Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Month That Was - January 2010

The Month That Was - January 2010: It is viciously cold. The thermometer reads 8, but the wind swats away those eight degrees like Rosie O'Donnell swatting away a dinner salad. Only an idiot would live in this climate and I am that idiot.

Any readers who visited this site on or around the 29th may have been freaked out a bit by the layout here. I was messing around with updated Blogger templates. There are a couple of bad habits I have developed over the years that have not played out well. Specifically, the way I have incorporated the post title in the body of the post means that the title appears twice in the RSS feed (once as the title and once in the post). I also cannot easily reformat the labels post footers now that I have finally started using labels. Anyway, an updated layout would sort that out, but I was unable to get one looking right (something with margins or padding, I'm not sure which) so I backed off. I may give it another shot next month.

No travel this month. I am writing this during a long weekend in Binghamton, NY (with a side trip to Ithaca) which I'll discuss next month. It's viciously cold here, too. In the meantime I did get photos from Valley of Fire, Zion, and Bryce Canyon up over at Smugmug. Some very cool ones. Take a look.

Misspent Youth is currently in the hands a known and trusted professional editor. I should be using this time to do things like writing the jacket copy and various synopses and such, a thing I hate doing and so am procrastinating. But generally I feel cautiously positive about have a genuine tactile retail copy in my hands by the end of 2010, then I have already got thoughts on a couple of other projects and novel number four in my head. God help me.

[Movies] Flick Check: Throw Momma From the Train
[Football] My Self-indulgent Super Bowl Post
[Rambles] No Apologies
[Books] Book Look: The Mezzanine
[Good Links] It's All Fun nd Games Until...

[Movies] Flick Check: Thorw Momma From the Train

Flick Check: Throw Momma From the Train: It had been years since I'd seen this film when I stumbled across it on one of the 937 TV channels I get. I know I liked it back in the day, but my esteem has risen greatly. It is that rarest of things, a quality comedy for grown-ups. The majority of film comedy is in the toilet, at least with respect to its subject matter. Stupid gross-outs and infantile pranksterisms abound; that includes films from the likes of Sasha Baron Cohen or Seth Rogan. There are plenty of teen comedies, but even the good ones are, well, for teens. The rest of what passes for comedies are formulaic chick flicks. Sharp, exquisitely crafted originals like Throw Momma... are true treasures.

A satire based on the excellent Hitchcock film, Strangers on a Train, Throw Momma... is one of the very few spoofs that is even finer than the original. (Airplane!, as a spoof of the low grade Zero Hour and Airport '75, comes to mind, but those films aren't remotely as high quality as Throw Momma/Strangers.)

Billy Crystal is Larry, a two-bit novelist who had his manuscript stolen by his ex-wife and nemisis, played to perfection by Kate Mulgrew. She is now rich and famous and he is stuck teaching creative writing to a class full of dweebs and dolts, one of whom is Danny DeVito's Owen, a slow-witted nebbish who is constantly bullied by his horrible, hideous and hostile momma, Anne Ramsey. At one point, when discussing mystery writing, Larry suggests Owen go see a Strangers on a Train to understand the need to eliminate the motive. Owen mistakes this as an offer from Larry to kill his mother, if Owen kills Larry's ex-wife. Criss cross. Hilarity ensues.

Above all else in this film, the humor itself is near perfection. The script from Stu Silver is just dripping in high comedy all of it delivered with impeccable timing from Crystal and Devito. Seriously, this stuff is worthy of Phil Silvers or Mel Brooks. Beyond that, the characterizations of Larry and Owen are fully formed. As slightly absurd caricatures in a comedy, most scripts would probably pay lip service to fleshing them out. But it's the telling little scenes that humanize them and make us care, despite the fact that they are borderline cartoonish. Larry's hopeless ineffectuality is highlighted when his best friend is being interviewed by the police. "So you don't think Larry killed his wife?" "No way." "Why?" "Larry never did anything." There's your character. Or Owen showing Larry his coin collection, which consists entirely of change that his lost beloved father let him keep as a child. Perfectly understated yet effective characterization.

DeVito also directed and gives the film a pace that Billy Wilder would envy, all the while managing to lovingly use Hitchcockian visual devices without going overboard. As far as I know Throw Momma... won no awards but if you look at IMDB's list of films from 1987, it measures up to the best of them. If there is any justice, retrospective should give us a new appreciation of it. If you haven't seen it, treat yourself via Netflix or whatever.

Oh, and if you find a copy of Pinsky's book. Please forward the link.

[Football] My Self-Indulgent Super Bowl Post

My Self-Indulgent Super Bowl Post: I've done good until now. I have resisted the urge to inflict a football post on you all year. No matter how badly I wanted to lambaste Brett Favrerer for his tomfoolery I held my tongue. No matter how desperately I wanted excoriate the bad plays, moronic coaching, and lame officiating, I stayed reticent. No matter how stupid I thought the decision to abandon the undefeated season was for the Colts, I...well, since we're talking about a team in the Super Bowl, I'll start there. Move on now if you have no interest in the NFL.

The call to take a dive had to come in from Colts team President Bill Polian. Had to. Peyton was livid about it and there is no way coach Jim Caldwell made that call because if he did Peyton would have just laughed his ass off and went back in the game. It's an open secret that Peyton is actually running the team and Caldwell is a cardboard cut-out they dust off and set up on the sideline every Sunday. It had to come from higher up and it was a horrendous decision because:
  1. A team wins the Super Bowl every year but a chance to go undefeated comes along once in the lifetime of a franchise. You have to go for it. Look how long the '72 Dolphins have milked their perfect season. The Super Bowl is a career pinnacle. Going undefeated sets you up for life.
  2. The NFL has a huge problem with phony games. When I wrote my football column I referred to the final week of the season as the Week of Shame -- when locked in teams lay down and played their scrubs, screwing fans and gamblers in the process. It was especially awful this year as teams like the Colts were locked in to playoff positions weeks in advance. (A related symptom is the long-running joke that is the Pro Bowl. David Garrard played in the Pro Bowl this year. David Garrard. Think about that.) This is really undermining the integrity of the NFL. If I was Roger Goodell, this would be job one...after a new labor agreement, anyway. This was a remarkably high profile example of a phony game. Ugly for a league that supposedly values integrity.
  3. Worst of all, if the Colts win, it is ruined it for everybody. In the uber-cautious, superstitious NFL, every time the chance for an undefeated season comes up, every coach will take the secure way out and lay down in a late season game because it worked for the Colts where as it failed for the Patriots a couple of years earlier. Sample size = 2, but that's all you need for NFL coaches. It will be etched in stone that if you try to go undefeated you will not win the Super Bowl. "Lay down for a loss as soon as you can" will be the decision that won't get a coach fired and that's that. The '72 Dolphins are set for life and well beyond.
That said, I have to say I am rooting for the Colts. I have become a big Peyton fan. He is almost certainly the best quarterback ever. Probably the best football player ever. On every drive it just seems like he is carving up a defense like a Christmas goose. These are the kinds of performances future fans will wish they were alive to have seen. (Of course, unlike my generation, they will be able to see them. Probably at will on their iPhones.) Appreciate seeing them live. Sit your kid on your lap and say "remember this." Plus, Peyton is the best comic actor the NFL has ever produced by a mile.

And I think they will win. Back in Super Bowl XLI, the Colts came in with a newbie running back, riding a wave of late-season defensive resurgence that came from nowhere, and took the crown. This year they have a pair of newbie wide receivers and are riding a wave of late-season defensive resurgence that came from nowhere. Peyton is just too good to only have one ring.

For their part, the Saints can bite me. Oh I'm OK with Drew Brees from back when he was with San Diego and got his pants dissed off, first by a futile attempt to draft Eli Manning, then a successful attempt to get Philip Rivers. Then the Dolphins picked Daunte Culpepper over him (as a Fins fan, my eye still twitches when I write that). Brees didn't complain, didn't whine to the press, didn't ask for a government bailout. He just picked things up with New Orleans and hit the heights beyond anyone's imagination. Great work from a class act. The perfect way to make people eat crow -- by your actions on the field.

But the rest of the team, come on. Reggie Bush? Way to hammer your alma mater for years to come. Jeremy Shockey? Needs lessons from Peyton on how to be a lovable character instead of just annoying. That and a haircut. Then their defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, goes off on a live mike as to how they are hoping to give Peyton some memorable hits and if they have to take a roughing the passer call, well, he just hopes it knocks Peyton out of the game. The only thing that statement achieved was to put the refs on high alert. Any Saints pass rusher who neglects to genuflect before tackling Peyton is going to get flagged now. Good thinking, Einstein.

Worst of all, why are we still talking about Hurricane Katrina? New Orleans has had five years and untold piles of money thrown at them and they still cry about being victims. Remember that asinine wank-fest for the first post-Katrina home game in New Orleans, starring Bono? Wretch-inducing, but apparently that was just the start. A couple of years ago I went down for Mardi Gras and they were still wandering around wearing anti-FEMA t-shirts. OK, we get it. It was bad. You had a rough time. But you've had half a decade and well into the billions in aid to sort yourselves out. Why are we being subjected to this city-revives-through-its-football-team schlock? Will your football team really be your ultimate savior? It makes me long for a story about how Jerome Bettis is from Detroit. Maybe they are just setting themselves up to plead for government assistance to recover from Peyton.

Colts for the win is what I'm driving at here.

Topic change: A brief comment about the other end of the NFL spectrum. Bill Simmons recently posted a list of "tortured" sports franchises, the Chicago Cubs rightly at number one. But there is one team conspicuous by its absence: The Detroit Lions. Yep, in his list of the top twelve tortured franchises he completely omitted the single worst sport franchise extant. I don't blame Simmons. The Lions are so awful that they have simply slipped out of the consciousness of sports fans. They don't really exist. If they are on your schedule it is like bye week, you just don't even think about it as an actual game. Remember that episode of the Twilight Zone where the punishment for a crime was to be completely ignored by everyone and everything. That's what it's like to be the Lions. You don't even make Worst Of lists. You're not even good enough to be bad.

[Rant] No Apologies

No Apologies: An article in the WSJ highlights a new internet phenomenon: finding a long lost acquaintance to whom you have done some wrong and making an unsolicited apology decades after the fact. (I'm not sure this is a phenomenon in any serious sense of the word. That's more likely just journalistic hyperbole.) The author seems to think it's the result of our over-therapised, self-help loving, navel-gazing culture, but I'm not so sure. Although I haven't joined this phenomenon I think I understand the regret one can carry over what were probably minor slights from childhood or early adulthood, and the desire to right the wrong; and nobody would accuse me of being a new age namby-pamby. Hell, I refuse to wear a bike helmet and I still dive head first into the pool.

First, let's point out we are talking about small cruelties here. Petty stuff. The sort of thoughtless and mean-spirited slights that young people habitually dole out, intentionally or not. I think I can honestly say, as I look back on my younger days, that I truly regret inflicting this minor pain on others. In a larger sense, I have come to truly regret any unwarranted pain in have caused in my life. On balance, I think I'm OK on this score; I've probably received more cruelties than I've given (although as I think further, that's quite possibly self-delusion). Still, the older I get the more I have come to realize how much the little cruelties inflicted on me added up. Little injustices, insults, exclusions, bullying -- I certainly suffered my share of it. And I remember it to this day, without smiling. Such occurrences are inevitable; they are part of everyday life for Homo sapiens and probably always will be. But when you are young and just building your picture of the world, they are fresh and infuriating. Think of the first time you were ever laughed at or excluded or belittled. This could have been any point from your childhood to your twenties depending on how long you were able to stay in a bubble of loved ones or ingratiate yourself with the cool kids. In adulthood this pettiness is no big deal because you are more self-possessed and you know there are really no such thing as cool kids, but the first few times it happened -- when you had to face the possibility that you could be treated unjustly without consequence or that you were of lesser value than some others -- was gut-wrenching. The first time I remember experiencing this, I didn't leave my room for two days.

Have I ever been the one to inflict this on some poor soul? I don't recall, but it's possible; in fact, it's probable. And though it was going to happen to the poor soul eventually, I would absolutely hate the idea that I was the one that caused that kind of pain. And I feel that way only now, after seeing and feeling the full consequences and understanding that the pain doesn't necessarily disappear over time, it just gets re-situated in your psyche. I'm not a parent, but I can only imagine that re-living these feelings through your own children would be harrowing. When faced with that realization, the impetus to apologize seems natural. So I would argue that such regrets are timeless. I'm not so quick to dismiss this as a by-product of the wussification of contemporary society or an "Internet phenomena," although the Internet makes it more possible and visible. But it does beg the question of the purpose of apologies in general.

Let's point out that we are talking about actual, sincere apologies. Not customer service-style "I'm sorry there was a dead rat on your pizza, here's a coupon" apologies. And not "Forgive me for embezzling your life savings, please give me a reduced sentence" apologies. We are talking about apologies that truly stem from remorse.

The model exchange is apology and acceptance. The apology, in theory, mitigates the pain inflicted upon the victim by acknowledging the injustice and signaling that the apologizer feels he was degraded by his own act (and implicitly elevating the injured party in a moral sense). The injured party accepts the apology, tacitly acknowledging that, as the moral superior with respect the incident at hand, the apologizer has suffered sufficient guilt.

What a complicated dance of emotion. I can't imagine that ever working in any methodical sense. Upon receiving an apology, the victim has to:
  1. Believe that it is sincere.
  2. Determine that the apologizer has suffered sufficiently.
  3. Value some kind of emotional closure more than the leverage that the moral high ground would provide in current or future interactions.
What is the calculus for meeting these conditions? An even then, it's not like the memories are nullified. It's not like the effects of the injury just vanish, despite any high-minded noises about "moving on." I see very little analytic incentive to accepting an apology.

The apologizer is in a somewhat better position. From the article:
When an old high-school rival of Kathy Somes contacted her through Classmates.com last March, Ms. Somes, 46, apologized for her behavior years ago, which included putting gum in the girl's hair, shooting her with a rubber-pellet gun and blowing a trumpet into her ear during band practice.

"I didn't really care if she accepted my apology or not," says Ms. Somes, an investment analyst in Kirtland, Ohio. "I felt better." (And, she says, her classmate did accept her apology.)
I suspect most people would agree with Ms. Somes and say they would feel better anyway. So even if the injured party doesn't come through with acceptance, it's still a plus for the apologizer. Isn't there a problem with that? If you are going to feel better anyway, really what is the cost for you in apologizing? What is the value of your apology if there is no downside? You feel better because by your judgment you have done enough, but who are you to decide that? The other guy is the one who was in pain.

The practical absurdity of the entire process causes me think of it as evidence that the need for justice, and therefore a form of morality, is intrinsic to human nature. I just can't imagine such behavior developing as a learned trait, because there is so little measurable, observable evidence to provide a positive feedback loop for apologies over the course of one person's life. When simply assessing the pluses and minus of apologies as one walks through life, it would be a rare person who felt as though they balanced out to a net individual benefit on a regular basis. Yet we still dance the apology dance. Why? Presumably, because apologies are our somewhat irrational attempt to maintain a fa‡ade of fairness for the good of the human race as a whole. Without it a much larger portion of our lives would be given over to revenge and suspicion, our circle of trusted contacts would be smaller. Having a mechanism such that there is an innate disincentive to those who would simply march thru life domineering and offending others at will encourages cooperation which permits us to progress despite the fact that we are all constantly jostling conflict for status and position. You could take a religious stand on this and say we have been given this sense of justice by God and in our souls we know we will be judged on it. Or you could take a biological stand and say the evolution has selected a sense of justice as a benefit to survival or the species. Either way, apologies are clearly of time-tested value.

In any event, just in case anyone from my past does a Google search on that assclown David Mazzotta who picked on him many years ago, as I said above, I sincerely regret any unwarranted pain I have caused in my life. If it helps you know that, great. But, despite the risk to civilized humanity, please don't accept my apology. Things would work better if apologies were not to be accepted and we did not assuage our guilt by apologizing. We are not small tribes anymore; much better to go forward being careful not to accumulate any more contacts to whom we need to apologize. That will require us to keep our regrets alive and clear in our minds to guide our actions going forward.

And if you are one of the assclowns who picked on me, don't bother to apologize. I already feel morally superior to you and really just don't care enough about you to accept it. That is, unless you are offering money.

[Books] Book Look: The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker

Book Look: The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker: I have often complained about how novelists have pretty much abandoned the idea of documenting life, instead resorting to various magic realist fantasies or, worse, lurid tales of societal outliers. (I feel less strongly about this than I used to.) As if in response, fate -- by way of assorted Internet recommendations -- brought me to The Mezzanine, which I have come to see as a reductio ad absurdum of a response.

There isn't really any story going on here. A young-ish, male semi-professional, Howie, is returning from lunch and riding an escalator to his workplace on the mezzanine of a sizable office building. We are given 130 pages of every single thought that goes through his head, a stream of consciousness only broken by brief moments where he must actively think about the actions he is going to take in the external world. Basically, it amounts to few minutes immersed inside this man's head.

The reflections are minutiae -- utterly mundane, with long footnotes cascading off as he follows his thought chains. His thoughts are centered on how he has just spent his lunch hour -- quick and superficial interactions with co-workers, a quick snack of popcorn, buying and eating a hot dog, cookie and milk, stopping at CVS to get replacements for his broken shoe laces, subtly awkward encounters with co-workers in the men's room, trying to read a bit of his Penguin Classic paperback copy of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Seemingly the stuff of nothing, most of which chains off into equally nothing memories from his past.

Baker has an ungodly capacity for description and the precision in vocabulary to pull it off. For example, he refers to the covering of an un-popped Jiffy Pop pan as a "maelstrom" of aluminum foil and describes the perfection of its design of a self contained cooking vessel whose handle doubles as a loop for hanging in stores. He laments the degradation of milk delivery as it went from capped glass bottles, to plastic containers, to paper quarts, to nonexistence, documenting the aesthetic losses at each step, yet also praising the wax paper carton that replaced it and how in opening it creates its own spout.

Here's a long passage regarding shampoo:
Yet emotional analogies were not hard to find between the history of civilization on the one hand and the history within the CVS pharmacy on the other, when you caught sight of a once great shampoo like Alberto VO5 or Prell now in sorry vassalage on the bottom shelf of aisle 1B, overrun by later waves of Mongols, Muslims, and Chalukyas -- Suave; Clairol Herbal Essence; Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific; Silkience; Finesse; and bottle after bottle of Arabesque Flex. Prell's green is toosimple a green for us now; the false French of its name seems kitschy, not chic, and where once it was enveloped in my TV-soaked mind by the immediacy and throatiness of womanly voice-overs, it is now late in its decline, lightly advertised, having descended year by year through the thick by hydroscopic emulsions of our esteem, like the large descending pearl that was used in one of its greatest early ads to prove how rich and luxurious it was. (I think that ad was for Prell -- or was it Breck, or Alberto VO5?) I remember friends' older sisters who used those old shampoos -- one sister especially, fresh from using Alberto VO5 and Dippity-do, with her hair rolled up in a number of small pink foam curlers and three RC cola cans, sitting down at the kitchen table to eat breakfast while we (nine years old) ate raw Bermuda onions from lunch, reading Fester Bestertester paperbacks. I think of the old product managers staring out the window like Proust, reminiscing about the great days when they had huge TV budgets and everything was hopping, now reduced to leafing through trade magazines to keep up with late breaking news in hair care like outsiders. Soon, nobody would know they had introduced a better kind of plastic for their shampoo bottle, a kind with a slight matte gunmetal dullness to it instead of the unpleasant patent-leathery reflectivity of then existing efforts at transparency; that with it they had taken their product straight to the top! In time, once everyone had died who had used a certain discontinued brand of shampoo, so that it passed from living memory, it no longer would be understood properly, correctly situated in the felt periphery of life; instead it would be one of many quaint vials of plastic in country antique stores -- understood no better than a ninth century trinket unearthed on the Coromandel coast.
This is an especially wonderful passage as it draws a contrast between the relatively short set of memories young Howie has, mostly concerning self-discovery, and the more elegiac, reflective memories of an "old product manager". But more broadly, all this extended observational trivia works because of the recognition it triggers: the bits where the reader thinks "I know exactly what you mean," or "I remember that."

And, yes, it was a commercial for Prell.

After a hundred and thirty pages of this, the dominant impression is one of wonder at the strange world we have created where even the most basic items and transparent actions are boundlessly complex and rife with hidden meanings, and what oddly gifted creatures we are that, through nature or conditioning, we navigate this world without a second thought. In that sense, The Mezzanine can be thought of as a very indirect work of sociology.

The question I always try to answer for my readers is Should you read this book? The answer for most people is going to be no. There is no plot, no action, and no characters in the conventional sense. The sentences are long and elaborate. There is no dramatic payoff or closure of any sort. I suspect many (if not most) would give it a furrowed brow and a loud "Who cares?" after a few pages. On the other hand it works well for aesthetic folks with an actively curious intellect and a strong tendency to live inside their own heads. (Clearly I fit that category.)

My favorite blogger, Robin Hanson of Overcoming Bias, has argued that in a time frame of tens or hundreds of thousands of years, humanity will almost necessarily return to a subsistence-level (though not unhappy) lifestyle, and that these folks will look back on our inscrutable and elaborate world as a sort of dreamtime. The Mezzanine is a distilled document of a moment in that world. It is the internal monologue of dreamtime.

[Good Links] It's All Fun and Games Until...

It's All Fun and Games Until...: For your reading pleasure, check out this Wikipedia entry on the late, great Action Park, a New Jersey-based amusement park that redefined amusement -- redefined it to mean horrific and life threatening. Some choice quotes:
Many of Action Park's attractions were unique. They gave patrons more control over their experience than they would have at most other amusement parks' rides, but for the same reason were considerably riskier.

Its popularity went hand in hand with a reputation for poorly-designed, unsafe rides; inattentive, underaged, underpaid and sometimes under-the-influence employees; equally intoxicated and underprepared visitors...


The park's fortunes began to turn with two deaths in summer 1984 and the legal and financial problems that stemmed from the lawsuits. A state investigation of improprieties in the leasing of state land to the resort led to a 110-count grand jury indictment against the nine related companies that ran the resort and their executives for operating an unauthorized insurance company.


Action Park's alpine slide descended the mountain roughly below one of the ski area's chairlifts, resulting in much verbal harassment and sometimes spitting from passengers going up for their turn, who would often be entertained by the accidents they witnessed while at the same time hoping to avoid similar fates.

The sleds themselves were a large factor in the injuries. A stick that was supposed to control speed led, in practice, to just two options on the infrequently maintained vehicles: extremely slow, and a speed described by one former employee as "death awaits."


[Go karts] were meant to be driven around a small loop track at a speed of about 20 mph (32 km/h) set by the governor devices on them. But park employees knew how to circumvent the governors by wedging tennis balls into them, and were known to do so for parkgoers. As a result, an otherwise standard small-engine car ride became a chance to play bumper cars at 50 mph (80 km/h)...


[LOLA Cars] were miniature open-cockpit race cars on a longer track. Extra money was charged to drive them, and they, too, could be adjusted for speed by knowledgeable park employees, with similarly harmful consequences to riders... [A]fter the park management briefly set up a microbrewery nearby, employees looking for after-hours fun would break into it, steal the beer, and then ride the cars on Route 94.


Super Speedboats: These were set up in a small pond, known by staff to be heavily infested with snakes.


Tank Ride was one of the most popular... In a chain link fence-enclosed area, small tanks could be driven around, for a fee, for five minutes at a time, with tennis ball cannons that enabled riders to shoot at a sensor prominently mounted on each tank. If hit, the tank stopped operating for 15 seconds, while other tankers often took advantage of the delay to pepper the stricken vehicle with more fire. Visitors on the outside could also join in the fun through less costly cannons mounted on the inside of the fence. When workers had to enter the cage to attend to a stuck or crashed tank, which usually happened several times a day, they were often pelted with tennis balls from every direction despite prohibitions against such behavior that could result in expulsion from the park.


The first patron death occurred [at the Tidal Wave Pool] in 1982; another visitor would drown in this common water-park attraction five years later. It was, however, the number of people the lifeguards saved from a similar fate that made this the only Waterworld attraction to gain its own nickname, "The Grave Pool."


[The Tarzan Swing] was a steel arch hanging from a 20-foot-long cable over a spring-fed pool. Patrons used the ride properly, but then were surprised to find out the water underneath was very cold. It was cold enough, in fact, that the lifeguards sometimes had to rescue people who were so surprised by the sudden chill they couldn't swim out.


[The Surf hill] ride, common to other water parks at the time, allowed patrons to slide down a water-slick sloped surface on mats into small puddles, until they reached a foam barrier after an upslope at the end. The seventh lane was known as the "back breaker," due to its special kicker two-thirds of the way down intended to allow jumps and splashdowns into a larger puddle. Employees at the park used to like eating at a nearby snack bar with a good view of the attraction, since it was almost guaranteed that they could see some serious injuries, lost bikini tops, or both.


Super Speed Water Slides: Those who made it to the bottom found their progress arrested by water, which made a large splash, and then a small pool. The speed at which riders met the end resulted in many getting wedgies and enemas from the experience.


The Looping Water Slide [is] the one ride that has come to symbolize Action Park and its extreme thrill-seeking was almost never used.

In the mid-1980s GAR built an enclosed water slide, not unusual for that time, and indeed the park already had several. But for this one they decided to build, at the end, a complete vertical loop of the kind more commonly associated with roller coasters. Employees have reported they were offered hundred-dollar bills to test it.

It was opened for one month in summer 1985 before it was closed at the order of the state's Advisory Board on Carnival Amusement Ride Safety, a highly unusual move at the time. One worker told a local newspaper that "there were too many bloody noses and back injuries" from riders, and it was widely rumored, and reported in Weird NJ, that some of the test dummies sent down before it was opened had been dismembered. A rider also reportedly got stuck at the top of the loop due to insufficient water pressure, and a hatch had to be built at the bottom of the slope to allow for future extrications.
Even to a bare-headed cycler/head-first pool-diver like me, some of that stuff seems just a tad ill-considered.