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Journal of No. 118


April 24th, 2007

Hollywood and Roger Zelazny save the day! @ 01:50 pm

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Wired reports on the CIA's successful plan to sneak a few of the embassy workers (who had managed to flee the building) out of Iran back during the 1979 hostage crisis. It was just crazy enough to work.
In just four days, Mendez, Chambers, and Sidell created a fake Hollywood production company. They designed business cards and concocted identities for the six members of the location-scouting party, including all their former credits. The production company's offices would be set up in a suite at Sunset Gower Studios on what was formerly the Columbia lot, in a space vacated by Michael Douglas after he finished The China Syndrome. ...
The new production company outfitted its office with phone lines, typewriters, film posters and canisters, and a sign on the door: studio six productions, named for the six Americans awaiting rescue. Sidell read the script and sketched out a schedule for a month's worth of shooting. Mendez and Chambers designed a full-page ad for the film and bought space in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. The night before Mendez returned to Washington, Studio Six threw a small party at the Brown Derby, where they toasted their "production" and Mendez grabbed some matchbooks as additional props to boost his Hollywood bona fides. Shortly thereafter, the Argo ads appeared, announcing that principal photography would commence in March. The film's title was rendered in distressed lettering against a black background. Next to it was a bullet hole. Below it was the tagline "A Cosmic Conflagration."

In a similar vein, jason_brez noted some cool stories of Polish physicists setting up clandestine radio and TV broadcasting facilities during the heady days of Solidarity. Here's a pull-quote:
One reason you don't want to cross Eastern Bloc scientists is that they are by necessity handy people. Operating in a barter economy, even the most unworldly theoretician learns certain marketable skills. Besides the inevitable need to jury-rig spare parts for their own experiments, scientists have to horse trade for basic conveniences like anyone else. And so it was not uncommon to see ultraprecision machine tools and other laboratory wonders take on a second, clandestine life under advanced socialism. The local plumber who needed a new piston rod for his Fiat 126p certainly didn't mind if it happened to be machined out of elemental titanium to a tolerance of 0.05 microns, and the next time a pipe froze you could count on him to show up bright and early. In this context of creative craftsmanship and mutual aid the government had only itself to blame when illegal transmitters started floating by overhead.
 
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Journal of No. 118