May 26th, 2016

krazy koati

You always add a K before appending! Huh?

So a couple mysteries of Pinball At The Zoo. One is that, since it had the status of a Professional and Amateur Pinball Association Circuit Event, it drew a larger crowd. More of a celebrity crowd. Some of them were people who played in the tournaments. Some of them were outright pinball celebrities, notably, Roger Sharpe.

Sharpe is a prominent figure in pinball, partly because of his work in making Bally/Williams games of the 90s. To understand the context, ``Bally/Williams 90s Game'' is pinball speak for ``Beatles album''. There were, technically speaking, bad games, but they were mostly bad in comparison to all-time long-lived stone cold classics. He wasn't a key figure, but he was involved at all, particularly in the licensing and marketing that allowed for games like The Addams Family and Star Trek: The Next Generation. And he's renowned for the famous ``called shot'', the time in 1976 that he got pinball legalized in New York City by showing the City Council that if he plunged the ball just so it would do exactly this, and it did. This led the city to legalize pinball, and was the vanguard of all pinball legalizations. It's astounding this hasn't been the subject of an inspirational movie, though possibly that's because it's really hard to film pinball playing so it looks exciting. (Also, it was literally just the one shot, which sufficed to prove there was skill involved.) Still, needy screenwriters, take note! Real story waiting to be done.

Allegedly, he was at the show. We don't know when or where. If we saw him, we didn't recognize him. Admittedly, I would recognize him only if someone said, ``There is Roger Sharpe!'' and maybe he was wearing a badge saying his name. But, you know, Michigan's best pinball players were all there; surely someone would have said something if they saw him. Unless we were all so busy with the tournament we didn't even look up.

A more personal mystery. CST was there, of course; he's one of the state's top players and he could hardly not be. His kids were there too, putting up a couple of entries in the kids tournament and even a few, futile, entries in the main tournament. They're like four years old. They aren't going to compete seriously in any case. But his little girl going wild because she's got a lot of the table's lights to turn on? That is, indeed, adorable.

Also watching the children was a woman that CST didn't introduce us to. I figured at first that he was too busy playing and watching his kids to say who this woman was. He's had several girlfriends in the past couple years, most of whom break up with him shortly after he takes them to a major pinball event. His kids vanished for a while, then came back, then disappeared again, then came back again. It was all curious.

bunny_hugger put it together first: this was his ex-wife, letting the kids spend part of their weekend (her custody dates) at the pinball event with their father. He never said so and we didn't ask, but it makes all the body language make sense. The kids were apparently there to participate in the tournament, possibly a concession from their mother, and then they left with their mother. He could get back to the business of competitive pinball.

Although then there's the curiously lousy semifinals round he put up. He came in last in all three games. We learned later that he had to leave the venue: one of his kids had some kind of accident, the sort that produces an emergency room visit, and that obviously took priority. Minor mystery: did he hear about this during the semifinals and throw the games so he could get out to his kid sooner? But that seems unlikely; he had scores, not forfeits or the minimal scores a plunged-and-drained ball would give. Maybe he heard there was trouble and that threw him off his play, and he could only find out how bad it was after that.

And a much less significant mystery: I won one of the door prizes! After thinking over the choices way too long I got one of this year's Pinball At The Zoo posters. It was just the show's logo, the animals gathered around the pinball machine, with the snake hissing, 'Ssssuperb!' The baffling thing is that it was billed as a special limited-edition Billy Mitchell-designed poster. Billy Mitchell you might kind of remember as ``oh yeah that guy from The King Of Kong''. Granted his expertise at video games; what's he got to do with pinball? I don't know. And his role in poster design? ... I don't really know, since it seems like what he did was surround the logo with his name.

But still, we've got the poster now, ready to frame and put up in the game room when we can find a frame and a place to hang it.

Trivia: About three-quarters of the United States's wholesale trade in the 1950s was transacted through New York City. Source: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, Marc Levinson.

Currently Reading: Year Zero: A History of 1945, Ian Buruma.

PS: Counting Things, namely dots, inside a circle.