Archive for the ‘lectures’ Category

Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories

May 13, 2006

Sara and I went out to a movie last night. We aren’t much for movies; most of them are drivel or trash. But there are some good movies out there, particularly among the smaller movie producers. And there aren’t many smaller movie producers than Shidog Films. This virtually one-man outfit has produced a number of documentaries, including the film that was in town yesterday at the Tower Theater in SLC, Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories.
Mike Shiley, the man behind Shidog, produced a “press pass” at Kinkos (he technically got permission from his local Portland ABC affiliate to go representing them, though they didn’t want the liability that came with giving him an official press pass), and spent two months exploring Iraq.

As Mike himself put it

After seeing images of the Iraq war on the nightly news, I knew there was much more to the story than the mainstream media was telling us. I decided to go to Iraq myself to meet the people and document what was going on first-hand. The media only shows bombs and press conferences, the world deserves more.


The war in Iraq has been showcased as both an example of American decisiveness and the catastrophic result of failed leadership. But beyond the debate, what is the reality of life on the ground? In December of 2003 traveler Mike Shiley felt compelled to find out for himself. Shiley, who is not a professionally trained journalist or filmmaker, managed to strike a deal with a local ABC-TV station to bring back stories about the troops in Iraq. Armed with a digital video camera and a home-made press pass, Mike Shiley chronicled a two month journey inside Iraq, interviewing American and Iraqi soldiers, talking to local citizens, and putting himself in situations of great personal risk. The footage from Shiley’s excursions throughout the Sunni Triangle, the city of Baghdad, the northern Kurdish region and the Shiite-controlled south, put into deep personal context the stories we hear about in the news. Rather than push a political point of view, INSIDE IRAQ: THE UNTOLD STORIES lets Shiley’s camera roll, catching a multitude of real-life moments that tell it like it is.

Guided by his own narration and interspersed with cuts to the studio interview, we are shown Iraq as we’ve never seen it before, getting a raw look at what it’s like to be a soldier and a civilian in Iraq today. No matter how you feel about the war, INSIDE IRAQ: THE UNTOLD STORIES is bound to leave you examining your own beliefs about the U.S. military, the Iraqi people, and our future in the middle east.

The film presented all sorts of interviews with Iraqis, exploring such realities as the burgeoning porn trade, the thriving Kurdish communities, the businesses and families devastated by war, the ruined infrastructure, the ever-present risk of terrorism and insurgent attacks, the soldiers attempting to make life better, and the soldiers who hate Iraq, hate Iraqis, and just want to be home. It does a fine job of making real the situation in Iraq.

Shiley himself attended and spoke to us, describing the events, taking questions, and giving his own solution to the problem posed by Iraq (he advocates partitioning the land into three nations, claiming such a solution has historically worked in such places as India and Pakistan; he forgets that such partitioning was accompanied by massive bloodshed).

Truly a fascinating experience. Sadly, the movie is getting extremely limited showing. The only release in Utah is here at the Tower Theater, and only yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But if the movie tour happens to be coming to a theater near you, I would highly recommend you make some time for it.

You can listen to an interview with Shiley on the website of local NPR station KCPW.


Global Warming Rides Again

April 12, 2006

I love my employer.

I work at the Salt Lake City library(main branch), and I absolutely love the place. Spectacular building. Wonderful atmosphere. Well-designed children’s area. Great staff. And a commitment to providing terrific and stimulating programs for the community.

Among these programs are a number of lectures on a variety of topics, usually by visiting authors. In the last year or so, I’ve attended lectures by such speakers as Joel S. Hirschhorn, author of Sprawl Kills; and Joe Wilson, of the “Valerie Plame Leak” fiasco (and who, incidentally, told us he had purchased a house in Utah, and was now to be at least a part-time resident. Cool).

Last Thursday I attended the latest of the library’s lectures: Tim Flannery, author of the recent book The Weather Makers : How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth. Flannery, a renowned paleontologist, examined how humanity has impacted the world, and is driving a very dangerous climate change.

I’ve been very concerned about the environment for several years now. I do what I can to recycle, reduce consumption, etc, and supported legislative action on the subject. But for most of that time, I’ve been ambivalent about “global warming.” I don’t have the science background to evaluate the claims on both sides of the issue. The point seems moot to me anyway—there are enough more local concerns (at any given locality) to lead one to be more environmentally conscious.

But my opinion has become more firm over the last few years. Despite the protestations of those on the Right, there is a virtual consensus among the scientific community about the reality of global climate change. While there have always been fluctuations in the earth’s average temperature, the changes over the past several years have followed the model established by those who proposed the theory of global warming. Really the only scientists who reject the idea of global warming are those who are paid by the corporate world not to believe in global warming.

Flannery’s lecture was pretty persuasive in its presentation of the evidence of global warming (or “global climate change,” as he likes to call it—he thinks people are lulled into a false sense of security when we use friendly terms like “warming”). And he made clear that global climate change would likely reach a critical level within our lifetime if things go unchanged. This is no distant danger—we are speeding headlong towards the tipping point from which there may be no return.

The lecture was fascinating. I’m adding the book to my list of books to read.