I can't celebrate the NFL anymore. I can no longer get excited about a league when their billionaire owners take millions from struggling taxpayers. My enthusiasm for the team of my childhood is tempered by their inability to effectively respond to a public outcry of racism. I don't know how to react when a player falls limp on the field after a collision or stumbles back to the huddle because his brain was literally rattled. I can't abide the NFL's month-long campaign to make us aware of breast cancer while they pocket the majority of the proceeds in the name of cancer research. What's more is that I can't respect a foundation their teams choose to support when said foundation actively assists in promoting a lifestyle that is associated with causing breast cancer. What finished me was a coach in our nation's most dominant sports league commenting on his player who had recently punched his fiancee unconscious and dragged her out of an elevator: It was a "mistake," and he's "a heck of a guy."
Contact sports are dangerous to their players and that's the understood risk taken by those who play them. That's something I've understood for a long time with sports I played from kindergarten all the way through college and still to this day. I hope my son will enjoy the rewards and lessons that can only be gained through sports. I hope he enjoys the rush of speed and strength of mind and body. I hope he respects the risks. I hope he respects his opponents, teammates and fans as people because they are the entire point of sport. This is where the NFL has failed.
The NFL employs many men and women who by all accounts are model citizens and actively and sincerely invest in the well-being of their neighbors. The organization itself invests millions each year into campaigns against childhood obesity and in support of programs that encourage literacy. These are important things, but in the end, behind the scenes, is it coming at the cost of under-funded schools, players' lives, family ties and most recently the female image?
I don't have the ability to answer these questions for society, but I can answer them for me. I can't appreciate a league where a city celebrates the injury of their own player. I can't allow my son to believe that women are meant to sacrifice for the betterment of men and only to be paraded out if they look good while wearing little suits or if they're a marketing opportunity because they have/had breast cancer. It's a league of violence that has lost its self-control and apparently lost its ability to be shocked at the sight of an unconscious woman being dragged from an elevator by their star player who knocked her unconscious. He was given a lenient two-game suspension in part because his victim, who married him a day after being indicted for the incident, vouched for his goodness and apologized for her contribution to the abuse. Such a reaction from a victim has never been seen before, has it? Should this player return from his two-game suspension and take his team to another Super Bowl victory the league will paint him as an overcomer. It's the statement from the league that a good man who makes "a mistake" to the detriment of women can still be "a heck of a guy" that I can't allow my son to get used to. When he grows older I want him to feel pain when a man mistreats or even suggests mistreatment toward a woman instead of feeling irritation that the man will be forced to miss two "important" games. What's important is that my son learns a game is there to give him relationships instead of privilege.
A man's character is never a fixed quality. His character is constantly undergoing revision through action and inaction. I hope that one day the NFL will do more than just what's necessary as determined by their public relations department. Until that day comes, it's not that I'm deciding to stop celebrating the NFL. It's that I no longer have the capacity for it.
I've had many readers ask to hear more about several of the characters in Red Lory, and I'm glad they did because I wanted to know more too. Posted here is my newest short story called The Good Doctor. If you've read Red Lory you've likely already guessed who the subject of the story is. This serves as a minor continuation of the novel but also an introduction to it that provides greater depth to the story but without spoilers. The story is recorded by Richard Henzel, the voice of the Red Lory audiobook. I hope you'll enjoy it and pass it along.
Black and white films can be difficult to approach if they haven't been your cup of tea, especially when you don't know where to start. I was talking to a friend about this and tried to think of an actor who is accessible but also encourages newcomers to jump down the rabbit hole of black and white movies. For my money, that would be Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.
I'll be the first to admit some black and white movies are absolutely ridiculous or mind-numbingly boring and not worth the time, but Casablanca will show you how rich they can be. Besides, it's fun to watch a movie that has been quoted and parodied endlessly and finally be able to understand the context of the lines like this one:
All too often I run across someone who has never seen this movie, and that's a tragedy. It's a very accessible romantic drama with sharp dialogue - a welcomed departure from the all-too-frequent cheesy lines associated with films of this era. Casablanca is about a cafe owner named Rick who claims to be neutral in all things, which is especially interesting since this is set during WWII. However, his claim is challenged when a former lover of his returns (with her new husband in tow), and they're looking for refuge from the Nazis.
I realize that of the movies I'll be writing about there's a greater chance that this one is already sitting on your shelf (DVDs are still a thing, right?), but perhaps you've been hesitant to explore Bogart's other movies. Some are just as iconic as Casablanca and others can admittedly be quite difficult to follow. I suggest that you generally work backward with his titles, and I've linked each suggestion to an IMDB page so you can read up on them. They're not ordered in terms of best to worth but rather a good sequence to follow to better enjoy some of his career highlights.
2. Sabrina (Starring Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. Later remade in 1995, starring Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond)
5. Key Largo (Also starring Lauren Bacall)
6. To Have and Have Not (Click here and zip to 2:30 in the video, and you'll understand why this is a must-see. Further proof of this being a must-see is that this movie started the life-long romance between Bogart and Lauren Bacall).
7. The Maltese Falcon (A rite of passage into black and white films)
You've seen the iconic picture - Marilyn Monroe standing above a subway grate, the breeze from below pushing her skirt up to her thighs - but do you know the context?
That scene, which I've pasted below in a video clip, passes by quite unceremoniously in the film, which goes to show how I believe the intent of the film is different from how it's received. The Seven Year Itch was at first a Broadway play, a comedy, and it was adapted (significantly changed) for the big screen.
There's debate on whether or not Monroe was truly a talented actress or if she was just justifiably typecast into the parts of naive female leads. If you'd read through her autobiography My Story I think you'll see her performance in this movie to be one of incredible depth.
**MOVIE SPOILER IN CLIP BELOW**
The film was released in 1955, a time when America was being introduced to the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean, and then caught up in a Davy Crockett phase. Men in movies were portrayed to be especially strong and TV dads were virtuous (Think Ward Cleaver in 1957, Leave it to Beaver). The Seven Year Itch didn't bother to adhere to either norm. Tom Ewell's character is a bumbling, sex-starved fool who can't help but be caught up in his brash imagination while his wife is away on vacation. That's what makes Marilyn Monroe's acting so great - she sees nothing but a platonic friendship between them and is largely ignorant of his scheming. The way she portrays her part places a critical spotlight squarely back on Ewell's character. What results is a frustrated friendship where neither truly appreciated the other. That's the very chemistry that for many years has halted the progress of emotional literacy and relational continuity time and time again. So often, in contexts including but also beyond the sexual, friendships get stuck on giving and taking instead of on the appreciation of what we already have. All of that is what The Seven Year Itch hides underneath the innocuous label of "romantic comedy."
If you've never watched any of Monroe's films I'd recommend this one as your starting point and following it up with Some Like it Hot. Before you do either though perhaps a look through her autobiography would be helpful so you can truly appreciate what kind of person she was, the good and the bad. She's an incredible icon in American culture and rightfully so, but perhaps even still it goes to show how misunderstood she knew herself to be.
Of all the books I have so far planned to recommend in this series, Breakfast at Tiffany's is the one I'm most confounded by. I came to the book after having seen (and been disappointed by) the movie. If I weren't an unapologetic fanboy of Truman Capote, I might never have given this book a try. If you were like me and disappointed by the movie version, you should know the book is a completely different story, only sharing similarity in name. I simply couldn't believe how personally challenged I was by a book I had associated with a character I didn't think I could identify with.
Few authors in American literature were as in-tune with human nature as Truman Capote, and you may soon tire of me singing Capote's praises. I can't help myself; he's simply the most observant and economical writer I've come across. It's that observance that helps Capote create the incredible character that is Holly Golightly, the subject of Breakfast at Tiffany's. She's incredibly flawed and selfish, but yet I can't help but be in love with her - the exact conundrum the narrator of the story (and nearly ever other character) finds himself in. There's not so much of a plot to the story as there is a carefully laid blueprint describing this irresistible character.
There comes a time when we have to decide who we choose to share our life with. We've all had acquaintances who project an interest in friendship but never follow through, and perhaps we're that somebody in the mind of someone else. In part, that's what this book is about. Holly uses people in her quest to join society's elite and find someone to take care of her and offer security. Along the way she leaves behind family, suitors, and opportunities in order to find something more. She becomes wrapped up in this chase and her circumstances and in turn risks sacrificing her identity.
I've never read a book like this, and I struggle to do it justice in describing it. It's nearly impossible to describe what this book is about as there are layers upon layers of meaning packed into such a short piece. Capote is said to have based his character of Holly Golightly on several of his actress friends, one of them being Marilyn Monroe. I see a lot of him in Holly's character, and that's what makes this book work. It's personal, and it's a warning, written by a tortured man who saw that sometimes the most important thing is understanding who you are and what you've already been given.
Because of the movie's success and Audrey Hepburn merchandise, Breakfast at Tiffany's can be a difficult book to find so I've linked to it here (Link). I trust you'll enjoy it.