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Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously Paperback – June 1, 2009


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Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously + Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices + Defending Your Castle: Build Catapults, Crossbows, Moats, Bulletproof Shields, and More Defensive Devices to Fend Off the Invading Hordes
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 5.2.2009 edition (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556528221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556528224
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"If you ever wondered what happened to MacGyver, he lives in Minneapolis under the name of Bill Gurstelle."  —Lee Zlotoff, creator, MacGyver



"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."  —Publishers Weekly


"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."  —New York Times


"The book is a sure-fire hit for people who want to get in touch with their inner MacGyver (to borrow a chapter title from the book) and for fans of television shows like MythBusters, which often involves building things that shoot or explode."  —Booklist Online



"Scintillating."  —Make


"Learning to engage in acceptable levels of risk will result in sharpended critical thinking skills and an inner strength you didn't know you had. Just don't crack your new bullwhip indoors."  —Twin Cities Metro



"Guys who consider 'MythBusters' to be appointment TV might warm to this oddball piece of nonfiction, which aims to put a smile on science, if a rather mischievous one."  —The Oklahoma Gazette



"Learning to engage in acceptable levels of risk will result in sharpended critical thinking skills and an inner strength you didn't know you had. Just don't crack your new bullwhip indoors."  —Geek Monthly

Customer Reviews

Bill Gurstelle is a great maker who takes on ambitious projects and then shares them.
N. B. Pettis
Don't put one of the main draws for a book on the cover and then talk too much about how uncool it is (absinthe).
Mark Twain
This is a great a great book for people who love to blow stuff up, and learn about risky things.
Multi-Interest guy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Will Kalif on June 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is kind of a 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.
Plenty of safety warnings and a real focus of the book is on the science/art of doing things in a way that makes dangerous less risky.

This book is definitely not for boys, grownups only.
What I like most about the book is the variety of resources it gives you on where to get supplies for your projects. And these suppliers and sources vary widely. The author calls this the art of Obtanium.
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50 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Justin E. Jacobson on June 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
With a title like "Absinthe and Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on The Art of Living Dangerously," I expected a wider variety of different projects, stunts, and useful information. The Bulk of the book, however, has nothing to do with Absinthe or Flamethrowers, and is devoted largely to making small batches of gunpowder and using it in various ways.

I don't have anything against making or using gunpowder specifically, but with so much space devoted to the chemistry-intensive gunpowder projects, all the other interesting topics like absinthe, zippo tricks, bartitsu, knife-throwing, and bullwhips get significantly less attention.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By N. B. Pettis on June 3, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
Bill Gurstelle is a great maker who takes on ambitious projects and then shares them. This book follows in his great tradition of awesome books that combine great projects with storytelling. 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. Even if you want to live the dangerous life from an armchair perspective, you'll love this book! I give this book 5 stars for sheer entertainment value and for inspiring me to live life closer to the edge!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Josey Baker on September 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was very excited when I saw this book suggested by Amazon. I read the first few pages online, and was very intrigued. Gurstelle has done his research, for sure. The opening pages discuss psychological theory about thrill seeking individuals, and is very well-written. His explanation about the manufacturing of gun powder seems as informative and cautionary as it should be. But when I got to the chapter about smoking cigarettes, I immediately thought, "Aw man - this is a hoax. I don't need advice about how and when to smoke. This is all about image. It's superficial." And truth be told, it turned me off so much, I haven't bothered to pick it up since I made it a few pages into this chapter. I skimmed the rest of the book, but found nothing that really grabbed me. Learning how and when to appear cool and rebellious is not what attracted me to this book, but if this is what you're looking for, this one might have some good leads.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Bill Gurstelle has done it again! This is an amazing, entertaining, disruptive, instructive guide to fun. You could call it the true "Dangerous Ideas For Boys" and Girls book... because Bill shows you how to do all the things Mama told you not to... and makes an exceptionally compelling case for why it is meritorious to do them!
The New York Times gave the book a glowing review today (June 10, 2009) which was well deserved. Never mind that, Bill taught me how to make a flamethrower ---perfectly safely, I promise :)--- and you can too. We live in an age where disruptive ides are critical to our future. Thank you, Bill! Moms and Dads: Buy the book for your kids! Give them the "license" to invent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Munro on July 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
In "Absinthe and Flamethrowers", how-to author Bill Gurstelle provides a guide to reducing the risk of some unusual DIY projects to tolerable levels.

The first section, "Why Live Dangerously?", offers an analysis of risk-taking personalities and the potential personal and social benefits of "edgeworking", as in "working on the edge" of safety. The second and main section, "How To Live Dangerously", gets to the meat of the subject via a series of practical projects in "Playing with Fire" (explosive devices and experiments), "Thrill Eating" (including the infamous fugu) and similar hazardous actitivies.

My inner purist requires me to note that while Gurstelle's history of Bartitsu, an Edwardian-era martial art, is largely accurate, his project for that section requires the reader to construct a shoulder-length hiking pole. Bartitsu stick fighting was, in fact, optimized for a 36" long walking stick, and the difference in length and weight does affect the practicality of certain self defense techniques. Also, significantly, the text offered as Bartitsu instruction in this chapter does not match the accompanying illustrations.

Special interest quibbles aside, "Absinthe and Flamethrowers" is a quick, fun read and offers a refreshingly pragmatic take on the benefits of "living dangerously".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TK on January 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
Last summer I saw the New York Times rave review of this book, and as a longtime fan of "Backyard Ballistics" I have really been looking forward to the read. Gurstelle's new book is like "Backyard Ballistics" with philosophy and style. It's great. And I don't think it really matters if you plan on making gunpowder, building any of these contraptions, or digesting any of these edibles -- you can stay in your armchair, away from your garage, and still love taking this tour of dangerous living. (For those on the adventurous side: great instructions, plenty of photos, clear diagrams, and, yes, flamethrowers.)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

In 2011, Popular Mechanics Magazine added five special editors to its masthead: William Gurstelle, Jay Leno, the Mythbusters' Adam Savage and Jaime Hyneman, and Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds. There's a reason Bill is there along side those luminaries: His views on risk taking, combined with his best selling books have put him in the spotlight.

Media Attention
Long features about Bill and his ideas have run in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, the London Daily Telegraph, National Public Radio, PBS, Radio Canada, and scores of other media outlets.

Best Selling Author
Now, because of his groundbreaking views and easy writing style, he's one of the most widely read science and technology authors in the world. His best sellers include Absinthe and Flamethrowers, Backyard Ballistics, Adventures from the Technology Underground, and The Practical Pyromaniac. More than a half million copies of his books have been sold, a truly amazing amount for a technology author.

National Magazine Columnist
In addition to his books, he writes frequently on culture and technology for national magazines including Popular Mechanics, Wired, the Atlantic, and Make. Online, he is a frequent contributor to BoingBoing, Makezine, and Wired.

Popular Speaker
Bill has given lectures to groups all over the world including North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Select clients and their comments are available through the navigation panel to the left.

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Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously
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