austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

But his smile is cute as can be

A side line at the VFW pinball thing. We admired a lot of the artwork there. They had tables from the 1950s through the 2000's, and that covers a lot of different styles, some of them mid-century modern cartoonish, some graphic-novelesque, some photographs put on backglasses because apparently art was too interesting, all kinds of styles.

Some of it's disturbing. Especially in the 80s there was this streak of graphic novel or heavy metal album cover artwork, often featuring cyborgs or alien grotesqueries. Many of these are on games that had sound effects or playing fields that resembled Embryon, which by the way look at that backglass. Another game, Fathom, is based on the artwork merrily about mermaids dragging humans to their death. The art of 1951's Mermaid, with a mermaid teacher in front of a school of fish/human hybrids, is more lighthearted.

And then we got to 1951's Minstrel Man, whose title accurately describes its content. It's built around the art of minstrel show figures and every square inch of the playfield and backglass has something to look awkwardly away from. And just as your eyes settle on a not-so-racist bit of art you notice ... oh, there's a couple standing targets with minstrel-figure clowns standing behind them. That's ... oh, if you hit the targets with the pinball, the people fall over backward. I was staring at this, and that led bunny_hugger to staring at this, and that led to MWS staring at this. I know as casually racist things go this is not so horrible, and it was 1951 and all that, but ... the grim joke to make about that is that just imagine if there were any black people who played pinball. (There are black people who play pinball, but not enough.)

Well. Not exception as artwork but awfully interesting anyway was 1958's Turf Champ, in which you first select one of six horses, and then race the horses. The horses are on this little mechanical track and they advance by stuff being hit while the corresponding number is lit. This is an awfully fun game and very hard; in several go-rounds bunny_hugger and I were only ever able to get one horse to finish the race before losing the last ball. But that's because it has the old-fashioned style of tiny flippers far, far apart, so that it takes an extraordinary skill not to lose the ball, never mind accomplish a goal. I'd love to play that again, though.

Trivia: About $71.5 billion in junk bonds, at an average yield of 13.6 percent, were issued between 1975 and 1986. Source: The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge.

Currently Reading: 2018 AD, or the King Kong Blues, Sam J Lundwall. By the way, this is a crazypants book with a fascinatingly complex story, according to its introduction, including an apparently best-selling rock album from its early-70s Swedish debut. I may have to give it a fuller review, or send it on to a professional for commentary.

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