Falling for the hype…

It has been a loooong time since I posted something here. Between being busy with life and just not having much to say, this site and been neglected. So, for my “welcome back” post, I’m going to go for the gusto and see how many people I can piss off 🙂

The threat to our hobby has been discussed ad-naseum on every blog, forum and chat out there. There is no doubt that the anti-smoking zealots have it out for all things tobacco, with no exception for our hobby. Unfortunately, I often think we get swept up in the witch hunt,  but on the other hand, the anti-smoking crowd makes no distinction between the vile effects of cigarettes and the calming, peaceful hobby of pipe’s and tobacco.

I have a few issues though with everything that is going on, unfortunately, the issues seem to be with our brethren more so than the anti-nuts. I know that I’m going to ruffle a few feathers here, but oh well, and my apologies now if you fall into that ruffled crowd.

First and foremost is that it have heard on several occasions, brothers of the briar making a very clear distinction between cigarettes and pipe smoking. They have been very adamant about separating our hobby from the extremely addictive, radically commercial cigarette industry. Now, try not to forget this little portion of my rant, because I will come back to it a bit later.

Recently on one of the many forums I participate in, someone posted a link to a petition. Now, the particulars of the petition, or the bill that it is trying to fight are somewhat irrelevant. Suffice it to say that this particular petition was in response to a bill passed by congress looking to ban the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco over the internet and through the mail. The bill was very specific to these items and did not include pipe tobacco at all. What really peeved me is that many on the forum were quick to sign this petition and share with the community that they did so, being sure to express their opposition to anything that will affect our hobby.

It was at this point I felt I needed to do a bit of investigating. So, I followed all of the links and read the entire piece of legislation. After reading, it became clear that this bill had NO impact on pipe tobacco at all. What the hell was everyone getting up in arms about? So, I posted my opinions on the issue. I felt it was inappropriate for anyone that is part of a pipe smoking community to imply that the petition had any affect on our hobby, it was misleading. Moreover, that I felt that no one actually went and read the piece of legislation. Now people said they did in fact read it, but I was suddenly confused. Many of these people were the same people that have always wanted a clear distinction between pipe smoking and cigarette smoking. So why suddenly were we hopping in bed with the cigarette community and defending the very industry that is putting our hobby at risk (i.e. – RYO cigarette tobacco manufacturers labeling their tobacco as pipe tobacco to avoid the recent federal tax increase). Personally, I don’t want to get in bed, nor support anyone that is putting our hobby at risk, not to mention, they are using us and the softer tax that was placed on us, to avoid paying their taxes.

Now, when I confronted this group and asked why they would be signing a petition protecting the cigarette industry and cigarette use, I was told (and I am paraphrasing here just to be clear), that they would fight against any legislation against tobacco in general and if we don’t all stick together, pipers and cigarette smokers, we will all go down. Once again I was confused. At this point, I left it alone, and attributed it to people that are getting caught up in the hype. The problem is, that is no better than what the crazed anti’s are doing.

In closing, a few things, and these are all personal opinions. Most pipe smokers are friendly, contemplative and intelligent. These traits are what separate us from the cigarette and cigar community. (I’m not saying that cigarette and cigar smokers are not intelligent, just simply that our community is known for being calm, friendly and generally set apart from other groups) So, because of this I would first encourage anyone that wants to sign a petition, to read the legislation first. I’m not saying that people can’t sign a petition protecting cigarette smokers rights. That is your right as an American. I’m simply urging everyone not to be hypocritical. If you want separation from a group, you don’t jump up and support that group. Secondly, if you intend on encouraging others to sign something like this petition, be clear to people what it is about. Do not mislead and imply that it is something that it is not. I would hope that this is where any potential signers would use their abilities to research for themselves, but none the less, I was a bit disturbed by members of our friendly, contemplative, intelligent community, misleading by implication. It creates a frenzy that in the long run could hurt us more than help. Again, associating with the enemy usually gets you labeled as the enemy as well.

So, I hope that people will use a little bit of common sense, both the people that encounter these petitions and the people that are encouraging others to sign them. If you are a member of our honorable community, maintain that honor, be honest about what you are “advertising” and make it clear what you are asking people to sign. And most importantly, don’t be a hypocrite. If you are going to take a position, stick with it, don’t switch and throw out some BS line to cover your tracks. We need to stick together in these increasingly difficult times. The anti-smoking lobby threatens our hobby more and more every day. We need to set ourselves apart, and make it clear that we do not fall into the same category as the cigarette smokers. I implore those in our community to maintain their honor, don’t loose your integrity by getting dragged into a frenzy mentality.

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Detours…

Windjammer Logo B&W As many of you know, I have a site devoted to my carving, Windjammer Pipes. I have decided that site should remain a showcase for my carving and any discussion of my processes or experiences in carving will remain here on my blog, which would seem logical. Any carver, whether the professional or hobbyist, knows that Briar can be unpredictable. It is a gorgeous wood, but unknown headaches can lie buried beneath. I have heard of carvers going through 3 or more pieces of wood just to complete a pipe because it was riddled with flaws or one particularly large monster was hiding just below the surface. Many will not do custom orders for this very reason. I have recently experienced this headache, but with a pleasant outcome.

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Pleasant surprise….

We have all been there, tried a certain tobacco and it just didn’t quite do it for you. No matter how hard we tried, no matter how much we wanted it, we could not quite convince ourselves that it was a blend worthy of regular rotation. I had this experience with Peter Stokkebye Balkan Supreme. It has been touted as a very good comparison to the old Balkan Sobraine, and one of the better Balkan blends out there. I of course was sucked into the clever marketing and bought a 2 oz. sample of it from Mars Cigars. This blend had everything going for it, it was cheap at $20.25 a pound, it was a good cut, good moisture, burned great and just an all around use friendly blend. The problem was, it didn’t have the taste that I wanted, it was flat, boring and unremarkable. Yes, yes, I wrote about that part already, I suppose I should give the link. I digress… Continue reading

Tough decisions…

Life is full of them, they are around every corner and lurk behind every major event in life. We spend our lives making tough decisions, and either becoming better for them, or regretting them down the road. Chicago was my tough decision this year. In the pipe smoking community, the CPCC show is the event of the year, and although just as beneficial, all other shows pale in comparison. I have seen pictures and read articles touting the glorious treasure trove of pipes and tobacco that litter the floor at the show, not to mention the bartering and dealings that go on in the rooms pre-show. Oh, the excitement that these stories and pictures create, I get palpitations just thinking about it.

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Out of Shape

I am not speaking of the majority of the American population, or myself for that matter. Although, in retrospect, I could afford to deflate the spare tire a bit. I’m referring to pipe shapes in general. In my opinion, one of the most challenging parts of being new to carving is grasping the classic shapes. I think most anyone can take a block of briar, make an attempt at carving a pipe, and simply call it a freehand. Although they may often be more appropriately referred to as “mangled hands” freehand is the all encompassing definition for anything that is not inherently classic in shape and style. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with freehand shapes, and there are many amazing examples of them on the marketplace, for example the Atelier Rolando pictured above (Photo courtesy of “Briar Blues“) Although these shapes do not appeal to me personally, they are great examples of artistic originality. Continue reading

Leftovers or Science Project ???

post121306_meatloaf Do you remember being a kid and asking the famous “What’s for dinner question” and getting the dreaded “Leftovers” response. Well, you may still hear that now, far past your youth, the only difference is that it may not be quite as dreaded. Leftovers are not at all abnormal in the pipe smoking world either. Most smokers I know keep a jar close by into which they place their crumbs and various droppings from their tobacco supply. They are often the remnants of a tin, or maybe the remains of a sample that is just not quite enough to fill a bowl. So they get dumped in the jar and remain until the jar is full and its time to take a dip into the science project. Even blending houses have capitalized on the idea and sell their “floor sweepings” for a deep discount as a leftover blend.

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Dunhill….

I figured the title would be enough to grab everyones attention. No need to elaborate any more on the name that evokes so much heated debate among fellow pipe smokers. I will forgo any attempt to delve further into the Dunhill Tobacco Odyssey, as my good friends at Pipe Lore have already covered that. You can read more about that here: Dunhill Tobacco Odyssey.

No, I decided to go another direction, one that I’m sure will still spark a bit of debate and disagreement. I have had the good fortune of enjoying a couple Dunhill blends, among them Early Morning Pipe and My Mixture 965. I have enjoyed both thoroughly with no complaints, then again, I have never had the pre-Orlik production of these blends. Actually, maybe that makes me lucky, because I find nothing wrong with the current production at all and cannot compare it to any previous production, but I digress.

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