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Books–What Would MacGyver Do? [II] January 4, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, how to, lifehack, Other, writing.

(This disappointing book was edited by Brendan Vaughan, but consists of stories written by dozens of others and Vaughan’s short thematic introductions.  The work also appears in an earlier post of mine).

This book seems to mostly consist of things that MacGyver would not have done. 

For example:

  1. MacGyver arguably would not have, upon finding himself particularly parched on a hot hike, consumed his own urine.  (Please understand, the person who did this did not indicate that his life was in imminent danger.  He was simply very thirsty.  MacGyver, being a heroic and quirky television character, would probably never get that thirsty.  Still . . .)
  2. MacGyver would probably not have made a bong out of a potato.
  3. MacGyver probably would not have smuggled pot into France from Amsterdam in the windshield-wiper fluid container of his rental car, smoking it later and consequently suffering massive, nitrogen-fueled headaches.
  4. MacGyver probably would not, upon overhearing a service call on a building superintendent’s phone, have used it to make fun of a good friend whose toilet had clogged.  Well, this woudn’t have been the point of the show, anyway.
  5. MacGyver probably would not have synthesized vermouth from chamomile, sage, a couple of other spices, and half a bottle of old pinot grigio.  Well, maybe he would have, but he wouldn’t have bragged about it and it probably would not have stuck out as a MacGyverish thing on the show.  I don’t know.  I didn’t watch the show, but I understand he was some sort of spy or something.  Could this have been worked into an elaborate James Bond, shaken-not-stirred sort of joke?  Somebody help me out on this.   Was MacGyver a drinker? 
  6. MacGyver would not have rummaged through the trash of a Motor Vehicle Department to find the raw materials to make fake identification cards in order to purchase alcohol (but see above).  He was over 21, right?  And he certainly would not have been busted by the principle principal of his school.
  7. I don’t think that MacGyver would have been so desperate for coffee that he strained it through a sock.  He wasn’t like a caffeine junky or anything, right?
  8. MacGyver probably would not have made a contraption out of clothespins and strike-anywhere matches that shot matches while lighting them in the process.  Or at least he would not have inadvertantly set a field and barn on fire. 

So that sort of thematic issue is one problem with the book.  There are a few stories about people who actually come up with clever ideas that save the day.  But it is a little too packed with stories about clever ideas used for less noble purposes, and ideas that don’t seem all that clever at all. 

For example:  One story is about a couple that had a mouse problem.  Their building maintenance people set traps and poison out.  They went on a vacation.  When they returned the mouse was dead.  That’s the whole story, although it is longer and told much more smoothly. 

One story is about how a woman throwing a dinner party.  Her caterer had forgotten to come.  At the last second, she gets the idea to borrow food from a neighbor, saving the day.

One story is about a woman stationed in Iraq, training Iraqis at Abu Ghraib.  When they run out of water for showers she gets the idea to make gifts of cologne.

I don’t want to be unfair to the editor, or to the writers, who tell their stories well.  Some stories in this short volume are genuinely funny and/or poignant.  But I can’t help feeling that the title is misleading, at least.  Perhaps the book should have been called something else.  Perhaps it should have been called “What would MacGyver have done had he been a bored suburban American in his late teens or early twenties, one who never really got into any serious danger, but who was pretty clever?”



1. PF - January 5, 2007

I have to say I have made Sock coffee on field deployment in England. I think that MacGyver was very much adicted to Caffene. Check out this link….

2. caveblogem - January 5, 2007

Well, I never watched the show. And research is my job, so I tend to avoid it when writing for this blog. I knew, PF, that you would have done something like that. Romantic, but pretty obvious, right? I would like to hear a story about the hot tub you built on field deployment, however. I’d be happy to post a link to that story.

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