In 1961 President John F. Kennedy made this pledge to the American people: “We choose to go to the Moon and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard.”
And just eights year later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, did just that.
America put men on the Moon. The world watched as for the first time in the history of humanity, we left Earth and stepped onto the surface of another celestial body. On the night of July 20th, 1969, then President Richard Nixon spoke to the astronauts on the Moon by telephone, commending them for their achievement.
His speech marked the successful landing and first steps of the astronauts. The mission however was very dangerous, and while NASA had been preparing for years, there was always the possibility that something could go wrong, they could not lift off again, and Armstrong and Aldrin would be marooned. Liason to the White House astronaut Frank Borman reached out to Nixon’s speechwriter William Safire just days before and suggested that he and the President be prepared in the event that the unthinkable should happen. He said, quote:
“You want to be thinking of some alternative posture for the President in the event of mishaps on Apollo XI…like what to do for the widows.”
Astronaut Frank Borman to Nixon speechwriter William Saffire – July 1969
If things had gone wrong, the story of our first steps would have been a tragedy, and the speech not of triumph, but of mourning. In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the day we landed on the Moon, the speech that didn’t have to be read:
A mystery note that makes you poop your pants? A 100-foot Victorian loudspeaker that sent an entire crowd to the bathroom? What about an airplane so loud, it could make you throw up? The legend of The Brown Note. Today, on Signal Cannon.
What if I told you there was a noise…so intense…that it could send you to the bathroom with basically instant diarrhea? I would say, don’t believe me. Because it doesn’t exist. And it’s not this sound either. That’s just sort of a representation of what it might sound like…something low and kinda disturbing.
I’m talking about a niche conspiracy theory about this hypothetical frequency that when played by an instrument or a weapon… makes you poop your pants. A note so low, it (according to legend) vibrates the inside of your body in such a way that it forces an urgent trip to the bathroom.
This is Part 1 of a multi-part series from Signal Cannon examining sound and its use as a weapon both in the real world and in fiction. In this episode, we discuss the 2016 sonic attack on U.S. Embassy officials in Cuba and the use of acoustic hailing devices like LRAD on American streets.
Science and technology share an intimate relationship with warfare. Throughout human history, technology has accelerated advances in weapon-building. And the opposite is true as well; advances in technology have often been adopted for applications on the battlefield.
For example, controlled, powered flight (think the Wright Brothers) was only about ten years old before airplanes were used in WWI to scout enemy trenches and drop bombs. This brand new technology was used in a tactical, never-before-seen way. Indeed after WWII, The United States and the Soviet Union poached rocket scientists from Nazi Germany and built their our own space programs on Nazi expertise.
It’s one of those intros that just grabs you. If you know it, you know what I mean. It’s “The King of Carrot Flowers,” the first song on Neutral Milk Hotel’s iconic 1998 album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.”
The band’s second full release, “In the Aeroplane” has been named one of the greatest albums ever written. It’s the brainchild of singer-songwriter Jeff Mangum. And it’s a haunting dream of equal parts pleading, grotesque intimacy and raucous grandeur. It’s as much a solo project as anything, but came out of an eclectic collective of weird talent and homegrown musicianship which birthed a number of notable acts throughout the 90’s, some of whom still perform today.
On this episode of Signal Cannon: The Elephant 6 Recording Company.
“Recording company” is a bit of a misnomer, they’re not a label in the true sense of the word. Their logo, emblazoned on many a nostalgic t-shirt is remembered by its founders as being more of an identity than a business moniker. It’s (quote) “a family crest among a group of friends,” member Julian Koster once described it. And that friendship is a long one.
“Weird Al” Yankovic is known for his musical parodies. For almost 40 years the musician has been taking popular music and turning it into comedy. From Michael Jackson’s “Eat It” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to Don McLean’s “American Pie” and Chamillionaire’s “Ridin Dirty.” Weird Al has become a household name.
He’s one of the most accomplished accordion players in the world, and if there was ever such a category called “Polka Revivalists,” he’d be the first and probably the only one on that list, certainly in the United States.
But did you know he also made a movie? And it…probably bankrupted the studio? That’s today, on Signal Cannon.
The national anthem hasn’t always…exactly been the national anthem.
On August 24th 1814, British forces attacked Washington and burned down many government buildings, including the Navy Yard and the White House, then known as the Presidential Mansion. It was the only time in American history that the capital had been under the command of a foreign force. The occupation lasted just 26 hours however, after a hurricane and subsequent tornado put out the fires and forced the British into an early retreat, back to their ships which were heavily damaged by the freak storm.
Within a week, the British had turned their attention to the busy port city of Baltimore. And on September 7th, a lawyer and soldier by the name of Francis Scott Key was dispatched by then President James Madison to facilitate a prisoner exchange, specifically for a man named Dr. William Beanes, a friend of Key’s who had misled the British command into thinking he was sympathetic to the Crown.
Dr. Beanes was successfully released, but the exchange party, including Key and a man named John Stuart Skinner, the federal Prisoner Exchange Agent in the area, was not permitted to leave because now they had information about an impending attack on Fort McHenry, a critical embattlement defending the city. They were forced to stay where they were under British guard and wait out the battle, which came during the night of September 13th, 1814. During the night, British naval vessels pounded with fort with bombs and cannonballs, and attempted a landing nearby.