Tim Minchin – Commencement Speech

1. You Don’t Have To Have A Dream. 
Americans on talent shows always talk about their dreams. Fine, if you have something that you’ve always dreamed of, like, in your heart, go for it! After all, it’s something to do with your time… chasing a dream. And if it’s a big enough one, it’ll take you most of your life to achieve, so by the time you get to it and are staring into the abyss of the meaninglessness of your achievement, you’ll be almost dead so it won’t matter.

I never really had one of these big dreams. And so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery. Which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye. Right? Good. Advice. Metaphor. Look at me go.

2. Don’t Seek Happiness
Happiness is like an orgasm: if you think about it too much, it goes away. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy, and you might find you get some as a side effect. We didn’t evolve to be constantly content. Contented Australophithecus Afarensis got eaten before passing on their genes.

3. Remember, It’s All Luck 
You are lucky to be here. You were incalculably lucky to be born, and incredibly lucky to be brought up by a nice family that helped you get educated and encouraged you to go to Uni. Or if you were born into a horrible family, that’s unlucky and you have my sympathy… but you were still lucky: lucky that you happened to be made of the sort of DNA that made the sort of brain which – when placed in a horrible childhood environment – would make decisions that meant you ended up, eventually, graduating Uni. Well done you, for dragging yourself up by the shoelaces, but you were lucky. You didn’t create the bit of you that dragged you up. They’re not even your shoelaces.

I suppose I worked hard to achieve whatever dubious achievements I’ve achieved … but I didn’t make the bit of me that works hard, any more than I made the bit of me that ate too many burgers instead of going to lectures while I was here at UWA.

Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate.

Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually.

4. Exercise
I’m sorry, you pasty, pale, smoking philosophy grads, arching your eyebrows into a Cartesian curve as you watch the Human Movement mob winding their way through the miniature traffic cones of their existence: you are wrong and they are right. Well, you’re half right – you think, therefore you are… but also: you jog, therefore you sleep well, therefore you’re not overwhelmed by existential angst. You can’t be Kant, and you don’t want to be.

Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run… whatever… but take care of your body. You’re going to need it. Most of you mob are going to live to nearly a hundred, and even the poorest of you will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of. And this long, luxurious life ahead of you is going to make you depressed!

But don’t despair! There is an inverse correlation between depression and exercise. Do it. Run, my beautiful intellectuals, run. And don’t smoke. Natch.

5. Be Hard On Your Opinions 
A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arse-holes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.

By the way, while I have science and arts grads in front of me: please don’t make the mistake of thinking the arts and sciences are at odds with one another. That is a recent, stupid, and damaging idea. You don’t have to be unscientific to make beautiful art, to write beautiful things.

If you need proof: Twain, Adams, Vonnegut, McEwen, Sagan, Shakespeare, Dickens. For a start.

You don’t need to be superstitious to be a poet. You don’t need to hate GM technology to care about the beauty of the planet. You don’t have to claim a soul to promote compassion.

Science is not a body of knowledge nor a system of belief; it is just a term which describes humankind’s incremental acquisition of understanding through observation. Science is awesome.

The arts and sciences need to work together to improve how knowledge is communicated. The idea that many Australians – including our new PM and my distant cousin Nick – believe that the science of anthropogenic global warming is controversial, is a powerful indicator of the extent of our failure to communicate. The fact that 30% of this room just bristled is further evidence still. The fact that that bristling is more to do with politics than science is even more despairing.

6. Be a teacher.
Please? Please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher. Just for your twenties. Be a primary school teacher. Especially if you’re a bloke – we need male primary school teachers. Even if you’re not a Teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn, and spray it.

7. Define Yourself By What You Love
I’ve found myself doing this thing a bit recently, where, if someone asks me what sort of music I like, I say “well I don’t listen to the radio because pop lyrics annoy me”. Or if someone asks me what food I like, I say “I think truffle oil is overused and slightly obnoxious”. And I see it all the time online, people whose idea of being part of a subculture is to hate Coldplay or football or feminists or the Liberal Party. We have tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff; as a comedian, I make a living out of it. But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank-you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.

8. Respect People With Less Power Than You.
I have, in the past, made important decisions about people I work with – agents and producers – based largely on how they treat wait staff in restaurants. I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room, I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful. So there.

9. Don’t Rush.
You don’t need to already know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. I’m not saying sit around smoking cones all day, but also, don’t panic. Most people I know who were sure of their career path at 20 are having midlife crises now.

I said at the beginning of this ramble that life is meaningless. It was not a flippant assertion. I think it’s absurd: the idea of seeking “meaning” in the set of circumstances that happens to exist after 13.8 billion years worth of unguided events. Leave it to humans to think the universe has a purpose for them. However, I am no nihilist. I am not even a cynic. I am, actually, rather romantic. And here’s my idea of romance:

You will soon be dead. Life will sometimes seem long and tough and, god, it’s tiring. And you will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad. And then you’ll be old. And then you’ll be dead.

There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is: fill it.

And in my opinion (until I change it), life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running(!), being enthusiastic. And then there’s love, and travel, and wine, and sex, and art, and kids, and giving, and mountain climbing … but you know all that stuff already.

It’s an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours. Good luck.

Thank you for indulging me.”


Best of San Francisco

Prather Ranch Meat Company
The Hall
Cafe Bastille
Mission Beach Cafe
Techo de Lolina
Italian Homemade Company
Oren’s Hummus Shop (Palo Alto)
Mac Daddy

Golden Boy
Una Pizza Napoletana
Il Casaro

Indian/Pakistani Restaurants
Curry Up Now
Holy Kitchen
Little Delhi
Udupi Palace

Bars & Cafes
Dolores Park Cafe
20 Spot
Magnolia Brewing Company
Smuggler’s Cove
Two Sisters
Cafe Le Soleil
The Mill
Cafe Flore
El Rio
St Vincent Tavern
Radio club havana
Latin American Club
500 Club
Mission Pie
Cafe St Jorge
La Vie
Artis Cafe
Atlas Cafe
Cafe La Vie
Pagan Idol

Thorough Bread & Pastry
B. Patisserie
Devil’s Teeth Bakery
Schubert’s Bakery
Stella Pastry & Cafe
Stella Pastry & Cafe
Victoria Pastry
Krispy Kreme (Daly City)
Chantal Guillon
Choux Bakery

826 Valencia
5 Star Chocolate Truffles
XOX Truffles
Flora Grubb Gardens
Krispy Kreme (Daly City)
Cinta Aveda Institute
Heath Ceramics (+Sausalito sale)

Twin Peaks
Bernal Heights
Grizzly Peak (Berkeley)
Coit Tower

Belden Place
V.C. Morris Gallery
Incline Gallery
Ferry Building (& Farmers Market)
Filbert steps
Calzone’s (people watching)
Cottage Row
Magnolia Gastropub

Dog Eared Books
Alexander Books
Green Apple Books
Books inc
Aardvark Books
City Lights
Christopher’s books
Folio Books
Mrs Dalloway

Off The Grid – Picnic in the Presidio
New Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Castro Theater

East Bay
Elmwood District
Rockridge Market Hall

Firebrand Bakery
Elite Cafe
Del Popolo
Free Tours By Foot
San Francisco City Guides
E Tutto Qua
Delessio Market Bakery


Best of Madrid

Walking Tour 1 — Opera, Latina, Huertas
Walking Tour 2 — Gran Via, Sol, Retiro (coming)
Walking Tour 3 — Conde Duque, Malasañna, Chueca (coming)

Top 3 restaurants
La Musa (fusion tapas)
Il Regno di Napoli (thin crust pizzas)
Cafeteria HD (burgers)

Bars, Cafes and Restaurants

Pez Baker
Afri’s cookies
Mür Cafe
Lata de Sardinas
Mama Framboise
La Central (bookshop and cafe)
Il Cratere del Gusto
Cocina de mi vecina
Con 2 Fogones
Home Burger
La Rue
Happy Day
Cacao Sampaka
Cafe Federal
Rey de Tallarines
Taqueria Mi Ciudad
La Mantequeria
Subiendo al Sur
Jardin Secreto
La cajita de Nori
La Taberna de Huertas
Los Olvidados
Café Moderno
El Horno de Santos
Toma Cafe
La Central

Mercado Il de Fonso
Mercado San Anton
Mercado San Miguel

Plaza dos de Mayo
Plaza Comendadores + Calle Cristo + Plaza Guardias de Corps
Plaza Il San de Fonso
Plaza Mayor
Plaza Santa Ana
Puerta del Sol

Rooftop bars and views
Corte Ingles Gourmet Experience Callao
Apartosuites Gambini bar
Parque de las 7 tetas / Cerro del Tío Pío

La Central

Best of Paris

Walking Tour
Tal’s Best of Paris Walking Tour
— on Google Maps

1. Shakespeare&Co
2. Notre Dame de Paris
3. Glaces Berthillon
4. Village St Paul
5. Place des Vosges
6. Rue des Rosiers
7. Centre Pompidou
8. Rue du Rivoli
9. Louvre
10. Pont St Neuf
11. Cour du Commerce St André des Arts
12. Boulevard St Germain
13. Institut du Monde Arabe terrace

* Obviously, go see Montmartre, l’Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysées, the Eiffel Tower too.

Cafes & Food
Le Coquelicot
Les 2 Moulins
Glaces Berthillon
Ann’s Cookies
L’As du Falafel
Berko cupcakes
Le Boul’mich
Cafe Cosi
Creperie des Arts
La Jacobine
Le Relais Odeon
Un Dimanche a Paris
Cafe Poushkine
Cafe de la Gare
Cafe les Etages (St Germain)
Du Pain et des Idées
Le Relais Gascon
Botak Cafe*

La Panfoulia
Marcel (Indian)
Mama Shelter
Pink Flamingo

Candelaria (hidden bar behind the tacos)
Sherry Butt

Village St Paul
Le Musée du Monde Arabe**
Pont de l’Archevêché***
Passage du Grand Cerf
Promenade Plantée / Coulée Verte

Cours du Commerce St André
Ile St Louis
Place du Tertre
Canal St Martin
Place des Vosges
Rue de Montmartre / Montorgeuil
Place du Marché Sainte Catherine

Shakespeare & Co
La Cure Gourmande
Merci (expensive but cool store)

* Order the Agua de Valencia
** Take the elevator up to the rooftop for a free view of the city.
*** Surprise your girlfriend by attaching a lock with your names to this bridge.

Best of Lisbon

Cafes / bars
Royale Cafe
Cruzes Credo
Pois, Café
Vertigo Cafe
Cafe Tati
Ler Devagar
Antiga Confeitaria de Belém
Pasteleria Alfama Doce
Bar da Velha Senhora
Pensão Amor
Pavilhao Chines

Cafe Buenos Aires
Cruzes Credo
To B. Burgers

Elevador da Bica
Hotel do Chiado*
Convento do Carmo
Santa Justa Lift
Praca do Comercio
Tram 28

Castelo de Sao Jorge
Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Belem)

Miradouro das Portas do Sol
Miradouro de Gracia
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Miradouro da Senhora do Monte

LX Factory
Cais do Sobre

A vida Portuguesa
Livraria Betrand
Ler Devagar

We Hate Tourism**

* Go up to the top floor, walk left to the end of the hallway, you’ll find a terrace at the end to your right. Bring wine, a blanket, and enjoy the night view of Alfama and the castle for free.

** I normally stay miles away from tours. But these guys are insanely cool. Also, they will drive across Lisbon’s hills like madmen in a massive black military jeep.

Another day in the Summer of Antwerp

Antwerp is… just wow.

I know Europe sounds like a smorgasbord of Paris, Barcelona and London, but it is not.
Paris, and I should know, can not offer you… experiences. It offers sights, and moments of ‘oh my god I’m in Paris’, but you will always be mere spectator. Paris does not need you and it lets you know it, even as you’re stepping on your last metro to the airport, it will say ‘Attention a la marche’ mechanically for what is not not only the umpteenth time, but once more in an infinite series of times to come. Paris, in short, makes for great pictures of places half the planet has visited before you, and will do so long after you’re gone. (and Barcelona is really just a souvenir shop of tapas and… did I say tapas already?)

Antwerp, on the other hand, is made of you, and me, and it will call for your participation on a daily basis. Zomer van Antwerpen (Summer of Antwerp) does not lay out iron towers for you to wait in line and climb. It builds hippie communes in the woods right outside the centre, and says ‘Hey guys, we sort of patched together these hammocks, wooden platforms, benches and a bar out of re-used scrap. And, we thought you might be hungry too, so we’ve got this little volunteer kitchen going with world food at prices even your mom can’t compete with. And you know what would make it even cooler? If you’d bring some picnic cloth or wine or mainly, yourself and your friends’. And so we do. Every summer. We, heart-feltly cool people of Antwerp, show up to enjoy each other’s company. It just so happens the city of Antwerp built us a few circus tents and fireplaces and trade-as-you-wish book shelves.

The rest… is familiar.
Raph shows up at my door. I jump in his car. I throw his USB stick somewhere to the back of the car and plug in my iPhone. Today, Frightened Rabbits – The Modern Leper, so loud we couldn’t even hear ourselves honk. Park the car on the river side where every year, the Cirque du Soleil swings by for chocolate and giggles. We go into town.

We open random travel guides at random pages at the Fnac, and discuss the merits of Cuzco over Hanoi. We toy around with speakers on demo and comment a Philip Roth book or two. We’ll grab a sandwich at Panos and mention, for the 100th time, that we really should find an even cooler place to lunch, ever since the too-good-to-be-true Vapiano chain closed its Antwerp branch, for reasons beyond our comprehension; it was always packed with kindred souls.

We’ll walk down the antiquaries street and today, discovered an art gallery slash french cuisine slash limited fashion store slash music shop slash we’re-psyched-you-love-it-but-please,-no-pictures-locale. We nod in complicity and ambulate around the place in childlike wonder. Raph or I or both will shout across the store once more that Antwerp just doesn’t compare, and 8 minutes of hopping later, Raph will say ‘On bouge mec?’, and I’ll say ‘yep, let’s roll’, and onwards we go. Enter the Diesel store, even though even their armbands are beyond our budget and joke about how making you feel inferior is part of the clerk’s job description. We’ll still flip a price tag or two just to fuel our jokes. On and on, we’ll explore our own city in a non-stop mixture of familiarity and incomprehensible surprise. Either the walls move when we’re not looking, or this city is just alive in ways we can’t keep up with. Three stores later, Raph correctly points out we’re not in a buying mood at all, sales or no sales. I’ll say ‘okay sure, let’s hit Zomerbar, but first I need to get my glasses tended to’.

We’ll march over to Theo, the Belgian brand of glasses deluxe, where, though I didn’t buy mine at their store nor did the previous glassmaker fit my lenses particularly well into the frame (or so Theo’s friendly clerk will point out, with a sigh reserved for the love of craftsmanship and the pain of lack thereof) they will happily fix me up. The lady will first look at me, front and back, to determine just how well my glasses currently fit me. Then she’ll remove them from my head (a sensory experience I only otherwise experience when a girl takes them off from me in bed), and head back behind the counter where she will minutiously proceed to shape them back to perfection like the gentlest of chiropractors. She will charge me nothing for it. Why would she. We’ve just collectively made the realm of designerly glasses a better place. It’s a win-win-win situation, an outcome embedded in the blueprint of this town’s psyche. On to the Zomerbar.

We’ll order fresh mint tee, then fancy the day’s penne dish with salmon sauce, then I’ll ask for a plate with just bread and humus, though neither figure on the day’s menu, and get charged ridiculously symbolic prices for it, then come back for a coconut lemongrass curry as I strike up a conversation with the guy that I mistook for last night’s guy, but no, apparently ‘tapas guy’ only comes in at 21.00.

Then back to the hammocks for more semi-siestas, in between hilarious statements (not unlike our facebook statuses) and barely audible music from my iPhone that I craftily got to hold steady on a randomly cut tree trunk. It is not a chair. It is not a table either. It is, along with the cushion-filled potatoe bag currently serving as a nearby kid’s toy, a something-something that the city of Antwerp and the organizers of Zomerbar must have considered ‘perhaps fun to have lying around’, for purposes later to be defined by the people of Antwerp themselves. In Paris, such potato bag would come labeled as ‘Ceci n’est pas fait pour s’asseoir dessus’, whereas in Antwerp, the chief commander of potato bag utilization is a 6 year old with endearing ADHD, otherwise referred to as ‘Kids who like to play extra long’ here where I grew up.

We’ll stay long enough to be part of the regular crowd, agree that the dreadlocked bartender is cute as fuck, comment once more that was makes this place truly magical, is the fact that people age 65 or 15 show up and find each other’s presence ‘cool’. And remember how last night, we stroke up a conversation with this 50-something teacher who overheard our french and toasted hers and her husband + friends couple mojitos to our youth, and how we wondered just how much of our outspoken sexual and depraved chat she just understood. Ponder that for a minute, then pick up the conversation again right where we left it, on the subject of male jealousy and the scenario’s in which breaking a barstool on somebody’s back is a respectful act of communication, really. Then too, we might feel like moving ventures, and at my request, Raph will scout the internet on his blackberry (which I christened ‘the fat poo of a nigger’ for its black ugliness), and conclude that there doesn’t seem to be much playing at the cinemas tonight. But we’re in doubt.

And we do feel like being entertained. So we’ll drive right back up in the car and drive home so he could grab his macbook so we could go online so we could watch trailers of movies to watch. 20 minutes later, all in his car, Natasha, we’ll watch an episode of The Office, the one where Dwight gives a Mussolini-like speech to an audience of salesmen. Then we’ll lie comatose in his car some more, to the soundtrack of Mumford and Sons. Then hunger will strike, and I’ll explain that I’m in dire need of Red Bulls (plural), because my last night’s experiment of sleeping in his car so as not to wake up my mom did not afford me much sleep (though fantastic dreams).

Another ten more minutes of comatose staring at the dashboard windows and we’ll make a snap decision. We should eat healthy, dismissing the Quick hamburger joint nearby. We used to hang there all the time, the perfect meeting point at walking distance from his and my house. Sometimes bring a guitar, sometimes just for girl talk. But hey, we’re hungry for healthy stuff, and it doesn’t take long to happily admit that, again, no one will better cater to our needs than the Zomerbar.

Drive back up there, park the car, walk inside, wait in line, get the evening’s dish, canteen style, join more strangers at a table, get called up by his parents, they’re here too, near the bar. Come by, say hi, they came with his little cousin, who Raph swears she’ll soon break hearts, and I think ‘wow, three generations at one table’. And as if to drive the point further, his father laughingly announces that Raph’s grandma, age 96, recently decided she’d like to find herself a new lover. (I am not making this up). Off we go. To the Dansing Chocolate, our favourite cafe.

We still haven’t seen the end of Knocked Up (the movie we started watching last night in his car until I dozed off and told him to just leave me on the backseat with his car’s keys, and we’ll meet again in the morning.) We show up at the cafe after I grabbed a Red Bull at the Pakistani shop and search for table nearby an electricity plug. Open up the MacBook, let Raph order a beer and start the movie again. Watch it some more until a deliriously hot girl enters the cafe. It is God’s obscene tease. Raph tires of the movie and I say ‘then let’s move cuz I’m cold at this table’ and sit ourselves down so that I could afford a better view. Another round of mint thee and we talk of women. Drinks were had. I saw panties. Had to drink my mint thee with my eyes covered so as not to stare. They left. We stayed some more. I’d accentuate the often hilarious punchlines we nailed by slamming my fist on the table. Then go get another handful of M&M’s from the counter. Off we go.

Back to the car. Another round of The Modern Leper, so loud… so good. We’re almost home. I quickly tune in The Killer’s – Read my mind. We arrive home but I insist Raph parks a bit further away so as not to make my dog bark as I segue into the When you were young. We shout the lyrics at the top of our lungs and agree to meet at 10 AM at the tram stop tomorrow morning. We’re taking the same train to Delft. He’s visiting Monique, my former accomplice in lingerie and sex talk, and now Raph’s. As for me… another day, another town. I’ve got stuff to do in every European country anyway. And I come online to find Gilberto on Gchat, my mexican hombre who got a grant to study in NYC. I’ll come visit. Right now, I need to sleep. It’s just another day Antwerp.

3.53 AM.

—Originally posted on Facebook on the 18th of July 2010

Tal’s latest longreads

How Google builds its maps—and what it means for the future of everything.
An exclusive look inside Ground Truth, the secretive program to build the world’s best accurate maps. (via Alberto Romero)

How Apple and Amazon security flaws led to my epic hacking
A writer loses everything on his iPhone, his iPad and his Mac—including all of the photos from the first year and a half of his daughter’s life—after a hacker infiltrates his Amazon, Apple, Gmail and Twitter accounts.

A man walks into a bank
Patrick Combs deposits a junk-mail cheque for $95,000 – for a joke. The bank actually cashes it.

Global copycats: the sincerest form of flattery
A profile of Oliver Samwer and his web copycat factory in Berlin, which specializes in building knockoff websites inspired by growing American startups—then, sometimes, selling them back to the original company

What’s so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress?
On gender-variant kids, and their parents.

The Disappeared
How the fatwa changed the life of Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses.

What Happened to Diaspora, the ‘Facebook Killer’?
It’s Complicated.

The kindness of beasts
Are animals capable of moral behaviour?

Crushing Debt Drove Me to Kosovo — And Then to Iraq
A man with $90,000 in debt makes some hard decisions about his life—starting with a trip to Kosovo for an IT job.

Obama’s Way
Lewis follows the president for six months—joining him for basketball pickup games, a trip on Air Force One, and inside a decision on how to handle Libya.

How Much Tech Can One City Take?
San Francisco struggles for its soul.

Reinsurers and the God clause
On the insurer’s insurer and calculating the risk of modern catastrophe.