Riding into the Sunrise

Morning

I yearn for those times when corners were not cut, when the world was a much carefree place, when friends and intimates could be relied upon, when promises meant something, when people didn’t rationalize away their behavior and justify their actions with a shrug of their shoulders, often with a veneer of self-righteousness, and disingenuousness. I crave for chimneys emitting pine-scented smoke and I miss the smell of the sea, of hot Gyokuro and crackling logs in the fireplace.

Often when the rubber hits the road, when the gravel crunch under the tires, often when the birds in the sky shriek as they fly past you, the moment of realization sinks in, and you know, you know, and you won’t ever forget, you won’t ever be defeated, you know in your heart of hearts, you have overcome, you are triumphant, you leave the chaff behind, you walk away from the obsolete relics of an undesirable past, you stride forward with renewed vigor because you, and you alone, are more than a conqueror and the brave new world is yours.

Mourn not for the ravages of the past, long not for relics of what was and what could have been, revisit not prior fragments of dissatisfaction, lay what happened to waste, tomorrow can be exactly what you determine it to be.

A new morn is dawning.

I am not leaving you behind.

Unless you have already left to pursue your own sunrise.

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Twisted

iPhone6

I’m glad I’ve long weaned myself off Apple products.

The new iPhone 6 – and the larger 6 Plus – is way over-priced, the software is buggy, and Apple Pay doesn’t work here.

It is manufactured in Chinese factories that are fenced in to prevent overworked and underpaid workers from jumping to their deaths.

Yet people stand in line overnight to buy the phone which is nothing more than Apple’s pathetic attempt to play catch-up with Android phones.

One more thing – it bends!

Amazing.

PT Barnum was spot-on when he said there’s a sucker born every minute.

Apple managed to sell a mind-boggling 10 million combined iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets in a record-smashing debut.

Can 10 million people be wrong?

But of course.

Heard of lemmings?

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When Friendships Undergo Transitions

Future

After all these years, I found myself suddenly running out of things to talk about with a close friend.

It’s really not my business but she is after pursuits whose value and worth I question and do not believe in. One example – a certificate in a subject that is clearly not her forte. That she actually signed up for the course threw me for a loop. I find it hard to support that. I have given up proffering advice because most people have made up their minds about what they want to do anyway and will plunge ahead regardless of what others say. You can’t throw a bunch of people together, put them through the paces and transform them into what they are not. There’s such a thing as natural flair and what-have-you. And there’s more – she has accepted an invitation to be a guest lecturer at an MBA school…some guts she has. That much I can say. As I thought through the possible topics with her, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of trepidation.

Is she desperate and is now grasping at straws to get noticed so that she’ll land a plum job? I worry for her.

And always running around to rendezvous with others the moment I’m out of sight. This eats into the time we have allocated for our joint ventures. I’m also often frustrated by the speed with which she responds to my WhatsApp or text messages. A lot of times she is distracted, and cannot retain information, making me wonder if she really listens.

She seems to have a rather busy social life too! One eating session after another. What a social butterfly.

Oh my. Eat, eat, eat…so many reasons to eat, and eat and eat some more, all in the name of celebrating this or that.

That’s one reason why I absolutely refuse to visit social media sites.

All the time, mindless tweets about what people eat. Facebook plastered with food porn. How people stuff their faces makes me want to puke. Just looking at those food photos people post makes me feel fat.

Aren’t these people aware of how disgustingly fat their already bloated bodies look?

We doth eat way too much, methinks.

It’s really not my business what others do with their lives.

It’s just that as a bystander, it’s sometimes awfully difficult to watch the things people do. Especially when you care for them.

Just to set the record straight, I have the utmost respect, and great affection, for this friend. If she’s reading this, she has to understand that this is NOT a criticism of her.

But I admit she gets on my nerve sometimes.

My irritation could also be triggered by the state – and stage – of life I find myself in right now. Yes, it may sound like a cliché but this is actually more about me than about her as in “It’s NOT you honey, it’s me.”

I have reached a certain phase of my life. While others are still running around like headless chickens, or trying to change the world, I on the other hand am quite ready to settle down to a long, inactive period of somnambulance.

Winding down.

Retreating from the sound and fury.

Been there, done that; wore all those T-shirts.

So now, I’m opting for a silent existence.

What I need is to relax in a hammock in some barrio in Michoacán!

Keeping a low profile.

Why talk so much unless you can improve the silence?

That explains the dichotomy between my friend and I.

How can we ever connect again?

Clearly, our paths have diverged.

What brought us together in the first place?

Gosh, we couldn’t have been more different. One believes in the overly-exaggerated benefits of aromatherapy, (it can make a menopausal woman pregnant, can you believe that?) and is into crystal healing, past lives, body works, (your body hurts due to past trauma and that pain can be massaged away through touch therapy, yeah right), some crazy Yoga that can make those with broken spines walk again, Tibetan Buddhism and exorcist lamas, organic food, avocado, bird nest soup and cherries, and me? I’m not a believer of any of those hocus-pocus. I like to think I possess common sense and can detect a con artist when I see one. I’m a skeptic at heart. Do people even pause to think and to wonder how ridiculous they can sound to the rest of us who are sound?

Over time, things change. Or has my tolerance threshold been decreasing with the passage of time?

Like everything else, friendships undergo transformation too.

The old magic is gone.

It’s profoundly sad.

But it’s part of life, isn’t it?

People move on.

You might have been soulmates and bosom pals in the past – or even husband and wife in a past life, if you believe that kind of thing – but now there’s nothing to talk about.

Awkward silence permeates the atmosphere.

Small talk just to break the silence.

Silence so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Silence so quiet you can hear the proverbial pin drop.

To break the discomfort, people are forced to talk.

Meaningless chatter.

Apart together.

What’s the point?

For this reason I’ll caution those who wish to re-connect with old friends, thinking they can bring back the old feeling.

With the Internet, it’s so easy nowadays, isn’t it?

But if you think you can rekindle that old flame, think again.

It doesn’t always work that way. The few times I managed to reconnect with old pals, I wished I hadn’t. The unpleasant experiences far outweigh the pleasant ones.

Sometimes it’s best to just let sleeping dogs lie.

It is better to remember to hold onto – and reminisce over – the pleasurable memories of the past, than to let the present realities get you down.

Didn’t BF Skinner say that people learn by suffering the consequences of their actions? Well, learn the hard way if you must. Go look for and reconnect with old pals if you must.

With the passage of time, friends change.

It can be disheartening and discouraging.

But there are always new friends you can make.

New people in your life.

And new worlds to conquer. New places to see. New things to do.

Yes, there’s more to life than what we’ve experienced so far.

We have a whole life ahead of us and there will be many sunshine-filled days.

One more thing about being friends with members of the opposite sex is that it can get complicated, what with potentially possessive or non-understanding spouses and all. Not everyone believes in platonic relationships.

Men shave and women Botox.

Vive la difference!

Let it be.

Whatever will be will be.

Que sera sera.

“It is silly to go on pretending that under the skin we are all brothers. The truth is more likely that under the skin we are all traitors, liars, assassins, and hypocrites.”
–  Henry Miller

Posted in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly | Comments Off

To Eat or Not to Eat?

This is the meaning of breakfast!

This is the meaning of breakfast!

My friends who eat egg white omelets tell me that eating eggs with the yolk is like planting hand grenades (with the pins pulled out) into my body.

Now suddenly all the experts are saying that eggs are ok.

Then they said salt would kill.

And just a couple of weeks ago, they said too little salt will do you in too.

Guidelines from the experts say that 2,300 mg max of sodium per day is ok for most people, though some experts think 3,000 mg (and even a little more) is fine.

Then they said sugar is the number one killer and to substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners.

Now they say consuming non-caloric sweeteners actually promote obesity rather than prevent it.

I feel I’ve been jerked around by all kinds of so-called experts.

By the way, my friend, who didn’t eat eggs or use salt or artificial sweeteners and ate only organic food, didn’t smoke or drink and exercised religiously every day, had just passed away at age 40. Reason: traffic accident – a truck ploughed into him as he was waiting to cross the road while jogging.

I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere.

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41st All Japan Pipe Smoking Championship

Asakusa

A handful of us from the Singapore Pipe & Cigar Smokers group attended this event in Asakusa on September 14th.

The Pipe Club of Japan was established with 16 clubs in 1974.

Today, there are 33 active clubs and several non-active clubs and total number of members is about 500. Each club holds their own regular meetings monthly or bi-monthly. Each year in autumn there is All Japan Pipe Smoking Championship held in various parts of Japan.

This year there were 227 contestants.

Each was given a pipe (made by Fukashiro), a tamper, 2 matches and 3 gms of tobacco – this year’s champion lasted over two hours.

For the record, the reigning world champion is an Italian who lasted more than three hours!

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Let Them eat Mooncakes

Over the moon.

Over the moon.

Today, day 15th of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, is the Mid-Autumn Festival. Eating of mooncakes, (made largely of lotus seed paste), is one of the hallmark traditions of this festival, along with moon gazing, the carrying of lanterns and the telling and re-telling of the many folklore associated with the festival. Baby yams, water caltrops, pomelos and Chinese tea are the other foodstuff consumed during this period. But mooncakes take the cake.

My favorites are those from Hong Kong, especially Mei-Xin mooncakes. (I like those with salted egg yolks inside.) The bakery that produces Mei-Xin mooncakes says it makes 45 million of them a year. Kee Wah in Hong Kong also has nice mooncakes but if it’s the good old-fashioned traditional ones that you’re after, then Lin Heung in Hong Kong is where you want to go. In Singapore check out Chop Tai Chong Kok at Sago Street, or Chinatown Tai Chong Kok Confectionery (Hue Kee) at Banda Street.

Younger people prefer those fancy, uber expensive ones made by hotels. Some are even stuffed with durians and what not. Even Starbucks has gotten in to the act and sell their own versions of mooncakes. In 1986, Spring Moon restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong created the custard mooncakes and Tai Pan, a Hong Kong bakery chain, invented snowy mooncakes, a frozen mochi-like concoction in 1989. They were the pioneer creators of these new generation mooncakes.

How popular are these new-fangled mooncakes? Well, this August, in Hong Kong, Spring Moon’s custard mooncakes completely sold out in five days!

China’s crackdown on corruption might mean that mooncake sales will drop this year – traditionally the Chinese add other extra gifts like Rolex watches inside mooncake boxes as gifts to officials – but still, industry groups estimate that mooncakes bring in US$2 billion worth of annual sales in greater China.

It’s big business.

But with at least a thousand calories per mooncake, waistlines are going to get bigger too this time of the year.

Posted in Eat Drink Men Women | Comments Off

Dumbed-down Academics and the 177 Prostitutes

Freelancers

Beauty waiting for beasts.

Three academics from Nanyang Technological University, Boston University and Fudan University spent two years interviewing 177 freelance prostitutes plying their trade in Singapore and came up with “findings” which to me is just glorified common knowledge.

First, these hookers are freelancers who do their business while here on social visit passes. They hail from China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

What a revelation!

That’s been happening since God knows when.

Next, clients pay a different price depending on who they are. The angmohs pay more as they are expected to be able to afford it and are somewhat generous. The locals pay a somewhat more competitive price – all Singaporeans love a bargain –  and those from the lowest strata of our society – the foreign laborers – are charged a lot less. (Ok if you need to know, the angmohs pay 81 bucks, locals pay 69 bucks – nice number – the Bangladeshis pay only 44 bucks for their heavily discounted mercy fucks.)

But many hookers won’t accept these foreign laborers as clients, especially the Indians and the Bangladeshis – darker skin tones have negative connotations, the study says.

Again, what else is new? Tell us something we don’t know!

The professor from NTU who was one of those who cooked up the study sounded defensive about it. He told journalists that the project is “an important contribution to the field of labor economics in general” and justified it by adding that “many prominent economists, like Professor Steve Levitt [of Freaknomics fame] from the University of Chicago, have worked with data on prostitutes to analyze issues.”

Er, what important contribution? Would someone pray enlighten?

What issues? Analyze what issues?

His counterpart from Fudan told the press that “data” gathered “gives us a broader understanding of how discrimination operates and policymakers can use it to tackle discrimination in other markets and contexts.”

Yeah, sure. How does a freelance prostitute giving a hefty discount to a Bangladeshi worker help policymakers tackle discrimination?

I think I would need a third PhD to understand all that mumbo-jumbo. Obfuscation personified, these scholars are. A case of “if you can’t convince them, confuse them”?

Unless you were born last night, you ought to know that here in Singapore, racial stereotyping and discrimination exist big time, let’s not deny that. No need to spend two years talking face-to-face with 177 prostitutes to confirm that fact.

I hope the taxes I pay through my nose didn’t go into funding this stupid project. All tax payers want more bang for their bucks. Pardon the pun.

If these guys are really serious they should perhaps work on issues like human trafficking and all the tragic complexities related to that evil; but then they told journalists they didn’t even dare ask if the women were forced into prostitution because that’s a “sensitive” subject.

What the fuck?!

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Durians with Caviar?

Sun being herself.

Sun being herself.

After speaking on camera about the recent beheading of a freelance American journalist, US president Obama went to play golf. The following day he played golf yet again.

Critics went into a frenzy.

They called him insensitive, tone-deaf, etc and those were the printable words.

In Japan prime minister Abe played golf too, just after the recent landslide disaster in Hiroshima.

Here in Singapore, artiste Stephanie Sun was pilloried for being seen standing in line at a fast-food joint dressed just like most Singaporeans at fast-food joints – in T-shirt, shorts and sandals.

I read an advice that regardless of who we are we have to wall off our feelings and compartmentalize our lives. We need to be detached, and unemotional at times; we must guard against being consumed by emotions of the situations we confront.

Remember we are not babysitters. And people also resent us for babysitting them!

For Obama, if he wanted to show by his golfing that no enemy can hijack his schedule, he was also trying to show the world that he disdains the politics of appearances.

Ditto Abe.

Ditto Stephanie Sun.

Too many today are obsessed with showing off.

Facebook and Twitter are full of retards and losers – and generally very insecure people – showing off their latest purchases, visits to vacation spots, expensive clothes they wear, rare single malts they quaff, how they stuff their faces with gourmet cuisine and how they are decadent – meaning “idiotic” – enough to eat expensive durians together with caviar.

Gimme a break.

Been there, done that. (Except juvenile stunts like stuffing my face with durians and caviar at the same time.)

I’m not shy. I’m just holding back my bragging because I don’t want to make you feel small and stupid.

Posted in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly | Comments Off

Ok, You Win. Happy Now?

Beaten

Persona non grata.

How callous people kick a man while he’s down:

1. Tell him he’s jealous of other’s inheritance.

2. Ignore him when discussing foreign investment. Behave as if he doesn’t even exist.

3. Tell him to borrow books from the library instead of spending money buying them.

4. Give him a condescending lecture on how IPOs are done.

5. Explain to him what Bugatti is.

6. Run off to rendezvous with others the moment he’s out of your sight.

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Dunhill Durbar

Wolsdorff

My daughter bought me several tins of Dunhill Durbar when she visited Wolsdorff Tobacco in Cologne last week.

Durbar is considered as one of Alfred Dunhill’s finest creations but this is a new remake of the reputable Durbar which was last produced by Murray & Sons for Dunhill. It has just been introduced in Germany, imported by Kohlhase, Kopp & Co. It varies both in cut and content from the original but still, the blend contains a high proportion of Oriental Leaf, Virginia and Latakia.  Rich body, but has a slow rate of burn and is medium in strength, mild in flavor with floral and subtly smoky notes.

On the tin it says it is for the more experienced and mature pipe tobacco smoker.

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