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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Shearer’

Rising Tide: Still Standing, Unfatigued, and Enduring

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

RTX poster from RT-FB.bBack now from New Orleans for the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and Rising Tide X—refreshed and still feeling that positive, creative energy and will to survive and rebuild that we felt at our first Rising Tide (the second annual) in 2007.

We shall see whether there will be any more Rising Tides; if not, the ten-year run ends on a high note, and everyone involved has many reasons to be proud and grateful. If RTX does turn out to be the last one—and even if it doesn’t—the organizers, from 2006 to the present, deserve congratulations and gratitude from the people of New Orleans and vicinity and indeed around the United States. Year after year, since the legendary Geek Dinners in the summer of 2006 (pix here and here), the organizers—all volunteers—have worked overtime to arrange interesting panel discussions on subjects that matter: on the environment, local schools, public safety, Louisiana politics and sports, the BP spill, HBO’s Treme, flood protection, and much more. They have brought in such substantial guest speakers as this year’s civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, historian John M. Barry, Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, actor and activist Harry Shearer, New Orleans geographer Richard Campanella, and and many more. (Click here for RT history.)

6.2_RisingTidePosterIt shows what a solid public platform Rising Tide has become, that on Saturday, about halfway through the environmental panel, “Category 5 General” Russel Honoré appeared as a surprise guest speaker to join the panel: Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Bob Marshall, and Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network. (General Honoré was RT8’s keynote speaker in 2013.) More about the environmental panel to follow.

Thanks are due also to Xavier University for generously hosting the last five conferences (since 2011), and to all the benefactors who have contributed financially to support the conference; their generosity made it possible to keep the ticket prices low—this last conference was free—and to defray the travel and lodging costs for guest speakers.

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Rising Tides Through the Years

Rising Tide X Is Aug. 29, Tenth Anniversary of Katrina (2015)

Come to Rising Tide 9 in New Orleans on Sept. 13 (2014)

Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 8 in New Orleans (2013)

Rising Tide 8 Update: “Category 5 General” Russel Honoré Is Keynote Speaker (2013)

Rising Tide 7 Is Sat. Sept. 22 at Xavier (2012)

Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 6 (2011)

Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 5 in New Orleans (2010)

Rising Tide III in New Orleans Aug. 22–24: A Conference on the Future of New Orleans (2008)

Making Blogging Sexy: Rising Tide 2 (2007)

Katrina Bloggers Unite! Rising Tide 2 is August 24–26 in New Orleans (2007)

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Rising Tide X illustration by Lance Vargas; Rising Tide I poster by Brad Jensen/Icon Visuals.

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When Harry Met a Cover-Up:
Shearer Talks about “The Big Uneasy”

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

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[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

We sat down recently with Harry Shearer—that is, we sat down and e-mailed him some questions, and he sat down and wrote some thoughtful replies—to talk about his new film The Big Uneasy, which tells the real story of why New Orleans flooded in Hurricane Katrina. (Click here for the trailer.) Here’s a brief sample:

Q. You’ve said that in President Obama’s 3-hour “drive-through” appearance in New Orleans in October 2009, he used the phrase “natural disaster,” and that that is what prompted you to make this film. Is anyone learning that Katrina itself did not flood the city, but that the levees’ failure is what flooded the city?

Shearer: Very few, very slowly. People sometimes make reference to the levee failure in passing, as if it’s a natural result of a storm like Katrina. But there still seems to be quite low awareness of the conclusion of the two independent investigations that, absent a badly-designed and -built “protection system,” the worst Katrina would have inflicted on New Orleans would have been “wet ankles.”

Q. Had you thought of making a film on this subject before the president’s remarks triggered you? (Somewhere we saw a mention that the idea had occurred to you at the Rising Tide 4 conference, and that you posed the idea but nobody responded and so it was up to you?)

Shearer: No, I don’t recall giving serious thought to it, though I may have mentioned at RT that wresting back control of the narrative of the city’s near-destruction might have required somebody to do such a film. But I’d really not thought of myself as that somebody until I heard the President say something that he patently should have known was not true.

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Before we continue with the interview, we want to talk a bit about the film. You may not have seen it because it does not yet have a distributor. Harry is working on that. Thus far it has been shown in New Orleans at the Prytania Theater uptown (it premiered before the Rising Tide conference in late August near the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina), and it has run briefly in New York City and Los Angeles. We saw it twice at Manhattan’s IFC  Center (as shown) and want to do all we can to spread the word about this excellent project—particularly to people with connections to film distributors with a social and political conscience.

Leave It to a Jester to Tell the Truth

Harry Shearer is famous as a versatile humorist, writer, and “voice artist” for The Simpsons and as Derek Smalls, the bearded Ringo-like bass player in This Is Spinal Tap, so at first it may not seem that a movie about the flooding of New Orleans would be his natural subject matter. How funny can it be to explain the catastrophic engineering failure that led to the flooding of 80 percent of the city and hundreds of deaths (if not more)? Although The Big Uneasy won’t have audiences rolling in the aisles, this compelling and richly sourced new documentary does clarify the facts about the disaster-within-a-disaster. Misconceptions are corrected. Cover-ups are uncovered. Truths are told. Acts of professional courage are held up to the light.

Shearer’s comic talent is for real, but his seriousness is authentic, too, as anyone knows who has read his Huffington Post blog pieces over the past several years or listened to his weekly radio program Le Show (KCRW, Los Angeles). He explains in the opening reel that he is a part-time New Orleanian. Through his work with Levees.org (no relation) and his blogging and other efforts he has helped keep the spotlight on his adopted city’s predicament with a commitment and persistence that should earn him some kind of Honorary Full-Time Citizenship award. You’ll understand why when you see The Big Uneasy.

In a recent post on HuffPo Shearer acknowledged that it’s ironic that “a damn comedy actor” should be taking up the untold story:

. . . the story that the flooding was a man-made catastrophe that developed over four and a half decades under administrations of both parties, and the story from a whistleblower inside the Corps of Engineers that the “new, improved” system for protecting New Orleans may right now be fatally flawed. . . . given that lapse among the professional journalists, it was up to a damn comedy actor to piece together the material that’s been sitting there, on the public record, all this time . . .

A review in New York magazine by David Edelstein said it well:

By the end of The Big Uneasy, I came to appreciate [Shearer’s] self-effacement. He’s not a filmmaker or an investigative journalist. He’s not really in his element here. He just, finally, couldn’t stand by and hear “natural disaster” one more time without picking up a camera and, like his protagonists, doing his civic duty for the city he loves so deeply.

Get This: The Flooding Was Not a Natural Disaster

The Big Uneasy is a feature film–length documentary about how and why New Orleans was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. It happened not because Katrina was so overwhelming: although it had been a Category 5 storm in the Gulf, Katrina was only about a Category 1.5 hurricane when it blew past (not straight through) New Orleans, sparing the city the brunt of the storm. The city flooded because of engineering failures in the federally built levees and walls of outflow canals that gave way under pressure even before the storm’s winds did their worst. The film draws on engineers’ reports, postmortem studies, and never-before-seen amateur video footage to show the flooding was not a natural but a man-made disaster. It was not inevitable. Contrary to predictable official claims that the storm was simply overwhelming and the levees were never designed to hold a storm of such magnitude, the flooding resulted from inferior engineering—a point that Ivor van Heerden (right) of the LSU Hurricane Center began speaking out about very soon after the storm passed.

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RT4: Sinking to New Heights

Friday, August 21st, 2009

RT4

Design by Greg Peters | Suspect Device

Just a quick word to say hello to our friends gathering in New Orleans this weekend for the fourth annual Rising Tide bloggers’ conference on the recovery and future of the Sunken City. Can’t be there this time—profound regrets—but we’ll be there in spirit and hope to see everyone again soon.

This year’s theme: “Sinking to New Heights.” Our friend George “Loki” Williams will be the emcee nonpareil, and the one and only Harry Shearer will be the keynote speaker. (Shearer is a sometime resident of New Orleans and blogs about the city frequently on Huffington Post.)

It all comes together on Saturday at the Zeitgeist Multidisciplinary Arts Center. There will be four panel discussions: on New Orleans culture, politics, health care, and sports. Read all about it on Loki’s Humid City here. Click here for the registration and information site (includes directions).

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