Yao Ming & T-Mac

Ghosts of Yesteryear

I don’t remember the Houston Rockets winning their two championships in 1994 and 1995. I wasn’t even five years old yet and was far more interested in Power Rangers than professional basketball. I struggled to spell my own name, yet alone Hakeem Olajuwon1)Even at age 24, I had to check Wikipedia to make sure I was spelling the Dream’s name correctly..

Instead, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady were my original superstars, and so even the best years of my Rockets fandom were ruined by injuries. Following a completely terrible team sucks, but it’s not gut-wrenching. At no point during the 2005 Houston Texans 2-14 season did I think David Carr’s prime was being wasted. But every time I think of those mid-2000s Rockets teams, I wonder about what could have been.

My favorite playoff series was the 2009 Rockets versus the Lakers. The Rockets had no chance: T-Mac was already out for the season. Yao went down with a hairline fracture in his foot after Game 3. And while the Rockets had great role players in Ron Artest, Aaron Brooks, Shane Battier, and Luis Scola, the other team had Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in their primes. But despite being outmatched, the Rockets were the only team to take the eventual champions to seven games in the playoffs. Continue reading

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Even at age 24, I had to check Wikipedia to make sure I was spelling the Dream’s name correctly.
Gone Home

Gone Home: The Homeless Problem

Full spoilers for Gone Home and The Lord of the Rings follow.

Gone Home is the scariest game I have ever played, even though there are no monsters or ax murderers. You walk through a house, find light switches, and examine objects. I might be a coward.

The Fullbright Company, Gone Home‘s developer, uses the scariest tactic known to man: the unknown. Most gamers come to Gone Home with no idea what genre the narrative is, so for the first half of the game, every clue is over-analyzed. I saw the JFK conspiracy notes in Dad’s office and wondered if this will be a sci-fi story where Mr. and Mrs. Greenbriar are time-travelers stuck in the past. I discovered the ouija board and hypothesized that Sarah had been abducted by Oscar’s ghost. With no idea what kind of story I was experiencing, my mind imagined terrifying scenes in every new room, making me afraid to turn the lights on. Continue reading

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Whatever Happened to the Games We Loved?

I have murdered countless innocents, even children. Armies have bowed before me. I have sown genocide across worlds. Worst of all, my atrocities entertained me. Growing up, I would play video games for hours at a time, living out my crazy power fantasies.

But as the years have gone by, video games no longer enrapture me. Super Smash Bros. is the clearest example of this. Recently, I picked up a copy for the 3DS. The game feels like Melee, one of my favorite games of all time.

But it is not Melee, and nothing ever will be. On Christmas Day 2001, I opened up a brand new GameCube and a copy of that game. I would play it with friends every afternoon during sixth grade. We heard unbelievable rumors around the school about unlockable characters like Mewtwo and Ganondorf. Each of us would brag about how we were the best, and the only way to settle the debate was by throwing down on Final Destination with no items. Continue reading

Walter White's reflection

Breaking Bad: The Man in the Mirror

Full spoilers for Breaking Bad follow.

I work with psycopaths. My coworkers say they supported Walter White through every episode of Breaking Bad. Did we watch the same TV show? The one about the narcissistic drug kingpin who, despite his financial success, destroys his family like he was King Midas?

Apparently fanatical support for Walter White is common throughout the American public. That viewpoint ignores the brilliance of the show. I did not support Walter White from beginning to end, only at the beginning and at the end.

In the first episode, the audience immediately empathizes with Walter White. He has cancer, a handicapped son, and is barely getting by financially. Worst of all, Walt gets a handjob for his birthday. Continue reading

Battle vs. Red in Pokémon Gold

Pokémon: The Tallest Mountain

When I was eight years old, I dropped my previous career aspiration of McDonald’s fry cook and set my sights on becoming a Pokémon master. Yet despite my passion for Pokémon, I was not very good at the games.

To be fair, the first generation of Pokémon was very tough. Professor Oak tempts you with a miniature dragon, then the first two gyms are rock- and water-types. Despite what the TV show claimed, Sabrina and her Psychic-type Pokémon have no weaknesses. I lost numerous times to my rival, Blue. After overcoming those obstacles, beating my first Pokémon game was a treasured childhood accomplishment.

Then the second generation came around, and this time I rolled through the game. None of the gyms posed any challenge. Unless you were an idiot and picked the grass-type starter, the first gym was a breeze. Psychic-types had a weakness. Silver, while a talented opponent, did not match up to Blue. I collected all sixteen badges with zero losses. Continue reading

LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron: The Big One

I waste a lot of time on Reddit shoveling through tired memes and reposted questions. But occasionally I will stumble upon a worthwhile piece of content. This comment from /u/Arthur_Dayne made me reevaluate my opinion on LeBron James:

LeBron has never gotten the adulation from Miami that he has from Cleveland, and why would he? Sure, he delivered two titles, but in Miami, LeBron’s just a piece of a well-oiled championship machine. In Cleveland, he was a savior. He fell from heaven into our lap. The stars aligned for us to get the boy grown down the road in Akron. He was the messiah. We were all witnesses.

Let’s be honest – Michael Jordan has never inspired the fanaticism that LeBron James managed to inspire in Cleveland. Kids wanted to “be Like Mike”. Michael Jordan was an icon and a brand. LeBron James was a religion.

The big one kept eluding him. It was fine. We’d get it in the end. We only wanted one. That’s the funny thing – LeBron went to South Beach and it was clear that he’d wanted to win multiple championships — to be Like Mike. Cleveland had only wanted him to win one.

And then… The Decision…

It’s now been 50 years since Cleveland’s won a professional sports championship. 50 Years. It’s been four years since the Decision. I recognized then – and I recognize now – that the decision LeBron James made was a great decision for him personally and professionally: he won his championships, he upgraded his help, and he got to live in Miami which is a great city from everything I’ve heard.

But that’s what makes it hurt so bad: LeBron left not because he was afraid, not because he was weak, and not because he was unhappy.

He left because Miami was a better team, a better fit, and a better location than Cleveland.

All Cleveland had to offer was worship and unconditional love. And in the end, that wasn’t worth as much to him as we thought. That’s what hurt the most.

Continue reading

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: The Writer I Want to Be

Growing up, I wanted to be a writer. I dreamed that legions of fans would wait in line for my illegible signature. My correspondence would be addressed from “#1 New York Times best-selling author Sir Matthew Wrench, (honorary) Ph.D.” After selling the TV rights to my trilogy of fantasy novels, I would retire at age 30 to a castle in Scotland with my supermodel wife.

There was only one setback; I cannot write fiction. Here is a typical passage from my literary efforts:

“David Sinestro was a bad man. Real bad. To him, the world was not black or white; it was black or dark, dark gray. He walked into the bar, twirled his mustache, and exclaimed to the protagonist, ‘Good morning. My name is David Sinestro.’”

Sometime in high school, I gave up on my dream of being a writer. But during college, I picked up Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman which reignited my authorial interest and ultimately led to the creation of this blog. His debut book resonated with me for three reasons: Continue reading

Kreuz Market prime rib

Smoky Ghosts

Leaving Austin along 183-S, there is a Dos Equis billboard that says, “His brisket coined the term ‘holy smoke’.” This sign is bullshit. The Most Interesting Man in the World is too busy making love to beautiful women to smoke meat, but it shows that even Dos Equis’ advertising agency knows there is only one reason to be on this road: You are going to Lockhart, the barbecue capital of Texas.

And by having the best barbecue in Texas, Lockhart is the barbecue capital of the world. Residents of Memphis, Kansas City, and the Carolinas may disagree; they would be wrong. Anybody can make good pulled pork. Brisket takes real skill, and in Lockhart, cattle is king.

Lockhart is home to four world-class barbecue joints: Black’s, Chisholm Trail, Smitty’s, and my personal favorite, Kreuz (pronounced “krites”). Kreuz Market has been around since 1900 but has been at its current location, a huge red brick building just off the main road, since 1999. If you get there early enough in the morning, the quietness and wide open spaces make it seem like the interior of a temple. To meat lovers, it is one. Continue reading

Austin, TX skyline

Two Days in Austin, TX

We listen to Lights’ Little Machines on the way to Austin. My sister wants to check out the University of Texas to help make her college decision. This will be my first time back at UT since I dropped out in May 2013. Lights sings, “It’s been a hard year with nothing to show.” That Canadian goddess gets me.

***

We walk down the Drag as the sun rises. Several buildings have changed. Ming’s Cafe has turned into a sandwich shop. I always thought there would be more time to have Ming’s General Tso’s chicken.

Were college girls always this young? They look like high schoolers with North Face jackets. Every time one of them looks at me, I assume she is thinking, “Look at the old geezer.” I preferred it when girls ignored me. Continue reading