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Posts Tagged ‘amusement park

“Rock and roll is here to stay”*…

 

HardRockPark

 

Hard Rock Park, a 50-acre rock music-themed amusement park just outside Myrtle Beach in South Carolina… billed as the world’s first rock and roll theme park, opened its gates to the public in the spring of 2008. One of the first things visitors saw when they walked through the gates was a giant electric guitar—rising 90 feet over the park’s central lagoon, the statue loomed into view as park-goers strolled past the bell towers of the entry plaza, modeled after the buildings in the cover art of Hotel California. If they looked down as they approached the water, they would realize they were standing on the frets of another guitar, set into the pavement.

The Gibson statue was iconic, but it wasn’t the park’s largest structure. That was Led Zeppelin The Ride: a roughly 150-foot tall rollercoaster designed in partnership with the band and synced to its 1969 hit, “Whole Lotta Love.” Riders boarded inside a life-sized airship, and speakers blasted the song’s breakdown as they were cranked up the lift hill; the iconic guitar riff kicked in as the train hurtled out of the first loop.

Across the water, a huge mural beckoned visitors into a Moody Blues-themed dark ride called Nights in White Satin: The Trip, designed to evoke a multisensory psychedelic experience. The adjacent concert arenas hosted artists like the Eagles, Kid Rock, and Charlie Daniels; after sunset, the lagoon erupted into a nightly fountain and firework extravaganza choreographed to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Lasers shot from the head of the guitar statue during Brian May’s solo, before a sparkler-covered kite was towed around the water during the song’s final bars…

Hard Rock Park closed after just five months, amid the 2008 financial crisis.  Learn its (fascinating) story and take a stroll through what remains at “The Spectacular Failure of the World’s Only Hard Rock Theme Park.”

* Neil Young

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As we wave our lighters, we might recall that it was on this date in 2010 that Gordon Lightfoot (one of the fathers of folk-pop and “Canada’s greatest songwriter”), driving himself home from a visit to his dentist, heard on the radio that he had died.  “It seems like a bit of a hoax or something,” the then-71-year-old singer said at the time. “I was quite surprised to hear it myself.”

(As it happened, then-CTV journalist David Akin had posted on Twitter and Facebook a rumor that he’d heard that Lightfoot had died… without qualifying that it was a rumor.)

220px-GordonLightfoot_Interlochen source

 

Written by LW

February 18, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Time moves in one direction, memory in another”*…

 

lennon

A few years ago a student walked into the office of Cesar A. Hidalgo, director of the Collective Learning group at the MIT Media Lab. Hidalgo was listening to music and asked the student if she recognized the song. She wasn’t sure. “Is it Coldplay?” she asked. It was “Imagine” by John Lennon. Hidalgo took it in stride that his student didn’t recognize the song. As he explains in our interview below, he realized the song wasn’t from her generation. What struck Hidalgo, though, was the incident echoed a question that had long intrigued him, which was how music and movies and all the other things that once shone in popular culture faded like evening from public memory.

Hidalgo is among the premier data miners of the world’s collective history. With his MIT colleagues, he developed Pantheon, a dataset that ranks historical figures by popularity from 4000 B.C. to 2010. Aristotle and Plato snag the top spots. Jesus is third…

Last month Hidalgo and colleagues published a Nature paper that put his crafty data-mining talents to work on another question: How do people and products drift out of the cultural picture?…

Hidalgo explains the two ways that people and events drop from our collective memories at “How We’ll Forget John Lennon.”  Explore Pantheon here.

* William Gibson

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As we muse on memory, we might recall that it was on this date in 1885 that LaMarcus Adna Thompson received the first patent for a true “switchback railroad”– or , as we know it, a roller coaster.  Thompson has designed the ride in 1881, and opened it on Coney Island in 1884.  (The “hot dog” had been invented, also at Coney Island, in 1867, so was available to trouble the stomachs of the very first coaster riders.)

Thompson’s original Switchback Railway at Coney Island

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“Tradition wears a snowy beard, romance is always young”*…

 

Thomas Gowing felt the mighty yet fragile English Beard to be threatened with extinction by an invasive foreign species, the Razor. So he set out to defend the furry face mammal in every conceivable way. The resulting lecture was received so enthusiastically by a bushy-faced audience in Ipswich that it was soon turned into The Philosophy of Beards (1854) — the first book entirely devoted to this subject.

It is Gowing’s ardent belief that the bearded are better looking, better morally and better historically than the shaven. To call him a huge fan of the suburbs of the chin would be an understatement. “It is impossible” he writes “to view a series of bearded portraits . . . without feeling that they possess dignity, gravity, freedom, vigour, and completeness.” By contrast, the clean-cut look always leaves him with “a sense of artificial conventional bareness”. Gowing’s apology for the beard makes frequent appeals to nature, some of them amusingly far-fetched: “Nature leaves nothing but what is beautiful uncovered, and the masculine chin is seldom sightly, because it was designed to be covered, while the chins of women are generally beautiful.” Sometimes his argument transforms from a shield for the beard into a swipe at the chin: “There is scarcely indeed a more naturally disgusting object than a beardless old man (compared by the Turks to a ‘plucked pigeon’)”.

Gowing was writing at a time when physiognomy — the art of reading a person’s character in their facial features — was still popular in Europe and America. So it is no surprise to learn that “the absence of Beard is usually a sign of physical and moral weakness”…

More tonsorial teaching at: “The Philosophy of Beards (1854).”

Read it in full at the Internet Archive; or buy a hard copy of The Philosophy The British Library republished it in 2014, for the first time since 1854.

* John Greenleaf Whittier

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As we hail the hirsute, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005 that Kingda Ka opened at the Six Flags Great Adventure Park in Jackson, New Jersey.  The world’s tallest roller coaster (and the world’s second fastest roller coaster), it offers riders an experience that lasts 28 seconds… during which the roller coaster cars are “launched” to a speed of 128 mph (in 3.5 seconds).  At the end of the launch track, the train climbs the main tower (or top hat) and rolls 90 degrees to the right before reaching a height of 456 feet.  The train then descends 418 feet (straight down through a 270-degree right-hand spiral.  The train climbs a second hill of 129 feet, producing a brief period of weightlessness, before descending, turning toward the station, and being smoothly brought to a stop by the magnetic brakes.

Cool.

Kingda Ka’s “top hat”

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Written by LW

May 21, 2018 at 1:01 am

“God’s a Skee-Ball fanatic”*…

 

In the early 1900s, the thing Joseph Fourestier Simpson desired most was to create something people respected. A career hustler—real estate agent, cash register salesman, and railroad clerk were just a few of the many jobs he held—Simpson longed to invent something he could patent that would have lasting appeal.

A handful of his inventions made minor waves: He perfected an egg crate that could protect shells during bumpy transportation routes, and created a new kind of trunk clasp that kept luggage tightly shut. None of it made him rich, but one invention in particular would at least gain him some national recognition. It was a ramp that could be set up in arcades and amusement parks, a kind of modified form of bowling that allowed players to lob a wooden ball over a bump and into a hole with a pre-assigned point value. He dubbed it Skee-Ball after the skee (ski) hills—and especially the ski jumps—that were then becoming popular in American culture.

Simpson filed for a patent in 1907 and received it in 1908. Later, he would see his Skee-Ball become a popular and pervasive attraction along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, in Philadelphia, and across the country. But Simpson wouldn’t see any profit from it. In fact, he’d suffer financial ruin. Even worse, history would become muddled to the point where most people wouldn’t even realize it was Simpson who had invented it…

The tale in its entirety at “The Hole Story: A History of Skee-Ball.”

* “Rufus, the thirteenth apostle” (Chris Rock) in Dogma

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As we roll ’em true, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that the first Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

Lou Gehrig (back to camera) and Al Simmons at the plate as Babe Ruth approaches to bat. Ruth homered to give the American league a 4-2 victory.

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Written by LW

July 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig”*…

 

Between 1830 and 1860, historian Carl F. Kaestle has written, American schools, influenced by theories stemming from European educators Joseph Lancaster and Johann Pestalozzi, began to favor the inculcation of “internalized discipline through proper motivation.” In practice, this kind of discipline might include positive reinforcement, like these certificates, as well as corporal punishment. 

Schools that wanted to teach children to be “obedient, punctual, deferential, and task-oriented,” Kaestle writes, were responding to the exigencies of a classroom environment that could easily descend into chaos. (Nineteenth-century schoolrooms might be crowded with large numbers of students or be required to serve a wide variety of ages and abilities; teachers were sometimes young and inexperienced.)

This range of merit certificates shows what kinds of behaviors were valued in 19th-century students: selflessness, “correct deportment,” and diligence…

The digital archive of The Henry Ford has a group of 60 examples of rewards of merit given to 19th-century schoolchildren; more at “School Certificates of Merit For Good Little 19th-Century Boys and Girls.”

* actual comment made by a New York Public School teacher on a report card; see others– equally amusing– here

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As we polish the apple, we might spare a thought for Ron Toomer; he died on this date in 2011.  Toomer began his career as an aeronautical engineer who contributed to the heat shields on NASA’s Apollo spacecraft.  But in 1965, he joined Arrow Development, an amusement park ride design company, where he became a legendary creator of steel roller coasters.  His first assignment was “The Run-Away Mine Train” (at Six Flags Over Texas), the first “mine train” ride, and the second steel roller coaster (after Arrow’s Matterhorn Ride at Disneyland).  Toomer went on to design 93 coasters worldwide, and was especially known for his creation of the first “inversion” coasters (he built the first coasters with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, loops).  In 2000, he was inducted in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame as a “Living Legend.”

Toomer with his design model for “The Corkscrew,” the first three-inversion coaster

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“The Corkscrew” at Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio

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Written by LW

September 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Like the bee, we should make our industry our amusement”*…

 

Your correspondent is off for his annual sojourn in the land of dunes and deep fried food; regular service should resume on or around August 11.  Meantime, in the hope of inspiring readers to new heights of summer fun…

Dyrehavsbakken (“The Deer Park’s Hill”), commonly referred to as Bakken (“The Hill”), a ten minute drive north of Copenhagen, is the world’s oldest continuously-operating amusement park.  Its origins trace back to 1583, when residents of Denmark’s capital would retreat to “The Hill” for its clean spring water.  The large crowds attracted entertainers and hawkers, the forerunners of the attractions that make up the modern park.

Bakken at the turn of the 19th Century

Today, Bakken is home to six roller coasters, the most famous of which is Rutschebanen (Danish for “The Roller Coaster”; pictured above, top), a wooden roller coaster open since 1932 (and a designated American Coaster Enthusiasts Coaster Classic), to dozens of other flat (or amusement) rides, and to gaming halls, restaurants, and shows.

Visit Bakken.com, then Bakken… just be careful not to hop onto The Rollercoaster of Death by accident.

[Image sources: Rutschebanen and 19th Century]

* Oliver Goldsmith

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As we keep our arms within the car, we might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that 36 Disney executives gathered (for the next 3 days) to brainstorm ideas for a very different kind of amusement park– a second Anaheim-based theme park to be built next to Disneyland.  The result was a plan for an attraction celebrating a place (and a state of mind) that hadn’t even been imagined when Bakken got going: Disney’s California Adventure.

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Written by LW

August 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Artistic tricks divert from the effect that an artist endeavors to produce”*…

 

After spending much time on Instagram, a pattern quickly revealed itself: covers of Kinfolk magazines, wood, American flags, lattes, etc.

These similarities popped uo without even trying to look for them specifically, and so, a project was born. Not out of spite, but out of a fascination with the redundancy of almost identical subject matter.

Four images, one Instagram account per set. A whole lotta the same shit.

Welcome to the Kinspiracy…

Kinfolk Magazine: making white people feel artistic since 2011″– more at The Kinspiracy.

* Paul Rand

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As we contemplate composition, we might send amusing birthday greetings to George C. Tilyou; he was born on this date in 1862.  Tilyou was the man most responsible for turning Coney Island into a entertainment destination.  Having open the first theater there, he began to experiment with rides, most successfully with a copy of the Ferris Wheel that he saw on his honeymoon at the Columbian Exhibition.  (Tilyou tried to buy that one, but as it was already promised to the upcoming St Louis World’s Fair, he built a replica.)

He parlayed those rides into an attraction: Steeplechase Park, known round the world for its trademark “funny face” logo.

Any resemblance to Batman’s nemesis, The Joker, is not coincidental: illustrator Bill Finger, who co-created the character attests to being influenced by the Steeplechase Park mascot.

The Park’s unique appeal lay in its power to involve visitors…

Many rides were calculated to play with gravity and so encourage couples to grab a hold of each other. In addition to the famous Steeplechase, which took its customers down a wavy track on mechanical horseback, the attractions included the Human Roulette Wheel, the Human Pool Table, the Whichway and the Barrel of Love, which spun humans in directions they’d never been spun in before. Equally involving was the Blowhole Theater–a stage built into an exit that forced customers to become actors, as they endured blasts of air and electric shocks to the delight of other recent victims.

Steeplechase burned down in 1907, but Tilyou didn’t miss a stride. After charging admission to the burning ruins, he rebuilt the park, this time introducing the roofed Pavilion of Fun. After Tilyou died in 1914, various managers took their turn running Steeplechase, although ownership remained in the family. The park finally closed in 1964, ending what amounted to a 69-year run of comic relief from the modern world.

American Experience

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Written by LW

February 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

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