I watch a lot of documentaries. I have stacks of them in DVD form. I’m a heavy user of YouTube. My wife and kids never let me pick for movie night.
Attempting to understand the modern geopolitical landscape is difficult. You have to invest some serious time into the problem to begin to even scratch the surface. The more I learn, the less I feel I know.
The internet has made it easy to gather information from unlimited sources, but the challenge is piecing all those data points together into some king of logical narrative. There’s too much to remember. I’ve watched many of these documentaries more than once and I’m amazed at how much I forget, or re-interpret after future learning.
I’m going to try and list these docs is some kind of logical order. This will be my “start here” list. The list is going to grow over time as I stumble across new documentaries and remember previous viewings. Some are available on YouTube, others generally available for rent or purchase.
Please feel free to offer suggestions to the list.
1. The Shock Doctrine (2009)
In Tehran there’s a big tower called the Milad Tower. It’s a very big tower. Think CN tower big.
Apparently it’s the 6th tallest building in the world. The CN tower in Toronto Canada is now the 3rd tallest.
One night we drove (actually our driver drove) through crazy Tehran traffic to deposit us at the base and an agreement to pick us back up in a few hours. The tower and shopping complex at it’s base is an impressive new piece of engineering completed in 2007.
After purchasing tickets (approx $4 each), we started watching some kind of live play (or musical?) happening in the main lobby. We couldn’t really understand what was going on, and the volume was so loud that we just just headed straight up the escalators and over to the elevators.
We met a group of musicians from southern Iran who were performing later in the play. “Hello”, “How are you?”, “Where are you from?”, “Welcome to Iran!”. They all seemed very interested in why we were visiting Iran.
The ride up only takes a few moments to ascend the 1000+ feet (300+ meters) before arriving at the observation deck. You can also walk out onto the observation platform which circles the exterior of the observation deck. Open to the elements and an amazing view, even in the dark. There’s protective mesh to prevent you from throwing anything off (including yourself). It was freezing out there, so we did a quick circle around the deck, shot a few photos of the Tehran night lights, then headed in for a tea.
The guy serving us tea (which was a delicious fruity/flower mix) held a Computing Sciences degree and had recently studied in Bangalor India. He had excellent english skills and we chatted for a while about computing trends, including which fields within the industry looked the most promising. The girls each ordered a fancy milkshake.
I don’t think he wanted us to leave as the conversation was interesting and going well. But, it was getting late, the kids were tired and we still had to drive through the evening traffic to get back to the hotel.
Overall it was a fascinating experience and considering it costs $27+ per person to go up the CN Tower, I thought the $4 was once again a great value.
After a very early arrival at our hotel in Tehran, we went down to the restaurant for the included breakfast buffet.
We spent two nights at the the Escan Hotel in Tehran. Cost was approx $70/night. The quality of the hotel was on par with most upper range hotels in Canada/USA. In Edmonton, the best comparable hotel for quality and service level would be Sutton Place Hotel, although the Escan was smaller.
The front desk girls were very nice, helpful and spoke excellent english.
At the breakfast buffet a chef would make your omelette to order with fresh ingredients. Lots of delicious food to start the day.
More photos of the Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze shrine in Shiraz, Iran.
One night at the 300 year old luxury Abbasi Hotel in the Safavid Suite. Cost was 6,460,000 rials ($200) per night (includes breakfast). Five star accommodation at a three star price (by international standards). There is a range of rooms to stay in, priced from about $70.
Located in Isfahan, Iran with a nice central location close to the river and Imam Square. The hotel has always been a place for travellers to stay which is known as a Caravanserai. The Abbasi might be the best hotel in Iran, and the Safavid Suite is an amazing room to stay in.
The last trip we took to Jasper we paid more ($215) to stay at the Jasper Inn, which was hard to choke back. So for $200 a night to stay in the Abbasi Safavid Suite we thought it was a bargin and had to give it a try, if only for a single night.
The inner court yard and fountains are a wonderful place to spend the afternoon having tea. There’s a nice swimming pool, women in the morning and afternoon for men. Some of the hotel reminded us of what the Titanic looked like. Grand staircases and crystal chandeliers.
The breakfast was amazing too. I’ll make a separate post about this.
More information and reviews available on Trip Advisor.
One thing I actually appreciated (in a strange way) about the blatant internet monitoring in Iran was that is was blatant.
There was no forgetting you were being monitored.
This is in contrast to the USA (and I presume Canada/UK) where it’s easy to be lulled into thinking our actions on the internet are private, annonomous and, not being monitored.
All electronic communications (email, mobile phone, internet, etc) originating in, requested from, or passing through the USA (which includes almost everything) are aparently being (or will be soon) vacuumed up and stored for ‘processing’. See Wired Magazine and the Utah Data Center.
It is alleged to capture “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Internet searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter’,” though its precise purpose is secret.
It seems like the Harper regime in Canada is also hell bent on restricting the rights of Canadians to the internet. The folks at Open Media and many others have been sounding the alarm bells, but few people are interested. Bread and Circuses is a powerful means of appeasement and most everyone seems content with that policy.
Given only six countries (Costa Rica, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Spain) in the world have passed laws making Internet access a human right, there’s a lot of room for improvement. It’s very easy to critise others, but when your own government is attempting to dip their toe in the same pool, it’s important for the people to push back, so our ‘leaders’ don’t get any fancy ideas of belly-flopping straight in.