The Girl Who Played Go

 Book Review

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The game of Go has long intrigued me. I learned how to play years ago from a wizard who lived down the stairs. We wiled away the hours playing the game of Go. I moved away and never played again until recently. I took it up once again and discovered it had never really left me. I became reacquainted with Go because of a novel written by a young Chinese girl that sparked my interest all over again.

When The Girl Who Played Go first came out in 2003, I read a review about the book that was intriguing. I vowed to keep an eye out for it. In those days one didn’t just automatically add a book to one’s Amazon Wish list. One liked to find books the old fashioned way, serendipity. One liked to stumble across them by accident in some far flung and obscure bookstore in the Midwest, or northeast, or wherever. Years went by and I never saw the object of my desire. By then it was locked away in the recesses of my memory and I was no longer consciously looking for it at all.
Then one day in, 2007, in a crowded book store in Philadelphia, I ran across a book entitled, The Master of Go. To my imperfect memory I thought this must be the book I had long sought. I picked it up, took it home and put in a shelf where it languished a few more years. When I finally got around to reading it, I thought, this is strange. This doesn’t seem like the book I had read about all those years ago. This book, written by Yasunari Kawabata, was about a modern day Go player, in Japan. While I enjoyed the book very much, it was a realistic depiction of an elderly gentleman who was a Go master and the rigors of tournament play in Japan. I read the book and put it away and started a new book and didn’t give the Master of Go another thought; until the year 2012. I ran across another book on Go in Louisville, Kentucky at the Half Price Book store where I am wont to go. It was entitled, The Girl Who Played Go. Eureka! Sweet mystery of life, finally I found you! The Girl Who Played Go, written by Shan Sa, was my long sought after book. I immediately purchased the book and took it home and began reading. Friends it was worth the wait.
Go is a territorial contest. In Chinese the game is called, Wei Qi, which means, “surrounding game.” Go has roots in both China and Japan. Most Westerners are unfamiliar with the game of Go. It has simpler rules than chess but is far more subtle and takes longer to master. It is a game that is not structured around the theme of a small battle, like chess. Rather, it is more like a large scale war. In Go, every piece is identical: an ivory or ebony stone is played on a square grid by the contestants. Each piece has the power to turn the tide of a war. Go is powerful metaphor for the story told by Shan Sa in her novel, The Girl Who Played Go.
The Girl who Played Go is a wonderfully written novel set within the framework of the game of Go. It takes place in a small city in Japanese-occupied Manchuria in 1936. An unnamed Japanese soldier has been sent with his battalion to seek out the Chinese resistance movement within the region. Simultaneously, a bored Chinese schoolgirl finds solace obsessively playing Go in the local square eponymously name The Square of a Thousand Winds. In an attempt to infiltrate the enemy, the Japanese soldier joins the city’s Go players, and falls into a game and into love with the girl who played Go. The story of the soldier and the girl are told in alternating, short, chapters. Dramatic events in the lives of the protagonists are repeatedly brought together and interwoven.
The game of Go is a metaphor for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the resistance one young girl is able to mount by remaining undefeated at the game. Manchuria has been occupied by the Japanese for several years as the story opens, but there is an active insurgency movement. The girl, however, lives a relatively sheltered life. She is quickly maturing, and becomes sexually active during the unfolding events. The game of go symbolizes the play between man and woman, as well as the conflict between China and Japan.
The story is well presented with some scenes that are picture-perfect observations of life as illustrated by the following examples. “A carp pirouettes in a large jar that serves as an aquarium.” “The appeal of a prostitute has the transient, furtive freshness as the morning dew.” ” Prostitutes have no illusions and this makes them the soldier’s natural soulmates. Already damned, they dare not dream of eternity, and they cling to us like shipwrecked mariners clinging to flotsam. There is a religious purity to our embraces.” “The boys with white silk scarves around their necks, posture like tragic poets.” “In the game of Go, only aesthetic perfection leads to victory.’’ “He has the nobility of a man who prefers the turnings of the mind to the barbarities of life.” “It has taken many years for the game of go to initiate me into the freedom of slipping between yesterday, today, and tomorrow. From one stone to the next, from black to white, the thousands of stones have ended up building a bridge far into the infinite expanse of China.”
Shan Sa has an extraordinary background. She was born in Beijing, started writing at seven and enjoyed success as a teenage poet. At 18 she moved to Paris to study philosophy. She worked for a time with the artist Balthus. Writing in French, she won a Goncourt with her first novel. Her novel, The Four Lives of the Willow won the Prix Caze. In 2001, she was again awarded the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens for her novel, The Girl Who Played Go. Her works have been published in 30 languages worldwide. Since 2001, Shan Sa has continued to write literature and paint. Her works have been shown in Paris and New York, and Japan. In 2009, Shan Sa was awarded by the French Cultural Ministry, Knight of Order of Arts and Letters. In 2011, she was awarded by the French President, The Knight of National Order of Merit.

THE WASP

A Poem by Benn Bell

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I saved a wasp from drowning today

I ducked my head as it flew away

I was afraid it might sting me like bee

And hurt like everything

For it is the nature of the wasp to sting

But it is my nature to do the saving thing

Tomorrow you just wait and see

I’ll be saving a Pharisee.

BLOOD AND SOIL

The Myth of Blood and Soil

According to Karl Popper, writing in his The Open Society and its Enemies, The Myth of Blood and Soil was originated by Plato and detailed in The Republic. Plato freely admits that the myth is a lie. It was a propaganda ploy used to bolster his idea of the ideal state which is totalitarian in nature ruled by a philosopher king and a racially pure elite.

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The Myth of Blood and Soil is based on two ideas: 1. In order to strengthen the defense of the mother country men are born of the earth of their country which is their mother.  2. Racialism: “God has put gold into those who are capable of ruling, silver into the auxiliaries, and iron and copper into the peasants and other producer classes.” These metals are racial characteristics. Any admixture of one of these base metals must be excluded from the higher classes. In other words, only those with racial purity may rule. Plato goes on to say that any mixing of the metals will lead to the fall of man. “Iron will mingle with silver and bronze with gold, and from this admixture variation will be born and absurd irregularity; and whenever these are born they will they will beget struggle and hostility; the city (state) must perish when guarded by iron and copper” and lead to the degradation and the fall of man. Remember, Plato admits that the Myth of Blood and Soil is a propaganda lie useful in persuading his rulers to follow his racial policies.

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Fast forward to Germany in the late 19th century where the phrase Blood and Soil was appropriated by the Germans to signify and glorify racialism and nationalism. The German translation reads: “Blut und Boden.” Rural life was idealized and combined with the ideas of racism and anti-Semitism. “Blood and Soil” became a key phrase of Nazi ideology.

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This phrase has been taken up and by neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups here in the United States as a rallying cry.  Nazis could be heard chanting the phrase, “Blood and Soil” on the streets of Charlottesville as they marched carrying their torches.

Charlottesville

 

THE ARTIST

A poem by William Carlos Williams

Illustrated by Benn Bell

Dedicated to Ginger Peacock Jones

Artist 1

Mr T.  bareheaded in a soiled undershirt

Artist 2

his hair standing out on all sides

Artist 3

stood on his toes heels together

Artist 4

arms gracefully for the moment curled above his head.

Artist 5

Then he whirled about bounded into the air

Artist 6

and with an entrechat perfectly achieved
completed the figure.

Artist 7 Dancer

My mother
taken by surprise
where she sat
in her invalid’s chair
was left speechless.

Artist 8

Bravo! she cried at last
and clapped her hands.

Artist 9

 

The man’s wife came from the kitchen: What goes on here? she said.

Artist 10

But the show was over.

 

Artist 11 last

 

 

 

MATATUS

Public Transportation in Nairobi, Kenya

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Busses in Nairobi are called Matatus. They are painted bight colors and are loud.

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70% of the population use them for transportation. They are cheap and convenient, but like everything else in Nairobi, they are chaotic.

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The name comes from Swahili meaning three. It is unclear as to three what, but it is commonly  believed it refers to a coin worth about ten cents which would equate to 30 cents per ride.

 

ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

Movie Review

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is long on style but short on substance. More art and less matter you might say. The plot is a little messy and hard to follow. But that didn’t seem to matter too much to me while watching it as it was gorgeous to look and riveted my attention throughout its 115 minute run time.

The movie takes place in Berlin, on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the cold war among the shifting alliances of the various powers, super and otherwise. Charlize Theron plays Loraine Broughton, an MI6 spy, who is sent to Berlin to deal with an espionage ring that has recently killed an undercover agent. It is her mission to root out a suspected double agent. Plenty of mayhem and action sequences ensue.

I normally don’t like action thriller movies but this is a cut above the rest and is done extraordinarily well. The director, David Leitch,  was himself a stuntman on many movies and co-directed the cult classic John Wick. This is his directorial debut.

Charlize Theron is a wonder as the ice cold action hero of this thriller doing hand to hand combat with an assortment of Russian goons and East German Secret Police. She is gorgeous to look at and a sexual bombshell.

The action set pieces and stunts just keep on coming and are extremely well orchestrated as a finely tuned choreographed ballet of violence. They are clever, original, and brilliantly executed.

Great summer fun, two thumbs way up!

LUST

The editors of WordPress have chosen “Lust” as the word of the day for my daily inspiration. I am happy to accommodate them with my own interpretation and inspired rendering of this volatile, combustible, and knocked out loaded word.

I take you to the lust capitals of the world, two sister cites really, which gives an extra added dimension to the word lust, if you catch my meaning.

So here we have visual evidence of the lusty nature of these two great cities: Philadelphia and Paris.

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A Philly stripper goes into the Candy Store for stripper supplies.

 

“Of all the worldly Passions, lust is the most intense.”

-Buddha

 

 

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Purple Orchid, Philadelphia

“She was perfect, pure maddening sex, and she knew it, and she played on it, dripped it, and allowed you to suffer for it.”
–  Charles Bukowski

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Ozz Gentleman’s Club, Philadelphia

“Lust is the source of all our actions, and humanity.”
― Blaise Pascal

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Club Ozz, Philadelphia

“I live for sex. I celebrate it, and relish the electricity of it, with every fibre of my being. I can see no better reason for being alive.”
― Fiona Thrust

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Sex Shop on South Street in Philly

“The world is divided into those who screw and those who do not. He distrusted those who did not—when they strayed from the straight and narrow it was something so unusual for them that they bragged about love as if they had just invented it.”
― Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

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Leather and Latex, Philly

 

“Lust’s Passion will be served; it demands, it militates, it tyrannizes.”

-Marquis de Sade

 

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Moulin Rouge in Paris where girls who can Cancan

“Lust is to the other passions what the nervous fluid is to life; it supports them all, lends strength to them all ambition, cruelty, avarice, revenge, are all founded on lust.”
–  Marquis de Sade

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Pussy’s Gentleman’s Club, Paris

“I can resit anything but temptation.”

– Oscar Wilde

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Sex Shop, Paris

“There’s something here, my dear boy, that you don’t understand yet. A man will fall in love with some beauty, with a woman’s body, or even a part of a woman’s body (a sensualist can understand that) and he’ll abandon his own children for her, sell his father and mother, and his country, Russia, too. If he’s honest, he’ll steal; if he’s humane, he’ll murder; if he’s faithful, he’ll deceive.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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La Diva, Paris

 “Only the united beat of sex and the heart can create ecstasy.”

-Anais Nin

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New Girl’s, Paris

“To have her here in bed with me, breathing on me, her hair in my mouth – I count that as something of a miracle.”

-Henry Miller

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Paris Museum of Erotic Art

 

All photos by me.