Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…
The morning of Day Five, we set forth on an ambitious journey to do something completely different: we took a subway out to Queens, our first time stepping foot into any New York City borough besides Manhattan, unless you count our landing at LaGuardia. All it took to lure us beyond Manhattan’s river boundaries was a museum dedicated to the preservation and contextualization of works and universes that usually keep us entertained and fixated within our living room boundaries.
Located in Astoria a few blocks from the Steinway Street station, The Museum of the Moving Image houses collections and screenings across any and all major media that involve moving pictures, and not just movies and TV. As soon as we walked in, the first display across from the admissions desk was a projected montage called “The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture”.
The oldest artifacts date back to the early twentieth century, not long after humanity realized you could flip through multiple still photos and create the illusion of movement. Kinetoscopes like this one let visitors pretend they’re their own great-grandparents, watching scenes from their favorite movies like a primitive YouTube without the annoying ads.
For fans of cinematic technology, one section is like a factory showroom of cameras, TVs, and other technological tools necessary to the advancement of cinema and film-geek arguments.
As an anthropological simulation of the American viewing habitat, one area is furnished like an undersized family room whose centerpiece is a TV playing Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on a loop.
We weren’t sure if this construct, covered in bizarre murals and colorful dioramas, was an art installation or an actual theater. Later I learned the screen inside worked, but wasn’t scheduled to show anything till after we took our leave.
Another educational collection spotlights heavy-handed TV and movie marketing, which were a thing at least as far back as the 1940s and not just a soulless corporate invention within your lifetime. Some toys were cooler than others, as the companies of yesteryear would merchandise the strangest things by modern standards.
The second most important section in the Museum is, in this impartial faux-journalist’s informed opinion, the video arcade. Remember, video games also have moving images and are therefore on-topic. Their selection of old-school cabinets from the ’80s and ’90s kept me and my son rather occupied for perhaps a few minutes longer than they should’ve. They’re not free, but at the retro price of one quarter per game, they’re the best deal in town, particularly for a setting that represents a notable part of my childhood.
To be continued!
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