Mah Jongg is not just a game. It has become a part of my life that allows me to entertain my Mah Jongg-playing friends, cook great meals to serve to them and test my mental skills during our game play (which, hopefully, is often).
I know many of you are already familiar with the wonderful film, Mah-Jongg: The Tiles That Bind.But just in case you have never seen it – or you want to watch it over and over again! – here is the blurb on the film followed by a link to the video trailer. Enjoy!!!
Mention the game Mah-Jongg to a woman who plays it and something very special happens. Her eyes light up, she smiles and may laugh, and then she begins to speak. Even someone at first shy or reluctant to speak suddenly come alive with impassioned stories of her life, and of the bonds that develop between the women who meet ritually every week, sometimes more, to play, to escape, and most importantly, to be together until all hours of the night. Ask members of her family about the game and they speak invariably of the noise of the tiles, the food that gets eaten, the gossip that gets traded, and the sacred place the game holds in their family history, all stemming from her dedication and devotion to the playing of this game.
What is fascinating about this game is the traditional place it has in two seemingly unrelated cultures in America–Asian and Jewish–and the undeniable impact it has on the lives of the players and their families. While Asian-Americans consider the game to be intrinsic to Asian life, most other Americans strongly identify it with Jewish culture and the women who play it.
MAH-JONGG: THE TILES THAT BIND is a light-hearted yet deeply moving portrait of the Asian- and Jewish-American women who play this centuries-old Chinese game, shedding light on the common and uncommon experiences of the players that simultaneously define and transcend cultural boundaries. Along the way, it proves again and again to be a bridge connecting seemingly unlike individuals, spanning generations, continents and cultures, and transcending classification as merely a game.
The film features international best-selling authors Hope Edelman (Motherless Daughters) and Denise Chong (The Concubine’s Children), and Jim May, the curator of the Mah-Jongg Cyber Museum. It won Second Prize, Documentary Short at the 1999 FilmFest New Haven, and won Second Prize in the AFI Visions of U.S. Video Competition, and a Juror’s Choice Award in the Berkeley Jewish Video Competition in 1998. It continues to screen in film festivals, museums, and cultural and religious centers all over the world, and is available for sale on home video.
Directed and Produced by Bari Pearlman & Phyllis Heller
Executive Producer – Bari Pearlman
Editors – Lana Lin / Grace McKay / Dan Brown
Original Music – Nathan Holloway
Key Art – Tim Kirkman
Q. I was East, and when I picked up all my tiles, I had Mah Jongg! Now what?
A. The NMJL rules state “First Charleston compulsory – three passes (right, across, left).” Unfortunately, it does NOT state “First Charleston compulsory – unless you have Mah Jongg.”
So unless – and until – the NMJL changes this rule….that’s how we will proceed. But WOW! In all my years playing Mah Jongg, I have never seen this happen. What a conundrum.
Thanks to Gladys Grad, “The Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg Tournaments.” Visit her site at Mah Jongg Madness.
Q. I noticed a rule in the latest publication from the NMJL that differs from a rule you have used at your tournaments. A player discards a tile but miscalls it. However, she has the correctly named tile in her hand. Does she take the tile back and discard the named tile from her hand?
A: No, You do not replace the tile with named tile….miscalled tile is only correctly named.
Today we welcome a wonderful teacher who is originally from New Jersey and now lives in sunny Naples, Florida – Phyllis Cusumano. Phyllis was raised in Bayside N.Y. and her husband grew up in Manhattan. They moved to N.J. after they married as he worked in N.J.
As Phyllis tells it, “I have been playing Mah Jongg for going on 40 years. I had wonderful Jewish friends who taught me Mah Jongg. Prior I played bridge and loved games! They laugh when I say how well they taught me as I have been teaching and running tournaments here!!! I thank them every day that I have this to keep me going.”
Yesterday was my turn to host again and, although three people from the OMs (Original Mahjettes) were unable to attend, we still pulled together our weekly game. X and S2 (we have an S1 and an S2, in no particular order) were able to play but we were missing J (meetings interfered!), K (on safari!), and S1 (still enjoying sunny California). Our good friends D and G joined us for lunch and lots of games.