I clarified to someone who wasn’t sure exactly what kind of early bicycle was under discussion by explaining that a velocipede was the one made with “one giant wheel and one attack dinosaur”. And people corrected me, rather than leave me unable to tell the penny-farthing bicycle apart from the one that’s got attack dinosaurs. I am so delighted.
If I speak of that German sense of whimsy it mostly sounds like I’m making a mild ethnic joke. But there is such a thing and for today’s movie I’d like to offer Hans Richter’s 1928 dadaist piece Ghosts Before Breakfast. He directed a series of pieces like this — they turn up on Turner Classic Movies now and then — and they’re just magnificent.
It’s vey easy to do dadaist comedy badly because superficially you’d think it’s just a matter of throwing a lot of nonsense together. This is funny the first time you encounter it and boring ever after. If you put together elements that suggest a narrative — even if they don’t deliver — if they tease the audience by being obviously carefully planned and selected to start sharing a story, though, you can get a great piece like this. It’s whimsical, it’s funny, it’s difficult to summarize without just describing the sequence of images presented. It has hats.
I forget how long it’s been since I brought the lovely films of Georges Méliès up here, and it would take whole minutes to check earlier videos and find out. Here, though, I offer his 1899 short, An Up-To-Date Conjurer. It’s a short film, barely a minute long, as the date almost implies. It’s almost plotless, too, another thing you might expect from the date alone (A Trip To The Moon was three years in its future), but that just means the action is all the camera-tricks and sight gags that define this style of silent movie. It’s just a minute of magic tricks, and a fun one at that.
So, if my dreams are a reliable guide to anything, apparently, the Great Adventure amusement park in central New Jersey has been having a problem with flash mobs of people wearing those Scream-style melting-ghostface masks and bright orange academic robes gathering and breaking into Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers, and park security is almost laughably unable to do anything about it. The Daily Show has been weirdly hard on them for not being effecting in slowing down this bit of whimsical excess.
Still, you’d imagine the park would catch people sneaking in ghost masks and academic garb at the entry gate when they put your phones through metal detectors and stuff like that, not to mention the carts they use for the pinwheel portions of the dance. This does suggest that it’s got to be partly an inside job, someone working for the park bringing in costumes and equipment through the employee gate unobserved. Except surely they’d be watching for people with wheelbarrows full of masks and orange robes after the first couple times this happened, right?
The implication is that this is all a put-on by Great Adventure and that the park is deliberately acting as if this is all a spontaneous ongoing affair so as to make themselves look looser and less corporate. I have to credit Dream World Six Flags for being crafty but kind of underhanded if that really is what they’re doing. If they are, then I don’t want to know.
Palm Copilot (Item MMXXXVIII). A small person, easily strapped onto the claw, arm, or wing of a commercial- or higher-grade dragon. These charmingly retro copilots are particularly useful in keeping up with transponder codes, air traffic control notices, weather reports, and other essential features to flying in Class A through D airspaces. Separate maintenance and food units are available. The catalogue item includes a coupon for one free starter kit and a large cage with cedar chips. The copilot has no interest in them, but they do give the lair that lived-in feel and improves the scent until ambient water makes mold set in. When this happens the chips should be changed for something more durable, and maybe the more durable thing should have been sent in in the first place. We may not have been quite ready to publish the Spring catalogue.