Oh hey Friday, so good to see you again. Come in and sit with me because I have a secret to tell you: I love bad ideas. In fact, I have a special weakness for the supremely bad idea. When executed on a large scale, a bad idea can easily become a work of art. To me, there is no cause more noble than the single-minded pursuit of an idea so hare-brained that anyone you mention it to will almost certainly shake their head and move a little bit away in order to maintain a safe distance.
This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
So let me tell you some stories of people who took their bad ideas and turned them into works of art.
- Let’s start by talking about piano drops. Specifically, the Piano Drop that occurred on April 28, 1968 in Duvall, Washington. If you’re into tales about ill-advised schemes to drop a piano from a helicopter just to see it break (and who is not?), you’ll want to devote a good chunk of time to this long read in Collector’s Weekly.
- Have you seen the movie Safety Not Guaranteed? Probably not, it didn’t do that great at the box office (although I liked it). But whether you did or didn’t, I think you’ll be interested in the true story behind the movie. It’s the story of a man who put two fake classified ads in the back pages of an Oregon Homesteading magazine in 1997. The first was a personal ad for a girlfriend that he hoped would get some serious replies. The second ad was a joke that started out “WANTED: Somebody to go back in time with me…” He expected that one would just give some people a quick smile. I’m guessing you can figure out what happened. John Silveira tells the story of writing a fake ad that’s still getting serious responses to this day and Lynn Levy follows up with some of the people who replied.
- And what can be more heart-warming than the story of someone who had their bad idea pay off in a big way? Way back in 1987, before the Internet made it so easy for us to all be beggers, a kid named Mike Hayes decided to pay for his college education by asking 2.8 million people to donate 1 penny.
- But hey, in this Internet age? The ultimate bad idea is disappointing your Kickstarter backers. (longread but worth it). This speaks to me personally — I am still waiting for my private tour.
- I so, so desperately wanted to end this list with a 2015 bad idea on the scale of the piano drop. So why not a 2015 piano drop? According to Wikipedia (always correct):
Each spring, the denizens of Baker House drop an old, irreparable piano off the roof to let it plunge six stories onto the ground, to celebrate Drop Date, the last date one can drop classes at MIT. The resulting noise has spawned a unit of sound volume, known as the Bruno.
And so, without further ado, the 2015 MIT Piano Drop – April 23, 2015: