I just finished watching Twelve Years a Slave for the second time, this time with my sister and dad. I'm not sure I've ever seen a person cry as much during a movie as my sister did in the last few hours. To say that the movie moved her would be to put it lightly. Even though this is the second time I've seen the film, I was still knocked on my ass by a couple of the scenes. I have a hard time believing that anyone could watch this movie and not be at least a little shaken. It is so surreal to see people live in a state of constant terror and agony, while their tormenters are able to justify their actions in the name of law and God. When human decency can be explained away with legalese, society has come to a complete failure. It's the simple way the film is shot that creates a magnifies the atrocities of slavery. It shows that acts of extreme cruelty were so common place that children would play in the same space where a person is hanged. Of all the haunting images in the film, the scene where Solomon is being hanged, and the only thing that is keeping him alive is the fact they have him low enough to the ground where he can stand on his toes, which is a horrible kind of torture. We watch him anguish in this manor for an entire day. In the background of the scene there are other slaves going about there own business. What else can these people do? This scene is burnt into my memory, a haunting reminder of man's capacity for evil.
Twelve Years a Slave is now out for purchase or rent, and I'll give it my whole hearted recommendation one more time.
I have been playing chess with a friend on and off all day. There are a slew of apps that basically let you play chess online, a la Words With Friends. We've played two games so far, and I have to admit that I've lost both. All though I can honestly say that I lost the second game because I made a hair brained error which cost me my queen early. I rack it up as an unforced error, and in chess these kinds of little mistakes are fatal. I'm having a lot of fun getting back into a game that I spent untold hours playing when I was in high school. When most of my friends were playing Yahoo Pool, I was of the nerds who got to be pretty high up on the Yahoo Chess ladder. I stopped playing around the time that poker become the big game to play both in and out of school, and besides a game or two every year, I had completely left the hobby behind.
Every year there are national chess tournaments that get streamed out on the internet, and it's good fun to watch the games get analyzed in real time. There are computer models out that can predict the probability of a player winning the match based on every move. The longer the matches go the more accurate the probability becomes. The software is also able to show where a player should move his piece on a given turn in order to maximize his chances of winning. Half of the fun of watching these matches is seeing if the real life competitors will make the plays that the computer is prescribing. The other half of the fun is watching a chat room full of chess experts debate the merits of all of the openings, counters, and styles of play. It's kind of like stumbling into a rocket scientist convention, people are using all kinds of jargon you don't understand, but they are so enthusiastic that you can't help but be drawn in, and eventually some nice chap will fill you in on all the details. When you spend enough time watching high level play in any game or sport, you begin to gain a whole new respect for something you may have only dabbled in yourself.
I'd like to get back to playing more chess in my spare time. Now that I am not playing as many video games as I used to, and I have stopped playing fantasy sports, I've been itching to find something to satisfy my competitive itch. I've taken up doing crosswords in the morning, and while I enjoy the challenge good crossword puzzles pose, it's just not the same as matching wits with another person in real time. So I think I'm going to throw myself into this hobby. Perhaps I will even watch a few videos, read a few articles, and try to gain at least a novice understanding on how the game can be played. There's something romantic about taking up a game that has been around for so many hundreds of years. A game that to this day attracts so many of the brightest minds of people from countries all over the world. I would be a fool to think that I could ever anything more than a rote amateur at the game, but I think it will be fun to see just how much I can improve given a little practice.