May 29th, 2014

krazy koati

The tourist guide explains my aims

You might conceivably have seen a Kickstarter a while back to open an Ann Arbor Pinball Museum. bunny_hugger and I were skeptical about it, not least because it'd only be open up to four weekends a year. Why even exist at that rate?

Why, it turns out, is that it's less a museum and more a guy's personal collection of games, and he bought an old VFW hall to house them, with the idea that if he opened it sometimes to the public they'd do more good than just be a silverball hoard. The neighbors, apparently, were upset about the idea of an arcade opening in their suburban-to-rural area and the four-weekends-a-year thing is the best compromise available. It's run as a volunteer effort --- I believe it's the guy and some of his pinball friends --- which is also a reason they couldn't be open too often.

And a couple weekends ago they had their very first open weekend. We got tickets to the Friday, the very first open day, and got to be among the first in. (We also got to be among the first baffled by the guys at the parking lot, telling us we could park in the mudpit or in the empty lot next to the other car. I thought the mudpit might be how they described the grass, since it'd been a cool and rainy day. They meant a literal if hypothetical pit of mud. I'm often shockingly bad at realizing a joke is being perpetuated.)

We ran into someone we knew from the Lansing pinball league, and mentioned how excited we were by all this, especially since we'd heard a rumor they had a Baby Pac-Man video/pinball hybrid. He confirmed they did, and waved us back into what we thought might be a staff-only area. It wasn't, but it was an extra room past the bathrooms, and apparently many people didn't realize there was anything there. Besides the Baby Pac-Man, though, they also had the tabletop Joust pinball --- a two-player game --- and Big Bang Bar, one of the handful of Capcom-built pinball machines. It's a rarity, which we didn't realize; we just knew we kept seeing people coming up to it and taking detailed pictures. The museum could use some explanatory labels, especially considering ...

Well, they had this thing, a vertical pinball, name of Still Crazy. You have a set time to try getting balls up a series of mazes, behind a painting that's the Public Domain Cartoon version of Li'l Abner characters. It's a really hard game, and I managed to get one ball up all four levels, but didn't think much of it. It turns out this was a game which never got out of prototype; something like a dozen were ever made and only three are known to exist. And it was right there to play. What a museum, if we'd known what we were looking at!

Trivia: Wilber Wright wrote to the Weather Bureau in the fall of 1899 for information on September wind speeds near Chicago. The area would offer average wind speeds approaching 17 miles per hour, though the area would not provide much seclusion for airplane experiments. Source: First Flight: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Airplane, T A Heppenheimer.

Currently Reading: Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport, Matthew Algeo.

PS: Reading the Comics, May 26, 2014: Definitions Edition, as mathematics topics just keep on coming.