing Europe apart and creeping toward Singapore. Plans to study law in Britain had to be delayed. On Dec. 8, 1941, Singapore, along with Pearl Harbor, was bombed in a predawn raid. Not one bomb shelter was dug or one city light extinguished, although Singapore’s colonial governor knew of the Japanese landing in Malaya several hours earlier. About 100 people died that night. Thousands more would soon perish. Less than three months later, the teenage Lee watched the march of British army soldiers, “an endless stream of bewildered men,” being escorted by their Japanese captors to prison camp. Recalling the blunders that led to the island’s defeat in early 1942, he wrote, “In 70 days of surprises, upsets and stupidities, British colonial society was shattered, and with it all the assumptions of the Englishman’s superiority.”

After the war the British regained rule of Singapore. Yet Lee, then a law student at Cambridge, would never forget the debacle of Singapore’s fall. By the time he returned home in 1950, the 27-year-old law graduate was determined to free Singapore from colonial rule. Displaying a gift for navigating chaos, Lee entered the unruly politics of a country still reeling from World War II while lurching toward an uncertain postcolonial future. Before their godowns were bombed and many of their executives killed or imprisoned by the Japanese, British-run agencies controlled Singapore’s trade of commodities such as rice, rubber and tin. Now these firms were struggling. Unemployment and inflation were high. The island’s unions were riddled with communists, many Chinese-educated, inspired by Mao Zedong’s rise to power and eager to stage a similar revolution in Singapore. By offering his legal services for free to unions, Lee built up a grassroots electoral base and became a rival to the communists, who were officially banned. In 1954 he formed the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the basement of his house. Two of the men sitting inside that basement, S. Rajaratnam and Goh Keng Swee — the former to be Lee’s ambassador to the outside world, the latter to be his economic mastermind — would stay by Lee’s side and help him through the many crises that would test Singapore and its leader over the coming decades.

Singapore gained partial independence from the British in 1959, then became part of the Malaysian federation in 1963. Two years later it was kicked out of Malaysia because of racial tension — the city state was mainly ethnic Chinese, the peninsula dominated by Malays — and the antagonism of many senior politicians in Kuala Lumpur toward Lee, whom they considered headstrong and unpredictable. Lee was a month shy of his 42nd birthday, and no longer just Prime Minister of a federated state but an independent nation with an evaporating economy and not a single trained soldier of its own to defend it. By late 1965, Lee’s vision for Singapore was formed. It would build its own military, often stealthily, using Israeli military trainers described as “Mexicans” in order not to disturb the country’s Muslims. “They looked swarthy enough,” Lee wrote. And instead of trying to piggyback on the commodity-driven trade of its neighbors, Lee would seek investment from outside Southeast Asia, appealing directly to multinationals in the U.S. and Europe. “We had to create a new kind of economy,” he wrote, “try new methods and schemes never tried before anywhere else in the world because there was no other country like Singapore.”

Team Singapore
When Singapore was part of Malaysia, Lee’s belief in an egalitarian society had aroused the suspicions of Malay politicians who believed Lee spoke loftily about multiracialism even as he canvassed for Chinese votes. Nevertheless, it would be enshrined in independent Singapore. The population today is about 5.5. million, of whom nearly 40% are foreigners. Of the locals, about three-fourths are ethnic Chinese. But Lee took steps to ensure that the majority couldn’t impose its culture on the country’s minorities. English became the medium of education and administration, while three national languages were also recognized: Mandarin, Tamil and Malay. To prevent ethnic ghettoes, Lee made sure neighborhoods had proportionate numbers of Chinese, Indian and Malay residents. The religious holidays of all ethnic groups were celebrated, and even small local-language newspapers and TV channels were financially supported by the state. Lee’s aim was to forge a Singaporean identity that would override ties to the old country. A key strategy to give people a sense of belonging as stakeholders in society was to provide affordable homes — today, ownership stands at 90% of the local population. “Citizenship is essentially a question of loyalty,” Lee said.

Loyalty that was rewarded. Lee widened roads, dug canals, cleared slums, erected high-quality public housing estates, herded the satay and chicken-rice vendors cluttering the sidewalks into spacious food courts, cleaned up rivers, planted trees and zealously fined citizens, especially the superstitious who believed in ejecting the “evil spirits” lurking in one’s throat, who splattered Singapore’s roads with spit. Some of his social strictures drew mockery. While a university lecturer in Singapore, American travel writer Paul Theroux recalled being accosted by his vice chancellor and told his hair was too long. “Essentially, these laws are passed so that foreign tourists will come to Singapore,” he wrote in 1973 in The Great Railway Bazaar, “and, if the news get out that Singapore is clean and well disciplined, then Americans will want to set up factories and employ the non-striking Singaporeans.”

Foreign investment, much of it from U.S. tech companies, did pour into Singapore. Texas Instruments set up a semiconductor plant in 1968, to be quickly followed by multimillion-dollar investments from National Semiconductor, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric. In U.S.-dollar terms, Singapore’s gross domestic product grew more than tenfold from 1965 to 1980. It became the world’s busiest port. The dilapidated godowns of the old waterfront were razed to build skyscrapers. Singapore Airlines, the flagship air carrier Lee started in 1972, encapsulated the city-state’s story of success: small, with scant resources and dwarfed by larger rivals, it aimed to be among the world’s best from the outset and quickly became so. As Henry Kissinger, the onetime U.S. Secretary of State, said: “Lee’s vision was of a state that would … prevail by excelling.”

PHOTOS See Late Singapore Leader Lee Kuan Yew’s Life in Pictures

The Dark Side
Demanding respect but wary of flattery, and the memory of his perilous start still fresh, Lee tightened his grip on power and went on the attack against political opponents. One of them, the gadfly lawyer and MP J.B. Jeyaretnam, was repeatedly sued for libel by Lee. Jeyaretnam was eventually declared a bankrupt and, for a time, barred from contesting elections.

The press also drew Lee’s wrath. In 1971 the Singapore Herald, deemed critical of Lee’s regime, shut down after its printing license was withdrawn by the government. Three years later Parliament enacted a law requiring newspapers that operated a printing press in Singapore to renew their government license annually. Every newspaper company was eventually required to issue “management shares,” carrying greater voting rights than ordinary shares. Owners of these shares had to be Singaporean and were chosen by the government. Then Minister of Culture Jek Yeun Thong defended the measures, saying in Parliament that the local press would remain free as long as “no attempt is made by them, or through their proxies, to glorify undesirable viewpoints and philosophies.”

Characteristically, Lee bluntly defended such measures. Speaking to a conference of foreign editors and publishers after the closure of the Herald, he said, “Freedom of the news media must be subordinated to the overriding needs of Singapore, and to the primacy of purpose of an elected government.” Because the foreign press wasn’t subject to local printing laws, newspapers or magazines whose articles were viewed as defamatory were either sued or their Singapore circulation cut. Among the media thus punished was TIME, for nine months during the late 1980s. In its latest press freedom index, Reporters Without Borders ranks Singapore No. 153 out of 180 countries.

Though he remained largely unchallenged, Lee’s combative character began to strike an increasingly discordant note among a growing number of Singaporeans. Sensing the shifting mood, Lee began to slowly withdraw from day-to-day governance. In 1990 he stepped down as Prime Minister in favor of Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong yet remained in the Cabinet, first as a “Senior Minister” and then as “Minister Mentor,” vaguely defined posts that allowed him to oscillate between speaking engagements abroad while advising his ministerial colleagues on matters of state.

Lee also kept running for Parliament. His pugnacious manner of campaigning was often grating. Days before the 2011 general elections, for instance, Lee warned the voters of a suburban constituency that they would “live and repent” if the PAP were defeated. Comments like these, later wrote Citigroup economist Kit Wei Zheng, “were widely perceived to have inadvertently contributed to the decline in the PAP’s performance.” That performance was hardly a rout — the PAP retained 60% of the popular vote and 81 out of 87 seats in parliament — yet, a week after the polls, Lee stepped down from the Cabinet. “The time has come for a younger generation to carry Singapore forward in a more difficult and complex situation,” he wrote in his letter of resignation. Echoing the belief that Singapore by then had outgrown Lee’s forceful top-down, paternalistic approach, his eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, who became Prime Minister in 2004, acknowledged that many voters “wish for the government to adopt a different style.”

Today, Singapore is not as tightly wound as before. Its citizens are more vocal, and the government more responsive to their grievances — economic rather than political: the high cost of living, the wide wealth gap and the inflow of migrants.

Such burdens of office are no longer for Lee. No-nonsense to the end, he didn’t overthink his legacy. “I am not given to making sense out of life, or coming up with some grand narrative of it,” he wrote in 2013. “I have done what I had wanted to, to the best of my ability. I am satisfied.” So passes the man from Singapore, who became a man of his time.

Read next: Global Leaders Pay Respects After the Passing of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

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TIME Singapore

Late Singapore Leader Lee Kuan Yew Had Opinions on Everything

Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, March 20, 2013 in Singapore
Wong Maye-E—AP Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, March 20, 2013 in Singapore

Singapore's founding father shared his opinions on everything from democracy and leadership to terrorism and his late wife

Lee Kuan Yew had a strong opinion about most anything. As he once said, “I have been accused of many things in my life, but not even my worst enemy has ever accused me of being afraid to speak my mind.” Here’s a sampling of his other pronouncements over the decades:

On Singapore

We have created this out of nothingness, from 150 souls in a minor fishing village into the biggest metropolis two degrees north of the equator.

I have had to sing four national anthems: Britain’s “God Save the Queen,” Japan’s “Kimigayo,” Malaysia’s “Negara Ku,” and finally Singapore’s “Majulah Singapura;” such were the political upheavals of the last 60 years.

One arm of my strategy was to make Singapore into an oasis in Southeast Asia, for if we had First World standards, then businessmen and tourists would make us a base for their business and tours of the region.

To succeed, Singapore must be a cosmopolitan center, able to attract, retain, and absorb talent from all over the world.

Singapore is now a brand name.

My greatest satisfaction comes from … mustering the will to make this place meritocratic, corruption-free and equal for all races—and that it will endure beyond me.

On Democracy

One person, one vote is a most difficult form of government. From time to time, the results can be erratic. People are sometimes fickle. They get bored with stable, steady improvements in life, and in a reckless moment, they vote for a change for change’s sake.

In new countries, democracy has worked and produced results only when there is an honest and effective government, which means a people smart enough to elect such a government. Elected governments are only as good as the people who choose them.

Contrary to what American political commentators say, I do not believe that democracy necessarily leads to development. I believe that what a country needs to develop is discipline more than democracy. The exuberance of democracy leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions which are inimical to development. The ultimate test of the value of a political system is whether it helps that society to establish conditions which improve the standard of living for the majority of its people, plus enabling the maximum of personal freedoms compatible with the freedoms of others in society.

There is no level playing-field of any government helping the opposition to win votes.

The weakness of democracy is that the assumption that all men are equal and capable of equal contribution to the common good is flawed.

On the U.S.

For the next two to three decades, America will remain the sole superpower. The U.S. is the most militarily powerful and economically dynamic country in the world. It is the engine for global growth through its innovation, productivity, and consumption. Today and for the next few decades, it is the U.S that will be preeminent in setting the rules of the game.

What has made the U.S. economy preeminent is its entrepreneurial culture … Entrepreneurs and investors alike see risk and failure as natural and necessary for success. When they fail, they pick themselves up and start afresh.

On Terrorism

Militant Islam feeds upon the insecurities and alienation that globalization generates among the less successful. And because globalization is largely U.S.-led and driven, militant Islam identifies America and Americans as the threat to Islam. That America steadfastly supports Israel aggravates their sense of threat.

The war against terrorism will be long and arduous.

On China

China’s history of over 4,000 years was one of dynastic rulers, interspersed with anarchy, foreign conquerors, warlords and dictators. The Chinese people had never experienced a government based on counting heads instead of chopping off heads. Any revolution toward representative government would be gradual.

China’s neighbors are unconvinced by China’s ritual phrases that all countries big and small are equal or that China will never seek hegemony.

If the U.S. tries to thwart China’s growth, China will surely want to return the compliment when it can do so.

China wants to be China and accepted as such, not as an honorary member of the West.

On Leadership

I was never a prisoner of any theory. What guided me were reason and reality. The acid test I applied to every theory or scheme was: Would it work?

The acid test is in performance, not promises.

It is not from weakness that one commands respect.

As long as the leaders take care of their people, they will obey the leaders.

On His Late Wife, and Life and Death

She’s gone. All that is left behind are her ashes. I will be gone and all that will be left behind will be ashes. For reasons of sentiment, well, put them together. But to meet in afterlife? Too good to be true.

There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach. In such cases, one is little more than a body.

Do not intervene to save life. Let me go naturally.

I am not given to making sense out of life, or coming up with some grand narrative of it. I have done what I had wanted to, to the best of my ability. I am satisfied.

Sources: Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World; Lee Kuan Yew: One Man’s View of the World; The Wit & Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew

Read next: Global Leaders Pay Respects After the Passing of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

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TIME Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy’s Life in Memorium

Live long and prosper

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock on Star Trek, died Friday. He was 83 and had lung disease. “I loved him like a brother,” said William Shatner, who starred alongside Nimoy as Captain Kirk. “We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love.”

Watch his life in memorium above.

TIME remembrance

First Black NBA Player Earl Lloyd Passes Away Aged 86

Earl Lloyd
Edward Kitch—AP Earl Lloyd, Oct. 30, 1972.

The Virginia native was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003

Earl Lloyd, the first black professional NBA player, passed away Thursday at the age of 86.

Known as “the Big Cat,” the 6’5″ forward made his league debut in October 1950, playing for the Washington Capitals. During his legendary career, Lloyd averaged 8.4 points during 560 regular-season NBA games.

Lloyd was also twice included in the CIAA All-America team and was three-time all-conference selection. Lloyd retired in 1960, after serving in the U.S. army, playing for the Detroit Pistons and winning the 1955 NBA championship for the Syracuse Nationals. He was also the NBA’s first black assistant coach in 1968 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Born in Alexandria, Va., Lloyd is survived by a wife and three sons.

[Charleston Gazette]

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