German Rocket Cats: A Meditation
June 6, 2014 9:19 PM   Subscribe

On March 5th, the Associated Press asked: “What are seemingly jet-propelled cats and birds doing in a 16th century German artillery manual?” It was a good question. [...] European History People sent burning pigs stampeding toward their neighbors regularly and would put a rooster on trial for real actually with a lawyer and everything if someone said it laid an egg without a yolk. If someone like that was soberly strapping a rocket to a cat and you interrupted them in their cat-to-rocket-strapping-room they’d look up like “Yeah?” and they would have this big pinky white person expression on their face like it wasn’t even a little bit weird.

If you're not familiar with Zak Smith, besides writing at The Toast and being active on Twitter he writes an excellent (and occasionally NSFW) D&D blog as well.
posted by 23 (34 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

Since when do roosters lay eggs, with yolks or not?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:28 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]

It's a genuine challenge to explain why Smith's breathless tone is so fucking funny, but good christ is it so fucking funny.

"War is not concerned primarily with the diminishment and damaging of men–it is concerned with the diminishment of their will. And cats are inimical to all human will, especially just after being shot in the air with rockets. Plus remember like 30% of war at that point was just freaking horses out."

It seems terribly unfair that Zak Smith is good at everything.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:50 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]

Roosters laying eggs?
posted by krinklyfig at 9:51 PM on June 6

Since when do roosters lay eggs, with yolks or not?

Perhaps that's what the judge was attempting to ascertain.
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]

The judge would throw the case out of court and then the rooster would sleep with your wife. Medieval justice.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:10 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]

WW2 experimental Bat Bombs

Well the Germans are a cowardly and superstitious lot...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:11 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]

Well, well, well, what have we here? Cock egg
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:24 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]

The sparse comments from the historian the AP interviewed were even more unsettling than rocket cats are already: “I really doubt this was ever put into practice, it seems like a really terrible idea.

My cats already tear around the house in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. If offered a rocket propelled version of enforced feline insomnia my answer will have to be a polite, "no thank you."
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:07 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]

"But any war idea is a good war idea in inverse proportion to how terrible it is as a regular idea. If I was like “Hey should we, by cunning and shrewd treachery, explode all the guys that are over there?” you’d be like “No.” But if I was like “Hey but war” you’d be like “Oh yeah, right on.”"

Holy god, this guy is funny.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:18 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]

According to the superstition, this could be prevented by throwing the egg over the family dwelling so it smashed at the other side without touching the roof. *

How do you know the egg is yolkless before cracking it open?
posted by dabitch at 12:42 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]

The judge would throw the case out of court and then the rooster would sleep with your wife. Medieval justice.

(Rooster strolls unhurriedly towards camera with unblinking rooster stare as an armory behind it explodes, sending dozens of rocket-cats hurtling towards Crécy.)
posted by No-sword at 1:36 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]

I can’t remember if Alexander did that or just stabbed dogs’.

How Great is that?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:53 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

I cannot even articulate how funny I found that article to be.
My spleen hurts.
posted by the_royal_we at 2:56 AM on June 7

I was not too sold on reading the quotes of the post here, but then I went to the article and read it, and the combo of the art and the prose style sold me. I didn't laugh, but I smiled (and hey, ain't that something in the age of Buzzfeed?) and I'm glad I read it. My favorite quote was:

In these days when it’s claimed that everything from Nobel Prize-winning literature to children’s television promotes a culture of violence without even knowing it, it’s refreshing to see a writer willing to give bad advice unambiguously and in the imperative mode. Go do this, says Haas: set things on fire and attach them to pets–it’ll work out well. ReTumbl that with your post-colonial analysis.

I still feel bad for all the poor kitties though. But Smith's pitch black humor makes the ancient cruelty inflicted on "rocket cats" somehow more bearable. For me, at least.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 3:10 AM on June 7

*takes down old DARPA proposal for R.A.F.Pro.S. (Rocket Assisted Feline Propulsion System)*

*wistfully re-shelves plans*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:50 AM on June 7

Rocket J. Squirrel yawns at your cats.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:50 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

Ye Olde frogge base-balle.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:14 AM on June 7

Returning to a strictly historical point of view: this cat-based German fire-murder strategy seems like a far more likely thing for people to have done than things they do all the time like going over to a fat three-times-as-big-as-you trampling monster and reaching under it and squeezing its lone four-nippled boob then taking what it squirts and letting it rot in with goo you scraped out of the stomach of a dead baby of one of them and then adding bacteria from the same genus that gives you strep throat and putting it in a ditch in a cave and waiting until it turns all yellow and feels like a hockey puck and then eating it.

I told you cheesemaking is a Dark Art.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:33 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

"Cockney" = Cock Egg.
posted by Segundus at 6:30 AM on June 7

Cock egg.

Another piece of evidence of Bunny's Theory of Metafilter Early Thread Pedantry: If your first comment, early in the thread, is to correct one sentence or word in an article that you just absolutely know the author must be wrong about, you're making a fool of yourself.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:07 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

They're not rockets, they're incendiaries. And no, not a new idea even then.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:37 AM on June 7

Ezekiel saw the jet-propelled rocket cat. This is the jet-propelled rocket cat he said he saw.
posted by mazola at 7:47 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

you're making a fool of yourself.

Also known as "educating yourself and others."
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:54 AM on June 7

How do you know the egg is yolkless before cracking it open?

One could candle it, as you'd do to determine fertilization, development stage, etc.
posted by verschollen at 9:33 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


In WWII the Germans experimented with rocket propelled infantrymen. They tried strapping the solid fuel rocket motors from a Panzerfaust onto the backs of soldiers and launching them at low angles. The concept was to give soldiers a boost, to quickly propel them a few yards over an enemy line. It worked, but the soldiers just ended up smashing into the ground and were incapacitated.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:40 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

"....And no, not a new idea even then."

No. Olga of Kiev conquered the remaining Drevlians using sparrows and pigeons.. She was pretty badass.

The Derevlians then inquired what she desired of them, and expressed their readiness to pay honey and furs. Olga retorted that at the moment they had neither honey nor furs, but that she had one small request to make. "Give me three pigeons," she said, "and three sparrows from each house. I do not desire to impose a heavy tribute, like my husband, but I require only this small gift from you, for you are impoverished by the siege." The Derevlians rejoiced, and collected from each house three pigeons and three sparrows, which they sent to Olga with their greetings. Olga then instructed them, in view of their submission, to return to their city, promising that on the morrow she would depart and return to her own capital. The Derevlians re-entered their city with gladness, and when they reported to the inhabitants, the people of the town rejoiced.

Now Olga gave to each soldier in her army a pigeon or a sparrow, and ordered them to attach by thread to each pigeon and sparrow a piece of sulfur bound with small pieces of cloth. When night fell, Olga bade her soldiers release the pigeons and the sparrows. So the birds flew to their nests, the pigeons to the cotes, and the sparrows under the eaves. The dove-cotes, the coops, the porches, and the haymows were set on fire. There was not a house that was not consumed, and it was impossible to extinguish the flames, because all the houses caught on fire at once. The people fled from the city, and Olga ordered her soldiers to catch them. Thus she took the city and burned it, and captured the elders of the city. Some of the other captives she killed, while some she gave to others as slaves to her followers. The remnant she left to pay tribute.

posted by dabitch at 10:44 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]

From Twitter:

Zak Smith‏@ZakSmithSabbath
As of today, @metafilter is a more loyal Zak Smith fan than my Mom.

1:34 AM - 7 Jun 2014
posted by msalt at 3:13 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]

and would put a rooster on trial for real actually with a lawyer and everything

Related posts.
posted by homunculus at 4:19 PM on June 7

What dabitch means to say is previously...
posted by maryr at 8:09 AM on June 8

In all seriousness (well, some of it at least), I suspect you find an egg sans yolk without breaking it by holding it up to a candle.
posted by maryr at 8:12 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]

The judge would throw the case out of court and then the rooster would sleep with your wife.

posted by zamboni at 9:26 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]

Hot cocks and pussies
posted by Apocryphon at 2:11 PM on June 8

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