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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Two New von Erck’s masterpieces

Lee von Erck has just made me a pair of stunningly extraordinary beautiful pipes:

With these, I have now also become Singapore’s largest collector of von Erck’s pipes; some of which I have previously featured on this blog.

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A Moretti Cortex

I now own the largest collection of Moretti pipes in Singapore.

Picture above shows my latest acquisition – a long Moretti cortex.

Hand-made pipes in Italy dates to the 1850’s and a company with the name “Hully Briars” was already well established during the 1900’s. Igino Moretti and his wife joined Hully Briars when it was at its peak, employing about 50 workers. Half the pipe production was for other brands, while the other half was sold under the name BEP-SON, a combination of the first syllables of both owners’ names: Beppe and Sonia.

Soon after, Moretti became the principal Hully Briar pipe maker, but the company itself had to close down. Having just passed a railroad test, Moretti then had to choose between driving trains and making pipes!

Thankfully, the latter was his choice and consequently, Moretti founded the brand “Moretti Recanti” in April 1968. Moretti produced pipes for others but also started his own line carrying his name. Today, Marco Biagini, Moretti’s son-in-law, continues the hand-made tradition in the small town of Recanati, in the Marche region of Italy. The workshop is located across the street from the house where the famous Italian poet, Giacomo Leopardi, was born. Marco is very prolific, churning out pipe after pipe round the clock, it seems. He must be a rich man, and I am no small contributor to his retirement fund.

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Last Supper in China

From Beijing, we returned to Xi’an and were treated by the very generous Mr Chen Zhaopeng to yet another sumptuous meal prior to our departure for Singapore. Included in the farewell feast were appetizers, greens, pork, beef, duck, fish, mutton dumplings and dessert:

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Peking Duck in Beijing

In Beijing, we traveled to all the historical sites, including the Great Wall, which I first visited about 40 years ago.

By then, my daughter has joined us in Beijing and having promised myself that I will eat the famous mutton hotpot at the historical Dong Lai Shun Muslim restaurant – a dish I first ate about 40 years ago – my priority was then shifted to Peking Duck. (I eventually did dine at Dong Lai Shun.)

When in Beijing (known as “Peking” in the Wade-Giles system of romanization of Mandarin Chinese) seeking out the famous Peking Duck is a must, though mutton hotpot is definitely another must-eat delicacy.

So passionate were we for Peking Duck that in our five days in Beijing, we ate it three times at three different restaurants!

Peking Duck is sold all over Beijing; we had it at three different places, but Quanjude is believed to be the original store.

The chef at work while we waited in anticipation.

In many parts of Asia, when one orders Peking Duck, the skin is first eaten, and the meat is then served as a separate dish, often fried with noodles. Here in Beijing, the skin plus meat is being sliced and brought to the table. Thin pancakes – with scallion and some condiments – are provided for diners to wrap each flavorful morsel of crispy duck skin attached to meat before being savored by salivating, anticipating diners.

At another restaurant, Dadong, this was how the succulent duck pieces looked like after being sliced and served.

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Not the Gravy Train

CRH stands for “China Railway High-speed.”

China has the world’s largest high-speed rail network; the world’s longest high-speed rail line, from Beijing to Guangzhou extends 2,298 kilometers (1,428 miles), and now runs to Hong Kong.

China’s bullet trains can reach 300 km/h (186 mph), or a top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph).

These trains run daily connecting over 200 cities in China and covering 32 of the country’s 34 provinces. The Xi’an to Beijing journey took only four a half hours. Having traveled first class – yes, life is short, so splurge a little – from Moscow to St Petersburg before on the Russian rail network, this time we went business class from Xi’an to Beijing where we were joined by my daughter who flew in from Singapore. (With Chinese trains, business class is above first class.)

As expected, the comfort was unparalleled as was the service. Meals were served – you get a choice of two main courses – and all drinks were included, although unlike in Russia, no alcohol was available.

Here’s what I ate on one of the rides; it wasn’t gourmet cuisine but it was more than decent; the main thing was that it was tasty and the portions were generous:

It wasn’t as fast as a plane but it sure beat the hell out of that shitty airline Scoot which we had to take from Singapore to Xi’an, being the only airline with direct flights to Xi’an from Singapore.

I opted for this Bento set.

It has my grandson’s favorite belly pork! Super delicious!

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Killer Teapot

In Chinese culture, serving tea to a guest is an act of respect and obeisance; and as a guest, it is an honor to have tea poured for you.

If I serve you tea and then pour myself a cup as well, and we drink together, what are the chances of you dropping dead instantaneously? After all, it is the same tea from the same teapot.

Now, now, don’t forget the Chinese are great strategists and master schemers. China is what it is today, not because the Chinese are stupid. They have learned well from all those foreign countries (like the ultra-evil and covetous British) who have raped and plundered and pillaged their country in the past. I am still incandescent with rage learning how these reprehensible foreign forces burned the Summer Palace in Beijing to the ground in 1860. They did this claiming that their envoys were tortured by the Chinese.

The truth of the matter was that the 1842 Treaty of Nanking (referred to by the Chinese as one of the many “unequal treaties” they were forced to sign with the bullying foreign forces) failed to satisfy British greed. England and her allies demanded more. In fact, they insisted that China must forgo its sovereignty and surrender and so they sent two British envoys (Henry Loch and Harry Parkes) to “negotiate” China’s capitulation. Loch and Parkes returned from the confrontation alive but 20 soldiers they took along lost their lives due to Chinese opposition. (This was no negotiation – you don’t show up at the negotiating table with armed troops!) For this, the British and their lackeys set fire to the Summer Palace. (The modern day equivalent is Chinese president Xi Jinping asking for England to stop being a country and to come under Chinese rule and if resistance is shown, to burn down Buckingham Palace.)  It took three days to raze the Summer Palace to embers. Looting was encouraged – the loot was an established part of army pay – and many of the treasures stolen and snatched away are still housed with pride in some of the finest British and French museums today. A Pekingese dog captured from the Palace was even presented to Queen Victoria as a gift.

What do I think of Western civilization?

I think it’s a fucking great idea!

Back to the teapot – I know of a few Englishmen who would benefit from what I would have loved to pour from the second compartment of the teapot.

You see, this teapot of green glazed porcelain I bought in X’ian is actually a “trick” teapot! Inside are two separate compartments, and depending where you place your fingers – either covering one concealed hole or covering another concealed hole – you can get the teapot to pour out of either internal compartment. It is the perfect teapot to get rid of an unsuspecting “frenemy” – oh, there are some many of these scumbags in my life – since you could pour out some tea for yourself and drink it quite safely (provided you had covered the correct hole!) and you could then pour a drink for your arch-nemesis, and he would unknowingly get what was in the second compartment, perhaps a nice dose of poison to dispatch him to the nether world.

Yes sir, you could die even if we drink the same tea from the same teapot!

It is no wonder that the teapot has been nicknamed The Assassin’s Teapot. I know of several Englishmen I would love to throttle, but this neat teapot would do the trick! Saves my hands from getting dirty!

Of course, if your intention is less diabolical, you could pour tea from one compartment and coffee from another; both beverage would emerge from the same spout anyway, and you can then claim to be the next David Copperfield or circus clown.

Keeps the old folks entertained.

Easier than being a PAP politician.

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Biang Biang Noodles

A bowl of biang biang noodles is tasty because of the sauce used. It is also often topped with lots of red-hot peppers. However, there are several variations of the popular dish.

In Xi’an, we came across biang biang noodles, touted as one of the “strange wonders of Shaanxi.” (Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi province.)

The noodle is thick and is as broad as a belt. It was originally part of a poor man’s meal in the countryside, but has recently become well-known due to the unique Chinese character used in its name.

Made up of 58 strokes – some scholars argue that it is actually made up of 62 strokes instead – the Chinese character for “biang” is one of the most complex Chinese characters in contemporary usage. In fact, it is believed that it is the Chinese character with the most number of strokes and is impossible to include in any dictionary.

And you thought the longest word in English (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis) is hard to write!

Many stories have been told about the origin of the name of the noodle. “Biang biang” is onomatopoetic, so the most common story is that it was given by a scholar who created it for the original seller of the noodle after hearing the banging sound resulting from the dough slamming against a wooden table top when the noodle is being made.

I am no expert in etymology nor am I a gourmet, but a greedy gourmand perhaps and “foodie” enough to pronounce that this dish is so tasty and delicious enough for us to eat it twice when we were in Xi’an.

And here’s the word “biang” written by my friend’s dad, famous calligrapher Chen Zhaopeng:

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Muslim Food in Xi’an

Xi’an, from time immemorial, is known as the starting point of the Silk Road. It was then known as Chang’an, and was used by ten Chinese dynasties as their capital. The aptly name metropolis – “Chang’an” means “eternal peace” – was a busy hub where international traders converged. The city was well laid out and became a model for other capital cities, notably Japan and Korea.

Among the ancient international travelers to Chang’an were Muslims from Islamic countries and these ancient sojourners brought along their religion and their food.

Their influence is not insignificant, and today Xi’an has a noticeable Muslim population mostly living and doing business in what is known as the Muslim quarter of Xi’an.

In fact there is an entire street named Muslim Street there where hundreds of eateries on both sides of the street do a roaring business selling halal food. Each establishment is packed with customers tucking into cheap and mouth-watering dishes. Some of these places had long queues of customers willing to stand in line for their food.

We checked out a few Muslim eateries when we were there:

Unlike other parts of China, Xi’an cuisine comprises a lot of mutton and lamb-based dishes.

It takes an expert to pick these bones clean!

McDonald’s may be in Xi’an but nothing beats this Muslim version of burger called the “rou jia mou.”

Since pork is not kosher, the patty is either lamb or beef.

A most unusual dish is called “yangrou paomo” – it comes with a thick pancake or bun of unleavened flatbread which customers must tear into tiny bits first.

The bits are then taken away and cooked with other ingredients in mutton soup.

The pancake bits become like noodles. Yummy!

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