Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 21, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE DRUNKEN OLD GUY....Our satellite shootdown went like clockwork last night, but questions remain about why we shot down the satellite. The Chinese, needless to say, aren't buying our story about concerns over the hydrazine fuel tank, and apparently they've chosen the following cryptic Confucius-esque phrase to spread the meme that there's more to this story than the U.S. is letting on:

The drunken old guy's mind isn't really on the wine.

According to China Hand over at American Footprints, "By Google's count, there are 24,300 hits for the Chinese-language search string, 'The drunken old guy's mind isnt really on wine + U.S. satellite.' That is either a sign of the celerity of the China blogosphere's hive mind or an indication of how quickly a meme can spread when the government controls the Internet, or both."

Just thought I'd pass this along for amusement value. Any Chinese language readers have anything to add about this?

UPDATE: In comments, Kevin Miller tells us that this is a chengyu, which are idioms widely used in Chinese that have a short backstory. This particular chengyu means that someone has ulterior motives and was inspired by the story of a wine-drinking "tippler" that KM translates as follows:

Tale of Old Tippler's Pavilion

Chuzhou is embraced by mountains; to its south-west there are ridges upon ridges, of which the forests and valleys are extraordinarily beautiful and charming. The Mount Langya looks not only deep and serene, but also absolutely gorgeous. Walking along the mountain path for a few miles, one can hear the gurgling sound of water — it is nothing but a spring known mythologically as the rock-brewed spring pouring down between two peaks. The path winds through the ridges, and there appears a cozy gazebo perching on the spring — it is none other than the Old Tippler's Pavilion, of which wonder who was the builder? It was a wise monk who lived in the mountain, of which wonder who entitled the name? It was no one but the prefect himself who offered his own nickname.

Once the prefect drank wine with his guests here and very soon he got a bit tipsy after only several sips. As he was the oldest among them, he was therefore teasing himself "an old tippler".

A tippler's delight lay not in wine but in mountains and waters. The delight to enjoy mountains and waters came from the bottom of his heart, and relied on wine as well.

So there you have it.

Kevin Drum 12:11 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

It quite obviously means Bush (old drunken guy) isn't drinking, but is just plain crazy...or not.

Posted by: MarkH on February 21, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

"The drunken old guy's mind isn't really on the wine."

I take it to mean the United States is trying to hold onto something that it can't.

Drunken old guy = America, or Bush

isn't really on the wine = isn't drinking for the drink, but for something else, or to escape from a reality.

Posted by: Boorring on February 21, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

It's a chengyu, which are idioms very widely used in Chinese. This means that someone has ulterior motives.

If you've seen Charlie Wilson's war, it ends with an illusion to a Chinese chengyu, about a man who lost a horse and, being consoled by his friends, replied, who can tell if it's bad fortune or not. In the story, the horse brings back a wild horse with it (apparent good fortune) which his son tries to ride, breaking his leg (apparent bad fortune) but then the injury means he's not forced into service building the Great Wall (good fortune).

Anyway, this one is: 醉翁之意不在酒


Trying to find the story behind the chengyu, this is the best I could find, which was kind of disappointing (usually they're more apt):

http://www.zftrans.com/bbs/simple/index.php?t3997.html

"Tale of Old Tipplers Pavilion

Chuzhou is embraced by mountains; to its south-west there are ridges upon ridges, of which the forests and valleys are extraordinarily beautiful and charming. The Mount Langya looks not only deep and serene, but also absolutely gorgeous. Walking along the mountain path for a few miles, one can hear the gurgling sound of water --- it is nothing but a spring known mythologically as the rock-brewed spring pouring down between two peaks. The path winds through the ridges, and there appears a cozy gazebo perching on the spring --- it is none other than the Old Tipplers Pavilion, of which wonder who was the builder? It was a wise monk who lived in the mountain, of which wonder who entitled the name? It was no one but the prefect himself who offered his own nickname.

Once the prefect drank wine with his guests here and very soon he got a bit tipsy after only several sips. As he was the oldest among them, he was therefore teasing himself "an old tippler.

A tippler's delight lay not in wine but in mountains and waters. The delight to enjoy mountains and waters came from the bottom of his heart, and relied on wine as well."

Posted by: Kevin Miller on February 21, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not Chinese, but I'm not buying it either.

Posted by: slanted tom on February 21, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

This phrase came out of a very famous article by a Chinese writer in the Song Dynasty (about a thousand years ago -- aren't all things Chinese). The whole sentence is something like this: "The drunken old guy's mind isn't really on the wine, but on the mountains and water around him." He was saying that the guy was not drinking for drinking's purposes, but to enjoy the scenary. Nowadays, the phrase is used when you want to say that someone's real intention is not what they claim to be.

Posted by: TX on February 21, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

The drunken old self-appointed world policeman's mind is not concentrating on the problem of hydrazine contamination, but is plotting to continue the subsidy for military aerospace companies and dominating satellite space.

Posted by: Brojo on February 21, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it had expressed regret to close ally Britain over inaccurate information Washington gave about U.S. planes carrying terrorism suspects that refueled on a British island.

"We came up with fresh information that in short order we shared with the British government," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. "We regret that there was an error in providing initially that inaccurate information to a good friend and ally," he told reporters.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Can someone provide a reason for believing ANYTHING that the Bush administration says? One good reason..............? I thought not. So why are they to be believed regarding this satellite shootdown?

Posted by: steve duncan on February 21, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

I think the Admin for once did something right by showing a wee bit of hypocrisy in the Chinese.

Posted by: Bob M on February 21, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, those inscrutable Chinese! Always with the fanciful imagery and colorful metaphor.

I think we, as a people, should respond with a medley of late-80s Bruce Springsteen and a "USA LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT" bumper sticker.

Posted by: Amy on February 21, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Is the statement saying basically, "Just like drunks get drunk because they are troubled (not because of the wine)," George Bush shot down this satellite because he's in bad, bad shape politically?

My favorite is "Not all drunks are poets, some of us are drunks because we are not poets."

-Dudley Moore as Arthur, natch

Posted by: gfw on February 21, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Bob M,

The shootdown yesterday isn't really analogous to what the Chinese did last year.

"This test and China’s ASAT test really aren’t comparable. This is a ballistic missile defense test rather than an anti-satellite test."

Lots of good info on possible motivations for the shootdown here:

Center for Strategic and International Studies

Posted by: nepeta on February 21, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

According to spokesmen for the Pentagon, we won't really know if they hit it for another 24-48 hours. Some clock they got working there.

Posted by: Martin on February 21, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Amy at 12:48 cracked me up.

Posted by: shortstop on February 21, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

***

Posted by: mhr on February 21, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

WARNING: Meta-comment

I clicked through to the comments after reading the initial post because I thought, as I'm sure Kevin did, "I'll bet some commenters can easily answer this."

Here I found the culturally informed responses of Kevin Miller and TX, along with Brojo's application of the chengyu to the modern-day event. Those responses were all posted within two minutes of each other, and less then 20 minutes after Kevin's posted question. Together, the comments effectively gave an answer (although, perhaps, not the only answer) to the question.

My reaction: I love the intertubes. Not too long ago, I would never have had this answer because it would simply have been too much trouble to get it, and I wouldn't have cared enough. (Of course, I wouldn't have had the question, either, given its provenance.)

Moments like this force me to notice how the web is changing the way we use information, and even the way we think.

Posted by: FearItself on February 21, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, mhr, maybe your mind isn't on the wine either. Did that make any sense at all?

Posted by: sam on February 21, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's like in To Kill A Mockingbird. It's much easier for people to think you're drunk than to deal with reality.

Posted by: Colin on February 21, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

The back story makes the Old Tippler seem like an admirable fellow, using wine for higher esthetic and spiritual ends rather than just gettin wasted. Does anyone know if the resulting modern expression carrys any connotation that the Old Drunk Guy's hidden motivations may be better than his apparent motivation?

Posted by: Martin on February 21, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK
liberals obsessed about how Ronald Reagan antagonized that earthly people's paradise….meatheadrepublican at 1:11 PM
Reagan's stupid Able Archer 83 lead the Soviets to believe that he was going for a first strike.


…The exercise simulated a period of conflict escalation, culminating in a coordinated nuclear release.[1] It incorporated a new, unique format of coded communication, radio silences, participation by heads of state, and a simulated DEFCON 1 nuclear alert. The realistic nature of the exercise, coupled with deteriorating relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and the anticipated arrival of Pershing II nuclear missiles in Europe, led some in the USSR to believe that Able Archer 83 was a ruse of war, obscuring preparations for a genuine nuclear first strike.[1][2][3][4] In response, the Soviets readied their nuclear forces and placed air units in East Germany and Poland on alert.[5][6] This relatively obscure incident is considered by many historians to be the closest the world has come to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962….
…Beth B. Fischer in her book The Reagan Reversal, pin Able Archer 83 as profoundly affecting President Reagan and his turn from a policy of confrontation towards the Soviet Union to a policy of rapprochement…..

One should look for ulterior motives when one's government lies with every breath.

Posted by: Mike on February 21, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Published "The Chinese aren't buying our story..." Same old liberal thinking. [Blah...blah...blah...reagan fellating, liberals love Castro and loved the Soviets...more neotroll deranged stupidity...]

I do not believe it is possible for you to be more full of shit.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 21, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, beautiful scenery and peaceful waters.

And here I was just assuming the old goat was getting horny.


Posted by: bleh on February 21, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

You know Kevin I was trying to make some sense out of this whole Chinese thing when I got to the mhr post and was struck with the fact that mhr is such an asshole that nothing mhr says or prints is relevant to the conversation here. So why do you let this person (and I'm not sure that mhr is the same species as the rest of us)continue to post comments here?

Posted by: Gandalf on February 21, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Amy at 12:48, listen more carefully to that late-80's Springsteen. "Born in the USA" ain't "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," it's about a veteran getting fucked. And not in a John McCain sort of way.

But I do admire the spirit in which your comment was written. I just would have used Ted Nugent.

Posted by: thersites on February 21, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Kevin Miller

It's a chengyu, which are idioms very widely used in Chinese. This means that someone has ulterior motives.

Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

Posted by: KarenJG on February 21, 2008 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's not so exotic...if I refer to "sour grapes", and assume you know the Aesop fable, it's the same kind of thing.

Posted by: DonBoy on February 21, 2008 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kev wrote:

This particular chengyu means that someone has ulterior motives . . . So there you have it

That's what it sounded like to me, even without the back-story.

Posted by: Swan on February 21, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

The drunken old guy's mind isn't really on the wine.

I figured it out.. it's referring to McCain.

Posted by: Andy on February 21, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe you had to be there.

To me saying someone has an ulterior motive implies a bad thing. Saying a guy is drinking so he can enjoy the mountains is not a bad thing.

As my Dad says "That's like looking a dead horse up the ass." WTF?

Posted by: Tripp on February 21, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going to have to call the emperor on his lack of clothing. That thing is gibberish.

Posted by: Where's Sally? on February 21, 2008 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp, that idiom is not about the nature of ones intentions (good or bad), but rather about the *focus* of one's intentions. You'd think a drunk man is focusing on drinking, but he's actually taking the trouble of getting drunk to do something else. Rather than focusing on hydrazine, the people responsible for focusing on hydrazine are actually getting a kick on the missile defense exercise.

Not everything has to be colored in good versus evil.

Posted by: Jon on February 21, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

The Chinese don't have to look for ulterior motives - the likely actual motives aren't all that difficult to discern:

The danger of someone being hurt by reentering hydazine would be a low-probability event, but it was still possible. In addition, destroying the satellite would provide another data point for evaluating and refining the SM3 system. The Navy undoubtedly jumped at the chance to show their stuff. Success would be good fodder in support of the system when going before Congress and would make criticism just a bit more difficult. If they had failed, there would be little downside. It's not like a miss would have had long legs as a story.

Whatever the supposed signals the shootdown might have sent to other countries, they were probably of secondary consideration to the Navy and the Pentagon. After all, it's very possible that we'll never be certain if those signals were received, let alone interpreted properly.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 21, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a Chinese expression I came across once:

"The wool must come from the sheep."

I don't know if there's a back story. But based on context, I figured it was the equivalent of:

"Money doesn't grow on trees."

Posted by: mark on February 21, 2008 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

"This test and China’s ASAT test really aren’t comparable. This is a ballistic missile defense test rather than an anti-satellite test." quoted by Nepeta
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Not sure what your point is, but the quote is obviously false since the target was an orbiting satellite rather than a ballistic missile. It took the Navy about a month to rewrite the Aegis software to shoot it down.

Posted by: bob in fla on February 21, 2008 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we have the punch line. I see a news report of Robert Gates telling us that shooting down the satellite shows that the missile defense system works. I expected this. Bullshit! A satellite is in a predictable orbit. A ballistic missile takes off from an unpredictable point and accelerates toward an unknown target. The difference in the complexity of the task is enormous.

Newton could easily have explained the difference of complexity between the two problems. Everybody in Washington believes in the magic of giving lots of money to the defense industry. They are confident they will not be around if the missile defense is ever given the ultimate real world test. I wish these people weren't so predictable.

Posted by: Stuart on February 22, 2008 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

My favorite chengyu is definitely:

"The lion shakes his mane while the monkey grabs his balls."

There is a tedious back-story, but it basically means, "Trust, but verify."

It makes perfect sense. Think about it.

Posted by: Orson on February 22, 2008 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

bob in fl,

It would be easier for you to read the CSIS piece I linked to rather than for me to explain. The point is that this was really a missile defense test, where the satellite was falling out of orbit and was at a fairly low altitude compared to an anti-satellite mission where the satellite is indeed in orbit and much higher.

Posted by: nepeta on February 22, 2008 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

Amy doesn't know when "Born in the USA" was released nor what the title track is about or she was slyly referencing "Chimes of Freedom" and Springsteen's headlining the Amnesty tour in '88 in allusion to human rights abuses in China or she wants to harass the Chinese with melancholy songs about love gone bad.

I think it is the former but do appreciate the evil genius who would recommend the later.

Posted by: Tunnel of Love on February 22, 2008 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

At last, my cultural heritage can be of service:

(1) I don't know the historical origins of "the drunken old guy's mind isn't really on the wine," but I've most often heard this saying used as a way of implying somebody have a shady ulterior motive. I doubt many ordinary Chinese people knows about the story of the old tippler now.

(2) @ Mark, "The wool comes from the sheep" is one of my favorites. "There's no such thing as a free lunch" is a good approximation, but the original meaning is a little bit more nuanced. It is used to describe something that is apparently a freebie but which you have already paid for. Like buying a sheep and getting a free bag of wool (which came from the sheep) I guess.

Posted by: Battlepanda on February 22, 2008 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

irxeq zfpt megs vnpzahxom evod dmulrhqb bqiu cnav dbxwevlp

Posted by: bqnk ifeoq on March 6, 2008 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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