Friday, April 18, 2008

Why the Producer of 'Lost' Is Peeved at Nielsen

Carlton Cuse, the producer of "Lost" is not happy with Nielsen.
NEW YORK ( -- In an on-stage discussion about TV audience metrics at the National Association of Broadcasters Show, Carlton Cuse, executive producer of ABC's "Lost," explained why he's really peeved about what the Nielsen ratings fail to show. In other news in this 3 Minute Ad Age, ANA chief Bob Liodice weighs in with what he thinks about former Home Depot CMO Roger Adams taking a job as new CMO of Lord & Taylor. And, the success of AMC's "Mad Men" spawns more TV ad agency dramas.

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The 5 Most Amazing Real Life MacGyver Moments

Were MacGyver real, the world would be a safer place. And not just for people with mullets. Of course, you'd think that MacGyver's almost supernatural resourcefulness has about as much place in the real world as a guy who shoots spider webs out of his wrists. You'd be wrong.

Apparently, people with preternatural resourcefulness exist in real life. Here are five that would have made the bemulleted-one himself beam with the pride of a makeshift heart made out of Popsicle sticks, a timing belt and gum.

A World War II Pilot Used Jell-O to Copy a Map

So it's World War II. You've been sent into a secret Axis meeting room to obtain top-secret maps of the enemy's troop movements. You can't steal the maps because that would raise suspicions and you can't write down the coordinates because you're retarded. Or you don't have a pencil. Whichever is easier for you to believe.

All you've got is a wooden tray and a pocket full of Jell-O you snuck out of the mess tent. You don't know why you stole a handful of Jell-O, and you especially don't know why you stored it in your pocket, but there's no turning back now. You can hear guards moving in and you've only got a few minutes to get what you came for. What should you do other than have the most pathetic last meal of all time?

According to the book, Colditz--The Definitive History: The Untold Story of World War II's Great Escapes, a group of British pilots in the Colditz prisoner camp were in that exact same situation. The boys gathered together some of the gelatin they had as rations, put the map face up on a wooden tray and poured the Jell-O (lemon-flavored) over them. They then took the Jell-O and pressed it on a sheet of clear greaseproof paper.

It worked. They were able to make 30 copies of the map and enjoyed a tasty meal of lemon-flavored Jell-O because the British were clever, smart and have no taste buds.

Could MacGyver Have Done it Better?

According to MacGyver, a map "can get you in and out of places a lot of different ways" other than just getting yourself from point A to point B. As this video clearly shows, a map can help you unlock doors, distract women in burkas and beat an armed guard senseless:

If the video ran just a little bit longer, MacGyver also could have showed you how a map can help you break up with your pregnant girlfriend, pay off your student loans and establish a Palestinian state. So, yes, while the Jell-O thing was impressive, with 30 copies of a map we're thinking MacGyver could have ended the war.

Two Inmates Escape Prison With Dental Floss

Apparently, flossing is extremely dangerous. We at Cracked have held a rabid anti-floss position for years now and it looks like our cause will finally gain momentum. Admittedly, we only took this stance due to equal parts of laziness and cheapness, but it's nice to learn that we've been unconsciously avoiding accidentally flossing our faces off all this time.

According to The London Telegraph's "Quite Interesting" column, Italian mob boss Vincenzo Curcio had been convicted of murder and was facing further prosecution for seven more murders. Desperate to flee, he escaped from his cell in 2000 in Turin by sawing through the bars with nothing more than simple dental floss. You know, the stuff your dentist tells you to put in your mouth every single night? That stuff.

The same year, the Associated Press reported that Antonio Lara escaped from a state prison in Palestine, Texas by coating the bars with toothpaste and cutting through the bars with dental floss. He didn't escape from the jail, just his cell, so he could kill a rival inmate. Whether or not it was with the floss, we don't know, but we can always dream.

Metal bars that may or may not have been cut with a piece of floss

How were they able to cut through steel with floss? Floss is unbelievably durable, apparently almost magically so. According to the book Extraordinary Uses for Everyday Things, floss can replace the hanging wires for pictures frames, replace the threading in outdoor backpacks and tents, and remove a stuck ring off of a finger. We're assuming this is done by sawing your finger off with the floss.

Could MacGyver Have Done it Better?

When imprisoned in a basement (by Tia Carrera, in episode 320) he didn't settle for floss or any combination of dental hygiene products. Instead, he uses a set of cables and a pair of hi-fi stereo speakers to act as a sonar detector to find a secret door.

Wait, why couldn't he have just knocked on the wall like Indiana Jones would have? How much of MacGyver's overly elaborate gadgetry was just him showing off?

Three Inmates Escape Alcatraz On A Raft Of Raincoats

Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin are the three men who managed to do something no one thought anyone could do: They escaped one of the most escape-proof prisons in the country and spawned a movie that somehow made their escapades seem as boring as prison life itself.

The story of the Alcatraz Three's escape is full of MacGyverisms, from the tools they made to dig through the concrete walls (a drill they made out of a vacuum cleaner motor), to the dummy heads they made from soap and toilet paper.

It's no surprise they were able to pull off such an amazing feat. According to several sources, Morris had an astronomical IQ and spent his life from childhood in and out of prisons. His numerous escape attempts were the reason he had been sent to Alcatraz in the hopes he wouldn't be able to make another attempt. Little did they realize that he was just warming up.

Frank and the Anglin Brothers made it out of their cells and down to the shore line with a makeshift raft that they constructed out of 50 raincoats stolen or borrowed from other inmates. Then they made their way through the currents with paddles made out of plywood. The Discovery Channel's Mythbusters replicated the raincoat raft myth itself by padding to shore from the Rock in a similar vessel.

The three men were never heard from again and Alcatraz's once glorious reputation was tarnished. Defeated, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce had no choice but turn it into a tacky tourist destination that sells T-shirts like "I Got Shanked in Alcatraz and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt."

Could MacGyver Have Done it Better?

The MacGyver method is as simple as faking his own death, waiting until they're carrying him out in his coffin, and then using the freakin' built-in jet ski to go zipping off into the distance. We forgot to mention he built a jet ski at some point.

Wait, did he flip those guys off at the end there? Awesome.

A Professor Uses Shrinky Dinks To Make Scientific Breakthrough

So far, these devices have been used to get people out of jams and tight spots when a matter of seconds drew the line between life and certain death. This one doesn't involve death, per say, unless you replace a "matter of seconds that draws the line between life and death" With "losing a million dollar grant that draws the line between winning the Nobel Prize for engineering and teaching high school chemistry to idiots."

Professor Michelle Khine of the University of California, Merced was doing a study of microfluidics, which from the word, you can guess is the study of fluids in tiny things (like the inside of computer chips). Unfortunately, she didn't have much to work with in terms of materials. So she turned to Shrinky Dinks, those childhood toys that encourage children to color and stick their hands in ovens.

According to Wired magazine, she designed several microfluidic patterns on actual Shrinky Dinks plastic, put them in her own oven at home and found it worked perfectly because the tubes through which the fluid ran actually enlarged as the plastic got smaller. Thus she managed to do something that companies such as Intel spend millions of dollars a year, and to do it on the budget of a kid who saved up his allowance.

Could MacGyver Have Done it Better?

We can't fathom a situation where MacGyver would have to build a microfluidic device. But if there was a lady in the room, we're guessing he'd use it as an excuse to remove his pants:

Astronauts Build an Air Scrubber Out of Random Junk

When it comes to pulling off the ultimate MacGyverism, no one can do it better than NASA. Their engineers have to be ready at a moment's notice to find new ways to build complicated machines and mechanisms out of everyday objects because, as the Apollo 13 mission proved, you never know if you'll have an emergency that won't have a contingency plan in place and (as every other mission has since proved) you never know what NASA is going to cut out of their budgets next.

When astronauts Jim Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise had to move from the command module to the LEM in order to conserve power to run their navigational computer, they didn't realize the calculations for oxygen consumption were only made for two people instead of three. So their carbon dioxide levels began to skyrocket. They had a lithium hydroxide canister on board. However, the plug for the canister on the LEM was round and the canister itself was square.

NASA Flight Controller Gene Krantz (for those of you who haven't picked up a history textbook since elementary school, he was played by Ed Harris in the Apollo 13 movie) wrote in his book Failure is Not an Option that their only option--not including failure--was to get their engineers to build a makeshift air scrubber out of things they had laying around the ship.

Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Kevin Bacon

The crew didn't, as we would have done, admit defeat, light cigarettes and try to bone something one last time before their slow and painful death, which is just one major difference between the Cracked staff and NASA astronauts. Instead, working for an entire day and a half without sleep, they came up with this: The plastic flight cover would act as a funnel through which the lithium hydroxide was pumped through a suit hose, into a fan and then through a sock, which acted as the filter. The whole thing was held together with duct tape.

Yes, this sounds like something out of a cartoon. But it worked, saving the lives of three astronauts and ensuring that Tom Hanks would go on to become an Oscar-nomination machine.

Could MacGyver Have Done it Better?

Unless Hollywood buys our MacGyver in Space! screenplay, we may never know how he would handle himself in a space shuttle. Further, We can't find an episode where the Gyver had to clear out a smoke-filled room. We're guessing having to build an air filter would be too many steps for him to handle.

However, since he knows a thing or two about creating smoke screens (episode 102: he uses fire ash, rice alcohol and a car exhaust to create a painful wall of tear gas, episode 116: he burns pesticide, soap flakes and tile cleaner in a saucepan to create a smokescreen, etc.), we're convinced he could at least build an ingenious device to kill a capsule full of astronauts. Or at least build the world's most kick-ass bong.

(Note to Hollywood: we also have a Cheech and MacGyver in Space script in the works if you do decide to go with the bong angle.)

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Chuck Berry Remembers Call From Cousin About White Kid Playing 'Johnny B. Goode'

WENTZVILLE, MO—In a shocking revelation that turns a half century of rock-and-roll history on its head, legendary musician Chuck Berry recalled Monday how he got the idea for his iconic song "Johnny B. Goode"—believed for decades to have been written by Berry himself—after listening to a white teenager playing it over the telephone. "I'll never forget that night back in 1955 when I got the call from [cousin] Marvin [Berry] saying, 'Chuck, this is that sound you've been looking for!'" recounted Berry, explaining that his cousin was playing an "Enchantment Under The Sea"–themed high school dance when the mysterious teen, Calvin Klein, took to the stage and single-handedly invented rock and roll as we now know it. "Marvin held up the phone and I heard the song that would make me famous. Then I stole it."

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Morgan Spurlock in Search of Osama

Four years after the release of his Oscar-nominated documentary, Super Size Me, in which he spent 30 days eating nothing but McDonald's food, Morgan Spurlock is about to release his second feature film. This one's about his search for the most wanted man on earth. The filmmaker forgoes fast-food binges for another type of physical danger: searching for Osama bin Laden. In an interview with TIME, Spurlock opens up about his quest.

TIME: Why do you care about Osama bin Laden?

Morgan Spurlock: You know, I think for me it’s just one of those questions in this post-9/11 world that a lot of people wonder. For me, it was 2005 when …we just got into a second term of the presidency. The war in Iraq had now been going on for two years. I think another tape came out somewhere around then, or a video, and suddenly on every news station people were saying, "Why hasn’t this guy been brought to justice?" "Why haven’t we found him?" "Where in the world is Osama bin Laden?" And I was like, that’s a great question. That’s something that I think everybody would like to get an answer to.

What do you think makes Osama tick?

I think there are so many things in the world that helped create Osama bin Laden. I think that’s what you start to see over the course of the movie [is ]what pushed people toward admiring or wanting to follow an Osama bin Laden: dictatorships in Middle Eastern countries oppress their people, extreme poverty and lack of access to health and education, people who feel like they’re being oppressed by their own countries. Michael F. Scheuer, who’s the former head of the Bin Laden unit of the CIA, said something very smart and eloquent, which was, what these people realize is rather than going after their own countries, they have to go to the champion and protector of these countries and that was the United States, so you start to see the pattern develop.

What was your wife’s (chef Alexandra Jamieson) initial reaction to this idea of seeking out arguably the most wanted man in the world?

She was not a fan. (Laughs.) Yeah. She completely hated it, and hated it for the whole time while we were still making it. She’s incredibly supportive of me as a filmmaker and the things that I want to do no matter how harebrained they may seem. We were already in pre-production on the movie when we found out she was pregnant. So that really shifted the focus of the movie for me because then it wasn’t just, Where is Osama bin Laden, What kind of world creates Osama bin Laden? But what kind of world am I bringing a kid into? It really did take on a different meaning for me. We started to talk through it together and I talked to her about why it was important to me, especially with our child on the way, she understood why it mattered. It was one of those things where she said, you know what? We need some concessions. I had to be home for the pregnancy. That was one of the deals I made with her. I had to be home when the baby was born. The other was, I wouldn’t go to Iraq. We hadn’t really planned on it. I feel like we see Iraq so much in the news every single day. To me the bigger story was where Osama bin Laden was hiding and where the first war started, which was Afghanistan.

What was the most dangerous thing you were exposed to?

The most dangerous and at least the most frightened I was over the course of the trip was probably when we were embedded with the troops in Afghanistan. These guys are targets. Al-Qaeda targets them. Taliban targets them. The week before we got to the base where were staying, there was a mortar attack on the base. There was a Taliban ambush on the governor’s convoy. There’s so many things that at any moment these guys could suddenly become target practice. That’s a scary place to be. You’re protected and you feel safe, but at the same time — you know we’re driving down the road and about a half-kilometer in front of us at one time they discovered an IED, so we got diverted. We had to go back to the base while they went ahead and dismantled this bomb. Things like that really ground you and bring you back to reality.

What did your producers say you could not do?

I’m trying to think. There wasn’t that much. (Laughs.) We pretty much threw caution to the wind and just went forward. Most of the things that we wanted to try to do we were able to accomplish. Pakistan is part of the example. We couldn’t get visas into Pakistan. We ultimately had to bribe our way into the country. We were denied access, denied access, denied access. We had someone inside the government who was giving us information and this person said our application had been denied countless times. There’s no way they’re going to let you in. We asked, Why? What’s the issue? They said, Well there are two reasons. One is that they don’t want anything to happen to you. The last thing they need is another “Daniel Pearl” murder to happen in Pakistan. The other is they’re afraid of what you’re going to talk about. They’re afraid of what you’ll find. We ended up having to bribe an official at the Pakistani embassy in Afghanistan who was able to get us into the country and let us do what we needed to do.

What did you imagine that you’d encounter? What were your preconceptions as you went out to try to find out what their preconceptions were?

I thought I would be met with a tremendous amount more hostility than I was throughout the Middle East. I thought there would be a lot more people who across the board had anti-American sentiment. And it just wasn’t the case. There were people who were very upset about our country’s government and about the foreign policy of our country, which I would say to them, Well the people elect government. They would say, Yeah, but at the same time you don’t know what’s going to happen once people get into office. They were very astute at making a distinction between people and the government. What was even more incredible was that a lot of people who were very anti-American had never even met an American in the first place. So what was incredible was that I would talk to people and they would say, But these Americans, all they want is this… And I would say, But I’m an American. And they would say, Really? So to have a conversation with someone and at the end for them to say, "Anytime you want to come back call us, come see us, stay with us," it was pretty mind-blowing for me.

There was that one area featured in the film where the people were really hostile toward you? Did you ever figure out why?

We were in Mia Sharem, which is an incredibly conservative, Hasidic neighborhood in Israel, an area where they’re very much against outsiders and don’t really trust the media. So we get there and our local fixer — because we had a fixer in every country — said that it would be a great place to go and speak to people. So we go there and we start to be yelled at [and told] to “Get out of here” and “You don’t belong here.” And then the crowd gathered very quickly. It was one of those things that nobody expected. It was overwhelming for everyone on the crew.

Did you genuinely believe that you could find Osama bin Laden?

I think that once we hit the road and started going from country to country, you start to get a bigger picture that it’s not just about this guy, that there are so many other things that are out there, that finding this one guy isn’t going to change every other thing that has led to this guy existing.

Most people would probably assume that you didn’t find OBL, so why do you think they will go see the movie?

I think that the movie is a fantastic look at the state of the world today. I think it’s a funny movie. I think it’s very entertaining. It’s not a history lesson. You don’t feel like you’re being fed spinach. I’m a fan of not making movies that taste like spinach. I think we’ll see when it opens, but I think that people are looking to have a little fun with a little bit of education to it. Not that I think this is bad education. I think this is a great primer. It’s a great way to open a door to a much larger conversation.

What do you think of the pop-culturization of heavy-duty issues such as the search for OBL, the ongoing saga of Gitmo or the war in Iraq?

Well I think that anything that exists within the world and has an impact on the public psyche suddenly becomes a part of entertainment or pop culture in some ways. It kind of starts to find its way into the vernacular or into the films and TV shows that are being made. I think it’s inevitable. It happened with Vietnam. It happened with World War II. It happened with Hitler. These things just work their way into the media because they are a huge influence on how people think, how they feel, what they believe. Some of the people turn their backs on it, some of them embrace it.

How was fasting during Ramadan for a non-Muslim? It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. (Laughs.) I didn’t make it the full month. I made it about 22 days. I made it almost the whole way. So what they said is that I just have to make up those 8 days. At some point, I have to fast for 8 days.

Was it a conscious decision not to include any OBL videos?

I feel like we see those all the time. That’s what we get to hear. We get to hear from him constantly. We don’t get to hear from everybody else.

In 10 years or so, when your son (born in 2006) is old enough to watch the film, what do you hope it will mean to him?

I hope that it opens his eyes and his mind up to other people and other cultures. I hope it piques his interest of wanting to go to places like that on his own, wanting to travel on his own. That’s what I hope for this film for anybody who sees it. We live in a country where 1 in 4 people has a passport. I think that it would be great if in some way people suddenly said "I want to go out and see what’s happening for myself. I want to make up my own mind and not just be sold the bill of goods that I see on TV or read in the papers every day."

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