Monday, March 10, 2008
We suspect that every military has a secret room full of stoned dudes who stare at the ceiling and just dream up shit to build. The difference is they have billions of dollars to make their dreams reality.
In support of our "secret room full of stoned dudes" theory, we offer the following actual military projects that stretch the limits of the non-stoned imagination:
Working on the premise any weapon is cooler if it flies in the night on leathery wings, Bat Bombs were proposed by a dental surgeon in the '40s. Naturally the President thought it was awesome so a plan was rolled out to make the night unsafe for anyone that didn't want to have small explosives get stuck in their hair.
Because bats can carry a good amount of weight and tend to sneak into buildings and such, the plan was to make an army of flying rodent suicide bombers and release them over Japan. The little fellas had small napalm explosive kits made for them, which were probably the cutest incendiary devices ever, and then cases were constructed that would be dropped from B-29s, releasing the bats.
At dawn, they'd flee to buildings until the timers on their little bombs went off. So far, so fucking crazy.
What went wrong:
Things got sketchy when some armed bats were accidentally released and set up shop under a fuel tank on an Air Force base. So, yeah, that burnt to the ground. But, hey, it proved the damn things worked, so the people involved looked at that as a silver lining.
Given that the bomb casings they'd made for the bats could hold over 1,000 bats, they assumed just one bomber could hold up to 200,000 little flaming night terrors and some initial test data concluded these bat bombs were actually superior to regular fire bombs.
But after a couple million bucks in funding, the plan was scrapped. The plan was moving forward too slowly, the bats were unpredictable and the guys at the Manhattan Project were talking about having some kind of miracle bomb that could do the work of like, a million bats.
Getting through enemy fortifications is always tough, what with their insistence on constructing defenses out of stone and other non-meringue based substances. Sometimes conventional weapons just can't break through, and such was the case with the concrete defenses that were part of the Third Reich's Atlantic Wall that ran up and down the west coast of the European continent. So the Brits came up with the Panjandrum, insanity's answer to "what could we do to make explosives more dangerous?"
So how do you get a tank-sized hole in a concrete wall? Well, they created two giant, wooden wheels joined by a central drum stuffed with explosives. On each wheel they strapped rockets as a means to propel it forward at speeds of about 60 miles an hour. Life imitates art, and sometimes military life imitates Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
What went wrong:
You can probably guess. The rockets that moved the thing had a habit of flying off during tests, sending the entire structure off course, which we're thinking created a number of safety issues. After adding more rockets and another wheel, it was tested again and this time it turned right back to sea.
Finally, after many tweaks, it was ready to be tested in front of Navy officials, scientists and journalists. How could this go wrong?
The ridiculous thing started rolling off as planned, but then like a drunken hussy with vertigo on a dance floor, it started careening all over the place before making a beeline for the assembled Navy brass, discarding rockets and wobbling around before thankfully collapsing and exploding. Moments later, the Roadrunner went zipping by.
A real pain in the ass during WWII was the enemy constantly trying to not get bombed. Ways of jamming guidance systems for homing missiles meant a lot of targets went unblown up, so effort was put into finding a way to guide a missile that couldn't be jammed.
Every psych 101 students' favorite sleep aid, BF Skinner, proposed the idea of using pigeons. Put a pigeon in a bomb and have the target displayed on screen for it. The pigeon would constantly correct the course by pecking on the image of the target in the center of the screen. Jam that, Nazi assholes.
What went wrong:
Even though a chunk of change had been dropped on the project, the military abandoned it. Some say it was just too weird for them, while the time involved in training the pigeons had also been cited. One of the problems was the range of the weapons, as they relied on an optical system, since the pigeons had to see what they were pecking at. If the bomb went too far off course, the pigeons would have to correct for themselves and the bomb. Another problem was that it was a bomb guided by a fucking bird.
Destroying your enemies from space is the goal of every angry 4th grader and Scientologist. Unbeknownst to many, it was also the goal of the Nazis, who figured a space station/death ray combo would have been gangbusters.
Appropriating the work of less genocidal minds, Nazi physicists began work on an idea that would put a giant mirror in orbit. The mirror, which they planned to design from about one million tons of metallic sodium, would burn cities to the ground, boil reservoirs, crisp people like bacon and probably make all kinds of kids with magnifying glasses huddled over ant hills feel grossly inadequate.
The mirror would be on a space station manned by Nazi spacemen with magnetic boots to help overcome weightlessness, with oxygen provided by on-board pumpkin patches and electricity provided by solar powered steam dynamos. The cafeteria would presumably have food deep fried in love and the rec room would be structured out of the dreams of children and unicorn gonads.
What went wrong:
We did. "We" being all the non-Nazi assholes, the more colloquial name for the Allied forces. When it became clear that we were going to win the war, the US began taking German scientists out of the country and this plan, along with many others, was abandoned. Also, the epic, grand scale, and mind-bogglingly retarded nature of the entire idea was apparently a roadblock that needed to be overcome too, since we couldn't even build the damned thing now, in 2008, if we wanted to.
And trust us, we want to.
When Winston Churchill got a hankering to smite his enemies, he aimed for the sky. Actually, he aimed for the ocean, where he wanted to build Holy Fuck That's Insane island. That was renamed Project Habbakuk. It was an aircraft carrier. It was an iceberg.
Wanting to make an unsinkable aircraft carrier that would be so intense as to make enemies shit themselves uncontrollably, and with good reason, the Brits came up with the Habbakuk. Constructed from ice (ever try to sink an ice cube?) the plan was to make it 2,000 feet long with a deck to keel depth of 200 feet and walls 40 feet thick. It would displace 2,000,000 tons (compared to the Navy's current Nimitz class carriers that displace 100,000 tons). So, it was like, really big.
When ice proved to be not entirely feasible a material to build an aircraft carrier out of, they switched to something called Pykrete, which was just ice and wood pulp. It was intense stuff that deflected bullets and since this idea was already probably the craziest thing anyone had ever heard of, why the fuck not?
What went wrong:
Practicality. A small version had been constructed in Canada that weighed 1,000 tons and was only 60 feet long to show that the idea could work. It took three summers to melt the damn thing. The full-scale model would take $70 million, 8,000 people and eight months to finish, the finished product could only travel at six knots and once it arrived where it was going, it would still be made of fucking ice.
Sadly having nothing to do with fighting aliens who pretend to be Egyptian gods, the Stargate Project was the CIA's way of saying goodbye to $20 million, but getting a fun story to tell the grandkids as a result. The project was an effort to discover if psychic remote viewing was real, because if it was then that would make spying a whole lot easier.
Apparently the Commies were spending a lot of money on paranormal research during the Cold War. So if they were doing it, the CIA wanted a slice too, before the Reds whipped out some dude who could kill the President with his mind. They started the Stargate project in the '70s with a crack team of gifted psychics provided by the Church of Scientology. Seriously.
What went wrong:
They realized right away there probably wasn't anything to the whole psychic/remote viewing thing. And by "right away" we mean 25 years later. The project lasted until 1995.
Research into the project's validity concluded that while the remote viewers could get some details right, they were also doing a stellar job of getting a shitload wrong. In fact, many say the results were exactly the same as having a group of random hobos make wild guesses, and that you could just as accurately uncover enemy hideouts by having a camel spit at a wall map.
Hey, did we mention that we spent $20 million to find that out? Don't feel bad, the Soviets spent 500 million rubles to find out the same thing.
In terms of great military plans, from the first ape-man who threw a rock at some other asshole ape and likely stretching into our Jetsons-like future with lasers and nanobots that will melt the faces of those who displease us, nothing is likely to ever top the Gay Bomb. The Gay Bomb is exactly what it sounds like; a weapon that would rend our enemies asunder with gay. Actual, weaponized gay.
Wright Laboratory in Ohio proposed a number of non-lethal weapons to the Pentagon, as methods of crowd control are highly in demand these days and tear gas is about as cool as hippie daisies and beaded curtains. Instead, why not bathe your targets in an aphrodisiac chemical so strong that it caused all the enemy combatants to line up for mustache rides?
So maybe it's not a room full of stoners coming up with these ideas, maybe it's a house full of frat guys.
What went wrong:
In concept, it's probably true that an enemy is less effective when engaged in a massive, frenzied man-orgy. However, science has not actually perfected a way to make this happen to just any group of males.
Apparently the "how" was not the job of the idea department here, as the same lab proposed other weapons that would make bugs and rodents attack enemies, give them bad breath or mark them with a stink so they couldn't hide in general population. Again, that's all fine and good, if and when ways of doing those things actually exists.
Despite that, the Pentagon kicked this idea around for at least seven years, perhaps based on nothing more than the private fantasy of one frustrated general.
The Active Denial System, often referred to as the Pain Ray, is a futuristic sounding way of making sure someone is about to have a really terrible day or improperly cooked microwave burritos. Designed as a method of crowd control, the ADS does just what the nickname suggests, it causes pain. At a distance!
In certain situations, it seems the military doesn't want its own people getting too close to the danger, but at the same time doesn't want to start picking off rowdy crowds with a sniper hidden on some kind of grassy knoll because that makes for very bad press. So developing non-lethals that make people do what you want has recently become very popular.
Thus the Active Denial System is born, a long-range weapon that uses electromagnetic radiation at a high frequency and can be directed at targets close to 500 yards away. It causes the water molecules in a person's skin to get "excited," which is a pleasant way of saying it microwaves you. But not in a permanently damaging sort of way. Maybe.
What went wrong:
Nothing, yet. They've built the thing, and it works. The ADS was first developed over a decade ago and after many trials and tests, the US military seems to have a hankering to get them into Iraq very quickly.
A lack of research into long-term effects or prolonged exposure to the weapon have some people wondering if it's such a great idea, since probably no one has volunteered to have their eye microwaved yet to see what that's like, but meh. It's called the Pain Ray, not the Rainbow Shooter. That's what you get for not dispersing on your own, angry mob!
Another non-lethal method of crowd control and also a psychological weapon, malodorants, or stink bombs, are supposed to create a stink the likes of which you can't imagine. Worse than rotten meat, backed-up sewage or another trip to the dump with dad to find mom an anniversary present.
Military forces have been playing with this idea for decades. A number of smells have been patented, including the smell of human feces, which makes us think we probably owe a hell of a lot of royalties to someone every day at about 8AM. In the Second World War, some intrepid people invented the hilariously named Who Me? as a way to make Germans disperse as well as humiliate them by making them smell worse than people on the bus.
The US has something called US Government Standard Bathroom Malodor which is apparently so bad, people who have experienced it actually start screaming within seconds. Written accounts describe it as smelling like every bad smell you can think of, put together, times ten. Reports say it actually creates visible cartoon stink lines in the air. The military thinks that's as hilarious as we do and wants to throw it at people.
What went wrong:
Though the ideas are still being developed, the fact is, historically, they don't work out so well on account of you're going to end up smelling like unbelievable ass too. Back in WWII, Who Me? couldn't really be effectively used since it not only made the target stink, it made the bomber stink and the entire area where the bomb went off stink.
Stink is a fickle mistress, and obeys no master.
When you think of spying, odds are you think of jamming a radio inside of a cat so it can listen in on stuff. And if you don't, you really need to have a good, long think about what kind of person you are. Anyway, in the '60s, the CIA hatched this idea to make a cat into a listening device and stick it to some dirty Commies.
The how and why of this project was probably torn up and shat on by whoever came up with it in an effort to save a shred of dignity, but nonetheless, what has survived is a plan to implant a battery and a microphone in a cat, with the antenna running up through its tail. They could let the cat loose and no one would be any the wiser of the mystery cat sitting nearby.
What went wrong:
Public transportation. It turns out, in a strange twist of logic, that once you put a battery, a microphone and an antenna inside a cat, it is not immune to taxis. So, after spending several millions of dollars and years in research, the CIA released their spy cat on its test run and a cab ran it over.
The project was then scrapped and no one spoke of it again.
A WOMAN determined not to let her kitten become the second victim of a hungry python broke her wrist and was bitten twice as she repeatedly punched the large snake.
Ruth Butterworth, 58, of Bridgeman Downs on Brisbane's northside, said that as her mother's cat had been crushed to death days earlier, she knew she had to act to stop her kitten, Tuffy, from suffering the same fate.
"It was almost dark and I saw this silhouette coming down, and I knew what was about to happen to Tuffy," she said.
"Here was this evil thing coming out of the fence, coming down, and within a couple of seconds it had the cat."
Ms Butterworth had been calling Tuffy, but the kitten playfully ran back and forth in front of the fence before the snake struck.
"I just started punching the thick part of the snake where it was about the size of my arm," Ms Butterworth said. "I wasn't looking, I just kept punching until it let go."
The snake bit Ms Butterworth twice before it released Tuffy, who ran indoors. It wasn't until Tuffy was safe and Ms Butterworth fell backwards to get away from the snake that she realised she had broken her wrist and been bitten.
Days earlier Ms Butterworth's mother found her cat, Coco, dead, crushed by the same snake.
15-year-old Gemma Anscomb told her parents she was having a few friends around for a video night. But instead she had advertised a party on social networking site Bebo and invited everyone she knew.
When Robert and Julia Anscomb arrived home the next day they found their dog Bailey unconscious. He had overdosed on ecstasy tablets. Their dining room floor was covered in four inches of beer, their lap-tops, iPods and jewellery had been stolen and they found handcauffs and underwear in their eight-year-old daughter's bedroom.
Mrs Anscomb told the Daily Mail : "We found underwear between the sheets and a pair of handcuffs." "What were they thinking? This is a little girl's room."
In her own bedroom the scene was little different. The walls were covered in black marks and there was evidence of group sex.
"There were six people in there having sex at one time. We feel totally violated."
Traces of cocaine, marijuana and alcohol bottles littered the house and the family estimates it will cost thousands of dollars to clean up.
But Gemma, who drank to excess and passed out at 7:30pm is not repentant. While she has gone into hiding she has managed to post comments about the party on her Bebo site.
"Yeahh it (the party) went wrong but it was well good. . . I mean it was f****** good," she wrote.
"My mother thought it would teach me a lesson by putting it in the papers. . . all thats dne is make everyone go 'wow ur party made the front page' . . . i meann it wasssss goooodddd. . . and my mums a t*** nehowww. . ."
Mrs Anscomb said she was shocked that her girl could have caused such a mess. She told the Daily Mail Gemma had always been a straight A student.
"The whole house was wrecked from top to bottom," she told the Daily Mail.
"I was absolutely fuming. I just couldn't believe Gemma would do something like this. She phoned me on the day after the party and said sorry, but I was so angry I put the phone down on her.
"What made me more angry was that she refused to come home and face the music and help with the clear-up."
"She lied and now she has to face the consequences.
"I have done everything I can to bring her up properly. But I must have gone wrong somewhere."
For our latest mission, 16 agents staged a spontaneous musical in the food court of a Los Angeles shopping mall. We used wireless microphones to amplify the vocal performances and mix them together with the music through the mall’s PA system. We filmed the mission with hidden cameras, mostly behind two-way mirrors. Apart from our performers, no one in the food court was aware of what was happening. Enjoy the video first and then go behind the scenes with our report below.(also available on YouTube)
song by Scott Brown and Anthony King
Featuring: Agents Campbell, Cowan, Brister, Caldwell, Sutton, Ahn, Park, Nwaeze, Jervier, Thorn, Fair, Costelo, Grimm, Perube, LaBarr, Appel, Todd
Digital Video: Agent Carbone
Choreography: Agent Tallaksen
We’ve had tons of ideas emailed to us over the years. Out of all of them, one stands out as the absolute most suggested: “You know how it’s weird in musicals that people just break out into song for no reason? You guys should stage a musical like that in a public place.” We’ve probably gotten over 100 emails just like that. Well, we finally decided it was time to make it happen.
It should be noted that staging a musical in a public place is not a new idea. It’s been done before by several groups, the most popular of which took place in a lecture hall, staged several years ago by the old Columbia University group, Prangstgrüp.
We wanted to create an original song for this mission, so I turned to Agents Brown and King, longtime Improv Everywhere Agents and writers of the hit Off-Broadway show, Gutenberg! The Musical! For your listening pleasure, I’ve uploaded their original demo of the song, where they sing all of the parts. A few changes were made to the final version. Most notably “diet soda” was changed to “lemonade” as the restaurant we started in only sold lemonade. You can hear the parts of the song that were cut out of the video (things were cut for time, in order to create a tight video.)
Unfortunately there are very few photos from this mission. It took place in Los Angeles, so our normal photographers were not around. We decided to focus on getting the best video possible, and photography was sadly left out. We do have a few photos of our rehearsal process.
Agent Tallaksen leads rehearsal
We met the day before to rehearse the song and learn the choreography. Agent Tallaksen did an excellent job as the choreographer, bringing the song to life and adding in ridiculously hilarious blocking. Since we are not based out of LA, and this mission took place before our new global site was launched, we had to do a bit of searching to find the right agents. A few were personal friends of mine, a few were actors from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in LA, and some answered a casting call on craigslist. The mall we chose is in the middle of downtown LA and is very racially diverse. It was important to us to have an equal amount of diversity in the cast.
Typically Improv Everywhere does not ask for permission from the location where we are staging our mission. This was a rare exception. By working with the mall we would gain incredible access and be able to make the experience for the food court patrons all the more awesome. The mall let us rehearse the song the night before after they had closed.
We were able to test out our blocking and make sure it worked with the food court layout. The mall let us patch the performers microphones and the music into their PA system, which would make the performance loud and clear for everyone there. We were also able to install two-way mirrors in several spots to enable us to film the mission with our cameras completely hidden, again making the experience for those who would witness it all the more unique.
There is a hidden camera hiding behind the tinted glass in the door above.
The mall got us in touch with the folks from Hot Dog on a Stick, a west-coast corndog chain that had a location in the food court. The chain loaned us one of their uniforms for Agent Campbell to wear, and gave her access to behind the counter. Hilariously, Agent Campbell ended up having to actually help several customers as we were waiting for the mission to begin.
While the management of both the mall and Hot Dog on a Stick were aware of what we were doing, they kept the mission a secret from everyone else. All of the employees of the other food court establishments had absolutely no idea that our musical was going to take place.
The execution of the mission itself was tons of fun. It was awesome to watch the reactions of the folks sitting and eating as one by one people started joining in on the song. The coolest moment happened when Agent Caldwell broke into song. He was playing the role “janitor” and had actually been clearing trash off of people’s tables for a half-hour leading up to the mission. It was fun to see people realize that the man who had cleaned up their table five minutes ago was now singing in the middle of a musical.
The security guard moment also worked really well. Agent Sutton wore a black “security” jacket that was identical to the real mall security. You could feel the tension grow after he entered, with everyone assuming he was there to shut down the performance. It was a great misdirect.
Agents Brister and Sutton
There were several agents who got cut out of the video (you can hear their parts in the song included above.) We had three skater punks skate in and sing, a group of young girls did a cheer about napkins, and several more agents posing as regular folks eating joined in for the finale. By the end there were shoppers lined up watching us from the second level, and we got a nice round of applause when we finished. However, there was no bow. Our agents returned to whatever they were doing before the song broke out, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.