Manuscripts Don’t Burn—Somethings

Also, on quite lives, how university branding works, how curiosity makes you miserable, and love making fools out of people.

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📕Something to read

  • The Truth is Dour Mistress: I wrote this is in a fit of dejection 2 years ago. Most conversation for me are quite frustrating. Most people don’t have the same curiosity as I. Not that there is anything wrong with that. However, I seem to have less and less threshold for bullshit. Which is surprising, to me.

📺Something to watch

Decision to Leave

Original written at letterboxd.

“Love makes fools of us all, big and little.”

Park Chan-Wook jumps back into the Hitchcockian psycho-drama with this wonderful film. Unlike other Hitchcock pretenders, he’s not interested in the aesthetic. Even greats like Scorcese have fallen prey to that instinct.

Park takes the voyeurism of Rear Window and Vertigo and turns it on its head.

Shout out to editor Kim Sang-bun.

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🗣Some Quotes and Notes

To Be

Jeremy B. Jones, writing an obituary for his Grandfather, explores a bigger question: What is a good life?

What Ray Harrell had was a reliable tractor and a fiery woman. He had a pat of cornbread waiting at noon dinner and an RC Cola every night before bed. He had kids and grandkids and great-grandkids enough to fill the house every Christmas. And that was plenty. “We’ve had a good life,” he said to me nearly every time I visited in his final year, and I knew it to be true even if it might have seemed odd from a distance. On paper, this small life above Clear Creek should have left a long list of regrets, of what ifs. But this life was the life, the very thing he and my grandmother Grace set out to make when they married in the little church up the road in 1954.

— Jeremy B. Jones, Obituary for a Quiet Life

Stamp of Approval

As far as skills and knowledge are concerned, your university is irrelevant. Your skills will come from real life and job training. Your knowledge will be a product of your curiosity. Your university will provide you with a brand.

In this excerpt from his book Skin in the Game, NN Taleb writes about why you should avoid appearances when taking risks.

Ivy League Universities are becoming in the eyes of the new Asian upper class the status luxury good. Harvard is like a Vuitton bag and a Cartier Watch. It is a huge drag on the middle class who have been plowing an increased share of their savings into educational institutions, transferring their money to bureaucrats, real estate developers, tenured professors of some discipline that would not otherwise exist (gender studies, comparative literature, or international economics), and other parasites. In the United States, we have a buildup of student loans that automatically transfer to these rent extractors. In a way it is no different from racketeering: One needs a decent university “name” to get ahead in life. But we have evidence that collectively society doesn’t advance with organized education, rather the reverse: the level of (formal) education in a country is the result of wealth.

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Surgeons Should Not Look Like Surgeons

I am not a Number

Bureaucracies have a tendency to dehumanize people. We are not human beings. We become numbers, statistics, and documents. In his classic satire of Soviet Oppression, Mikhail Bulgakov expressed this in the following scene.

‘No papers, no person,’

‘What you say is true,’ the master observed, struck by the neatness of Koroviev’s work, ‘that if there are no papers, there’s no person. I have no papers, so there’s precisely no me.’

— Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master & Margarita

Thank you for joining me this week. If you know some who might enjoy this, please forward this email to them. See you next week.

Mudassir Chapra

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