One Group of People we Should Not Ignore

Singaporeans would rather remain photo-taking spectators.

Singaporeans would rather remain photo-taking spectators.

There is a group of people I refer to as “landscape people.”

These are the unsung heroes constructing our buildings, keeping our premises clean, empting the trash, clearing our utensils and cutlery at eateries, etc.

For the most part, we ignore them and don’t even engage with them – they are being regarded as part of the landscape, hence the term “landscape people.”

Few will deny it but most of us harbor prejudices about these people, many of whom are foreigners.

Some of us view them with disdain.

This is ironical considering that we are known to be a melting pot, a multi-racial society; after all, we pledge to be one united people, regardless of race, language or religion.

But prejudices run deep.

I mingle and mix with just about all kinds of people.

Not just those of the same ethnicity as me, but also the non Chinese like the Malays and Indians among us.

But I know of many Singaporeans who do not have a single friend outside their racial group.

Among my friends are the highbrow ones – well, some of them consider themselves to be highbrow (in addition to being well-heeled) anyway – who occupy senior positions in government and corporations.

But I am happy to say that I also have friends who are taxi drivers, cleaners and sweepers – hoi polloi.

No, I am no patron saint of the sidelined and the cold-shouldered but as I grow older, I often try to put myself in the position of other people and often ask myself “if the roles are reversed, how would I want to be treated?” (Even if you’re only 15, sometimes that’s all it takes to wake up your fucking ideas – yes, put yourself in someone else’s shoes.)

Of course some foreigners, understandably, become wary if one tries to be too friendly, simply because most of them are not accustomed to the approachability of strangers, especially Singaporeans.

Being Singaporeans we have much to be proud of – and truth be told, not necessarily because we ourselves actually did anything to get to where our nation is, but that’s another story – and because we think we are successful, we have become an arrogant, cocky, proud and haughty lot.

I joke with the cleaner who empties our trash bins, I chitchat with the intimidating-looking bearded Bangladeshi laborer who washes our corridors and I try to engage in banter with the silent majority whom no one talks to – the carpark attendant, the postmen and women, the courier delivery person, the karung guni men, the pizza delivery person, the cuci kereta guy, the workers at the laundry I send my clothes to, those women who go around car parks issuing fines to those who park without paying, even the Customs officers when I go to Eunos to collect my overseas online purchases.

I’m not doing this for myself, not trying to assuage my guilt over past bad behavior or anything like this.

Maybe I was touched by the acts of compassion and valor I learn through the media about how foreign workers went out of the way to help rescue a baby whose head was stuck in a balcony grill (one of them is shown in the picture above) or the brave fellow who risked his life in the heavy downpour to save a cat about to drown in a monsoon drain.

Maybe my heart suffered pangs of something – I don’t know what –  when I read about that visibly dog-tired and weary foreign worker who didn’t dare sit in the MRT until someone assured him it’s ok, please sit, seats are not just for locals.

Maybe I’m just a softie.

Now I worry about the Bangladeshis in our country.

27 of their countrymen were recently arrested in Singapore and repatriated for terror links. (Some were planning to conduct extremist activities in Bangladesh.)

I hope we don’t look at every Bangladeshi we meet and assume that he is a terrorist hell bent on blowing up our country.

I’m generally an asshole (by choice and by conditioning) and not a forgiving person but I wish at times like this we can reach out and assure the foreigners in our midst that we who have the “mostest” of everything are also a nation with a big, discerning heart who will not taint all foreigners with the same brush just because some were bad hats.

So the next time you see foreigners among us, don’t act hostile and try to smile. They are working hard at jobs we despise and at salaries we don’t want in order to provide for their families back home. Please don’t assume they are all here to harm you.

To be honest, you’re more likely to be stabbed in the back by one of your fellow Singaporeans – maybe even someone from your church – than by a foreign worker.

Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.

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Soon to be Banned

His days are numbered.

His days are numbered.

Recently a brain-damaged retard was provoked enough to write to the press when a whiff of tobacco smoke in an eatery annoyed her to the extent of her proposing that The National Environment Agency should make it mandatory for eatery owners to put up physical partitions between smoking and non-smoking sections.

“This can be done by using a polycarbonate screen or one made of some other suitable material,” she advised. “It can be a permanent or temporary structure. A screen barrier would help to contain the harmful tobacco smoke, preventing it from wafting over to the non-smoking area.”

What next?

Screens to block Chinese from Indians, Filipinos from Malays?

Barricades to separate foreigners from locals?

Compartments to keep children away from adults?

Vocal cord cordectomies to silent nagging mothers-in-law and noisy kids?

A ban on incense-burning, stir-frying, barbecues and satays – too much smoke lah, bitch!

A ban on butter, palm oil and ghee – too unhealthy lah, bitch!

And since we’re in a banning mood – how about banning earsplitting events like Thaipusam, Malay weddings and Chinese funerals?

How about eugenics? How about sending brain-damaged retards to the gas chambers?

Sure, play with fire. Sure, walk on thin ice. Sure, dance on egg shells.

Sure, every crybaby should go urging the government to take action on things that irritate!

Have you forgotten that you can move to a far corner in the non-smoking zone?

Seriously who died and made you an expert, bitch?

What happened to all that talk about being tolerant, to live and let live?

Aren’t your own farts toxic and lethal enough?

Aren’t your own thoughts killing you?

Is that why your brain is damaged?

Study after study by psychologists have shown that people judge you based on two criteria when they first meet you – can they trust and can they respect you?

Bitch lost on both counts – clearly she cannot be trusted to co-exist in cohesion with other human beings and her moronic ideas certainly win her zero respect.

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Food Bloggers and Their Scams

Overseas, at least they dress better.

Overseas, at least they dress better.

I have written about food bloggers and their scams and the believability of “gourmet” guides here before, If you bother, scour this site for my views, for whatever they are worth. Food bloggers and their scams are not even original, these swindles started in the West some time ago.

Things aren’t getting any better here.

Not long ago, an Internet user with a rather provocative and racist nickname – Bangla something – wrote a review of a hotpot restaurant on HungryGoWhere.

The review stood out because not only was it then the single negative review of the eatery, it was peppered with racist comments.

The reviewer showed no understanding of food, not just Chinese food, but any food, and clearly the review was not about food but was a disguised attempt to heap scorn on a certain group of people. Terms like “Ah Tiongs” were used liberally and the post even said that the food tasted of “Ah Tiong smell.”

Common sense dictates that if the majority of reviewers have posted negative comments then perhaps the eatery named is indeed not up to par. But when nearly all comments are laudatory and only one review stood out as vehemently and toxically negative, then something clearly is not quite kosher.

It caught my attention.

I am not in any way associated with the owner of the hotpot restaurant which is operated by people from mainland China, but felt compelled to email HungryGoWhere to alert them of my concerns. The result was that the offensive review was removed.

Imagine yourself in a land as different as it is from the land of your origin, with people who look different, who don’t yet understand your language or your culture. Do you want them to look at you askance and treat you like some strange creature and use derogatory terms to refer to you?

But that’s not the worse about food bloggers, even among the more genuine ones – meaning those who actually write blogs – are lots of parasites who prey on restaurants to get free food.

Because Singaporeans do not hesitate to spend on food, there’s big money to be made here even by people not directly associated with the F & B business.

There is even a very infamous case of someone who is on a food guide panel who would strut into restaurants, flaunt her name card denoting her as a food guide panelist and demand to be treated like a queen. Looks like she has eaten her way up the food chain, huh?

Vermin like her should seriously consider getting a real job for a change. Shameless, really. Nothing more than just a beggar, to be honest.

Others simply set up blogs – and some can’t even write for nuts to be honest, the standard of English is more than just appalling – then create lists on their blogs to suggest that they know, say the top 10 best seafood buffets in Singapore, or the top 10 this or the top 10 that, and web surfers, being curious, will click on those links and therefore drive traffic to their sites.

With the statistics purportedly showing high viewership, (which is also a reason to charge for ads) they then visit restaurants and ask if the restaurants want to be reviewed, and when restaurant owners bite, (pardon all the puns in this post) these bloodsuckers will then move in for the kill. There is a price to be paid if you want your restaurant to be reviewed, and there’s an ever greater price to be paid if you want the review to be positive – money changes hands in addition to a free meal for the blogger and his or her companions. Some bloggers are known to ask for ten, twenty thousand bucks or more to pen just a review. Positive reviews cost considerably more.

What a scam!

Didn’t someone once said that the Internet brings out the worse in people?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, someone I know fabricated a non-existent wine, wrote a review about the wine (complete with pictures of a fake label), and said that it paired extremely well with food of a particular cuisine served by a particular (non-existent) restaurant. My buddy even included a fake menu that looked believably real.

Like bees to honey, before you know it, all the bloodsuckers quickly crawled from the woodwork and they lapped it up big time. On cocktail circuits, you hear people heaping praise on the wine, rating it a 90-pointer at least, and according the restaurant Michelin-like status. Tons of emails were received from food bloggers offering to write positive reviews of the wine and of the restaurant, for a fat fee of course, in addition to free meals.

We split a gut over that one. Yup, my buddy and I had a good laugh.

Moral of the story: eat what you like, take food reviews and gourmet guides with a pinch – sorry, I mean a large tablespoonful – of salt. Also, do you know that many food bloggers are not single solitary individuals (even though their blogs give the impression that it’s written by some ordinary foodie with an innocent-sounding name), but actually a group of freeloading parasites masquerading as one person? They are tricksters out to rip everyone off, that’s what they are.

Yup, that’s the extent of the deception. What a racket, right?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Tan Swee Leong

TanSweeLeongSo the man with the golden voice – Mr Guthire Hour Tan Swee Leong – died on December 18th at age 77, leaving behind three ex-wives and three daughters.

It took me a long time to decide to pen this.

I hesitated for various reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, working with the man, he was a great guy to work with.

Always loud, boisterous, generous and gregarious, he was a bit of a cowboy too.

At one time he even held the franchise for the Miss World pageant in Singapore and was a promoter for it.

But there was a dark side to him – that’s one of the reasons for my hesitation.

But now that the man is gone, let’s remember his positive side instead.

His last years were spent in an old age home.

So, Swee Leong, rest in peace, a well-earned rest after years of toiling and slugging it out.

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Fish at Ban Heong Seng

BanHeongSengSince my first visit more than 20 years ago, Ban Heong Seng, the Malaysian Chinese “restaurant” operating out of a house (in Johor and now also in Selangor) has been blogged to death.

People rave about their mud-baked beggar’s chicken, and the winter melon hollowed out to serve as a soup “bowl” but to me, it’s their fish that’s the winner!

The flesh is somehow extracted, reconstituted and the entire fish reassembled, deep fried and cut into slices before being served.

Now, try doing that at home!

And if you must insist, here’s that melon:

Melon

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Horn-shaped Meerschaum Pipe

Horn

Meerschaum continues to be a favorite material for pipe smokers – “sea foam” carved into pipes by craftsmen from Turkey are prized possessions. These pipes are porous and there is no need to air them out after each smoke. Also the nature of the mineral means that no tobacco will “ghost” the pipe, making meerchaucm pipes perfect for trying out various pipe tobacco.

In addition, meerschaum pipes change color gradually to a yellowish-golden hue when smoked often enough and many pipe smokers say that watching their meerschaum pipes transition from white to gold is one other reason why such pipes are so much fun to use.

For more on my meerschaum pipes, just type “meerschaum” in the search window on this page.

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One More Castello

3K

Carlo Scotti created the Castello pipe in 1947.  His son-in-law, Franco Coppo, now runs the factory.

Each Castello is made by hand by one of six artisans from briar aged for at least 10 years and slab acrylic for stems with the tenons turned from the same piece of acrylic instead of a secondary tenon.

Producing roughly 3,500 pipes in recent years, they are collected all over the world.

The company uses the alphabet “K” to denote the grain quality of a smooth pipe, and the size designation of a sandblasted. Mine is a triple K.

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Butz-Choquin Millésime 2016

Millésime2016Every year, Butz-Choquin produces – in limited quantity – a brand new design of pipe that will be the pipe Millésime or Pipe of the year. I received the Millésime 2016 as a Christmas present recently. Mine was numbered 58 of 1000.

Butz-Choquin, founded in 1858, is located in Saint-Claude, France, a village nestled in the heart of the Haut Jura Mountains, not far from the Swiss border. The soi-disant Pipe Capital of the World, Saint Claude is largely a single-industry town. Current president Jean-Paul Berrod represents the fourth generation to run the company since his great-grandfather founded it.

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A Sea Urchin for Christmas

UrchinReceived a Sea Urchin for Christmas!

The Sea Urchin is Ian Walker’s signature piece, a testament to the skill and dedication he puts into his work. The pipe takes many hours to carve and done completely by hand.

Ian’s pipes are marketed under the Northern Briar brand. Each is made by on a 70-foot traditional British narrow boat. Originally these boats transported coal, lumber and other materials/products around the UK. Now converted, with a very small work shop, Ian works and lives on board. He is a third generation pipe maker and has been involved in pipe making since he was a young boy. Like all family businesses, Ian started off small, by polishing pipes and working his way up. Over the years he was taught silversmithing by his grandfather, and stem production by his father. Before his father stopped making pipes, Ian’s main role was repairs and stem manufacture. Now Northern Briar’s are one of the biggest selling Artisan pips produced in the UK, with many going around the globe.

With his history and attention to detail Northern Briar pipes offer the smoker the chance to own a piece of classic English manufacture, without the production line attitude found with the remaining UK factories. Ever pipe is made from Mediterranean briar, and German rods for Vulcanite & acrylic stems.

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Have a Blessed Christmas!

Time for reflection.

Time for reflection.

As 2015 draws to a close, and songs from the Christmas season permeates the air, many people will be in a frenzy buying and exchanging gifts.

This started from the original idea that God gave His son Jesus to save the world – the ultimate gift.

Of course, many today have no inkling of that.

They are just following a tradition.

Gift-giving – and partying – marks this period of the year.

But amidst the merriment, while everyone chips in to have some fun, there are those who are lonely and sad – those without family, those who feel life has dealt them an unfair deal, those who are quite sunken in despair to the extent that wallowing in despondency becomes “comfort zone” for them, and of course those who are not well.

Our hearts go out to these people.

This sense of being uncared for can intensify for some when Christmas comes around as certain people see others in joyous celebration.

It is easy to be perceived of as being insensitive when amidst the merry-making we inadvertently forget to go the extra mile to show that we genuinely care or give gifts that can be misinterpreted as subtle messages.

Indeed, it is often said that giving is for the giver, not necessary the giftee.

There is some truth in that, but if someone I care for is a compulsive gambler, do I become so bold as to dispense unsolicited advice to him (I know my place as head of family, eldest son of eldest son, blah, blah, blah, but I try never to give unsolicited advice even to my family members) or do I give him a book about positive thinking and overcoming one’s compulsiveness?

Of course I will not give a book with a title such as “Addiction Control for Dummies” or “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Overcoming Gambling Addiction.”

But if my boss flies off the handle and becomes abusive at the slightest (perceived or real) provocation, who am I to sit him down and give him a piece of my mind? That will surely destroy any relationship I have with him. Instead I would bless him with a book on impulse control and on how he can control his temper before it controls and destroys him and everyone around him. As an adult, he should think and self-appraise and ask himself why he is being given such a gift. (Actually knowing oneself is the greatest gift of all.)

As with last year, this year, I am giving everyone books – some instructional, some entertaining, some inspiring – and for those I really care about, a book and a little more.

Too bad if people get upset.

If they have balls, they can always tell me to my face that I piss them off.

Sulk and you remain in a corner for all you want while the rest of the world is oblivious to your pain.

Unless that’s what you enjoy doing, being cooked in your own toxic juice, that is.

Well, whatever floats your sinking boat.

But bearing a lifelong grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.

The best thing for those who can’t forgive is to give themselves the gift of letting go.

So have a blessed, venom-free, vitriol-free Christmas, all.

But remember: Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart. Somewhere deep inside you is where Christmas really starts.

So give that a serious thought!

Yes, remember the reason for the season!

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