Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cool Obscure Vintage Scooters

Buy a Vintage Vehicle is a site that sells "vintage cars, motorcycles, scooters and triporteurs. There is not a lot of information here, but it is definitely worth perusing just to look at the pretty pictures. There are Lambretta three wheelers, Triumphs, Cezetas, Royal Enfields, among others. Pictured above is a 1959 Maicoletta.

Piaggio X9 review

The Kansas City Vespa blog has a good, indepth rider review of Piaggio's X9.
I've blogged a little about the X9 before, but have yet to have the chance to test one. I don't really see it as a scooter I'd consider owning, but it does provide a great alternative for those who want maxi-scoot power, with some of the strange styling points found on the stretched out Japanese maxis.

After I made my way home, I told the girlfriend what I was up to and she put on her gear, hopped on the back and we were off towards the Country Club Plaza. I was anxious to see if the neutral handling remained with a pillion passenger. On most bikes, the addition of a pillion not only increases your braking distance, but makes accelerations slower, and turning a pain as it can require more effort to get the bike leaned over. The X9 passed my test with flying colors. It remained neutral throughout, with just a touch more braking pressure being required of the Brembo calipers when stopping at stop signs and traffic signals. Getting ahead of traffic was a continuous surprise as weaving in and about slower moving cars was very easy! I wasn’t expecting that since streetfighting is next to impossible in moderate traffic with the X9’s competitors, especially the big Burgman and Silverwing. Then again, the X9 isn’t as big as those maxi-scoots either.
The predictable cruiser acceleration got me to 60mph with no surprises, but by the time I looked back down at the speedometer, I had somehow arrived at 85 MPH in an instant, and it still felt as if I only was going 60! Even heading into the wind, the bike kept pulling, its windshield and fairings sending all the turbulent air around me and keeping me comfortable and in control. I won’t post how fast I was going before I decided to stop breaking the law, but I will say the machine has power to spare!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cooking for Mechanics

First there was Cooking for Engineers, now there is this: Drilled Chili Beef.
Somehow I think this is going to set the Men in the Kitchen Movement back a few decades...

Still, it's actually a good idea, using a power drill on a frozen piece of meat, to allow stuffing with chilis! Though to feed a broader range of folks, I would personally spackle those holes with crushed garlic, ginger, citrus zest, rosemary, and the like. Still, this very unconventional concept is actually quite sound. The pictures of the finished product look amazing. Click through for a very thorough photo-essay on the construction of this lovely meal. Really the technique is self explanatory, so the site is text poor and image rich. But in the name of Julia Child, please use a clean (new) drill bit.

via the MAKE blog.

Simple Vespa Mod/Maintenance Videos

Youtube user niinjoosum has a handful of videos up documenting some simple upgrades to his LX150 that if the most non-mechanical of scooterists should be able to do. Niinjoosum also goes by the handle Vanslam on Modern Vespa, and has title this instructional series, "Vanslam's Vespa Garage." Above is a video covering installing a Tucano Urbano Termoscud lap apron. This is my favorite of the lot, as it really goes into depth on all the features of this lap apron.

His other videos include installing a floor mat, installing a rear tire, and installing christmas lights. Granted, these are very easy procedures, so his videos can be a little tongue in cheek.

Thanks to 2 Stroke Buzz for turning us on to Vanslam.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cyclecide: Heavy Pedal Rodeo

Just found this site, via a link on the MAKE blog.
Cyclecide seems to be a lot of things, a collective of bikepunk craftspeople and performance artists, a DIY-aesthetic traveling circus, and of course, a bike rodeo.
Their site doesn't reature any real blow-by-blow tutorials, but it has a lot of pictures that are fun and inspiring. Worth a looksee for those non-motorized gearheads out there.

Pictured above is the Chubacabra, an (obviously) flame-breathing bike. Cool stuff.

The fabulous CHUPACABRA, flagship of the Slouch fleet is a versatile vehicle. Its flailing arms, biting mouth, blinking eyes, & flamethrower make it the perfect ride for urban assault missions or just freaking out some small town locals.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Dragon Embryo

Now ain't he just the cutest thing!
Found this over at Curious Goods, a "collection of wizardly things". The proprietor is on the previously mentioned Steampunk forum. This little sweety was hand sculpted out of polymer clay, and was destined to be cut up to make molds for casting.

DIY Steampunk Keyboard conversion

Tinkergirl over at Brass Goggles is off the hook today!
Maybe she is inspired by the most productive Herr Von Slatt, of the Steampunk Workshop, who has posted a thoroughly documented steampunk keyboard project. Yes, it is the gorgeously brass-trimmed beauty pictured above.
To my mind, Jake's project is a little more elegant in it's strategies than the steampunk keyboard conversions mentioned in this post. It doesn't require the wiring and mucking about with pin-outs of the Underwood to computer keybard conversion mentioned there. (Of course that conversion maintains the usability of the typewriter as a typewriter, which is appealing.)
There are a lot of cool touches here, like the function keys are Roman numerals.
The more observant of you will notice that part of this design appears in the image of Jake's DIY lightbox.
(On a side note, the Dragon would like to extend congratulations to Jake for being featured in the latest print edition of MAKE magazine.)

Brass Goggles has also teamed up with Aether Emporium to create a steampunk forum.
Look for your humble Dragon over there... I'm pretty excited about it.
Tinkergirl, you rock!
Check out some of the other great recent posts on Brass Goggles, some nifty stuff today.

Steampunk Scooterin' Puppies

Honky-Tonk D reader Witch mentioned Doggles in a comment on the recent post that showed a scooterist hauling their pooch papoose style.
Now the dragon normally takes a dim view on clothes for pets. I don't want to offend anyone or anything, but it just strikes me as silly. (OK, I like it when little girls dress up cats in dresses and bonnets, but that has more to do with humilating the cat...)
So I really want to see goggles for dogs as silly... but... I just can't.
These are pretty cool!
The website lists, among other practical applications for this product, protection for dogs with Pannus, an eye disease which makes them sensitive to UV light, and they were used as protection for rescue dogs onsite at the World Trade Center, after 9/11.
So if your pup's whining to get out of the shop, fix the sidecar on the side of your scoot, strap doggles on fido, and both of you get a little wind in your faces.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

DIY Hobbit Hole Part 2

21st Century Bag End

The Dragon, who is genetically predisposed to underground dwelling, has previously posted a DIY Hobbit Hole. This link is not so much a finished project, as it is a theoretical approach. It is informative nonetheless, and I hope someone else out there is inspired to give it a whirl, or incorporate some of it's ideas into their own geeky-green plans. I'm definitely stashing it away in the old mental file.

The largest expenses in building a home (not counting the flat screen tv and indoor lap pool) typically are the walls, exterior and roofing system. Obviously, the roof and exterior are done away with for Hobbit Holes. However you have some staggering stress and loading issues with underground housing. The weight of the soil and flora growing on it can produce tremendous loads on a structure. It is even worse when it rains.
Once you start doing the math for wooden structures, the cost quickly skyrockets. On top of high costs to support such loading, you have yet to deal with the issue of water seepage, insect vulnerabilities (termites) and wood rot.
That leaves us the two building materials. Steel and concrete. With the circular nature of Hobbit Holes, one could use large steel pipe, but no source exists that makes low cost steel structures that I could find. But concrete... yes... concrete is the ticket.

All around the world, companies manufacture pre-formed concrete pipe... LARGE concrete pipe. Concrete pipe has several advantages for making Hobbit Holes. They come with an assortment of flanges, protrusions and options that allows for the creation of windows, skylights, doors, garages, fireplaces and chimneys.
As one can see, using such materials for the construction of a Hobbit Hole would make for a comfy home. Or at least a conversation piece.
Although the elliptical may have some aesthetic advantages, the use of round concrete pipe may be the best choice. The main reason is that you will need to have room to place plumbing, ventilation, electrical and communication hardware though out the Hole.
The best solution for this is the area under your flooring. The best example of this type of construction is in naval architecture with sailboats. Plan all of your plumbing, ventilation and wiring, then figure out how much space you will need, vertically. Maybe the use of multiple styles, circular for halls and elliptical for rooms, is the best idea. The halls would need the most space for plumbing, etc as all rooms connect to it. That is the design philosophy I have used for Bag End 2.

Check out the floorplan graphic here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dresden Dolls "Coin Operated Boy"

I always thought the Dresden Dolls had a steampunky feel to them, but couldn't quite put my finger on it. My friend Gretchen (who introduced me to their lovely tunes) called them punk burlesque, based on seeing them live.

Well this video confirms my suspcions. Very steamy, and very punky. (As usual, puns are fully intended.)

I especially like how this has been adapted for broadcast. If you've heard the cd or live version of this song, you'll know what I mean.'

thanks to the Table of Malcontents blog at Wired

Skweter Chef

OK, the linked blog is no longer called Skweter Chef, but has transmorgified into thewaywardchef.
But she'll always be a scooter chef to the Dragon.
Anyway this is a great post about a scooter trip from a charter yacht to the grocery store, undertaken by the previously mentioned chef. It's amazing how many supplies our ponies will haul, if you just approach it with a little creativity!
Any of you scooterists, particularly ones riding 49cc steeds will surely relate.
Check out the whole blog for scooter/foodie fusion goodness.

Two Asian men stared at me laughing as I pushed my cart FULL of groceries across the parking lot and over to the scooter. I smiled like it was a perfectly normal thing to do. There was absolutely no way all those groceries were going to fit and I knew it – but I had high hopes and what the hell else was I going to do but make it work? I stuffed the more resilient items in the helmet box and hung 7 bags from the hook under the seat. I had three bags left and I could not find any possible way of getting them on. A stunning Scandinavian woman pulled up next to me in an open jeep. Flowing blond hair, Prada sun glasses, legs that stretched on to forever and a CafĂ© Del Mar CD played on the stereo. I suddenly began to feel deeply insecure. It was as if I regressed into my teenage years – I became the awkward, geeky, tragically un-hip girl in middle-school with braces, head gear, frizzy hair and my brothers hand-me-down Tuff Skins on standing in the school yard trying to muster the energy to talk to the boy I had a crush on since third grade – when Pam Anderson suddenly walks up and plants a big, fat kiss on him. At warp speed my mind summed her up and started racking up a list; I’ll never have legs like that, a flat stomach like that, manicured nails, how will I ever get a date when there are girls that look like that in the world and how could I be so dumb to think provisioning on a Vespa was a good idea (somehow it was all tied together)? Etc., etc. I became acutely aware that the entire parking lot was staring at me as I had three lone bags in my hands and absolutely no place to put them. Little miss perfect stepped her long, spidery legs out of the jeep, her stringy, blond hair blowing in the wind and I thought, “well, maybe she’s really nice and she’ll offer to give me a lift back to the yacht.” No such luck, she threw me a glance that said, “You’re a retard”. I laughed out loud out of insecurity and my own foolishness and said, “perhaps I was overly ambitious”. A little voice suddenly popped into my head and said, “quit being a jackass Cristina, you’re not that insecure are you?” Like, no, duh. Just then I had an idea - I tied the grocery bags to the rack on the back of the scooter, tying extra-tight, triple knots in hopes that they would hold. Problem solved! Hey, in Vietnam they tie whole pigs onto their scooters and then load on the family dog, mom, dad, three children and half the extended family. If they could do it, I could do it. There was perhaps one small issue with leg room, but that was inconsequential. It took me a moment to gain my footing but I feigned confidence and with a thrust of the clutch I was off… The two Asian men that had laughed at me as I pushed my cart were now walking down the street by the grocery store. They turned and watched laughing hysterically as I sped passed them... I laughed too as I rode down the highway; sun shining down on my face. I gave myself a pat on the back and cruised down the highway singing, “Born To Be Wild” at the top of my lungs, white, plastic grocery bags with carrot tops and bok choy fluttering in the breeze. Two more trips to go, and I looked forward to them (and for the next one, I brought along my back pack). Now this is living!

Rock on, Christina!

Ride to the Rally

Here's a strange, happy little music video. Executed in Lego-like 3d computer animation, it sounds like a snippet from an alternative universe where Johnny Cash was a valium-addicted scooterist.

I like it.

Apparently the song is from a cd of music for scooterists appropriately titled "Scooterist Tunes", by the proprietor of MyScoot.com. His site is definitely worth checking out, as he has a lot of cool links and information on obscure topics not normally covered by cyber-scooterists. The focus seems to be on Japanese scooters, particularly Hondas, but there is a pervading quirky individuality to the pages, which I think any scooterist would get a kick out of.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

DIY Lightbox

Jake over at the Steampunk Workshop is never one to sit on his laurels. Recently he posted instructions on making your own lightbox.
Now, just building a box to house some lights is not that difficult, but for the best functionality, you want to diffuse the light in such a way as to minimize "hot-spots."
(I use to sell lightboxes at an art-supply store, so I know why commercial ones cost up to a couple hundred $)
Quality commercially made lightboxes use specialty flourescent bulbs. Jake took a hint from the light bulb that must have appeared over his head at his Eureka! epiphany and used compact flourescents.
A very clever solution, as they will diffuse much better than incandescents, as well as draw less current, and last longer. Compared to the traditional tube type flourescents they may not diffuse light quite as well, but would be far easier for the home builder to work with.

Jake, the Dragon's hat is off to you, yet again.

Bio-Diesel Vespa?

If you didn't click over to P-Town Scooters' projects page because of the last post, perhaps this will entice you. Back in 2005 they did a little testing with a local bio-fuels researcher on coming up with a bio-diesel mix that would work in a Vespa.
There's not a lot of info on their page, but from what I can gather, the Vespa wasn't really modified to utilize bio-diesel, and the test was not exactly successful.
Still, the Dragon wishes them the best of luck, and hopes they can come up with something.

Also on their projects page, detailed instructions on derestricting a Sachs Madass moped.

Vintage Vespa Performance Mods

There is currently an interesting discussion ongoing on StellaSpeed about adding vents to the engine-side cowls of classic Vespas. StellaSpeed has implemented a very low tolerance policy towards lurkers, so too really dig into the discussion, you will have to register over there. (And to keep your registration active you will need to post as well.)

I'm going to hit some of the highlights here, for those of you that don't feel like registering.

Above is pictured the bike of StellaSpeed member Grimesy. You can find more pics of this beautiful custom scooter here.

A member started the conversation, wondering about drilling holes in his cowl for extra cooling of the engine during an upcoming trip through the desert. A conventional means of doing this is to just remove the sucker whilst wandering through the barren wastes, but then you either have to haul the piece with you, or do without once you get to your destination.

Anyway, the consensus seems to be that just drilling holes in the leading edge of the cowl will have a negligable effect. Either vents akin to what Mr. Grimesy has implemented above or perhaps best of all airscoops should be installed. There is some discussion of using airscoops designed for maritime purposes, which sounds pretty interesting. These will be resistant to corrosion as they are usually plastic, stainless steel, or brass... Mmmmm... Brass...

The Dragon's ongoing P200 project is, if you couldn't have guessed, going to have a steampunk theme, and what says "steampunk" better than brass?

Anyway even when this discussion gets off-topic (as scooter forums invariably do) it still produces some interesting mods and pictures of gorgeous bikes. For instance this mod to the left side cover which can be found over at P-Town Scooters' projects page.

Now that's a performance mod!

Seriously, some great DIY scooter goodness over at StellaSpeed.

Monday, February 19, 2007

US Secretary of Transportation is a Biker

US Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, recently gave a speech at the Motorcycle Industry Council (on Feb. 16) in which she addressed the rise in motorcycle accidents and fatalities. She specifically addressed that many of these accidents involve baby boomers who take up or return to motorcycling later in life. Now, some old school bikers will be offended by some what she says, Peters advocates making helmets mandatory in all 50 states, and increasing safety training for bikers. (edit 3/8/07 10:50 am PST -- Peters does not advocate mandatory helmets for all states, it has been shown to me. Please see the correction here.) But all in all, I was impressed by her clarity, and common sense in approaching safety issues for motorcyclists. It's nice to have one of our own in this position.

From the transcript of Mary Peter's speech:

Despite the substantial progress we have made in reducing automobile crashes and fatalities, more than 43,000 people a year are still dying on America’s roadways. And motorcycle crashes are one of the main reasons our progress in increasing highway safety has stalled.
Motorcycles are 2 percent of the vehicles on the road, but they account for over 10 percent of all crashes.
It is painful to see a shiny Honda or Kawasaki bike reduced to a pile of mangled metal on the side of the road. It is tougher still to see the broken bones and broken hearts these crashes leave in their wake.
Yet for almost a decade, motorcycle fatalities have been going up steadily. In fact, they have more than doubled since 1997 – increasing by 115 percent. In 2005 alone, more than 4,500 motorcyclists lost their lives in crashes. An additional 78,000 riders were injured.
One troubling trend is the aging Baby Boomers who are finding themselves with empty nests and a little disposable income. Many of them are going out and buying bikes – and wrecking them. The ten-year increase in crashes among the Renaissance Riders like me – the 50-plus age group – is astonishing. Four hundred percent!
There are faces behind those statistics. You are looking at one of them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Steampunk Photographs

This online gallery has a collection of gorgeous black and white images by husband and wife team Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison. These all have a haunting Steampunk, urban fantasy from yester-year quality to them. Robert poses in these shots, which are created not digitally, but with paper negatives and collage techniques. Simply stunning.
The Masters of Fine Art Photography site on which these and 20 other images are featured has many other amazing photographers featured, and is worth checking out here.
For more of Robert and Shana's work check out this site, which features some stunning color images. The color photographs aren't quite as steampunk, but there is still a timeless surreality to them, which invites you linger languidly over each image.

The Lean Green Leaning Machine

I've mentioned the Carver before. But at that time, Carver's website had this to say about American distribution:

Over the past few years we have been receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from American and Canadian automotive enthusiasts. Obviously, as part of the global roll out of the Carver One, we have been looking into distributing to the North American market as well. Naturally, the European-specification model will have to be modified to meet national standards. And there is more to that than meets the eye.
A dedicated team has started an in-depth analysis of the requirements to make the vehicle ideally suited to the North American market. One of the most important modifications involves the engine. Further planned enhancements include the addition of air-conditioning. The retail price for the North American market is yet to be determined. Considering the required re-engineering and transportation costs, the North American retail price is expected to approximate 45.000 USD for a basic model.

Yee-Owch! $45k for an enclosed bike?
Still, I wanted one, and thought the design would be particularly suited to electric or hybrid propulsion conversion.

Looks like someone else thought so, too.

Introducing the VentureOne, a revolutionary 3-wheel, tilting, plug-in Hybrid vehicle. This unique 2-passenger flex-fuel Hybrid vehicle will achieve 100 miles per gallon, accelerate from 0-60 in 6 seconds with a top speed of over 100 mph, yet at a retail price of under $20,000.And if that weren’t enough, imagine combining the performance feel of a sports car with the agility of a motorcycle. This is an exhilarating driving experience that can only be compared to flying a jet fighter two feet off the ground.

I guess some of the R&D has been paid off now, and the construction and distribution of the vehicles has been streamlined. The price has dropped significantly, as well as some performance improvements have apparently been implemented.
Sadly the video on the previously mentioned post is no longer available. Luckily, If you hit the video link on the VentureOne site (aptly named "flytheroad.com"), you'll find Richard Hammond going gaga over this beauty, as well as some other great vids.

Although classified as a motorcycle according to the NHTSA (since it has three wheels), the VentureOne has an enclosed body. The reinforced roll-cage construction in combination with front-and-side-impact protection, and a highly efficient passenger restraint system, give the occupants a level of protection comparable to conventional cars — or statistically, 33 times the safety of a typical motorcycle.
Venture Vehicles plans to initially offer two propulsion packages for the VentureOne: the hybrid E50 and Q100, and all-electric Venture EV model. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices (MSRP) will range from $18,000 for the E50, to $23,000 for the all-electric EV model – with a wide range of accessories available for each.

The dramatically greater safety than a bike is definitely a selling point, as well as the fact that you can get you lean fix in any sort of weather. But making it available as a hybrid or EV? I think I just died and went to heaven!

The hybrid E50 will do 100+ mph, 0-60 in <6>The vehicles’ propulsion system is of a series hybrid design. The system consists of a small internal combustion engine connected to a 15 – 20 kW generator, two in-wheel 25 kW electric motors, a four gallon fuel tank, and a 3 kWh Li-Ion battery pack. The system is able to take energy normally lost as heat due to braking and return it to the battery, increasing overall system efficiency. All three models will exceed 100mpg, with speeds of over 100 mph, and 0-60 in 6 seconds or less – a major breakthrough in the automotive industry.

I want one!

Man, this puppy is just begging to have a lightweight teardrop trailer built for it. You know, one that's covered in flexible solar panels. Talk about freedom...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Electric Rebel

Check out this homebuilt electric motorcycle! I think the naked rat-bike look on this baby is fantastic. The owner/builder lives in San Francisco, and this looks like the perfect zero-emission vehicle for urban life.


What a cool DIY project, I wish I had the space and expertise for such a conversion...

Nerve's Comics Issue

It's a Valentine for geeks!!
Nerve.com has a whole slew of comics and comic related essays up. Some really cool stuff here, like "20 comics that can change your life"; "Subterrean Homesick Blues", an essay by Will Doig on how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were his Sex in the City as a closeted adolescent; "Sex and the Single Superhero", a great rundown of changing depictions of the sex lives of customed crusaders; and "Sex Advice from Comics Store Clerks". Wow!

Thanks to Warren Ellis


The BugE PEV is a new forward trike kit design. Capable of a maximum speed of 50mph and a range of 40 miles on a charge, this electric trike looks pretty promising. Of course like all electric vehicles, your range decreases as your speed increases, but this puppy sounds like it has just a slight step up in speed and range categories than most electric bikes and scooters out there. The kit is supposed to run around $3K.
I'm really taken by this design, simple and sleek, there is a trunk in the front, and a creative mind could come up with all sorts of ways manage more cargo behind the seat. Designed in Oregon, that fairing really looks like it would perform well against the constant drizzle we see up here in the Pacific NW.
There is a video of the BugE in action here.
Thanks to Treehugger

Happy Valentine's Day Jes!

This post for my sweetie, the bestest lady in the world, and the prettiest patron a painter could pine for. I know you didn't want me to get you anything, but thought this would crack you up. Cute cat and a piano, what could be better, right? Enjoy!

Nora began playing the piano on her own. She plays even when she is alone in the room. She really enjoys playing duets with a student playing on the second piano.

Thanks to bOINGbOING

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

...And They're Fun Too!

A new study shows that scooters are the cure for NYC's traffic woes:

By shifting the daytime vehicle mix to 80 percent cars/20 percent scooters, the following would result annually:
* A total decrease in delay of more than 4.6 million hours per year --
which translates to time savings of nearly 100 working hours per person
* A reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by over 26,000 tons
(52,000,000-pounds) per year
* A decrease in fuel consumption by over 2.5 million gallons per year
* A total savings for New York City of more than $122 million per year in
fuel and labor productivity

via Vespa KC

Mowin' the Lawn

I hate lawns.
A vestigal practice from Aristocrats who just wanted to show off that they could afford to waste fertile land by growing nothing but grass, lawns have become as all-American as Bar-B-Ques.
Plus they symbolize the most rigid of enforced conformity. In many metropolitan areas you face fines for not caring for your lawn, and in the suburbs and gated communities it can be even worse. If I owned a house with a yard, I cover it with native plants, wild flowers and herbs, and have myself something that was both low-maintenance, pretty (I think untended meadows are far more beautiful than wannabe putting greens), and practical.
Unfortunately, most of us don't really have a whole lot of choice in the matter...
So I bring you
A) the DIY solar powered lawn mower, which eliminates nasty emissions (you gotta make up for that classic scooter karma somewhere), and is a step away from dependence on foreign oil.

B) the DIY remote controlled lawn mower, the virtues of which should be readily apparent in the name.

and C) converting an IC lawn mower engine to steam-power... not sure if this would be functional still for a lawn mower without a lot of further work, seems like it would be more interesting for creating an honest to goodness steampunk moped, scooter, or go-cart.

Should I ever find myself in stewardship of lawn again, I'd think long and hard about combining these two innovations into one uber-green geeky grass cuttin' machine.

thanks to the Make!blog for the RC mower and steam conversion links

Meet the new war, same as the old war.

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile.
I've been stuck in a funk of frustration, foreboding, and futility for the last few days.
I'm pretty sure we will be attacking Iran in the next few months. Wes Clark has been warning about this for awhile, and the Bush administration's refusal to pursue any diplomatic efforts with the Iranians beyond the most superficial has been tickling my "spidey-sense." Deployment of warships to that part of the Gulf, didn't do anything to dispel my unease, and the press conference this weekend in which unnamed military officials in Iraq claimed that Iranian explosives being used by insurgents in Iraq are being supplied by the highest levels of the Iranian government only cemented my fears.

On Saturday, February 10, 2007, The New York Times' lead front-page article was an alarming piece by Michael Gordon entitled: "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, U.S. Says." Back in the fall of 2002, Gordon teamed up with Judith Miller to disseminate the Bush Administration's case that the WMD threat from Baghdad was so dire it warranted invading and occupying Iraq. Now, Gordon is going solo, serving as a stenographer for those in the Bush Administration who are currently pushing for a U.S. military strike on Iran.

Sure Bush Inc. claims they are not planning military action in Iran. At the same time they claim to be willing to use force if Iran doesn't cease it's nuclear energy program, which they claim is really a facade for the development of nuclear weapons. Now, I don't know a whole lot about the intricacies of foreign policy and military tactics, but I'm pretty gol-durn sure that if you are approaching a situation where you claim to be willing to use military force, well somebody somewhere is drawing up some plans. You don't just wake up one day and say,"Oops! It looks like diplomacy and sanctions failed! Get some generals on the horn, and have them start drawing up proposals for military action." How dumb does the administration think we are... Oh, wait, never mind. I think they know exactly how dumb we are, because not only did we elect them, we re-elected them. They know they can have their cake and eat it too, because we let them.

Even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace is raising his eyebrow over this one:

The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday the discovery that roadside bombs in Iraq contained material made in Iran does not necessarily mean the Iranian government was involved in supplying insurgents.

At least one source (which unlike the US military sources, has the cajones to reveal it's identity) states that Iran does not even manufacture 81mm shells, the munitions we are supposed to believe are being smuggled into Iraq.

Iran does not manufacture 81mm mortar shells. According to a report offered by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, connected to the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the neocon Brookings Institute, the smallest mortar produced by Iran is the 107mm M-30. This information is included in the JCSS’s “Middle East Military Balance,” updated last February. It can be read in this PDF file on page 15. According to JCSS, “The Middle East Military Balance has been the most authoritative source on Middle Eastern Armies since 1983.”

Even stranger, these shells are marked in Roman script using the Gregorian calendar... Iran is an Islamic state. Iran uses the aptly named Iranian calendar. Iran also uses the Farsi script, and past artifacts of the Iranian military have been documented as sticking to this practice.

Isn't that odd? Iranian armaments, including mortar shells, have markings in the Farsi language on them when discovered in the Sudan in 1997, but Iranian arms alleged to have killed 170 US soldiers in Iraq have no Farsi markings on them when captured in 2007. Even odder, most US troop deaths (by far) have occurred in the Sunni areas of Iraq (e.g., Anbar province, around Tikrit, West Baghdad), but these Iranian arms are supposedly being delivered to Shi'a militias.

Surely, Bush and his cronies don't expect us to just roll over and accept this. As the saying goes:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." —President George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

Of course, seeing as the man can't even remember how this folky old saw goes, maybe he doesn't really understand what it means.

On the other hand, Bush believes at this point that he can pretty much do as he pleases. His concept of a "Unitary Presidency" seen most readily in his policy of signing statements, has made a mockery of the concept of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances. Maybe he was napping in American Government class in High School, because while he has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, it seems to me that he has done more than any terrorist ever could to destroy some of the keystones of that document.

As Findlaw columnist Edward Lazarus recently showed, the President does not have unlimited executive authority, not even as Commander-in-Chief of the military. Our government was purposely created with power split between three branches, not concentrated in one.
Separation of powers, then, is not simply a talisman: It is the foundation of our system. James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers, No. 47, that:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
Another early American, George Nicholas, eloquently articulated the concept of "power divided" in one of his letters:
The most effectual guard which has yet been discovered against the abuse of power, is the division of it. It is our happiness to have a constitution which contains within it a sufficient limitation to the power granted by it, and also a proper division of that power. But no constitution affords any real security to liberty unless it is considered as sacred and preserved inviolate; because that security can only arise from an actual and not from a nominal limitation and division of power.
Yet it seems a nominal limitation and division of power - with real power concentrated solely in the "unitary executive" - is exactly what President Bush seeks. His signing statements make the point quite clearly, and his overt refusal to follow the laws illustrates that point: In Bush's view, there is no actual limitation or division of power; it all resides in the executive.
Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense:
In America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.
The unitary executive doctrine conflicts with Paine's principle - one that is fundamental to our constitutional system. If Bush can ignore or evade laws, then the law is no longer king. Americans need to decide whether we are still a country of laws - and if we are, we need to decide whether a President who has determined to ignore or evade the law has not acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government.

But boring discussions of Constitutional integrity aside, what would be so wrong about some strategic air strikes against Iran, were they deemed necessary?

...the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine's Soroush Shehabi. A grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers, Soroush said, "Mr. President, I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized."
"I know," President Bush answered.
"But does Vice President Cheney know?" asked Soroush.
The president chuckled and walked away.

So far our occupation of Iraq has been the best propaganda campaign the Islamists could hope for, for stirring up anti-American sentiment and recruiting angry young Muslims to fight the "Great Satan." Perhaps, the NeoCons think they can do even better...

What can we do? Contact your congresscritter, your senators, beg, plead, and cajole them to do everything in their power to restrain the executive branch from exacerbating hostilities in the Middle East. Ask for investigation of presidential crimes, and the beginning of the impeachment process. And remind them that while reelection is not hanging over Bush's head any longer, that sword of Damocles is swinging over theirs.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oil Pastel Portrait

This portrait of Danielle Starling is from the same period as the two previous portraits. It differs from them in that it is oil pastel rather than traditional oils. I quite like this painting for couple of reasons...
First, I'd been experimenting with oil pastels for sometime prior to this, having been seduced by the spontenaity and versatility of the medium. It is also an extremely forgiving medium, being easily manipulated with just about any painting medium you might use for traditional oil paint. I also find that oil pastels just beg you to engage in some unorthodox color combinations and mixtures, something which I believe makes this painting particularly successful.
Secondly, I really like androgynous pose which Dani was quite uncalulatedly striking here. Don't get me wrong, Dani was a very feminine young lady, especially once you got to know her. But her exterior manner frequently not. At times she positively swaggered, which I found extremely endearing.


These two paintings are from 1998. In one of my many absurdist schemes to actually become a professional artist, I painted these two images of three of my roommates at the time. They were part of a portfolio I assembled in hopes of gaining employment at a portrait broker in Savannah, Georgia.
Obviously this didn't happen, but I still like these paintings. They are 20" x 30", oil on gessoed paper, and I have no idea where they are now... hopefully decorating some wall in Arkansas...
The painting above features Ahren and Brooke (Boogie to her friends), and below is Daniel Pendleton, AKA Blau.

Patron Saint of Compost

I've gotten some feedback lately, that folks are enjoying when I post my own art. There are a bunch of projects in the works, but until then I'm gonna throw up a few pics from my archive. The example above is one my first attempts at digital art, dating back to the later days of the 20th century (1999, to be exact, when I got my first copy of Photoshop.)

"I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine."

I'm sure every regular Honky-Tonk D reader has wondered at some point or another, "What if the eloquent and nefarious Pirate Papa were a gourmet chef?"
(Not to dis on the bucaneer daddy-o's skillet-skills, I've had some right fine organic victuals that came steaming out of his galley...)
Well I do believe I have discovered the answer. DJ Dread over at DIY Gourmet, has some yum-i-licious stuff posted. I think the next time I go shopping, I'm gonna have to include his ingredient list for Pad Thai.
Check it:

This last week has been insane. Our baby is due in 3 days and I am trying to get as much soap work done as possible before the joyous occasion. When I get really busy, sometimes I forget to eat. I know, it's stupid because I love eating! Somewhere in the insanity I whipped up the greatest Pad Thai ever made by a white guy.I lost my Pad Thai virginity when I was 19. It was the first time I had ever been in Asia, and I spent an amazing 6 weeks in Bangkok that changed my entire world, and most importantly, my tastebuds forever (the 4 days straight of heartburn were worth it!) Of course, Thai food tastes best in Thailand and everything else just pales in comparison. Until you can save up enough pennies to get to the best eating in the world, this recipe will have to do.

Oh, and DJ Dread, mad props for the "One Night in Bangkok," reference. Strange that a song from a Broadway show should turn out to be one of the coolest music videos of the 80's.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Datamancer's Dream Blade

Datamancer, creator of the greatest Steampunk computer mod EVER, has a sweet new project up on his page. It is this lovely sword pictured above, based on a design from a dream. Borgesian swords, I love it.

Ok so, long story short, I had this really inspirational, epic dream one night, maybe one day I'll write something about it or turn it into a short story, but for now, I'll just give you the basic gist of it. In this dream, my mission was to travel to a distant forge, where the coals were stoked by the focusing of your hatred for your enemy, and in these flames of hate, I was to forge a blade to defeat my nemesis. Pretty standard Hero's Tale kind of stuff. I awoke with the image of this sword burning in my mind, so I grabbed the notebook I always keep by my bed for just such an occasion, and drew a quick sketch. I didnt get a chance to look at it again for about 2 months ...
When I returned, a little wiser, and a lot dirtier, I picked up my sketch and the dream came flooding back to me. I remembered how it filled me with this sense of Mission. It felt less like a flight of fantasy, and more like clear instructions to make this blade. So I did. I figure this might at least save me the ackwardness of answering a knock at the door one day to find my nemesis standing there with some crazy awesome deathblade, laughing at me before striking me dead because he had the same dream and actually made his sword and came to find me, but I sat my fat ass on the couch, watched anime, and never got around to it. Now wouldn't THAT be an embarrassing way to die!

Pet Transportation on a Scooter

Upset that Piaggio specifically forbids you from stuffing little Fluffy in your Vespa's under seat compartment? One clever scooterist has devised a way to share the "smiles-per-gallon" with his canine companion.
As always, your mileage may vary...

The wonders of science and nature

Our lovely neighbors to the north give us this public service announcement

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Combat Commuter: Screwy Drivers and Belts

Combat Commuter: Screwy Drivers and Belts

The Combat Commuter has a great post up with some general advice on maintaining your scooter, and some specific hints about inspecting and replacing the drive belt on automatic CVT scooters.

Take it from a former mechanic: Much that gets replaced in the shop doesn't need to. It's not necessarily the mechanic's fault, either, because the only ones in this business really making the money are the shop owners and those who invest in the manufacturers. The mechanic is usually just trying to keep his job. This really should extend to many facets of life, such as religion, politics, etc. Be informed. Don't blindly follow the masses, or anyone, for that matter. Investigate for yourself, and know the facts behind your beliefs.

Truer words were never said.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Foul-Weather Steam Punk Scootering Gear: Part two, the affordable alternative

Ok, I can already hear the responses to the previous post, "But Honky-Tonk D, there is no way I can drop a few hundred dollars on a wool coat!"

Hey, guess what, neither can the Dragon! So what does the Dragon do for some quality wool personal insulation?

East German officer's gear. 100% wool, heavy weight, and that old-school eastern bloc military styling is pretty steampunk. And it's inexpensive. Mind-bogglingly inexpensive for what you get, though I recommend staying with the officer's gear and steering clear of the enlisted stuff. There is a significant difference in the quality of workmanship and materials.
For example, the Army Officer's overcoat seen on the left is $25. I've owned two of these in my day, and they are nice. I think both of them got lost in moves, cause I put them through the paces and couldn't wear 'em out. For the average rain around here, this thing would also eliminate the need for a lap apron or scooter skirt.

Steampunk Scootering Gear

I hadn't heard of Filson's until recently, but I gotta tell you this is some nice stuff. Old school wool and oiled cotton field gear from an old Seattle company that outfitted folks headed to the Alaskan Gold Rush. So yeah, I bet it'd be great foul-weather scootering wear.

When my buddy Eamon picked Jes and I up from SeaTac after the holidays, we made a side trip to Seattle so he could exchange a garment his parents had gotten him for Christmas. He needed a different size; seemed like an in-and-out errand, so Jes and I stayed in the van.

Since then I've borrowed the wool jacket, which I believe is a Double Cruiser Mackinaw, though I could be wrong, to step out for a smoke at the Hungry Hollow Book Farm. It's really freakin' nice. The new minion (as Sky loving calls his fellow book pirates) out at the Farm, John, was sporting a new cap and vest (pictured above) from there last night, so the topic of Filson's came up recently in conversation.
In 1897, Filson opened C.C. Filson's Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers, specializing in goods to outfit the stampeders to the Klondike Gold Rush. Stories of harrowing experiences in the Yukon were widely reported. The diary of Hume Nisbet, 1897 painted this picture: "Try to recall your sensations on the coldest night you have ever known: try to intensify the most bitter ice blast that has ever pierced your marrow by a thousandfold; even then you will not be able to realize spring in the Chilkoot Canyon, far less midwinter on the Klondike."
It was for these terrible conditions that Filson designed his goods. He owned his own mill and manufactured Mackinaw clothing, Mackinaw blankets and knit goods, as well as selling boots, shoes, moccasins and sleeping bags specially designed for the frigid North. Filson kept in close contact with his customers, improving his goods to meet their specific needs. The stampeders depended on Filson. In that era, clothing wasn't a matter of choice, but of survival.
Um, yeah, I think it'd work for scootering.
Don't get me wrong, their stuff is spendy, but it's worth it. Extremely well made, durable clothes, that you'll pass on to your grandkids, unless you get mauled by a bear in it, or laydown the scoot in it. And the Dragon always prefers to buy quality once, than to spend more in the long run on crap.
Really Filson's style is more classic and timeless than steampunk, though you could pull off a nice understated steampunk vibe with say a vest and nice pocket watch. I mean really a vest with a lot of pockets is almost a steam punk as goggles or a top hat. And a lot of the aesthetic appeal of steam punk for me is taking the sentiment of "they don't make 'em like they used to," and procuring or making yourself something that is made "like they used to." Filsons makes 'em like they used to, heck, they never stopped.

Video Review of the MP3

Video Review of the MP3

MCN has a brief video review of the MP3 on their site, with the intention of reviewing it's handling. Don't know that there's a whole lot new here, except perhaps that it looks like it's really easy to pull a stoppie.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Photographic Abstraction

In a strange synchronicity, after the recent discussion here of abstract versus representational art, this link from Photojojo showed up in my inbox. The fine art of tossing one's camera to create abstract images. There are some real beautiful specimens on this page.

Five is Right Out

The Dragon's resident historian has submitted this link to a lovely reconstruction of Medieval technology... in plush form.

There are many ways to vanquish your foe. Sometimes, though, a special weapon is needed. We present to you, to use only for good, the Holy Hand Grenade. Think of it as the BFG of centuries past. Let us now turn to a page from "Armaments, Chapter Two," for instructions on how to use the Holy Hand Grenade properly.
"First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thou foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it."

de gustibus non est disputandum

I recently rewatched Julian Schnabel's tender bio-pic of Basquiat.
Now, I will begin this essay by stating that I really don't care for Schnabel's painting all that much. Do I think he is a talentless hack, getting rich off of the intellectually bankrupt corpse of post-modern art?
I believe he did some interesting things as painter, but his endeavors in the plastic arts do not move me.
de gustibus non est disputandum
In matters of taste, there is no argument
That motto should engraved on every easel, embossed on the cover of every art critic's laptop. And I think Mr. Schnabel might agree with me on this.

Anyway, I have the highest regard for Schnabel as an artist, though personally I prefer his cinematic works to his painting. Some reviewers concentrate on Basquiat as an indictment of the art world. I don't see it this way. Basquiat is a movie about painting, about painters, and about what it means to live as a painter. And it is told from a perspective that is as close and understanding, as intimate and frustrated with the creative life, as a lover with the beloved.

Egos, politics, economics, substance abuse, these are all part of the art world. So yes, they figure in the film. Schnabel loves art, loves creativity, not with the adolescent illusions of a young romantic, but with the patient heart of a husband who after years of contempt inducing familiarity can still be struck by the vision of his wife in the afternoon sun, and honestly call her beloved. Basquiat is a sort of bittersweet love song to the creative life, a declaration of unconditional love with eyes wide open.

Perhaps you can tell, the film gets under my skin.

After watching it last night, I have been doing some research.
Since I left Little Rock in 2000, I have been basically isolated from the art world. Sure I did a lot of creative things in college, hung out with some arty kids. But nothing like spending 40 hours a week in a fine art supply store, surrounded by high-falutin art magazines, and interacting with professional artists.
I don't know who the hot artists in Olympia, Seattle, or Portland are, not to mention LA, New York, Tokyo, or Syndney. I don't know what's happening.

So I've been trying to do some research.
Though I had internet when I was peddling paint, I found researching art online daunting. And I had vast resources at work, so I didn't feel the need to obsess about it while surfing.
Now, suddenly I'm curious.
But researching contemporary art online now is at least as daunting as it was seven years ago.
Don't believe me check this page, where Wikipedia has basically thrown it's hands into the air on the topic.

Don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily think this is bad thing. I enjoy the fact that since the middle of the last century it has become increasingly difficult for any particular "-ism" to predominate in the art world. I am distressed, however, by vitriol that is produced by many of the warring factions. It is disturbingly like a religious conflict.

The majority of my image making has been representational and figurative. To me, exploration of the human form has been a logical and rewarding avenue for exploring human existence. And I can be quite conservative when it comes to issues of craftsmanship. A professional chef does not begin with ingredients and techniques cleaned from MacDonalds. Likewise as an artist who aspires towards professionalism, I seek to use materials and techniques which have either been proven by time or extensive scientific research to last as long as possible.
I can even be quite vocal in these opinions.

Perhaps that is why a friend recently sent me a link to rant against modern art. It is an intelligent, educated rant, to be sure. There are some valid points to it. But, as most rants do, it oversimplifies the situation, turns it into black and white, with the ranter solidly in the white. I replied to my friend with a link that discusses the CIA's role in the rise of the Abstract Expressionist movement. His reply was thus:

In my uber conservative world, we see this degradation of "true" art as a symptom of modern secular humanist philosophy, not a conspiracy by governmental forces. More specifically, I see this as part of the general trend that blurs all value and judgment of good and bad, valuing only the utterly nihilistic, cynical and "abstract". You see the CIA, I see the devil.

Wow... umm....
Art as holy war.
Propaganda, sure. But this seems a little extreme.
My buddy has a twisted sense of humor, so perhaps this was some Liberal baiting on his part. But I'm sure there are people who think this way.

And there is some humor to be found here. Abstract art is actually more biblical, if you want to look at it theologically. Representational art is the manufacture of graven images. It was also the preferred flavor of the Nazis and the Stalinists. That would be quite funny.
If it wasn't so sad.

Good Art versus Bad Art.
It doesn't bother me so much that my conservative Christian friend sees art this way. That's the way he sees the world. What bothers me is that other artists see the world this way.
Because they should know better than anyone, that while yes, there are the darkest of blacks and the purest of whites in this world, most of the world shows itself in a scintillating rainbow of hues.

Perhaps that is why I enjoy the film Basquiat so much. Because it isn't really about Basquiat as a black painter or Warhol as a white artist. It is about the symphony of colors that reality confronts us with, and how art can remind us of that.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Interview with Jake from The Steampunk Workshop

Interview with Jake from The Steampunk Workshop

Aether Emporium has a great little chat with master steam punk artisan Jake from the Steampunk Workshop. I featured Jake's etched brass moleskins previously. Between these and his other projects using his copper sulfate etching and machining process, he has been deservedly dominating the steampunk bandwidth for the last couple of months. If you click the link you'll find a photo of him in which he does appear to be quite the Steampunk gentleman dandy.

Anyway, in this interview he is asked for his definition of what Steampunk is.

To me, Steampunk is the Personal Industrial Revolution.
The 19th Century was really the last era in which a high school graduate had been given the complete set of scientific and mathematical concepts to fully understand the technology of the age. The death of Newtonian physics in the early 20th Century begun a time where we encountered concepts in our daily lives or read about things in the news that we did not have the tools to fully comprehend. Somehow, this became acceptable to most people and the trend not only continues, it accelerates. Steampunk, I think, is a reaction to that. One can imagine the steps required to make a steam engine from iron ore, coal and fire. But a silicon chip from beach sand? Sequence DNA? The mind boggles!
That's the "Steam" side of it anyway.
Now, take a look at some of the old copies of Popular Mechanics you can find on the net. You'll see that the projects within are pretty state-of-the-art for the times in which they were published. For a long time that sort of project was missing from the "Popular" mags. In fact, many of the "Popular" mags pretty much disappeared from the news stand and were replaced by computer magazines. The "Punk" side is the refusal to be limited and is exemplified by the likes of Make: magazine, Instructables, and Hack-a-day. The Personal Industrial Revolution is when, if you don't like your cellphone, MP3 player, car, or bicycle, you make one you do like - and you get to inject it with your own sense of style because you don't have to please the masses, just yourself.
It's all about the top hats and goggles.

Yup, Jake you are one cityslicker after the Dragon's heart.

via Street Tech

Michael Chabon New Work Serialized in NYT

Michael Chabon New Work Serialized in NYT

Michael Chabon sometimes seems to be everywhere. Most recently, his latest story is being serialized in the New York Times Funny Pages (it's prose, just to set that straight.) The serialization began last Sunday and this week's installment is already available online.
I'm going to confess that I haven't read any of his prose yet, though this piece on my list for this weekend. But the Dragon is a huge fan of The Escapist comics, one of the coolest and freshest (as well as post-modern) approaches to Super-Hero comics ... as the fanboys say... Evah.
This latest work is titled Gentlemen of the Road. It's apparently set around 1000 AD, and had a working title of "Jews with Swords." I'm intrigued.
I consulted Mr. Chabon's Wikipedia page for this post, mostly because his name has been attached to so many things I have enjoyed, or look forward to in the future. Besides the projects listed above, he has written for McSweeney's, wrote the book which the movie Wonderboys was based on, and won a Pulitzer for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. (Still waiting to come across a copy of that one.) I'm fascinated with how he seems to jump between literary works and writing comics, and there is a great section on Wikipedia pertaining to this:

In 2005, Chabon argued against the idea that genre fiction, and entertaining fiction, shouldn't appeal to "the real writer," saying that the common perception is that "Entertainment....means junk. [But] maybe the reason for the junkiness of so much of what pretends to entertain us is that we have accepted--indeed, we have helped to articulate--such a narrow, debased concept of entertainment....I'd like to believe that, because I read for entertainment, and I write to entertain. Period."[18]
Among the more positive responses to Chabon's brand of "trickster literature" appeared in Time magazine, whose Lev Grossman wrote that "This is literature in mid-transformation....[t]he highbrow and the lowbrow, once kept chastely separate, are now hooking up, [and] you can almost see the future of literature coming."[19]

(Wikipedia's footnotes maintained to please commentors, who have been clamoring for citations.)

Vespa SS180 Restoration Blog

Don't know how I missed this until now.
1967 Vespa SS180 (VSC) is a blog detailing the owners attempts to restore the eponymous classic Vespa.

The objective for this Blog is to (1) educate scooter restoration newbies on the entire process of restoring a scooter in detail, (2) to provide resources to help restorers be successful, and (3) to illustrate what is involved when one takes on the process of a restoration. It is safe to say that the majority of restorations, unless it’s a very rare bike, will not sell for what one invests in the bike financially and time-wise.I am a restoration newbie myself and am quickly learning a lot as I go. The scooter that will be restored on this Blog is rare – Vespa VSC. In the spring of 2005 my wife and I bought a complete, but disassembled 1967 Vespa SS180 from a local scooter club member for $250. Our goal was to completely restore it from the ground up. I planned to do almost all of the work and barter with friends who had specific skills that I do not have to ensure the job was done right. At times, I suspect I would need to hire a professional for a few odd jobs.

Some good stuff here for anyone restoring a classic Vespa, or for those who just like vicarious DIY experiences. They also link to Eric Bamber's SS180 Restoration blog which is, of course in a similar vein.

Wacki Inspiration Tool

Premise: Convervative cowboy uncover a shocking conspiracy across infinite dimensions of time and space.
Genre: Romance/Noir/Martial Arts

I forget how I found this link, but it auto-generates bizarre story ideas like the one above, which would be a perfect story for the Honky-Tonk Dragon comic if I ever got it off the ground.
This might seem silly to most folks, but I think I could really use this puppy to get the creative juices flowing.
I was gonna say it's too bad it's geared towards writing, but illustrating some of these premises might be just the thing to get the juices flowing for visual artists as well.

Or just a fun way to kill a few minutes at work... not that any of you lovely readers would engage in such behavior...

Depressing Literary Statistics

Depressing Literary Statisitics

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.

Ok, these stats are a little gloomier than I expected, but I was well aware that Americans like their media moving, preferably with some big explosions. Heck, I'm fond of the occasional special-effects saturated Hollywood blockbuster myself. And regretably, these days the majority of my reading is done online... but still...

I guess this is just another facet of my freakishness that'll have to adapt to though, these stats not only paint me as something of an anomoly in our culture, they splash that nerdy taint onto pretty much all of my friends and family. One of the great joys of graduating college for me, was knowing that I'd be able to read more for pleasure and personal enrichment. My mother is constantly vowing to quit buying new books until she has read more of her back log (not that she doesn't read, just that she, like most folks in the circles I run in, acquires books much faster than she can assimilate.)

For me the real mind-numbing cognitive dissonance is generated by the frission of this fact:
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
rubbing against a statistic stated at the beginning of the article that 80 percent of Americans want to write a book.

Er... um... yeah...

Of course, one can try to find hope in the fact that there are "lies, damned lies, and statistics," but even if these figures are grossly exagerated, they still indicate that your humble Dragon and his homies are well outside the mainstream. Some of the unsavory characters I associate with buy books, literally (pardon the pun) by the truck load. Sure, these are for resale, but I gotta tell you most of these guys make me think of Al Pacino in Scarface. They are hooked on what they peddle, with their personal libraries being the metaphoric equivilent of Pacino's desk piled high with coke. They definitely have some significant stashes of the quality stuff for personal use.

OK, I have to stop now, 'cause my brain hurts...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Last of Loompanics' Books

Gotta make sure you get your Harry Potter fix ASAP, so you pre-ordered using the link below? But now, you're feeling a little guilty because that purchase took money away from an independant bookseller who is just barely scraping by?

Well bruthas and sistas, Rev. Dragon has the route for the absolution of your literary sins!

The Dragon's good buddies over at the Hungry Hollow Book Farm, have managed by hook and crook to get their hands on what remains of the now defunct Loompanics Press's stock.
I know for sure they still have copies of the Loompanics' edition of the Principia Discordia, and here's just a small taste of some of the titles in their stash:

Cao Dai Kung-Fu: Lost Fighting Arts of Vietnam $14.25
Check Fraud Investigation $22.50
Close Shaves: The Complete Book of Razor Fighting $75.00
Combat Knife Throwing $25.00
Community Technology $10.00
Comparative Data: State and Provincial Licensing Systems $49.95
Complete guide to science ficiton conventions $14.50

That's right kiddoes, instructions on building a new identity, building siege engines, hacking computers, all kinds of forbidden information is available from Pirate Papa and his book pirate cronies. Proceeds go to feed and shelter these lovely ladies, so don't hesitate to go purchase some titles that will make your mother and George Bush cringe.

And if you tell 'em that the Dragon sent ya, they just might send a little love my way...
(Yes, many of these titles are for informational purposes only, as well as not intended for minors, all other disclaimers apply. Your mileage may vary.)

Last Harry Potter Book Pre-Order

Amazon has opened pre-ordering for the the final chapter in the Harry Potter saga, and is offering up a pretty good deal, $18.89 for the hardcover which will list at $34.99, and $39.00 for the Deluxe edition which will list at $65.00. What's the difference? Well previous Deluxe Editions have had slipcases, special art on the endpapers, and a poster. Amazon doesn't give any detail as to what it'll entail for this volume, so the Dragon is guessing these details haven't been nailed down yet.
But at $19, well that's about the price of what the trade paper will be, so the Dragon will placing an order for that one for his lovely lady-friend.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, yes, the Dragon is an Amazon affiliate, and the miniscule cut he receives from any sales offa these links will go towards improving and upkeeping this site.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Some Scooter News, Most of it Genuine

Philadelphia Scooters: 2007- Year of the Scooter!

Yes, yes I've been amiss on the scooter news lately, and will be summarily smacked on the talons soon.

LML gearing up to start manufacturing again has metal bodied, 2-stroke, manual tranny scooter fans all in a tizzy that Genuine might be able to bring some more Stellas back into the states. Well, it would be nice, but the Dragon isn't holding his breath just as of yet.
Still Genuine isn't resting on it's laurels. Nope, they've got some cool things going on for 2007.

First off the 2007 125cc Buddy's. Phil of Pride of Cleveland Scooters had this to say over on Modern Buddy about improvements for this year:

The Headlight is now MUCH bigger and houses an honest to God halogen bulb. There is a cool 12 volt power plug exactly where I put the one I rigged up for my GPS when I ran the Loop. The tail / stop light is now an array of LED's that is at least 3 times as bright as the original. The bad news: The price is now $2599 (up $100) For my money...it's $100 well spent.

Genuine's site calls that 12 volt power plug a cell phone charger, though I imagine there will be a lot of new Buddy owners getting creative (like Phil) with GPS units and stereos.

Also on the horizon for the Buddy line, is a special edition "Series Italia," a two-tone green 125cc with white wall tires in case you're gonna cruise the miracle mile. Pretty... (Hmm... the Pride of Cleveland Genuine page also has an image of an all red Buddy, with the 2007 improvements listed, that says "stay tuned for the Cherry Bomb"... another special edition, perhaps?)

Philadelphia Scooters' blog also mentions that the long awaited 110cc 2-stroke Genuine Rattler should be coming out this year. I really like the looks of this scooter, but the 50cc (restricted) model just seemed a little under-powered. A 110cc model could really be a scoot to be reckoned with.

In other Genuine news, the company has some marketing/partnership deals lined up for the Black Cat scooter with (of course) Black Cat Fireworks, and the AMA Flat Track Championships.