The Best Education Money Can Buy

The smartest of them all: Malaysia’s Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin didn’t even go to school yet claimed to be a graduate of National University of Singapore.

In the US, news on the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Justice Department made headlines this week.

At least 50 people – including celebrities such as actress Lori Loughlin and Emmy-winning actress Felicity Huffman – have been charged with participating in a conspiracy that involved cheating on college entrance exams, like the SAT and ACT. Also, some children were admitted to elite colleges and universities, including Yale, Stanford, UCLA and the University of Texas, because their parents bribed sports coaches.

Between 2011 and 2018, wealthy parents paid a huckster named Rick Singer, self-proclaimed head of an admissions consulting service more than US$25 million. Singer would then use that money to pay a ringer to take the SAT or ACT for children. He would also bribe coaches – people in the position to recommend admissions based on excellence in sports.

We’re not talking about donating a building so that a school is more likely to take your son or daughter. I mean if you donate shitloads of money, not only can you get a school – or a hospital – to be named after you, but you can probably get even a brain-damaged retard child of yours admitted into an ivy league school. By the way if you are thinking of this route, which is perfectly legal, think big money. US$10 million won’t get you anywhere with these schools.

But if your ego is not so big and you don’t need to have a building named after you, then using rip-off artists like Singer is something you can consider.

Singer will set your kid up by using deception and fraud – fake test scores, fake athletic credentials, fake photographs, bribed college officials.

Sports coaches who preach about fair competition and sportsmanship were in the game too. In return for bribes ranging from US$200,000/- to US$400,000/-, some coaches agreed to pretend that certain applicants were recruited competitive athletes.

In many instances, Singer even helped parents take staged photographs of their children engaged in particular sports.

In other cases, he helped them use stock photos pulled from the Internet, Photoshopping the faces of applicants onto the bodies of athletes.

Very ingenious. Extremely creative. Fucking pathetic.

Some parents spent anywhere from US$200,000/- to US$6.5 million for guaranteed admission.

It’s all about what money can buy.

Not fair? Cry foul all you want, but that’s life. It’s unfair and capricious, so suck it up, okay.

Life is not a fairy tale. If you lose your shoe at midnight, you’re most likely drunk, and you have probably been groped by some Harvey Weinstein-type lecher.

Arrests were made but none of the schools named in the court filings are under investigation for fraud. The US attorney’s office says college admissions officers were tricked.

It may be legal to pledge millions to Harvard just when your child is applying and illegal to bribe a coach to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but how much of a difference is there, really?

Both elevate money over accomplishment. Both are ways of jumping the queue. Both are ways to gain an unfair advantage.

And what difference is there when Singapore parents are talked into “volunteering” their services – like gardening, painting the school walls, etc –  at primary schools so that their kids can get admitted to primary schools on the A-list?

Primary schools, mind you! Elementary schools!

Yes, we are not even talking about tertiary institutions, we are talking about primary schools! Schools our kids go to when they turn seven, the age at which they start the first year of their formal education.

Places are limited. So, genuine students who qualify are being victimized.

But the real victims are the children of parents who pulled strings to get them admitted.

I don’t think anyone should go to a school if they can’t get in on their own merits. How do you cope once you’re in?

Decades ago, a cousin of mine was admitted to a regular school. But his dad found out that the principal of a highly eminent school lived in the same neighborhood. A meeting was arranged, some schmoozing took place, something changed hands, and before you know it, my cousin was transferred into that “branded” school.

In this case, it didn’t really matter that he couldn’t study for nuts. After secondary school, the stupid oaf took over his father’s business.

When you pay beaucoup moola to get your kid admitted to a famous school, you are really saying to your child: You are a loser, you are spineless, you are not good enough to do this on your own.

You are teaching your child that winning is everything, never mind education, what is more important is to flaunt to others that you have managed to get accepted into a prestigious school.

You are telling your child that because winning is everything, therefore cheating and trickery is acceptable.

You are showing your child that self-respect is secondary to projecting an impression to others that society’s shallow interpretation of success is the model to uphold, not even a personally chosen form of success, but a corrupted and perverted version that the materialistic world subscribes to.

You are setting him up to forever explore and exploit the use of shortcuts and loopholes for the rest of his life.

You are telling him that he can beat the system through guile, networking, influence peddling, power broking and good old-fashioned bribery.

In the last few years or so, we have seen so many con men in Singapore being exposed and jailed, especially those who were heads of religious organizations, sharing one commonality: they all came from the same school!

Who’s to blame?

Their parents?

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off on The Best Education Money Can Buy

Digital Retards

When she needed you, she would greet you like a long-lost brother. All smiles and warmth.

The very next day, when you are no longer of any use to her, she could be in the same elevator as you – and there is no one else, just the two of you – she would behave as if she does not know you.

Today, she is still with the American multinational information technology company in which I spent 10 years working for. Not only that, she is now a big shot, being made General Manager of a particular geographical region since last year.

At home, when you and a family member cross paths, you say “hi” or you smile or your facial expression indicates recognition and acknowledgement. You don’t behave as if the other person is invisible.

In the 1930s, German cultural critic Walter Benjamin, in his book, The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire, wrote about the flâneur (the solitary and preoccupied stroller) who is so absorbed in his environs that he is like a lone figure among teeming crowds.

19th-century French literature refers to a somewhat similar character, the badaud (gaper or gawker) who is so intoxicated by his surroundings that he forgets himself.

Portmanteau words for such people have already been coined. Psychologists today have a name for this: “phubbing” or snubbing a person in favor of your phone.

Oh, how many times have I seen dating couples sitting at a table in a restaurant, each frantically checking their phones for Facebook updates of their friends, or posting photos to Instagram.

Oh how many times have I waited for family members to finally finish playing with their phones before I could start the blu-ray movie that we were planning to watch.

A word being used to describe such people is “smombie.” It refers to the phone zombie so fascinated by their phones that they are oblivious to the people around them.  I’m sure “smombism” can now be added to the sorry catalog of urban blight. Perhaps it will soon be an entry in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

What is frustrating is, some of the people who spend an inordinate amount of time on their phones, are often the very same ones who ignore your text messages and your emails.

This is beyond rude, it is downright appalling and makes me question your upbringing.

If someone knocks on your door, or a friend, colleague or family member says “Hi, how’s it going?” an answer is expected.

Instant messaging is not instant if you take days to reply. You might as well retrograde to the days when pigeons were used. At least, when no reply comes, I can assume that your pigeon has died. If no reply comes from my text or email, should I assume that you have died?

A question asking how you’re doing should always be replied to. Even one alphabet “k” will tell me that you bother, that you respect me, that you are well-mannered.

I am sick of people who find themselves way too high above their stations to respond to a text or an email from a senior person like me, just as I am sick of people in public who are glued to their phones and walking right into me.

Maybe Singaporeans need the government to whip them into decent behavior.

In Wenzhou, China, a woman was fined for using her phone while crossing the road. She was found guilty of violating municipal regulations.

In Xi’an, the authorities have set aside pedestrian lanes for people who insist on texting while walking.

Honolulu fines you US$15/- for using a phone while crossing the street. Penalties for repeat offenders range from US$75/- to US$99/-.

It’s sad that laws are needed for common sense.

It’s sad that some people get promoted to senior positions despite their shitty behavior.

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off on Digital Retards

Plain Silly

Museum pieces.

A conversation with Lohcifer

Interviewer: Lohcifer, why are you interested in this topic? Are you in the tobacco business?
Lohcifer: I am an occasional pipe and cigar smoker. I do not smoke cigarettes. I am not a scientist, scholar, advocate, activist or researcher. I am just a consumer. I do not work for, consult with, own shares in or receive kickbacks, financial or otherwise, from any company or organization that would benefit from tobacco products. Every gram of tobacco I smoke in my pipe and every stick of cigar I buy, I do so at full price, without discount, using my own hard-earned cash. I have no vested interest in being emotional like Yvette van der Eijk and Chia Kee Seng from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, who blight their professional image by calling cigarettes “deadly sticks” in an opinion piece they published in The Straits Times on February 18th 2019.

Interviewer: The Singapore Government recently announced its plan to proceed with plain tobacco packaging, following in the footsteps of Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Hungary and Slovenia. This means that, as of next year, all tobacco packs sold in Singapore will be of a dull brown color with all logos, colors and branding elements removed to be replaced by nauseating picture warning labels covering 75% of the pack surface. With tobacco advertising of any form being a criminal offense here in Singapore, plain packaging is equivalent to eliminating the tobacco companies’ only marketing means. What are your views on this?
Lohcifer: I feel the government is as usual, extremely heavy handed. It seems to think we are all stupid idiots to be trampled on like doormats. It assumes that we have no power of discernment, that we judge a book by its cover. If so, the Bible won’t be the best-selling book in the world, year after year! The Property Rights Alliance has argued that removal of brands from packaging is a gross violation of Intellectual Property rights. This is a coalition of 62 think tanks, advocacy groups and civil-society organizations. These people are not morons. Here in Singapore, stakeholders in the tobacco trade are not united enough to take on the government, so when we don’t oppose the government’s use of grotesque and horrifying images of gangrenous feet, dead babies and cancer-riddled lungs – what I call “medical pornography” – on plain packaging to replace the brands, aren’t we allowing the government to blatantly act against the principles of Article 20 of TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) of the WTO (World Trade Organization)?

A nation with strong Intellectual Property rights is a nation with a truly decent and righteous government. The existence of a government that respects Intellectual Property rights limits the power of officials to wield their influence and curbs them from potentially manipulating the marketplace to determine and choose who benefits and who loses. This attracts business investment because of the political certainty that Intellectual Property rights are protected. Intellectual Property rights are also important for driving innovation and progress. Plain packaging is a serious loss of value to Intellectual Property rights and a great financial loss for companies across many industries.

Interviewer: But plain packaging has worked in countries like Australia, the first country to implement it, right? Surely, the government’s alleged violation of Article 20 far outweighs the benefits!
Lohcifer: You think so? Oh, so you believe that the end justifies the means? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, isn’t it? Big Daddy always know what’s right for us? Such an argument literally takes my breath away! Come on, you expect me to put that in my pipe and smoke it? Seriously, even if we can stomach that, let me ask you: Have you been living in a cave since 2012 when Australia introduced plain packaging? Has plain packaging worked in Australia? Let the facts speak for themselves:

  1. Nearly 15% of tobacco consumed now in Australia is smuggled in. With plain packaging, organized crime has more than ample opportunities to undermine democratic countries and the rule of law.
  2. Legal tobacco retailers cut prices – when all you have is plain packaging, the only so-called weapon you have left to compete with other retailers is price. Cheaper price means more smokers. Simple logic.
  3. Legal tobacco retailers are also selling counterfeit tobacco – when all you have is plain packaging, nobody can tell a stick of Marlboro from a stick of Dunhill. This is where unscrupulous retailers take full advantage of plain packaging. In other words, plain packaging helps counterfeiters and crooked retailers become wealthier. Knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, you are indirectly in cahoots with some very dangerous elements of society. ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Scotland wrote in 2011: “The Taliban, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Kurdistan Workers Party are involved in smuggling cigarettes as is the Columbian FARC. Both the Provisional IRA and the splinter group the Real IRA have been linked with tobacco smuggling as a way of raising money to fund their activities. Chinese Triads are central to the traffic to the UK of counterfeit cigarettes produced in highly sophisticated factories in the Far East.” International accounting firm KPMG has found that illicit tobacco consumption has grown from 11.5% to 14% in Australia since plain packaging took effect, depriving the Australian government of almost A$2 billion in tax revenue.
  4. A 2016 study by the RMIT University of Melbourne slammed the plain packaging policy as a complete failure.
  5. In 2017, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare confirmed that “the daily smoking rate did not significantly decline over the most recent 3-year period (2013 to 2016).” Taking into account the rise in the population of Australia in actual fact, there are more people smoking in Australia today than when the plain packaging policy was introduced in 2012. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has also revealed that plain packaging laws have failed to achieve their aim of reducing smoking in the country. It found that compound levels in population-wide samples of wastewater across all major capital cities and tested regions in 2016-17 showed a rise in nicotine consumption. Latest statistics from Australia show that expenditure on tobacco rose by 2.5% in the final quarter of 2017 compared to the same period the previous year – this after some 7 years of plain packaging! In Tasmania, youth smoking has risen with the number of people smoking between the ages of 15 to 24 increasing by 6.7% in 3 years.

Interviewer: Wow, that’s a lot of facts and figures!
Lohcifer: Well, arguments are won only if they are backed and supported by solid, verifiable scientific facts and cold hard evidence! Of course, “experts” can always be persuaded to refute whatever I’ve just quoted. Hired guns are all over the place! But consider this: No one smokes a cigarette and immediately kills another person. But polish off a bottle of vodka, get into a car and drive and see what happens! I think alcohol is even more deadly because you drink it and it goes straight into your system! I believe government officials offer alcoholic toasts at state and constituency functions but no one dares to be caught dead with a cigarette! Yes, it is tobacco that is terribly demonized. The government cannot be seen to favor one industry over another. Especially when no study has managed to establish a credible link between plain packaging and actual quitting behaviors sustained over time. In fact, long-reaching psychological damage is not even discussed.

Interviewer: Psychological damage?
Lohcifer: Indeed. Those gruesome pictures on packages, pictures emotionally referred to by van der Eijk and Chia using an emotive and loaded word “yucky” have the potential to cause severe guilt, self-loathing and disgust among smokers, resulting in much emotional harm. These revolting pictures can also bring about a psychological state of disempowerment which reinforces the belief that it is impossible to stop smoking so heavy smokers are resigned to becoming addicted. Therefore, with this devil-may-care attitude, they smoke more. Those “yucky” pictures can also cause a counter-effect among the impressionable because of the mistaken belief that forbidden fruits always taste the sweetest. It’s only human nature. So those sickening pictures have the added potential of enticing non-smokers to try smoking based on the misguided notion that “if it’s that bad, it must be really good.” Talk about something backfiring!

Interviewer: Hmm, I’ve never thought of that.
Lohcifer: Haha, common sense is not so common, right? The tobacco industry is not a well-liked industry and I don’t condone it. I support all ways and means to keep cigarettes as far away as possible from people – children, youth and as well as adults. I know majority of the public will support a total ban of tobacco if it has its way. I also know this won’t happen because the tax collected from tobacco is phenomenal, it’s probably in the billions! Chewing gum may be banned but tobacco will never be banned! Therefore, deterrents are needed and plain packaging as a deterrent is an appealing populist story to feed to the public, especially during an election year. It is an appropriate topic for the government to press home the narrative that it cares for our health. Who doesn’t welcome a government that is concerned about our health? However, there are bigger issues here. Sounding a clarion call for plain packaging tantamount to allowing the government to chip away at our personal liberty and the rights – our basic human rights – to make our own informed choices about how we choose to live our lives. Plain packaging, many fail to see, is the start of an escalation in the diabolical “lifestyle regulation” that will happen in the future. I bet the government is already looking at extreme plain packaging-style regulations on other product categories without thinking there’s a need to consider proper evidence or robust research into the consequences. Plain packaging has already emboldened and empowered California to bulldoze its way into sticking the following warning on soft drinks:

“STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

What next? Our butter, ghee and palm oil products may be at risk, and our favorite lard-infused char kway teow may be banned.

Interviewer: Oh yes, before you go, Lohcifer, can we talk a bit about cigars?
Lohcifer: What about cigars?
Interviewer: Plain packaging for cigars too?
Lohcifer: Oh yes, of course, that’s the government’s plan. Already cigar lovers are exploiting the loophole offered by online overseas cigar retailers if they want their cigars to continue coming with their original bands intact and in boxes that carry the beautiful traditional labels. But I envisage the overpaid bureaucrats in their ivory towers are already thinking of how to legally prohibit people from purchasing cigars from overseas online cigar merchants.

One other point: We all know that cigar labels and cigar bands is an art form. Aficionados and connoisseurs as well as museums collect and curate these art pieces. I am a simpleton, and in my mind, I can’t help but think that eradicating these works of art by pasting disgusting pictures of rotting body parts or cadavers over them seems no different from behaving like the evil iconoclasts of old, in fact, no different from Emperor Qin Shi Huang or Hitler burning books or the Taliban bombing away the statues of Buddha of Bamiyan or ISIS destroying the priceless cultural artifacts of Palmyra, an ancient historical city at the crossroads of rich Roman, Persian and Greek civilizations. I know I sound harsh, but surely no government has the right to trample history and destroy culture! Moreover, if cigar bands are removed and replaced with plain bands, the process will destroy the cigars. Removing the cigar band will almost inevitably tear and damage a cigar, making it unfit for consumption. It’s more than just a simple issue of sticks of cigars being spoiled and rendered useless.

Applying plain packaging on cigars, in my mind, is therefore nothing but a highly questionable draconian measure imposed on a legal luxury product enjoyed only by a very select group of well-informed consumers, a product – unlike cigarettes – that is not even inhaled. Right now, one box of Cohiba Behike 56 sells for S$9,500/- at Oak Cellers here in Singapore. And that’s just for 10 sticks – not something your typical Tom, Dick, Harry and Ah Beng would walk in casually to buy on a daily basis. Treating cigars as if they are cigarettes only goes to show the utter lack of thinking and understanding on the government’s part.

Interviewer: So, what can be done?
Lohcifer: Is that a rhetorical question? Eat more char kway teow because every plate you eat could be your last! But seriously, too many cowering and groveling tobacco retailers behave as if they have several skeletons in their closets, no one dares to really speak up. At least one retailer I know of is afraid of losing his permanent residency status, others fear losing their licences, etc. Is there ever a time when cigar retailers here meet to strategize or for a brainstorming amongst themselves? Has there ever been an attempt to make a joint, fact-based presentation to the government? The intent is not to blow smoke at the government but to be heard and understood. But it appears that cigar retailers don’t help anybody get to know them and their products because, to be honest, most of the time, they just daydream in their own stores and criticize other retailers. It is said that the High Street fellow exudes the impression that he genuinely believes he is a more superior human being than everyone else. The Tanglin Road guy thinks the High Street fellow is “the world’s greatest prick.” The UE Square “mafia” thinks the Suntec girls are “lesbian cunts.” But I was told these Suntec “lesbian cunts” seem to be more interested in ripping off and gouging their customers than to engage in slandering their competitors. In the meantime, the Chinatown “gangsters” pride themselves as “the untouchables” and think the High Street fellow is “nothing but a poser and a circus clown.” Hey, I’m only repeating what I hear, okay! So don’t shoot the messenger. Anyway, that’s how the backbiting goes and that’s how the backstabbing goes too. It continues on like that. Some fight like cats and dogs. Some retailers are not even on speaking terms! They despise and mock each other. This works to the advantage of the government, you know what I mean? Divide and conquer. There is no cooperation or collaboration among retailers and when the axe falls, all they do is gripe and throw tantrums! They have zero strategy to counterattack. So, they sit around and continue their bitching and moaning over this smoking hot topic, when what is desperately and critically needed is aggressive and continuous educational and constructive dialogs with the powers that be. No amount of whingeing, pleading and complaining can curtail the government’s heavy handedness and tone-deafness. But with active and positive engagement, hopefully leading to some illumination for those who need it, there is still a very slight glimmer of hope.

Interviewer: Thanks very much for your time, Lohcifer.
Lohcifer: Sorry I sound rather fatalistic. But being born here in 1957 and bred here since, I know the Singapore government well enough. I know what it is capable of. Despite so-called public consultation, and its claim that it has held discussions with industry players, the government has long made up its mind, that’s why I’m stocking up like crazy. And from legal retailers here, mind you, legit sources, not from dubious overseas online vendors, many of whom sell cigars of questionable provenance at cutthroat prices to clueless consumers hunting for bargains.

Posted in Thank You for Smoking | Comments Off on Plain Silly

Turning 62

Today I turn 62.

Over the past week or so, and in this and the coming weeks, I have been hosted and will be hosted to several so-called birthday meals in my honor.

Except for two occasions, nobody has asked the “birthday boy” what – and when (what time) – he wants to eat!

Most people think of their own convenience or have only their own preferences in mind.

I suspect they were using my birthday as an excuse to have themselves a good meal.

Well, that’s life, I suppose.

With a treasure trove of rare, aged Cuban and non-Cuban cigars and enough vintage pipe tobacco to last me several lifetimes, and a cellar chock-full of fine wines, who cares about eating with a bunch of clowns, anyway.

No one asking about my preferences is just a very small matter.

No big deal.

If eating swill masquerading as fine cuisine makes you happy, that’s your prerogative.

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I shouldn’t be ungrateful.

Hope this won’t be the tone for the rest of the year though – idiots determining my actions.

2018 was a great year. Finally gotten rid of the last of the assholes in my life. Well, a boneheaded, imbecilic and extremely toxic retard mounted an attempt to make a comeback end of the year, but I managed to thwart this rectum parasite. Am so glad he (who suffers from either underdeveloped or degenerated frontal lobe, in other words, brain-damage) was finally expunged from my life forever.

Professionally, I still command 10k a day and aspire to do only ten billable days a month.

The rest of the month are days when I do nothing but just chill – consumed by wanderlust I travel, I also go to concerts, read, and catch up on movies I have missed while I was in full-time employment by watching blu-rays or Netflix. In addition, I contemplate, sip single-malt whiskies and spend time enjoying my cigar and pipe smoking.

Does age and such a lifestyle bring about inertia?

Chronic back pain continues to bug me, but well, it’s only pain, and pain is a friend, not an enemy, in fact, pain is my middle name haha. And speaking of “chronic” I realized one other thing: I have in recent years developed another chronic condition; that is, a serious chronic dislike of people in general.

I have always been grouchy and cantankerous and pride myself as a curmudgeon and a misanthrope but it has gotten much worse.

Not that I’m complaining.

I enjoy being alone more and more. My soul is at peace in silence. In solitude I find contentment. No, I’m not anti-social, I’m just anti-moron. I wish more people will shut the fuck up. The cacophony of bullshit drives me nuts. Many nobodies are afraid of silence, because not talking reveals the extent of their emptiness and shows how fake and superficial they really are. Often my visits to cigar lounges is ruined by loudmouths and self-aggrandizers who love nothing but the sound of their own voice. They talk and talk on top of their voices ad nauseum ad infinitum. Losers do this to neuter their own hollowness. That’s why I only go during a particular time of the day, but my luck often runs out as these braggarts still show up when I least expect them to. I therefore find it is now untenable to belong to certain groups and to visit certain places.

So back to the question: Does age and “semi-retirement” bring about homeostasis, before the inevitable decline?

My body is far from being weathered and worn, so the loud resounding answer is an unequivocal and categorical “No!!!” Abso-freaking-lutely NO!!! At 62 I have so many more resources and means at my disposal than ever before. These include the training I have received, my life experiences, my continuous learning, what I distilled from past failures and victories, plus lessons harvested and gleaned from my years of encounters and interactions with people from all over the world, etc. (True, I have committed some very stupid slip-ups in my life, uttered lots of crap that shouldn’t have escaped my mouth, but in all fairness, I like to think that in my lifetime, I have done a bit of good too.)

All of these combine to become solutions to what were once worrisome problems and difficulties that caused heartaches. I am a worrier, but at 62, there is not a single challenge I cannot overcome. Whether it is nasty clients, rude neighbors, fair-weather friends, double-crossers who play both sides, conniving and cunning scumbags (they don’t know Matthew 6:24) who still want to be your friend while not willing to give up being friends with people who have become your enemies, megalomaniac and thin-skinned church pastors who play politics when they get upstaged by better preachers than themselves, cyclists with death wish who hog the road, motorists with zero road courtesy, and who think they can drive in any shitty manner they want just because they own expensive cars and pay more road tax, men with tiny, shriveled penises who compensate and act out by driving huge cars and loud Harleys, crying babies in first class, unprofessional medical doctors, hypocrites in church, corrupt politicians, hospital admins and other troglodytes who don’t bother responding to emails and text messages, pathetic millennials and snowflakes who exhibit their lives as “show-reels” and who crave approval from Facebook “friends” and Instagram likes, taking selfies all the time of their bloated faces (usually faces with more chins than a telephone directory from China) and semen-infused bodies, absent relatives who only show up at wakes, funerals and weddings, ungrateful children who block their parents on social media, insensitive and disrespectful offspring – smart-alecky ingrates who know it all and who are resistant to positive feedback – or a cold, distant spouse, all these inconsequential annoyances cause no perturbance to my contented life because at 62, I am at my most powerful now. “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Well not quite, but you get my drift.

Besides, what goes around comes around. The true mark of a man is when you possess in your hands the absolute power to totally crush and destroy someone – to alter someone’s destiny and fuck up the trajectory of someone’s life – but you choose instead to walk away and let karma deal with these wastrels. Yes, karma’s a bitch! And resentment is like drinking poison yourself and hoping your enemies will die. So, why harbor ill will? By any reasonable standard, I have already won life’s lottery.

What I have gone through not only become tools that continue to enhance my personal power, influence and prowess but they form a solid foundational basis, one providing me with boundless and endless personal comfort and heart-warming assurances, despite my being surrounded by Neanderthals most of the time. Collectively, everything will lead me to a future that can only be even more glorious and more complexly satisfying than they have been the decades of my life preceding this one. Yes, mine will be a tomorrow that will stagger the imagination! Even my own imagination!

I have never been much of an optimist but at 62, I have never been more optimistic.

Not because I have morph into a stupid old man – no, as in the Toby Keith song, I “don’t let the old man in” – but simply, given the ecstatic and magnificent splendor of my past, why would I expect any less?

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off on Turning 62

Scared Shitless!

These days I live in fear.

I barricade myself at home.

I make sure all the lights are off.

I want to give the impression that no one’s in.

I dread hearing my doorbell ring.

I jump out of my skin when hearing the slightest sound in the middle of the night.

I am afraid they will come and take me away.

I’m scared shitless that the CPIB – Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau – will arrest me.

Why?

Over the Chinese New Year period I have given ang pows to two Town Council employees who are in charge of garbage disposal.

Ang pows are red packets containing some money and it’s part of Chinese culture and tradition to give them out to relatives and friends during the Chinese New Year period to wish them luck. These red packets are also little gesture of thanks.

When I lived in the US, nobody would think of arresting me for leaving fruitcakes and bottles of wine for the concierge staff at my apartment.

But this is Singapore!

For the third year running, the top seven countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 consist of the four Nordic nations – Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway – plus New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland. All score between 84 and 88 points out of 100 on the index. No other Asian country is among the top seven.

Only squeaky clean Singapore.

Corruption was rife during the British rule. Colonial officials had to be bribed to get their asses moving. Down and up the hierarchy, everyone in the chain of command was on the take.

But the Singapore government has over the years, all but wiped out corruption.

Our prime minister and our government ministers are the highest-paid in the world, this so that they will not be corrupted, said Lee Kuan Yew.

It’s a fact, what Lee Kuan Yew said. Don’t take my word for it. Fact check! Google!

In fact, Singapore has moved up to rank 6th in a corruption perceptions index by graft watchdog Transparency International.

We attained a score of 84 in its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2017.

To lawmakers, corruption is no laughing matter.

There is no limit on the amount that the CPIB can and will investigate, even if the amount is as small as one dollar. A bribe of one dollar is still an offense.

In January, a forklift operator was jailed and ordered to pay a penalty of S$4,870.50 for embarking on “a course of conduct” to obtain bribes from truck drivers.

A truck driver had confronted the forklift operator after having to wait for a considerably long time to offload his goods. The forklift operator then informed the truck driver that it was the norm for truck drivers to pay him a dollar, or risk having to wait longer.

When the forklift operator was arrested by the CPIB, S$2/- were found on the mudguard of the forklift operated by him.

Further investigations revealed that over time, he has enriched himself quite a bit. A dollar here, a dollar there; it all adds up.

Singapore adopts a strict zero-tolerance approach towards corruption. It is a serious offense to obtain bribes, or attempt to obtain bribes from another individual or entity. Any person who is convicted of a corruption offense can be fined up to S$100,000/- or sentenced to imprisonment of up to 5 years or to both.

So I worry that the Town Council employees accepting red packets and me giving them might land us in hot water. We may be charged.

Especially when The Straits Times has just revealed that some unfortunate people have just gotten into trouble for accepting red packets.

“Workers at crematorium in trouble over red packets” screamed the newspaper’s headline on February 2nd.

The Straits Times reported that crematorium workers who accepted red packets from bereaved families are now in deep kimchi with the authorities over this practice at the government-run Mandai Crematorium. Just recently, more than 20 workers from private funeral businesses as well as crematorium workers have reportedly been hauled up by the CPIB. Checks by The Straits Times found at least three workers from different companies were called in for questioning by the CPIB not too long ago, while another two were questioned as witnesses of the practice. The three were later released on a bail of S$20,000/- each.

Chinese families willingly give such packets, which are seen as an auspicious gesture to “bless” the workers with good luck. More so during the auspicious Chinese New Year period. Families typically give sums ranging from S$2/- to $50/-.

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Death is still a taboo subject among many races, and during a wake, Chinese families observe the tradition of issuing red thread to those who attend to symbolize good luck and chase away anything that is bad. Sweets are also given out at funerals to ward off negative energy.

Those who attend wakes and funerals also tend to voluntarily provide some monetary contributions, known as “white gold,” to family members to help allay funeral expenses.

Hence, the intention behind giving crematorium workers red packets is more a cultural thing and also a token of gratitude rather than corruption or attempts at bribery, as families are not compelled to give such packets and do so on their own free will.

The CPIB shouldn’t be wasting taxpayers’ money to spend time and resources to go after people who are just following tradition.

Do you need an axe to kill an ant?

The CPIB should focus more on what really matters and not make mountains out of molehills.

Yes, go after the big fish!

Now you understand why I live in fear these days.

I don’t want to go to jail!

Here’s the latest:

According to Sunday Times of February 10th, since the  news emerged of the probe, the CPIB has published on its website a new section on whether the local practice of giving small tokens of appreciation is allowed.

“The act of giving a genuine gift (such as red packets) in itself without any corrupt intention is not considered corruption.

“However, if the gift is given secretly, or in a manner that attempts to avoid notice or attention with a view to securing personal special privilege or advantage and more so at the expense of the recipient’s principal’s/employer’s interest (that is, resulting in a compromise of the recipient’s official duties), it may be deemed to be corrupt and hence an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act.”

Responding, Associate professor of accounting at the National University of Singapore Business School Mak Yuen Teen said even if the red packets are given as gestures of appreciation, or as a custom after the tasks, there could be a presumption of corruption when a public servant is involved. He added that under the Prevention of Corruption Act, public servants or individuals employed by the Government who have given or received gratifications will be presumed to be corrupt unless proven otherwise.

What the fuck!

One other thing: my red packets to the two Town Council workers were given without any expectation of any reciprocal action but the fact of the matter is that they now recognize me and I may receive “preferential treatment.” For example, when I walk to the garbage disposal with a broken toaster to trash, being helpful, they may rush to me and take it out of my hands. So when I treat someone nice and they remember me, they may go out of their way to help me, but does that mean corruption?

In its response to media queries, the CPIB advises caution with gifts that involve parties with whom one has an official relationship. While a gift given innocently and without any corrupt intention is not considered corruption, if it “is given or received with a view to secure, or to reciprocate with, for example an unfair advantage, it may be corruption.”

I will advise my grandkids NOT to give their teachers apples on Teachers’ Day.

And the next time my MP comes visiting during one of his constituency walkabouts, I will NOT offer him a glass of water and I will NOT offer him  a chair to sit.

I am dead against this guilty until proven innocent bullshit.

Prove my crime, and I’ll pay for it.

Being polite and courteous – the way I have been brought up – being respectful of authority, etc does not mean I expect anything in return. When I do that and the assumption is that I have corrupt intent and I get nailed until proven innocent, this is just pure bovine scatology.

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off on Scared Shitless!

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!

The doyen of unsolicited nonsensical advice.

In this shallow world we live in, if you are a billionaire, people will line up to smell your farts.

If you have the money to act in your own kung fu flick or ride around on a motorbike or make a fool of yourself at your company function, people think you are God.

Jack Ma delivered a stupid speech at Davos and people went gaga over it.

Accolades flowed. The audience swooned.

“I just simply love this guy.” “Wow” “Awesome.” “Spectacular.”

Jesus, people are so easily impressed.

Never mind what he said was utter crap.

He said “When you are 20 to 30 years old, you don’t know what you’re doing. You think you can do anything, But actually you can’t.”

What baloney. It’s an insult to think that young people are clueless and stupid.

When I was in my 20’s I knew I would stop being an employee at 55. And I did – a year earlier in fact, when I turned 54.

Okay I’m not a billionaire but look at Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, they knew what they wanted to do. Zuckerberg was 23 when he was listed in Forbes list of billionaires. John Collison, co-founder of Stripe payment system was only 26, so was Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat.

These guys were all who knew how to use the Internet to make them wealthy. People of my generation had only hard work, sheer grit and determination.

Jack Ma also said a graduate’s first job is critical. Graduates need not join big, famous companies, instead they should look for a good boss to learn from, a good boss “that can teach you how to be a human being,” he advised.

(I honestly think it is parents who teach their kids how to be “human beings.” You don’t leave that to your bosses.)

Anyway, how realistic is Jack Ma’s advice?

In today’s employment climate, I have known graduates who have sent out literally thousands of application letters and are still waiting at home for an interview.

Take my elder son. He interned at PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) while at uni and he was hoping to get a job with them after graduation.

He applied to a few places and the first one to call him for an interview was Jurong Port. And he was offered a job.

He took it and then the PSA offer came.

Too late.

But rather than lamenting that he didn’t get to work for the company he had wanted to work for in the first place, we are all thankful that his very first interview landed him with a job offer while many of his uni mates are still languishing at home.

Maybe they are all waiting for that boss to show up, one that would teach them how to be human beings.

And, come on, let’s not be naïve; there are no such bosses.

Most people are nice to you only when it’s convenient to them.

Nobody is going to go out of the way to teach you how to be a “human being.”

A sober lesson I learned this Chinese New Year period:

Since 2010, an old lady I know whom I shall call Madam A, a longtime resident of a home for the elderly, would receive a visit from her former neighbor on the first day of Chinese New Year.

Madam A had no living relatives. She was all alone and a visit from her former neighbor was an annual highlight she looked forward to.

This year, defying traditions, her neighbor and his family decided to travel overseas for a vacation during the Chinese New Year period.

Madam A waited all day for her neighbor and his entourage to show up.

Of course, they never did.

In the evening of the first day of Chinese New Year 2019, at exactly 11:59pm, Madam A exhaled her last breath.

This sad tale was told to me by an acquaintance of mine who is a counselor at the home in which Madam A resided in.

Sometimes a wait can be a long, futile one.

Would you rather grab the first job that comes along or go on a quest for the perfect boss?

And live on cup noodles in the meantime?

Fresh air and sunshine, anyone?

Jack Ma also said “When you are 30 to 40 years old, if you really want to try to do something yourself, try it.”

Now, why wait till you are that old? By then, married and saddled with a family to provide for and a big mortgage. is it wise to take risks at that age? Nowadays, angel investors and crowdfunding can give anyone a kickstart.

He also said “When you’re 40 to 50 years old just focus on the things you are good at. When you are 50 to 60 years old, enable young people to do better.”

Most people would have reached a stage of mastery of their craft at that age, no matter what job they do, that is, if they have been at it for a while but Jack Ma seemed to be saying “When you hit 50, step back and play dead.”

If my father had stepped back and play dead at 50, he wouldn’t have been the millionaire he is today.

Ray Kroc opened McDonald’s when he was 52.

How old are most Japanese politicians?

The average age of Japanese politicians is 55.

If they had play dead at 50, Japan would be over run with idiots like Macron of France and Trudeau of Canada who are fucking things up in their countries big time.

Then Jack Ma landed the killer punch by saying “When you’re over 60 years old, spend time with your grandchildren.”

Colonel Sanders franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 66.

Peter Mark Roget published his eponymous Roget’s Thesaurus at 73.

And Warren Buffet is how old? 88.

Mahathir made his comeback in his 90’s.

What about Li Ka Shing (90) and Stanley Ho (97)?

Both octogenarians have handed over to the younger generation – on paper only – but they are still actively involved in their businesses, behind the scenes.

Play with grandkids? Of course we do that. You don’t have to tell us to do that.

I believe Jack Ma is dispensing advice based on his own life.

As a kid growing up in Hangzhou he would look out for tourists at the beautiful West Lake to practise his English.

He later made it to school and received formal education.

But he failed to get into any job he aspired to get.

So he turned to entrepreneurship. He started building his company when he was in his 30’s, then switched from CEO to executive chairman in his 40’s and at 54, is about to let go of the reins to focus on philanthropy.

54.

Same year I stepped down from the corporate world.

Except that I didn’t step down to focus on philanthropy.

Nope, I ain’t giving nothing away.

I stepped down to focus on smoking the best cigars in the world.

They smell far better than Jack Ma’s farts.

Posted in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly | Comments Off on Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!

A Couple of Indonesian Pipe Tobacco

David returned from Indonesia last month with some Indonesian pipe tobacco and I sampled a couple.

Hidden Dragon Tambolaka tobacco (above) from Indonesia is typically released to the market only after at least five years of tedious aging; that is, after the tobacco leaves are tightly rolled around sticks and the sticks tightened with ropes, and left alone to ferment for a minimum of five years. The result is a strong tobacco with hints of leather and spices. Add burley and the nicotine content rises several notches. Recommended after a heavy meal of beef rendang or strong curry of mutton or lamb. Makes me think of 1792 by Samuel Gawith.

Ndaru Rigen Temanggung and Shrintil from Indonesia (above) is a combination that can cause a lobotomy. It is said that tobacco from Temanggung is the best in Java where tobacco cultivation supports the livelihood of 65,000 farmers. Shrintil tobacco is actually a freak of nature. When the leaves at the top part of a tobacco plant developed “malformations” the locals refer to the phenomenon as a blessing from the heavens as this type of deformity results in extremely high nicotine content in those leaves. No human attempt to force the deformity to happen has been successful, hence, Shrintil is rare, strong, greatly coveted and highly priced and often used as a condiment for blending. It will be foolhardy to smoke pure Shrintil. The tobacco is a robust, no-nonsense blend, appreciated by its fans, and separates the men from the boys. It reminds me of how vintners used grapes damaged by ice to concoct highly-priced and much sought-after ice wine. Definitely a case of making lemonade when you get a lemon!  It also reminds me of Samuel Gawith Brown No. 4 Kendal Twist, except that Brown No. 4 is a smoke of greater finesse.

Posted in Thank You for Smoking | Comments Off on A Couple of Indonesian Pipe Tobacco

Scary! They Walk Among Us!

A couple of days ago, a three-meter-long python was found outside a well-known department store at Orchard. (Now, that’s nearly ten feet of snake!)

Pythons are the world’s longest and heaviest snakes. They are constrictors. People and animals in this part of the world have been killed and swallowed by them.

The media reported that five men from a pest control company were trying to capture it. It was eventually handed to the zoo.

The snake appeared to attack one of the men. The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society said that one of the men was bitten by it and it was later confirmed that the injured man had to undergo minor surgery to remove an embedded snake tooth.

But the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority announced that it will investigate the “mishandling” of the snake, and added that cruelty to animals is an offense under the Animals and Birds Act.

It declared: “Snakes should not be unduly harmed by the persons handling them.”

Surely the safety of the public supersedes stupid, senseless bureaucratic guidelines?

I can’t believe how pussified we have become!

Just because something is made into law doesn’t necessary make it right.

Hitler legalized Nazism.

No one seems to be concerned about the brave guy who was attacked by the python!

One supposed veteran wildlife expert – whatever the fuck that means – even claimed that the men displayed a lack of training and knowledge; this despite the fact that the manager of the team that tackled the python was trained in snake handling at the Singapore Zoo.

That same retard said “you can see the men did not respect the snake. They were just trying to assert their superiority over it.”

Oh, respect the snake? And let it assert its superiority over the men?

In my daily life, I deal with morons with low IQ all the time, but this guy takes the cake!

What he said is so ridiculous it beggars belief!

So what do we do the next time we see a motherfucking big python? Go down on our knees and kowtow to the snake to show respect and then email AVA – the phone there often takes forever to be answered – and risks the snake slithering away, or worse, strangling someone, a child perhaps, and swallowing him or her?

What the fuck?! If anything, the brave man should be given a commendation and not threatened with being charged!

Paid for his bravery. He and his teammates were pilloried for not respecting the python.

UPDATE: On February 20th AVA declared that there was no mishandling of the snake.
On March 7th I happened to meet the poor fellow in the photo; he told me he required more than 20 stitches and he was on medical leave for a month.

Meantime, American TV dating show, The Bachelor, took its contestants to Singapore and fed them food that few Singaporeans eat, except for some old-time epicureans. Some of the delicacies served included pork trotters, frog legs, and pig intestines. (I know for a fact that the Germans eat pork leg and the French consider frog legs a delicacy. And as for intestines, many foodies in the British Isles – think haggis – and in Europe do enjoy offal.)

Therefore I say, the women contestants should win Oscars for their  epic “performance revulsion.” They screamed (“Pig intestines, ewww!”) gagged and vomited, all in an overly exaggerated fashion. Good luck if you happen to bed one of those bitches; trust me, her orgasm is probably as fake as her boobs.

In case you have been hibernating all your life, shaming Asian food is still very fashionable, especially in the west.

As John Lui, a local film critic said, “Shaming people for their food choices is a set-up in bitter jokes made by Asian-American comedians, who as children, were mocked for packing fried squid and kimchi in their school lunchboxes.”

“The punchline: In 20 years, the same bullies will be paying $30 for the same food in a hipster café,” he added.

True, that.

We don’t make jokes about westerners force-feeding geese to enlarge and harvest their livers for foie gras or puke when we see them stuffing their faces with larvae-invested Casu marzu, or eating the gross-sounding pajata, which is the intestines of unweaned calves, do we?

Maybe we should start!

No fan of local food. But offer her fried chicken and water melon, and we’ll be accused of racism.

Posted in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly | Comments Off on Scary! They Walk Among Us!

2018 – My Best Year Ever

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off on 2018 – My Best Year Ever

Dunhill Tobacco Available Again?

Change is a constant in the world of kapnismology.

Laudisi Enterprises, who runs smokingpipes.com has acquired Kapp & Peterson Ltd, maker of Peterson pipes.

No wonder when I met Sykes Wilford, President and CEO of Laudisi in Chicago a few months ago, he was beaming from molar to molar.

By the way, Laudisi also owns Cornell & Diehl.

Indeed, for pipe tobacco, the twists and turns in the industry will put any Korean soap opera to shame.

Mary and Mike McNeil closed down McClelland; Mike is a happy man when I met him in Chicago – he finally even found time to get his back fixed.

When Dunhill stopped in-house blending – oh how I still miss my Mixture #73 – fans say it was day as sad as the assassination of JFK. Dunhill then outsourced its production to Murray, Sons & Company but Murray closed in 2005. A greater nightmare as discerning smokers could detect subtle differences in how the tobacco smoked.

British American Tobacco, the owner of Dunhill pipe tobacco brand then appointed Scandinavian Tobacco Group to produce its tobacco. Then this year, Dunhill tobacco ceased production. (Of course, this led to a buying frenzy just like how all McClelland tobacco were snatched up and being re-sold by money-grabbing opportunists at many times their prices.)

But all is not lost! German manufacturer and distributor Kohlhase & Kopp has started a new line called Heritage as part of their Robert McConnell range; those privileged and lucky few who sampled them in the third quarter of this year claimed they are very close to the Dunhill blends. Thumbs up! But wait, before we dance and jump with joy, do note however, that production has stopped last month as these tobacco cannot be marketed yet, due to – I can only suspect – maybe legal issues.

But things may change.

Again!

The pictures below – courtesy of Bodo Falkenreid, whom I visited in Munich last week – will make many enthusiasts salivate!

Meanwhile, to add to the intrigue, here’s a whole family of Dunhill clones by Wellauer:

Posted in Thank You for Smoking | Comments Off on Dunhill Tobacco Available Again?