Other People’s Thoughts, XXIV

Other People’s Thoughts is a section in the Journal of the China Heritage site. It is inspired by a compilation of quotations put together by Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans), one of our Ancestors, during his reading life.

The character ‘record’ 記 in the hand of Mi Fei 米芾, or ‘Madman Mi’ 米癲 of the Song. Source: 好事家貼.

Pierre remarked that the resulting modest volume of quotations was ‘idiosyncratically compiled for the amusement of idle readers’ (see Simon Leys, Other People’s Thoughts, 2007). Our aim is similar: to amuse our readers (idle or otherwise); as is our modus operandi: to build up an idiosyncratic compilation that reflects our interests and disposition.

In collecting this material, and by adding to it over time, we accord also with a Chinese literary practice in which quotations — sometimes called yǔlù 語錄, literally ‘recorded sayings’ — have a particular history, and a powerful resonance.

The most famous collection of recorded sayings is The Analects 論語, compiled by disciples of Confucius. Then there is the timeless 5000-words of Laozi’s The Tao and the Power 道德經, as well as the Chan/Zen 禪宗 tradition of what in English are known by the Japanese term kōan 公案, dating from the Tang dynasty. Modern imitations range from the political bon mots of Mao Zedong to excerpts from the prolix prose of Xi Jinping’s tireless speech writers, and published snippets from arm-chair philosophers and motivational speakers.

Other People’s Thoughts also finds inspiration in the ‘poetry talks’ 詩話, ‘casual jottings’ 筆記 and ‘marginalia’ 眉批 of China’s literary tradition.

— Geremie R. Barmé,
Editor, China Heritage
18 June 2021


More Other People’s Thoughts:

Other People’s Thoughts XXIV



‘Last year was crazy ’cause this was the first thing that ever happened that happened to everybody. That’s wild. That didn’t even happen in the world wars, and they’re named after the world.’

Josh Johnson

Twelve Words, One Hundred Years


Top-Down Economies

That the people who hold the ultimate authority at our institutions of higher learning are dedicated to a notorious form of pseudo-knowledge is richly ironic, and it is also telling. The point of management theory, after all, is to establish the legitimacy of a social order and a social class who are, in fact, little more than drones. The grotesque top heaviness of the American corporation is an old story: we have more supervisors per worker than any other industrialized nation, and quite naturally we have developed an extensive literature of bogus social theory assuring those supervisors of the rightfulness of their place in the world—a literature that also counsels everyone else to accept their subordinate station in the Great Chain of Free-Market Being.

— Thomas Frank, ‘Academy Fight Song’, 2013

Yu no man broko mi

‘Skin as rich as the starlit night / Your rhythm is rebellion’

Jeangu Macrooy, Eurovision 2021

Woke Political Economics

After George Floyd’s death, Robin DiAngelo’s antiracism training book, “White Fragility,” published in 2018, became Amazon’s No. 1 selling book. She was called upon to give lectures and lead workshops at powerful universities, public agencies and corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Nike, Under Armour, Goldman Sachs, Facebook, CVS, American Express and Netflix.

While being interviewed last summer, Ms. DiAngelo opened up in a telling way: “Capitalism is so bound up with racism. I avoid critiquing capitalism — I don’t need to give people reasons to dismiss me. But capitalism is dependent on inequality, on an underclass. If the model is profit over everything else, you’re not going to look at your policies to see what is most racially equitable.”

It’s a model that, whatever her misgivings, currently works for antiracism celebrities like Ms. DiAngelo and the businesses she gives cover. Frankly, it may benefit the multiracial set of white-collar Gen Z and millennial employees like me, entering workplaces more woke and attentive to our feelings than ever. But that model, without reform, doesn’t work for most working people of any color — or the more than 1,000 people killed each year by police since 2013.

— Talman Joseph Smith, ‘How Privilege and Capital Warped a Movement’

It’s All Downhill from Here

Time flows like a river. Which is to say, downhill. We can tell this because everything is going downhill rapidly. It would seem prudent to be somewhere else when we reach the sea.

— from Apocrypha Discordia

Auckland: a most liveable city

Like during the 1976 Olympics, where Kiwi athletes collected a swag of coveted running medals largely thanks to a boycott by dominant African nations, New Zealand often shines brightest on the world stage when the rest of the world is otherwise indisposed.

Ben Thomas


The stories that made me fall in love with literature in the first place were tales full of beautiful impossibility, which were not true but by being not true told the truth, often more beautifully and memorably than stories that relied on being true. Those stories didn’t have to happen once upon a time either. They could happen right now. Yesterday, today or the day after tomorrow.

Salman Rushdie

Yeah but no

‘will be on the tonight show with jimmy fallon to talk about stuff and things. watch it or don’t idc it’s your choice. u should watch it tho lol… or don’t. but yeah’

Lil Nas X, 24 May 2021

One Hundred Times

‘Well, white folks, you shouldn’t have ever made up the word. … I say nigga 100 times every morning; it makes my teeth white.’

Paul Mooney

A Bare Minimum

Cancel culture is essentially a boycott. Its refusing to participate or support those that promote racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic, or otherwise ignorant behavior. Protest is at the heart of this country and it shouldn’t be limited in the name of making already powerful people feel safer to spew ideas that are not tolerable in today’s society.

Because exposure by millions is so easy now with social media, celebrities, rich, powerful, connected, and beautiful, can no longer get away with disrespecting human dignity. They are not being held to a higher standard for being a public figure, they are being held to the bare minimum.

— Elizabeth Rose, ‘In Defence of Cancel Culture’, November 2020


They’re trying to cancel John Wayne. God did that forty years ago!

— Bill Burr, SNL, 12 October 2020









Counting Seven Days 

Cindy: Hello?
Tabitha’s Voice: [indistinct]  Seven days.
Cindy: What? Willie Mays?
Tabitha’s Voice: [indistinct]  Seven days.
Cindy: Who’s gay? Hello?
Tabitha’s Voice: [indistinct]  Seven days.
Cindy: What?
Tabitha’s Voice: Can you hear me now?
Cindy: Kind of.
Tabitha’s Voice: Can you hear me now?
Cindy: Yes. Perfect.
Tabitha’s Voice: Seven days.
Cindy: Seven days. Oh, my God. I’m gonna die next Monday?
Tabitha’s Voice: Yes. No. Wait. Monday. That would be seven business days. This is seven days starting now.
Cindy: So seven days to this very hour? My watch broke. How am I gonna know the exact hour?
Tabitha’s Voice: Forget hours. This day seven days from now.
Cindy: But there’s a holiday coming up. Do you count the holiday?
Tabitha’s Voice: Well, that depends. What holiday?
Cindy: Martin Luther King Day.
Tabitha’s Voice: Then no.
Cindy: Why not? Everybody at work is taking it off.
Tabitha’s Voice: Jesus Christ, lady. I’m giving you seven friggin’ days. I can come over now and kill the shit out of you if you’d rather have that.

— Cindy (Anna Ferris), Scary Movie 3

Primus Inter Pares

Think of all the disasters of recent years: economic neoliberalism, destructive trade policies, the Iraq War, the housing bubble, banks that are “too big to fail,” mortgage-backed securities, the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016 — all of these disasters brought to you by the total, self-assured unanimity of the highly educated people who are supposed to know what they’re doing, plus the total complacency of the highly educated people who are supposed to be supervising them.

Thomas Frank

Liberalism vs. Totalitarianism

Liberalism, the only ideology that ever tried to articulate and interpret the genuinely sound elements of free societies, has demonstrated its inability to resist totalitarianism so often that its failure may already be counted among the historical facts of our century. Wherever free bodies politic and free societies still exist and function, reasonably free from immediate danger — and where do they function except in the United States and possibly Great Britain? — they owe their existence to the customs, habits, and institutions formed in a great past and cultivated through a great tradition. Yet whenever people of good will and sometimes of great intelligence have tried to stem the tide of totalitarianism with them, the great past and the great tradition have remained singularly silent and uninspiring.

— Hannah Arendt, ‘The eggs speak up’, 1950

A War

There set out, slowly, for a Different World,
At four, on winter mornings, different legs …
You can’t break eggs without making an omelette

— That’s what they tell the eggs.

Randall Jarrell

After Auschwitz

‘How can Jews believe in an omnipotent, beneficent God after Auschwitz? Traditional Jewish theology maintains that God is the ultimate, omnipotent actor in the historical drama. It has interpreted every major catastrophe in Jewish history as God’s punishment of a sinful Israel. I fail to see how this position can be maintained without regarding Hitler and the SS as instruments of God’s will. To see any purpose in the death camps, the traditional believer is forced to regard the most demonic, anti-human explosion in all history as a meaningful expression of God’s purposes. The idea is simply too obscene for me to accept.’

— from an obituary for Richard L. Rubinstein

The Sixties

The young make their own fun whatever time and place they’re in, the natural dynamism of youth serving to heighten its surroundings. Excited by their own passing blends of music and fashion, teenagers in every generation since 1955 have believed that theirs was a uniquely special time. Yet the Sixties were special to an age-range far broader than any period before or since. The spirit of that era disseminated itself across generations, suffusing the Western world with a sense of rejuvenating freedom comparable to the joy of being let out of school early on a sunny afternoon. Though ultimately the product of influences deeper than pop, the Sixties’ soaring optimism was ideally expressed by it, and nowhere more perfectly than in the music of The Beatles. Certainly those years would have been similar in tone and direction had they not existed; yet so vital was the charge emitted by their music and so vividly did it reflect and illuminate its time that, without it, the irreverently radiant Sixties atmosphere, described by Liverpool poet Brian Patten as like ‘a fizzly electrical storm’, might hardly have sparked at all.

Ian Macdonald, October 1993/January 1997


躺平一詞出世後,有躺平主義,躺平哲學,微信朋友圈還流傳著中國躺平詩歌流派大展,開首就是:「今天,你躺平了嗎?」號稱「我躺故我在」,「一起躺平,一起愛!」 其中有首寫道:



— 安德烈, ‘躺平主義危險嗎?’,RFI,2021年6月1日

Three to Ten


Say what?

Huiyi impacts commercial and public policy strategies from multi-method data-driven insights. She excels in cross-disciplinary collaborations to create transformational partnerships for public policy review, business market entry and product launch. 15-year career across China and Singapore in private and public sectors. She led two global market research groups’ China custom market research businesses supporting Fortune 500 clientele. She has also formulated national enterprise development economic policies and programs. She understands stakeholders’ strategic purpose, has strong communication skills, and works across teams for joint innovations. She has founded and now manages a boutique custom market research practice, Asymmetrics Research. She has spoken at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific 5th Session of the Committee on Social Development, Singapore Summit 2019 Young Societal Leaders program, Channel News Asia, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, New York Parsons School of Design, TedX conferences.

— a bio-note for ‘Is the China career dead?’

Revolution in the Head

The Sixties seem like a golden age to us because, relative to now, they were. At their heart, the countercultural revolt against acquisitive selfishness – and, in particular, the hippies’ unfashionable perception that we can change the world only by changing ourselves – looks in retrospect like a last gasp of the Western soul. Now radically disunited, we’re dominated by and addicted to gadgets, our raison d’être and sense of community unfixably broken. While remnants of our once-stable core of religious faith survive, few are very edifying. Till hard drugs are legalised, the old world will retain some moral hold on us; but when they are, as the dictates of vulgar pragmatism predict, the last ties will be cut with our former way of life, far away from us on the other side of the sun-flooded chasm of the Sixties – where, courtesy of scientific technology, The Beatles can still be heard singing their buoyant, poignant, hopeful, love-advocating songs.

Ian Macdonald, October 1993/January 1997

Velvety Sinter

He felt closer to dust, he said, then to light, air or water. There was nothing he found so unbearable as a well-dusted house, and he never felt more at home than in places were things remain undisturbed, muted under the grey, velvety sinter left when matter dissolved, little by little, into nothingness.

— W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants

All of the Time

Welcome to thе internet
What would you prefеr:
Would you like to fight for civil rights
Or tweet a racial slur
Be happy
Be horny
Be bursting with rage
We’ve got a million different ways to engage …

See a man beheaded
Get offended, see a shrink
Show us pictures of your children
Tell us every thought you think
Start a rumor, buy a broom
Or send a death threat to a boomer
Or DM a girl and groom her
Do a Zoom or find a tumor
And here’s a healthy breakfast option
You should kill your mom
Here’s why women never fuck you
Here’s how you can build a bomb
Which Power Ranger are you?
Take this quirky quiz
Obama sent the immigrants
To vaccinate your kids …

Could I interest you in everything
All of the time?
A little bit of everything
All of the time
Apathy’s a tragedy
And boredom is a crime
Anything and everything
All of the time

Bo Burnham

Hong Kong: A Candle in the Wind



何俊仁 Albert Ho Chun-yan, in prison on 4 June 2021


You are not safe. You are never safe. Not even if you live in a democracy; not even if you have political asylum; not even if you are sitting on a commercial plane, thousands of feet above the ground.

Anne Applebaum, 25 May 2021

When in Rome

Balnea, vina, Venus corrumpunt corpora nostra; sed vitam faciunt balnea, vina, Venus.

‘Baths, wine, and sex spoil our bodies, but baths, wine, and sex make up life.’

— epitaph, Tiberius Claudius Secundus from Ephesus, a slave trader


‘codeine … bourbon …’

— Tallulah Bankhead’s last words, 12 December 1968