Meet the inventor of Whac-A-Mole and The Rock-afire Explosion

Aaron Fechter is the creator of the Rock-afire Explosion, the animatronic band that made greasy memories at Showbiz Pizza throughout the 1980s. He also insists he's the inventor of Whac-A-Mole, based on a similar Japanese game that he saw in 1976, although the company that popularized it call bullshit on that claim. Now, Fechter has a new game in the works, Bashy Bug, and he's banking on its success to save his career, and his legacy. From Popular Mechanics:

Day two of the (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions Convention) finds Fechter on the floor but with a non-working game. This is the first public debut of Bashy Bug.

As Fechter promised, the game is mechanical. The player operates a giant rubber flip-flop while a mutated cockroach skitters underfoot. If you can step on the bug, you earn a point. If the bug escapes when you bring your foot down, the bug earns a point. I know from experience that the system has been wired with a jerking intelligence to randomly stop the bug's run just short of the target that makes this harder than it sounds, and after the bug has scored a few points against you, you'll find yourself sucked in. But nobody here will have that opportunity.

"I haven't slept," Fechter tells me, standing in front of this monument of a purple machine with an animatronic roach face hovering above the scoreboard and Billy Bob painted on the cabinet. There is a mania in his voice that I would blame on fatigue if I hadn't interviewed him before.

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Art: compacted cube of demolished amusement park

Artist James Dive's "Once" consists of a 4 x 4 meter cube of demolished and compacted amusement park. A closer look reveals midway prizes, lights, tickets, garishly-painted metal scraps, and other mementos of old time carny fun. I'm just waiting for the bits to begin creaking back into shape like at the end of the movie Christine. "On View: James Dive’s “Once” for “Sculpture by the Sea(Hi-Fructose) Read the rest

The sordid history of a perfect poison

Suxamethonium chloride is a common hospital anesthetic that has, off and on, moonlighted as murder weapon.

Used to paralyze patients so that doctors can more easily put insert a breathing tube, the drug can kill very easily if the person who gets a dose of it doesn't have access to things like respirators, or a medical team. And when somebody is killed by "sux", the death can look conveniently like a simple heart attack. More importantly, writes professional chemist and anonymous science blogger Dr. Rubidium, for many years, there was no way to test for sux in a dead person's bloodstream.

Since the early 1950s, sux has been used in a clinical setting mainly by anesthesiologists. It’s a mystery when it was first used in a homicide, but the first high-profile killings came in the 1966 and 1967. This salacious tale of murder involves anesthesiologist Dr. Carl Coppolino, his mistress, his mistress’ husband dying suddenly in ’66, Coppolino’s wife dying suddenly in ’67, a quick remarriage by Dr. Coppolino (not to that mistress), two trials in different states leading to different verdicts.

Coppolino’s first trial in New Jersey involved a shaky witness (that jilted mistress) and a tricky toxicology problem. ...

Back in the mid-to-late sixties, sux was likely considered a “perfect poison” as no tried-and-true method for detecting it in tissues was developed until the 1980s. Previous analysis had holes – including the analysis presented in both of Coppolino’s trials. It wasn’t sux that was detected, but the metabolites succinic acid and choline.

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