Today Amazon announced a big deal with Discovery networks to get their content on Amazon Prime instant video– this includes all sorts of shows like Mythbusters, Deadliest Catch, and naturally, Stuck with Hackett! Watch season 1 now. Of course there are no residuals coming from iTunes or Amazon, but as show/episode ideas get tossed around between the higher ups at Science, no views are bad views.
9/29 at 10:30PM e/p
Hackett finds himself at an abandoned RV camp in the middle of the woods. The camper lacks indoor plumbing, a modern convenience he refuses to live without. He sets out to build a bathroom and shower from the discarded items of the campsite. Needing to get water from the ground up into a tree, Hackett creates a bicycle-powered “sponge brigade” pulley system to bring him closer to his goal of a working flush toilet. Using plastic water bottles as pipes, and a plastic pink flamingo as a showerhead, Hackett is well on his way to creating the thing he’s most looking forward to at the end of a hard day: a steaming hot shower. That’s when things get complicated. Unable to heat water in the way he intends, Hackett has to improvise a way to bring the heat to the water, using rocks, a metal container, propane, and some good old-fashioned brute force.
I know this group of people, an ad-hoc art collective with members drawn from the usual places where people who are in ad-hoc art collectives hail from (Oakland, Brooklyn, New Orleans- actually, none of them are originally from Oakland, Brooklyn, or New Orleans, but this is where it starts to get tedious so I will leave it at that), who are working on a big, grand project in an abandoned building in Detroit. (I think it is telling that like seventy percent of the people that I know have a history of being involved in abandoned building-focused projects in Detroit, myself included. In the non-teevee world I live in, working on stuff in abandoned buildings in Detroit is about as edgy as wearing mismatched socks, but slightly less interesting.)
Anyway: this group of people are all young and attractive, some are even talented. Their project has promise, the place where they are staying has no plumbing. A dozen people, a month of close-quarters living, a hand-dug trench as a toilet. This skeeves me out in ways that are so deep and primal that articulating it is impossible: I am a guy who is never at a loss for words, and when I heard about what they were doing, all I could say was “Ewwww”.
On this week’s episode I am stuck at a trailer in the middle of some of the most gorgeous countryside I have ever been in, a landscape that looked exactly like the rolling terrain that is built around a really high-end model train set. The trailer is a classic Airstream, seemingly recently inhabited by hippies. I hate hippies. As usual, my rage was the source of comedy gold. As usual, the gold was cut out by the order of the network. They did not want to alienate the lucrative (getting up there in age, I assume) hippie demographic. Expect ads for tie-dyed adult diapers and hybrid SUVs. Also, there was a lot of ranting about carnivorous horses (don’t ask) that prob got cut out as well.
This episode contains what might be my favorite build of the season, the sponge brigade pump. Water is moved from a stream to a cistern using a conveyor belt of sponge foam threaded along a rope, driven by pedal power. I have never, ever seen a system like this, and it worked wonderfully. I would like nothing more than to take credit for this brilliant hack, but Chuck Messer, producer, engineer, and owner of Lena (the smartest dog in the world), came up with it.
Also: I spent a lot of time in trees. There might or might not be a risque shower scene at the end, depending on if I was too sexy for the censors.
The second of two-in-a-row episodes. This was the last one we shot. I abuse a machine shop to make fast food, Hackett-style.
Rage is my primary source of creative energy- when it comes to building art, writing, or ranting on the teevee. (This is the main reason why I do not smoke pot- it dulls my hate. Also, it would make hippies think we have something in common.). I hate consumerism. I hate cheap crap in all of its forms. I hate fast food.
As a result, this episode should be comedy gold. There are a couple of cool builds here- thermite for cooking, a french-fry machine made from a potato gun and a hot water heater- and I hurt myself, pretty badly, with a plasma torch. Like I said, comedy gold.
Really Freaking Fast Food
9/22 at 10:30PM e/p
Using discarded food from a Grocery Store dumpster, and a fully equipped machine shop, Hackett attempts to make his own fast food empire. Unable to use a conventional kitchen, Hackett has no choice but to use machine shop tools to prep and cook his fast food. To industrialize the French Fry making process, he uses an oversized potato cannon and a hot water heater. Without a heat source to cook his burgers, Hackett is forced to turn to science. Using an unconventional recipe of rust and metal, Hackett creates a 5000-degree fire to cook his burgers. All of this industrialization equates to one thing, a Hackett Burger Value Meal.
In an effort to see who, exactly is into the show, and how to get more of them to watch it the Science Channel is tweaking the scheduling no Stuck with Hackett last week, a double dose this week. The first episode has me making a dirt boat- a land sailer- apparently, “Dirt Boat” is the preferred term, at least, that is what I was told by Dennis, the king of all Dirt Boaters, a super knowledgeable, charming, hard-working guy who consulted on this episode. It could be that no one calls then “Dirt Boats” except for him, and now, to his delight at a very well-played practical joke and the horror of the land sailing community, the whole non-dirt-boating world.
The final result, while cool, kind of pales in comparison to the setting and a couple of the intermediate builds. The setting was an airplane junkyard- not the big ones you have seen in movies etc (I have seen one of those too- out in the Mojave Desert, miles and miles of parked airplanes stretching to the horizon, like the toy collection of a god with OCD or some kind of convoluted metaphor about the decline of American power) but still pretty vast, seeing how it is full of AIRPLANES, which are not small things. The junkyard was only ordered-ish, with some parts (hydraulic cylinders, airplane bathrooms) well ordered, and other piles of casually stacked airplanes.
I was excited and happy in the railroad junkyard where we filmed EP1. Railroad obtainium is pretty neat, but is gross, oversized garbage compared to airplane junk. Airplane parts are some of the best-looking, most finely engineered stuff in the world. The parts and the whole need to be reliable, strong, able to withstand horrific conditions that nothing on the ground will ever experience, unless it is in the moment of a catastrophic accident, and then, after all that, the thing needs to FLY. Think about that. See your car, your bike, hell, even your fancy pocket computer? Imagine that the well-honed piece of machinery you are holding or looking at can do all that it does, but in the -59 degree cold and 500 mile an hour windchill, with no oxygen, and STILL FLY. Even the rattiest, most tore-up airplane parts are more finely engineered than anything you will ever run into in everyday life. As a font of obtainium it was heaven.
One great thing about doing this show is that I get to build stuff from my List (you know- the grand, sprawling, always growing, never ended list of cool shit you want to build or learn or do). On this episode I make a waste oil furnace, a really clever, simple way of turning waste oil (like, from oil changes) into useful heat. In this case, I use it to fire a foundry and melt metal to cast a part. Additionally, there are some interesting bits about mechanical advantage and pulleys, and a bit about fluid dynamics. Hope the science made it into the edit. I also got to move heavy shit by myself and rail against the seedy world of modern aviation, a reference that I think only Julia will get.
9/22 at 10PM e/p
Hackett finds himself at an aviation junkyard stocked with old planes. Unfortunately, he hates air travel: the noise, the service, the fatal crashing. Fortunately, the junkyard hangs on the edge of a dry lakebed, the perfect place for another, more Hackett-friendly mode of transportation: a dirt boat that will sail the land at dangerously high speed, using wheels instead of water.
9/8 at 10:30PM e/p
Hackett is at an abandoned suburban house in the middle of the desert. The house has a $4000 a day electric bill, which Hackett finds completely unacceptable. Rather than paying such outrageous prices, he’s going to make his own power. Hackett takes the house “off the grid” — cutting it off from its electrical power source. Hackett wants to enjoy all the modern conveniences of suburbia, but now he has to generate power on his own. He starts with DC power, making a chemical battery that he hopes will give him enough juice to turn on the TV. When the battery fails to provide the power he needs, he goes to the next level, fashioning a windmill out of PVC pipe, a treadmill motor, and bits of obtanium. When windpower still doesn’t do the job, Hackett discards DC power in favor of the much more powerful alternating current (AC), which powers all appliances that connect into wall sockets; it’s the lifeline of suburbia, and Hackett is desperate for a piece of the suburban dream. Combining an old car engine with the motor from a table saw, Hackett hopes that AC power will give him what he wants most: TV.
New episode on the air (wait- what term does one use for the dissemination of a television show over cable? “Air”? No, it does not go through the air. “Broadcast”? No, it will be cast in a tight, controlled, only-to-cable-customers-who-opted-for-the-package-with-the-Science-Channel way, not in the old-school, available-to-anyone-with-rabbit-ears-on-top-of-a-monochromatic-Zenith kind of way. Drops? Too hip. Goes out? Yeah, that works.)
New episode goes out tomorrow (or today. Depends on when you are reading this. Sigh.)
New episode goes out Thursday, September 8th, 10:30pm Eastern time. Anyway. Here are some photos and video clips of Episode Four. Enjoy:
In this one, I make electricity, using obtainium to create electric power via chemical and mechanical means. This has been an interest of mine for a while- I have sitting in my shop an induction generator made from an old air compressor motor and a lawnmower engine; I have taught workshops in Canadia on converting obtainium (E-Waste: Junked, outmoded printers and scanners- dig into them, and you will find a trove of super-well engineered stepper motors that can generate clean, rectifiable AC, spun by wind turbines made from PVC pipe and soda bottles) into off-grid, low-or-no-cost cell phone chargers; and taught a class at NYU that dealt with generating, storing, and using purpose-generated power. Also, there are prob a half-dozen still-incomplete art pieces that utilize small-scale power generation within twelve feet of me as I type this.
Personally, I think generating electricity from obtainium will be the linchpin of maintaining a nice standard of living while the world around you descends into the chaotic maw of a zombie/religious/political/metaphorical/not-at-all Apocalypse. Even if that never comes to pass, it is good stuff to know.
Your life depends on electricity. It is vital that you know what it is, how it works, and how to make some if all else fails.
I am curious and more than a little anxious, waiting to see how much information made it through the edit and into the 21 minutes of final form.
I trust it will be a good episode (I almost die! A couple of times! ) but if you want a nice little tidbit of interesting information, chew on this:
An amp is 6.241×10^18 electrons, passing a given point per second. The fact that with a little simple math you can figure out how many of the smallest real things in the universe it takes to run your toaster delights me to no end.
Episode 3: Hospital of Horror
9/1 at 10:30PM e/p
Hackett’s quest for fresh obtainium leads him to a disturbing place: a dark, abandoned hospital that’s so creepy, it must be haunted. As the sun dips low in the sky, the challenge of defeating darkness spurs him to build his own electric light out of the wreckage of the condemned building.
Hackett’s first attempt is a primordial version of modern lights: a carbon arc lamp. To build it, he digs through toxic battery acid and nearly electrocutes himself… only to find that he’s built a lamp so dangerous, it’s more terrifying than the dark corridors themselves. A second attempt yields success as he takes on Thomas Edison to build a mad-scientist version of the modern light bulb. Having dominated the shadowy darkness of the abandoned hospital, Hackett decides to create his brightest light yet. He build a super-hot torch that runs on split water molecules to create dazzling, flesh-eating limelight… all to entertain himself with a found movie projector and some mysterious film reels.
A new episode airs tonight. It was the only one shot in Los Angeles, in an abandoned hospital. “Abandoned” is probably more accurate the place shut down, under murky circumstances (I heard the exciting “high, unexplained death rate”, and the mundane, and most likely true “halls too narrow for modern gurneys” ) and was being used as a film locating probably later that day. It is a popular low-budget location, one that you have prob seen a dozen times in films and teevee shows. Years and years of artifice piled upon antiquing piled upon props- it was impossible to tell what was real and what was set dressing. For example: we shot a scene in the morgue, one of the producers getting freaked out and screaming like a little girl with a bee sting when one of the crew popped out from a body drawer. I was excited because, well, it is a morgue. I opened one body drawer, and went to open the one next to it (to see if there was internal access from one to another, or if there were any stray body parts jammed in the hinges) and discovered that the next door opened up onto a wall of stainless steel. It was all set dressing from who-knows-what forgotten film. We all felt kind of cheated, as if our honest excitement and emotion was retroactively false. I suppose there is a larger metaphor about teevee in general here, but I will leave it at that.
There were some awesome, super-clever builds on this one. The oxy-hydrogen torch was one of my favorites, and the carbon arc light looked so awesome that it was like watching another, much-higher-budget show.
Watch it, and let me know what you think.
Don’t miss it! The first season of Stuck With Hackett on the Science Channel debuts tonight at 10:30pm. Get excited, tell your friends, have a viewing party, and most importantly tune in. Anybody out there have a Nielsen box?