Thursday, June 13, 2013 : New York City, JFK


Unfortunately, the sorry weather forecast for our last day in New York City was correct. When we get up, the sky is dark grey, and it will soon be raining. A closed place will be welcome.


We make arrangements with the hotel for the airport shuttle tonight, and they will keep our luggage the whole day. That is one trouble less for us.


There is nobody on Skype this morning. Once we have packed everything, we are headed to the Museum of  the Moving Image.


New York City subway, R line, Times Square station

New York City subway, R line, Times Square station


This museum is in Queens, and we get there with the subway, straight from Times Square. We are getting used to recharging our Metrocard, we have become experts at this little game.


When we leave the subway at Steinway Street in Queens, it's raining cats and dogs. The museum is quite close, but we arrive there totally soaked, despite our raincoats.


The museum showcases all sorts of animated images :

  • Films,
  • TV shows,
  • Video clips,
  • Games,
  • Commercials ...


There is supposed to be something of everything for everyone.


Like the Guggenheim, this museum may be visited from top to bottom, going from one room to the next with gentle slopes, or by short-circuiting this intuitive order for a more theme-oriented visit. We choose the logical order.


We begin by the third floor, entirely devoted to the story of film-making. It has a rather technical bias, with a very well done video about the work of pioneers like the Lumière Brothers. On the same floor, interactive animations showcase sound recording, mixing and a few special effects.


Museum of the Moving Image, color TV cameras of the 1950s

Color TV cameras of the 1950s


A little lower, we visit a more static exhibition about television cameras. The United States invented color television about 15 years before Europe, at a time when electronics miniaturization was unheard of.


The TV cameras of the time, which weighed between 200 and 300 pounds, were mounted on rails and fitted with electric motors to position them. The camera shown on the picture is about the size of a washing machine.


Museum of the Moving Image, motion picture cameras of the 1920s

Motion picture cameras of the 1920s


Compared to those beasts, motion picture cameras used for outdoor filming, starting from the 1920s, almost look frail. A single man can position them.


We then visit an exhibition about sometimes bulky stage sets that have to be built for some films. We also watch a sort of wall of celebrities that shows actors and actresses, arranged according to an order that is neither alphabetic nor chronological, that we struggle to understand.


Museum of the Moving Image, Yoda



The next room is about props used during shootings. The first one is this animated Yoda, motioned by a handful of motors, that was used for the very first Star Wars movie. It now sits motionless, protected by a glass window.


Museum of the Moving Image, Freddy's metal claws in "A Nightmare on Elm Street"

Freddy's metal claws in A Nightmare on Elm Street


A little further, another window showcases Freddy's steel claws, seen in "A Nightmare on Elm Street".


Museum of the Moving Image, The Exorcist

The Exorcist


Marie used to wonder how the lead character in The Exorcist can turn her head 360°. The trick is very simple. A dummy, shown on the picture, and animated by a single electric motor, was used.


Museum of the Moving Image, The Mask

The Mask


Comedies are also showcased. This is the mask that Jim Carrey used in, predictably, The Mask.


Museum of the Moving Image, Chewbacca



The last window shows Chewbacca's head, seen in Star Wars. Other windows show how the head was built and operated.


We also visits several rooms about other usages of animated images. At some point, I am wondering why I can hear a soundtrack in my native language, French. An exhibition reminds that the forerunner of the video clip, the scopitone, was a French invention of the early 1960s, already designed to promote a musical single.


Other exhibitions showing commercials, video games and simulation tools get a little less of our attention.


At the end of the visit, this museum leaves us kind of perplexed. Apart of the very interesting third floor about the history of movie-making, the rest looks more like a collection of all sorts of animated images, very complete, but also, to some extent, ill-assorted. We still do not know whether the misunderstanding comes from the museum itself or from our own expectations.


It is now time to come back to our hotel if we do not want to miss the shuttle.


New York City subway, R line, Steinway Street station

New York City subway, R line, Steinway Street station


While we are waiting for our subway train at Steinway Street, I take this picture. I can't help but notice the cleanliness and the general condition of the station. It is very, very far from the dark and quite dirty subway I experienced during my frist trip to New York City. Most stations, including this one, have been cleaned, sometimes completely reconditioned. There are almost no graffiti left and the floors are relatively clean.


I long for the day when Paris will take some inspiration from New York City !


Back at our hotel, we board the minivan that takes us to JFK Airport. It is rush hour and, for some unclear reason, the driver leaves a jammed highway for an even more jammed avenue. He is the only one to know why. Finally, frozen by too cold an air conditioning, we make it largely ahead of schedule at JFK.


As usual, all transatlantic flights leave roughly at the same time. A little later, we learn that the airport had to shutdown for about 20 minutes, due to a monster storm. When we can at last board our flight, no less than forty (yes, that's 40 !!!) planes are waiting in line for one runway, then a second one, to reopen. My previous record at JFK was 29 planes waiting on the ground, it is blown to pieces !


We end up taking off one hour late, which seems to be part and parcel of air travel, these days.

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