life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


hometown, NBA

courtesy of Jeff |

I just read one of the best articles I've read in a long time. Of course, as is human nature, I loved it because I agreed with it. It said precisely what I've been wanting to say literally for years, though I lacked the audience.

I found this article, of course, on For those who don't know me personally, you wouldn't know that I grew up breathing basketball to the point that had my skin turned orange and bumpy, I would have considered it a miracle. You wouldn't know that I stayed up nights studying obscure statistics from the NBA's distant past, that a hoop and literally dozens of Utah Jazz posters adorned my room, or that one of the greatest gifts I ever received was a small-but-real electronic scoreboard. Such was life in hometown, NBA. I even spent weeks devising an intricate dice game that would simulate real scoring patterns and box scores, complete with individual stat ratings on slips of paper for every single NBA player, which ratings I was able to assign based on my own knowledge as an 11-year-old. I kept the game and slips of paper in an old Nilla Wafer box, upon which I drew lines so the cookies looked like little basketballs.

Very few people that know me personally even know that. In junior high, when I stopped growing earlier than everyone else, so did my lofty roundball aspirations. I switched my attention to tennis and got good, but that was also when girls, school, and normal life materialized as well. My devotion to the Association took on a different form, but never waned.

As a quasi-adult, I've been forced to scale my NBA love back considerably. Honestly, I've become a little ashamed of it. But it's not because I've changed so much as that it has. What used to be a democratic league where John Paxson could take the final shot and where the Jazz's old-fashioned teamwork was lauded, has given way to an NBA that calls "ratings fouls" and refuses to acknowledge the skills of anyone not named LeBron or Kobe. If the Rockets beat the Lakers, the question isn't "how did the Rockets outhustle?" but "why wasn't Kobe hitting his open shots? Maybe he was poisoned." That may be a little farfetched, but only a little. In an attempt to hyper-focus on recognizable superstars that non-sports fans can relate to, thereby increasing TV ratings and product sales, the NBA has lost the devotion of its true fans.

Not that the hyper-focus or the superstar treatment are brand new. For in-depth accounts of the bonus calls (and no-calls) Michael Jordan constantly received at the hands of referees, read Sam Smith's revealing book The Jordan Rules. Nobody has been deified like he, but to what purpose? Let his already-stellar stats speak for themselves. If there happens to be someone else who, heaven forbid, plays as well as the superstar, give him the credit he deserves. Isn't the success story of everyman a ratings-grabber as well?

The article is Bill Simmons's "Blowing the Whistle on the NBA's Flaws," a.k.a. "Searching for Danny Biasone." By the way, I did know who he was. And now I'm seriously considering taking Simmons's advice tracking the whistles (and analyst comments) in tonight's Game 5 matchup between Cleveland and Orlando.

I'm afraid I may have opened a can of worms with public revelation of my unglamorous sports obsession. I may feel tempted to write about it much more now. But deep down, it's who I am. Life imitates sports just as it does art. And sports, just like politics, is in desperate need of intelligent conversation and pragmatic solutions in order to preserve the pure spirit of healthy competition that reminds us why we dream and keeps us from taking our anger out elsewhere. The NBA is where I grew up. I don't have all the answers, but forgive my audacity if I attempt some solutions from time to time. Something needs to be said, and I might as well put my otherwise-useless wealth of knowledge to use. After all, it's my home.



courtesy of Jeff |

I'm halfway through Stephen King's On Writing right now, which we were going to read in a class last semester, but never got around to. Fine. It's spectacularly well written and fun to read. I've never read a Stephen King book before, as horror is not my genre, but maybe it'd be worth it. Say what you will, he knows what he's doing.

King suggests, as most serious writers do, a daily quota. He himself writes no less than 2000 words per day, which translates to about ten pages or so. Others write for two or four hours per day. I need to do this. Since graduation, I've written very little, and yet, I claim to have aspirations. I also engender constant fears that I don't love writing as much as they say I'm supposed to, which is of course nebulous and unmeasurable.

But alas, the Bible tells us "if ye do my will, ye shall know of the doctrine." That is to say, don't criticize the advice until you've tried it. Therefore, I hereby pledge myself to a goal.

There, that sounds good. Wait, what? Numbers? No. It's enough that I set a goal. Numerical goals sound like the part of my Mormon mission I had trouble with. It sounds so restrictive. What if I do the deep-down wrong thing because I'm too focused on a quota, like my initial impression of the cop who pulled me over on I-15 yesterday for going 4mph over the limit? Generally speaking, I tend to worry far more about potential exceptions to rules than the rules themselves. What if we were speeding to the hospital? You'd be sorry then!

We weren't, though.

So I started thinking. The cop who pulled me over was actually a very nice guy, and did absolutely no harm. He simply suggested that it's not wise to pass an Idaho state trooper when in excess of the speed limit, no matter by how much. Not a terrible suggestion--one I shouldn't have needed, but still, he didn't ticket me, and I then drove slower and safer for the rest of the trip. I realized only a little later down the road, after my heart slowed to a healthy pace, that this particular cop who had so vexed me actually performed his duties of serving and protecting with great aplomb.

So maybe there is a way to enforce meaningful numerical goals to yield a result. If there was no speed limit, it'd be much harder to discern between safe and unsafe drivers. And even if there are exceptions, such instances are rare, at least when compared to the good that the law accomplishes. I hereby pledge myself to a numerical goal. I will dedicate at least one continuous hour per day simply on my creative writing projects. This isn't much, but it's more than I've done since graduation, and besides, unlike Stephen King, I'm not getting paid for this.

There are indeed a couple May 31 deadlines for journals I'd like to hit with my essay "Wartime," though I haven't worked on it in almost a month. It's pretty close. Besides, I just need to get something out. I also received a tip on a possible solicited article for Salt Lake magazine, so I have things to do. Now, if only the French Open wasn't on...


more titular fiddling

courtesy of Jeff |

I know what you're thinking: there's been titular fiddling? Well, yes, but it's not as fun as it sounds.

Avid readers know by now that I've been on the market for a new and better title for this here blog for at least five posts now. The previous one, an excellent quote on writing, but far from anything resembling a title, overstayed its brief welcome. It almost seemed somehow too presumptuous, in addition to it not really being a title.

And so the hunt commenced anew. I wanted something that would convey my aspiration to become an expert on a wide variety of topics, while expressing humble realization of my current standing in that battle. Also, I wanted something that would remain entirely left of the couch (not a figure of speech).

So this is what it's come to. The Wannasseur, or wannabe connoisseur, seemed slightly more sophisticated than The Prospexpert, which also might be a prescription medication. Besides, it's an appropriate mix of suave and slang. So anyway, here's the thing. I need to know if this is a solid title or something that we'll all look back and laugh about six months from now. Be honest. Perhaps even more importantly, though, I'm continuing to take suggestions on completely new titles as well. This one hasn't been properly thought out yet. So there it is.


on the topic of stupid Americans

courtesy of Jeff |

So, in a sweetly direct transition from the previous posting, I was listening on Friday to a couple of podcast lectures my friend Paul recommended to me. They spoke of responsible media, especially in regards to Russia and Eastern Europe. Paul's a good friend. He knows what I like. The lectures (actually more like panels) were enlightening and quite enjoyable, more than justifying my time spend playing the Wii. There's just one minor detail that necessitates a response from yours truly.

Each panel, headed by Europeans, mostly Brits, featured one American. I should have remembered their names, but I don't. In one of the panels, the American was the clear-cut expert and star of the whole thing. But here's what bothered me. Each time one of the Americans sort of introduced himself and began speaking, he prefaced his words with something along the lines of "Well, I'm just a stupid American, but..."

Is that really what it's come to? Has our recent history completely necessitated that we demean ourselves before we speak in order to be taken seriously? Both of these Americans on these panels were absolute experts in their fields. Both of them were open-minded, sensitive, moral, and abjectly diplomatic in their speech. Everything each of them said was absolutely appropriate and progressive, regardless of personal politics.

So why did they feel the need to preface their words and demean themselves? Humility is a wonderful idea. Don't get me wrong. Opening with "Well, I'm a superior American" would have been far, far worse, and no truer. But these are international professionals speaking on this panel, and probably mostly professionals listening to it as well. Not a whole lot of jobless kids playing Wii. But even if for some reason the Americans were at a disadvantage in this field, they could have said, "Well, I'm obviously a little more geographically removed from the situation, but..." Anything!

I just hope that this "admission" of stupidity hasn't become standard protocol for dealing within international organizations. Surely most European experts aren't so narrow as to believe that the "ugly American" theory pervades every single aspect of our population. We need to make sure we don't end up fulfilling the stupidity that's coming to be expected of us. If we claim equality and nothing more, we'll deal with our foreign counterparts as brothers. If we claim stupidity, our arrogance and single-mindedness will be justified. Others will begin to see us that way, and worse, we'll begin to see ourselves that way.

There are a number of things that make this country great. Just because it's time to stop focusing on the fact that we're #1 doesn't mean we need to stop focusing on the factors and advantages that brought us there. We have some incredible resources here, and we need to showcase them around the world with the attitude of "Here's what we bring to the table. How can we help?" That's neither stupidity nor arrogance if it's done right.

Just because we're not superior doesn't mean we're inferior. Let's stop trying to compensate for wrongs by swinging the pendulum way too far to the other side. That tactic doesn't lead to eventual moderation and equality. It leads to polarization and dischord.

We have a responsibility to serve others, not because we're superior, but because it's the right thing to do.

Whoo. Back to the Wii.


tales from the real world

courtesy of Jeff |

Over the past five days or so, I've applied for about a dozen writing jobs online, many of them fake. Craigslist, the too-obvious source of many of the postings, says "watch out for scams" and offers a few tips for keeping safe. The primary one is to beware any sort of work-from-home deals. Too bad I'm a writer.

Some of the jobs have been excellently legitimate, however, and I'm excited to hear back from them. I've also applied to a number of online postings from different sites, and a few local administrative assistant positions as well.

High-voiced boy: "Doesn't that mean secretary?"

Me: "Heh heh heh. Now where did you learn words like that?"

I figure I'll move on to more desperate attempts like restaurant positions once all of these fall through, if in fact such is the case. Not that I frown upon serving at Chili's, as in fact I've served before and very much enjoyed it. Besides, here in Logan, that's about the best money you can make. No, it's not that. It's that at this point nearly two weeks after graduation, I'm still clinging to the hope that having a degree will be worth something. Not that I went to school to become a receptionist, but at least some of my skills can be utilized there, and wearing professional garb would make me feel better about the time and money spent on my degree.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying my reading/putzing around time, the likes of which I've never had. I need to start studying Russian an hour a day or so and get back to my writing and start submitting things to journals, contests, etc., but all in good time. For now, I think I'll turn on an informative podcast or TED lecture and bust out the Wii. Life is good.


the graduate

courtesy of Jeff |

So, it's over. I graduated last Saturday in a nice ceremony with a boutonniere and a senator. On the same day, I turned in my last paper, a perpetually-unfinished personal essay about a number of things I learned here at the university. It's tentatively entitled "Wartime," and can now be found, at least in part, on the collected works blog. A couple of hours after graduation, we took off for the coast. The day after graduation, Sarah and I celebrated our first anniversary, and a few days later, I turned 24.

We returned home to Logan last night, and nearly immediately, I found I had nothing to do. The feeling persists today. I can't recall a single time when I've ever had literally nothing to do. Ever. By the way, the task of not taking myself too seriously is becoming progressively easier.

Needless to say, I'm not sure what to do with this freedom. Over the past few days, I read The Sound and the Fury as well as a bunch of letters and criticism surrounding it. (If I could, I'd just read all summer long.) I anticipate being a far better writer and student of literature now that I don't have school to worry about. If I play this right, I could conceivably become smarter. As far as procuring an income, however, I'll let you know when I figure something out. Bah! Money.