Friday, January 25, 2013

Remembering Aleksey Vayner: Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

Image of Vanyer from Dealbreaker
I was sad to read of the death of Aleksey Vayner. He was a young Yale graduate who became a short lived and unintentional internet sensation in 2006 when his video job application to financial firm UBS emerged on YouTube and showed him as an unbelievably accomplished person. People who knew him at Yale recounted that his abilities ran even deeper than the resume showed. According to the New Yorker:
Acquaintances report hearing that he is one of four people licensed to handle nuclear waste in the state of Connecticut, that he must register his hands as lethal weapons at airports, and even that he has killed two dozen men in Tibetan gladiatorial contests.
One imagines him wearing his gladiator garb, marching into the containment chamber at Millstone and pulling out fuel rods with his teeth.

Here’s the thing, though: that a man who wanted to be seen as a virtual superman thought handling used nuclear fuel would help get him there. Frankly, registering your hands as deadly weapons would do the trick in my book. It’s not something just anyone would come up with, yet was among the stuff from which he built his odd dream persona. I found that an exceptionally strange detail back in 2006 and still do – even to a non-nuclear person, it’s not a particularly exotic detail – at least not at the level of lethal gladiator matches. Yet, he said it and waited for people to be impressed.

Let’s not romanticize this too much – there are troubling aspects to the story beyond the sheer audacity of it – see the Salon story linked above for more. We can appreciate the dream if not always the dreamer and in this case, the dream ended sadly. To paraphrase Shakespeare, life is rounded by a sleep. Let’s hope Aleksey Vayner’s sleep is as peaceful as his dream life was rich and strange.

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