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  • Robert Farago

So I Have A Pinball Machine...

Therein lies the Tale

Until yesterday, I hadn’t played Tales of the Arabian Nights in over a year. I knew that sending the ball onto the playfield would force me to confront life, the universe and everything. Specifically, John Popadiuk’s life, the pinball universe and everything I own…

Life - A Cautionary Tale

John Popadiuk was the designer behind Tales of the Arabian Nights, Theatre of Magic, World Cup Soccer, Star Wars Episode I, and Cirqus Voltaire.

In terms of beauty, playability, imagination and innovation, all of these pins are amongst the greatest pinball machines ever made

After designing this peerless portfolio, establishing himself as the Michelangelo of pinball, Popadiuk and his Bally benefactor parted company.

Did JP fall or was he pushed? Regardless, in the year 2000, the superstar designer’s pinball-related career was over.

Popadiuk “drifted” for a decade, dabbling in neon sign manufacture. In 2011, he came out of retirement, accepting deposits for Magic Girl. A brand new John Popadiuk? Fuck yeah!

Fuck no. Popadiuk came this close to completion at one point, but ultimately failed to deliver the goods. Thirteen years later, investors still struggle to reclaim their cash. Popadiuk’s persona non grata in the industry.

Part of me viewed Tales of the Arabian Nights as a personal rebuke. Perhaps my best work is behind me, too. Maybe I didn’t live up to my full potential.

Before I could pull the plunger on my pin, I had to reframe that nagging negativity with a Zen Koan: who gives a shit?

The Universe - Pinball’s Corinthian Conundrum

What happens in the machine, stays in the machine. Everything happens in accordance with His design. You play in His world by His rules, determining what the silver ball can and cannot do.

If you play pinball “seriously,” playing for points or task completion, you’re playing against yourself – and the “god” who designed the game.

If you play for fun, bashing the ball to see what happens, you’re surrendering yourself to God.

I’d lost my ability to play Tales of the Arabian Nights for fun. I know the rules and goals and physical possibilities so well I can’t ignore them.

The pin trapped me in a world designed to test my moxie. When it didn’t go well…


Another rebuke! This one I overcome via Shawn’s killer weed, along with the realization that, after sixty-four years on the planet, it may indeed be time to put away childish things.

Everything - Tales of the Arabian Good Nights?

The things you own end up owning you, Fight Club’s Tyler Durden tell his insipid acolytes. True that.

Everything in this condo – from the condo itself to the stupid little kitchen tools I never use – owns me. Before I hit the road for my Travels with Charley motorcycle tour, I have to figure out a fate for all of it.

Tales of the Arabian Nights is the most demanding thing I own. It’s large, heavy and more than a little garish. And yet something must be done!

I’ve been neglecting Tales because I don’t want to face the hassle of it. But also because I don’t love it anymore. Even after kicking the genie’s ass, rescuing the princess and setting a new high score, the machine left me cold.

It’s still a beautiful thing. A John Popadiuk masterpiece. But if my ex “Linda” taught me one thing, it’s this: never love anything that can’t love you back.

Now you tell me…

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