Monthly Archives: November 2005

Weddings and weddings

I know this sounds rather stupid but it is amazing that the Cantonese pronunciation for wedding means “tie-separate”. Tie and then separate! What kind of word is that? Of course, the real meaning is not like that (or maybe it is intended to be like that, I don’t know). Over the past weekend, we were busy attending weddings. First we went to Taiping to attend my wife’s old friend’s wedding, stopping by Ipoh of course to visit my parents and to eat that delicious hor-fun in old town and then rushing back on Sunday to attend one of my ex-colleague’s wedding in Subang.

Wedding is a wonderful thing, of course. It is a lifelong (intended to be lifelong, at least) commitment between two individuals, to stand by each other in times of need and to enjoy all the happiness together. However, to be honest, how many marriages really worked? It is not easy to keep a marriage in a healthy state, especially if each party has ceased to want to please each other and unwilling to talk things through. Worse still, if either or both parties found something or especially someone else to have a more pleasant time.

Like my mom always say, no matter what, in a marriage, husband and wife must talk things through and work hard to resolve whatever obstacle that is in the way. In colloquail Cantonese slang, “not right talk until right”. If both my friends were to ask for my advice in keeping a working and healthy marriage, it will be just these four: Communicate without barriers. Respect each other. Have fun together. Be willing to take life head on, together.

It has been several months now that I have updated my video collection and since the last post, I have added about 40 more titles to my collection. The latest list is now available for download here. Please forgive me if there are any errors in the list because I am outdoing myself now by simply having this list. Your pointing out of errors will be very much appreciated.

Feel free to ask for any titles that may interest you. A DVD exchange programme is most welcome although I have been really slow with watching movies recently due to huge amount of time spent on studying Go, a bug that has not left me since my training for the Asian Go Tournament in Bangkok.

Talking about Go, I have recently commented on another blog regarding the fundamentals of Go. What exactly are these fundamentals? Of course there are fundamentals in Go, like in everything worth learning. Fundamentals are acquired through training and studies and in my very humble opinion, you will learn a lot of fundamentals by playing lots of thoughtful games and getting those games reviewed by a stronger player and just pay attention to how he or she talks. By paying attention to the words that the reviewer uses, you will learn the fundamentals bit by bit.

It is also very useful to participate or read reviews of games played by other players, and similarly, notice how the reviewer uses his or her words and notice how they emphasize a certain technique or concept. These are fundamentals. How many of these fundamentals are there in Go? I really don’t know. You will have to discover it yourself.

I am currently reading “Understanding How To Play Go” by Yuan Zhou 7 dan for, perhaps, the 7th time now. I have learned so much by just reading and trying to understand the words he used in the review of the games and pay particular attention to how and what he thinks at each important point in the game. It is truly a great book. The title may sound like it’s a beginners’ book but in fact, it contains so much that even a 5 dan will profit from reading and trying to understand it.

Yasujiro Ozu: The Master of Family in Cinema

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Another nice Baduk Weekend

Over the last weekend, three Korean Baduk players (Baduk is the Korean term for Go/Weiqi) came to Kuala Lumpur for a short vacation and in conjunction with the vacation, they made contact with a member of our club and arranged for a Baduk weekend. They are very strong players, two of them being 7 dan in Korea (and has a strength of a professional player) and the other a 6 dan. One of them, Mr. Kong Han-Sung, is a committee member of the Korea Amateur Baduk Association.

I had a 5 stone handicap game with one of the 7 dan and it was a great game, by my own standards, of course. As with any handicap games, I had the advantage in the beginning. But at about move 100, he is already catching up. During the beginning part of the endgame, he made a great yose move at one of my corners and took away almost 15 points of my territory and in the end, I lost by only 3 points. Unfortunate, yes, but it was a great game.

I witness again first hand the power of Korean fighting. Their reading is first rate, their positional judgement superb. As our friend from Beijing said, Go is merely about reading ability and judgement. “Merely” he said, but what a “merely”…. I have no doubts, though, about the truth of his words since he is a strong 5 dan from China.

Reading ability and correct judgement.

Simple but in fact not easy at all, as all Go players can testify.

By the way, I am updating the Kogo Joseki Dictionary with materials that are not found in its current version, for example the latest developments in the “Avalanche” joseki and the “Magic Sword of Muramasa” joseki. I am at least updating the Komoku josekis based on the “Jungsuk in Our Time” book. Will publish the updates here when it is ready. I am also updating some Hoshi josekis based on my Chinese materials.

Did not watch much movies of note lately except for some very commercial films, “Chicken Little”, “Harry Potter and the bla bla bla”, etc. However, I finally have managed to watch “Slacker” after having it sit on my shelf for almost two months now.

As with the other “talkative” Richard Linklater movies, most notably “Waking Life” and to a certain extent also “Before Sunset”, it is a very stimulating film to watch, although almost 3 quarters through, my head began to want to start spinning. It featured a bunch of slackers in Austin, doing nothing really with their life but simply mumbling and talking anything from the existential theories, to politics and war, to conspiracy theories, to outer space colonisation, to automobile repair, to Dostoevsky, etc. Basically anything under the sun. It is really quite interesting listening to them talk, probably because I talk like them sometimes :)

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Learning how to play Go

Today, three new guys came to the club to learn to play Go. Two of them are pretty new, so I became the sensei (Japanese word for teacher) and taught them some basics. Recently, more and more people became interested in Go and this is an excellent thing. We need more Go players here in Malaysia.

Prompted by an entry in another blog, I am tempted here to blog on how I learn Go and hopefully to be able to share this experience with other Go players.

When I first started, I was very bookish and wanted to accumulate as much information as possible and try to devise a syllabus for learning. I will list down all the books that I have, all the game records that I have bought, download articles, joseki and fuseki dictionaries, etc. and begin to set a framework which looks something like this (from one page in my old notebook):

Fuseki studies:
– Sanrensei
– Nirensei
– Chinese fuseki (high & low)
– Mini Chinese fuseki
– Kobasyashi fuseki
– Double komoku fuseki (facing and opposing)

For each fuseki, to study main lines and variations. Study counter measures.

Joseki studies:
– Komoku josekis
– Star point josekis
– San-san josekis
– Takamoku josekis
– Mokuhazushi josekis

For each, to study main variations and application to whole board position. To study possible trick plays.

In conjunction to the above, to do at least 20 life and death, tesuji and yose questions each day.

I have many Go books, including the whole set of the Elementary Go Series, the whole set of the Get Strong at Go series, basically almost each and every book on sale on Kiseido. I have books from Slate and Shell and Yutopian as well. On top of that, I own a large number of VCDs produced in China teaching Go plus countless Chinese Go books and game records.

Therefore, in terms of materials, I have quite a huge amount, and add on to that my subscription to the latest Go records, my database, which includes a copy of the GoGoD, is quite large. I analyse and replay games with SmartGo. On top of that, I have once enlisted the help of Cornel Burzo, the current Romanian champion, as my sensei.

Now that I have gone through all that, my idea of improving has changed considerably and I have relieved myself of any fixed structure or syllabus to study Go. Now, I rely on the following:

1. Play, play and play. Play seriously and try to apply what I have learnt so far and experiment on new ideas. Then review the game. During the game reviews, I will inadvertantly learn a lot of Go elements (concepts, if you may) indirectly, for example fuseki, the right joseki to use and some variations, direction of play, shape, fighting, strategy, etc. This is very important and these elements are best learnt during a game review because it is relevant to the game and I will tend to be able to understand and remember them more rather than mindlessly trying to “understand” and memorise it based on some chapters in a book or dictionary.

2. Solve life and death problems everyday to improve reading. Reading is the backbone of Go. Without it, forget about whatever strategy. It will be useless, like a house built on sand.

3. Replay and watch professional or high dan (5 dan and above) amateur games. In the process, try to guess the next move. It is very enlightening, especially in spotting mistakes in my way of thinking, and this relates and reinforces the elements as mentioned in item 1 above. Memorise some pro games.

That’s all I do nowadays.

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How Machiavellian Am I?

You Are Somewhat Machiavellian

You're not going to mow over everyone to get ahead…
But you're also powerful enough to make things happen for yourself.
You understand how the world works, even when it's an ugly place.
You just don't get ugly yourself – unless you have to!

Okay, since I am on this topic and I have my copy of “The Prince” near me, let me quote some passages that I have underlined (yes… unbelievable…) when I first read that book:

Cruelty and compassion; and whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse

“..a prince must want to have a reputation for compassion rather than for cruelty: none the less, he must be careful that he does not make bad use of compassion….. So a prince must not worry if he incurs reproach for his cruelty so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal. By making an example or two, he will prove more compassionate than those who, being too compassionate, allow disorders which lead to murder and rapine…”

“.. loved and feared… it would be best to combine them but it is difficult.. then, it is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both… The prince must none the less make himself feared in such a way that, if he is not loved, at least he escapes being hated…”

hmmmm….. so Machiavellian……

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Selesa Haruki

A few months ago, my wife’s friends decided to go on a gathering trip to Melaka. I have posted the “adventure” on this blog before. On the last day of the trip, someone very smartly suggested that each couple pays a deposit of RM100 for the next trip to Fraser’s Hill. The logic is that with the deposit money paid, everyone will make it a point to come to these gatherings, and thus renewing the ties of friendship once in a while.

We did not make it to the Fraser’s Hill but setttled with the Selesa Hillhomes instead. It’s quite a nice place to spend a weekend but there isn’t really anything much there except that you get to have time to spend together with each other and secondly, you can take short afternoon trips to either Genting Highland or the Colmar Tropicale. Other than that, you just cook, sit around, chat, play cards, play with the kids, read, etc.

The whole trip is one big noisy adventure, with 7 couples and 4 kids ranging from 2 years old to 5 years old. It was havoc and with the cooking and all, and kids either running or jumping around, or worse, crying and fighting over coloured paper, there is little time to really sit back and enjoy the scenery and the weather. But all said, it is really worth-it and once in a while, spending time like this with friends and their kids is quite fun.

I had by myself some free time and walked around the place, and a nice afternoon reading Murakami while overlooking the mountain top, the feeling is almost like Mahler’s composing house at the Austrian village Steinbach am Attersee minus the lake. Still, the feeling is such and with such a view, I am myself feeling quite moved and inspired to write something or compose a tune or two. I should have bought that Moleskine notebook, I thought to myself.

I have also thought briefly on my last post and while reading Murakami, one passage, from the “1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema”, struck me:

“Someday..I’ll meet myself in a strange place in a far-off world… In that place, I am myself and myself is me. Subject is object and object is subject. All gaps gone. A perfect union. There must be a strange place like this somewhere in the world.”

I often feel and believe that there are two me, each one at times the polar opposite of the other and at times are the best of friends. It sometimes felt like a tug-of-war, like a game of negotiation and compromise. If they do not fight, I am all well but if they do fight, I will be left a very confused person, without any sense of direction and begins to question the essence of my existence. And thus beginning to feel more and more confused about life until my North Pole and my South Pole reconciles.

During the trip as well, the question of whether human beings are innately evil or good comes to my mind again. I have had investigated this to a large extent many years ago and although my heart would love to agree with Mencius, some parts of me wanted to agree with Hsun Tzu, or in this case, to a certain extent, also Hobbes (North Pole – South Pole thing again). This thought came to my mind again while observing the kids. I cannot but see that these kids are all innately selfish!

According to Hsun Tzu, “… the nature of man is evil; his goodness is acquired training”. He followed by saying this, “… Man is born with inherent desire for profit and sensual pleasure. But, despite these beginnings of evilness, Man at the same time possesses intelligence, and this intelligence makes it possible for him to become good.”

hmmm….

Haruki Murakami was at the MIT just last month and you can read about his visit there as well as download some video of him from this blog.

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So there, the lonesome traveler

As I woke up this morning, I saw a CD on the dining table and thought that it was the Hikaru No Go CD that I have bought two days ago. Hikaru No Go almost single handedly revived the interests in Go among younger people, and also not so young people. A lot of new players that I know of started to play Go because of Hikaru No Go.

Soon after returning from breakfast and without a newspaper in hand, I grabbed the CD and put in into the player. To my surprise, it is not the Hikaru No Go CD but a CD by one of my wife’s colleague, Alan Wong. I have heard stories from my wife about him and apparently to produce this CD, he let go of some of his properties.

Afterall, producing a solo album is the dream of his life and now he has finally made it. A dream come true. It is amazing that people has that courage and determination to do that sort of things, to fulfill a dream. It is truly amazing and very inspiring, and I begin, as usual, to think of what I am doing with my life.

I know of another person whose dream is to publish poems and she is now in fact a published poet. These kind of self determination to achieve one’s dream despite all the inherent risks is truly admirable.

The thing is that I do not really know what I am here for. There must be something for me to do on this earth? Have I really ever fought hard for something that I really dream of achieving? I really don’t know. I sometimes am not even sure if I have dreams. Life passes just like that. Day by day. Night by night. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. And we toil and work and play, but towards what objective besides self preservation and ensuring material comfort and status quo, I am not sure. Self preservation, material comfort and status quo cannot be said to be of any divine dream although for many other less fortunate people, that is a dream beyond their reach.

That aside, it is always foolish to remark that we are wasting food because people in some parts of Africa do not have enough food. It is simply not the right way to put this kind of things into the right perspective.

I do not want to force a dream upon myself. A dream has to come in a form of innate desire. Almost divine. Not created to fulfill one’s time and to achieve fame but is a fire burning deep down inside, something that must be done and achieved to live a fulfilled life.

Artificial dreams can be created. I can at this moment pronounce that my dream is to make a movie. Or to publish a solo album. Or to publish a novel. Or to be a great Go player. I can create this dream so that I will have some sort of target, to give a meaning to my life, although an artificial one. With that in hand, I can go on in life pretending to be someone I am not. I can make people envious and make them think highly of me because I have a dream. But at the end, all is emptiness. Nothingness. And at the end, you still live a hollow life.

What then is this thing called dream? I really do not know but if I have enough faith and look hard enough, perhaps it is then true that everyone on this earth has a certain duty to perform. Whether be a great parent whose dream is to see his children becoming good human beings, helping other human beings in a way that can change fellow human being’s destiny for the better, creating works of art, etc. These are all high flung, great sounding dreams. I am sure everyone also has their private, almost selfish, dreams. They just have to look for it deep inside. As for me, I am looking for it all the time. Only thing is sometimes I felt like I am living my dreams, sometimes part of me tells me that I am not.

Here are some pictures from my trip to Bangkok. As expected, we did not win any of the top spots in the tournament due to the high number of very good players there although we did fulfill the objective that we have set for ourselves. When we looked at the list of the participants and their credentials, we felt totally annihiliated. For example, China sent three representatives, two of which are professional players. The other is the world amateur champion. China got first place (of course!), followed by Korea and then by Taiwan. Japan got fourth.

We really felt that sending professional players to these kind of amateur championship is really unfair. Perhaps the organiser can look into setting a limit to the qualification, else everyone will feel bad because with professional players around, the rest of us will have zero chance of winning anything.

But all in all, it was a great trip. Made some new friends and learned a lot. Looking forward to more trips like this :)

Me against the world champion from China, Mr. Hu Yu Qing. It was very windy there.

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