The Friday High Five
Tarnished legacies, expanded horizons, and new distractions
Every Friday I share 5 things I enjoyed this week. Also, high fives are inherently cool, and I think we can all agree Friday is the bestest day. Hence the Friday High Five. 🙏🏻
Like Gandalf after his ultra white glow up, I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.
The much anticipated holiday break wasn’t quite the respite I’d hoped for. I’d made the decision to buy some new parts for my son’s PC as his Christmas gift this year. Not the whole kit and caboodle, but enough to get his baseline moved up to something modern, and then he could pay for the rest (the graphics card, extra RAM, and also the graphics card). I’d built the PC he now uses exactly 10 years ago, and like Peter Parker’s onesie, it was in dire need of an upgrade.
Included with the parts was free installation by yours truly. I should’ve charged him by the hour.
The project ended up consuming probably 40 hours of my time, time I’d optimistically earmarked for languid reading sessions and leisurely messing around with my Star Wars book. In fact, we didn’t get over the hump until last night, when I finally discovered and resolved the issue.
Needless to say, I’ve really struggled to get re-engaged now that life is once again parceled out into responsibilities and obligations. All I really want to do is read my damn book.
Speaking of which…
My Favorite Thing This Week Was…
When Nothing Else Matters
This is the greatest sports book I have ever read.
That may sound like damning with faint praise, like saying Captain Tarpals is the best Gungan. Sports books tend not to be the best example of the written form. This book is a clear notch above because it strives to be about something other than the game. It’s an exploration of what drives the greatest basketball player who has ever lived to toss aside his legacy in pursuit of what seems a foolish pursuit of insignificance.
When Nothing Else Matters is about the largely forgotten and ignored final act of Michael Jordan’s pro career, when he came out of retirement to play for the Washington Wizards. MJ was the team’s executive in charge of all basketball matters at the time. After less than a year of watching the team struggle on the court, Jordan decided to pull a Thanos and take matters into his own hands, un-retiring for a second time.
Listen to the way Michael Leahy writes about Jordan’s doomed struggle to recapture the magic.
Afterward, most of the whispers were about Jordan, of something irretrievably lost. People understood that he would come back strong enough in time, that he would have many good games, probably even a few great nights. But some piece of him was no longer there, and it was not coming back. It is that way with magic: When it is gone, it is gone, and never does hard work bring it back, for work never accounted for the magic in the first place. It was just there. And at some point it is not—and Jordan could no more summon it now than he could have demanded it when it first touched him.
It’s a book about legacy, mortality, and hubris, that just happens to take place on a basketball court. There are a lot of clear analogies to the pursuit of excellence in any field, including writing.1
Other Things I Enjoyed This Week
The Simple Joy of Nintendo Games
I think most gamers tend to gravitate toward one system over the others. I’m a Xbox gamer, first and foremost. If asked why, I’d probably say it’s because my friends all have Xboxes, or maybe talk about the superiority of the controller, or how GamePass is one of the greatest innovations in gaming. All true points, but not the main reason.
It’s those damn achievements.
The gamification of gaming—whereby you “win” worthless points that reside on your profile and grant no benefit other than making you increasingly aware that maybe you should go outside sometimes—got its hooks deep into me. I’ve long stopped caring about how many points I have, or looking to see what obscure activities might unlock more points, but the habit of turning on the Xbox has become ingrained. To the point that if I want to game, I turn on the Xbox first and only then decide what I’m going to play.
Over Christmas break, I made myself let sleeping Xboxes lie and turned on our Nintendo Switch. And I found myself rediscovering the profound simplicity of play. Nothing to unlock or chase, just a world to lose myself in for a few hours.
The Creative Act: A Way of Being
Some books you immediately know are going to change your life.
The first time I read A Game of Thrones, I knew I could no longer enjoy the sort of fantasy books I’d once adored, stuff like Dragonlance and basically anything Brandon Sanderson writes. I’d entered the proverbial new world; there could be no going back. Imagine Luke Skywalker deciding to go back to farming moisture after he blew up the Death Star. It’s a preposterous idea.
A Creative Act is written by acclaimed record producer Rick Rubin. It’s an exploration of creativity—where it comes from, how to foster it, etc—but also is a treatise of how life itself is a creative act.
I’m taking this one in slowly, just kind of steeping in it. I’ll definitely be talking about it more.
Conan O’Brien Learning About Asian Cultures
I’m a big Conan O’Brien fan. Knowing this, YouTube often serves up piping hot videos for my amusement. The idea of an algorithm predicting my desires with unerring accuracy smacks of sci-fi dystopia, but sometimes it works, and I’m glad for it. Otherwise I would’ve missed out on these choice cuts.
This week’s soup du jour was Conan learning Korean. In typical fashion, Conan made it weird and also hilarious. That led to another video, where Conan learns about Japanese etiquette. I can’t decide which is funnier, so you should just watch both and thank me in the comments. (They’re 7 and 8 minutes long, respectively.)
Christmas is not complete unless I get something to play with. I’m basically just an 8-year-old in an enormous body.2
You might be asking what I need a microphone for. Hint: It’s not to audition for American Idol.
The mic is for a podcast I plan on starting soonish. I have no idea what I’ll be talking about.3
I’m not suggesting I’m the Michael Jordan of writing. I’m more like the Brian Cardinal of writing. In the game but mostly only good for an unintentional laugh.
Further proof I never grew up: Loves candy, often needs to nap, finds potty humor hilarious.
Probable topics based on things I can’t shut up about in this newsletter: Star Wars, penis humor, bromances.