Random Musings 9-01-2009

Two things:
The Huffington Post recently reported on a four minute public service announcement from Wales that shows in bloody and graphic detail the dangers of texting while driving.
Frankly, I think we need more ads of this sort in the U.S., ones that are straight and to the point. And not just aimed at teenagers (the PSA shows a teenage girl texting while behind the wheel). Plenty of imbecilic adults drive while texting or chatting on their cell phones. And I would venture a guess that at least 99 percent of them aren’t talking about absolutely urgent matters that couldn’t wait until the car has stopped moving.
You can read the article and view the PSA here:
  If you haven’t seen the movie “District 9” yet, make it a point to do so. I thought it was quite good, and at the very least deserves a Hugo nomination for best dramatic presentation, long form.
Hugo Awards, named for Hugo Gernsback, founder of “Amazing Stories” Magazine in 1926, are among the highest awards given in the field of science fiction.
“District 9,” which is set in South Africa and focuses on one man’s involvement in the forced resettlement of stranded aliens known derisively as “Prawns,” mixes both documentary style and straight narrative. It’s somewhat jarring the first time the switch happens, but the story as told couldn’t have been told as a straight documentary.
And I suspect it would have lost something had it been done as straight narrative.
The parallels with Apartheid are in your face, especially given the South African setting; but I wonder how many other people will pick up on a few subtle things concerning the news media. When the movie’s protagonist, Wikus van de Merwe, is forced to go on the run (I won’t say why to avoid spoilers), there’s a scene of a TV news broadcast warning people about him, a broadcast which presents lies about his condition and how it came about. Now whether this station knowingly and willingly lied or simply didn’t bother to confirm what they were told from an independent source isn’t clear, but the result is the same.
All the news coverage seems somewhat one-sided. While there are no blowhard commentators ranting and raving about the “Prawns,” there is also no coverage (not even the slightest hint, for that matter) that anyone might object to A) isolating the “Prawns” in District 9 and/or B) relocating them to more distant District 10. Or if there was, it was glossed over so perfunctorily that I missed it.
It’s possible that this one-sided news coverage was meant to evoke coverage in Apartheid-era South Africa, but I wonder if it’s a commentary on the news media in general.
I have to admit I didn’t expect the story to take the direction it did. When people “interviewed” for the “documentary” talked about things Wikus had done, I was thinking that this quiet-looking office worker would degenerate into a cruel tyrant as relocation efforts got underway. Certainly his attitude toward the Prawn was more than a little condescending to begin with. Though one wonders if he would have become petty and dictatorial if the incident hadn’t happened to him.
Anyway, it’s a film worth seeing. It has some flaws, but it’s still one to see.
Copyright 2009 Patrick Keating.

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