Tuesday, June 16, 2009
KARE -11 (the Minneapolis/St. Paul NBC affiliate) asked me to appear on their daytime show, called "Showcase Minnesota" today. Rob Hudson, the host, was very enthusiastic about Absinthe and Flamethrowers. The segment went well and they asked me to return on July 14 to demonstrate some projects from my books.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Thanks to Brady Forrest at O'Reilly Media for producing and hosting this video.
Tony Wolf, an expert practitioner of, and a leader in the Bartitsu community sent
me additional information regarding the Bartitsu self defense moves in Absinthe
and Flamethrowers. Much more at www.bartitsu.org
Imagine the case of a man armed with a serviceable stick being
attacked by a skilled boxer. One of the safest and most reliable
methods of defence against a boxer's fists is as follows: --
The man with the stick faces the boxer in the back-guard position --
that is to say, with his left foot and arm extended, and his right arm
guarding his head. His left arm is thus free to guard his face or
body, if, by any chance, he should fail to evade the blow.
As soon as the boxer opens his attack with a direct blow upon the man
with the stick, the latter jumps with one movement to the former's
left, bending well forward in a crouched position, so as to avoid any
possibility of being hit. Then, turning half round on his left toe,
and drawing his right foot in a line with his left, he makes a low,
back-handed sweep with his stick, and strikes the boxer across the
knee, disabling him, and bringing him to the ground.
But for the sake of argument, we will suppose that in the excitement
of the engagement the blow missed the boxer's knee, and struck him on
his shin, in which case he might still be able to show fight. Quickly
recovering his balance, the boxer turns on his left toe by stepping to
the right with his right foot, faces his opponent, and puts in another
blow. But here, again, the man with the stick anticipates the move,
and bayonettes the boxer in the heart before the blow can fall. As his
stick gives him a longer reach than the boxer's, he runs no danger,
and the strong, upward thrust with the stick should completely
incapacitate his adversary.
I should like the reader to thoroughly understand that in every form
of self-defence the first and most essential thing is to have a
well-trained eye. This trick is entirely dependent upon the quickness
of the eye in judging the right moment to jump on one side, so that
the boxer does not become aware of the fact until he has struck at you
and overreached himself, when it is too late for him to make good his
Friday, June 12, 2009
Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously William Gurstelle. Chicago Review, $16.95 paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-55652-822-4
If you can imagine Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes all grown up, this supercharged guide for amateur thrill seekers would probably replace Hobbes as his constant companion. Ostensibly in order to encourage the notion that “to a point, the ability to wage risk is a useful and worthwhile attribute,” professional engineer Gurstelle (The Art of the Catapult) lays out detailed instructions for making “black powder” (gunpowder), rockets, flamethrowers and other devices that will endanger your digits and eyebrows. To the author’s credit, he is equally detailed in his prescriptions of safety gear and precautions. He also details more hedonistic thrills, such as absinthe, cigarette smoking and “thrill eating” à la the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern—“in small amounts,” he says, “they add bite and depth to the flavor of life.” Most of the recipes and blueprints that Gurstelle shares with fellow “Big-T” (thrill-seeking) personalities, can be found all over the Internet, but this antidote to the usual cautious self-help guides is written well if occasionally in overheated prose, and, more important, is presented responsibly. Illus. (June)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I pass along with pleasure this enthusiastic New York Times review of local writer Bill Gurstelle's new book, "Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously."
Bill did some writing for me when I edited the Southwest Journal, and he's a first-class talent and mayhem engineer. As reviewer Dwight Garner notes, Gurstelle "staked his claim to do-it-yourself greatness in 2001 with his friendly paperback book 'Backyard Ballistics.' Its subtitle tells you all you need to know: 'Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices.'"
Gurstelle's newest tome tells you how to build a homemade flamethrower — somewhat chilling on a day when domestic terrorism dominates the news. But Bill also wants to explore modern humanity's lust for, or repugnance of, such devices, in effect building an intellectual containment vessel around the creations.
I'm not enough of a thrill-seeker to attempt such a liability-inducing maneuver, but I'm happy Bill's risk seems to be paying off.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Between the New York Times article, the Popular Mechanics post, and the BoingBoing guest blogging stint, books sales are heating up. Absinthe and Flamethrowers has been #250 and #300 most of the day on the Amazon best seller list, and has been #1 in several science categories.
Reviewer Dwight Garner gets the motivation behind writing this book and I'm so pleased.
Two books that put me in the mood for rockets’ red glare are George Plimpton’s classic “Fireworks: A History and Celebration” (1984), and, less conventionally, Jim Paul’s shaggily artful book “Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon” (1991).
But when it comes to the theory and practice of making your own noisy, mildly dangerous fun in the backyard, America has a new poet laureate. His name is William Gurstelle, and he staked his claim to do-it-yourself greatness in 2001 with his friendly paperback book “Backyard Ballistics.”
Mr. Gurstelle, a professional engineer, has now returned with a more contemplative if no less wonky and gonzo book called “Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously.” It explores the significance of moderate risk taking to our happiness, well-being and career advancement.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Questions for Bill Gurstelle About the Art of Living Dangerously
In his latest book, Absinthe and Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously, Bill Gurstelle gives detailed how-to instructions on building rockets, throwing knives, "thrill eating" pursuits like fugu and absinthe, as well as plans to construct a flamethrower. We recently talked with the disarmingly mild-mannered author to ask about living on the edge.
By Harry Sawyers
Published on: June 3, 2009
See full article here:
New Amazon Reviews:
A five star Amazon rating from reader Bre Pettis:
"Besides being a book that gives you a roadmap for making life more interesting, it's got great projects and Bill's storytelling ability makes it a great read.A four star rating from reader Wil Kalif:
"This book is kind of The Dangerous Book for Boys but for men. It covers a variety of subjects like eating dangerously, making a flame thrower and making gunpowder or your own Absinthe. There is some interesting stuff in it and an important thing to realize about this book is in the title "Projects and Ruminations" It isn't just projects it also talks about various pursuits that are a bit dangerous like eating dangerously or the hottest pepper in the world."
Earlier:On page five of your book Absinth and Flamethrowers, you state that solid rocket motors
were used in the Saturn V rocket during the Apollo missions. This is incorrect.
The first stage of the Saturn V (the S-IC) had five F-1 rocket engines. The propellents in these
were liquid oxygen and kerosene. These were the largest liquid rocket engines ever built.
The second stage (the S-II) had five J-2 engines. The propellents in these engines were liquid
oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
The third stage (the S-IVB) had one J-2 engine, also propelled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
The propellents in the Apollo Service Module were hypergolics, not needing an oxidizer for ignition.
For this nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine were used.
The lunar modular also used hypergolics -- nitrogen tetroxide and Aerozine 50 (a half and half
mixture of unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and hydrazine). These were used in both the descent stage
and the ascent stage.
The only place solid propellents were used in the Apollo system were in the launch escape system.
The escape tower sat atop the command module. There were three solid rocket motors attached to the
tower. In the event of a booster malfunction, the solid rocket motors would be used to pull the
command module free of the Saturn V. Thankfully, this was never necessary.
The use of solid rocket motors in manned spaceflight is the source of some controversy since they
cannot be throttled and once activated they cannot be turned off. The worst case scenario played out
in the case of the Challenger disaster when an O-ring failure in a solid rocket booster led to the
explosion. Reportedly, von Braun was opposed to the use of solid rocket boosters in the shuttle
system for just this sort of reason. However, solid rockets are cheaper than liquid rockets, and due
to budget cuts NASA incorporated the solid rockets into the shuttle system.
But solid rocket motors did not boost the Saturn V to the moon.
A reader wrote in an Amazon review that in Absinthe and Flamethrowers, I referred to the engines of the Saturn V rocket as being solid fuel, when in fact, they are liquid fuel. Evidently, this freaked out the reader so much that he one-star rated the book on Amazon, based on this single error.
Sheesh, that seems pretty harsh.
I'm the current guest blogger on the well known blog BoingBoing, which was started many years ago by my friend Mark Frauenfelder. The other bloggers include Xeni Jardin, Cory Doctorow, and David Pescovitz.
BB is quite influential, receiving upwards of 3 million hits a month. The vociferousness and ardor of the commenters is legendary.
Most of my posts so far have been well received. I'm particularly happy with my serious of Wails and Mumbles posts.
Visit Boingboing.net and search on "gurstelle" to see my posts.
I was guest blogger on Wired.com's GeekDad blog in May. This blog gets a lot of attention from people with interests similar to mine. The head geekdad bloggers are Ken and John and there's a host of assistant bloggers who post on subjects relating to raising techno-able children.
Art of Living Dangerously Post