N e w s l e t t e r

Volume II, Issue 2, August 1995


VACET Spring Magazine - One Man's Thought

Speed Up the Wagon! Block the Horse's Path

VACET Spring Magazine - One Man's Thought 

by Jeffrey Doan < jdoan@octel.com >

I guess after all the talks about which languages will be used for the Vacets magazine, everyone felt happy about it and went home, got a tight sleep, and forgot about everything.

I had a chat with a former Vacets member, who is no longer a subscriber due to the workload at a new company -- whom I still forward goodies collected from vacets-gen, she was excited with the idea of such a magazine by Vacets and asked if she could contribute an article -- so I said "of course".

I had exchanged emails with several other members whom I know don't write poetry (or stories) stuff but promised to write something for the magazine. I guess they agreed to write for the magazine because they know me "personally" through my email channel.

It seems if the person knows me, then he/she will pitch in an effort to help make the magazine a meaningful piece of work. And if people don't know me, then they can't care less about the magazine business or most of the Vacets activities, eventhough some of them mention it in their resume -- I do for a fact.

How sad (for me) :-) , somes of us may say. But wait ...

I do know that most of the VNese people I know, or don't know, always say on the tips of their lips, "we should try to maintain and enrich the VNese culture and language". But when asked of what we can do, or to do something to achieve that goal, people tend to come up with excuses (job pressure, family matters, I can't do that, blah, blah, blah, ...).

How sad (for us) :-), I may say. But wait ...

May be one of the ways we can achieve that goal is to keep using the language, to teach the younger generation of how wonderful our language is, to show others (including ourselves) what we can do with the VNese language, etc,..

Knowing a language without using or practicing it is, in my opinions, the equivalence of not knowing it. Having a tool in your hand but not knowing what to do with it is the equivalence of not having it. May be we should hand the tool over to someone else who can make better use of it. Or may be we should at least make an attempt to use it for something.

invited and am again inviting us all to write something for this Vacets Spring magazine. So that we can distribute it to other people just to show them the language is not obsolete, so that we can enhance it through adapting it to the Ha?i Ngoa.i environment, so that others can learn from us, so that ... you name it.

Please don't just consider this email as something I write just to make myself known in the Vacets community. But please consider contributing at least an article to the magazine, just to show you care about the language, our own VNese language. If you're not comfortable with VNese, you can write it in English or any other language. I don't at all mind to help you correct your VNese grammar, or spelling. As a matter of facts, I love doing that!

Anytime when you want to contribute, you can either send the work to me, or to < vacets-local-ba-head@bga.com > . The email-box is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thanks for your reading and re-consideration.

Speed Up the Wagon! Block the Horse's Path

by: Phan Ky-Anh < kyanh@szebra.vacets.org >

Ever since the age of 5, when I learned its rules, I have remained an avid player of Chinese chess. So much so that, around 1977, I started the bizzare habit of brining the paper board and the pieces to the place simply known to me as "Xe.t." Not much of its description is now in my memory except that it was the place across from the National Music Conservatory where Dad used to play tennis in the good old days.

I'd hop on its walls, arrange the board and play against myself, all the while hoping for someone to start a pick-up game or two. In the meantime, the next best thing, though admittedly the worst thing in chess, was to exercise with deathly boredom the power of deciding which side to win.

Then one day, a decent looking young gentleman approached and asked if I'd like an opponent!! He must have been decent-looking because he wore a dress shirt. A gentleman because this guy certainly looked more mature than the neighborhood bullies, not to mention possessing gentler mannerism. Well, despite many an inherent distortions and fallacies, reminiscent imporession of a kid remains uncontested for the significance it has borne upon a life.

It was a close series. At least I remember having winning a game or two. He was much much older, you know. It is indeed a sort of pride to be able to hold one's own against an elder :-} Then came the last game. According to an unspoken protocol, the winner is implicitly the winner of the whole series. This game is like the Olympic, and the rest was mere World Championship. Compiling a worthy record against your opponent is one thing. To win when you *want* to win is a sure sign of domination. Sure! You can win every game, but you *know*, by virtue of this single game, who the real winner is.

Needless to say, I lost badly. I was naturally peeved while putting back the pieces and the torn paper board into the tattered box. There's a funny thing about Chinese chess. You can be peeved about losing, but never against you opponent. There's something about fair play that inspire respect. Before departing, he remarked, "you have lots of promise, just remember to get the wagons out as quickly as you can, and your game will naturally improve."

Hundreds of game later, with a fervent focus on speeding up the wagon to open and favorable position, I managed to become a better play. A much better player, I may add, but there's one opening that I always have problem with. Known as Attacking Canon with Buffered Horses, it can be devastating when played right.

There is a pool hall where the game is played in downtown San Jose, California, where I met Dung, a brilliant and highly talented player. We became simple friends over good coffee, silly chats and general goofiness. As I wateched him play against the much feared opening, there was movement made with the wagons that weren't at all clear to me. "Why is it there, one step back of the river?" It is usual that the wagon stands _by_ the river to guard against enemy invasion. "Because," he replied matter-of-fact-ly as he made his move, "this is what you want to do -- block the horse's path."

Lo and behold. It then all made sense, and I manage to burry anyone with that opening every time. I have more than become a good player. I have become competent. All because of two simple phrases.

In the game of life, in the hustle and bustle of it all, I'm afraid we have forgotten about simple phrases. They don't require much but they do mean a lot to those in need, to the young and the ignoratn. They amount little in the overall appearance of things, but they remain the most memorable and beautiful details about human existence and of humanity. There is something about meaningful and good-willed human interactions by individuals that propelled the collective whole forward.

Interestingly enough, my presence in the Vietnamese electronic communities has been and continues to be driven by a yearning for simple phrases. I have always known of their abundance out there, in the knowledge and kindness of others. But somehow, as it stands, I find myself playing the game of life and ofl knowledge the same old way -- not very well. In a reality of interaction so very ugly and seemingly meaningless, it has been 20 years and an unheard generation silently suffers in need of simple phrases.

The gift, when you decide on your kindness and good will, will be yours to give to our collective whole, your children and our future. It is one gift of great expense against traditional mode of cultural behavior, but one urgently needed in the process of highlighting what is most beautiful about us.

If cultural detachment is what we have to fight against, there's no more effective weapon than that of kindness and guidance. If cultural disenchant- ment is the source of cultural decay, then none better than insisting on what is best of us.

If cultural pride and integrity are the contributing forces that will transform possibilities into a foundation we may be rightly proud of, and the basis of a future that fulfills rather than disappoints our hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations, then orientation of our actions toward mutual teaching and guidance, listening and understanding, caring and compassion is no longer a cultural luxury but a pragmatic necessity.

Somehow we must learn to addres the weakness within us, to heal and not to hurt. To successfully defend against the enemy without, the enemy within must be denied.

Simple phrases of kind and good-willed guidance can be such miracles. Miracles still happen, do they not?