Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Good news for people who love bad news

This video, a short news clip ostensibly from an inundated New York City in 02051, has just appeared online, and is now taking off as a viral tidbit (posted just yesterday, and 5430 views already).

The clip appears at video hosting site (and YouTube competitor) Dailymotion, marked as "official content", and (in an effort by the makers, it seems, to stay in-scenario a fraction longer) was posted in the name of the supposed news company behind the future artifact, CNC News. The video blurb reads:

A helicopter crew from CNC News captured this shocking view of Manhattan under 25 feet of water. Is this our future?

Catchy! But somehow the change of tense here, situating us one moment as witnesses to a future in progress, and the very next -- all too soon! -- plonking us back in a freshly minted 02008 talking about "our future", jars with me. A missed opportunity to extend the suspension of disbelief, I suppose. A URL comes up at the end of the clip, but that's as far as the "future news" conceit extends, because redirects to an ordinary page of the National Geographic Channel website, promoting an upcoming documentary. Six Degrees Could Change the World, screening this February, will examine the potential consequences of global warming, degree by degree. The (conventional) trailer currently showing at that page (complete with a voiceover that must be Alec Baldwin, in his most dramatic role in years) promises many more alarming visualisations of the potential devastation wrought by global warming, in a high production-value narrated documentary format.

Further evidence, then, that every conceivable variation of the destruction of New York is aesthetically irresistible and bound to crop up sooner or later. But this time, in the form of a disappointingly shallow (and -- so long as I'm complaining -- unconvincingly animated) future artifact. It's not bad; but it's not really groundbreaking either.

I don't want to jump the gun here -- maybe there's a more complex puzzle from NatGeo whose other scattered pieces I just haven't come across yet -- but I'm now officially on the lookout for a diegetically multi-layered evocation of the possible future consequences, and experiences, of global warming that can't be ignored by dint of either hyperbole or dullness. I fear that, with this show, we may be looking at a trumped up documentary-by-numbers, to shelve alongside such other favourite global-warming visual genres as mindless entertainment, self-satire, and clinical data.

Meanwhile, however, this clip is sure to succeed in getting many more people to tune in. And if nothing else, that's good marketing.


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