27 August 2005

Moebius 'Forty Days in the Desert'

The biblical forty days in the desert? Not exactly. This is an imaginative masterpiece from Moebius (Jean Giraud) consisting of forty panels of the fantastic with little narrative structure and each panel purporting to be a daily vision. Strange evocative images of improbable constructs, flying angels, impossible creatures, lightly-threading creatures which barely appear human that float above the surface of the shimmering sands appear in panel after panel. This is a sublime piece of imaginative work. I could spend hours just glancing at the panels. I had once met Moebius in Northern California in my university sometime in the late eighties and this unassuming artist had said that he was influenced by dreams.
Mumbo Jumbo and what not!

We live in a time where superstition has never been more rife. People believe rather than think. Thinking is a premium, a rarity.

This little book by Francis Wheen is entertaining to say the least. Regardless of anybody's political persuasion, this is a worthwhile read as the Wheen pleads for a return to rationalism. It is an exhilarating attack on unthinking people and their beliefs. Holy warriors, anti-scientific relativists, economic fundamentalists, radical postmodernists, New Age mystics are amongst Wheen's victims.

This book is a descendent of Charles McKay's classic 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds' (1841).

"Neon on my naked skin
Passing silhouettes of strange illuminated mannequins
Shall i stay here at the zoo
Or shall i go and change my point of view for other ugly scenes"
Alphaville 'Big in Japan'

26 August 2005

Goldfrapp's 'Supernature'

I bought Goldfrapp's third album* recently. The first single 'Ooh La La’ appears to be an evolution of the electroclash sound pioneered in 'Black Cherry'. In some ways, 'Supernature' feels like Fischerspooner with female vocals. The vocals in 'Supernature' is also somewhat reminiscent of their Mute stablemate Client whose two albums, 'Client' and 'The City' are in the same vein, albeit less stylish and harsher.

Promising but not compelling.

*The limited edition set comes with a CD and a DVD with an animated short and the tracks.

"Armoured cars sail the sky
They’re pink at dawn
If i lived forever
just wouldn’t be so beautiful"
Goldfrapp 'Pilots'
British tank guns

The Comet would have been a worthy match for the German Panther if it had been put in service earlier.

A chart of the main British tanks and their main guns at the end of World War II. The A43 Black Prince was nearing production with six prototypes built. The advent of the superlative A41 Centurion had ended the A43 programme being superior in all aspects except armament. Most British tanks were beginning to be armed with the 17-pounder.

Tank Main Gun
Sherman Firefly 17 pounder OQF
A30 Challenger / Avenger 17 pounder OQF
A43 Black Prince 17 pounder OQF
A34 Comet 77mm OQF*
A41 Centurion 17 pounder OQF

*The 77mm gun is a compact version of the 17 pound and was originally known as the Vickers HV 75mm and later designated as the 77mm. Penetrative power of the main gun is only slightly less than the 17 pounder.

Other British tanks and SP guns not mentioned in the list includes the TOG, A33, A38 Valient, Archer.

With APDS rounds, the 77mm gun of the Comet should be able to penetrate the 110mm glacis of the Panther at 500 yards and possibly at 1000 yards.

Main Gun Calibre Muzzle Velocity Weight of Shot Penetration
17 Pounder Ordnance Quick Firing 76.2mm(3in) 2900fps-3950fps* 17lb 120mm at 500 yards/30 degrees
77mm Ordnance Quick Firing Mk II 76.2mm (3in) 2600fps 17lb 109mm at 500 yards/30 degrees

Figures given are for AP, APC, APCBC shot, not APDS.

*Depending on Mark.

"Everything that lives, that exists, that grows, that is simply on the earth, should be free, and should attain self-consciousness, raising itself up to the divine centre, which inspire all that exists. Absolute freedom and absolute love - that is our aim; the freeing of humanity, and the whole world - that is our purpose." Michael Bakunin

The Glade

This is a linear piece utilising standard drawing techniques, for instance cross-hatching. A simple, unadventurous piece.

I have always felt very comfortable drawing with technical pens, ballpoint pens and pencils. I will be putting up some old pieces done using a ballpoint pen in time to come.

"Convergence? Only when it suits. To an honest judge, the alleged marriage between religion and science is a shallow, empty, spin-doctored sham." Richard Dawkins

25 August 2005

The Castle

'Now, he could see the Castle above him, clearly defined in the glittering air, its outline made more definite by the moulding of snow covering it in a thin layer.'

'It was neither an old stronghold nor a new mansion, but a rambling pile consisting of innumerable small buildings closely packed together and of one or two storeys; if K. had not known that it was a castle, he might have taken it for a little town. There was only one tower as far as he could see, whether it belonged to a dwelling-house or a church, he could not determine. Swarms of crows were circling around it.'

Exerpt from Franz Kafka's 'The Castle'


The Comet is an almost forgotten tank which entered service late in the Second World War. Limited numbers were built. I have wondered as to its performance if it had just entered service a year earlier. Would it have been popular with its crews? Would it have been a vehicle that could compete with the M4 series?

For this sketch, I relied on a computer-generated image and a photograph found in a Concord Press book on British tanks. One evening, at a cafe at Selegie Road, I did a pencil sketch that initially went well. However, when I finished it, I compared it with the photo reference and the computer image and I saw that the proportion was slightly off as the vehicle was somewhat too narrow. I erased almost everything. This was unusual for me as I don't erase very much and, often, not at all. I followed the pencil sketch up with a technical pen, inking the lines. Then, I applied colours and shadows after. All in all, this took about three hours total.

On the topic of the forgotten, the Charioteer is a forgotten tank destroyer. I have seen so few references to it over the years. The development of British tanks in the interwar years and the Second World War interests me.

I will be posting a few more sketches of tanks in the near future.

'It's time to let go
Time to spend some time alone
Reconsider what could be done
Unbind the imagination...'
Faith and the Muse 'Shatter in Aspect'

24 August 2005

The Stone Bridge, Floodlands, The Trail

I will be putting up some of my older artwork from time to time. My propensity for landscapes would be more than obvious. Here are some sketches done in the past year. Fairly recent. Satisfying.

The Stone Bridge

The Trail


"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." Richard Dawkins

Z Prochek

Z Prochek's 'Viewers' and 'Intravenous' albums are my current favourites at the moment. They are in my Creative Muvo mp3 player for the last month or so.

Other albums in my player includes the latest Peter Murphy album 'Shattered', older In Strict Confidence albums, Diorama's latest.

"Air-built madness: unfamiliar charm
Hides in the softest eyes
And ponderous smiles manifest denial
But heavy heartless
Conscious of our load
Hurled by dreams into a separate world
We dig the thoughtless earth"
Faith and the Muse 'Mercy Ground '

23 August 2005

I have been sketching landscapes for a long time. I guess I have been influenced by the wondrous intricate line drawings found in old Fighting Fantasy books from Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. These old Puffin adventure books had well-rendered and eccentric drawings, conveying an atmospheric world, the world of Titan. The forests were mysterious and they were great black and white line art. They were vastly superior to those horrid black and white ones in the first and second edition of Advanced Dungeon and Dragaons rulebooks.

I have been influenced by the many walks I took in the Yorkshire Dales, the Pennines, and a few other places. At times, I would venture alone with a map and a sketchbook. At other times, I would go with my friend, Sylvain. The serenity and beauty of the wilderness remained with me long after. I miss those days.

This piece and the previous piece are milestones for me in that they were very early images, done completely electronically on a Wacom pad. They require a new set of skills, different from drawing on paper.

"There's this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out." Richard Dawkins

Have you ever dreamt that you were in a dream and upon waking to find that you are in yet another dream? Like in Chuang Tze's butterfly, is there really an end?

I had this recurring dream over the past few years. In each instance, I would wake to another reality. Would these realities be false realities? Fragments of the unconscious mind?

Medieval and Renaissance naval battles, castles of the Teutonic Knights, wooden medieval structures in north Russia

Medieval naval operations were almost invariably in support of land operations. They were operations to maintain naval supremacy with exceptions being possibly the operations of the Venetian state and the Hanseatic League. Battles would often be within sight of land and battles in the high seas were practically unknown. What is interesting is that these naval battles resembled land battles except that the battlefields were platforms on the ships of that period. Ships would often be tied together and boarding actions would commence. Forecastles were similar to fortifications on land with archers providing fire support on top.

The naval battles in the Mediterranean Sea were of course of a different nature due to the use of galleys. Logistical issues were of course another matter with galleys.

I have been reading up on medieval and renaissance naval battles for the last year. It is fascinating. Susan Rose's 'Medieval Naval Warfare'

I have bought a volume on the Battle of Lepanto. Victor Hanson, the doyen of Greek hoplite warfare, had also written a chapter on this battle in one of his popular history volumes. The arguments regarding the dearth of naval specialists in the Islamic world after Lepanto appear well-founded. I would have to read more on this before I can formulate my thoughts on this.

Previously, I had read two books on the siege of Malta in 1565, one of which is an Osprey book which was heavily illustrated with colourful maps of the operations. The other book is a straight forward narrative.

John Francis Guilmartin's classic 'Gunpowder & Galleys' has now been re-published as a second edition. There are few changes to this classic work.

There is a lot of hard data and information in this volume. Highly recommended.

I have been fascinated by the architecture of the castle of the Teutonic Knights at Marienburg. The squat towers, the narow windows, the arrow slits, the forbidding walls. A nightmarish structure which could have come out of the pages of a dark fairy tale.

The medieval wooden churches and houses of Russia are also of interest due to its intricate design and flourishes. There are several illustrated tomes of these structures available. I can only say that I am astounded as to what can be accomplished with wood! Speaking of which, there are wooden temples in Japan that are almost a thousand years old.

"After the dream, they set out in search of that city; they never found it, but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream."
Exerpt from Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities'

22 August 2005

Victorian Fantasies

'Steamboy' is an odd Japanese vision of a Victorian fantasy. Japanese steampunk! Who would have thought that such a cross-pollination of pop cultures would have happened. It may appear startling, however, the concept is not new. 'Steamboy' may have been the first anime exposition of steampunk but the manga 'Steam Detectives' preceded it by quite a few years.

Given the other screen and comic book adaptations of fantasies with a Victorian setting such as 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' which features literary heroes and villains with heightened powers, it is inevitable.

Like his magnum opus 'Akira', Otomo, has conjured a convoluted tale involving betrayals, meaningless loyalties, and a foreboding dark future where nothing is certain. Like his previous confused work, Otomo delights in unleashing the forces of the future, namely an imaginery advanced steam technology (the previous work harnesses psychic energy as a weapon), and destroys London (Neo-Tokyo in the previous work) in the process. A muddled cautionery tale of shadowy technology used as a weapon.

The protagonist is hardly endearing. The Japanese depiction of a Victorian world is charmless, yet hardly brutal or realistic, and is filled with bland characters.

I was hoping for a visual feast, never mind the storytelling, I did not get one.

"Nobody stole, nobody grumbled over his rations, the quarrelling and biting and jealousy which had been normal features of life in the old days had almost disappeared. Nobody shirked - or almost nobody."
Exerpt from George Orwell's 'The Animal Farm'
Precious, Tales from Turnpike House

The recent leak of the video of the forthcoming Depeche Mode single 'Precious' has appeared to indicate that Depeche Mode is finally returning to its form of electronic darkness of the late eighties and early nineties. This is welcomed.

Hopefully, 'Precious' will signal a shift from the bland electronic-blues which Depeche Mode has been peddling after the 'Songs of Faith and Devotion' to something along the lines of the singles from 'Violater' and 'Music for the Masses'. 'Ultra' and 'Exciter' were electronic valium. Competent lounge music but lounge music all the same. As my friend, Eugene has succinctly observed, 'In your Room' was the last Depeche Mode single to send 'shivers down your spine'.

St Etienne has appeared to be serving its own dish of electronic valium in the last three albums. These albums, while pleasant, lacks the immediacy of their previous pop singles. A few talking and rap tracks simply do not add an edge, being discordant and distracting.

"Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. 'There is the blueprint,' they say. "
Exerpt from Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities'

21 August 2005

Notes on Weblog Entres

My entries for the next day would frequently go up about a few hours before midnight. I don't sleep late anymore, I have to work the day after usually.

I will often amend my entries for grammar, accuracy and typos after they are posted. It is a continuous process. If a new thought occurs to me, I will not hesitate to add it in a previous entry. I will often add images to previous entries too.

Blog entries are just what they are. Short commentaries of a few lines in length. For entries on books, they are not reviews, they are just reflections of a few ideas from the book. The opinions offered are my own though I may mention a friend's opinion and thought from time to time. This is not an online diary. I do write a diary but not electronically.

My blog is preoccupied with books, military affairs, history, SF, music (ebm, synthpop, goth, electronic music, etc) and my drawings. A large proportion of the site will likely consist of sketches I made over the last decade. And my intended audience? No one really, well, myself. Here, I articulate some thoughts, comments which may or may not be re-used in another context eventually.

If I have friends and people with possibly similar or related interests viewing and commenting, well, I will be very happy.

As for Singapore, you will realise that this blog has little to say about Singapore and its current affairs, culture, politics and more. Nothing on the local blog scene either. There are blogs out there that cover Singapore better. If you are here for stuff about Singapore, you generally won't find it here. You know my preoccupations.

The drawings are just what they are, drawings and short sketches. I will make no claim to them being art of any sort. At best, they are illustrations.

Some of the drawings will have some writing on the lower right corner. That is just the month and year for my tracking. I seldom sign my work anyhow. I enjoy drawing and I draw quite a lot.

*This is an entry that is back-dated. I wanted to tuck this in a corner somewhere.

Japanese Army Air Force Units

Among the more fascinating information in the book 'Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces, 1931-1945' is the Ki-43's interception of B-24s. Given the lightness of the Ki-43's armament (two machine guns mounted depending on the model), it is amazing how Ki-43s were able to bring a few B-24s down.

This book includes some photos of Japanese fighters that were previously not seen in English language publications.

The operations of individual army air force units is the most interesting aspect of this volume.

Apparently, Ki-27 units were deployed in Malaya during the campaign and some Ki-27s were caught on the ground and destroyed by British bombers.

From the claim figures, I have a suspicion that a significant number of Japanese claims arose from the Allied penchant for diving when escaping the slower Japanese fighters.

"It has become almost a cliche to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science." Richard Dawkins

Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear

People rarely learn from history. The events illustrated in 'Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear' is indicative of the Russian inability to learn. In the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, the Japanese army utilised similar approaches to that taken in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895.

The same routes used were literally the same ones used in the earlier capture of Port Arthur then.

Divided Russian leadership with widely political diverse goals coupled with incompetence in some quarters were contributory factors to the military failure as well.

Japanese military success was due to a large variety of factors including that of a simple aggressive plan with improvision.

Another observation is that artillery preparation and counter battery fire were instrumental in the individual struggle for positions. The primitive logistics train of both sides were a brake on operations at times.

Given the current tensions in North-East Asia, I think the study of this campaign is becoming increasingly relevant.

"The beauty of science is that it allows us to transcend our intuitions about the world, and it provides us with methods by which we can determine which of our intuitions are right and which are not. Common sense tell us that the earth is flat, that the sun moves around it, and that the people who know the least often speak the loudest." Daniel Gilbert, Psychologist, Harvard University