Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Slate

January 11, 2013

Slate: Can this man save pinball?

(Continued)

LAKEWOOD, N.J. —

In the Jersey Jack Pinball factory, history is covered in bubble wrap. A handful of simple, gorgeously illustrated 1960s-era games — Flipper Clown, King of Diamonds, Road Race — stand in a back corner, ready to ship to a nostalgia-minded connoisseur. The rest of this workshop in Lakewood, N.J., has been given over to a brand-new game with an old-timey theme, the machine Guarnieri believes will rocket pinball into its next golden age: the Wizard of Oz.

Each Oz pinball machine is the size of a casket built for a member of the Lollipop Guild. On this day in early fall, millions of dollars of parts — LED lights and emerald-green legs and a forest's worth of anthropomorphic plastic trees — are sitting in cardboard boxes, waiting to be fished out by arcade-world craftsmen. On one assembly line, they'll put together the machine's heart, adding rails, rollover buttons and magnets to the yellow-brick-road-laden playfield. They'll also add the brains, stuffing the PC board, power supply, and other electronics inside the Wizard of Oz's exterior shell.

In addition to the parts and labor, building a new pinball company takes courage, plus a light messianic streak. The 55-year-old Guarnieri, who's got a lot of his native Brooklyn in his tireless voice, is the best kind of salesman. He talks fast but means everything he says, remembers every detail of anything that has to do with arcades, and doesn't take himself too seriously — while still treating the quest for pinball supremacy as a noble, essential mission.

In Guarnieri's view, this humming factory is proof of all you can accomplish when you love what you do. Bean-counter types have "said some sh--ty things" about his arcade ambitions, he says, telling him he's crazy to throw his money into the shrinking ball-and-flipper market. Perhaps it's true that irrational exuberance can lead you to bankruptcy. But it's also the only way to make something great from absolutely nothing, just as Guarnieri's role models did. "What overcomes doubt," he says, "is the resolve and the passion and determination of people like Steve Jobs and Sam Walton, whether it's going over the hill in Normandy or whether it's building a freaking pinball machine."

Text Only
Slate
  • baby-generic.jpg For millennials, out-of-wedlock childbirth is the norm

    This month brings us yet another reminder that, for young Americans, having children outside of marriage is very much "the new normal," as The New York Times once put it.

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • May 2014 was the hottest may in recorded history

    According to new data released this week, May 2014 is officially the warmest May in recorded history.
    Both NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency have tentatively ranked May at the top of historical measurements, though NASA's numbers are preliminary because crucial information is still missing from China.

    June 20, 2014

  • GM recalls soar past 20 million. Why don't consumers care?

    In case you thought there couldn't possibly be another General Motors recall so soon, you're just not thinking big enough. This week, GM said it was recalling 3.36 million more cars. The cause: an ignition switch defect that could result in keys carrying extra weight (read: a keychain) to slip out of position and shut the vehicle off abruptly during "some jarring event."

    June 18, 2014

  • No one is against devoted dads

    Father's Day is Sunday, which means that it's time for pundits and politicians to scold the American public - with special ire reserved for black members of the American public - for our supposed indifference to the wonder and awe of fatherhood.

    June 12, 2014

  • 74129880-graduates.jpg The fate of the overeducated and underemployed

    According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 44 percent of young bachelor's degree holders lucky enough to be working are employed in positions that technically don't require their degree. While that number isn't far off from the historical norm — 22-year-olds have always needed a little time to find their professional footing — the fraction stuck scraping bottom in truly low-paying jobs has grown quite a bit since the recession.

    June 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Skype's real-time language translator

    This week at Re/Code's Code Conference, Microsoft announced a real-time, multilingual translation beta called Skype Translate. The service can mediate between two video chatterers who speak different languages by providing text and audio translation after each person finishes speaking. Currently the service works for English and German, but Microsoft says it will support other languages soon. The beta will be released later this year.

    May 29, 2014

  • New Orleans does away with traditional public schools

    The second-graders paraded to the Dumpster in the rear parking lot, where they chucked boxes of old work sheets, notebooks and other detritus into the trash, emptying their school for good.

    May 29, 2014

  • Amazon sells steroids and stimulants banned in sports

    I have by no means executed a comprehensive search of wares sold by Amazon directly or through its third-party sellers, but I found other prescription drugs for sale without a prescription, including the antibiotic norfloxacin and the muscle relaxant methocarbamol. Both compounds, like clindamycin, warrant careful oversight to avoid complications or endangering public health, such as by breeding antibiotic resistance.

    May 29, 2014

  • 2010-Winter-Olympic-Games-001.jpg Nobody wants to host the Winter Olympics

    If we end up watching slopestyle from the Central Asia steppes in 2022, it will likely be because it's becoming clear that nobody in Europe wants to host these Olympics anymore. Publics may finally be getting wise to the fact that the long-term economic benefits of hosting mega-events like the Olympics or the World Cup are usually negligible at best.

    May 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Woman sues a New York Hospital for forcing a C-section. Can doctors do that?

    Though Dray's doctor claims he did not force her to have a C-section, her hospital record included a note signed by the hospital's director of maternal and fetal medicine that said, "I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section."

    May 21, 2014