austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

I'd have choices since the day that I was born

bunny_hugger wanted to run a pinball tournament sometime around Halloween. October was just too packed, too busy to set anything. She went to November. The sole day that looked plausible was the day after Election Day. She had an idea for a novel theme. Each of her previous tournaments has been a different style, a different format. She liked the idea that elections are derided as picking the least of awful choices. So she had the idea of a pinball tournament in which you had to play as best you could with some handicap. She dubbed this Fear and Trembling, from the title of Kierkegaard's book about how terrible it is to make a choice.

Now, in the good timeline, this would be a bit of merry-making and relief after a grueling election. There were some things working against it to start. It had to be a Wednesday as our hipster bar didn't have other free nights. It had to be immediately after Lansing Pinball League finals as again there weren't other free times. The tournament could only be for fun and trophies as the International Flipper Pinball Association would absolutely not give ranking points for a pinball tournament where you do silly things like play with chopsticks or with the playfield covered or other stuff. We were free to do that, they said, and it sounds like fun but that's not competitive pinball. Fair enough.

And then you know what happened and all joy in the world was extinguished. The event was always going to have a small turnout; the Grand Rapids folks, for example, would always have been a hard sell because driving out an hour-plus two nights in a row? And for a second night that's just, you (maybe) play Austin Powers while wearing fat oven mitts? For no IFPA credit? And after that election? Even CST, who's responsible for bunny_hugger having got in the pinball-running events, wasn't going to be able to make it, although we knew that even before the election. He had something or other scheduled.

So who did show up? Me. bunny_hugger. MWS. And that was it. To say the hipster bar was demoralized is to make it sound cheerier than it was. The Special of the Day board was just the F-word. MWS asked the bartender for one. ``I have no more f's to give.''

Still. The tournament. It was even more ridiculous to do than it had been before. But we had it anyway. It was a pinball golf format, trying to get to some score in as few balls as possible. But each game came with a handicap. You got to pick the handicap for which game, so there was some strategy. But you could use each handicap just the one time.

Some were surprisingly non-handicapping. Playing with big fat oven mitts on, for example, wasn't hard. Also it got us to buy new oven mitts. Tommy-style, with the flippers covered (by a newspaper), was harder, but it's fun. Reverse Tommy, with all but the flippers covered, harder than I expected given how often, in multiball, I'll focus entirely on the flippers and pay no attention to the playfield. Score display covered? Way more distracting than you'd imagine even when playing a game that hasn't got video modes or stuff that needs the display to understand.

And, you know, it was fun. Ridiculous, stunts like playing with your chin on the lockdown bar. Wild, for the ``Drunken Lout'' distraction. That one would make this format famous if anyone besides us knew about it. In that one your opponents are allowed to distract you in any way (besides touching you or the game): getting in your field of view, asking distracting questions, making a racket, cracking jokes. That was great, not least because I could deploy in-jokes to crack up bunny_hugger.

When the games ended MWS had the lead, I was second place, and bunny_hugger third. On to finals, the ladder of head-to-head matches. bunny_hugger beat me fair and square. She went on to MWS on the randomly-selected final game, Ghostbusters. Handicap, playing with the chin on the bar. This is a dangerous thing to do because Ghostbusters has a shaker motor that makes the machine rumble. A lot. So very much. It feels like a jackhammer when you get the multiball started (fair enough, as that's themed to the ghosts being let out of the containment facility, which should be pretty disruptive). It might shake fillings out if you hold your chin on too firmly. MWS had a weak game, bunny_hugger a less weak game, and there we were. She was the champion.

Back in spring 2016 GRV, who's won more pinball trophies than he knew what to do with, gave a box of them to bunny_hugger for refitting into new pinball trophies. For Fear And Trembling she finally used them, as it seemed like GRV had plenty of time for second thoughts. She repainted and modified them to be new trophies. And she got to take home the biggest of the trophies, the one that would have been ridiculously oversized for a comedy-pinball tournament, and was all the moreso for a tournament that had three participants. I took home the more modest third-place trophy. MWS the similar second-place trophy. And, you know, while we were playing things seemed all right a while.

Maybe for 2017 more people will show up. They had no idea what they were missing.

Trivia: French glassmakers of the 1780s were so fuel-short some resorted to burning olive pits. Source: An Edible History of Humanity, Tom Standage.

Currently Reading: Barnaby, Volume Two, 1944-45, Crockett Johnson. Editors Philip Nel and Eric Reynolds.

PS: Mathematics Stuff To Read Or Listen To, reading-list matters. Some of it I have read or listened to, too.

Tags: pinball
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