Monthly Archives: January 2009

Go Syllabus Materials

Well, after coming out with the syllabus, here comes the materials :Module A study pack

It is still in draft form and completed up to section A.3 which is quite sufficient as an introduction to absolute beginners. More to come.

Comments and correction welcome. Please also read the author’s note.

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A Go Syllabus

Since the last Malaysia Weiqi Association’s annual general meeting, I have apparently been appointed as a Committee Member responsible for the syllabus for a teaching program in English. As I have been doing some thing like that before and do have quite a good collection of English materials in my library, I think I can give this a shot in the hope that it will be the backbone to teach and train new players.

The outline of the syllabus is this:

MODULE A (For complete beginners)

A.1 INTRODUCTION

A.1.1 Short historical introduction to the game
A.1.2 Game etiquette and manners
A.1.3 Go equipment

A.2 GETTING STARTED

A.2.1 Liberties
A.2.2 Living and Dead Groups a.k.a Eyes, False Eyes and Seki
A.2.3 The Ko Rule and No Suicide Rule
A.2.4 How the game ends
A.2.5 How to count territory (including corner, side and center territory potential)
A.2.6 The Objective of the Game

A.3 BASIC TACTICS

A.3.1 Atari and Double Ataris
A.3.2 Ko
A.3.3 Connecting (solid connection, tiger mouth, bamboo, jump, diagonal, knight’s move, large knights move, table shape, dog face, horse face) and Cutting (cross cutting, when to cut)
A.3.4 Ladders and Nets
A.3.5 Snapback and Crane Neck
A.3.6 Pushing and crawling

A.4 ENDGAME

A.4.1 How to end a game
A.4.2 Endgame tactics (Hane, knight’s jump, one space jump, monkey jump)
A.4.3 Order of endgame play (double sente, sente, gote)
A.4.4 Big endgame moves – basics on how to count

For the above level, games are played on the 9×9 and 13×13 board.

MODULE B (Elementary) (For perhaps 15k to 5k)

B.1 THE OPENING

B.1.1 Properties of the corner (3-3, 3-4, 4-4, 5-4, 5-3)
B.1.2 What it means to be Tengen
B.1.3 Big opening moves (Class A, Class B, Class C moves)
B.1.4 Big moves vs. Urgent moves
B.1.5 Extending and building moyos
B.1.6 Finding the right pincer

B.2 BASIC JOSEKI

B.2.1 3-3 Joseki
B.2.2 4-4 Joseki
B.2.3 3-4 Joseki
B.2.4 4-5 Joseki
B.2.5 3-5 Joseki
B.2.4 Whole board vision for joseki
B.2.5 How to study joseki

B.3 ATTACK AND DEFENSE

B.3.1 Direction of attack and defense
B.3.2 Power and Territory
B.3.3 How to attack
B.3.4 How to defend

B.4 INVASION AND REDUCTION

B.4.1 When to invade and when to reduce
B.4.2 Basic invasion moves
B.4.3 Basic reduction moves
B.4.4 Some basic positions for invasion and reduction

B.5 STRATEGIC CONCEPTS

B.5.1 Sente vs Gote
B.5.2 Miai
B.5.3 Aji
B.5.4 Forcing Moves
B.5.5 Light vs heavy
B.5.6 Key stones and non key stones
B.5.7 Sabaki
B.5.8 Thickness vs Influence
B.5.9 Efficiency of stones
B.5.10 Positional judgment
B.5.11 Probe
B.5.12 Furikawari/Exchange

B.6 THE ENDGAME

B.6.1 Macro Endgame
B.6.2 Counting
B.6.3 More endgame tesujis

B.7 LIFE AND DEATH

B.7.1 A study of all basic life and death shapes (e.g. L groups, L+1 groups, J groups, carpenter’s square, etc.)

The above should be able to help a player to become a single digit kyu player. This is a basic outline and corresponding study material will be made available.

To make it to Dan level and above, it is basically the same things but much improved skills at all levels especially reading skill and positional judgment skills. Also, it involved a much larger inventory of knowledge, such as more complicated and advanced joseki and fuseki knowlegde.

And of course, nothing really beats playing lots of games and get someone to review it later.

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Cape No. 7

Those who knew me long enough will know that I am a sucker for romantic movies. Since winning many awards, Cape No. 7 finally came to our cinemas and after some time, I managed to finally watch it. And what a pleasant surprise from this little movie! I totally love it from all aspects, the soundtrack is wonderful, the music is good, the tone and feel of the movie is excellent, the pacing, editing, sound, the balance between drama, romance and comedy are all good. Although overall, there is no big deal re the story etc. (we have seen many such movies such as NANA etc.), the overall execution is captivating.

Go watch it if you can and chances are you will like it too.

As for me, I am looking forward to RED CLIFF 2, which will be such a great, great Chinese New Year movie (based on the extremely positive feedback from my ex-movie industry colleagues).

Cape No 7

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Objectivism – It’s really about the Object

Ayn Rand. Karl Popper. Two of a dozen or so thinkers that I really admire.

The two fellows above are so cerebral, I sometimes wonder if they are right and their intellect might, although towering, sometimes leaves me a bit cold. Growing up in the Asian tradition, “mysticism” amazes me and the truth is that the intellect cannot really explain many things. Just because the eyes can’t see, the senses can’t sense and the brains can’t register doesn’t mean that something doesn’t exist.

But coming back to Objectivist Phenomenology, my last sentence do contradict a bit in that Objectivist do believe that there is existence that is independent of our sensory capability, independent of our existence. Just because we do not exist does not mean that the tree is not there. But on the other hand, Objectivists do not believe in the existence of God since they have no way to “prove” that he exists. But they have no way to prove that He does not exists! Objectivist just believe that what is there is there… what we can prove there or not cannot be proven anyways.

Like Kant said, our mental faculty is just not made up to really understand the universe. In a way, Objectivists are like the Buddha too. When asked, he just said to the common people, just live the moment, whatever is there, is there. There is no need to know what is beyond. Just practice the teachings and it is enough for enlightenment. There is no need to speculate.

There are also many Objectivist ideas that is quite interesting. For example, Objectivist politics claimed that taxes is wrong because it forces people to pay. Anything that uses force is bad. But if there are no taxes, how is the government going to finance public projects like schools? Ayn Rand has some interesting ideas.

But above all, in this period of economic turmoil, Ayn Rand’s economic idea is really interesting. To sum it in one line, “If the Government does not interfere with economics, there will be no economic crisis. Politics and Economics should be separate, just like Politics and Religion”.

Wow, really?

Ayn Rand is cool. Read her novels, Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead.

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Free Will and Non-Attachment

Perhaps it is the new year bug that made me think more about the “grander” stuffs in life like happiness, fulfilment, purpose of life, etc. To think of it, although New Year day is just another day, psychologically, it has a profound effect on one’s mind as it serves as a demarcation point and one will want to take advantage of the gap that exists or perceived to exist in this point of demarcation. The truth is anyday is as good as new year day to think about the “grander” things in life.

This post is actually inspired by two different events. The first is a reaction from a friend who read my post on happiness below and the second is a friend’s comment on my Facebook status where I said I hope to have more time to watch 26 movies in a week like I did in my prevous job. Let’s take each of them one at a time.

From the Buddhist viewpoint, true happiness is attained when one attains Nirvana-ship, that is one is no longer subject to the cause and effect that determines rebirth. The way to achieve is via the Eight-Fold Path. The teaching of Non-Attachment is also very important as it is said that our “suffering” is a result of attachment to selfish cravings and desires (The Four Noble Truths).

“This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.”

To some people, they will look at Buddhism as a nihilistic philosophical system. For example, if one does not crave for delight and crave for existence etc. what is the joy of living? In my opinion, this argument is flawed because the Buddha did not ask you not to have happiness, not to have sensual pleasure. He merely said that ATTACHMENT to such desires is bad.

In this light, in my post on Happiness below, the key is that one can strive for things that makes one happy but one should not be attached to it. This is so true because things come and go, people live and die, jobs come and go, people get hired and fired, money made and lost. If we are too attached to what makes us happy, when that very thing is no longer there, we will suffer miserably and be unable to recover and the process will ultimately down-spiral, affecting many other things in our life.

Now, on Free Will. In the true Sartrean tradition, we are born to be free and condemned in that we are solely responsible for our actions. Steven R. Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People said the same thing, i.e. there is a gap between cause and effect, that we can choose our actions because there is a gap and as such we are wholly responsible for our own actions.

That is to say, in essence and in all simplicity, ok, I choose this course of action and will bear all consequences. But is real life that simple? For example, a person who needs money to support his family but has to work like a dog to earn that money, is it really that easy for him to say, “Well, dammit, I quit. I will look for another job. Meanwhile I will bear the suffering of my children not having enough to eat at the moment. ”

Of course, no doubts, he has a choice to quit. Of course he can make that decision but given the circumstances, can he REALLY make that decision even if he could have? In real life, there are many circumstances like this where one cannot simply say “I Quit!” because by doing that, one is irresponsible.

This is not to say that one has no control over one’s destiny but it is exactly the balance of this freedom to choose and the call for duty that makes life more complicated and not as easy as philosophical ranting on a piece of paper. There are many people in this world that do not have this freedom of choice, although philosophically, on paper, they do.

So say what they may, dinner still have to be served on the table.

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Chikamatsu Monogatari

Kenji Mizoguchi. What a director.

Well, yeah, I have found time to indulge in a Mizoguchi movie that has been lying on my shelf for months. I have always wanted to watch it along with many other DVDs that are still lying on my shelf but time is really a scarce resource and black and white movies are not everyone’s cup of tea and I have almost always find time by my self to watch them alone. When others are around, I have no choice but watch stuffs like South Park – The Cult of Cartman, for example.

Chikamatsu Monogatari really means Chikamatsu’s Stories. Chikamatsu Monzaemon is a dramatist that lived between the late 17th century to the early 18th century and his dramas are very popular and subject matter to many stuffs, such as puppet plays, movies, stage plays and such. This story that Mizoguchi picked is about a servant that fell in love….ooooppsss……

[spoilers ahead]

This story is about a servant who fell in love with his master’s wife but is too loyal and honest to profess his love. Professing his love is a dangerous thing, of course, because in his time, adulterers are crucified. At the fairly beginning of the movie, true to Mizoguchi who is very much drawn towards woman issues especially the opression of woman, remarked that why would the wife be crucified if she is found to have committed adultery while the husbands are never punished if they went around sleeping with other woman, or forcing other woman to sleep with them as was with the master of the house in this movie.

Well, in a lot of societies and in a lot of social systems, the way it works is that the male is dominant and has all the say just because they are the ones that has power to write the rules and as such everything is bound to be favourable to them, the rules are written to ensure their happiness and safety, based on their own perception and beliefs, with little regards for the feelings of their fairer counterparts. In fact, we see this even up to today, and we thought we are already living in the modern era. Oppression of women is still widespread and committed in bright daylight even in societies that proclaim themselves as advanced, civilised and God-fearing.

Ok, back to the story, the master of the house, Ishun, would like to take one of his servants, Otama as his concubine but Otama is in love with one of Ishun’s servant, Mohei. However, Mohei is secretly in love with Ishun’s wife, Osan. In a fateful turn of event, Osan needed some financial help for her family but Ishun refused to lend the money to her. She had no choice but to turn to Mohei for the money, not knowing that Mohei is secretly in love with her.

Mohei, in his efforts to help his secretly beloved, resorted to “borrow” some money from the Ishun’s treasury but was found out and had to confess that crime with Ishun. Ishun then took this opportunity to punish Mohei because Otama lied to him that she is already engaged to Mohei and thus cannot be his concubine. When repeatedly asked why Mohei is stealing the money, Otama had no choice but lied again that Mohei stole because she needed the money and Mohei is merely helping her.

With this, Mohei was locked up to be sent to the authorities. When Osan went and asked Otama why she is lying (of course Osan knows Otama is lying because she knows that Mohei was stealing for her, not Otama), Otama told Osan the true story of how Ishun wanted to make her his own and often comes to her room at night.

Knowing this, the two plotted to trap Ishun. The plot is that knowing Ishun will come to Otama’s room that night, Osan will switch room with Otama so that when Ishun comes to Otama’s room, he will find his own wife there waiting for him, trapping him and then use this to bargain for the release of Mohei.

This part actually reminds me of one story in the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, a very interesting story to be found in the 6th story of the Third Day in the Decameron. If you are interested, you can Google that and I think the full story is available online.

Ok, back to the story again. Of course, the plot failed and from then on, the two lovers had to flee which led to the confession of the love between Mohei and Osan. The ending of the movie is not happy by conventional standards but as remarked by another servant that saw them during the crucification procession:

“Madame has never looked happier, nor Mohei more calm and serene!”

My opinion of the movie is that although the movie was well put together, something didn’t really clicked as compared to watching the other Mizoguchi greats such as Life of Oharu (SUPERB!), Sansho the Bailiff and Ugetsu Monogatari. In these three great films, somehow, I felt we got deeper into the “soul” but Chikamatsu Monogatari merely scratches the surface and only occasionally goes deeper. No doubt still a good film, the aftertaste is still a little lacking compared to the three films which I strongly recommend to anyone who has not watched any of Mizoguchi’s films before.

[By the way, I have not watched The 47 Loyal Ronin which I would really love to watch. The other Mizoguchi films that I have watched include Sisters of the Gion, The Lady from Musashino, Gion Festival Music and The Woman of Rumour. Not much but Mizoguchi’s films are not easy to find]

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