To Win is to Play

Sunday April 3rd, 2022

A certain frustration is birthed from continually losing a game that gives a statistical “80 and 90%” chance to win.

I’ve never been good at math. Believe it or not but my brain processes words a lot better than it does numbers. Still, I understand that if I’m given an 80–90% chance to win a game, that means if I play 10 times, I should win 8 or 9 of them. So I couldn’t understand how I kept managing to lose one Solitaire game after another. And for every game I lost, my frustration continued to grow.

I was playing on , and the game was explained to me like this:

Game setup: After a 52-card deck is shuffled you’ll begin to set up the tableau by distributing the cards into seven columns face down, with each new card being placed into the next column. The tableau increases in size from left to right, with the left-most pile containing one card and the right-most pile containing seven. As an example, this means the first seven cards will create the seven columns of the Tableau. The eighth card distributed will go into the second column, since the first column already has its one and only card.

After the piles are complete, they should be cascaded downwards such that they form a “reverse staircase” form towards the right. Ultimately, you will have seven piles, with the first pile containing one card, the second pile containing two cards, the third pile containing three cards etc. Only the last card in each of the Tableau columns is flipped over face up so you can see it’s suit, color and value. In our game, this is automatically done for you!

All leftover cards after the foundations are created become the “Stock,” where you can turn over the first card.

Goal:To win, you need to arrange all the cards into the four empty Foundations piles by suit color and in numerical order, starting from Ace all the way to King.

Tableau: This is the area where you have seven columns, with the first column containing one card and each sequential column containing one more additional card. The last card of every pile is turned over face up.

Stockpile: This is where you can draw the remaining cards, which can then be played in the game. If not used, the cards are put into a waste pile. Once all cards are turned over, the remaining cards that have not been moved to either the tableau or foundation can then be redrawn from the stockpile in the same order.

Playing the game:

1. Face up cards in the tableau or stockpile can be moved on top of another face up card in the tableau of an opposite color that is one rank higher, forming a sequence of cards.

2. Groups or stacks of sequenced cards in the tableau can also be moved together on top of a card of the opposite color and higher rank.

3. If a tableau column has only face-down cards remaining, the last card is flipped over and can be played.

4. To start a foundation pile, an Ace must be played. Once a foundation pile is started, only cards of that suit can be placed in that specific pile.

5. As cards are surfaced from the stockpile or tableau, and there are no other cards on top of them, they may be moved to a foundation pile if they can be placed in the right order.

6. If a tableau column is empty, you may move a King, and only a King, to that column.

7. Win by moving all the cards to the Foundation piles in the right order.

Now, if you and I have anything in common, it’s that we skipped and scrolled past the directions somewhere between “Goal:” and “Playing the game:” and opted to only look at the pictures to get the point of the game. Lower cards stack onto bigger cards, black cards can only go on red cards and vice versa, yada yada, okay lets play.

Somewhere between my 9th and 12th losses in a row did I realize that maybe I missed something. And I did.

From only looking at the pictures, I missed that other card values besides the aces could be stacked onto eachother in the “foundation pile.” So for example, the two, three, four, and five of clubs could all be stacked onto the ace of clubs. This literally changes the game.

Whereas before I was leaving the aces in the foundation, and trying to win only by moving/drawing cards in the “table”, I could now more strategically use the cards I was drawing/moving to place them where they needed to go in order to win the game.

I won the next two games in a row and had had enough. Solitaire was officially resolved. One of the first things that is stated on the Solitaire website is this:

The chances of winning are between 80 and 90%. However, even if you have a winnable game, if you make one wrong move, it may be the end of your game.

What I took from my night of Solitaire is that sometimes the one wrong move is the move you play, and other times the one wrong move is the directions you skip. You need to play the game the right way in order to win.

Recently, I was on the set of a music video. I’m interested in expanding the range of what it is I can direct, and so I took the offer from a friend to be on set and help out, gain experience, and generally see how the whole process works.

Myself and two others had been on set hours before the band arrived to set up the backdrop, lights, and do anything else that needed to get done in order to streamline a smooth night of shooting. (Objectively, I was the least experienced on set so I was mostly following the others lead of what to do and how to do it.)

The premise was simple, we needed to set up and display an all white background (using seamless photography paper) because the band and their instruments were going to be wearing all white, with painted white instruments, and at the end of the video a lot of blood effects were going to be used to make the whole thing, in my understanding, more provocative.

Over the course of the next 2–3 hours, myself and the other two set-mates failed at this task. The seamless paper wouldn’t hang properly, the initial two areas we choose to set up were far too windy, and both clamps and sandbags could not keep the seamless down. It was hot, we were frustrated, brainstormed all rational ideas, and eventually decided that our new best option would be to simply tape the seamless to the stucco wall and pray for the best.

This idea worked long enough for us to get our hopes up, and even emboldened us to begin setting up lights. My skill level had peaked, and so I took a seat as the other two began setting up the lights. We were on schedule, (which only in film can everything go wrong for 3 hours only to miraculously still end up back on schedule by one lucky break or good idea) the band was on their way, and a single breeze of wind came through the lot, tearing the entire seamless paper display in half. Showbiz baby.

Over the next 30 minutes, the band began to arrive, and the director of the video explained what had happened, all of our failed solutions, and all of our used ideas. The band lead heard us out and walked away to join the others.

It took another 30–45 minutes of the band socializing, sharing beers, and cracking jokes, while we sat by for the next move, before they returned to the problem.

“What if we just paint the wall white?” One of them suggested. “I’ll go ask the owner.” Another one of them volunteered.

Me and my set-mates looked at eachtother. We had thought of that idea, but it didn’t truly seem feesible between the three of us. Not to mention having to go buy the supplies, and the time it would take to —

“He said it’s cool.” The volunteer said on his return. “We’ll need to go buy some paint at home depot, so I need two others to come with me to help get all the shit. Who wants to come with?”

Yet another 30 minutes later, and I was sitting a top a ladder watching this punk metal band paint a 30ft wall all white. They used two coats, and even filled in the gaps with spray paint.

Over the next 6 hours we shot their all white music video.

Once it was over, some mentioned how they’ll have a story to tell about painting this wall all white right before shooting the music video. And how it was “legendary.”

As they were leaving, the drummer laughed off the problems of the seamless paper and said “We weren’t going to take no for an answer.”

I sorta laughed at the cliche of that, but it was true. They had meant it. And it became clear that no matter what, one way or another, they were not going to leave the backside lot of that punk rock recording studio without having shot their god damn music video.

I have no idea how many people will watch their music video. And I’m not sure I could spell the band’s name correctly if asked to do so right now. But the truth is, even if painting that wall was the bands work and ‘their moment’ I have a feeling I’ll remember the action, then the sight of them painting that wall, for a very very long time.

I am continually and endlessly inspired and motivated by the creative people who’s work ethic, drive, and passion I have been so lucky to see.

That’s this weeks Pen Sunday.


Solomon Imani

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