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.
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, one that reflects the interests of The Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology and its coterie.
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
21 September 2023
More Other People’s Thoughts:
- Other People’s Thoughts, China Heritage
Other People’s Thoughts, XXXVIII
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Airbnb
I’d be worried when she asks “How do you like your eggs in the morning?”
— Stuart Heritage, The Guardian, 2 August 2023
Wellness has been a tried-and-tested way to make a lot of money by claiming that holding people upside down and shaking the change out of their pockets does wonders for their chakra alignment. …
My schedule for happiness involves a couple of hours volunteering a day, a couple of dirty martinis of an evening and a lot of laughs 24/7.
— Julie Burchill, 10 May 2023
The Time of Orgies
“In cultural studies there’s a concept of the time of carnivals, and the time of orgies. Carnivals are when everyone puts on a mask and plays by the rules. Orgies are when everyone goes crazy. We’re in the time of orgies. And it very much looks like it’s not going to end well. …
“It’s pointless to talk about good and evil, because it all depends where you’re looking at it from. This is a time when the masks are off, and everyone is going wild.”
— Andrey Melnichenko, a Russian oligarch, quoted in The Financial Times, 31 August 2023
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s High Altitude Defenestration
‘Not a plane crash — a special landing operation.’
— comment on X/ Twitter
Prigozhin’s rise and fall contains a certain gangland banality: a killer on the make, hired by other, more powerful killers to commit more of the same, at larger scale, is ultimately offed by those same killers. This is a story in which all the parts are played by bad guys.
— Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, 24 August 2023
“He has three advisers, Ivan the Terrible. Peter the Great. And Catherine the Great.”
— Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, quoted in The Financial Times, 23 February 2023
While Trump goes for the long con, or the long coup — rap sheet be damned, it’s said that he worries this will hurt his legacy. He shouldn’t. His legacy is safe, as the most democracy-destroying, soul-crushing, self-obsessed amadán ever to occupy the Oval. Amadán, that’s Gaelic for a man who grows more foolish every day.
— Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, 5 August 2023
Some place in an era of disposable thought
The digital age has done nothing to dim the popularity of Shakespeare. But what about the Bard’s book-mates stacked on shelves of antique wood here in Saint-Omer? Who still listens to voices from the European literary cradle, slowly fading away in this nursing home of geriatric books? Who reads Latin calligraphy, or Old English? Who has any sense of what these books are trying to say? At one time, nearly every word in this library was dictated truth, passed on in the copying of scribes.
Gutenberg’s printing press made a mockery of that monopoly. Anyone’s word could be dictated truth, and so it was, with new versions of the Bible customized for various sects. In our time, the chaos of the internet reduced truth to a near worthless commodity. But surely all that medieval meditation on God has some place in an era of disposable thought.
— Timothy Egan, A Pilgrimage to Eternity, 2019, p.47
Shit beamed down from the mothership
In fact, a top adviser warned about the efforts to overturn the election quite clearly: “I’ll obviously hustle to help on all fronts, but it’s tough to own any of this when it’s all just conspiracy shit beamed down from the mothership,” an unnamed senior campaign adviser wrote in an email on December 8, 2020, referring to Trump’s “Elite Strike Task Force” led by Rudy Giuliani.
— The New Republic, 23 August 2023
Crazed, Crazy, Crazier
Count One, Conspiracy to Defraud the United States: “From on or about November 14, 2020, through on or about January 20, 2021, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the Defendant, Donald J. Trump, did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with co-conspirators, known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to defraud the United States by using dishonesty, fraud, and deceit to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful federal government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified by the federal government.”
— quoted by David Remnick, The New Yorker, 1 August 2023
“The un-American witch hunts will fail and President Trump will be re-elected to the White House so he can save our Country from the abuse, incompetence, and corruption that is running through the veins of our Country at levels never seen before.”
— Trump Campaign on truth social, 1 August 2023
So far, tens of millions of Americans are willing to overlook not only the multiple criminal indictments of Donald Trump but also his lethal mismanagement of covid-19; his inhumane handling of children at the border; his myriad statements of bigotry and misogyny; his assaults on the free press and the rule of law; his indifference to national security and the climate emergency; his affection for autocrats around the world; his impeachments; his many schemes to enrich his family. According to the Times poll, Biden and Trump are tied in a hypothetical rematch at forty-three per cent. Sooner or later, a great reckoning is coming.
— David Remnick, The New Trump Indictment and the Reckoning Ahead, The New Yorker, 1 August 2023
“He might say mean things and make all the men cry because all the men are wearing your wife’s underpants and you can’t be a man anymore,” David Green, 69, a retail manager in Somersworth, N.H., said of Mr. Trump. “You got to be a little sissy and cry about everything. But at the end of the day, you want results. Donald Trump’s my guy. He’s proved it on a national level.”
— ‘Trump Crushing DeSantis and G.O.P. Rivals, Times/Siena Poll Finds’, The New York Times, 31 July 2023
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.
— Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach
New York Narcissus
Mayor Eric Adams’s exuberant self-regard stops just short of biceps-kissing. He has talked in public about the warmth of his own smile. Describing “Healthy at Last,” a book that he published in 2020 about his disciplined response to a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, Adams told a podcast host, “Every time I read it, I find another nugget, and say, ‘Wow! This was a good point that I made.’ ” Adams once told an audience, “I get out of the shower sometimes and I say, ‘Damn!’ ” He has said that he is the face of a new Democratic Party.
— Ian Parker, The New Yorker, 7 August 2023
Spat out by the stars
The story that the data tell is that all of the elements in our bodies, except for the hydrogen in water molecules, were made in stars. All the oxygen, all the carbon, all the nitrogen, all the iron: all of that was made in stars, and then spat out through multiple generations of stellar explosions, supernovae, and then that debris coalescing into new stars. So we’re part of the story, literally. Carl Sagan said, profoundly, that we are made of star stuff, and it is really true, except for the hydrogen that’s left over from the big bang. Even the iron that’s carrying the energy around your body was made in a stellar explosion involving what we think is a Type 1A supernova—an old star. The carbs that you’re eating, the oxygen you’re breathing—all of that was made in massive stars that blew up really fast. And so, literally, this is our origin story.
— Jane Rigby in David W. Brown, What the Webb Space Telescope Will Show Us Next, The New Yorker, 6 August 2023
Dorian G. Turnbull’s Official Portrait
Malcolm Turnbull’s portrait is close to being formally commissioned, and must assume the noted art collector will be discerning in his choice of painter.
Archibald Prize-winner Lewis Miller was working on a portrait of the future PM back in 1994 but – in a fantastic yarn spun by the late, legendary Sydney art dealer Ray Hughes – he cut it to shreds when Turnbull complained it made him “look like a big, fat, greedy c—”. Turnbull has always said the tale wasn’t true.
— The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August 2023
On March 11, 889 CE, 22-year-old Emperor Uda wrote
‘On the 6th Day of the 2nd Month of the First Year of the Kampo era: Taking a moment of my free time, I wish to express my joy of the cat. It arrived by boat as a gift to the late Emperor, received from the hands of Minamoto no Kuwashi. The color of the fur is peerless. None could find the words to describe it, although one said it was reminiscent of the deepest ink. It has an air about it, similar to Kanno. Its length is 5 sun, and its height is 6 sun. I affixed a bow about its neck, but it did not remain for long. In rebellion, it narrows its eyes and extends its needles. It shows its back. When it lies down, it curls in a circle like a coin. You cannot see its feet. It’s as if it were circular Bi disk. When it stands, its cry expresses profound loneliness, like a black dragon floating above the clouds. By nature, it likes to stalk birds. It lowers its head and works its tail. It can extend its spine to raise its height by at least 2 sun. Its color allows it to disappear at night. I am convinced it is superior to all other cats.’
— Japan’s Love-Hate Relationship With Cats, Smithsonian Magazine
The Asian Games in Hangzhou
At An Inn in Hangzhou:
Beyond the hills blue hills,
beyond the mansions mansions —
To song and dance on the West lake
when will there be an end?
Idlers fuddled on the fumes of the warm breeze
Will turn Hangzhou that rises into Kaifeng that fell
— A.C. Graham, trans., Poems of the West Lake: Translations from the Chinese (35) &
Chinese Media Censors Poem, The Guardian, 12 September 2023
GET THE F*** OUT
MANILA (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – The Philippine foreign minister on Monday (May 3) demanded in an expletive-laced message on Twitter that China’s vessels get out of disputed waters, marking the latest exchange in a war of words with Beijing over its activities in the South China Sea.
The comments by Mr Teodoro Locsin, known for making blunt remarks at times, follow Manila’s protests for what it calls the “illegal” presence of hundreds of Chinese boats inside the Philippines 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE F*** OUT,” Mr Locsin said in a tweet on his personal account.
The President’s Son and the Prince
‘He grabbed my hair in a way that made me understand the difference between rugby and football.’
— Alex (Taylor Zakhar Perez) on Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) in Red, White & Royal Blue
Uma Thurman’s Southern Drawl
… I have to push back when people start complaining about Thurman’s accent. Can something that brings us this much pleasure possibly be “bad”? Thurman adds a jolt of oh-you’re-really-going-for-it gusto to each of her scenes in “Red, White & Royal Blue,” and the performance is a hoot; though her lines may be as Southern-smothered as grits, I found them every bit as tasty. Others may nitpick, but all I know is that I was gaga for it — and I don’t mean “gaga” as in enthusiastic, I mean “gaga” as in whatever Lady Gaga was doing in “House of Gucci.”
Some people complain that an over-the-top accent takes them out of the reality of the film, but I find it pulls me into the pocket of surreality that every movie must muster. For instance, I have no idea if Benny Safdie’s jarring Hungarian accent in “Oppenheimer” is realistic, and frankly, I don’t care: That focus-pulling voice feels right for the physicist Edward Teller, an overweening character who refuses to mesh with the other scientists. Some critics quibbled with the Italian accents in “House of Gucci,” but I can’t imagine those two and a half hours without them. If Lady Gaga and Jared Leto weren’t talking like Wario by way of “Moonstruck,” the movie would have been sapped of all its fun!
— Kyle Buchanan, There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Movie Accent, The New York Times, 18 August 2023
The British Museum
‘How on earth does an institution that made such a virtue of its ability to safeguard world heritage come back from the news that it has been stealing from itself?’
— Dan Hicks, Professor of Contemporary Archaeology, Oxford university
Grand Unity across the Ditch
Every time I visit Australia I often ponder the thought, ‘Will we ever become one country, Australia and New Zealand?’
My personal view – and it’s only a personal view – is that New Zealanders shouldn’t rule that out. There would certainly be economic benefits, economies of scale in the private and public sector, opening Aldi stores on our shores. In fact, technically the option remains open for New Zealand to join Australia under their constitution. The main problem I foresee though is: how do we integrate the Australian cricket team? But we conquered Everest, so you never know.
— New Zealand should consider joining Australia, MP urges in valedictory speech, The Guardian, 24 August 2023
Although Donald Trump’s booking record at the Fulton County Jail lists him as 6’3” and 215 pounds, no one can seem to believe that the former president has a comparable build to athletes like Muhammad Ali. That includes adult film star Stormy Daniels, who, considering she and Trump allegedly slept together, perhaps would know best. She cast her own doubt on Twitter on Friday. “Mmmkay! And I’m 110lbs and a virgin 😂!” she wrote. “I’m not a scale or a doctor but I have spent some time beneath 215lb men and Tiny was not one of them.”
So deeply the story of our era that a former president charged, in effect, with attempting to overthrow our democratic form of government would respond by selling a mug shot T-shirt.
— Gail Collins, 28 August 2023
“China’s decline will be gradual,” Yi wrote in yet another commentary. “It will remain the world’s second- or third-largest economy for decades to come. But the huge gap between its waning demographic and economic strength and its expanding political ambitions may make it highly vulnerable to strategic misjudgments. Memories of past glory or fear of lost status could lead it down the same dangerous path that Russia has taken in Ukraine.”
— Yi Fuxian, Project Syndicate, February 2023
You need a showstopper.
‘A song so irresistible, it’s like a syringe that shoots from Broadway straight into the neck of Debbie from Duluth, who becomes an addict from the first second she hears it during girl’s night out at the Calorie Pit. And an addict will do anything, anything, to get her fix, even take a middle seat on a red-eye to New York City, where for the low, low price of everything she’s got, Debbie can have the privilege of sitting in the finest rear balcony seat in all the land to finally, finally see that show with that song she can’t stop belting out all over fucking Duluth.’
— Donna in Only Murders in the Building, Season 3 Episode 3
When Elon Musk posted a personally crafted 280-character “peace plan” for the war in Ukraine last October, a Ukrainian diplomat offered a carefully considered review. It ran to a full two words: “Fuck off”. This week’s allegations that Musk shut down his Starlink system (on which the comms-shattered Ukraine relies to defend itself against Russia) right in the middle of a counteroffensive last year — apparently deliberately to neuter it — forces a new question. When he does finally make it there in his big space rocket, will even Mars be far enough for Elon Musk to fuck off to?
— And then Elon Musk said there’ll be no more war – not via his satellite. Aren’t we lucky to have the world in his hands?, The Guardian, 8 September 2023
Queen of Oz
‘I despise pomp and crave circumstance.’
— Catherine Tate as Queen Georgiana in the BBC series Queen of Oz
Immigrants from the Global South in the Unwelcoming North
‘We are here because you were there.’
— Abdulrazak Gurnah, By the Sea
Ghost in the Machine
‘The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.’
On the High Seas
There’s something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that’s unbearably sad. Like most unbearably sad things, it seems incredibly elusive and complex in its causes yet simple in its effect: on board the Nadir (especially at night, when all the ship’s structured fun and reassurances and gaiety ceased) I felt despair. The word “despair” is overused and banalized now, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. It’s close to what people call dread or angst, but it’s not these things, quite. It’s more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable sadness of knowing I’m small and weak and selfish and going, without doubt, to die. It’s wanting to jump overboard.
— from David Foster Wallace, Shipping Out, Harper’s Bazaar, January 1996
Chairman Emeritus Murdoch
Neither excessive pride nor false humility are admirable qualities. But I am truly proud of what we have achieved collectively through the decades, and I owe much to my colleagues, whose contributions to our success have sometimes been unseen outside the company but are deeply appreciated by me. Whether the truck drivers distributing our papers, the cleaners who toil when we have left the office, the assistants who support us or the skilled operators behind the cameras or the computer code, we would be less successful and have less positive impact on society without your day-after-day dedication.
Our companies are in robust health, as am I. Our opportunities far exceed our commercial challenges. We have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years – I certainly am, and plan to be here to participate in them. But the battle for the freedom of speech and, ultimately, the freedom of thought, has never been more intense.
My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.
In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas. Our companies are communities, and I will be an active member of our community. I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest, and reaching out to you with thoughts, ideas, and advice. When I visit your countries and companies, you can expect to see me in the office late on a Friday afternoon.
I look forward to seeing you wherever you work and whatever your responsibility. And I urge you to make the most of this great opportunity to improve the world we live in.
— Rupert Murdoch, statement to staff, 21 September 2023
A legacy of deceit, destruction, and death
Wherever his media properties exist across the globe, they disregard basic journalistic practices and pump venomous misinformation into the public discourse.
In Fox News, Murdoch created a uniquely destructive force in American democracy and public life, one that ushered in an era of division where racist and post-truth politics thrive.
Rupert Murdoch’s media properties helped reshape the Republican Party into a Trumpist authoritarian death cult. Rupert Murdoch allowed Fox News to fuel the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol, letting his stars intentionally and knowingly lie to undermine our democratic elections.
Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets, especially Fox News, spread dangerous medical misinformation that not only worsened the global pandemic but also resulted in countless needless deaths — including those of many of the network’s own viewers.
Given the unparalleled global scale of his media footprint, no one on the planet has done more to spread lies denying climate change and undermine efforts to address the crisis than Rupert Murdoch.
The world is worse off because of Rupert Murdoch. No one should sugarcoat the damage he caused. …
Making matters worse, his parting act — handing the reins to Lachlan Murdoch — is akin to tossing a match onto the kindling he stacked.
Lachlan certainly is a less competent leader than his father, but his worldview is considerably more brutal. His leadership will likely just intensify the misconduct, misinformation, and malevolence that have come to define Murdoch media.
— Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of Media Matters for America, 21 September 2023