Bill Paxton Pinball was completed in 2010 and features themes and artwork from a number of Bill Paxton classics—except for Twister, which already has a pinball identity. The machine includes a torpedo loader (U-571), a Jamie Lee Curtis Progress-o-Meter (True Lies), oxygen tank stirrers (Apollo 13), Heart of the Ocean Progress Lights (Titanic), a killer sun (Near Dark), sentry gun LED counters (Alien), a greasy pork sandwich light (
Club Dread Weird Science), and a recrushable Hamm's can (Frailty).
It's bright and noisy and tactile, and it offers something else to master when you're learning so many other things. Most of all, of course, it's cheap—or it was. What else were you going to do with those quarters but something dreary like the laundry?
Pinball played a brief role in my life, but while it lasted it was mainly devoted to a Gottlieb game called Royal Flush. I remembered it, at first, as Joker's Wild, but a quick check against the Internet Pinball Database (who knew?) corrected me.
Blanford was a brilliant graduate student in English who cultivated a coterie of brash and funny Chicago lads. Granted, I was a chick, but that didn't stop him from reading me all of The Rape of the Lock in one of the Deadwood's booths, or long selections from Lucian, Herodotus, and Thucydides. He was a stumpy, stout, ginger-bearded man with prodigious powers of memory and storytelling. He'd been raised a la John Stuart Mill—which is to say, force-fed. His rebellions were the Beatles, Coke in bottles, and pinball.
Sometime in the next couple of months the first completed machine is expected to roll off the assembly line at upstart Jersey Jack Pinball's Lakewood, New Jersey headquarters. Founder Jack "Pinball Jack" Guarnieri is a former pinball repairman and designer, the founder of PinballSales.com, and a pinball columnist, which is a title I've been begging my editors at the Reader to create for some time now.
Before Pinball Jack's debut machine, based on the classic film version of Wizard of Oz, officially ends Stern's benevolent monopoly of the pinball industry I talked to Guarnieri on the phone.
The addition of flippers to the game wasn't Kordek's idea—like many of history's great innovations it was stolen, from his competitors at Gottlieb, who had put six of them at the top of their Humpty Dumpty game. But his decision to place one single, high-powered pair at the bottom of his 1948 Triple Action machine for Genco immediately evolved pinball from a game of chance to a game of skill and technique. (Although the specter of its history as a gambling machine is why pinball was banned in cities across the country even after flippers came into the picture.)
Pinball week coincides with Miles Raymer's feature story on the Stern Pinball factory and the company's new AC/DC machine. The piece, a terrific read, contemplates the future of pinball in the face of changing times.
And in case you missed it, here's "Protest Week," last week's "Variations on a Theme."