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Posts Tagged ‘Circus

“The child’s laughter is pure until he first laughs at a clown”*…

 

Catering to bikers, truckers, and other long haul travelers that find themselves off the beaten path, the Clown Motel is the final port of call before the yet another stretch of unbroken Nevada desert. It must be this location’s oasis-like location that has kept the establishment in business for so long, as the ever-watchful eyes of the ubiquitous clown figurines seem to serve more as a warning than a draw. From the moment travelers enter the adjoining offices they are greeted by a life-size clown figure sitting in a chair, cradling smaller figurines like familiars. In fact the entire office is covered in shelves and bookcases full of clown dolls, statues, and accouterment of every stripe. Stuffed animals, porcelain statues, wall hangings, and more make up the mirthful menagerie, staring down at guests from every angle.

Leaving the office with key in hand, visitors might also notice an arch just feet away heralding the “Tonopah Cemetery.” Just beyond the gate is a century-old miner’s graveyard made up of a gaggle of wood and stone markers. The very Platonic ideal of a haunted cemetery…

For those unafflicted by coulrophobia, “Clown Motel.”

* Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus

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As we pop on our red noses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that the BBC premiered a new comedy sketch show– then improbably, now legendarily– entitled Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

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Written by LW

October 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left”*…

 

The modern claw machine typically stands vertically, lit from the inside with eye-searing brightness, and can tempt passersby with everything from cheap plush toys to Beats headphones or iPods. For 20 or 30 seconds, the user is in charge of operating a motorized trolley with the potential for reward; to see the multi-pronged claw scrape the sides of a stuffed panda, its grip strength too weak to snatch it from its Plexiglas prison, is to know true disappointment.

The components may have changed, but that hypnotic interaction between player and claw has been going on for nearly 100 years. Some amusements historians believe the machines existed as early as the 1890s, mechanical dioramas that were built to entice people fascinated by the machinery used in constructing the Panama Canal.

But the first mass-produced unit didn’t arrive until 1926. That’s when the Erie Digger began inhaling the spare change of players.

“It’s a very complex little machine,” says Roller, who worked in carnivals from 1960 to 1977 and now restores antique diggers for collectors. “It took skill that had to be taught and demonstrated”…

Stroll down the midway at “Dime After Dime: A Gripping History of Claw Machines.”

* Victor Hugo

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As we hold out for the toy dinosaur, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956, at the Heidelberg Race Track in Pittsbugh, Pennsylvania, that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended its season early, when President John Ringling North announced that it would no longer exhibit under its own portable tents, but (starting in 1957) would exhibit in permanent venues, sports stadiums and arenas that had the seating already in place.

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Written by LW

July 16, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Let us save what remains”*…

 

On Friday morning, January 25, 2013, 15 jihadis entered the restoration and conservation rooms on the ground floor of the Ahmed Baba Institute in Sankoré, a government library in Mali. The men swept 4,202 manuscripts off lab tables and shelves and carried them into the tiled courtyard. They doused the manuscripts—including 14th- and 15th-century works of physics, chemistry, and mathematics, their fragile pages covered with algebraic formulas, charts of the heavens, and molecular diagrams—in gasoline. Then they tossed in a lit match. The brittle pages and their dry leather covers ignited in a flash.

In minutes, the work of Timbuktu’s greatest savants and scientists, preserved for centuries, hidden from the 19th-century jihadis and French conquerors, survivors of floods, bacteria, water, and insects, were consumed by the inferno.

In the capital city of Bamako 800 miles away, the founder of Timbuktu’s Mamma Haidara Library, a scholar and community leader named Abdel Kader Haidara, saw the burning of the manuscripts as a tragedy—and a vindication of a remarkable plan he’d undertaken. Starting with no money besides the meager sum in his savings account, the librarian had recruited a loyal circle of volunteers, badgered and shamed the international community into funding the scheme, raised $1 million, and hired hundreds of amateur smugglers in Timbuktu and beyond. Their goal? Save books…

The whole heart-warming story at “The Great Library Rescue of Timbuktu.”

* Thomas Jefferson

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As we check it out, we might wish a spectacularly happy birthday to Phineas Taylor (“P.T.”) Barnum; he was born on this date in 1810.  Barnum founded and ran a small business, then a weekly newspaper in his native Connecticut before leaving for New York City and the entertainment business.  He parlayed a variety troop and a “curiosities” museum (featuring the ‘”Feejee” mermaid’ and “General Tom Thumb”) into a fortune…  which he lost in a series of legal setbacks.  He replenished his stores by touring as a temperance speaker, then served as a Connecticut State legislator and as Mayor of Bridgeport (a role in which he introduced gas lighting and founded the Bridgeport hospital)… It wasn’t until after his 60th birthday that he turned to endeavor for which he’s best remembered– the circus.

“I am a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.”

source: Library of Congress

Written by LW

July 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“There wasn’t an anhydrous lacrimal gland in the room”*…

 

For more than 100 years after the founding of America’s first medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1765, faculty members personally peddled tickets to their classes in order to fill lecture halls. So if a prospective surgeon, like Samuel Gartley, whose name appears on this delightfully morbid ticket featuring dancing skeletons, wanted to study anatomy under W.S. Jacobs at the University of Pennsylvania around 1800, he would seek out Jacobs and buy a ticket to attend his “dissecting class.”

“With roughly 10 to 15 dollars in hand, anybody could purchase admission to a course of lectures directly from the professor, who profited directly from the students’ fees,” write Carol Benenson Perloff and Dr. Daniel M. Albert, the authors of a new book, Tickets to the Healing Arts: Medical Lecture Tickets of the 18th and 19thCenturies. Customers included not only matriculated medical students but also practicing physicians and “apprentices” laboring within the older, informal system of medical education. This proprietary enrollment system was upheld by unsalaried professors who worked like independent contractors, paying rent and overhead to the school’s dean out of ticket sales while pocketing the proceeds…

* Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

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As we take our seats, we might spare a colorful thought for Phineas Taylor (“P.T.”) Barnum; he died on this date in 1891.  Barnum founded and ran a small business, then a weekly newspaper in his native Connecticut before leaving for New York City and the entertainment business.  He parlayed a variety troop and a “curiosities” museum (featuring the “‘Feejee’ mermaid” and “General Tom Thumb,” but also serious scientific exhibits, for which he actively collected natural history specimens.) into a fortune…  which he lost in a series of legal setbacks.  He replenished his stores by touring as a temperance speaker, then served as a Connecticut State legislator and as Mayor of Bridgeport (a role in which he introduced gas lighting and founded the Bridgeport hospital)… It wasn’t until after his 60th birthday that he turned to endeavor for which he’s best remembered– the circus.

“I am a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.”

source

Written by LW

April 7, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Damn everything but the circus!”*…

 

Once she has lowered herself into the mouth of the cannon and slid down to the base of the barrel, Gemma “The Jet” Kirby performs a series of breath-synchronized movements that seem more suited to yoga or lamaze than to one of the deadliest stunts in circus history. This sequence is the culmination of hours of preparation, the final item on a human cannonball’s pre-flight checklist…

A Glimpse Inside The Secretive World Of Human Cannonballs

* e.e. cummings

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As we lock and load, we might spare a thought for Charles W. Fish; he died on this date in 1895.  A bareback rider, he was one of the most famous circus performers of his time.

It is eminently fitting that Charles W. Fish, whose death occurred in Chicago on May 5, 1895, should have a place on these pages. For three seasons he was a feature of this show, and had he lived would have been with the show during the season of 1895. [Ringling Bros.] Mr. Fish was one of the most widely known circus performers in the world. He had during his long career visited every civilized country, and his marvelous ability as a somersault equestrian won him the well-deserved title of champion wherever he appeared. He was especially proud of the fact that he had appeared before Queen Victoria and the royal family at Windsor by the Queen’s especial command, and though he was intensely American in spirit, he always recalled his visit to the English sovereign with pleasure. He also appeared before many of the continental crowned heads, and received many marks of royal and imperial favor. He was a fine linguist, and an artist of considerable ability. A number of his sketches appeared in Ringling Brothers’ Route Book for 1894. As a literary man, Mr. Fish would have taken prominence if his life work had not been directed into a more active channel. His clever little poem, “A Light House by the Sea,” which appeared in the Route Book in 1893, was always much admired. Mr. Fish was buried at Troy, New York.

With the Circus. A Route Book of Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Railroad Shows, Seasons of 1895 and 1896, St. Louis: Great Western Printing Co. By Alf T. Ringling.

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Written by LW

May 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

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