As Seen On TV

DirecTV has a music channel called "The 101," which mostly shows concerts by various musical acts. Most of them are groups that I've never heard of, so I don't watch it much. However, over the weekend, they had Heart performing their Dreamboat Annie album from 1976, live in its entirety, plus a few bonus cover songs at the end, including Led Zeppelin. The show opened with an interview of the Wilson sisters (Ann and Nancy) about the early part of their careers, their influences, etc. I enjoyed the show.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day watching stuff in the history and science channels. There's a group of several of them. Among the highlights was Meerkat Manor on the Animal Planet channel, which follows the adventures of a group of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa. Some of the little critters have radio tags, so that the scientific researchers can keep track of them. The show is amusing at times, although it is "real life," and sometimes bad things happen to the band of meerkats that are the protagonists.

The other interesting show I watched was on one of the History Channels, and was about the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, one of the most disastrous series of battles for Britain and its ANZAC allies. The campaign was the brainchild of Winston Churchill, who decided to try to attack Germany and its allies through Turkey's Dardanelles, in order to come at them from behind and break the deadlock of trench warfare in France. It was hurriedly arranged and poorly planned, and ended up costing many thousands of lives, and it cost Churchill his political career at the time.

To be honest, I've never really understood World War I. Unlike later wars of the 20th Century, there were no ideological underpinnings. Fighting fascism and Japanese imperialism in World War II, fighting communism during the Cold War, fighting Islamic jihadism today, those all make sense to anyone who grew up in the second half of the 20th Century. All of those opposing ideologies sought to enslave and subjugate mankind, and it was our duty as liberty-loving Americans to oppose them. But World War I? Like so many earlier European wars, it all seemed to be about imperialism and plundering the resources of other nations. From that viewpoint, there was little to choose from between the nations on either side; some were more authoritarian than others, but none really were "our" kind of people. No wonder that Americans had no desire to get involved in the war.

Both sets of alliances seemed to think that they would win quickly and easily over their enemies, and that they would get rich plunder from their victory. They miscalculated horribly; they didn't understand just how deadly modern machine guns were, and how other deadly new technology (tanks, aircraft, poison gas) would increase the casualties exponentially from earlier wars. Instead of a quick victory, they had a long, bloody stalemate, a meatgrinder trench war into which they fed the flower of a generation, with tragic results. The end result was that the war that European states fought for imperial gain led to the downfall of those empires in the ensuing decades, and the eclipse of European power by the rise of America and the Soviet Union.