I haven't been following the recent election for the governorship of Jakarta very closely, but I think I understand why it's generating such a buzz: to Jakartans (and perhaps most educated middle-to-upper-class Indonesians), it evokes the epic Obama vs. McCain struggle in the 2008 US presidential elections. It doesn't help that the popular underdog-turned-winner Joko Widodo (better known by the epithet "Jokowi") resembles Obama somewhat.
Hm. Funny. Seems like there's been a related buzz in the last few hours about the NY Times' coverage of the event
, especially now that Jokowi has (apparently) won the runoff elections.
I'm getting a bit tired of bumping the recap post, so I'll just make a new one here.
All important posts of a military nature in my journal have been grouped together under a single Memories category; I'm fully aware, however, that not all of those posts would be of great interest to casual browsers, and many of them are protected posts that are not available for everyone to see. In view of these circumstances I have created two specific categories, named respectively Tactics
, containing entries calculated to be of greatest utility for general readers, particularly those with little or no prior knowledge of military history. These two categories contain only
public entries everyone can see and comment upon. As is to be expected, while the entries are mostly of a general nature, they also sometimes contain specific hints and tips for utilizing the contents in fiction writing.
There is also a similar collection of essays in the category Political Worldbuilding
. It mostly contains entries with a less overtly military content, although there's a significant overlap with the two other categories. The category of Swordsmanship
contains posts about swords and swordsmanship, some of which do not fit with the larger scope of the military and political discussions in the abovementioned categories. Meanwhile, the category of Single Combat
is fairly self-descriptive--it contains entries that deal mostly with the arts of single combat or few against few, the difference with Swordsmanship being that the subjects of its entries are not restricted to the use of swords.
All five categories are updated from time to time with new essays, articles, or plain silly musings. There is no particular rhyme or reason to the schedule, though--I update when the whim strikes me or when somebody requests a rundown on a particular subject.
I think seven posts from the abovementioned categories are worth mentioning for their generalized and introductory nature, which makes them the most accessible to general readers:Definitions of Strategy and Tactics
addresses a common stumbling block for writers wishing to address the subject of warfare in their works--namely, the difference between strategy
The Fantasy Armies Rant
is a point-by-point examination of some possibilities fantasy writers would be well advised to observe in building the armies of their fantasy worlds, written in the familiar style of limyaael
's fantasy rants
. It has a sequel
that delves deeper into the subject of military organizational practices. Despite the presence of the word "fantasy" in their titles, I think most of the points in these rants also apply in a more general sense to just about any fictional army.
The Rant on Battles
takes a detailed look at several concerns pertaining to the representation of battles in fiction, especially on why people choose to engage (or not
to engage) in battles.Formations 101
is fairly self-descriptive; it introduces basic tactical formations of pre-20th century warfare, and points out why the study of formations as static entities is useless without an inquiry into the ways these formations actually maneuver, transform, and develop into attacks and defenses during the course of a tactical encounter.The principles of Mass, Economy of Force, and Maneuver
explained in simple terms. With pictures. These principles are further elaborated through a practical application of them in this battle report
.On the difference between "wings" and "flanks"
--or maybe I should have titled it "the left wing
is not the left flank
don't have to personally invent every single bit of strategy and tactics they use. Do they?
I've also set up a thesaurus of military terms
for the use of speculative fiction writers--mostly fantasy, though some SF term will probably creep in every now and then. On a somewhat tangential note, doc_lemming
has also set up a fantasy thesaurus
of a more general (i.e.
not specifically military) nature.
If you're wondering about whether I've covered a particular military/political worldbuilding subject or not in my posts, feel free to ask about it by commenting in whichever post you think is the most appropriate. I also accept request to treat with subjects that I haven't written about. Keep in mind, however, that I reserve the right to determine if and when I would overcome my habitual laziness for long enough to handle any of the incoming requests. ;P
(I'm going to bump this entry back up frequently, if not always regularly. It is backdated, though, so have no fears of sudden intrusions upon your f-page by "that damned page" cropping up again and again and again.)
One of the oddest things I've begun to notice lately is that my increasing experience with swordsmanship (even though it's still not much) is starting to let me understand some of the subtler details in not only the system I'm most familiar with (i.e. the medieval German Liechtenauer tradition), but also other systems as well. A case in point is the Japanese koryu waza videos I watched last week; when I watched them the first time around after downloading them some three or four years ago, I had absolutely no idea what was happening. Last week, while I couldn't say I completely understood the techniques and the system behind them, a big lightbulb went up in my head about one feature that I simply couldn't wrap my head around back then: kiri-otoshi. My understanding of the geometry involved is still quite hazy but that's immeasurably better than several years ago, when I had absolutely no idea of how such a technique could work at all.
Enough rambling. Maybe I should go and pick the brains of some friends who are much, much more familiar with Japanese swordsmanship than me.
Remember Azisa, the comic artist for whom I made the set of couple tunics and hoods a few years ago? Last year she asked me if I could make a Red Riding Hood cape, but with sleeve-like wings rather than just slits for the arms. To make a long story short, I finished it early this year but she didn't get the chance to wear and feature it in public until Popcon Asia 2012 came up last week.
The same event also gave me the first opportunity to wear my new tunic and hood -- quite a dramatic improvement over the green tunic I originally made in 2009 or so.
I'm usually not bothered by the fact that I'm largely cut off from the newest developments in popular culture, but it was a shock when I learned that I missed the news on Ray Bradbury's death. Oddly enough, I heard it exactly a week after the event--and on the same day I bought one of his books.
Oh well. The man may be gone, but his stories live on.
Recently some people from my old WMA group met up after a rather long hiatus. Most of us had kept up the physical exercise schedule we challenged ourselves to maintain, so in terms of raw strength and speed we were generally better off than the last time we met. When it came to doing the drills and set-plays that were once so familiar to us, though, the lack of practice inevitably made us clumsy and slow, and there was quite an abundance of mistakes to laugh over.
One of the guys--let's call him J--brought over a couple of unusually long dagger wasters (some 40cm/16" long in the blade), which we used for paired dagger practice. When the practice session as such was over, though, he brought up the idea of having some fun by trying out possible (non-historical) techniques for two short swords
, and most of us (the ones who still had some free time to burn, anyway) agreed. J was also the most ambidextrous among us so naturally we gave him the dubious honour of being the first to try the two-short-swords thing (and get whacked thereby in the trial-and-error process).
Interestingly, we noted that (within the limited context of our free-play) the most effective way to use the two short swords was to treat them almost as if they were a single longer weapon, or in other words moving them together along very similar vectors. The most distinct example was when J managed several times to counter descending vertical and diagonal longsword or polearm strikes to the head by using one sword to defend with a windshield-wiper parry while the other moves in (along with a traversing step) to deliver a cut to the opponent's hand(s). Of course, there's a counter to every technique, and we soon found out that this defence was quite vulnerable to an Oberhau
feint followed by a lightning-fast Zwerchhau
(roughly, a horizontal strike to the head made by spinning the blade around like a helicopter rotor) to the opposite side. The counter to the counter involved J taking yet another traversing step forward while blocking the Zwerchhau
very close to the head with one sword and throwing a cut or thrust to the belly with the other sword, but this required even more precise timing than the original Zwerchhau
counter and was somewhat easier to avoid with a rapid spring backwards.
Not everything worked the same way. With a longer weapon, the usual method to counter an attack to the leg is by slipping the leg while delivering a counterattack to the head. The two short swords couldn't do this since they lacked the reach, so J had to block the low strike very close to his leg with one blade and use the other blade for the high counterattack. It was quite difficult to find a counter to this until the better grapplers among us realised that the move put J very close to us, and by letting go of our weapons we could often grab his higher sword arm and get him with an uppercut or an elbow in the face before his lower sword could intervene. In a more realistic medieval setting we probably would have drawn a dagger with the free hand instead--or perhaps turned his higher blade back upon him with one of the dagger counters so common to medieval close-quarters fighting.
On the basis of these very limited experiments, I think the techniques for fighting with two short swords are much more intuitive than those for two long-bladed swords
, and as such they're more likely to be effective in the hands of anyone less than a master. They still don't seem to be the best
way to use the short sword, however, especially once the fighting gets to the level of a massed battlefield--on that account I think the Romans got it right by combining the short sword with a huge
shield since a short blade is much easier to manipulate in the restricted spaces established by the shield (such as when a legionary manages to crowd up his opponent by pressing shield-to-shield). That is, aside from the fact that two swords provide barely any defence at all against missiles....
When I watched Operation Dumbo Drop for the first time many years ago (I don't even remember how many), I only remembered it as an entertaining movie. But a rerun came up recently on satellite TV and, having watched the whole damned thing all over again from the opening title to the credits, I'm quite surprised to find that it has one of the most accurate representations of military chains of command that I've ever seen in a motion picture.
Reading Coedes's Indianized States of South-East Asia and waiting for news on Munoz's Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago. At this rate it'll be weeks before I run short of non-digitised reading materials.
Which reminds me that I haven't finished reading the last one-thirds of Aelian's Tactics. Digitised, of course. A scan of a 19th-century translation based on Bingham. Doesn't mean it's not going to wind up being useful in some way, though.
And writing. I've done way too little of that.
I don't know. Maybe it's just me, but I find The Sartorialist's photo of the recent Prada Fall/Winter 2012 show
to be quite sexy. Maybe it's the Victorian/Edwardian theme of the collection. But I suspect it has a great deal to do with the models' poses--they don't walk in the ungainly slouching pose that dominate the runway nowadays, but rather in a proud, erect, chin-up pose. As if they're trying hard to restrain the sexiness hiding behind all that poise.
The commercial landscape in Indonesian cities is dominated by all-too-familiar malls and chain supermarkets, but out in the country--with smaller consumer bases, and by and large a more limited range of needs--old-fashioned general stores still manage to eke out an existence undisturbed by more "modern" (or, anyway, more urbanised) retail outlets. One such rural general store was the feature that attracted my notice when I visited a megalithic site last week--more than the megalithic site itself, in fact, since there were no information centres or libraries or anything else I could visit to learn more about the current state of research on the site as opposed to just staring at the stones heaped all over the hillside.
One important feature of the store is the large porch with tables and benches, which provides tourists with shelter from the heat during the day and (presumably) the local villagers with space to gather and talk during the night.
The outermost layers of merchandise displayed at the store largely consist of ready-to-consume snacks and drinks, no doubt for the benefit of tourists. But go around the back and suddenly there are all sorts of things from children's toys to simple electronics (torches, radios, cheap watches) to spices and fresh vegetables. Rather like a supermarket, in fact, just smaller and less formal.
Now I wonder about what happened to the suburban mom-and-pop grocery store I used to patronise in my childhood. I've probably been away from that neighbourhood for more than twelve or thirteen years now, and the last time the proprietors saw me I was probably still in elementary school. Maybe I'll pay them a visit some time in the future and see whether they (or their chiildren) can still keep the store running in the face of constant encroachment by minimarkets and all.
The autumn is not the monopoly of four-season lands. Here in the tropics some trees shed their leaves, too, usually at the beginning of the dry season. But this tree seems to have missed the memo since it's shedding when the rainy season is just going into full swing. Oh well.
Does anybody have suggestions on ways of improving my upper-body strength for a pull-up test? Right now my record is a bit uneven, since on my best day I may be able to do three consecutive pull-ups while on a bad day I can barely manage one--whereas I'd like to be able to consistently do five, and preferably after a reasonably short timeframe (is three months realistic?) If I can get there it'd probably go a long way towards addressing the imbalance between my upper body and its rather more well-developed counterpart below the waist.
Anyway, it seems like I've been creeping my way steadily towards my fitness goals. When I read that the US Marine fitness test calls for a three-mile run in 28 minutes, I thought that'd be a pretty difficult standard to match since I was used to thinking that I ran a lap on the athletic track (400 m) in three minutes and thus it'd take me 36 minutes to do 4.8 km (12 laps). But then I recorded the time I needed to run the first 12 out of the 25 laps (10 km) I do every weekend and got 31 minutes--only 3 minutes slower than the Marines' standard. It shouldn't have surprised me considering how much I had improved my speed and endurance within the last few months, but still it's pretty encouraging to know that I only have one-thirds of the ground left to cover.
While checking the contents of my digital photo albums, I ran across a series of pictures I took nearly two months ago at Borobudur.
ancient Buddhist temple. I came there looking for reliefs that might produce evidence on the equipments and practices of ancient/medieval Javanese archery, and sure I wasn't disappointed. Just look at this one.( And more.Collapse )
Another point of interest is the depiction of the guardsmen with oval shields and various blades, which also appears in several other scenes.( And more.Collapse )
Now, what about the swords? Some of the images above have already shown a tantalising variety of both straight and concave blades, and that's not the end of it.( Want to see more?Collapse )
And then, this scene tops it all off with a depiction of the Buddha being assailed with all sorts of weapons:( With a couple of detail shots, of course.Collapse )
Weapons were certainly not the only things that mattered in warfare, so let me add two more scenes that may be relevant:
Guys, don't look down
. Look up
at the banners. This type of long vertical banner with a loose streamer at the top is known as the umbul-umbul
in modern Indonesian and Javanese, and is still used as decorations for various festive occasions.
This image shows the kind of carriage that would have been familiar to upper-class Javanese people of the era. I sometimes wonder if the occasional mention of "chariots" in translated Javanese sources--under the assumption that Ancient Indian chariot technology came to Java along with so many other things--is a mistranslation of a word indicating this more sedate type of carriage, since I don't think Javanese has ever had a word that specifically denoted war-chariots.
One issue remains unresolved: how much of the art represents realities of Javanese life and how much were stock depictions copied from Classical Indian art (and how much is somewhere in between). The answer to this would probably require checking out the style of reliefs in Indian and mainland Southeast Asian art up to a century before Borobudur's construction, and at the moment I don't have the time or the money to do that. Might there be anybody inclined to take up the offer?
It's hard to explain the place of revision in my writing since I'm neither an "organic" nor an "outline" writer. Put simply, I always spend a considerable amount of time planning such details as worldbuilding, characterisation, and basic story outlines before I write, but then continue to develop all of them as I write. As a result, I normally end up having a much better (or at least more detailed) conception of my stories as a whole when I've finished writing the first draft--but the earlier parts of the story are often not entirely consistent with the later, more fleshed-out parts. Sometimes I go back and revise as I write to reduce this discrepancy before it gets too big. Sometimes I don't bother and simply rewrite the earlier portions (or the whole story!) later on.
So is there any consistency in my approach to revision and rewriting? Certainly! One thing has never, ever changed: every story I write has demanded its own unique approach to revision and rewriting, so I've learned not to worry if I can't do things the same way twice.
(Posted as part of the Forward Motion Writers' Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour
You know you've gone well into the deep end when you find yourself debating the meaning of a couple of Ancient Greek verbs in an online forum you normally visit to relax.
Oh well. On a more substantial note, I've been doing a 10K jog (twenty-five laps on a 400m track) every Saturday for quite a while now (as many of you are no doubt aware). After the first few weeks I started focusing on keeping my average speed at 8 km/h or slighly higher, which gave a running time (no pun intended) of 75 minutes or slightly less--let's say 72-74 minutes since that was the time I usually managed to achieve before September. I kept that standard up even during the Ramadan fast since, as it turned out, running didn't make me all that thirsty until several hours afterwards. On the second week of September, though, I inadvertently ran a bit faster than usual, and having noticed that for the first five laps I proceeded to keep it up over the next twenty. The result? I managed it in 67 minutes, or just slightly below 9 km/h.
For the rest of September I've been working on maintaining that standard and, indeed, last Saturday I managed to run the whole thing in 65 minutes, leaving no doubt that I can keep up 9 km/h without exhausting myself. I'll probably try to keep things at this level until around the end of the year just to be sure that my body has acclimated to the new speed. And then, perhaps next year, or perhaps in late December, I'll try raising the speed again so that I'll be able to manage the 10K in just an hour. That's still less than half the speed of champion 10K runners, but hey, I'm doing it to keep in shape rather than to win a competition, and besides I'm already surprised at how much better my physical condition is compared to most of my fellow geeks.
Here in Indonesia, there's a tradition to celebrate the end of Ramadan by buying new clothes. Well, rather than buying one, I made
a new piece of clothing. The story goes that I've been unable to find the kind of trousers I want in stores since I have . . . well, athletic legs; the trousers that fit well in the legs are always too large and low in the waist, while the ones in my waist size are too skinny and constricting in the legs. So, with more than a little help from various people, I learned to draft a pair of modern trousers that fits the way I want it to: with a decently high waist (albeit at the position I'd call a "normal" rather than "high" waist for trousers, i.e.
at the navel rather than anywhere below it), rather slim but not skinny in the legs, and hemmed at right about ankle-height so that I wouldn't have to roll the legs up to keep them off the floor when I take off my shoes -- a fairly important issue since I spend a great deal of time going barefoot.( More behind the cut.Collapse )
Did some minor edits to the posts on medieval infantry
, in one case to insert I link I forgot to include and in the other to incorporate a little bit of new information. More importantly, perhaps, I finally got a picture of the latest newsboy cap I made, this time in a pixellated/digital camouflage pattern.