Anthony Bourdain (1956 – 2018)

Anthony Bourdain was a significant voice of the past few decades as he showed us the world, reminding us we don’t have to be scared of people in other countries and that there is a whole world that it is our duty to see.

It’s wrong to call myself a fan of Anthony Bourdain. That overstates it. I read Kitchen Confidential and enjoyed it. When I watched one of his shows, I enjoyed it. But I didn’t seek his content out, I didn’t wait for news of new seasons or projects. But above all, I held jealousy of the career and life he had. It is a romantic way of life.

The vision of traveling the world to eat food and experience life around the world. I’ve been able to see many places around our world, and yet there remains a whole world that I haven’t seen yet. What I’ve done is a step more than most people, and those places I have seen have confirmed this famous quote by Bourdain.

If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.

Bourdain summarized himself perfectly and succinctly in his Twitter bio: Enthusiast. And that is a great way to put what I wish my life was. I dream of being a professional Enthusiast as he was. Not because I think it is an easy and happy life. I knew his life wasn’t, and today’s reading by and about him reinforced it. Even when I travel for at most 30 days a year, I face loneliness on the road. Sure I might go out with friends or coworkers, but at the end I go back to the empty hotel room and am left with myself. Bourdain says he spent 250 days a year on the road. That had to be lonely.

Hearing the news about his death was tough for me this morning. Recognizing that a voice which spoke uniquely has been struck silent, and the resulting silence, would echo for many. Add to that for it to be due to suicide is to force us to recognize that under what he displayed sat the darkness which affects so many, and for someone like him to succumb to it… well, it’s terrifying. He wasn’t someone down on his luck, exhausted from the fight merely to exist. He was struggling, with demons, with loneliness, possibly with mental illness.

As death has a tendency to do, it puts the person front and center of social media. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit; all of them were heavily centered on the death of a voice. And I let myself be swept along, reading posts, watching videos, and participating in conversations. One notable post, which I unfortunately did not save, highlighted something that was an underappreciated feature of Bourdain’s television work. He was one television show, if not the only show on right now, which focused heavily on convincing us we didn’t need to be afraid of other people in the world. It’s so common and so easy to be afraid of people in a foreign country if we’ve never been there or never seen what their lives are like. And Bourdain discovered, through the vehicle of food, that the world was big and amazing and he could show it to us one episode at a time.

In his showing us the world we also got to witness the evolution of his voice. I love the below quote. I initially shared it on Facebook, coming from EveryDayShouldBeSaturday.com:

He started off as a Hunter S. Thompson-quoting dude who might have tried a little too hard to show you his cigarette, the scotch in his hand, and his punk rock roots, all maybe compensating a little too much for a childhood that included trips to France to eat at La Pyramide, and an education that took him to Vassar. He ended up somewhere else completely: As a truly conscientious traveler, as one of the only men to really publicly examine his role in encouraging terrible behavior in the restaurant industry, as someone who began to understand that the truths of his stories were at best partial and happily highlighted the fakery of storytelling while still trying to expand its possibilities. To believe in it, and in the end tell a story that was human, and at its best, humane.

This quote is in context of a scene that many people lauded, Bourdain dove into what the American food chain Waffle House was. He didn’t try to bullshit about it, he didn’t wax poetically. He talked about it from the start as being a place that beautifully served food that is good for hangovers and serving blue collar people at 3am. In the video we get to witness him experiencing a pecan waffle, lathered in butter, and maple syrup. It’s no Michelin star restaurant, it’s normal food. And it’s delicious. He didn’t try to make us forget that the food we, regular people, could get tasted good.

I truly loved when I discovered his twitter bio was the infinitely evocative and simple descriptor: Enthusiast. That encapsulates my vision of him so perfectly. Food, people, the world–He was an enthusiast. The enthusiast. An example of this enthusiasm is captured beautifully in this Twitter thread about a chance encounter with Bourdain at a food festival:

The whole thread is a delightful retelling of having got to meet him, showing him and his fascination in hearing her talk about her home country. He was enthusiastic to learn more about it. And when he did eventually attend, he was enthusiastic about it. It is a wonderful snapshot of what it could be like to meet him.

I spent a bit of the day swimming through these stories. His stories. Experiencing a life cut short, but one which uniquely gave us plentiful echoes to experience after he is gone. He began his journey by writing a book about his time in kitchens. It’s his book, Kitchen Confidential, which holds a poignant quote that reaches full meaning today:

[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.

Bourdain’s voice and personality, his zeal for life and the world, are gone from creating those new things for us. But there is a lot of him out there. His book, his Ecco press book imprint on which he published numerous books, his articles, his shows. He isn’t gone. Not yet at least. Not until the last of us turns off Netflix and Parts Unknown.

Who would you want to write your life story?

I already wrote it. And though I don’t really care about what people say about me when I’m gone, I guess Jerry Stahl would make an entertaining — if not necessarily flattering — story of the gruesome details.

Interview with the New York Times

Added 10 June 2018:

CNN and Anderson Cooper did a fantastic remembrance of Anthony.

Books I Intend to Read in 2018

By this point you’ve probably seen a social media post about tsundoku, a Japanese phrase for acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. I do this quite often. But, it’s less obvious for me since my reading material is almost exclusively digital on my Kindle.

The holiday season is especially when I am prone to picking up ebooks for future reading. I do a good bit of reading, but it’s never as much as I hope to read. And so my stack of books to read continues to grow. Let me share with you the most recent additions to my tsundoku.

I’ve been a fan of Brust’s for literal decades. I’ve read every book of his Jhereg series, and I continue to be a big fan of his work. This one was suggested to me by a friend who spotted his books on our shelves.

This one was brought to my attention by an article pointing out this book as a first ever book translated to English from Madagascar.

I tend, most days, to check Amazon’s Kindle books on sale. This one was on sale and it seemed pertinent to today’s current events.

This one was brought to my attention by Matt Colville, in one of his YouTube videos. It explores the linguistic impact on the archaelogy and translation of the ancient written Mayan language. It sounds absolutely fascinating.

This one was on the reading list by @PaulStamatiou, part of his year’s challenge to read more. I’m eager to give it a read.

Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, shares the unconventional principles that he’s developed, refined, and used over the past forty years to create unique results in both life and business—and which any person or organization can adopt to help achieve their goals.


I came across a list of US History books from unique / non-standard perspectives and this one jumped out at me.

Isaacson is one of the best biographers of the modern day, here he takes a look into the life of the inimitable Da Vinci.

A notable book on several important book lists. I think I originally heard it when Bill Gates talked about it, but I’m not positive. It’s been on my reading list for a while.

It’s been on the reading list for far too long, but the recent movie The Darkest Hour has further reminded me I want to learn more about him and his life.

Another book that I’ve had and been meaning to read for a while. It seems like a fascinating historical look at a thing I know very little about.

America is going through some things right now and this book has been given a fair bit of press and great reviews as a commentary and exploration on some of what is going on these days.

This is only a small selection of the books on my Kindle sitting at 0% read. We’ll see how many of these I knock off before the end of 2018.

Looking Back Over 2014

Farewell and good riddance 2014. That could be my comments on the year in its entirety but that is slightly unfair. So, to help me to look back over this year, I downloaded my Twitter archive and reread every tweet I posted in 2014.

January

This tweet took on unimaginable significance given how this year progressed.

I’d been doing WhatTheCast for years with the same crew of guys, but our lives changed. We moved. Changed jobs. Grew. And life changed around us. And so we made the decision to end the show.

February

A simple tweet that just shared the link to my blog post where I discussed grief around the loss of my grandmother. In many ways 2014 was a truly brutal year for me. I lost my grandmother and my father, while Katie lost her grandmother and her aunt.

Kudos to House of Cards for providing one of the most powerful moments of television of 2014.

Reblogged from my Magic Twitter account, because I truly enjoyed visiting Valencia and our venue was spectacular. I did do a fair bit of wonderful travel this year, including Valencia, London, Nice, and more.

March

Of course one of the most stirring international political incidents of the year, we can’t review 2014 without realizing that Putin launched his gambit this year.

teaching

My sister and I have always been fairly close, but this year I feel like we grew closer and definitely utilized social media for communicating more.

This tweet came after I made (and killed) a presentation at work.

April

This year is definitely marked by the fact we’re now homeowners. This is the first tweet I made acknowledging the process and in fact it was the day we put the offer in on the house that we would eventually close and move into.

May

Professionally this year was very much about learning to be a manager. Ed Catmull’s book was my favorite of the year that related directly to business and being a manager.

While this year was marked by loss, it was also marked by new life. I added both a niece and a nephew to the family, and it just so happened the niece was born as I was already flying to Atlanta for work.

This tweet encapsulates my love of Android tweaking and the World Cup. A good capture of the year.

June

How I announced that we had officially closed on the house.

This habit of dad’s was actually brought up by my nephew at his memorial service. It was a very endearing habit of his to click like on every post.

Facial hair is a subtheme of the year, with this shaving mishap and then my Movember beard it proved a diverse facial hair year.

I got very excited for the World Cup and USA’s performance at it.

Evidence my wife loves me very much, when getting cable set up in the new house they had some problems. It so happened the US Men’s team played that evening. She demanded Comcast get us set up and they sent out a cherry picker to fix the cable wiring.

Another tweet which is all the more poignant at the year’s end.

One of the first real big lessons which showed me how much I have to learn about being a homeowner. I couldn’t figure out why the washer was rocking hysterically, it literally damaged the floor it was on. As I learned, it was basically working with the parking brake on.

July

I did a fair bit of disc golfing this year, far from enough though. This comes from the arrival of two friends who moved to Seattle. I’ll have to look to do more in 2015.

From my trip to London, a truly awful selfie. But, I regret nothing.

August

Watched and read a lot of awesome things this year, including classics.

While not a member of family, given his improv background and his general omnipresence for much of my life, his death hit me pretty hard.

The biggest social movement of the decade, if not my life, happened in front of me and online. I am one of the unaffected but it still shocks me to see things like this happen in today’s world, when we’re supposed to be so sophisticated and, well, better than this.

As I mentioned above, this year professionally is about learning to manage as my team at work expanded to 7 in 2014.

The World Cup definitely fanned the already burning flame for my love of soccer, but I had several days like this where the entire day was watching soccer from around the world.

September

Work brought me back into the iOS world with a work iPad.

I bought the tickets back in 2013 and finally I got the opportunity to see Neil live when he came to Seattle in September.

October

Yeah.

Turned 31.

My buddy Drew flew in for my birthday and we went to the Sounders match that weekend.

As I learn to be a photographer here’s four snaps from a camera safari one day with Drew.

November

See, facial hair.

Moving into and customizing the new house continues.

December

The Sounders lost the western conference finals to Los Angeles, who went on to win the MLS Cup.

I could have kept the beard but decided to shave it off for the time being. It might make a return, we’ll see.

Some snaps from Nice, France.

Picked up a bug in France, and came back to the States feeling like crud.

‘Tis the season!

After a bunch of flying, and also headaches on various flights, it feels very awesome to finally get Gold on United. It brings a handful of benefits which are good, such as lounge access, but also picking seats (including extra leg room) at the time of booking.

Adding to the new tech of the year, an Asus Zenwatch!


And there we are, caught up to today, that’s the end of the year via my Tweets.

My Podcast Line-Up

I do not have a long commute to work. It’s only roughly 20 minutes, as such I have become very focused on getting the most out of that time. Rather than subscribing to dozens of podcasts and picking episodes with interesting titles, I’ve settled on a line-up of five shows which I find to have high quality on almost all of their episodes.


Serial

serialpodcast.org – New episodes every Thursday

Serial is the podcast everyone is talking about. It’s produced by the same people behind This American Life and, according to Wall Street Journal, “[i]t’s quickly become the most popular podcast in the world, according to Apple, and the fastest to reach 5 million downloads and streams in iTunes history. “Serial” is the top podcast in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and in the top 10 in Germany, South Africa and India.”

This first season focuses on the story of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murder 15 years ago. But was he guilty? That’s the question Sarah Koenig, the host and producer, is endeavoring to get to the bottom of. We’re now (as of this post) 8 episodes in and I still haven’t firmly formed my own opinion.

Serial tends to run 30 minutes per episode and it moves quick, often I’ll sit in the car if my commute finishes before the episode is over.


Freakonomics

Freakonomicsfreakonomics.com – New episodes every Thursday

There was a time where this was my favorite podcast and I never missed an episode. Recently I’ve been let down by their episodes. Most notably was their Halloween episode about the economics of vampires. Info-tainment is a careful balance between actual knowledge and soft entertainment wrapping around it, and I feel they’ve slipped more towards the entertaining.

That said, they are still a core podcast for me. In the coming month or two though, if nothing changes, they may fall off my podcast roster.


Hardcore History

Hardcore Historydancarlin.com/hardcore-history-series/ – A new episode roughly every 3 months

Hardcore History has been around for years but it only came to my attention a few months ago, specifically it was his series he did that talked about Genghis Khan called, punnily-enough, “The Wrath of Khans.” He did five episodes amounting to more than eight hours of content that discuss Genghis Khan and his life as the emperor over much of Asia.

Hardcore History is different than most podcasts. The first difference is that Dan Carlin puts out 4-5 episodes per year. They are less podcast and more audiobook. Which is something he takes to heart. The last few episodes are still available for free but at a certain point they stop being freely available and are instead up for sale. Note, we aren’t talking weeks, we’re talking years.


This American Life

This American Lifethisamericanlife.org/podcast – New episodes every Friday

Notably the only radio broadcast podcast in my line-up, This American Life is quality radio and podcasting. Good storytelling every week from around the country. There really isn’t much to say other than I find their story telling and show quality to be top notch which brings me back week after week.


99% Invisible

99% Invisible99percentinvisible.org – New episodes every Tuesday

In their words, “99% Invisible is a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.” It’s proven reliably fascinating and fun to listen to. This is the newest addition to my podcast line-up.

Design is something I’ve always enjoyed, whether industrial design, or the aesthetics of something. This podcast looks at these things, provides history behind it, and talks about it. They did an episode about the Ouija board (Ouija boards are made by Hasbro, the parent-company of my employer Wizards of the Coast) which I found fascinating. Hearing the history behind “talking boards” and the design of them was a really interesting show.


And there you have it. The five podcasts I listen to every week. I should note that while I do listen to some Magic: The Gathering podcasts, there isn’t one I listen to every episode of.