Snippets from Charles Saatchi’s
My Name Is Charles Saatchi And I Am An Artoholic
I agree with everything he says, but these are the bits I agree with the most, he could have plucked the words right out of my mouth, only he’s said it better and more mercilessly.

Does love of art, particularly Renaissance art on a biblical theme, make one feel closer to God?

I believe God must be very disappointed in his handiwork. Mankind has clearly failed to evolve much in all these years; we’re still as cretinous and barbaric as we were many centuries ago, and poor God must spend all day shaking his head at our vileness and general ineptitude.

On infinity

My understanding of infinity goes something like this: Every 100 years a sparrow flies to the top of a large mountain, and cleans its beak by scraping it on the highest rock. By the time the mountain has been scraped away to a small pile of dust, that would be the equivalent of the first second of infinity.

You’ve been successful at discovering new artistic talent. But are there not always great artists who go undiscovered?

By and large talent is in such short supply, mediocrity can be taken for brilliance rather more than genius can go undiscovered.

On leaving a legacy

I don’t buy art in order to leave a mark or to be remembered; clutching at immortality is of zero interest to anyone sane.

On art critics

The art critics on some of Britain’s newspapers could as easily have been assigned gardening or travel and been cheerfully employed for life. This is because many newspaper editors don’t themselves have much time to study their ‘Review’ section, or have much interest in art. So we now enjoy the spectacle of critics swooning with delight about an artist’s work when its respectability has been confirmed by consensus and a top-drawer show — the same artist’s work that ten years earlier they ignored or ridiculed.

exactly the same situation for anyone reviewing the arts here (not that we have much to review).

What makes you laugh?

Do you think me glum because I always look cross in press photos? I’m sorry, it’s just the way my face sets. But I always think that people with little sense of humour laugh most easily.

Oh my goodness it’s like he’s lived with the natives or something.

Your first wife is on record as saying that she only ever saw you reading comic books. Have you ever actually read a book? And if so, what was it?

Are you asking if I’m thick? I suppose I am rather, but that doesn’t seem to hamper a career in advertising. And obviously, you can be as thick as a brick to buy art all day long.

Should the country be spending money on saving Old Masters for the nation, or buying up works by the next generation of artists?

At the risk of being lynched – again – by the art crowd, I don’t think there is a great need any more to save paintings for the nation at the cost of supporting new art. What difference does it make if a Titian is hanging in the National Gallery, the Louvre or the Uffizi? This isn’t the 18th century: people travel, so there’s no need to be nationalistic about the world’s art treasures. Much more important is to back living artists.

On advertising

I recommend advertising to all, especially if you have no apparent academic skills. It’s easy money, and whatever small abilities you have can be put to good use somewhere in an ad agency.

What would you want on your epitaph?

Just how dull do you think I am? What kind of twat is interested in epitaphs or legacies?

Do you care what people think?

Everyone cares what some people think, but luckily I seem to care less than most.

Are you comfortable with Liu Wei’s ‘Indigestion II’?

I don’t think the artist intended people to feel comfortable looking at a giant poo. He’s not an interior decorator

You famously created the slogan ‘Labour isn’t Working’. Were you a Tory? Are you a Tory?

I once also threw myself into the Health Department’s Anti-Smoking campaign, visited emphysema wards, studied pictures of cancerous lungs, and came up with the grisliest copy I could – puffing away happily as I wrote. How sweet of you to think that advertising copy is written from the heart.

Has photography rendered figurative art pointless?

No art is pointless. I had that Immanuel Kant round for a bit of a chin-wag the other day and he told me that the meaning of art was that it had no function.

Of the contemporary artists who died young – Jean Michel Basquiat, Eva Hesse, Felix Gonzalez-Torres – who do you think would have achieved long term greatness?

Without being too callous, many artists achieve iconic status by dying before their work has a change to dwindle into stale repetition

The Heaven Delusion

I’m Facebook friends with Dan Piraro (the same way Sheldon is Words With Friends friends with Stephen Hawking) and he recently posted this which I thought was really cool. I have shockingly little interest in American politics, but I do get my daily dose from Andy Borowitz:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In the halls of the United States Senate, dozens of Senators congratulated themselves today for having what one of them called “the courage and grit to stand up to the overwhelming wishes of the American people.”

“We kept hearing, again and again, that ninety per cent of the American people wanted us to vote a certain way,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). “Well, at the end of the day, we decided that we weren’t going to cave in to that kind of special-interest group.”

“It was a gut check, for sure, but we had to draw a line in the sand,” agreed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S. Carolina). “If we had voted the way the American people wanted us to, it would have sent the message that we’re here in Washington to be nothing more than their elected representatives.”

Calling yesterday’s Senate action “a bipartisan effort,” Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) said, “This proves that on a matter that affects the safety of every man, woman, and child in the nation, we can reach across the aisle to defy the interests of all of them.”

Senator McConnell agreed that yesterday’s vote “sent a powerful message,” adding, “If the American people think that just because they voted us into office and pay our salaries, benefits, and pensions, we are somehow obliged to listen to them, they are sorely mistaken.”

I’ve also finished reading the first Simon Rich novel (It’s three days after the GRE!) but it went down remarkably fast – in two sittings. One on Saturday night where I read about 42 pages and the second today at lunch where I finished the rest of it. What In God’s Name

is a pretty amazing, irreverent take on heaven and what people (angels) do in it. In the following excerpt, God has decided to shut the earth down and cut his losses following his inability to answer all the prayers sent up to him, but some angels from the Miracles department have made a bet with him – if they can answer just one of millions of prayers God gets, he won’t destroy the earth. The time is about 10 minutes to D-Day and the angels Craig and Eliza are frantically trying to get two humans (who prayed that the other one would like them) together.

“Let’s see what you guys are working on,” God mumbled, throwing his arms around them for support.
“Oh!” he said, peering at the screen. “That thing.”
He shook his head and laughed. “Why do you guys work so hard? What’s that about?”

Eliza shrugged. “We like doing it.”
God smiled, genuinely moved.
“You know what?” he said. “You’re good people.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Eliza said. “We got into heaven, right?”

God squinted at her, confused. “What do you mean?”
Eliza shrugged. “Just, you know, you picked us to get into heaven. So we must be good people.”

God laughed. “That’s not what it’s based on.”
“It’s not?”
“So… what is it?” Craig said. “What’re the criteria?”
“You guys don’t know?”
“Just tell us,” Eliza said.
God smiled. “It’s rock skipping.”
Craig and Eliza nodded, waiting for God to elaborate. But he didn’t seem to think he needed to.
“What are you talking about?” Craig asked eventually.
“You’ve got to get seven skips,” God explained. “On any one throw.”

Eliza turned pale. “That’s it? Just skip a rock seven times and you’re in? That’s all?”
“What do you mean ,’that’s all?'” God said. “Rock skipping is hard. Almost no one gets to seven skips.”

“Seven skips,” Craig repeated, his voice a dazed monotone. “Unbelievable.”

“Well, for women it’s five,” God said. “You know, so it’s fair. They’ve got weaker arms.”
Craig shook his head, stunned. “Why didn’t you base it on something important?”
God stared at him blankly. “Like what?”
“I don’t know. Like, righteouness? Or courage, or faith…”
“But those things are too hard to measure. Like, how can you tell how righteous someone is? It’s not something you can just add up. With rock skipping thought, you can be like, ‘Hey, that was four skips.’ Or, ‘That was eight skips.’ It works.”

Today I managed to have lunch alone because Liangze had to go scout out the venue for some demo his lab has to do. I enjoyed myself immensely, actually, and realize that I have never really considered the option of being single. Like, permanently. I mean, that was pretty much what I had planned for before LZ came along (sounds like he’s my son), but like the advantages of being single weren’t one of my considerations when I jumped into the relationship, and they should have been. Perhaps I should structure my relationship into alternate months, where every other month, I am single. And purposefully so, not the single-to-hook-up-with-other-guys kind of single, as if anyone can imagine me doing such a thing. There is so much freedom, there is no asking “so when is your mum cooking and when do we have to eat at your house?” or “whose church are we going to this sunday?” or “are we having lunch today?”. Just back to the good ol’ times in my cornell freshman/sophomore year where I avoided everybody and read a crap lot of interesting, funny books while eating meals alone. I never realized relationships were so tiring and grating on one’s nerves and patience until I had the opportunity to be single today and I didn’t have to give the tiniest damn about anyone.

To cut a broad swath and shave close

I have decided to begin the undertaking of Walden. There are too many people around me living in the most typical way possible, that is to say, without thinking(.) about their behaviours, the motivations behind their behaviours, and whether or not any of it matters in the eternal timeline of things.

Walden is perfect as an antidote to daily exposure to the ramblings of the over-predictable and thoughtless. For they live so undeliberately, it seems to me that they must be running on autopilot all the time. The kind who, not having lived, would also have failed thoroughly in discovering it.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.

I do not see why I am being punished for being transcendental.

I am not like you, nor do I strive to be.

Heaven forbid.

from walking through the gardens today, it occurs to me that a whole lot of parents mistake their children’s running to them and clinging to them as innocent love. what of love! there is no such concept when your child is 3, 4, 5 years old. there is only familiarity.
they always have this goofy grin plastered on their faces whenever their kids run to them and hug their legs. it’s pathetic, really.
well done, you. managed to make a child come running back to you when they are in an alien environment. I suppose it’s got nothing to do with the fact that they spend 24 hours a day in your blessed company, during which you no doubt gurgle at it in a soothing but speech-impeding way. that can’t be why your children are running to you. it’s got nothing to do with their being in a strange place and everything to do with your lovability.
i think parents must be one of the most narcissistic creatures on earth.


We road tripped to Boston today with a stop in Albany for lunch (Olive Garden!)
Did you know that Albany is the capital of New York?

Today I discovered that
1. It takes about 7 hrs to drive from Ithaca to Boston
2. People in MIT like to build tesla coils
3. Mothers are Very Important (I met some motherless people today and there is a lot of cluelessness in the way they behave.) I don’t mean that their mothers are dead, I just mean that their mothers are for all intents and purposes, useless. It really puzzles me how so many people can take on the mantle of parenthood without a care as to their competence or passion for parenting. I surely have no desire to have a young charge, nor am i at all convinced at my competence in bringing one up to be a decent human being. Everyone else is either incredibly presumptuous or do not have control over their procreative instinct. I must say the two set of higher profile parents who are doing it right are Mr Brown and the parents of Dr Jia Jia.
4. Olive Garden breadsticks are best fresh out of the oven
5. Red lobster is better than olive garden
6. We are not missing much at Symphony Hall because the Boston Pops are on now and they have a very America-centric repertoire. I’m not really a big fan of American classical/contemporary music. I can barely tolerate much of Copland’s output. Gershwin is okay. But it’s just not the same as having a star come in alongside the BSO playing one of my favourite concertos.

Also I was uncomfortable today because there was a very outspoken personality who just joined our social construct who insists on having his way most of the time (not insistently, just by sheer loudness and enthusiasm that nobody wants to disappoint him by contradicting him or suggesting alternatives :P). the rest of us are pretty quiet and compromising. well, i’m not very compromising but of course it’s not my trip, so i’d be. i can no longer do what i want to do and eat wherever i want to eat. and if we are talking about restaurants, i am pretty sure i have a better handle w.r.t where to eat than this guy even without living here because well, he has a much greater desire to save money. (that’s not a euphemism for stingy, because as i found out, he’s not stingy with spending money on things like electronics or parts, he just doesn’t see a point in spending large-ish sums of money on food). I think most of the upper middle class in singapore behave in much the same way, they all buy very much into delayed gratification, and would rather not spend too much money on “trivial”, transient things like food or clothes, instead spending on long-lasting, inherently big expenditure things.

I’m usually very good at insisting on my own way in a quiet and forceful sort of way, and well, liangze almost always agrees with me so we already have a majority. now i’m just out of my league.


Done with everything – submitted my homework for ed’s class and hubbard’s write up, all that’s left is to check grades, and i’m not real eager to see them at present – although how bad can they be?
Lz and I forgot to order caps and gowns. Apparently they sent an email in february!? something about commencement and I promptly deleted it. Are caps and gowns really necessary? I really think too much is being made about this whole graduation shebang as it is (people flying in their grandparents. the day my ahmas know/care that I’m graduating is when pigs will fly). So self congratulatory, the culture here. I don’t feel particularly accomplished, or that I’ve reached a milestone in my life. All I’ve done is completed a PE course. Was it difficult to reach here? Not really. Probably it’s the same self-congratulation people feel in singapore on their 21st birthdays with their silly parties, so I shouldn’t be… racist? Not sure what the word is to accurately describe one’s disdain for Americans.

I’m in a particularly humbuggy mood now. Don’t feel like doing anything, I don’t even feel like cooking, or reading, or any of the other things I enjoy. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the magnetic pull of my bed to have my second sleep, the same way people do second dinners. I’ve been taking evening naps the whole of last week, reading free amazon books into the wee hours when the birds start to sing outside my window, sleeping till noon, and then napping all through dinner, sometimes to the starvation of poor lz and charlotte.

I got dragged out of bed kicking and screaming at 11am today cause I told lz I wanted to go help this church aunty move her stuff – she stands beside me in bell choir and has pneumonia, but is scheduled to move to Kendall for retirement today and needed able-bodied workers. The moving started at 9am but he could only get the car at 11 (just as well) so he came down at 11 and dragged me out of bed and we drove over to Westview Lane (East Ithaca) only to find all the vans had left and we were too late, so we went for lunch at the Ale House. My church has an aging population and it’s pretty amazing how quickly things get done when lots of people come to help! Only 2 hours!

What I would really like to do is go to Sapsucker woods (armed with a can of repellent, of course) and romp around a bit, look for birds and mushrooms.


I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do.

I think I never dislike people without reason. You know, the kind of dislikes that are the 看你不顺眼 kind. Most dislikes stem from something, and somethings are more irrational than others. But the people that I know I dislike because of irrational prejudices can easily overturn my prejudice by doing/saying something contrary to what I have assumed of their character. This happened today, and I feel much kindlier toward a certain person simply because of some increased interaction.

The kind of people I usually turn away from are the slightly stupid-sounding ones. But I do admire guilelessness, which some of these simple-sounding people possess in truckloads. It’s like how the ragamuffins who tried to take our money in Cusco only sought to earn 1 sole (literally 30 cents) (kind of like buying a tissue pack in singapore) and were generally clueless about how much tourists might be willing to pay for a photo whereas the people who tried to take our money in Italy/France were scammers who asked for huge amounts at no cost to them. They were more street-smart to some degree but with that came greed and deceit.

I think Wilde has got it right. I form my prejudices of people far too early and to the detriment of my own happiness. Silly, silly me.