Time Off Well Spent

Hmm, looks like my new job has been keeping me from posting. But a lovely 2-week vacation to “Old Europe” has given me a chance to actually read some books.

First of all, I have come to completely and utterly adore the writing and general tender-tough pose of Anthony Bourdain. So I spent the last couple of weeks tearing through Kitchen Confidential, The Nasty Bits and A Cook’s Tour. I have to say that I probably enjoyed the writing most in The Nasty Bits–it’s a more recent compilation–but KC is a really, really cool book. I’ll throw some quotes in here later, but for one thing, his books make me want to see farflung places and things. And they make me glad that he’s out there representing us Americans.

But the more earth-shattering event was that I’ve finally read Phillip Roth. My friend Peter has been haranguing me for months to do so, and the appearance of Everyman on the shelf of the WH Smith in the Eurostar Terminal in London seemed to be all the harbinger I needed. I don’t know where or when I had decided that my life was rich enough without Mr. Roth’s writings, but god was I wrong. Full of bleak, funny, sexy, spot-on observations, it’s a tiny little morsel of a book that has more life in its scant 150 pages than most “great” novels have in three times the length.

Rise Up

We’re heading off on a camping trip in a few weeks with a couple of other families. An opportunity to bring the guitar and the songbooks and just hang. On of the other dads is an amazing guitar player and fun to jam with. My problem is that I have completely lost the ability to remember the chords to more than a couple of songs from start to end. If I have it written out in front of me, no problem, but the part of my brain that used to be devoted to remembering the changes to, say, Thrasher (Neil Young), Apeman, Allison, etc
has gone. Lyrics? No problem. But I’m hopeless without the music. So, I’m trying to find books full of great songs that lots of people like to sing.

So far, nothing beats my copy of Rise up Singing, which has everything from Showtunes and Union rally songs to choice 60s and 70s folk (Ochs, John Prine, Dave van Ronk, Dylan) and Child Ballads. Chords are simplified a bit, but great for singing along. All the lyrics are written out with the chords, so you aren’t flipping back and forth all the time. Best part is that the book is spiral bound (there’s a non-SB version, but why bother) so it will lie flat.

We’ll also be packing some Beatles song books, but I need more advice.

Bourdain Fries Food Network

Now, here at Chez Krudman we love us some Food Network–especially Iron Chef and Alton Brown, but there is much to smack. And Rachel Ray gives me the willies.

We caught the first few minutes of some kind of Food Network Awards show the other night and changed the channel right quick, just after spotting the California Raisins–I kid you not.

Amazingly, Anthony Bourdain, he of the vicious right-hook sneer and left-uppercut of sarcasm, watched and blogged the whole thing.

With a deft back-hand he manages to destroy the star of a show we’ve watched a couple of times for the sheer guilty pleasure, Dinner: Impossible:

The overmuscled fuckwit from DINNER SLIGHTLY DIFFICULT delivered the best line: something like “This is the greatest night “ever!” If that was his greatest night ever, I suspect he would say the same thing while being publicly butt-slammed by the San Diego Chicken.

(If you’ve ever seen his show, by the way–it’s hilarious. It’s “Knight Rider Meets Leonard’s Of Great Neck “” Can four professional cooks make onion dip for 40– in time?!!!”

Reflections On Being the New Guy

Uh oh, another work post. That makes about 4 in the past couple of years. I almost need a category for it.

I’m starting a new job today. Something almost like moving to a new school as a kid. I’m working on the right clothes, the right attitude, the right policies. I want to succeed, I want to be liked, I want to be accepted.

It’s been hard to realize that so much of my personal happiness is wrapped up in my job. This wasn’t my intent when I got into the technology biz. I was just supposed to be marking time until my book got published. Now, working on my third book, and realizing that I’m still searching for a real voice, it’s clear that work is my exit strategy. Another ten years, some careful saving, a little luck, and maybe I can afford to be a full-time writer by the time my kids hit college.

So, here I am, starting again.

For those (many, according to search stats from mybloglog), who’ve come looking for “Yahoo Product Manager”–that ain’t me any more. Try this guy, or this one. Both good guys, BTW.

The outpouring of genuine good wishes and friendship from many quarters at Y! has been extremely gratifying, so I feel like I’m off to the next thing without the usual burning bridges in my wake.

So, goodbye Paid Search and Project Panama, it’s been a trip.

Next stop, Technicolor. Online Media can’t be so hard, right?

Huh, leave it to the New Guy to be so frickin’ naive…

So it goes…

Kurt Vonnegut was the first “serious” writer I ever really embraced on my own. Sure, I had read Dickens and Twain, but never really realized how serious they were, and Sinclair Lewis and Upton Sinclair had been foisted upon me in 11th grade, and Frank Norris, too.

But when I got to college and soon began trading books with my dorm mates, I soon found Vonnegut. I think I read all of the novels in a few weeks. Such was his work, that you could devour it quickly, and the consistency of voice, tone and subject matter (that some people criticize) would just envelop you in a sense that there were folks in the earlier generation who got it. (At the time, I didn’t realize that he was more in my grandfather’s generation than my parents.)

I think most people get pulled in by the humor, but for me it was the despairing humanity, the bleak view of our culture that resonated.

I love his curmudgeonliness. And that he never stopped being a pain in everyone’s ass. And, of course, I love Kilgore Trout. We all need to get more in touch with our alter egos.

I haven’t read Vonnegut in twenty years, but I think I’m going to reread Mother Night this weekend.

Happy Birthday, Me. And thank god for that curmudgeon.

So it goes.

A disturbance in the force

There’ve been some rumbings in the off-stage cockeyed caravan that is my life and I’ve nearly regained the will to blog. While I actually figure out how to turn my brain back on, enjoy this video. It’s an employee training film commissioned by Universal Studios from the South Park guys. For some reason, they never actually ended up using it…

Frankly, I’m Beginning to Doubt My Commitment to Sparkle Motion

Not sure when it happened that I started looking back more than I look ahead.

It used to be when, when, when–I was sure that the best was in front of me and I would get there eventually, now I’m not sure. And for this I blame Thomas Pynchon.

Gravity’s Rainbow was the fundamental turning point in my literary edumacation. It turned reading a book into a process of self-flaggelation, humiliation and ultimately, snide elitism (since I could then boast that I’d finished the damn thing).

Okay, maybe not. It really is a grand book, filled with the kinds of inside jokes (in German), rollicking belly laughs and totally inappropriate sexual encounters which I value so highly.

So, why has Pynchon’s newest sent me into such a tailspin of self-doubt? After all, I confidently skimmed through much of Vineland and can’t remember if I’ve even finished Mason & Dixon, after slavishly reading all of his earlier work. Could it be that I’m not sure I have what it takes to read such a book anymore?

So, here in this personal echo chamber of a blog, I am calling myself out–I’m going to read Against the Day–and I’m going to detail my painful progress back to the self-respecting (nay, self-loving) intellectual snootiness that filled so much of my early twenties with loneliness and (most likely) adult acne.

And I’m happy to report that I have opened the book, and it starts out, promisingly enough, with hot-air balloonists on some kind of mission, stopping at the Chicago World’s Fair, the one detailed in The Devil in the White City.

So, progress so far: 10 days — 15 pages

Fuck you, Pynchon. You haven’t killed me yet.