Solar Ricardo

Solar Ricardo

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Detournement and Re-Wilding: A Discussion with Karl Schoeder

During the early part of summer 2010, I stumbled across an announcement for a Science Fiction Convention at a local hotel. Although I'm a life long reader of Sci-Fi and full-fledged geek (yes, I even used to work at Forbidden Planet, NYC's largest comic book and sci-fi store), I rarely venture out to “Cons” these days. Something on the schedule caught my eye, though. Special guest author, Canadian Karl Schroeder was slotted to do a panel on “The Politics of Climate Change”. This should be interesting, I thought- Can a room full of people dressed as Klingons, pie-eyed gamers and Aspersers sufferers have a coherent conversation about the ultimate reality?
    Although the turnout for the session was small, it was perhaps the most thoughtful discussions I have ever heard among lay-people. The group included one hard-core denier, but even he had relevant points, and minds were open on both sides of the argument.
    As for Schoeder, he lead the discussion with the deft hand of someone who understood his audience and a Canadian's perspective on what is possible when a nation is not ruled by a coporatocracy.
    Having watched a Youtube video of Schoeder at OSCON (the O'Reilly Media shindig) talking about his ideas of “re-wilding”  I was anxious to sit down with the author and talk about his ideas.  Karl was kind enough to oblige. Upon describing the theme of “Obsolete Magazine, we immediately dove into a discussion of “Detournement” the situationist idea of reuse of elements and William Gibson's early cyberpunk novels like Count Zero and Neuromancer, in which Schoeder points out that “... the characters are constantly cobbling things together out of stuff the street has abandoned- there is a tradition of that in science fiction going back at least that far and before...”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Safety Razor

Inspired by a woodworker’s plane, the first safety razor was invented by in the late 1700's in France. The design was perfected during the 1800's by British and German companies,  but it was not until a traveling salesman from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin,  King Camp Gillette, patented his design for the double-edged razor in 1904, that the the modern safety razor challenged the popularity of the straight razor.  By securing a contract with the U.S. Military to supply the Gillette Safety Razor to each and every G.I. during World War II, these virtually indestructible little tools became the standard issue shaving implements world-wide for decades. Wilkinson Sword, a British company, introduced the stainless steel blade in the 1960s, significantly improving blade life, as well as creating an iconic object that has become an international symbol for “danger.” Adopted by 1970's punks as a symbol of the movement, the double edged razor blade has been adapted for use as drug paraphernalia, jailhouse shiv, and professional wrestling blood-letting tool.

With the advent of the era of cheap, plastic and disposable, U.S. manufacturing of the Gillette-style safety razor has ceased, but they are still found at nearly every American drugstore or grocery. Because of the longevity of the handle as well as the steel blades, they continue to be manufactured and used around the planet, and have, arguably, the lowest environmental impact of any shaver, with the exception of the traditional straight razor.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Biodiesel Basics

Here's a little video I did a while back on the basics of biodiesel...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dymo Label Maker

If you over 25 years old and live in a country that uses the English alphabet, you probably have used a Dymo label maker at some point in your life. The hard plastic embossed labels have adorned everything from file cabinets to sports equipment, lockers to utility panels, notebooks to foreheads, from their invention in 1958 until the advent of digital labelers in the mid 80's.  The daisy-wheeled pistol-shaped labelers and their shiny, brightly colored strips with raised white capital letters may not be as popular now as in their heyday, but they are still available, in new, ergonomic designs.  The classic models can still be found on ebay, at yard sales and flea markets everywhere.

The peel-and-stick plastic labels still have many advantages over their modern counterparts- they require no electricity to produce, the plastic labels don't fade when exposed to the elements, in fact,  they are virtually indestructible. Not to mention that they just look so damned cool. So cool, in fact,  that the look of the Dymo embossed label has been duplicated in several font designs, like “Punch-label” and “Plastique.” The font suggests a low-tech, retro, DIY attitude-  and we here at OBSOLETE are down with that.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The 3-speed Bicycle

Before the 1970’s explosion of Japanese road bikes with  derailleur gears, the English-style 3-speed  ruled the roads. In fact,  the 3 speed roadster accounts for more than ½ of the bicycles ever built. The Raleigh DL-1, with its fully enclosed chain-case, rod and roller brakes and giant 28 inch wheels made it the perfect all-terrain bike of its time. Designed in 1913 for the British military, it eventually served across the Empire as the bike of choice for police, mail carriers, couriers and commuters from Kingston to Shanghai. The first manufacturing facility built in post-imperial India was a bicycle factory, which still produces an exact replica of the DL-1. Across Asia, the English-style roadster is the platform of choice for cargo bikes and pedi-cabs.

At the heart of every English-style 3speed is the Sturmey-Archer 3speed hub.  The fully enclosed hub is nearly impervious to the elements, and extremely rugged. To disassemble and reassemble the planetary gears of a 3speed hub is a lesson in physics, and some might say a peek into the clockwork of the universe (okay, mostly old hippie bike mechanics say that...). Many variations have been built with up to 7 speeds, and the “DynoHub” includes an AC generator for powering lights. In America, 3-speed bikes built in the UK with Sturmey-Archer hubs were sold up until the late 1970’s, labeled as Robin Hood, Sears brand, and even K-Mart. Easily found at second hand stores for $50 or less, these workhorses will still out-ride and out-last any cheap bike bought from Walmart.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The World's Deadliest Meme

excerpt  from OBSOLETE! Magazine #1...


The AK-47

In the movie “Lord of War,” the protagonist Yuri Orlov, played by Nicholas Cage lays it all out:“Of all the weapons in the vast Soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947. More commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It's the world's most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn't break, jam, or overheat. It'll shoot whether it's covered in mud or filled with sand. It's so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people's greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists. One thing is for sure, no one was lining up to buy their cars.”

Designed by a wounded tank commander and aspiring agricultural equipment designer named Mikhail Kalashnikov, the AK-47 is perhaps the quintessential product of the 20th century. In an earnest attempt to create a weapon that would defend his Communist homeland from the aggression of fascist Germany, Kalashnikov unwittingly invented one of the key elements in the blueprint for Soviet expansion. By making the AK-47 design a sort of “open source” technology, the USSR licensed the  manufacturing of AK-47s to facilities in Finland, Hungary, Bulgaria, China, North Korea, Egypt, Iraq, and others. Today, it is estimated that there is a one Kalashnikov-style rifle in use for every 66 people on earth.

As Yuri Orlov points out,  the very image of the AK is a symbol of revolution worldwide, and a symbol of the business of revolution.  It is the world's deadliest meme. In another Hollywood film, “Jackie Brown,” Samuel L. Jackson’s character Ordell says: "AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.” 
image by Terror Worldwide

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kal Spelletich gets a nice plug from Boing Boing...

Boing Boing gave Kal's fundraiser a really nice plug...

"We've posted on BB before about San Francisco machine artist Kal Spelletich, who has made dozens of elegant, menacing, and incredible robots and kinetic sculptures over several decades. Kal is a veteran of Survival Research Laboratories, Seemen, and a former artist-in-residence at the Exploratorium. He's managed to secure a gallery show in New York City on August 6, 2010..."jump to full article...

Help Robot maker Kal Spelletich get to NYC!

Old friend Kal Spelletich is raising bucks to take his robot show to NYC- check out his work at:
You can pledge by clicking the kickstarter link on the right side of this page.....

FRINGE: Kal Spelletich Exhibit, Jun. 2-30, 2007, L.A., CA

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Time to Make Sumac Tea!

We shot this last summer but I just got round to editing it last night- yes, it's very silly. But the Sumacs are in bloom- time to make Sumac Tea!