One of the great tales of courage and survival is a book that you have probably never heard of before. It is the story of Solomon Northup, a free black who lived in New York state in the 1840s. He was lured to Washington, D.C., under the promise of work as a fiddler. In D.C., he was drugged and then sold as a slave. Eventually, because of the intervention of several whites both in Louisiana and in his home state of New York, his freedom was restored. It is the source of the new film by this same title.
This is not the first time that Northup’s inspiring tale of faith and endurance has been made into a movie. Gordon Parks made a 1984 version for television starring Avery Brooks (who some of you may remember as “Hawk” in the 1980s television series Spenser: For Hire) as Northup. While faithful to the book, it was produced with about the same budget as some people spend on dental floss, and shot in three weeks. The acting quality varied substantially, from quite excellent to positively dreadful. Still, I often use the first few minutes of it in my U.S. history class to emphasize the fundamentally middle class values that many free blacks in America aspired to in that era.
12 Years a Slave (2013) is what I had long hoped that Gordon Parks’ version had been. Well-funded, it has a few big names (Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt) and exemplary acting performances throughout. If Lupita Nyong’o (born in Mexico, raised in Kenya, educated in the U.S.), wins an Oscar for her performance as Patsey, I will not be even slightly surprised. There is not a weak performance anywhere in this – but with material like this, what actor would fail?
I just had a very unpleasant experience – a kidney stone – and one that I hope to help you avoid. The experience is a major health issue for Americans. These cause more than a million visits to health-care providers each year, of which 300,000 are to emergency rooms. If you have ever seen the bill for an emergency room, you know that everything is way more expensive there. Think of this article as not only an attempt to save you great misery, but also to save both public and private funds.
I was in an Enterprise Architecture class (a type of computer geek professional training) on Wednesday, and by the end of the day, I was not just bored; I was in pain in my lower right abdomen. At first I thought that lunch was trying to make an early escape, but a visit to the men’s room didn’t help. And the pain was getting worse – way worse. I was also beginning to get chills. Based on the location I assumed that it was appendicitis, although it certainly came on faster than I would have expected.
I left the class early, intending to drive to my doctor’s office, but in five minutes, the pain had become so intense that I did not think it likely that I would be able to safely drive there. Fortunately, I was a block or two from one of the several excellent hospitals we have in Boise. I had taken my wife to this particular hospital for outpatient shoulder surgery a few weeks ago, so I did not have to think too long about where it was – and with the pain that I was suffering, thinking was not something that I was strong on doing.
I pulled into the emergency room driveway, honked my horn, because I was not sure that I was going to get inside by myself, and within seconds, there was someone there with a wheelchair, and a valet parked my car. By this point, the pain was so intense that I was starting to vomit – and in less than 30 seconds, I was on a bed; within another minute or two, there was a nurse, than a doctor examining me. The doctor asked questions, poked and prodded, and concluded that my problem was probably a kidney stone. While waiting for a CT scan, the nurses inserted an IV, and put in some serious painkillers – and this took it from inexpressible pain to just suffering.