Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Teevee Notes

When the Steelers made it into the Super Bowl, I decided I'd do the honorable thing and get a cable box again and host a Super Bowl party in my apartment, just as things should be, and just like two years ago. So for the time being, and I mean a very limited time being, I have TV again! I am celebrating by not watching any TV. The guy installed the cable box Sunday afternoon, and you know what was on? Professional golf and Bio-Dome.

I had to do some ironing, so I watched part of the Pro Bowl. You know the Pro Bowl is as awful as everyone says? For me, I enjoyed it a little on the level of "Hey teams who didn't get to the Super Bowl -- now your best players have to put on ridiculous-looking uniforms and run around."

What's on at the same time as the Pro Bowl? America's Funniest Home Videos. I would have thought YouTube would have killed that off by now, but, no, twenty years onward America is still in a place where it needs to identify and broadcast its funniest home videos. This reflects badly on all of us.

For a fresher perspective on television, Maddie and I spent part of our Tuesday by gingerly navigating the slushy Astoria sidewalks in the direction of the American Museum of the Moving Image, located next to the famed Kaufmann Astoria Studios. I'd somehow never made it over, and it's an interesting place to see -- kind of middlebrow, but definitely providing unexpected discoveries and putting things in a different light, which is what museums are supposed to do. Among their exhibitions:

--A couple of early hand-cranked, single-viewer flipbook machines (I forget what these are called) showing Charlie Chaplin gags or that famous short bit about shooting a rocket to the moon.
--Computer stations set up to let you make your own stop-motion animation shorts.
--A sound studio where, cheesily but entertainingly, you dub your own voice into a selection of movie scenes.
--Footage of a recent Mets game, simply enough shown with all 15 camera shots and footage of the TV crew, with one guy exhaustingly directing and cuing the shots. For all the hours I've watched baseball on TV, I've never once thought about how the broadcast is stitched together. Now I feel a little bad about taking that guy for granted.
--TV and movie costume and makeup paraphernalia, most of which didn't stick in my mind except for one of Bill Cosby's Dr. Huxtable sweaters, which is kind of awesome.
--A collection of TV sets ranging from 1950s radio-style cabinets to some notable 1970s models. These are so iconic it's immediately striking that you haven't seen them in a museum before. My favorite mind-blowing item: a huge $2300 set from 1975 (that's $2300 in 1975 dollars) combining a 19-inch screen with a built-in BetaMax recorder.
--Arcade game cabinets! Frustratingly, most of these were unplayable. More mindblowingly: an Atari 2600 and an 8-bit Nintendo. Yes, someone decided that your childhood now goes in a museum. But I feel a little vindicated that, eveen if Maddie can totally kick my ass at Wii boxing, I absolutely own her in Tank Battle.
--Upstairs, some interactive video art that didn't really match execution to concept.

Architecturally, the lower lobby area has a futuristic, curving, bright white layout that brought to mind the Wonkavision scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In short, I approve of all of this, much more than I approve of actual television.


Blogger nate said...

So now when people say something to you like, "Hey, did you watch Portlandia? Pretty funny!", you can curl your lip at them and reply, "Sorry, I only go to museums about television."

More seriously, sounds like fun (I mean, the Museum of the Moving Image, of course, not watching the Pro Bowl). I've wanted to go there for a while but it hasn't made the final itinerary for any of the times I've been to New York since finding out it exists.

You live long enough, somebody puts your childhood in a museum, I guess. Someday we'll actually be old, and can walk around saying things to the young 'uns like, "Eh, Tank Battle! That's all we had instead of your [horrifying future entertainment technology] when I was a boy, and you know, we liked it!"

2/04/2011 11:16 AM  

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