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Letters From the Editor

Creative License Contest

TMN’s Contributing Illustrator Danny Gregory has a new book on the shelves, and we want to give you a copy…assuming your last name is MacGyver.

We’ve got 10 books to give away, and here’s how it will go: Each weekday morning beginning today, for the next 10 days, we’ll post a “MacGyver Box” challenge here when the day’s headlines go up. You’ll then have until 12pm (noon) EST to submit your entry to win (only one entry per contestant per day, and if you win you can’t submit again). By late afternoon, Danny will choose the most creative response and we’ll post the winning entry here and notify the winner via email (unfortunately we can't respond to all entries).

The contest is this: as in a typical MacGyver episode, you will be given a box of various materials to use in solving a particular challenge. The most creative use of all the listed materials—and only those materials—will win a free book. And if you don’t win, Danny’s book, The Creative License (Hyperion), is a beautifully illustrated guide to unlocking your creative side, so you should pick it up anyway.

The book jacket puts it much better:
When Danny Gregory’s life was turned upside down by tragedy, he learned to cope by teaching himself to draw. The result was a complete transformation of his life, his priorities, his career, and the way he saw the world. In handwritten chapters full of his lush watercolor illustrations, Danny now offers readers a program for reconnecting to their own creative energies, using drawing as an example. He gently instructs us in the art of allowing ourselves to fail, giving up the expectation of perfection and opening our eyes to the beauty around us. The result is the permission to express ourselves fully and take part in the creative process without fear. Artist or not, readers of all stripes will find inspiration in this unique and beautiful book.
Today’s MacGyver Box (2/14/06): The box contains: A box of chocolates, Tracey Gold's phone number, and a roll of duct tape. Your challenge: Get married. Caveat: Do so blind since your eyes were removed by drug lords.

Send your entry to: (no attachments! and don't forget to include your full name, mailing address, and phone number!)


Previous Winners:

(2/9/06)
The box contains: a bouquet of flowers, Rosemary's Baby on DVD, eight throw pillows, and a roll of duct tape. Your challenge: Escape from the robotic theme park gone horribly haywire.

Winning entry from Velma B.:
What's a nice girl like you doing in someone else's dreamworld? Don't they KNOW that dreaming is therapeutic? Anyway, it's imperative to get through this metallic county fair and off to work. Not that work is any better, but that's another night's dreamwork to solve.

Boxes are fine survival tools, as are pillows. Tape a pillow to each foot, knee, elbow. and one, kiddie hat-wise to your head. The carnies are particularly impressed by the bright colors of the pillows, so they really pay attention. It's amazing to note that robot carnies are just like county fair carnies, sometimes they might just be real people. Retired carnies tell great stories. I wonder if these guys can... O, gosh, they are getting interested.

Don't be interested in them right now. The alarm goes off in 7 minutes.

Ready, with box at my side, I take out the DVD. The carnies really zero in on that, moving in to make the kill. Those guys really do love shiny things. With a most measured and graceful wrist movement, the DVD gets frisbeed. Each carnie follows the trail with their eyes, and begin to move as one toward the landing site--a nasty little pond (filled with metallic kids in unbelievable boats) with plenty of trash. There it floats, attached to some carmel corn. The box sits, waiting for the carnies to notice it's emptiness. They ignore it.

Softened step by softened step, exiting through the gate, I shower myself with calendula and daisies. Awakening into this mostly empty double bed, the Border Collie Wendy greets me with a bazillon kisses as I slog through waking from my very own nightmare. It's an amazing thing to find a battered box with a few calendula petals sharing my space. Wendy ignores this and demands to be let outside.


(2/8/06)
The box contains: A case of beer, a WiFi-enabled laptop, Nina Simone's ghost, duct tape, and a puppy. Your challenge: World peace.

Winning entry from Jen R.:
I open the case of beer, remove two, set them beside me. I craft, with the remaining unopened beer cans, a tiny raft for the puppy. I lovingly duct tape the puppy to the raft, take him to the sunny South Carolina coast, and give him a little push.

But not before politely requesting that Nina Simone's ghost inhabit the puppy's body, just for this one world tour. On this tour they will sail by every coastline -- a tiny one-eyed (accidents happen) brown puppy singing with Nina Simone's voice.

I rush back to my wifi enabled laptop to send an email to my friend Tracy, instructing her not to tell anyone about the magical puppy traveling the world. This will ensure that within minutes, everyone on the planet will know.

As the siren dog passes by, singing sad, lovely songs, everyone in every country will rush to their ports, mesmerized, and forget what all the fighting was about.

I crack open one of my two beers and enjoy the world peace.


(2/7/06)
The box contains: pocket lint, a towel, a Doctor Who scarf, and a roll of duct tape. Your challenge: Escape from the Colombian drug cartel's compound.

Winning entry from Carolyn V.:
First of all, you're not MacGyver. You're MacGyvette, MacGyver's infinitely beautiful but notoriously elusive doppelganger.

You've been enduring for weeks, months even, in a tiny cell. The Columbians pay little attention to you--they think that you are MacGyver and, after 4 uneventful months, have largely dismissed you as an American false-hero. You were so clever to cut your hair into this bleached blonde mullet! You'd been watching Mythbusters, so you knew when you arrived to quickly begin stockpiling the requisite salsa that comes with every bowl of Columbian gruel. Though by day you dutifully listen to their propaganda on the transistor radio they've supplied you with (their intention had been to intimidate you with their genius and thus disarm whatever savvy might not have been television fantasy... ha!), by night you remove the battery and apply the charge to the pools of salsa at the base of each metal bar on the window. (Your foul-smelling towel hides the salsa pools well during the day.) Now, months later, the bars are so corroded, you're afraid the monsoon winds might actually blow the house down. The time is right.

You take off all of your clothes and wrap yourself up sexily in the Dr's scarf, taking a short minute to indulge a teenage fantasy. Sidling up to the bars, you motion the guard over. For a minute, he is not sure that this is not some drug-laced fantasy. He quickly decides that he does not care and lets himself into your cell. Move towards the bed, carefully letting the scarf slip just a little. Push him down on the bed, just like in the pseudo-S&M American soft-core you've seen him watch with the rest of the cartel. Pull the duct tape out from under the pillow. Distract him with some false coquetry and secure his wrists to the bedposts with the tape. By now, the sight of a partially concealed female body will have so intoxicated his already otherwise-influenced body, he will believe that this can only be the start of something good. When he is secured, whip the towel away to reveal your genius then stuff it in his mouth. Flick the lint in his eyes, temporarily blinding him. You can now slip back into your clothes in privacy. Knock out the window bars. Tie the scarf to the leg of the bed and shimmy down the cinderblocks to freedom!


(2/6/06)
The box contains: one shotgun, a dead eel, and a few ales. Your challenge: Convince the cop you're not driving drunk.

Winning entry from Jamie S.:
Oh crap! They've seen you. And they've turned on their siren. And what's that in the passenger seat of their squad car? A cameraman?? They're shooting and episode of Cops! May sound bad, but with a little ingenuity and some luck, you can turn this into that kick-start into an acting career you've always dreamed of.

First off, put that peddle to the metal! Yes, they always catch you, but you need this time to put your diversion into affect. Go until you get out of their site, then hit a tree. But not hard enough to knock yourself out, you need those precious seconds.

Take your dead eel and place him in the drivers seat, being sure to prop him up to the steering wheel. Take the shotgun and place it's trigger under his tail and point it at you, the innocent passenger. Can't hurt to dribble a bit of your open lager on him and toss the bottle under the driver's seat. If you are male, take off your shirt. Shirtless sweaty men always make it onto Cops episodes. Tattoos are also handy.

Ok, the cop's here. Just act cool. When he asks you to open your window, start crying and gibbering about how the eel carjacked you. Don't make it too wild, you're too drunk to get away with too much. A harmless beach party, tossing your keys to your buddy because you know you shouldn't drive, a drunk miscreant eel interception of said keys, and a shotgun he has, possibly from that drug runner speed boat you might have noticed washed up down the shore. Make sure to add, "Thank God you're here, officer" and "You guys are always there to help out when we innocent citizens need you". (Note #1: if you are too drunk to say "innocent citizens" leave that part out. Note #2: if you think that saying "innocent citizens" is totally hilarious because it tickles your gums, Note #1 applies to you.)

When asked to get out of the car, promptly thank the officer and drop to the ground and kiss it, sobbing about your life flashing before your eyes. Tell the officers to arrest that "damn slimy eel".

The camera comes in for a closer view as the officer asks the eel to step out of the car. It is helpful at this point if the eel flops off the steering wheel. If he does move, the officer will immediately draw his gun on the door and shout "Hands above your head, hands above your Head!!". As the eel has no arms, this will work to your advantage. As they fling open the door and the eel still refuses to leave the car, they will (hopefully) deploy the tasers. Don't be worried, tasers are your best friend in this case. As they taz the eel, it will flop out onto the street where it remains deceptively still. As the officer reaches for it to slap on the cuffs, the built-up electric energy from the tazers will shock the officer. As the first officer falls to the ground holding his hand, the ensuing pack of officers will jump in to subdue the suspect, camera following. The eel will later have resisting arrest and assaulting an officer added to his egregious list of charges.

All that remains now is to smile through tears at the camera avowing how grateful you are to the Your-County-Here Municipal police force for putting such a wonton criminal to justice, sign the Cops™ standard release form, and not only do you get out of the DWI, you are well on your way to a lucrative TV career!


(2/3/06)
The box contains: a hairbrush, a jean jacket, one pack of Bubblicious, and a roll of duct tape. Your challenge: Thwart the attempt on the Italian premier's life.

Winning entry from Liz S.:
Silvio Berlusconi has been kidnapped by Italian prostitutes determined to make him break his no-sex pledge. If they cannot force him to make love to them, they will kill him. They are hiding him in a beautiful palazzo in Venice.

Of course, you are going to pull the old switcheroo. Luckily the Pope is willing to stand in for Berlusconi, because he wishes to preach to these women so they will know the evil of their ways. He has to be disguised, however, so he can escape his ever-present escorts. The Pope actually wears black Dockers under his papal robes. You pull off the robes and hold onto them--they may come in useful.

You dress the Pope in the jean jacket and brush his remaining hair so it is full and lush. He will be a gondolier whose boat has spring a leak. He knocks on the door and asks for help from the stunningly lovely Italian ringleader, Belladonna. When she beckons him in, you slip in behind him. You are chewing each piece of Bubblicious and sticking each chewed piece onto the hairbrush for safekeeping. It's a critical part of your escape plan.

Upstairs you find Berlusconi in his underwear, dangerously close to giving in. Two laughing women--who are also lightly dressed, possibly in cotton batiste nightgowns--are plying him with wine and bread, trying to tease him out of his pledge. You inform them that the Pope is downstairs. They run out of the room in full-throated cry, off to catch a bigger quarry.

You dress Berlusconi in the Pope's robes. They are a little too long--you adjust with duct tape. The Bubblicious is removed from the hairbrush and applied to the bottom of the door and the lock, so the door cannot be opened from the outside. You make a rope of duct tape and, with Berlusconi, climb down to the waiting gondola. As you begin poling the premier away, Belladonna appears at the palazzo door. You toss her the hairbrush. "Grazie!" she cries, and begins spanking the Pope enthusiastically.


(2/2/06)
The box contains: a rope ladder, a lighter, a can of gasoline. Your challenge: Sell your sitcom pilot to NBC.

Winning entry from Jennie W.:
You're in a conference room at NBC, for the pitch of a lifetime. Put the rope ladder next to you. Unscrew the cap on the gas can. Hold the lighter in your right hand. Take a deep breath, and start talking, fast.

"Okay, so, Will & Grace is going off the air, and I know you're probably shaking in your Manolos about losing that one, so you need to find another couple with serious chemistry and stellar comedic timing. I've got it for you. It's Will & Grace and Ross & Rachel and Sam & Diane, all in one big show."

Breathe, then keep going.

"It's a B&B in a ski town in Colorado. The couple: best friends in college, lost touch, found each other in the same town many years later. She's just started this B&B after a divorce, and he's not doing anything much, so he moves in to help with the heavy stuff. There's crazy neighbors, maybe a sassy little girl. There's different guests each week. Think Love Boat - some of their guests need that extra bit of help getting the spark back in their life again."

Pause only to flick on the lighter.

"I'm picturing Reese Witherspoon, and we may need to search for the right guy. Maybe you can help with that. Anyway, each week, the tension builds a little bit more, until the season finale, when the ex-husband shows up, finds the other guy living there, and just LOSES IT."

Pick up the gas can. Throw the lighter into the gasoline can and pitch it toward the window. Listen for the WHUUUMP as it explodes inside the can and breaks out the window. Lean down and pick up the rope ladder. Wrap & lock one end around the leg of the large conference table and walk toward the smoking window.

"I haven't worked out all the details on paper, but that ex-husband gets over it pretty quick. In fact, he turns out to be a pretty nice guy who just wants his wife back, but he's willing to wait until she sees the light. And this other guy, well, he saw the light already, about 5 episodes ago, and he's just biding his time until the girl sees it too. So it's serious cliffhanger moments for the next season premiere."

Look back at the group at the conference table, hang on the rope ladder for dear life and say, "It's a cliffhanger, get it?" and jump out the window. Wait a moment - then use the ladder to climb back up and sign the deal.


(2/1/06)
The box contains: a box of instant oatmeal, a blacklight, an entire year's worth of New Yorkers, and a roll of duct tape. Your challenge: Defuse a nuclear bomb.

Winning entry from Ed M.:
Quick, there's no time to lose.

You may not be able to stop the blast entirely, but you can destroy the perfectly shaped charge that will cause the fissionable mass to go nuclear. That's what counts.

First, you must use the gaffer's tape to join the new yorker's together into a blast shield. A ball of sufficient volume to contain the bomb is preferred. If there's not enough surface area (or tape) to achieve this, create a blast shield that will at least provide you with some protection (and aim the blast away from innocent bystanders).

The good news: Modern nukes are small. And modern nukes contain their own power source. (Blinking red countdown meters have become less common--HURRY!)

Take the blacklight and WITHOUT TURNING IT ON, break the bulb. It's important that you do this gingerly to keep the filament in tact. Without vacuum, as soon as power is applied to the filament, it will burn up. This is a GOOD thing.

Attach the power leads (you've stripped off the plug, right?) to the power terminals of the bomb--they're easy to find--they come right out of the battery and into the logic circuit.

Now--the oatmeal. Stomp on it. Stomp on it a lot. You want to pulverize it into the finest powder imaginable. You're trying to take advantage of the diffusion of air with combustible materials. You may remember your high school physics class when the teacher blew up coffeemate or some other powdered substance--the flashpoint was lowered because the powder and been blown into the air, making it much easier to catch fire.

Here's where a gaffer's taped ball of new yorkers would be really handy. Let's assume you have it. Put the bomb into the ball, leaving a small opening. Pour in the oatmeal. Shake the damn thing--hurry!

When the powder is floating around in the ball, turn on the blacklight.

The filament burns, the oatmeal catches and BOOM. With any luck (you ARE MacGyver after all), the explosion will have broken the shaped charge.

If you don't have the NYorker ball, you'll have to pour the powder in a continuous stream over the bomb and hope.

NOW, if there's any gaffer's tape left, use it to make thick gloves for yourself. Remove the fissionable mass from the remaining explosive. The faster you do this the better.

Congrats, tiger.
Ed would like to add that, in typical Non-Expert fashion, he has no idea if this would work.


(1/31/06)
The box contains: a horse, a roll of duct tape, a tennis court net, and Kelefa Sanneh. Your challenge: Escape a burning stadium.

Winning entry from Daniel B.:
Take Kelefa Sanneh and the horse out of the box so they don't suffocate or burn. Horses are scared of fire so some horse whispering is a good idea to calm it down. If Kelefa is scared try some Kelefa whispering too. Once the horse and Kelefa are suitably calm, retrieve the tennis net and duct tape.

Ask Kelefa to pinch or punch you in case it turns out you just needed to be woken from that one dream where you're in a burning stadium with Kelefa Sanneh and a horse. If that doesn't work, try the reverse to see if he needed to be woken. If that doesn't work, try it on the horse. If that doesn't work, you're really in a burning stadium and it's time to stop pinching and punching and get down to business.

If the box is a strong metal, either fireproof or capable of sustaining limited heat exposure, and it has an open top, flip it upside down so the horse can run while the two people ride it, with arms outstretched to hold the box over all of your heads. Since there is no saddle, fold up the tennis net over the horse's back to soften the ride, and use duct tape to attach hands to the box so it stays in place while the horse is moving. If it's Kelefa's horse, let him do the riding. A scared horse can be hard to control, so MacGyver up a makeshift bridle and reins using the duct tape (folded over itself so it doesn't stick to the horse, which would probably hate that). On arriving at an exit door, use the box as a battering ram as needed.

If the box will ignite easily, like if it's cardboard or wood, step away from the box and look for a safe exit.

Kelefa's very smart; ask him if he has any ideas. A little brainstorming can go a long way. He's also very tall; ask him if he can see any good ways out. The view may be better atop the horse. Kelefa works in media, so he should have a cell phone or Blackberry to send out a call for help.

If he can't see or think of a good way out and can't call for help: Look for a pole in a part of the stadium that is not presently burning and leash up the horse temporarily using the duct tape, then split up with Kelefa to find a safe exit. If no part of the stadium is not presently burning, get on the horse and ride through, looking for a safe exit.

Find a safe exit. Try to remember the way you got into the stadium and retrace your steps, if that path is clear. Kelefa, who was apparently shipped in, may not be of much help here. If the exit door handle is too hot due to the fire, wrap a hand well in duct tape before opening door.

If not already on the horse with Kelefa, get on and ride off, continuing to horse whisper and Kelefa whisper as needed. If the horse is bucking wildly, use the tape to bind self Kelefa and horse together.

Upon exiting, thank Kelefa, and be available for interviews if he wants to write about this whole thing. Lobby for improved stadium safety. Find the horse a good home.

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