A Different “Art of War”

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I recently took the time to read Machiavelli’s “The Art of War,” not to be confused with the much earlier Sun Tzu work. The two have no relation, save the subject. Machiavelli was, if I dare say so, long-winded, but he was a fountain of useful information concerning what was in his time, merely a vision of the future, but which would become the modern army in times to come, based on the old Roman army; and because the old Roman army featured so prominently in his conception, he was very detailed concerning Roman arms as well.

One very small thing which I learned from a different source: the reason the Macedonian phalanx was able to employ both a long spear and a shield was due to the use of counterweights on the butts of the spears. While the force of a single person’s thrust was thus virtually non-existent, the thicket of points facing an enemy in a united advance was very difficult to penetrate effectively. However, the counterweight made the mere act of holding the spear steady relatively easy. The Romans did employ a spear, but, if I recall correctly, only on their rearmost line; Machiavelli explains that there were less men in the second and third lines of a cohort, consecutively diminishing, so that should the first, densely packed line fall, they have somewhere to form up that can (more or less) accommodate their entire number and be immediately stiffened against all attack. Thus, a Roman cohort is like a video game character with three “lives” until it is Game Over.

Machiavelli relates how Julius Caesar and others have destroyed armies allowed to move half their number across a river before attacking, as advised by Sun Tzu, and how deception in war is vital in attack, retreat, and maneuver to the success of the brilliant general. Also, acts of personal generosity and honor by individual leaders did just as much as the force of arms to win over provinces (or “new principalities” in The Prince parlance), even if we can say that such acts were not more important than force of arms, without which such leaders would be merely loved, but not feared as well.

I hope I’ve summarized some of the best parts, because reading that book is a slog, even with a translation into modern English. Still, it’s refreshing to read a work written by someone with such a sharp mind for detail and such zeal for classical warfare.

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Full Version: “Sun Tzu for the Modern Strategist”

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I’ve priced it at $5.00 U.S.

Myebook - Sun Tzu for the Modern Strategist - click here to open my ebook

Sun Tzu Book – Sample Chapter on Myebook.com

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Myebook - Sun Tzu for the Modern Strategist (Sample Chapter) - click here to open my ebook

I hear Mashable did a story on Myebook.com and interest surged.

I Have Finished A Book About Sun Tzu.

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This book is not yet published. I am vigorously pursuing options for publishing and marketing this book, probably electronically since it is not a mass market paperback novel after all. Suggestions are greatly appreciated.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sun Tzu for the Modern Strategist eBook

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This is a free sample chapter. Interested? Let me know!

Movies: “Star Trek” (2009)

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Since it’s on my mind, let me give a belated commentary on the latest “Star Trek” movie, a fine piece of work. Specifically, I want to address why I think the writing worked so well. (This is, of course, in addition to the well-done visuals, acting, and overall directing.)

The script of this “Star Trek” movie is a throwback to ancient mythology. Being presumably already familiar with the name James T. Kirk and Spock, or at least, having heard enough buzz to care, the viewer is presented with a creation myth: the birth of a Hero. Specifically, the birth of James Tiberius Kirk on the first, and last, day that his father takes command of a starship, destroyed by a vessel from the future that sparks a parallel timeline like an official piece of fan fiction: same characters, different story, only with a multi-million dollar budget and big-name directing.  It’s also a rather brilliant setup for a franchise reboot.

So, with a distinct “the more things change, the more things stay the same” vibe, the characters wind up where they’re “supposed” to be, but in different ways. We also see an early display of emotion from a young Spock when his world’s equivalent of Draco Malfoy insults his mother, his father’s marriage to her, and identifies her occupation as the world’s oldest profession. (Let the record show that I believe this would test even the coldest of children.) Less childish was Spock’s acceptance to Vulcan’s science academy being accompanied by a compliment at Spock having exceeded expectations despite his disadvantage.

Spock inquires as politely as he can, “What disadvantage?” The reply is, “Your mother.” Not, “Your half-human heritage that gives you a lesser propensity to control your emotions like a real Vulcan,” but rather, “your mother.” Spock consequently declined the “honor” and chose to study elsewhere. Never have I heard, “Live long and prosper,” spoken with such dripping sarcasm. I found this not only refreshing, but quite funny.

Kirk’s supposed failings foreshadow his successes: hacking an “unwinnable” simulation designed to instill a fear of death and failure and to ensure that candidates for command perform coolly under fire in spite of that fear, therefore refusing to acknowledge either fear or failure; obtaining aid from future Enterprise Chief Medical Officer, Leonard McCoy, a fellow Academy student, to get on the Enterprise in spite of his disciplinary hearing not being over and therefore being officially grounded; and coveting the captain’s chair to the point that nothing else is acceptable to him.

In true heroic fashion, Kirk is aided by a slowly growing ensemble of supporting characters, never relinquishes his human failings (indeed, getting the young Spock to acknowledge and accept Spock’s own half-human, half-Vulcan failings, thus “defeating himself” in preparation for defeating his enemy), and is the beneficiary of some unlikely yet not wholly unbelievable assistance, increasing the sense that this is a man with a destiny that shall not be denied.

Thus, we have a franchise rebooted by a new creation myth, complete with a science fiction-approved parallel universe triggered by time travel, complete with an Old Spock to give Leonard Nimoy something to do while he’s still around, giving New Spock and New Star Trek a tangible link to the past, as well as helping both the audience and the characters avoid some logical pitfalls in favor of allowing the tale to continue.  Thus, New Spock is quietly, without openly admitting it, trusting his gut even before the credits roll. Now that’s progress.

Star Trek was like one of those ancient monuments raised by pharaohs marking the southern edge of their realm, declaring that (and I paraphrase), “Whoever defends this border and expands upon it is an heir to my throne; whoever does not, I don’t know you.” By creating heroic origin myths, the men and women behind this movie paid homage to what had come before them while providing a retelling of the original tale.

Now, they are ready to expand upon the legend itself.

eBooks: Is Blio The Next Big Thing?

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This could be the next Big Thing in ebooks, and I couldn’t be more excited. Words like “no setup cost” excite me. I want to publish books in a variety of areas.

  • Education: Japanese language learning
  • Education: English language learning
  • Sun Tzu: My own expanded version based on my online course on all thirteen chapters

Things like that. And maybe smaller niche stuff that expands on the power of the written word.

What do you think?

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