|Darren and Cait at the "Eye"|
2. Ken Burns's Baseball. Despite my not really liking Jazz, I went ahead and bought a copy of Ken Burns's film Baseball (including the "10th Inning" update) on eBay. I don't really know why, but it seems like every topic on which Burns chooses to do a documentary ends up being a dead horse; I haven't quite decided if they were "dead" before he addressed them, or if he plays a significant role in "killing" them, but they somehow seem diminished when he's done. His most-acclaimed film is probably still The Civil War, which I've watched five or six times. I get the impression, however, that some critics have re-thought their position on it. It could be that it now seems overly sentimental to them, especially as regards the notion that the Union was worth the cost of preserving it. Jazz made clear that jazz music played a tremendous role in the cultural development of the U.S.; however, in considering the music's history, one is forced to conclude that it has become all but irrelevant, except as the stuff of nostalgia, in modern-day America. And, likewise, Baseball, while interesting as history, serves to illustrate a number of reasons why the sport has declined in the last couple of generations, especially (1) the widespread use of PEDs (and the confusion and perturbation they have caused about the latter-day breaking of records), (2) skyrocketing salaries and ticket prices, and (3) the fact that children in this country, to the extent they aren't becoming fat and brain-dead on fast food and video games, are choosing to play other sports. (I think it's telling that slow-pitch softball -- admittedly a sissified form of baseball, albeit one that many ex-baseball players have traditionally played -- has become glaringly less-popular in Albuquerque than it was just twenty years ago, as many vacant and dark fields testify. It doesn't seem that long ago that the city had to go rent private fields to have enough parks in which to schedule all the teams wanting to play.)
3. Barack Obama's love of titles. I've come to dislike writing about President Obama, as I prefer not to think of him much at all. (And I've found that I have rather mild feelings toward him compared to many other people -- talk to just about any small-business owner, for example.) One thing that has occurred to me, however, is that he seems to like ceremonial titles very much -- editor of the Harvard Law Review, senator, president of the United States -- but somehow he finds distasteful the idea of having to carry out the office to which the title pertains. Many people, myself included, lack an aptitude or a liking for leadership, but most of us have the sense not to run for elective office.
4. My love for my family. Increasingly, I find myself living almost exclusively for my family -- my wife, children, and grandchildren. It isn't like I'm constantly doing things to serve them or to enrich their lives, but they are the reason I go to work during the week and to church on Sundays. I hope it means something to them that I try to tell them regularly that I love them.
5. My leg injury. On the evening of July 26, I was running on a treadmill at Planet Fitness when I suffered a pretty severe tear in one of my calf muscles. My left Achilles tendon was aching as I ran, so I was kind of favoring it; I should have stopped, of course, but I was 23 minutes into a 30-minute run and was anxious to get through it. I nearly fell off the treadmill when the tear happened; I was afraid I'd ruptured my Achilles, although both my calf and my Achilles have steadily gotten better since then. I haven't gone to the gym much lately, and when I've gone, I've ridden a stationary bike, as I did for well over two years before I got back on the treadmill last November. I may simply have to face the fact that running beats me up too much these days; I'm too old and fat for it.
6. The temple. Back in February, Dorine and I "re-upped" to serve as temple ordinance workers for another two years. Since that time, however, Dorine was assigned to be the sister shift coordinator for all the Wednesday shifts we work (Weeks 2, 4, and now 5, when there is one), and now I only ever see her in passing. It's almost like not having her there, which in turn makes it much less enjoyable for me. I'm still the "trainer" in Week 4; I'm probably better at it than I typically give myself credit for, but it isn't something I relish doing.
7. The effect of cutting down trees in our back yard. The house to our east was sold sometime back, and one thing the new owners did was to cut down the junipers in their back yard. A number of trees (a large maple, several cypresses) have died in our back yard, as well, and we've been cutting them down. (The maple has provided us with what will probably be a ten-year supply -- for us -- of firewood.) The effect of all this tree-cutting has been two-fold: (1) we now have a direct line of sight to the back windows of several neighbors' houses on the street behind us (leaving us with less perceived privacy); and (2) our back yard seems even bigger than it did before.
8. BYU football. I'm looking forward to the college football season and am excited to watch BYU play. They have a tough schedule this year, playing Virginia, Texas, Utah, Georgia Tech, Houston, Boise State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Nevada. If the team really comes together, especially on offense (down-field passing and pass-blocking), a 9-3 record would probably still be a tremendous accomplishment; however, if their offense isn't better than it was last year, a 3-9 record, and no bowl game, is a real possibility. (I'm taking nothing for granted this year!) I like BYU's independent status in football, and the schedules it is starting to produce -- I really like being able ot watch most of their games on television -- but it isn't fun to watch them sputter.
9. U.S. men's soccer and the 2014 World Cup. The U.S. men's national soccer team has been playing very well lately, winning several World Cup qualifiers and then winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup competition. (Curiously, the U.S.'s resurgence has coincided with a stretch of mediocre play by Mexico, its primary regional rival and the gold medalists in the 2012 Olympics.) It's easy to conclude that the biggest difference has been the influence of Jurgen Klinsmann, the team's German coach, who seems to be teaching a certain flair, especially in the offensive third of the field, that the U.S. has never really had. The most-exciting thing, however, is that the U.S. has done all this without having its three best field players -- Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley -- in the lineup at the same time. That bodes well for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
10. The hikes and camping trip(s) we haven't taken this summer. I really wanted to do a couple of strenuous hikes this summer in the Sandias, but the only real hike I've done this year was to go up to the "Eye of the Sandias," and then down the so-called "Mano Trail," with Darren and Cait on the Saturday before Memorial Day -- which only took about two-and-a-half hours. (See photo above.) Likewise, we haven't gone camping with any of the kids and grandkids this summer, although Dorine is talking about going somewhere next weekend (but only because Devery brought it up).
11. My musical tastes. I haven't bought much music, MP3s or CDs, in a long time. Occasionally I'll hear a song, usually in a restaurant or on a movie soundtrack, that I like and want to buy, but otherwise my taste in music is pretty fixed in time, being largely bounded by the period from about 1965 to about 1985. I have electronic copies of most of the songs I grew up liking, or which I used to like to dance to back in the early 1980s; thus I just don't see the need to shop for more. I haven't put any new music on my iPod(s) in at least a couple of years.