A PanTimes entertainment 010920
Quiet Essence in the Spin of Existence
Recent weeks have seen us on a Rollercoaster1. And left us feeling a little giddy2. Some of the Dodgems3 have been personal and family driven, and required us to keep our eye on the road. Others are the Carousel4 of the country, what with Eskom making a real effort to keep the power off, leaving us in the dark as to when we will see the light; and the Dive Bomber5 of the ZA Rand spinning wildly, so travel restrictions become a necessity rather than an option. Then there’s the global Mechanical Bull6, of allowing restaurants to open, and public transport to be permitted, yet restricting private social visits to two ‘pods’. As to who will win the Tombola7 of various political games, all over the world, that seems to depend less on who actually draws the lucky numbers, than whose weaponised media or literal armies call Bingo.
We have missed the toffee-apples and spookasem of PanTimes. Our Ferris Wheel8 has had its own ups and downs, and the view keeps on changing. We are confident that the midday Tunnel of Love9 will soon be operational, and we will again entertain ourselves, and you, with the Helter Skelter10 of images and ideas that give us pleasure.
As it turns out, we are not the only ones turning about. The certainty of our ambivalence, the variety of ways, is how humans show themselves. Perhaps it was learned from observing the rotation of the heavens.
Enjoy springtime. Here some amusements to keep you cosy this wintery week.
1. The Rollercoaster: Although the first patent went to LaMarcus Thompson in 1885, he wasn’t the first person to make a rollercoaster. Modern rollercoasters descended from ‘Russian Mountains’ winter sled rides, 60m down ice hills, that were popular in 17th century St. Petersburg. Then in 1827, a Pennsylvanian mining company constructed a “gravity railroad” to move coal, and on slow workdays, they charged thrill-seekers to take a ride.
2. Filled with the gods. Giddy (adj.) Old English gidig,gydig ‘insane, mad, stupid’,’possessed (by a spirit),’ from Proto-Germanic *gud-iga- ‘possessed by a god,’ from *gudam ‘god’ + *-ig ‘possessed.’
3. Bumper cars or dodgems is the generic name for a type of flat ride consisting of several small electrically powered cars. The metal floor is set up as a track, and graphite is sprinkled on the floor to decrease friction. A rubber bumper surrounds each vehicle, and drivers either ram or dodge each other as they travel. The controls are an accelerator and a steering wheel. Although the idea of the ride is to bump other cars, owners sometimes put up signs reading “This way around” and “No head-on bumping.” These rules are usually ignored by children and teenagers of all ages.
4. A Carousel is a tournament in which groups of knights took part in demonstrations of equestrian skills. Carousels with wooden horses were first used to give horseback riding lessons to Turkish and Arabian cavalry members. When crusaders returned to Europe, they brought the device back with them. These became especially popular in France, where 17th century riders tried to pierce a target while moving at high speed. The power source for the mechanism was the horse power of actual horses.
5. Dive Bomber: Patented in 1938, Eyerly conceived the idea as part of his background in flight-simulation training. The ride consists of twin cars mounted on a vertical rotating arm, the cars spinning on their own axles. The trick is that the rider is never turned upside-down, but the Dive Bomber remains a fearful ride. The Dive Bomber can be argued to be the first true thrill-ride, cutting an imposing sight on any fairground up until the 1980s.
6. The Mechanical Bull. Until the 1970s, mechanical bulls were strictly used to train cowboys and rodeo competitors. Early practice bulls were basically large barrels suspended from four ropes and people could jostle the barrel by tugging on the ropes or using a pulley mechanism. The mechanical version, was made popular by a Texas businessman who wantedy to make his bars more exciting.
7. Tombola. A game in which people pick tickets out of a revolving drum and certain tickets win immediate prizes, typically played at a fete or fair. In Italy, a tombola is a traditional board game, first played in the city of Naples in the eighteenth century. It is similar to the game of bingo. It is mostly played at Christmas time, and prizes are often only symbolic. From Italian tombolare ‘turn a somersault’.
8. Ferris Wheel. The Ferris wheel made its debut at the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago. One year earlier, William Somers designed and built wooden wheels measuring 15m in New York. Both men owed a debt to the similar, wooden ‘pleasure wheels’ invented in 17th century Bulgaria. The London Eye is 135m high. The Cape Town ‘Wheel of Excellence’, at the Waterfront, is 50m.
9. Tunnel of Love. In its earliest incarnations, riders were taken by two-passenger boats through dark passages. There were two major themes: a relaxing romantic ride encouraging the couple to cuddle, or a spooky horror ride encouraging the couple to cling to one another. The darkness provided a degree of privacy and the frightening scenes offered a socially acceptable excuse for the physical contact at a time when public affection or even holding hands was considered inappropriate. With the development of other socially acceptable opportunities for unmarried couples to engage in physical contact, these rides became less popular.
10. Helter Skelter. First seen at Blackpool 1906, the ride is a high tower with a curling slide nestled against it. Customers climb stairs inside the tower before riding down to the bottom. In 2019, a full-size helter-skelter was put in the nave of Norwich Cathedral ‘to give people a different view of the inside of the building’. The cathedral said it was ‘a creative way to share the story of the Bible’.