Another Masterpiece by Fikri Baki

With my giant on loan for display as part of a private collection, I’ve been looking for another calabash with a more manageable size to smoke; and I found one:

It's got everything I like - real gourd, bamboo, block meerschaum...

It’s got everything I like – real gourd, bamboo, block meerschaum…

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Rape Culture? Don’t Make My Toes Laugh!


30 years of marriage and I am no closer to understanding my lovely wife 100%.

I do catch some clues of what she wants though from her body language and from the things she says.

If she says “We need to talk” it usually means she has something to question me about that I won’t enjoy hearing, like why on earth did I purchase yet another expensive camera that I don’t need and will never use.

If she becomes unusually solemn and says “nothing” when I asked if something’s bothering her I can be sure probably something is indeed troubling her – could be her work, her siblings, whatever.

Sometimes when she says “no” to me, I know she actually and secretly means “yes.” I am sure if I ask her “Can I get you a big diamond solitaire on our wedding anniversary?” she will say “no, please don’t spend money like that” but if I really go and get her a diamond the size of a golf ball, I’m sure she’ll squeal with delight.

(Human beings ARE complicated. I myself can be very difficult too.)

And if my dear wife asks me if she looks fat, I know it’s time for me to reaffirm to her that I love her no matter what her size is. (She is NOT fat by the way – at 56, she has the body of a teenager, but most of the time she thinks she’s Jabba the Hutt.)

Gender differences and how men and women communicate – and miscommunicate – is the fodder of many books and have made jokers like John Gray (who graduated from the same uni as me) and clowns and pseudo-experts like Allan Pease rose to a celebrity-like prominence they don’t really deserve. (Books by Desmond Morris and Deborah Tannen are more credible reads.) I am not talking about sexual stereotyping here, I’m just stating facts. Men and women are wired differently and we communicate differently. Words cannot always be taken at face value. And just because someone points out some of the common differences doesn’t mean he or she is engaging in sexual stereotyping.

Some of these “she-actually-means-this-when-she-says-that” quotes are listed in a publication used by an organization engaged by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to run relationship courses for students.

A 17-year-old student from Hwa Chong was so enraged by the publication’s contents that she accused the organization that was appointed for promoting a rape culture. (Because “no” means “yes”?)

Dear wet-behind-the-ears brat, let me tell you this: You have NO frigging idea what rape is, and I sure hope you never have to find out; also, with a thinking process like that, I wonder how the hell you got into a supposedly good school like Hwa Chong?

Shuddup and try to grow some brains for a change. And stop embarrassing yourself.

Of course, needless to say, many equally clueless keyboard warriors couldn’t resist the bait and seized upon the opportunity to attack the Ministry, and the government, and just about everyone and everything else, except their own severe lack of discernment.

And of course many, fearful of losing their jobs, or getting screwed for one reason or other, started scrambling to cover their asses and to blame everyone else but themselves for allowing the program into our schools.

My dear Singaporeans, politically-aware and bright Hong Kongers are sleeping in the streets for their rights and some of you guys, especially those of you with zero intellectual firepower, are just wasting space, farting around, busy engaging in mental masturbation, and spending nearly 500 bucks looking for a lost soft toy. Tsk, tsk. Only in Singapore. (Yesterday’s papers carried news about how after eight hours combing MRT stations along the East-West Line and spending close to $500 on lost-and-found ads, a 23-year-old is still desperately looking for a companion – a soft toy – which had been by her side for the last 17 years.)

The majority of Singaporeans are decent and sensible but the number of idiots and parasites seem to proliferate these days. And please don’t mention those cretins in the same breath as the brave students in Hong Kong. Indeed, don’t equate the Hong Kong pro-democracy activists with some of the comedians we have in our midst. And I beg of you, please don’t remind me of that nut case, that self-styled “genius-with-the-charts” who accused the prime minister of embezzling our retirement funds. Or that retarded blogger who had no qualms frightening special-needs kids by allowing a rally she was leading to encroach into a charity carnival where these kids were performing.

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.

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Starbucks’ Flawed Strategy

Starbucks can't seem to decide if they wish to remain a coffee shop or a library.

Starbucks can’t seem to decide if they wish to remain a coffee shop or a library.

No, Starbucks doesn’t serve the best coffee in the world. It is just another bloodsucking American chain but the one at Orchard Point used to have the largest number of smoking seats and we pipe and cigar smokers would gather there to indulge in our hobby.

However in recent times, Starbucks all over Singapore has begun to replace their comfortable seats and transforming the stores to look like libraries.

Very uncomfortable.

Students throng Starbucks and stay all day though I’ve seen signs requesting students not to hoard seats.

Often they just buy one drink and occupy the seats for long stretches.

If Starbucks have converted their stores into libraries to entice students in, then that strategy is flawed.

Starbucks staff have no guts to implement the no-hording request.

In fact Starbucks staff have no guts to do anything.

Very often, non-customers would also plonk themselves at Starbucks and smoke away, depriving paying customers their seats but Starbucks staff would not chase them away.

I’ve blogged about this more than once – just do a search on my blog by typing Starbucks.

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Smoking the Toilet

Nope, not smoking in the toilet, but smoking the toilet, the toilet meerschaum pipe, that is. I’m sure it will color nicely over time.



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Riding into the Sunrise


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

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

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

A new morn is dawning.

I am not leaving you behind.

Unless you have already left to pursue your own sunrise.

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

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

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

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

One more thing – it bends!


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

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

Can 10 million people be wrong?

But of course.

Heard of lemmings?

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When Friendships Undergo Transitions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We doth eat way too much, methinks.

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

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

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

But I admit she gets on my nerve sometimes.

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

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

Winding down.

Retreating from the sound and fury.

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

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

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

Keeping a low profile.

Why talk so much unless you can improve the silence?

That explains the dichotomy between my friend and I.

How can we ever connect again?

Clearly, our paths have diverged.

What brought us together in the first place?

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

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

Like everything else, friendships undergo transformation too.

The old magic is gone.

It’s profoundly sad.

But it’s part of life, isn’t it?

People move on.

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

Awkward silence permeates the atmosphere.

Small talk just to break the silence.

Silence so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Silence so quiet you can hear the proverbial pin drop.

To break the discomfort, people are forced to talk.

Meaningless chatter.

Apart together.

What’s the point?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the passage of time, friends change.

It can be disheartening and discouraging.

But there are always new friends you can make.

New people in your life.

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

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

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

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

Men shave and women Botox.

Vive la difference!

Let it be.

Whatever will be will be.

Que sera sera.

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

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

To Eat or Not to Eat?

This is the meaning of breakfast!

This is the meaning of breakfast!

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

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

Then they said salt would kill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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41st All Japan Pipe Smoking Championship


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

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

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

This year there were 227 contestants.

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

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

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Let Them eat Mooncakes

Over the moon.

Over the moon.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s big business.

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

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