August 15, 2003


In real life, we usually never get to invent ingenious solutions, like the guy in the old TV series MacGyver. Today, four real stories in which real people invent amazingly clever solutions to their problems.


Host Ira Glass reminds the audience about the old TV series MacGyver, about the guy who stops bad guys without a gun. He uses science and sheer ingenuity to invent solutions. Then Ira interviews This American Life contributing editor Sarah Vowell, who lives in New York, about how, even in the middle of the biggest power failure in the history of the U.S., it's hard for an average citizen to exercise MacGyveresque ingenuity. (4 minutes)
Act Two

Files In Cakes, Ha!

There's a book called Prisoners' Inventions, by a California inmate who publishes under the pseudonym Angelo. He describes the ingenious devices prisoners build out of the rudimentary materials at hand. Actor Felix Solis reads excerpts. Our story was produced with help from Jonathan Menjivar; thanks also to Temporary Services. The book is available on the website whitewalls.org. (4 minutes)

Act Three

So Crazy It Just Might Work

The story of an FBI sting that involves gangsters, G-men, and lots and lots of people who want to work in the movies. It's adapted from an article by Elizabeth Gilbert that first appeared in GQ magazine. (25 minutes)