Opening to the Universe, part 1

I owe you all a post or three from my recent travels in the Golden State. So here’s just one of the many highlights.

Josephine, my dear friend and east-to-west migrant got tickets for a planetarium show, and I thought, “Cool! I haven’t been to a Planetarium for decades!” I had no idea just how cool this would get.

The Kepler StoryThis show wasn’t JUST a planetarium show, it was The Kepler Story, written by Nina Wise and produced in incredible dome-surround audio-visual amazing magic at the California Academy of Sciences Planetarium. And if you are in or near the Bay Area, run don’t walk to get a ticket, it’s an awe-inducing experience.

The show consists of actor Norbert Weisser playing Kepler as he copes with the waves of change in his amazing life, against the backdrop of the universe, projected on the dome, plus an inspiring original score. It’s the first collaboration of planetarium in-the-round projection and live theater, and it’s intense, emotional and uplifting. The performance aspect is beautiful minimal stagecraft and a powerful solo performance, set against astonishing visuals that range from interiors of great architecture to Kepler’s mathematical imagination to the universe itself.

Nina Wise
Author & Director Nina Wise

Kepler’s personal story is fascinating and pivotal. He lived in the time of Galileo, defied the Roman church, a significant patron of math and science funding at the time and suffered the consequences. His mother was accused of witchcraft in retaliation for Kepler’s intellectual intransigence. He was working with the emerging yet still heretical idea of orbiting the sun, and his lasting legacy is the discovery that orbits are not circular but elliptical — a building block in the theories of gravity and relativity.

Kepler pursued his work with passion, intelligence and faith: not, perhaps the sort that his employers wished, but clearly a great faith in the beauty and harmony of the universe, as well as the god-given power of the human mind to comprehend it.

Coming Soon: Part 2: Opening the Gates of Awareness

Confession: I’m one of those Baddicts

Baddict: fan addicted to the AMC drama Breaking Bad, the story of a wimpy teacher who becomes a drug kingpin

Hi, my name is Patrise, and I’m powerless over Breaking Bad.

(my sincere apologies to real meth addicts)

It’s a show that I never intended to watch, as the premise sounded preposterous and revolting. But at the urging of a close friend, who’s mother was besotted, I caved and watched an episode from season 2. Before long I was hoovering up season 1, craving back-story on these characters.

Early Walter White

You’ve got Walter White, the nerdy chemistry teacher that everyone underestimates, his bored, pregnant wife Skyler, her sister Marie the kleptomaniac. Marie is married to Hank, a DEA agent. Hank dares his nerdy brother-in-law to ride along on a DEA raid and experience what real men do for a living. It’s on this odd mission that Walt meets Jesse Pinkman.

Jesse Pinkman

More accurately meets him again. Jesse is Walt’s former student, who showed no particular promise as a chemist, but is now a small-time meth cook. He escapes through a window while Hank’s guys are busting the rest of the house. Walter recognizes Jesse and lets him get away. Then looks him up later, wanting to team up to make methamphetamine.

See what I mean?  Preposterous! Oh, I forgot to mention Walt has lung cancer. Which might make some kind of motivation for his sudden interest in a life of crime. Maybe.

Despite my early reservations about the subject matter, the writing and performances have kept me riveted. It’s exactly like that train wreck: you cannot look away.

Digital illustration by Denis O'Sullivan
Digital illustration by Denis O’Sullivan

The transformation of Walter from nerdy loser to risk-taking anti-hero to dastardly villain has been amazing to watch. Everyone working on this show, from creator Vince Gilligan to composer Dave Porter and everyone in between, have concocted an epic tragedy in the guise of tv entertainment.

Much has been written about this show, by critics, fans, culturati. I count 19 podcasts about the show.

As we count down to the last few episodes interest is in full flower, social media is abuzz, theories abound and amazing fan art is being created. Here are just a few of the amazing things I’ve seen around the web.

Oh, and, for the next 4 weeks, don’t call me Sunday nights between 9 and 10.

Writers on Breaking Bad

Harvard Institute of Politics: The Haunting Philosophies of Breaking Bad

Chuck Klosterman: Bad Decisions – why AMC’s Breaking Bad beats Mad Men, The Sopranos, and The Wire

The Atlantic: Walter White was Always a Bad Guy

The New York Times: Bad in the Bones

The New Republic:  the women characters of BB


Proximity to violence =amount of hair

Colorizing Walter White’s Decay

Fan Art:

Gallery 1988’s Breaking Bad Art Show

The (self-proclaimed) Best BB Fan Art (pretty good stuff)


all songs and score tracks by episode

An interview with Dave Porter, BB’s composer


Walter White actor Bryan Cranston reads “Ozymandius”