To outsiders, then, Beijing’s urban master planning might seem questionable, and rightly so. How is it that big name architects like Herzog and de Meuron (designers of that rara avis, the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium) and Rem Koolhaas (whose CCTV tower has all the subtly of the Death Star) are given such extreme creative liberties in a country where the individual expression of its citizens is routinely suppressed? What is the role of avant-garde design and its practitioners in rigidly structured political systems? And, while we’re at it, where are future host cities supposed to go from here?
“Is it pretty? No. Does it work? It appears to. So what’s the big deal?” George Saunders on the ethics of washboarding.
From May 7th, 2005 to November 8th, 2005, director Maro Chermayeff — one of the minds behind the PBS series Frontier House — joined the crew of the USS Nimitz on its six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. Chermayeff and her seventeen-person team were given an unprecedented degree of access to the ship and its crew, some 5000 men and women (average age: 19) sandwiched between a nuclear reactor and an airport runway. The filmmakers returned home with over 1600 hours of footage which have, in the years since, been whittled down into Carrier, a 10-part miniseries that airs April 27th through May 1st on PBS. Think of it as “Giant Floating High School Gun House.”
Last night I was able to attend the premiere of the the first episode, “All Hands,” at the Director’s Guild in LA. To some extent, its comforting to know that even the plush screening rooms of the DGA are plagued with sound problems, crinkly candy wrappers, and audience members who simply cannot shut the hell up.
Back in 2002, there was an episode of This American Life wherein Ira Glass and pals spent a week aboard the USS John C. Stennis, interviewing the crew and generally getting a feeling for the inner workings of the ship. For me, the most memorable segment of that episode is an interview with an unhappy young man who, after bitching about the Navy and dishing about on-ship love affairs, is quickly silenced by an officer and barred from taking part in any further interviews. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing like that in Carrier. The Nimitz seamen were encouraged to speak freely about the Navy, the war, and their role in both. In true reality TV fashion, you’re quickly caught up in the lives of the show’s “characters:” folks from disparate backgrounds, each with their own reasons for enlisting and their own complex feelings about being a cog in one of the most powerful weapons on Earth. Chermayeff didn’t set out to make a recruitment film, but her portrait of a remarkably diverse Navy is more inspiring than any Godsmack-backed “Accelerate Your Life” ad.
The first two episodes of Carrier air this Sunday at 9.