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Nothing of substance to see here. [Jun. 20th, 2006|10:46 am]
Last week I got a library card at my local library, and rather than actually checking out books I perused their DvD collection instead. While I didn't find any movies that I wanted to watch (which isn't a particularily long list anyway), I did find some documentaries that looked interesting. Now that I've seen then, I figure I'll talk about them for a bit.

The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance. Done by PBS. Probably my favorite of the three, split into six episode of an hour each. Since it's episodic, there quite a bit of repeated information, and the same themes are often played up over several, which makes watching them consecutively significantly less interesting. They certainly did a fair bit of design research: the costumes the actors wear for the recreation scenes look appropriate. The experts are knowledgeable, and you get a good sense of 15th century Italian politics.
It is also unfortunately guilty of over dramatising things, or dramatising the wrong things. This also leads to several instances of omitted or mistaken information. For example, they make the claim that Machievelli was the leader of the recreated Florentine republic near the end of the 15th century, which was hostile to the Medici. This then is depicted as a confrontation between the figure of Machievelli and the family, specifically the Medici cardinals. Machievelli was in no way the leader of the republic. That made me rather upsets, as I'm sure people can imagine.
Another problem is that the focus is too personal at times, especially on the artists that the Medici employed, yes their contributions are important, but not at the expense of information on the family itself. There are leaders of the Medici family who are never mentioned, especially the later Medici, who are only shown as students of Gallileo, hardly a fitting picture of a rather well connected family tied to many of the most royal houses of Europe.
China in the 20th century, 1911-1991Decent overall, comprised in the main of eyewitness reports and interviews. Starting in 1911 I find a little silly, as it ignores the fall of the Ch'ing dynasty completely, focusing in stead on the revolutionary/rebellious movements right from the start(excepting the Boxers). A better documentary, but lacking in expert analysis, which I found a little disappointing. Especially good at covering the 50s and 60s. It also inspired this icon, which is a picture of Premier Deng Xiaoping in a cowboy hat, when he visited a rodeo as part of his tour of the US in 1979.
National Geographic Special Report: the Pentagon. I was immediately worried when this thing started, because in the opening sequence they included a fair few photos of the 9/11 hit. Well, it didn't get better, and I stopped halfway through rather than try to stomach the rest of it. A propaganda piece, and a bad one. Basically unconcerned with discussing the development of institutional culture, which what I was hoping for. A few facts and figures, and after about fifteen minutes of intro with 9/11 front and center, they finally got into the how the thing was conceived and built, which while it included some interesting footage, was extremely undetailed, clearly intended as background info. And then it was on to the reconstruction efforts, and after a bit of that I stopped watching.
*Climbs on soapbox* National Geographic, and by association the DoD, should not be attempting to foster strong sympathy for the institution because of the damage, largely superficial, done to the building and some of its inhabitants. While I certainly believe that it's unfortunate that those 168 (or whatever the number is) people died, it is not a tragedy comparable in any way to the Twin towers attack. The Pentagon is a military target (in fact, it's probably the military target in North America, if not the world) and as such must be treated differently. There are civilians that work there, yes. However , those civilians have a very peculiar status, because they assist the military administration directly, and in many cases have access to highly classified documents. As such, they swear special oaths in order to work there. I certainly wouldn't consider them innocent in the same way as twin towers victims.
There may be exceptions to this. It is possible that there are people that are just responsible for tightening this or that widget, have no idea what goes on in the place, and don't know anything important. But I don't think there are that many of those people.
It's also worth pointing out that the attack is still terrorism.
The difference between military and civilian targets is this: the military targets are not only capable of resistance, they are also capable of aggressive action. The way to legitimately defeat a country with force is to destroy their military forces and their military infrastructure. Not their civilian infrastructure and certainly not their civilian population.
Furthermore, part of being a soldier means being able to accept sudden violent death in the course of duty. While the Pentagon is not a battlefield, everyone in that building was on duty to the extent where I feel so special sympathy for their deaths, less so than I feel now for those dying in Iraq.
Last note: One of the more interesting conspiracy theories floating around is that it was not in fact a 757 that hit the Pentagon on 9/11, but something else. I don't feel like citing sources or explaining all the arguments on either side: do a google search for "Pentagon Missile Conspiracy" and you'll learn all about it. I think, despite my distaste for them generally, this conspiracy theory has some weight to it. Certainly, I'm more in favor of it after watching the BS they tried to feed me.

[User Picture]From: suburbaknght
2006-06-20 05:46 pm (UTC)
The resentment over striking the Pentagon is a legacy of outrage at the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor (and yes, I'm aware of how convoluted that outrage gets). It's not that it was a military target so much as the fact it was performed dishonorably.
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[User Picture]From: darkskywatcher
2006-06-20 06:10 pm (UTC)
I don't see what this has to do with most of what I was saying, but I figure I'll respond anyway: Yes, the 12/7-9/11 parallel gets made a lot, and some of the iconic images from 9/11 were created and revered because of that parallel. But it's basically artificial. The similiarities are that America was attacked by external parties in a sudden, decisive strike that left hundreds dead. The actors are different. The methods are different, and the targets are different.
Furthermore, 9/11 is terrorism, and terrorists (or freedom fighters, if you prefer) can only succeed if they act dishonorably: the veracity and truth of their claim is what ultimately makes their actions acceptable.
Also, I don't think there was that much outrage over the pentagon part of 9/11. It was a footnote to the larger tragedy in New York, and rightly so. Hence, part of my complaint is the DoD and National Geographic focusing so heavily on the attack as a defining part of Pentagon history, in lieu of the previous fifty years. A more extreme but related example would be to say that the burning of the white house in 1812 was the defining event in it's existence. While it is certainly noteworthy, it does not consume every other important information about the building that might be relevent. The documentary seeks to impress upon the viewe the tragedy of the event, to feel sorry for those that were injured or killed that day as a tragedy seperate enough from New York that it has it's own special significance. Which I don't think most Americans think it is.
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[User Picture]From: nathan_lounge
2006-06-20 07:45 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say "artificial" in so far as the case is easily made for both events as means to political statement rather than as their own end. After all, Pearl Harbor was a relatively insignificant navel outpost at the time. Though I don't think the parallel cashes out to be any kind fo statement about war or continued military agression.

Incidently, i caught about half of Fog of War the other night. It's the documentary on Robert McNamara. It was really good. You'd like it. I hadn't realized exactly how much firebombing we had actually done in Japan until I saw it. I mean, I knew it was alot, but I didn't realize it was:
"Is that a house?"
"Maybe, we better drop a firebomb on it."

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From: thegelf
2006-06-20 09:38 pm (UTC)
You're right about there not being much outrage over the Pentagon part of 9/11, and I think that's because it is a military target. What special oaths do civilians have to swear to work there? To work at the Naval Research Lab I just had to swear the standard civil servant oath to uphold and protect the constitution.

Where do you think attacks on government non-military buildings/installations fall?
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[User Picture]From: darkskywatcher
2006-06-21 03:13 am (UTC)
Saying special oaths was a very poor choice of words, for which I apologize. That doesn't mean they might not exist. Rather, I'm refering to the contractual arrangements that allow civilian to handle secret documents which are not allowed to be exposed to public scrutiny.
Furthermore, even if in an advisory role, civilians having the power to influence the actions of the military by providing valuable analysis and opinions makes them part of the military decision making process, and therefore a valid target.

Civilian infrastructure is civilian infrastructure, regardless of who owns it or manages it. The exception to this is infrastructure that directly allows a military to function. That's why factories are often fair targets, because they produce the necessary materials for a war effort.
I'm undecided as to the status of the high levels of the executive branch, which do have the power to order the mobilization of troops and conduct a war effort as C-in-C, even if they are not military officers that oversee operations. Hope that resolves the immediaate issue, even if it reaises a host of others.
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