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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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2018 – My Best Year Ever

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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:

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Ji pai xi liao

Xi Jinping is a power-crazy despot.

His hardline stance towards the volatile orange man-child in the White House puts the world in peril.

The Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping was in power, triggered the transformation of China to what it is today.

Xi considers himself Deng’s heir but a trade war with the US is what Deng would have avoided.

That’s not the only thing he has done to go against Deng. He has manipulated the Chinese Communist Party to reverse the term limits put in place by Deng by having everyone voting for him to be president for life. Yes, Xi is president for life. Even Lee Kuan Yew knows how to step down. (Okay, so he was pulling the strings at the back, but…)

Building a messianic-like atmosphere around himself, Xi made sure “Xi Jinping thought” is incorporated into the Chinese constitution. Media coverage of Xi’s pronouncements are fawning and reverent. China’s toadying press probably thinks his farts smell like perfume.

Xi promotes the idea that following Mao Zedong and Deng, he is China’s third great leader. This ignores the extent to which Deng’s reforms marked a deliberate and profound break from the cult of Maoism. Deng’s goal was to free China from the lawlessness and poverty created by the Cultural Revolution and to unleash individual initiative and innovation.

Deng said on December 13th 1978 that China cannot have a culture in which officials “dare not say a word or take a step that isn’t mentioned in books, documents or the speeches of leaders.” 40 years later, Chinese officials once again find themselves obliged to genuflect before the thoughts of the party leader. Will they soon bow and kowtow to Xi as they did in the past to tyrannical and oppressive emperors?

Deng Fufang, Deng’s son who was crippled by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, said last September that China’s priority should be to get its own problems fixed; his comments were viewed by analysts as a rebuke at Xi’s international ambition such as his grandiose “Belt and Road Initiative.”

We live in interesting times indeed.

They say that’s a Chinese curse, though I found no evidence that it actually is.

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Reverse Calabash – a Gift from Jerry Zenn

The briar bowl on the left fits into the top of the larger bamboo bowl.

This is a reverse calabash by Jerry Zenn.

Jerry used a combination of materials to make this unique pipe: vintage briar, aged Taiwanese bamboo and horn primarily.

This is only the third such pipe he was ever made.

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Deuterostome Alert!

Recently, The British Council published its biennial survey of what young people – 18 to 34-year-olds – in the G20 nations think of each other’s countries.

The Council asked which country the respondents thought was the most attractive, which countries’ institutions they trusted most, and which country they would like to study in or visit. Young G20 people felt most attracted to Canada, followed by Australia and Italy. The only country to name the UK as most attractive was South Africa, although Britain came fourth overall. The US won none of the G20 contests, except in India, where the respondents split the most attractive country between the US and Canada. The UK’s institutions were generally trusted by most respondents, and the US and Britain were seen as good places to study.

Does it matter what people think of a country?

Of course, it does, although some retards in our neighboring countries don’t seem to care.

Singapore, for example has for more than 40 years been plagued by smog caused by forest-burning in a neighboring country but each time we complain about it, we were attacked with insults and sarcastic comments.

The vice president of that country once even said that we ought to be thanking them for the oxygen generated by their trees!

“For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from our country and they never thanked us. They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset,” he fumed.

And on Sunday, in another country nearby, a supreme council member of the political party of its prime minister said that Singapore will get “pain by a thousand cuts” for our position on the maritime dispute with his country. (They claimed part of our sea as theirs and in an act of intimidation – or should I say “invasion”? – moored a couple of boats there.)

I have just remembered that pigs are deuterostomes, which means when they were developed in the womb, the anus forms before any other bodily orifices. Basically, they started off as assholes. Some pigs obviously never progressed beyond that stage. This probably explains why a lot of morons talk through their asses most of the time.

Just saying.

George Bernard Shaw once said “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

“Walk softly and carry a big stick, you shall go far,” said Teddy Roosevelt.

Boy, are both gentlemen right!

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Under the Tutelage of Jerry Zenn

Jerry Zenn, born in 1964, is a pipe maker based in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Before making pipes full time since 2005, he was an auto mechanic for 25 years specializing in Volvos.

Jerry’s pipes are very much coveted; he uses specially-harvested Oriental bamboo and horn for incorporating into his pipes and his pipes on sites like smokingpipes.com and scandpipes.com always sell out fast.

I spent a few days in Kaohsiung with Jerry recently and made a pipe under his watchful eyes:

Challenge: How to turn this block of briar into a beautiful pipe?

After designing, cutting and sanding, the pipe is now ready to be sandblasted.

This was how the bowl looked like before sandblasting.

The grains started to emerge after sandblasting.

A few more steps and finally the pipe is done!

Check this out too: Pipe making in the USA.

Three of Jerry’s pipes:

 

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