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better call saul

9 Feb

Breaking Bad is (and I am paraphrasing here) a middle-aged man in khakis & a button-up throwing a Molotov cocktail at a battle royale between a semi truck and a tank. Meth dealing is somewhere in there, too. It’s an immensely entertaining and addicting show, and it has taken hold of my nerves. It is, quite simply, the best thriller I have ever seen on any sort of screen. It’s also an amazing character study and a study of character.

The premise can be summarized thusly: harmless-as-kittens chemistry teacher uses his smarts to produce top-shelf meth upon finding out he has terminal lung cancer. But there are so many rich story lines, finely drawn characters, and an impressively kinetic narrative woven into this plot that to summarize it as above would be the disservice of the year.

I won’t reveal anything here (people who ruin plots/endings are meant to live in Dante’s 9th circle of hell). I will simply point out what is fairly obvious upon watching a handful of episodes. Everybody good? OK then, onward. Continue reading

To be kind and to be clever

23 Mar

One of my favorite graduation speeches was at Princeton’s ceremony last year, by Jeff Bezos, the man who gave us Amazon.com.

 

He talked about how he was a curious and smart youth, one who made his cleverness be known quite often. But cleverness as a child, as cleverness as an adult, is never enough. The empathy and tact we use to coat our remarks are oftentimes more important than the actual message. The delivery oftentimes is more impactful than the content.

 

His commencement speech is here (video), and here (text). It’s a great speech on kindness, talent, and how we should make the two cooperate in our daily lives.

 

Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.This is a group with many gifts. I’m sure one of your gifts is the gift of a smart and capable brain. I’m confident that’s the case because admission is competitive and if there weren’t some signs that you’re clever, the dean of admission wouldn’t have let you in.

 

Your smarts will come in handy because you will travel in a land of marvels. We humans — plodding as we are — will astonish ourselves. We’ll invent ways to generate clean energy and a lot of it. Atom by atom, we’ll assemble tiny machines that will enter cell walls and make repairs. This month comes the extraordinary but also inevitable news that we’ve synthesized life. In the coming years, we’ll not only synthesize it, but we’ll engineer it to specifications. I believe you’ll even see us understand the human brain. Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Galileo, Newton — all the curious from the ages would have wanted to be alive most of all right now. As a civilization, we will have so many gifts, just as you as individuals have so many individual gifts as you sit before me.

 

How will you use these gifts? And will you take pride in your gifts or pride in your choices?

 

 

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