Mark Anthony Jones is dead

This is a sad post to write. Mark Anthony Jones died of cancer last November, according to a knowledgable friend. My guess is that he was in his mid-30s [update: someone has written to me was closer to 40].

As long-time readers know, Jones, or “Madge,” as we often called him, was my bete-noire for years. He posted here for the first time in this thread, which was one of my favorites for a long time. Until I learned that those erudite comments Jones was posting weren’t written by him, but were copied from articles and other blogs.

When I learned what he was doing, I put up the post that resulted in the most remarkable comment thread I’ve ever seen, anywhere. This set in motion a feud that included Jones writing two separate articles for China Daily attacking The Peking Duck as a “hate site.”

But that was a long time ago. I can never say that I liked Madge. I did at first, until then things got strange. But I certainly didn’t want him to die. When I heard he had cancer last spring, I wished him a speedy recovery, through my friend Lisa.

Madge was obviously intelligent, and I believe he was a good person underneath it all. He simply needed constant attention, and if all eyes weren’t focused on him he seemed to lose control of himself. He sent me literally hundreds of emails, most of which I never answered, and I got the impression that he was kind and compassionate, if self-centered. The ironic thing is that he really was smart, and if he’d directed all that energy to creating instead of copying I have no doubt he could have made a name for himself.

It’s odd. The two people who outed my last name (I used to blog anonymously) both died at an early age of lymphoma a few years later. Madge’s predecessor died in 2006. No, I am not saying this is karma or just retribution or anything else aside from an eerie coincidence. It means nothing at all; people die. It’s just strange, and sad.

I had guessed some months ago that Madge had died. Last June he said he was going into the hospital for treatment of lymphoma and then he vanished – and it was not at all like him to remain silent. I had to conclude the worst, but it was only today that I received confirmation of his passing. I feel nothing but sadness. He wasn’t a bad person, and he was much too young to die.

Post edited at 11:09am.

Comments closed – please email me if you’d like to submit a comment.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 33 Comments

I came to know Mark (or MAJ as I always call him) through the comments he left on my blog and through our email correspondence. I knew of his history, but I always liked him and could not help it. I “talked” with him about his fueded with Richard (who I count as a friend of mine) and MAJ admitted to me that he had acted wrongly and he expressed contrition. I am not going to even begin to defend MAJ’s actions, but I am going to note that none of us have always done right and none of us wish to be judged solely on our failings.

MAJ was brilliant and MAJ was a good person underneath it all and though I actually never met him in the flesh, I will miss him. I have been missing his great comments for some time already.

After MAJ left China, he taught high school English in his native Australia and I saw a site where his students were plaintively asking for him to return, apparently unaware of his death. Someone who can win over the hearts and minds of high school students shall have my eternal respect.

Richard, thanks for running this post.

January 27, 2010 @ 1:33 am | Comment

Dan, I agree, and I try to make it clear that I always thought MAJ was very, very bright and talented. I wish he hadn’t taken steps to ruin my life, but in the last few years he indicated to me, though never in so many words, that he regretted those efforts, and we came to a kind of peace, if not a reconciliation. To me the tragedy is that none of this was necessary. He had what it takes to do whatever he wanted.

January 27, 2010 @ 1:41 am | Comment

Sad news. I didn’t know him much, but I agree with the comments made so far.

Thanks for letting us know and writing a good post in the circumstances, Richard.

January 27, 2010 @ 2:30 am | Comment

Thanks Raj – you weren’t around for all the fireworks back in 2005?

This post was hard to write. I am definitely saddened, and I also still have nightmares about what I went through in 2005. But i guess it’s time to forget all those things.

January 27, 2010 @ 3:10 am | Comment

When you’re young, you think everything bad that happens is due to karma. As a victim of bullying back in school, I felt revenged when one of my tormentors died of a preventable accident, and another lost a family member. But as I grew older, I encountered many other people, decent people, who also came to grief. That’s when I stopped believing in karma. And also when I began feeling sorry for my childhood tormentors.

(The fact that Pat Robertson, say, or Sharon Stone, never learned this lesson as they grew up — well, that just shows their emotional immaturity.)

Every time I read about a premature death, I reflect on how far we have come, but also how far we still have to go. We’ve come a long way since the 1950s — when childhood diseases were rampant, when smallpox was still a threat, when cars would impale you on the steering column, when consumer appliances would catch fire and burn down your house. But we’ve had four decades of War on Cancer with very little progress. People still die in automobile accidents. Houses still burn down from preventable causes. And natural disasters still happen.

Life is fragile, indeed. Make the most of it.

January 27, 2010 @ 4:28 am | Comment

Well said. I didn’t take MAJ’s or Uriel’s deaths as acts of karma. Not at all. Bad things happen, to good and bad people, and death doesn’t seem to be too discriminating. It makes everything – like the spats MAJ and I had – seem so ridiculous and trivial (which they were anyway). I look at all my friends who died in the 1980s and early 90s (and we’re talking a lot of people) and I remember just how tenuous and fragile it all is, and how we’d better live it to the fullest while we can.

January 27, 2010 @ 4:45 am | Comment

Richard, I think I arrived just as the MAJ saga was ending. So I knew of him and saw some of the nonsense he contrived, but no way the whole story.

January 27, 2010 @ 5:58 am | Comment

This is sad and shocking news. MAJ had often commented on my blog as well, and I had been wondering about his silence lately. His death is totally unexpected to me. Thanks for letting us know, Richard.

January 27, 2010 @ 6:28 am | Comment

RIP

http://www.chinadiscourse.net/

January 27, 2010 @ 6:41 am | Comment

Yes, very sad.

I remember him mainly for the CNReviews dust-up last year. A lot of heated debate in that one, too.

Condolences to his family and friends.

January 27, 2010 @ 8:03 am | Comment

I remember his comments well. I hope that he died surrounded by people who cared about him.

January 27, 2010 @ 9:28 am | Comment

Me too, boo. I know he was back home in Australia when he got sick.

January 27, 2010 @ 9:38 am | Comment

I must say that I am really sorry to hear this unfortunate news. I can only second boo’s hopes.

January 27, 2010 @ 12:34 pm | Comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dan Harris and Richard Burger, Daniel Feldman. Daniel Feldman said: RT @DanHarris: Well known China expat, Mark Anthony Jones, died of cancer. Very Sad News. http://is.gd/76ruv [...]

January 27, 2010 @ 12:46 pm | Pingback

Long time ago, that fantabulist thread.
Allways sad to hear that somone had to go so far to early.

January 27, 2010 @ 11:40 pm | Comment

Spent too much time on this blog maybe, many things here will make you feel angry….

January 28, 2010 @ 10:55 am | Comment

I am so shocked. As one of the contributors to the fantabulist thread I occasionally savaged him mercilessly, at least until I got the feeling the whole thing was getting out of hand.

After this I used to email him, and found him invariably polite and decent, indeed a gentleman. I found his arguments and take on China infuriating, but, man, no one could say he didn’t back up his arguments with relevant sources!

I know he did wrong to Richard, but I also know he was genuinely contrite about this, and he was a little hurt that Richard declined to allow him back on PD (but Richard obviously has his reasons for this).

Cancer, huh? I knew he smoked like a chimney and enjoyed his beer. Intimations of mortality for all of us.

January 28, 2010 @ 5:29 pm | Comment

I attacked him mercilessly whenever I saw him on Fool’s Mountain or Sinocidal, and to be honest I didn’t believe that he had cancer. I was wrong.

January 28, 2010 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

[...] – 2009 By justrecently Mark Anthony Jones, an Australian author, blogger, and teacher, died in November last year, writes the Peking Duck. Mark learned in June 2008 that he had cancer, and he stopped blogging and [...]

January 29, 2010 @ 2:27 am | Pingback

I thought that I’d commented on this post already but apparently I confused that with an email.

It’s really sad. I had some email exchanges with MAJ, and I do think he genuinely regretted the problems he caused you, Richard. People sometimes let their ids run wild on the internet, and maybe some of what went on was a consequence of that.

The last time we “talked” he said he was feeling good and optimistic about the cancer treatment. I really am sorry that it didn’t work. He seemed like a person with the capacity to grow and change and do good work.

January 29, 2010 @ 5:32 am | Comment

I contacted one of Mark’s former students in Australia asking for more information. He was evidently a much-loved teacher.

For those of you who are interested, this is what she told me:

“Well, I can tell you that Mark was simply the best. There was no bad word that Anyone coud’ve said about him – to me, and those others who knew him well, he was THAT geniunely good.

Back in highschool before graduating two years ago, he was actually my english teacher ; he was a really good teacher, inspirational, always did his best to motivate us to achieve our very best, very easy to get along with. our school was only told that he was very ill, we didnt know that he had cancer until we were told he had passed away – the teachers, and even himself, had wanted to keep it a secret so that Mark could maintain his privacy as well as protecting the rest of the students from being in distress, along as trying not to add more stress to the students who were beginning to start their HSC exams. there was one time, he was able to contact the school in order to wish the students doing their final HSC goodluck – it was a relief to finally hear from him, but still had the same longing for him to come back to school, as we missed him sooo much – he’d been absent for too long

Mark Jones sadly passed away on 27th November 2009.
(students only found out on 30th November)
The teachers found it very hard to break the news to us….

Mark had a knack for always telling the best stories that we all loved, we knew how much he loved and always talked about China.

A brilliant mind, great teacher – a warm smile, and heart of gold.

had a friendly, generous personality and his extremley positive outlook on life. we all love reading his book “flowing waters never stale”

His funeral, only attended by family members, was held in Newcastle. His memorial, only attended by his father, partner (Shirley) and teachers was held at the State Library in Sydney – it was an environment he would’ve loved for it to be held in. Back at school, another memorial attended by teachers, his family, his partner, past and current students was held Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at SGHS. a great success – hundreds showed up to pay respects to a much adored man….. there was a memorial book created, filled with messages of love and support for his family, as well as a memorial box filled with messages of love and support for his partner.”

January 29, 2010 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

Thanks Sojourner.

January 29, 2010 @ 4:43 pm | Comment

No problem, Dan. I think you and I share the same sentiments about Mark. I will miss him, for all his faults.

January 29, 2010 @ 6:26 pm | Comment

I was very saddened to read this. Indirectly I owe MAJ thanks as it was his article in the China Daily that originally led me to this blog and thus onto the wider Chinese blogosphere generally. Although I thought that MAJ was a rather odd chap, he was clearly passionate about what he believed in and it is good to know that he was held in such high esteem by former students, friends and family alike. I could well imagine him being a motivating and inspiring teacher. 40 is far too young an age for him to pass on. May he rest in peace.

January 29, 2010 @ 6:42 pm | Comment

Even pricks turn into top blokes after death, as As MAJ’s Chaser compatriots once said.

January 29, 2010 @ 9:22 pm | Comment

“By Flowing Waters” — Assuming I construe your comment correctly, you are a mean-spirited little insect, aren’t you?

At least have the courage to post under your normal moniker, whatever it is.

You illustrate everything that’s problematic about the anonymity of the internet.

January 30, 2010 @ 12:28 am | Comment

@Sojourner – Chaser’s War On Everything is a top show, and MAJ himself was an example of exactly the phenomenon you describe. That said, the comments were in poor taste.

January 30, 2010 @ 12:49 am | Comment

Apologies for letting that nasty comment get through. It’s very low.

January 30, 2010 @ 12:50 am | Comment

Richard, thank for letting us know. I enjoyed my little jousts with MAJ, and he had his faults. For someone who valued his own privacy, he did not respect others rights to the same. Like all of us, he was a work in progress. It’s nice to hear that he excelled at inspiring his students. Many years from now, some of those will look back and count him as among the bricks that built their own success in life.

February 3, 2010 @ 7:32 am | Comment

Mark was my elder brother. He was always extremely bright and academic by nature. Always one for a debate. He was far more to the left than I. He was also far more compassionate and caring (too much so at times) for the underdogs of life. He was the most unmaterialistic person I have ever known. He was a born teacher – both at a tertiary level and high school. The services (3) that we had for him demonstrated that. the school one in particular was emotional beyond words. He returned home from China to help his mother fight breast cancer only to be diagnosed with a freight train of a melanoma. Not lymphoma and not in 2008. He was diagnosed in May 2009 with lymphoma only to then find oot it was melanoma (as it was a rare occult melanoma that often presents like lymphoma) and right from the beginning he was given 5% chance to make it to Christmas.

He accpeted this death sentence with such grace, calmness and dignity. He was admired at RPA. I do not say this because he was my brother.

I cannot imagine him ever copyrighting anything – but I can imagine him being – well at times rude (unconsiously) with his string opinions. He was though the type of person who could go to the remoteness part of a country and make friends straight away. Rich or poor – academic or not – he could mix. That is what he did whereever he lived and travelled to. He is dearly missed everyday by all his family – especially his devoted partner – Gaoying.

February 8, 2010 @ 8:59 am | Comment

Thanks for the very touching comment, Susan. Mark and I had our issues, but I did not doubt he was a good person, and much loved by his students and many others.

February 8, 2010 @ 11:43 am | Comment

Mr Jones was my English teacher in years 11 & 12. Everyone in the class and the school loved him!! We’d always had the awsomest english classes eva.
Right now I still remember those fun memories we shared.

August 9, 2010 @ 11:41 am | Comment

Thanks for that touching comment. I know MAJ’s students loved him.

August 9, 2010 @ 1:43 pm | Comment

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