You may have heard of the Chinese movie, The House of Flying Daggers, starring Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang and Takeshi Kaneshiro, a romantic kungfu flick that debuted in 2004, directed by the talented Yimou Zhang. Those who know Chinese would have known that the English title as used has nothing to do with the Chinese title at all, which literally means multi-directional (ten to be exact) ambush.
Anyway, I did enjoy the movie, even though I would not rank it as high as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, another in the same genre but was considered as the epitome of love, honor, and sacrifice, the chinese kungfu way when it first hit the celluloid screen in 2000 directed by the now famous Ang Lee of the Broke Back Mountain fame. Not to mention the mature portrayal by Michelle Yeoh, a fellow Malaysian.
But that is not the theme of my blog, though it does lead nicely to the game that we came to know, thanks to our newly acquainted in-laws.
The game is simply called, spoons. I will come to the flying part later. It’s a card game that can be played by a number of people. The dealer first deals out four cards in succession so that each player will have 4 cards. The objective of the game is for the first player to achieve a hand with some pre-determined combinations such as four of a kind.
To start the game, the dealer first takes a card from the remaining deck and decides whether to keep it or throw it. To keep it, he has to throw away one from his existing hand. The player next to the dealer, going clockwise, then picks up that card and go through the same decision making process, and so on to the next player.
Now comes the flying part, though it’s not mandatory, but in the ensuing pandemonium it’s usually the unintended consequence. In the center of the table, a number of spoons (preferably plastic if not then metal, but chinaware could prove bloody) are placed in a circle, and the number is always one less than the number of players. I’m sure the game of musical chairs comes readily to mind [I'm not quite sure what Natalie was doing with an empty hand with Mike on her left looking on intently, perhaps ready to pounce on the heap of spoons.]
The player who has the desired outcome in his/her hand first, will initiate the spoon grabbing. But he/she can do this in a number of ways: stealthily, nonchalantly such that it will go unnoticed by players engrossed in keeping the score in their hands. Or he/she can do it with a bang, letting fly the spoons while keeping his/hers. Realizing what has transpired, the other players would start going after the spoons that are still on the table or in the air. The one without a spoon (there will always be one) then claims a letter, in the correct order, from the word spoon, claiming the dubious moniker, an ass (s), in the process.
The player who first “completes” the word, spoon, then leaves the game. I did not play, but my wife and D did. But that afforded me the opportunity to witness the different personalities at work. Those who have played the game understandably make prompt decisions, leaving the passed cards to pile up at his/her neighbor while others will be prodding the poor guy to hurry up. [Here you can see my wife already had one spoon safely in hand while Natalie seemed to have acted a tad too slow.]
Then there are those who have been brought up not to grab things, lest a cane of sort would land on the knuckle. Like those whose reaction times are suspect, they will usually end up spoonless, unless their hands are lucky whence they will be the initiators of spoon fest.
It seems to me that perhaps a practical strategy would be just passing any card that comes along but focusing on any untoward/furtive hand movement from anybody reaching for the spoon so that one could follow suit. But nobody seemed to be enamored of my insightful tip. Perhaps they find it less challenging to recognize pattern in cards rather than hand motion, which can prove faster than the eye.
Then there are occasions when two hands, from two different players, grab the same spoon, one on each end. On both occasions, the younger one was seen deferring to the elder one. The two who exhibited such acts of reverence were our D and Natalie, a bubbly girl whose boy friend is Bryce, Dan’s best man, both of which are easy to spot from the picture. And on both occasions, the beneficiary was none other than my wife. Such was one of the many advantages that age confers.
After having had a good time shuffling cards and jostling for spoons, all in good fun and definitely fabulous as an ice breaker, some of us adjourned to the Portland downtown waterfront, partaking of the rare sunny atmosphere in all its splendor. But that will be the subject of another blog. So stay tuned.