The good thing about humanity is realizing just how much we all aren’t doomed.
- Wait, what?
- Like, Wayne’s World the movies?
- Oh wait wait wait. I mean, “Way”?
- They had Wayne and Garth impersonators at the thing?
- The 90s, huh?
- All right but how can Wayne’s World be part of a whole Kings’ Dominion? Are we to believe the dominion encompasses more than a single world? Given the difficulties in establishing a functioning imperial bureaucracy over even a single planet?
- Is this a bit?
- The heck?
OK, but the “Mid-No-Way” is worth a chuckle at least the first time you hear it.
Reference: Functional Analysis: A Short Course, Edward W Packel.
So then I had to get this.
I know, I can feel how excited you are too. There’s several great reasons to. For one, it allows me to finally truthfully increment my lifetime count of “blue fluids consumed”. For another, “Diet Faygo Arctic Sun” sounds exactly like the sort of thing that Zippy the Pinhead would start chanting for three, maybe four panels straight while standing near miscellaneous roadside attractions. It’s something that just keeps on giving.
I know there’s exceptions to this next statement. But, generally, going to an amusement park is fun. I mean for the people going to the park for the purpose of fun. Just let me have this point, please. Where I’m going is that there are other things that are fun, too. Like, there’s going to karaoke night and singing the one song you’re kind of able to sing with mostly the right tones and pacing. That’s fun. So is making clicking noises back at a squirrel who seems to be trying to work out what your deal is. That’s fun. Again, if you want to do that.
But here’s where I’ve gotten. All these kinds of fun are very different activities. You can’t swap one out for the other without noticing that something is very different. One could not mistake chatting with a squirrel for talking about how you can’t imagine someone riding anything where you go upside-down. That is to say, fun is not fungible.
And so continues my lifelong discovery in adulthood of, oh, yeah, that’s why everybody treated my like that in middle school.
Because how would I possibly send either of them a message except on Twitter, e-mail, texting their phones, or calling them, or maybe mentioning to my father so he could send them a note on Facebook? Anyway, the noon news had a quick report about the new-ish roller coaster at Cedar Point amusement park. (They built it using the bones of an old roller coaster is why the “ish”.) In going to break, the news anchor mentioned that the park opens for the season May 5th. And then, teasing the weather report coming up, said that it looks this could be a great weekend to go to Cedar Point. And I don’t know whether they mean because it’d be fun to spend 48 hours with our faces pressed up against the glass window, making sad noises at a gardener who’s just trying to get some azaleas up and running beside the Midway Carousel.
Also they sent a reporter there for some publicity event. It’s the reporter they mention in their house ads as liking roller coasters, so, good use of your staff there. They had video of him on the new roller coaster, but the only person they actually quoted on-camera saying anything about it was somebody I don’t know who said of the ride, “It’s breathtaking. It takes your breath away,” which I admire for clearing the matter up once and for all.
|Decade||Most Popular American Roller Coaster Name|
|1890s||Scenic Russian Mountain Panoramic Train Ride|
|1900s||Drop The Dips Fairyland Lunar Cyclorama|
|1910s||Figure Eight Speed-O-Plane Greyhound Flyer|
|1920s||Racing Jackrabbit Zipper|
|1970s||Loop The Looping Loop Looper: The Bicentennial Looptacular|
|1990s||Laser Gunpuncher 2000max|
|2010s||Steel Death Kraken|
Source: The Kind Of Motion We Call Heat: A History of the Kinetic Theory of Gases in the 19th Century, Volume 2: Statistical Physics and Irreversible Processes, Stephen G Brush.
I’m feeling in a talk-about-cartoons mood so why not look to the Fleischer Studios’ Talkartoons? These were a string of 42 sound cartoons that the Fleischer Brothers made from 1929 to 1932, and it’s where Betty Boop made her debut. She’s not in this cartoon. It’s easy to suppose the Talkartoons were made in response to Disney’s Silly Symphonies series. I’m not sure that’s the case, though. This installment, for example, doesn’t have any particularly strong song component. There’s music throughout, of course. It was 1929; if you weren’t putting sound into your cartoons you were hopelessly behind the times, or you were Charles Mintz and too cheap to do sound. And I’m not even sure that’s true.
In any case Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice And Magic cites a June 1929 trade advertisement for the series. The first Silly Symphony came out in August 1929, and while every animation studio tried to copy Disney, it’d be a bit ambitious to plan the copying of something that hadn’t come out yet. Here, originally released the 25th of October, 1929, is Noah’s Lark.
So, some thoughts. First is that I think this short predates the use of animation cels. For most of the 20s the Fleischer cartoons were illustrations done on sheets of bright white paper. The advantage of this is that if you only need to move a small part of the scene — like the monkey’s arms in that scene about 1:15 into the short, or the hippopotamus singing while his chest tattoo moves at about 1:35 — you just need to draw that fragment of art and put it over the base. On many silent cartoons you can even see the tear lines of the paper.
Second: the title actually parses. I was thinking through the first half that they’d done the most obvious humorous variant on the common phrase “Noah’s Ark”. But by bringing the action to Coney Island — Wikipedia says Luna Park, but I don’t know how they can pin it down to that, given that there’s no particularly iconic rides on display — they justify calling it a lark. Good, then.
That fun old-style stretchy-squashy-playing with geometry: I like the ship’s portholes bouncing around merging together to let the elephant out. Also the … magpies? Crows? Possibly penguins? … at about 2:22 in that need three of them with bicycle pumps to unflatten their comrade.
The Suspiciously Mickey Mouse-like character enters into this cartoon at about 5:00 in. The Blink-And-You’ll-Miss-It gag with the best laugh was on the carousel at about 4:50 for me.
There’s a recording of The Stars And Stripes Forever in here that I wonder if they didn’t use in the first couple Popeye cartoons as his post-Spinach action music.
Does this short have an ending? … I suppose so. The idea that the animals are out on Shore Leave does contain the implication that Shore Leave has to stop, so there’s a tolerably set-up conclusion to the short and a reason for the final scene to happen. I’ll allow it, but I’ll listen to contrary opinions.
Recently I got to visit Story Book Land, a small nursery-rhyme-forest and amusement park in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Also there’s a place called Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Yes, it has that name for the reason you’d expect: it’s a township. Story Book Land is a grand place, lots of displays of fairy tales. So this Santa Claus’s Workshop scene caught my eye:
Clearly I’m not in a position to tell Santa how he should run his business, and I shouldn’t disparage anybody’s qualifications before I know what they’re good at and what they like doing. It just seems a little cruel to give a lot of writing duties to a species that hasn’t got fingers. And I’m not too sure it’s considerate to put a reindeer on adding machine duty either, given, again, the whole hoof issue. Maybe Santa knows something I don’t. I just expect there’s all kinds of dropped … things, and probably shouting, involved.
Also I wish I had the courage to go to work wearing outfits like these reindeer do. And I work from home.
I don’t mean to disappoint. It’s just that my love and I have been busy the whole last week, visiting small amusement parks and giggling at mistakes in their signs. I should say we’re not doing this maliciously. We go in expecting we’re going to have a great time, wearing the T-shirts for other small, obscure amusement parks, sometimes on other continents. And we do have a great time, because there is a real delight in a small park where they’re still going on about how they put in a frog jumper ride in 2011, and at any moment you might blink and be in the middle of a swarm of up to forty kids, some of them reaching up to the lower end of your knee, in a screaming birthday-cake riot. But the point is I haven’t had the time to write anything amusing and I apologize for that. Here’s my mathematics blog writing about comic strips yesterday. Thanks and I’ll be back to normal not tomorrow because that’s going to look at the June statistics. But sometime or other. You’ll know it when you see it.
So you live in a utopian future. You don’t have anything to be embarrassed by there. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Maybe it wasn’t you that was embarrassed. Maybe it was someone who reminded me of you. It would help if we could get some name tags or distinctive ribbons or something. Anyway, even in a utopia there’s no getting away from some civic responsibilities. At any moment something like one-eighth of our population is busy introducing the place to an outsider. Are you ready?
Maybe you’re wondering where they come from. The answer is, all over. Some of them are people from before the utopia who got themselves caught in cave-ins, or were put into stasis until medical science found a cure for painting bricks. Some of them are from alternate timelines, like one where Belgian visionary Paul Otlet and his electric telescopes failed to manifest the Mundaneum in Lakewood, New Jersey in 1934. Maybe they’re dreaming, as far as they can tell, and there’s no sense waking them up before you figure out which of us is real. Ooh, maybe they’re aliens, so we can be their aliens, and add this neat little mirror-image chic to things.
Really it doesn’t matter. Any visitor to utopia has some things they just have to know. And they have some expectations. Meet them, and they’ll be happy with the experience. They’ll need to be told they are in a utopia, straight off. Hide that and they’ll never be happy. And they’ll need a couple rounds of origin-shaming so they appreciate how their homes made serious dog’s breakfasts of things. That’s an easy sell because people find it charming to hear “dog’s breakfast” as a metaphor.
They’ll want to have a tour, once they’ve been electro-taught the universal language or just happened to know it anyway. You’ll want to take this on foot. It makes stuff seem bigger. I recommend taking them to one of those middling-size buildings made with that brick cladding that somehow looks like fake bricks even though they’re real bricks. Try to approach from the side that’s the least architectury. Then go into something about how it’s the administrative district’s largest facility for producing psychoneutral brick or self-motivated gelatin or fully interactive quadrophonic squirrels or whatever. To make a convincing presentation remember the important two elements:
- A bunch of statistics delivered in obscure units. Try saying something like `modules over 20.38 centipoise per millikatal hectosievert’ or `response metrics as sensitive as 12.10 decatur-centidays’ until it sounds kind of normal-ish. `400,000 mease of herring each compline’. `0.2 adrianople-ceston-centiMcClintocks.’ Something like that.
- A moving sidewalk. You can find some at most airports, many train stations, and the occasional shopping mall.
You’re going to get the occasional visitor who’s looking for social satire. By “social satire” people mean everyone talking about how their enemies were fools and their heroes visionaries. This is tricky to do before you know who their enemies and their heroes were. You can make some wild guesses and if they react with horror say that you were just testing to see if they were ready for the true order of things. You’ll want to practice that with friends before doing it live. Also bring some gift certificates for ice cream or something so you can act like you’re giving a special award for their figuring it out. Some weird flavor, something hard to like. They’re not coming all the way to utopia just to get fudge ripple. They’re looking for something with a bit of freaky to it. In fact, don’t just do this for ice cream. Every day try to find two or three little things to freak up a bit. It’s surprisingly fun once you get the hang of it and it makes their experience so much better. It’s kind of an important rule for life.
If you still can’t get a handle on them, try some patter about how gold and silver make the throw pillows of utopia all the more throw-pillow-ish. Your guests will make what they want out of this, and if they ask you to expand on it pull the old “what does that tell you about us?” routine. You’re not going to believe how well this works.
Sometimes you’re going to get the visitor who’s decided utopia is actually a dystopia. There’s no arguing them out of it. They’re going to figure they’re the only ones who see it, and they have a responsibility to destroy society, which is supposed to somehow help. So you’ll want to have contacts with some local theater group. They should have a bunch of costumes and a couple people who can do improv work as an underground movement. Set them up with something harmless like bubble wands. Tell your visitor these are futuristic pacification weapons so that nobody’ll get unnecessarily hurt while they’re busy destroying society.
Now you’ll need to set up a story where the organizing impulse for all society comes from, oh, whatever. That closed psychoneutral brick factory nobody’s got around to tearing down yet. Send them off to attack it and after all the foam has evaporated — well, you know joy? Not really. Not the kind of joy you’ll see after they figure they’ve gone and obliterated society. It’s pretty sweet, really. After you do go along with this you’re going to have to listen to them blathering a while about how they’ve opened everyone’s eyes and how society is really and truly going to work this time. And some of them can go on forever like this. But whoever said life in utopia was perfect?
|Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania||Shorter Winter|
|Staten Island Zoo, New York City||Longer Winter|
|Howell, Michigan||Longer Winter|
|Sandusky, Ohio||Wider Winter|
|Salem, New Hampshire||Mintier Winter|
|Santa Claus, Indiana||Winter With Chocolate Sprinkles And Whipped Cream|
|Elysburg, Pennsylvania||Three-Minute Spring With Biscuit and Gravy|
|Myrtle Beach, South Carolina||Mid-Spring|
|Pigeon Forge, Tennessee||Longer Winter But With Fashionable Fringes|
|Clementon, New Jersey||Remarkably Average Winter|
I was reading the DC Comics Showcase of Metal Men, a band of 1960s superhero robots who are constantly explaining their premise to each other. Anyway, they take a blind kid from The City on a trip in space, the way superheroes just did in the 60s, and they find an amusement park on an abandoned planet, because again, it was the 60s. You just had Coney Islands on every cosmic body.
Anyway it turns out the Space Amusement Park is completely automated, but its automation accidentally space-glitched and got stuck on “evil” (or to be precise, “Space Evil”) and now all the rides are trying to kill you. They work out this must be what happened to the population: the whole world got killed by an evil Space Amusement Park.
Now, I understand the appeal of an evil amusement park. And even the appeal of one that threatens life and limb, because I grew up in New Jersey and we had Action Park. Everyone in my generation from New Jersey would like to tell you how we narrowly avoided death at Action Park, usually by drowning or smacking into something, sometimes just by bursting into flames after buying a hot dog or getting hit by a meteor while in the parking lot. A tenth of us will tell you how we technically speaking died there.
Thing is, as uproariously reckless as Action Park was, it didn’t come close to killing even North Jersey, never mind the whole world. If Space Coney Island really did kill its whole planet I think the park has only partial responsibility. At some point the local Space Ride-Inspection Space Agencies (“Spagencies”) fell down on the job. Also the Space Newspapers (“Spacepapers”) failed their public when they didn’t report on, like, the first 2.5 billion people killed by a wicked Space Ferris Wheel. I don’t think the Spacepapers would be needlessly spreading Space Panic at that point.
Anyway, the Metal Men escape the killer roller coaster and make it back to Earth, in the process curing the kid’s blindness two times over, because that’s just what the 60s were like. Better living through Space Chemicals.
So I was having this pretty nice standard-issue dream when I suddenly got a text message from The Left. That’s unsettling since I don’t really text-message and I’m not sure how I would get it. But then I had to get up and go to the bathroom. I guess that’s fine; I’m not sure what I would say to The Left. “I love when you work on stuff that tamps down the brutality of life?” I bet they get that all the time.
Meanwhile like a week ago my love dreamed we were in the San Francisco zoo and couldn’t think how we got that far away. The dream me couldn’t offer any answers. My love, looking for a rational explanation of why we’d be there, asked, “Have we been to any amusement parks this trip?” And the dream me answered, “No, I don’t think so.” And I love that the dream-me, like the real me, takes so much edge off anything he says that he’ll leave room for plausible doubt on the question “have you been to an amusement park on this trip?” That’s so me.
I’m still recovering from the yard sale. Don’t worry, we made enough to cover the costs of running another yard sale someday. But as long as my mind’s elsewhere here’s a cartoon to occupy it. It’s a 1929 Inkwell Imps cartoon, produced by Max and Dave Fleischer. It’s titled Ko-Ko’s Reward and as you might expect it includes a bit of head-swapping, a girl entering the cartoon world, a haunted house, and an amusement park. Because of course.
Mixing live action and animation goes back to the birth of animation. It was also much of the point of the several cartoon series featuring Koko (or Ko-Ko) the Clown. That and getting Max Fleischer on camera, because if there’s anything animation directors/producers want to do, it’s be movie stars. The structure is normally one of Max drawing Koko and maybe Fitz the dog. Then they natter a bit, and Koko escapes into the real world to make some mischief, and then he gets put back where he belongs.
That’s barely a structure, though. It’s enough to justify whatever the theme for the cartoon is and to give some reason for the cartoon to end at the eight-minute mark. The real meat is figuring some reason for Koko to interact with the real world, and for some free-form strange animation to carry on. Here it’s Max’s girl — I don’t know who played the part — getting lost inside an animated haunted house, giving Koko and Fitz reason to search for her in an amusement park. Well, these things happen.
Of course I’m fascinated by wondering what amusement park this is. I don’t know. I wonder if it might be Rye Playland, which had opened in 1928 — when the cartoon would be in production — and had the sort of kiddieland with a concentration of kid-sized rides such as the cartoon shows. But I don’t see any features that mark it as unmistakably Rye Playland, nor unmistakably not. None of the movie references I can find give information about shooting locations. I would assume they’d pick a park conveniently near the studio’s New York City location, but that could be Coney Island or Palisades Park at least as easily. Well, I don’t recognize the haunted house as anywhere I’d been.
They only got the one Gizmo doll in stock originally, but they’d set it up at a redemption-game booth right next to the log flume and the spray, well, you know how this goes.
Also over on my mathematics blog there’s a fresh bunch of comic strips under review. I wrote it as the “Skipping Saturday” edition because I hadn’t read Saturday’s comics before writing the post. Turns out there wasn’t anything relevant on Saturday anyway so I guess that worked out and nobody had to know.
There’s this amusement park in Clementon, New Jersey, called Clementon Park. Any questions so far? It’s a fine little place that survived a financial crisis that should’ve wiped it out and I’m glad it’s on the upswing. Quite good wooden roller coaster too.
I have a T-shirt from it. It’s the classiest amusement park T-shirt I own. It’s dark blue and has this nice diamond pattern down one side and it has a faux-heraldic shield with the park’s name and some of its rides and the letters N J on diagonal squares of the shield. If you didn’t know better you’d think it was for someplace where you couldn’t plausibly expect to buy a batter-dipped plastic fork.
A friend pointed out to me that the shirt was backwards, and I didn’t get it, but finally realized he meant instead of having it monogrammed J N. Well, I usually go by JFN when I need to go in initials. The F stands for what you would assume it does, assuming you assume it stands for my middle name. I smiled that this was a cute coincidence that hadn’t occurred to me and that was it until ten hours later when I thought of the response. “Oh yes,” I should have said, “I put my shirt on inside-out”, which doesn’t make sense but sounds enough like it should to qualify as a joke.
So now all I have to do is wait for some time when I’m wearing this particular T-shirt again, and someone happens to make a joke about the N J on the t-shirt matching two-thirds of my own initials in the wrong order, and then I’m set to sound all spontaneous! So I hope you’ll forgive me writing this here so I don’t forget it. I can’t sound effortless without this kind of work.
I never did find Shelter AAA or Shelter AAAAAAUGH! Shelter EEEEK was next to Doctor Frankenstein’s Haunted Castle.
To close out Me Week, how about some of lists of stuff that I liked?
- Fifteen Things Humanity Got Around To Before The Writing Of ‘Hotel California’ and yeah, one of them’s wrong. Sorry.
- The Hardest Things To Understand In Old Movies to help you out before diving into anything made before about 1998.
- The Size of Rhode Island in terms of Football Fields and someone actually gave that a one-star vote! How could anyone not be interested in this? Also it inspired some doubts in my mind.
- What Average People Think Are Rodents Versus What Biologists Think Are Rodents and I know I’m going to be proved right about guinea pigs someday.
- My Reactions To Reading The Grimm Fairy Tales so now you don’t have to read them yourselves, although there’s some great and weird ones in there. Also some alarming ones.
- The Nations Of The World, As Represented In Amusement Park Figures And Art and tell me if it’s not true.
- Hamlet’s To Be Or Not To Be Soliloquy, In Order which I’ve totally got to do in an Open Mike night someday.
- Statistics Saturday: Risk That I Will Correctly Identify A Color By Its Name Alone, a softly despairing plea for words to mean better things.
And because the world is confusing and hurt-y, here’s one more. The Ingredients List For Libby’s 29 oz Can of 100% Pure Pumpkin brings a refreshing calm and sense of place to everything. I hope this helps.
I’ll have you know that Cedar Point’s opening-weekend promotion, “Come Rub Up Against Some Lumps Of Matter”, was an enormous hit. And they did nearly as well for Flag Day’s “Experience This Sequence Of Odors” festival. So coming to see a thing be visible in three dimensions is a natural follow-up and sure to be popular.
Also popular? Please? Reading comic strips with mathematics, like I do over on my other blog. I get into a weird discussion about whether, like, “two” exists.
Dear Twitter Master Command,
Hi there. I wasn’t away. That’s the first thing. Also, you keep promising you’re going to show me fewer tweets like that. You need to shore up that wording. Do you mean you’re going to show me fewer tweets that way, as in that form? Where it’s four days after the original post and even the guy who wrote it can’t remember what he was making a sly, snarky comment about? Or do you mean fewer tweets like “the stuff my friends wrote”? I get the feeling you’re promising me that.
Because that’s the hip thing with social media. You all start out with a simple model: you have friends. Your friends post stuff. You read it. Sometimes you post back. Sometimes they post back. Their friends post back. The friends of your friends post. They’re whack jobs. Your friends’ friends keep posting. You come to like people less. You infer that your friend honestly sees no difference in morality or intellect or human decency between these people and you. The fight takes on a new intimacy. After enough of this you go outside, resolved instead to roll down a hill all day. You see a squirrel. That fact reminds you. You go back to answering your friend’s friend. Finally you stumble across an interesting discussion about whether Cringer remembers the experience of being Battle Cat, and vice-versa, and if so how. It has an exhausting pile of citations from the ramshackle He-Man canon. You come away feeling staggered but forgetting what you were angry about. Then you see it again. It’s a simple model and one that might work forever.
Except that’s never enough. If the social media works then it gets famous. And like Ian Shoales explained, once you’re famous for doing something you don’t want to do that anymore. So the media gets fussing around with algorithms and rearrangements of timelines. Instead of showing people what they said they wanted to see, you go and show them something they didn’t say they wanted to see. Maybe something they said they didn’t want to see. It’s a weird business model. Imagine if you were flying to Albany, New York, because you had urgent business there. You had to go to Huck Finn’s Playland and yell at the amusement park for it not still being Hoffmann’s Playland, even though Hoffmann didn’t want the Playland anymore and he was just going to toss it out.
But then the pilot announces that, you know, we’re going to instead fly to Columbus, the world-renowned “Albany, New York, of Ohio”. Would you feel well-served? I guess it depends whether you could find something to berate in the Columbus area. I’m sure there are. There’s at least two creepy houses in the suburb of Worthington, for example. I seem to be making a case for this. Maybe it’s other businesses that are missing out by just giving people what they wanted. (Do not berate the Worthington creepy house the guy lives in. He’s taken enough abuse.)
But what we expect to see, or expect to not see, or who we expect not to get in bitter quarrels with, is beside the point. None of this is what we really want from social media, not even the stuff we know we want to see, like the Animals Wearing Glasses Daily Picture.
What we want is to find something that’s profound and breezy. We want to experience something insightful and whimsical. It should be eye-opening without ever entering unfamiliar intellectual and emotional territory. We want something epic while still being intimate. More, we want to be the sole true confidant of an enormous crowd. We want to say something un-improvable yet tossed off in a heartbeat. We want to go viral while being that single candle that alleviates some one person’s darkness. We want universal truths that still fit snug where we are in life. We want to do something that’s going to get put on millions of t-shirts, and we want to get a cut of each sale. We want to be reblogged by people we watched on TV when we were kids. We want transcendence with a glace at our cell phones. And then we want to hit reload and get another transcendent moment at least as good. Give us that and we’ll hit ‘like’ or ‘fave’ or whatever silly thing you want. We’ll even pretend to look at your advertisements for stuff we’ve never even known anyone who would ever want interspersed with ads for the thing we bought last week on Amazon.
And that’s what social media is all about, Twitter Master Command.
Hoping you will see to and remedy this problem swiftly I remain,
I mean it,
PS: Do it right and we’ll even forgive you suggesting Every. Single. Day. that we follow a person we wouldn’t run over with a forklift exclusively for fear of getting repugnant-person-guts in the forklift’s machinery.
PPS: Obviously Cringer remembers the experiences he has as Battle Cat. The interesting question is whether he remembers it as a thing he, Cringer, does while affecting a character, or whether he remembers Battle Cat as a distinct entity using what is sort-of his body. Please see enclosed citations, omitted for clarity.
Did you know that Disney worked up plans to open a five-level indoor amusement park for Saint Louis, in the early 60s? Me neither. Consumerist.com reported yesterday about how blueprints from the planned park are up for sale. Apparently according to folklore Disney cancelled park plans because they’d have had to sell beer. In reality Disney just wanted other people to build the place for them, while they got to have the amusement park when it was done. The other people wouldn’t see things Disney’s way. You can see how Disney was making the only reasonable decision.
Consumerist quotes Mike Fazio, a consignment specialist, without actually naming him. I imagine they figured everybody would go to the Associated Press article they were working from instead. Anyway, Fazio says, “It’s amazing how many people don’t even know that they [Disney] were going to build a park in Saint Louis.”
I didn’t know. My sister, an amusement park enthusiast who lives near Saint Louis, had no idea either. [ NOTE: ACTUALLY COMMUNICATE WITH SISTER AND ASK IF SHE KNEW BEFORE POSTING THIS — EXTREMELY URGENT ]
And now I’m stuck wondering: what is an amazing number of people to not know that Disney considered but did not build a five-level indoor amusement park in Saint Louis over fifty years ago? Eight? That seems too few. Twelve? No, I think it’s credible that twelve people would not have heard of this. Forty-six? Again, I find that a believable number. Forty-eight might be a little amazing, if I hadn’t spoiled things by putting up thoughts of forty-six just a sentence before. But I’d bet Fazio was thinking of some even greater number of people.
Now, if there were 438 trillion people who didn’t know, I would agree that’s amazing. But that’s carried on the strength of 438 trillion being an amazing number of people. Whether they knew about the park or not neither adds to nor detracts from their amazingness. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. What they’re doing is standing ahead of me at the Coke Freestyle machine, staring at the single large illuminated button marked “PUSH”, with no course of action in mind and no desire to get one.
How does the number of people unaware of Disney’s Kennedy-era plans for a Saint Louis amusement park compare to other people unaware of things that don’t exist? In 1908 President William Howard Taft laid the cornerstone for a giant statue to the Vanished Native American. This even though Native Americans were still around and wanted to stick around. The statue never got finished, and Native Americans went on not vanishing. How many people have no idea that somewhere on Staten Island there is not this memorial taller than the Statue of Liberty?
Statues and amusement parks are one thing [ NOTE: at least two things ] but how about airports? There were plans afoot in the early 1930s to build an airport on top of Manhattan skyscrapers. This would have solved both the problem of New York City’s needing a commercial airport within the Five Boroughs and the problem of anybody being willing to use it. How does the number of people unaware of that compare to the Saint Louis Disney Park? In the 1970s they were going to build a nuclear power plant floating in the ocean by Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. How does the Saint Louis Disney Park Unawarenss Number compare to this plan to create, with the help of a little hurricane blowing the nuclear power plant into the skyscraper-top airport, the greatest disaster movie ever made, if only they could ever have put together the right cast?
There’s no telling, because I don’t know the numbers. I realize there’s little chance that Mike Fazio is going to see this article. But, what the heck, if I can get picked up the Onion AV Club briefly and get in contact with guys I knew in college and from Usenet fifteen years ago, why couldn’t I get to hear from him? Mr Fazio, if you read this, could you let me know what’s the largest number of people you’d think could credibly not know about this before?
The blueprints are expected to sell for between five and ten thousand dollars, so I’m afraid I’m not going to get them for my sister for Christmas. She doesn’t have time to build her own amusement park these days anyway, with with [ NOTE: ASK WHAT SHE’S DOING THESE DAYS ]. You can sympathize.
Yes, I recognize the content of this sign is boilerplate. And I recognize that drawing amusement from boilerplate applied to a situation in which it’s not precisely appropriate but it’s too much bother to make something marginally more exact is one of the lower forms of humor. And I am aware of logical reasons for each one of these rules. Still: this is the sign outside a couple of desks set up for kids to use while coloring with crayons.
And to close out August I have an episode of an actual TV show to share. Courtesy of archive.org let me show off The Jack Benny Program and an episode labelled “The Carnival Story”. If the IMDB is to be relied on it first aired the 6th of March, 1955. And it was titled “Jack takes the Beavers to the Fair”. They went for fairly literal, descriptive titles back then. Of course, the title card at the end says copyright 1954.
I think Jack Benny is still, at least, a familiar name even if people don’t actually listen to or watch him anymore. That’s forgivable. His heyday was seventy years ago, after all. But he was really popular for a really long time, for the best of reasons: he was really funny. He dominates the comic acting of the whole episode and without having many punch lines. He just knows how to be the center of the show.
And it’s a well-crafted show. The writers for Benny, on radio and television, mastered the running gag. A good joke you can count on returning, in fresh variations, for not just the one episode but as many as they could get away with. Done well, as it often was, this meant many seemingly independent joke threads would weave together to a killer climax. And that’s probably why you don’t really see good Jack Benny quotes in those books of funny things people said. They’re not funny, not without context, and books of funny things people said don’t have the fifteen minutes of setup needed.
There’s drawbacks, of course. Once something became a running gag it would have to come back over and over. Later episodes of the radio program can feel claustrophobic, as the various recurring gags have to be visited like the Stations of the Cross.
This episode is a bit of a format-breaker. Most of the regular cast is absent, as Benny takes his scout troop to the fair. This troop was a running gag on the radio program too, for years. But you pick up on the relationship he has with them fast enough. And a couple of the show’s running gags appear in the action. The most prominent is Mister Kitzel (Artie Auerbach), who appears first as the hot dog seller. He’d been going since the 1940s on the curious catchphrase “pickle in the middle with the mustard on top”. I don’t know. The 1940s was also the decade that gave us the Hut-Sut Song and doubletalk.
Frank Nelson turns up, guessing Jack Benny’s age for a quarter. His catchphrase was a simple introductory “yyYYyyyesssss?” that’s lingered in the pop culture, the past quarter-century surely because The Simpsons picked it up. And speaking of them, one of the kids — Harry — is played by Harry Shearer. You remember him from delivering at minimum three of the last five Simpsons quotes to run through your head. Mel Blanc may surprise folks by appearing here with an actual body, not just voice acting. He’s the fellow running the ring-the-bell game that Benny tries to bribe.
The show does fairly well at presenting the illusion of a fair or amusement park, considering it has to fit stuff onto a soundstage. It carries the whole business off with a carousel and some game stands, plus stock footage. I’m also curious abut where the carousel came from. It runs clockwise (as seen from above), British-style. American-made carousels normally run the other way. Where did it come from, and how did it end up on CBS television in 1955? I think I’ve seen that carousel in other productions, mostly movies, but that could just be fooling myself.
I’ve mentioned how amusement parks seem to be natural places for cartoons. I think it strange that more don’t use the setting. But here’s one example, and from television: the string of Krazy Kat cartoons animated in the early 60s.
The video carries two cartoons, with “Looney Park” the first. It’s a bit oddly plotted; much of the action involves Krazy and Ignatz and an angered bull in the field. It’s not until three minutes into a five-minute cartoon that we even see the amusement park. The effect is to suggest they picked the title, which had inspiration enough to it, and then tossed into it whatever story scraps they had on hand before topping it off with a couple of sideshow gags and a quick shot of a roller coaster.
Last year when I looked at the various Krazy Kat adaptations I was fairly hard on the King Features Syndicate made-for-TV version of the 60s. Maybe I was wrong, or at least I wasn’t paying enough attention to the animation. The drawings are spot on for the comic strip’s style, and the flow of action feels right for the comic strip. Well, at least I had said as much in looking over another of the 1960s King Features cartoons.
The second half of the embedded video, “The Desert Island”, is a curious one. Krazy and Ignatz get the Coconino County desert turned into a deserted island by a process most fairly called “they wanted to do some desert island jokes” and everything else basically comes from that. And then pirates come in because why even have a deserted island if you aren’t going to put pirate treasure on it? I like the ridiculous logic of that; really, I think I like the logic of it more than I like the actual dialogue of the cartoons. Maybe I’ll see things more favorably a year from now.
So, out of not much of anywhere, a friend sent me what I assume to be this Wikipedia quote:
From 1981 to 1989, Price hosted the PBS television series Mystery! In 1985, he provided voice talent on the Hanna-Barbera series The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo as the mysterious Vincent Van Ghoul, who aided Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo, and the gang in recapturing 13 evil demons. A lifelong rollercoaster fan, Price narrated a 1987 30-minute documentary on the history of rollercoasters and amusement parks including Coney Island. During this time (1985-1989), he appeared in horror-themed commercials for Tilex bathroom cleanser. In 1984, Price appeared in Shelley Duvall’s live-action series Faerie Tale Theatre as the Mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the narrator for The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers. In 1987, he starred with Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, and Ann Sothern in The Whales of August, a story of two sisters living in Maine facing the end of their days. His performance in The Whales of August earned the only award nomination of his career: an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 1989, Price was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. His last significant film work was as the inventor in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990).
And I got off to a weird start because I mistook the subject for being Prince. This made all this text a tiny bit weirder than it was meant to be. It also meant I was thinking, “I had no idea Prince was ever on Scooby-Doo” or did all this other stuff. And also, “Wait, why does Prince have anything to do with Saint Louis?”
Anyway, yes, I made that all weird on my own because I wasn’t reading closely enough. Also apparently Vincent Price was a roller coaster fan? And has something to do with Saint Louis? Who knew that?
OK, first, I stand by my Statistics Saturday post about the nations of the world as you find them in amusement park figures and art.
But on Saturday, after I’d had it scheduled to post, and while I was out waiting behind someone who was trying to figure out how to work a Coke Freestyle machine, I realized something. “Santa Claus” is a funny nation. “Penguins” make for a funny nation. But “The Santa Claus-Penguinarian Empire”? That would be much better. And from a start like that I could play on all kinds of Austro-Hungarian Empire jokes that readers would love.
Too late now, that’s all. Pity. Someday I’ll have my second thoughts when it’s not too late to do anything with them.
- United States
- Chinese Restaurant
- Santa Claus
I’m still in an amusement park mood. But I haven’t got a good cartoon amusement park on hand. I can give a couple examples of 1960s cartoons but they’re, you know, episodes of Atom Ant or things like that. I’d thought about silent movies, although the one I most want to point out — Buster Keaton and Roscoe Arbuckle’s 1917 Coney Island I already wrote up last year. Onward I dig.
By The Sad Sea Waves, here, is a Harold Lloyd film originally released the 30th of September, 1917. It’s one of the first pictures Lloyd did in the “Glasses” character. You know, The Default Harold Lloyd character. He had been in dozens of shorts before, and even developed the Lonesome Luke character in a series of shorts. With “Glasses”, or “The Boy” as he’s often credited, he got his big hit. Here he’s still getting his character sorted out; he looks to me kind of like he’s trying to play Bill Gates. This is what happens when you’re ahead of your time.
The storyline’s a straightforward one. Glasses dons a lifeguard suit to better his chances with some of the women on the beach, and has to keep up the scam. Venice Beach and its amusement pier linger in the far background, just visible but secondary to being on the beach. I suppose if we start from the premise he’s pretending to be a lifeguard there’s not a way to get onto the pier for very long. But I was excited when things got onto the trolley and I wondered if they’d get a few stunts in before the end of the short. No luck; it’s just a little too short.
Yes, I noticed that appearance of cabana number 23. Supposedly the early 20th century saw 23 as the most inherently funny number, per Christopher Miller’s American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide To The Formerly Funny. Our more mature audiences of today give that role to 17 and, for more nerdy audiences, 42.
Amusement parks are great places for cartoons. By definition an amusement park is the sort of strange, surreal place where anything might happen. And a cartoon is a way we represent the potential for reality, without losing the sense that something else might happen yet.
Popeye would go back to amusement parks several times. Surprisingly few times, I’d say, given the potential for Popeye to show off his superhuman prowess, and for the ability of an amusement park to provide any setting or prop useful. But for this week let me share Abusement Park. This was originally released to theaters the 25th of April, 1947, so it’s more nearly seasonally appropriate than King of the Mardis Gras, despite its other shortcomings.
The biggest shortcoming is that Jack Mercer doesn’t act in it. Mercer was the voice of Popeye most of the time from 1935 up to his death in 1984. But there were exceptions, such as a streak from 1945 to 1947 when he was, if I’m not mistaken, in the Army. In this cartoon Harry Foster Welch voices Popeye. Welch performed for most of 1945-to-1947. Abusement Park happens to be the last time he performed the character. His isn’t a bad voice, and he plays Popeye reasonably well, I think. It’s just hard escaping the most common performance.
The plot’s also a bit weaker than King of the Mardis Gras, I think because the earlier cartoon presents Popeye and Bluto trying to appeal to a whole audience, rather than attending just to Olive Oyl. There’s somehow a difference in trying to draw a crowd to trying to win a single woman’s attention. Also, and I admit this is a silly thing, but it has always bothered me, since childhood, that Popeye blows into a telephone and explodes a lighthouse. It’s not that I don’t think he could do it. It’s just such a jerk move. Sometimes the parts of the cartoons where Popeye shows off his strength forget that he’s also supposed to be nice.
As before the action ends on a roller coaster, an impressively gigantic one. While the action runs nicely wild — if you’re not satisfied with a battle fought in midair along a chain of elephants we just don’t have anything in common — Famous Studios doesn’t make use of the 3-D settings the Fleischer Studios did. I wonder if they even had the equipment anymore. There aren’t the wonderful and hypnotic movements along the course of the roller coaster track, where all those structural supports move in perspective. The roller coaster itself gets panning shots, or gets shunted off-camera fast enough. It doesn’t look bad, mind you. But it’s hard not to conclude the animation for this roller coaster sequence was a lot less trying than that for King of the Mardis Gras. The chipping away at budgets and animation and effort that would make 1950s Famous Studio cartoons such a chore weren’t bad yet, but they were coming.