Saturday, August 10, 2013

Silence is Golden

Last night Dirtman and I went to the Library of Congress' Packard Campus where they preserve various media like film and television and radio shows. They have various showings throughout the year and last night was a silent film accompanied by live music.

Okay -- I know what you're thinking...

Everyone knows I'm a die-hard film fan. So naturally I was in my element.

"But, Sisiggy," you say (yes, I can hear you. Think about that. I can hear you.). "Why would I, a normal human being with a brain and some form of consciousness that requires stimulation, want to sit in a theater for a couple of hours and watch people pantomiming boring old plots when I could be parked in front of the television watching, say, a competition among three chefs trying to make egg rolls out of red JuJuBees and frozen muskrat?"

I get that. In fact, on the way over, I cautioned Dirtman, "DO. NOT. FALL. ASLEEP."

(And, lest you think I was being a overly bitchy, you need to know that Dirtman fell asleep during Lord of the Rings.)

For one thing, there is nothing more exciting than when someone is sharing with you something they are passionate about. The organ accompaniment was provided by Ben Model who, in addition to his musical accomplishments, is a silent film buff. He had scored both the feature film -- Paths to Paradise -- and the short that previewed (a comedy with Oliver Hardy before he was teamed with Stan Laurel) and his attention to detail, time and place was stunning.

While I won't go into the geekier aspects of enjoying silent film and these two offering in particular, I will say to someone coming to the genre* for the first time, notice the background, the fashions, the landscape. That was what first got me hooked on silent film -- sort of the same reason I love to stand in abandoned buildings, poke through antique stores (the dusty kind -- not the kind with lines of glass cases or, worst, "tableaus") and listen to old jazz on scratchy vinyl.

And then there is the communal aspect of watching something in a group that appreciates the effort. While admission is free, the LOC Packard Campus isn't exactly on the beaten path -- it's close, but it's not nearby a lot of commercial development. They don't advertise. So everyone who is there is there very deliberately to see an archived film (and it's not all silent or "historic" films -- tonight's film is Meatballs with Bill Murray). Everyone is sharing information and insights and even a confirmed introvert like me gets caught up in the interaction.

While I'm on the subject, I have to say that one of the perks of living in the Washington, D.C., area is that throughout Virginia there are annexes of some of the attractions in the city itself, just like this one.

When we were homeschooling, I used to take the boys to the Museum of Natural Science lab in Loudoun County where they could see how pieces were studied, cataloged and prepared for display. Warren County has the overflow from the National Zoo and Dulles has the overflow from the Air and Space Museum. It's all free and open to the public -- in fact, I think the employees are anxious for people to come and justify the facilities' existence.

*Is there a more pompous word than "genre," especially when talking about "the arts," which is almost equally pompous? Sorry -- I couldn't think of anything more down-to-earth.

P.S. Dirtman DID NOT fall asleep -- I almost wish he had because he laughs very loud and very explosively...right in my ear.

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