Saturday, June 11, 2011
Posted by Big Sil at 9:57 PM
In Thai warfare, the elephant's greatest use was that of a war mount, for kings and commanders of armies. When employed in battle, the war elephant carried three persons on his back. The king or commander, who sat alone on the elephant's neck in order to fight the enemy commander in direct mortal combat. This was a little like the individual contests between warriors in the "Heroic Age" of Ancient Greece or the jousts between knights in armour in Medieval Europe.
The tactical commander sat in the middle of the seat, strapped to the animal's back, handling either two flags or peacocks tails to signal directions of movement to the soldiers below. A third soldier sat on the elephant's hind quarters, in order to drive the animal and take care of the weapons attached to the middle seat.
The war elephant was surrounded at all times by a bodyguard of up to eight foot soldiers, known as "Chaturonkbath". It was their duty to protect the elephant's legs from a surprise attack or other cowardly maneuver by a dishonorable enemy.
The sight of the king or commander of the armies, seated on the back of the elephant and overlooking the battlefield, must have been truly magnificent and a great inspiration to his soldiers. But he would also have been highly conspicuous and vulnerable to enemy projectile weapons.
This vulnerability and indeed the role of the elephant on the battlefield began to be questioned in the seventeenth century, when large numbers of Europeans began to arrive in South East Asia. The reason for this questioning was because these Europeans brought with them, new and terrifying weapons, efficient hand held firearms.
The most notable of these weapons was the musket. It was a deadly weapon, which could kill a king, a commander or indeed an elephant at a distance. It did, however, have two major failings, which to some extent mitigated its effectiveness. It had a slow rate of fire, approximately one shot per minute, and it was inaccurate over a distance of more than two hundred yards.
European armies had developed tactics to overcome the musket's shortcomings and these could be adapted to take account of the elephant's traditional role on Thai battlefields. By the mid‑nineteenth century, however, the accurate and fast firing, repeating rifle had replaced the musket.
This development not only changed the battlefield, but it made the lung or commander and also the elephant too exposed to distant attack. So the elephant was quietly retired from the battlefield. He did, however, continue to do valuable service for the army in a support role, even as recently as the Second World War, and he proved to be an inspiring sight in parades and at ceremonial functions.
Posted by Big Sil at 9:49 PM
Friday, June 10, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Fighters often flirt with the spotlight and then disappear inconspicuously into the shadows. Others leave such an indelible imprint that they forever ingrain themselves in boxing vernacular.
Ali, Foreman, Marciano, Louis, Robinson, Leonard.
Names that become the measuring sticks for successive generations.
On Sunday, Mike Tyson will become the last man on that list to be inducted and immortalised in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
In spite of all of Tyson’s transgressions he was, for five years, inimitable. Like the aforementioned others he was beyond replication.
A phenomenon that defied science and conventional logic. Heavyweight Champion at the age of 20. Destructively dominant despite his 5 ‘11 frame.
Innate speed, power and athleticism collaborated with Cus D’amato instilled technique to form one of the most intimidating, destructive and evasive fighters that ever lived.
We paid $50 time and time again to see Tyson vaporise opponents in 120 seconds. Fighter after fighter fell under his spell and eventually toppled under his power and aggression. In Tyson’s era, curiously unlike today, customer satisfaction was not predicated upon value for money but bang for our buck.
For five years Tyson vanquished every pretender to the throne and established an ‘iron’ grip on his Heavyweight boxing kingdom. Yet, often, when assessing Mike Tyson’s legacy we approach it with supposition.
What if Cus D’amato had survived five more years?
What if Mike hadn’t sacrificed three years of his prime in an Indiana correctional facility?
Both have credence, and legitimately incite curiosity, but what if Tyson was jettisoned on a fateful trajectory that would inevitably span the heights of gratified success but also the depths of utter despair?
A troubled childhood spent in crime-ridden neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York. The experience of losing a single parent at the age of ten. Time in youth detention centres.
Events that undoubtedly mold a person’s character and outlook on life. Tyson was frustrated, angry, unfulfilled. All traits that propelled him into the centre of the ring at the first bell, hunched under a plume of angst and unmatched aggression.
One mission consumed Mike.
To become the youngest undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World. Accomplishment of such left him without direction or guidance. The tangible aspiration that drove his desire vanished the night he obliterated Michael Spinks.
A haze had descended upon Tyson’s vision and from the fog emerged a galvanised Buster Douglas.
Cus D’amato had crafted a technically proficient fighter purely with the sole objective to be the World Heavyweight Champion. It was to be a prize that half blessed, and half ruined Tyson’s life.
‘The youngest man to ever win the Heavyweight Championship, and also the youngest man to ever lose the Heavyweight Championship.’ Bert Sugar
The ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ was a comic book hero—or villain, dependant upon your own perspective—plucked from Tyson’s destructive intimidating style by the media, in an attempt to garner maximum mainstream attention.
Tyson bought into media/fan perpetuated hype, but unlike Superman’s seamless transition from fighting super-hero to Clark Kent, ‘The Baddest man on the planet’ never grasped what it was to just be ‘Mike’.
Monster. Man. Mike.
Thankfully Tyson post-boxing career has delivered to us, but more importantly to him, a character he is comfortable with. Even if it went through a number of reinventions that included, a drum banging lunatic and pigeon-cherishing dope.
My own personal memories of Mike were in the second stanza of his boxing career. Early-bed times unfortunately precluded me from enjoying Tyson in the 1980’s.
I remember the 4am starts — as is the eight-hour time difference between Las Vegas and the UK — the palpable excitement that was always incompatible with pre-fight sleep.
Again and again, my Father and I returned despite disappointment, in the vain hope ‘The Baddest Man on the planet’ would light up our screens again. He did, on occasion, but it was fleeting and against much inferior opposition.
Then Tyson had his Ali moment, only it was repeated three times over.
Lewis, Williams, McBride.
My boxing hero carted out in the back of a dumpster. It would have, perhaps, been sacrilege to see Tyson in white shining armour riding off into the sunset but he deserved more dignity in final defeat.
Tyson combined the darkest side of our cultural/sporting palate. Our sport became the sweet and sour science. We craved the brutal and destructive dominance inside the ring yet we could not comprehend or contemplate the depraved activity outside of it.
Our own desire fed the pugnacious bluster inside of the ring, we eulogised man’s worst traits, providing they were confined to the ring. Legitimately we condemned the more deplorable of Tyson’s extra-curricular activities but we never took time to understand our own relevance in his indiscretions.
Mike Tyson was, and perhaps is, a flawed man outside of the ring, but inside, for that short, magnificent period in the 1980’s, he was flawless.
That brutal punch, the speed, the belligerent aggression, the youthful exuberance and that element of unpredictability.
Mike Tyson was a fighter carved for our wildest dreams and it is our duty to savour him for being just that.
Posted by Big Sil at 9:58 AM