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Library

The Reader – Welcome to Jurassic Park

In the summer of ‘93, four words changed my life. Welcome to Jurassic Park . . .

I was just returning from The Summit and my high school choir’s annual performance at our graduation ceremony. As we were picking up our things to go home, I noticed one of my classmates holding a book by Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park.

“Wait, Jurassic Park is a book?!” Like many teenage boys, I was excited about summer’s most anticipated blockbuster, Jurassic Park, but I had no idea it was based on an actual book.

At the end of my sophomore year in high school, my reading was limted to the required English class reading and textbooks. I was most definitely not what you would call an avid reader.

There’s early in the movie where they feed the velociraptors.

That poor cow in the video was Jurassic Park the book in my hungry hands. I tore threw it like a raptor, and started grabbing every Michael Crichton book I could get my hands on. Congo, Sphere, Terminal Man, Eaters of the Dead, I read them all. It also didn’t hurt Crichton had another book, Rising Sun, coming to theaters that summer too.

While Michael Crichton got the rivers to run, it was another author hitting the silver screen that same summer that broke the dam. John Grisham was taking over theaters himself with The Firm and Pelican Brief, starring Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts.

My dad marvels about it to this day. Something broke loose inside me, and my life changed forever. However, there were only so many Crichton and Grisham books available. Once those ran out, this hunter had to find a new source of Prey.

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The Reader – Books of Prey

I’m not exactly sure when the next stage of my reading development began. All I know is my mom was taking my sister and I to visit my older brother at Texas A&M in College Station.

I found myself in the rare moment of not having a book to read, having depleted the libraries of Michael Crichton and John Grisham. In not quite a bit of panic, I went into my parents bedroom, and started opening the drawers of my dad’s bedside table.

Lying there was Silent Prey by John Sandford. When I grabbed it, I didn’t realize I was about to start a reading adventure lasting 24 years, including 46 books.

Silent Prey the fourth book in John Sandford’s Prey series starring Lucas Davenport. Lucas is a detective from Minneapolis, and has been featured in over 30 Sandford novels. Silent Prey is also the first book in the series to feature the same bad guy.

After realizing this while reading Silent Prey, I immediately made plans to read it’s predecessor, Eyes of Prey. I then proceeded to read books two (Shadow Prey) and one (Rules of Prey), in that order. It took a couple of years before I finally got ahead of the releases with Mind Prey, the seventh book in the series.

The Prey books setup a funny routine between my dad and I. He would regularly bring books home he would grab in the airport while traveling for work. After he finished, I’d take a whack them. Many times, I’d discover it was part of some series, and I would start us back at the beginning of the series.

James Patterson’s Alex Cross and Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington were two of those series which we eventually strayed from because both authors ran their respective characters off the rails.

Still, it setup a great routine where my dad and I read a LOT of the same books for 5-10 years. These always included the latest from Michael Crichton, John Grisham and John Sandford.

It was years later, after I bought him a Kindle for Christmas, that my reading diverged from our regularly scheduled reading. To this day, that Kindle is the most expensive Christmas present I have ever bought. You see, up until then, my dad was essentially buying most of my books, giving them to me after he was done with them. After the Kindle, I started buying books on my own.

It was around this time, I became a bit more adventurous in my reading. And it all started with this little book about chess . . .

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Texans & O’s

TeXans and O’s

Reality Check

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I wrote about the Texans had an outside shot at snagging the second seed in the AFC. While I can probably write it off as a post-Patriots victory hangover, I really should have known better.

All week, I kept looking at that Denver game with increasing anxiety. In the Houston Texans textbook, this game is listed in the chapter titled, “Games We Lose.” It even came with the guaranteed Texans loss kicker of Denver starting a rookie quarterback starting his first road game. I wish I could go back and bet on this game. It was a NO BRAINER.

Speaking of no brainer, Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien. He gave another of his trademark post-Texans loss pressers with the tired, “It’s all on me, We’ve got to to better, We need to be more consistent,” drivel.

For maybe the first time in NFL history, Houston and Dallas sports fans can agree, being a head coach of an NFL team in Texas is the sweetest deal in sports! FIRE THESE GUYS ALREADY!

When an 8-4 team gets blasted by 4-8 on their field, it’s the mark of a poorly coached team. We’ve been suffering in Houston with poor coaching since the inception of the team. Dom Capers couldn’t do it, Gary Kubiak couldn’t do it, and Bill O’Brien won’t do it. He was too busy reveling in FINALLY beating Bill Belichek to prepare his team for a Denver team that should have been run out of town.

It’s pathetic and inexcusable. When will management stop putting us through this embarrassment?

Depths of Despair

After yesterday, I have no desire to see the Houston Texans in the playoffs. It’s just going to be another disappointing embarrassment. Don’t believe me? Let me lay it out for you.

In the first round we’re likely to face either the Pittsburgh Steelers or Buffalo Bills. I don’t see us defeating either team. In fact, I expect the same disinterested performance we got last season against the Colts.

However, say sneak out of the first round. Then we’re on the road against either the Ravens or Patriots/Chiefs. Of those three options, none result in anything less than complete annihilation. The Ravens have already beaten us 41-7 this season, and the Chiefs and Patriots will be out for blood for what were clearly lucky wins by the Texans. Sorry, not interested.

Resigned

Part of me was excited about starting my Texans column the week they beat the Patriots. It felt like destiny. Instead, I find myself wanting to quit after two weeks.

I’m committed to the rest of the season, which is why I want the season to end in three weeks. After that, I just don’t have the will to support this team while Bill O’Brien is coach.

I believe this can compete for a Super Bowl next season. However, that is going to be impossible if the Texans continue to operate with their current front office. We still need a General Manager, one that isn’t a Bill O’Brien acolyte. We need a GM who will clean house, starting with the head coach, and bringing in a new coach and offensive coordinator who can instill an offensive scheme to take advantage of our incredible talent.

Don’t mess with my Romeo. He’s one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, and has continually found ways to replace JJ Watt injury and injury after injury.

The Texans are a team lacking in a good team culture. A culture where games like Sunday’s loss are unacceptable and non-existent. A culture committed to winning and representing Houston in a way we can all be proud. This culture has never existed, and it’s time the team’s leadership stepped up.

The Texans kept their first two coaches too long. With another season, Bill O’Brien will become the third. It’s time for a major overhaul of the front office. I just hope we get to see it.

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Rockets Launch

Rockets Launch

Dunk Gate

James Harden’s “missed” dunk. Daniel Dunn, USA Today Sports
Daniel Dunn/USA Today Sports

A lot has already been said about the blown call on James Harden’s dunk against the San Antonio Spurs this week. The Rockets have formally protested to replay the last 7:02 of the game. It is highly unlikely the league will rule in the Rockets favor. It’s even more unlikely they overturn the result of the game, which is what I believe should happen.

Yeah, I know, that’s totally bonkers. However, what really upsets me about this situation is the lack of culpability by the league up to this point. In ALL NBA games, calls are frequently checked during timeouts and television breaks. Points are added and subtracted from the scoreboard ALL THE TIME. But in the case of Harden’s dunk, no such review was done.

The Rockets attempts to challenge the call were also rebuffed on the court for the inexplicable reason the Rockets didn’t challenge fast enough. Now when there is a common practice to review calls like this, why didn’t the league office do anything?

That is why I believe we should be awarded a win, though I realize it is obviously not going to happen. Still, I’d like to see the league show some kind of acknowledgement of a very obvious mistake.

Abso-Luka Mav-olous

One of the more exciting developments of this season is the resurgence of the Dallas Mavericks due to the play of Luka Doncic. While is certainly very impressive, I must say I bristle a bit at what I feel is TOO much attention being thrown his way.

James Harden has been playing at this level for more than three seasons now, and he can hardly get any recognition for his feats. Any attention always comes with some kind of shrug or backhanded remark about how he’s ruining the NBA. All this when Luka is essentially playing the same exact type of game.

Still, it will be nice to dust off the old Rockets/Mavs rivalry. It’s never been terribly heated, but with the Rockets becoming the league villain and the Mavs sporting burgeoning superstar who is so like Harden, the sparks are set to fly up and down I-45 in the NBA this season.

Clash of the Titans

While I obviously hope for the Rockets to make it to the NBA Finals, I must say I am slightly intrigued by the prospect of a Bucks/Lakers clash for the championship.

A matchup between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis would be a return of the classic center matchups of old. As a lifelong Rockets fan, I am always keen on the center position in basketball. Houston has been blessed with three Hall of Fame centers (Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming) in their history.

That’s part of the reason why I like the Rockets chances this season. Clint Capela gives the Rockets a great option to challenge both Antetokounmpo and Davis. There aren’t a lot of great centers in the league right now, and Capela is arguably the best center in the league not named Antetokounmpo or Davis. SIDEBAR: This post has helped me learn how to spell Antetokounmpo!

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Texans & O’s

TeXans and O’s

Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

Dragon Slayers

His name is Deshaun Watson, first of his name. Jacker of Jaguars, killer of Colts, and Warden of the AFC South. He is now the Dragon Slayer.

For the second time in franchise history, the Houston Texans defeated the New England Patriots 28-22 behind the heroics of Deshaun Watson. Coming into this game, I had a feelings the Texans were going to finally get over the hump, and defeat the Patriots on national television.

The Patriots have been pretty shaky over the past couple of weeks despite their 10-1 record, and it showed mightily Sunday night. Tom Brady looked frazzled most the night, and often showed his frustration towards his teammates on the sidelines.

The Patriots also lost control of the top seed in the AFC to the Baltimore Ravens. That is a more pressing problem as it seems their chances to go to their fourth straight Super Bowl will require home field advantage. The Ravens are the closest thing to unbeatable in the NFL right now, and appear to be the favorite going into the last month of the season.

For the Texans, the win solidified their chances at winning the AFC South for the second year in a row. It’s not going to be easy. They play their biggest threat, the Tennessee Titans, twice before the end of the season. The good news is the Texans have an easier schedule to close out the season.

Playoff Picture

The playoff picture in the AFC is going to a lot of fun to watch going into the final month of the season. I can see two scenarios where the Texans could make the AFC Championship this season.

The second seed is the less likely of the two, but not completely impossible. It would require the Texans to go 4-0 and the Patriots to go 2-2 to end the season. Since the Patriots have been so shaky recently, culminating in Sunday’s loss, I can see them struggling against the Chiefs and surging Bills down the stretch. In this scenario, the Texans would land a coveted first round bye. That advantage, along with Deshaun Watson puts the Texans in the AFC Championship.

The other, more likely, scenario is the fourth seed. All this takes in the Texans winning their division, and finishing behind Kansas City in the final standings. This will be tricky because there is a strong likelihood these two teams will finish with the same record at the end of the season. In this scenario, the Texans would get a first round home game against, likely, the Pittsburgh Steelers. A win there would send them to Foxboro to face the Patriots. After Sunday’s win, I am not worried about the prospect of knocking off the Patriots on the road in the playoffs. Daunting? Yes, but I feel this victory could give us the confidence we’d need to get a victory at Gillette Stadium.

Super Bowl, you ask? Stop kidding yourself, the Ravens are a lock to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Cleveland Sucks

I’ll close with a story that really just needs to go away, but just keeps vomiting up more garbage with each passing week. Two weeks ago, Miles Garrett swung a helmet at the head of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. As a result, he has been suspended for the rest of this season. Personally, I feel the punishment could have been more severe, but it’s hard to push for much more. In any case, the guy deserved extreme punishment.

The following week, there were reports of Cleveland Browns fans using a Steelers helmet to swing at a Mason Rudolph piñata while tailgating. Such class, Cleveland.

Then, this week, we see an Instagram post of Browns head coach, Freddie Kitchens, wearing a t-shirt saying, “Pittsburgh started it.” This refers to the fact Rudolph was the instigator of the fight resulting in the swinging of the helmet.

Cleveland has sunk to terrible new lows in class and respectability. The Browns came into this season with a great deal of hype, but have become one of the biggest disappointments of the season. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Kitchens. I would also lay part of the blame of the incident on him as well. Well coached players don’t swing helmets at other players. Kitchens claims his daughters wanted him to wear the shirt. What a father!

The incident is about as shameful an act a player can commit on the field of play. The best you can do is accept punishment, and move on. It says a lot about the city, team and fans of Cleveland that they not only don’t want to move on from this embarrassment, they want to revel in it. It’s a look as ugly as their uniforms.

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Rockets Launch

Rockets Launch

Oops, He Did It Again

AP Photo/ Michael Wyke
AP Photo/Michael Wyke


So, James Harden scored 60 points in 31 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday night. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re even taking a moment to truly admire his accomplishments. Look at this:

From @TommyBeer

The ten highest-scoring games of 2019:
1. James Harden: 61
2. James Harden: 61
3. James Harden: 60
4. Damian Lillard: 60
5. Devin Booker: 59
6. James Harden: 59
7. James Harden: 58
8. James Harden: 58
9. James Harden: 57
10. James Harden: 57

It’s very clear to me we are witnessing something truly special with James Harden. The numbers he is putting up are simply incredible. It is a testament to his talent fans and the media have almost become apathetic about it.

In fact, Saturday night’s fireworks were a blip on the sports news scene as the day was dominated by a number of Rivalry Week showdowns, including an unforgettable Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama.

It’s all good, Harden doesn’t hold a grudge. We have another month or so before the country turns its attention to the NBA. Don’t be surprised if he goes for 50+ a couple more times before then.

The Great Experiment

A little more than a month into the season, it’s clear we can call the Great Experiment combining James Harden and Russell Westbrook a success. Going into this season, there were serious concerns around the league about how they would adjust their playing styles on the court.

Some were drooling over the prospect of opening a column about the Rockets with, “Houston, you have a problem.” Fortunately, James and Russ haven’t given them much to gripe about.

Harden is averaging 38.9 points a game, and has a legitimate chance to average 40 points a game over the course of a season. If anything, playing with Westbrook has made him better. And I LOVE watching Westbrook on the court for the Rockets. He brings a tenacity Rockets fans haven’t seen since the days of Vernon “Mad Max” Maxwell.

Now, things aren’t perfect. There have been some lapses. Westbrook’s shooting has been a liability for a team whose success is dependent on knocking down 3’s with abandon.

The good news is they still have time and plent of room to improve. Eric Gordon has been sidelined with a knee injury, and will likely be out until the New Year. His return will give the Rockets another proven shooter. A shooter that would have been invaluable in a road loss to the LA Clippers.

All in all, I feel we can be very optimistic going into the rest of the 2019-2020 season. It’s also time to prepare for a renewed rivalry with the Dallas Mavericks. More on that next week.

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen

While I am loathe to celebrate an injury of any player. I must admit I am relishing the current state of the Golden State Warriors. They are flailing with a very un-Warriorlike record of 4-17 dealing with a spate of injuries that can only be described as a Greek tragedy.

I wish them a speedy recovery. The NBA isn’t the same without them, and any Rockets playoff run will feel hollow if the Dubs aren’t vanquished on the road to a championship.

Besides, it would REALLY suck for the rest of the league if they land the #1 pick in next year’s draft a la the San Antonio Spurs when they drafted Tim Duncan. It might not be too early to start watching the college ranks for the prospective #1.

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Texans & O’s

Texans & O’s – Tuesday, October 7, 2019

So far this season, the Texans are something of an enigma. I really can’t tell what we have on the defensive side of the ball. While J.J. Watt is certainly rounding into regular form, this team still hasn’t turned out a great defensive performance. And while they had a number of great plays and stops against the Atlanta Falcons this week, they still allowed 32 points to a 1-4 team.

The offense, on the other hand, appears to be a juggernaut as long as Deshawn Watson stays vertical during the game. After the debacle last week against the Panthers, Watson turned the closest thing to a perfect game by ANY player in NFL history. For the record, he is the first player in NFL history to pass for 400+ yards and 5 touchdowns with 5 or less incompletions.

However, this being the Texans, we have our infamous nemesis, the Indianapolis Colts, to thank for possibly making things much more difficult next week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Not only did they hand the Chiefs their first loss of the season, they shut them down at home so badly they are likely to coming into this weeks matchup against the Texans looking for blood.

The good news is they may have also provided some dirt on how to shut down the unstoppable Chiefs offense. Of course, if the Watson and the Texans offense can start putting up the same kinds of numbers from Sunday, the defense can get away with letting the Chiefs score thirty or more points with abandon.

Season Says

After five weeks, the Texans are 3-2. I still believe they will win the division, and make the playoffs with a final record of 10-6. That’s a somewhat optimistic take built on what I hope to be the Texans’ first 6-0 season against the AFC South. We’ll see.

Super Bowl Pick

Right now I’m going with New England vs Green Bay.

That’s all my prognostication I’m prepared to print for now. See you next Tuesday.

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The Bondium – James Bond Rankings

James Bond Rankings

  1. Daniel Craig
  2. Pierce Brosnan
  3. Roger Moore
  4. Sean Connery
  5. George Lazenby
  6. Timothy Dalton

Daniel Craig is the best Bond simply because from his first scene, he shook, not stirred, the concept of James Bond. He is also the star of, in my opinion, the two best Bond movies of all time. (see below) The Daniel Craig canon also incorporates an incredible amount of homage to the previous Bond movies. (Again, see below)

Many may scoff at my choice of Pierce Brosnan as the second best Bond. I welcome those arguments, but say this; without Pierce Brosnan, we may not have any Bond films today. The Bond franchise was totally wrecked after Timothy Dalton, a choice made because Pierce was not available (see: Remington Steele), took on the mantle. He resurrected the franchise before franchises became the currency of Hollywood blockbusters.

Roger Moore has the distinction of starring in more Bond movies than any other actor. Most, if not all, of his movies carry more than a bit of camp, but (mostly) hold up over time as some of the most enjoyable films of the franchise.

Yes, Sean Connery is the fourth best Bond. While I am always a connoisseur of the original being the best, I have found a number of problems with Connery’s Bond. The first is his character rapes Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. The second is the racism of Bond being camouflaged as a “Japanese” in You Only Live Twice. While both films contribute a great amount to the Bond oeuvre, they do not hold up well over time.

George Lazenby play James Bond once. However, that one film is better than most of the Bond canon. It is the only movie where James Bond gets married, and it featured the first “Bond Girl” who not only held her own against the secret agent, but could kick some serious ass. Diana Rigg (aka Mama Tyrell for you Game of Thrones), we applaud you.

Timothy Dalton is without a doubt the worst of all Bonds. I must admit, I LOVE License to Kill. However, The Living Daylights is the absolute WORST Bond movie of all time. It’s so bad, I skipped it during this past binge.

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The Bondium – Pierce Brosnan Film Rankings

I credit Pierce Brosnan with saving the James Bond franchise. After Timothy Dalton, it took six years, the longest gap between any two Bond movies, for producers to finally resurrect James Bond for a 90’s audience.

Pierce Brosnan Film Rankings

  1. Goldeneye
  2. Tomorrow Never Dies
  3. The World is Not Enough
  4. Die Another Day

The Pierce Brosnan movies ushered in an era of higher production values for the Bond franchise. For one, they feature two Oscar winning actresses, Judi Dench and Halle Berry; and another nominee, Rosamund Pike. It’s ironic the movie featuring all three is the worst movie of Brosnan’s tenure.

Goldeneye is the Goldfinger of modern Bond. It creates a wonderful storyline of conflict between 00’s, while adhering to the tried and true James Bond formula. You have Famke Jansen playing Xenia Onatopp, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, and the introduction of the the first female (and BEST) M. Oh, and let’s not forget Tina Turner’s AMAZING song.

Tomorrow Never Dies is ALMOST as good as Goldeneye. After one Bond film, Pierce Brosnan settles into the role, combining the beguiling charm with a respectable amount of humor. In an early scene, Tomorrow Never Dies delivers two of the most Bondian lines of all time:

“I’m just brushing up on a little Danish.”
“Oh James, you were always a cunning linguist.”

Jonathan Pryce is glorious as a media mogul bent on world domination. As a lover of an iPad, this film always delights me with a scene predicting the idea of such a device.

The World is Not Enough is the Bond family motto. It was originally mentioned in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Honestly, I would place this above Tomorrow Never Dies as its plot is one of the best in the franchise, but it suffers from Denies Richards’ Christmas Jones. A regrettably terrible Bond girl and character. Nevertheless, its villain is one of the best of the series.

Die Another Day should have been a great Bond movie, but loses itself in a terrible premise and writing. Still, it did bring back the Aston Martin.

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The Bondium – Other Bond Film Rankings

George Lazenby holds a unique distinction of being starring in a single Bond film. Timothy Dalton wasn’t the first choice when he became Bond, producers were hoping for Pierce Brosnan, who eventually took on the mantle long after Dalton’s short two film stint. Together, they are the Other Bonds.

Other Bond Film Rankings

  1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  2. License to Kill
  3. The Living Daylights

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of my favorite Bond films. George Lazenby, taking over for the now legendary Sean Connery, performs admirably as the new Bond. The film itself adheres to the Bond oeuvre wonderfully, and introduces the first empowered Bond girl in Diane Rigg’s Contessa Tracy di Vicenzo.

Most fans today are more likely to recognize Rigg from her role as Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones. In case, Tracy holds another distinction as the only woman James Bond marries in the entire franchise.

Despite my poor opinion of Timothy Dalton as Bond, I must say I do enjoy watching License to Kill. It pulls out all the stops of a Bond movie with over the top stunts and and infamous death scene involving a decompression chamber. And it’s hard to forget Benicio Del Toro’s role as a zany assassin sidekick.

The Living Daylights is the worst Bond film of all time. I refused to watch it during my second time through, and doubt I’ll ever watch it again.