austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

You know he's nothing but a man and he can never fail

Qualifying for the Baby Food Festival used the same format most of PH and AJH's tournaments do. You play each game, a single player at a time, and you get points based on how many people's scores your score beats. The top three scores on each table get bonuses on top of that. The competitors are ranked by the sums of their scores. So the first important thing to do is play every table. Both the Main and the Classics tournaments had their own separate rankings. The scheme is one promoted by It Never Drains In Southern California, a pinball league which puts it software up for other people to use in tournaments; thanks to it I have a remarkably complete box score.

As a charity event, we'd buy tickets, one per try, and go up to each. I started off on the Classic bank's Flash Gordon and did all right, then went to Embryon, in the Main bank. The games are from the same era but they have to be divided up somehow. Then I remembered: oh yeah, qualifying for Classics ends way earlier than for Main. My time's better spent building and buffing my Classics ranking. Also, truth be told, I'd rather play a solid-state or electromechanical game. I can play The Walking Dead anywhere. Blackout not so much.

And it happens I did well, starting nearly cold, on the Classics tables. I had respectable enough scores, ones that would qualify me for finals if I weren't upstaged, and could go on to the Main games. The Main games would treat me nicely too. On my one game of The Walking Dead, for example, I'd put up the sixth-highest score for the whole tournament. Corvette wasn't so nice to me, but that was all right; the Main tournament dropped the lowest score. Whirlwind was rough, but it was rough for everyone. And in the last hour I put in another try and doubled my score, which put me in safe standing. Similarly Shrek I started with an all-right score, and in the last hour put up a fantastic one. Embryon was surprisingly tough considering I loved the game back when it was at the Brighton Arcade's league. But I would finish strong, on my last ticket, with a nearly 400,000-point game good enough for a tenth-place finish.

My white whale, though, was Elvis. I knew some basic things to do. Shoot the drop target for a super skill shot. There's a frenzy on that target. There's an easy multiball on that ramp. And the table, as ever for these folks, was in good shape.

So why could I not do anything on it?

I'm exaggerating only barely for me. I could find the skill shot, but then the ball would bounce to the outlane. I could skip the skill shot, and then the ball would bounce to the other outlane. I could shoot for the captive ball, which rebounded the ball into an outlane. I could half-ramp the ramp --- always a dangerous error --- and that sent me down the center. (A common fate to half-rampes.) Even when I found the ramp shot I wasn't finding it regularly enough to get multiball going.

I have a not-honestly-deserved reputation for being a very zen player, one that takes ball drains with a stoic acceptance, and responding to unfair treatment by the game with an impassive shrug. Maybe on ``Oi!'' or ``oh come on'' for an egregious offense, like the ball jumping over the flipper and into the drain. As I say, it's not honestly deserved. People don't notice how often I hit the lockdown bar, the metal barrier that holds the glass cover in place and the acceptable part of the machine to hit in frustration, often. It just doesn't affect my reputation any, for some absurd reason.

But it means when I get really frustrated with a game, deeply offended by its unfairness, I surprise people. That I get hyperbolic when I'm upset adds to things; hyperbole is one of the central arteries of American comedy. When I turned away from the machine and demanded, ``Is there a single shot anywhere on this table that is not an instant drain?'' of an empty chair, it was (a) quite funny, even to me, and (b) shocking to the scorekeepers. They had no idea I could do something like that.

Well, all there was to do was try to fight my way up, either on Elvis or Corvette, and Corvette had longer lines. I stuck it out on Elvis and was struggling through yet another game in which nothing was working. Then I got a ``Gift From Elvis'' --- a mystery award --- that was some kind of shoot-the-standup-targets shot. I managed that and then looked up and somehow had got thirty million points out of it. I have no idea what happened, and the score's ridiculous. But it did lift me up to be 15th-highest on Elvis. That would be enough, with my relatively better scores, to keep me in the top-sixteen players who'd qualify for finals.

And so I would. I'd buff myself up on Whirlwind and Embryon and even Shrek, but at that point I was done: tolerably sure to be in on both the Classics and the Main tournaments.

bunny_hugger had a longer struggle to get in both tournaments. She'd face Shrek with ever-increasing despair, for example. The Walking Dead was harsh, but it did relent once to give her a pretty solid score. Corvette she managed to crack well enough to get a top-ten score in, well better than I could manage. She, too, would be in both finals. She'd tie with our friend MWS for 14th place in the Main tournament, and have 13th place to herself in Classics. (MWS would go into Classics seeded 5th.) We wouldn't be able to spend the afternoon puttering around the carnival. We'd have head-to-head play to do.

Trivia: An account of the debut of the Pathé Animated Gazette newsreel around 1910 describes it as a ``daily service''. The term appears to indicate the newsreel film may be presented daily, rather than prepared daily. Source: The American Newsreel 1911 - 1967, Raymond Fielding.

Currently Reading: Twenty-Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life In No Way Whatsoever, Frank Conniff.

Tags: baby food festival, fremont, pinball

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