I’ve been uncertain about posting a review of the award-winning documentary Undefeated. I know little about American high school football or poverty in Memphis, Tennessee. So I had to approach this review from the emotional resonance it engendered. Documentaries are meant to engender emotion. Emotion is essential when there is a message to be communicated and an audience action is desired.
Undefeated is a 5 out of 5 hanky film. I cried tears of joy because the protagonist- Coach Bill – actually experienced a transformational arc; an arc of such importance that Undefeated should be required viewing for parenting classes.
Inspirational is over used. It is , however, the perfect word to describe this cautionary tale about the importance of a father figure in a young man’s life.
I rode the City of New Orleans from Chicago to the Big Easy. I had splurged, purchasing a single sleeping cabin. The cabin came with a window, so that I could lie in my bunk and watch the backyards of Tennessee and Louisiana pass by. Traveling alone means there is no one to whom I can turn to say, “Did you see that?” So I wrote a letter to someone I knew would understand my excitement to be aboard a legendary passenger train. That resulted in an epiphany that has left me unsettled ever since. I was viewing the world through the equivalent of a large television screen. I had become an observer, a passive traveler. I distanced myself from the moment.
The City of New Orleans in the Memphis train station. Licensing: Category:Images of railway stations in the United States Category:Images of Memphis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
That distancing has become a cultural phenomenon for a generation oblivious to intellectual copyright. Troll YouTube and you will understand what I mean. Audiences are so busy filming the performance, they have put a screen between themselves and the live performance. Succumbing to the desire to be the one who posts and has hits and builds a reputation of being “there” relegates the live experience to another TV show.
McLuhan posited that the medium was the message. We have become observers not participants.
Image via Wikipedia
I’ve never been to Costa Rica. One of the things that appeals to me about visiting is exploring a rainforest canopy. You’ve seen the photos of boardwalks suspended high in the trees making it possible to walk where the birds and animals play. There is a US equivalent – I-79 in West Virginia.
My guess is that there are more bridges per mile in WV than any other state in the union. If you believe the signs – they all ice first. Mid-June and the ice warning signs are still up! Early morning mist drifts up from the valleys below to curl over the bridges and dampen the windshield.
As the day progresses and the air warms, raptors glide and soar in the thermals generated by the heat rising from the sky road. The forest canopy is dense as we push on relentlessly toward North Carolina. So is the road kill, empirical proof that there be animals inhabiting the mountain tops.
Towns and villages are below. We get glimpses over guard rails of roofs and tiered development. Following the contours of the landscape. Malls and industrial parks perch on mountaintops with million dollar views. The automobile is king here – public transit unheard of it seems.
To reach North Carolina, we left I-79 to follow I-77, descending from the heights of the Appalachians to the Piedmont of western NC – defying gravity as my gas gauge moved to empty like the second hand on my watch. Half a tank was swallowed whole by the Aveo between Morgantown and New River. The engine has never worked as hard as it did yesterday, ascending and descending 5% grades miles long.
We won’t be returning home by the mountain route. I’ll take the low road, and the DC beltway. That’s the down to earth choice.