Schutze Says: If There's One Film About the Corps of Engineers You See All Week ...
Wednesday night I scared my wife by shouting during a basketball game, which I rarely do, because I don't watch basketball.
I said: "Hey! I know that guy!"
She watches basketball. She fulfills the role in our marriage of the normal person. I was walking through the room. I saw Harry Shearer sitting on the sidelines at the Mavs-Hornets game in The Big Easy.
I recently had interviewed Shearer, of Spinal Tap fame, also the the guy who does half the voices on The Simpsons, for my column in this week's paper about his documentary The Big Uneasy. It's about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Katrina.
I talked to Shearer by phone a week ago. He was very compelling on the subject of the Corps and the real causes of the disaster in New Orleans.
He and I didn't argue, exactly, but we disagreed.
I asked him if the local business community in New Orleans didn't bear some of the blame for the Katrina disaster for collaborating with the Corps on cheap levees so they could sell hurry-up house lots.
He was willing to put some blame on "the growth machine" for the building of the immense Mississippi River Gulf Outlet shipping canal ("Mr. Go") out in the boondocks, believed by critics of the Corps to have contributed heavily to the damage in New Orleans. But as for the levees inside the city that failed, he said, "Locals really had no output into that."
I still say that's a point everybody misses, because it's politically incorrect to "blame the victim" in New Orleans but O.K. to blame the Corps. I do blame the Corps, there and here. But New Orleans, like Dallas, was a partner in its own demise through its levee boards.
You can say, "Oh, nobody pays any attention to levee boards ... blah blah." Fine. But I don't know how to give people any more democracy than we have in this country. If we waste it and vote the wrong way, shame on us.
In Dallas we have voted twice as a city for the future disaster looming over us on the Trinity. When it comes, you can go ahead and blame the Corps, if you want. I will blame us. My starting point is, "Why would you ever trust the Corps with your life?"
Shearer said he saw direct parallels between our situation in Dallas, where The Money wants to build a highway out between the levees, and the situation in Louisiana with Mr. Go. "The situation you are describing," he said, "is so similar to what was going on in New Orleans when they wanted to build the Mr. Go. The business community and the growth machine said, 'Get out of our way. This is going to be great for business. The corps generated these incredibly over-optimistic predictions."
And 2,500 people died.
His documentary premieres in Dallas tonight at 6 p.m at the Texas Theatre at 231 W. Jefferson at Zang. (This is Spinal Tap follows.) I say in my column that anybody who has a stake in the Trinity River levee situation has to go see this documentary.
Oh. And when I asked my wife what they mean by "a good foul," she asked me to go in the other room.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.