Milktoast Nation?

Great to be back on BoingBoing! Thanks for having me.

Six months ago, my book Absinthe and Flamethrowers, Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously hit the bookstores and it's been a great ride since then. The book, 1/3 polemic on the risks of risk taking (those being the ruminations) and 2/3 DIY instructions (the projects) on making everything from making rockets and gunpowder to using a bullwhip, hit some sort of collective nerve. Featured in the New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Wired, and the London Daily Telegraph, I was inundated with emails from kindred spirits, who after reading Absinthe and Flamethrowers want to share with me their own rationale and experiences in the Art of Living Dangerously.

Some of the stories retold sometimes makes it seem our world is in danger, not of becoming too dangerous but of becoming too safe. My friend, Minnesota based Jack Gordon wrote an essay which won the Economist/Shell Writing Prize a few years ago, in regard to the role of the media in this issue which is a pretty interesting take on the issue:

For two decades and counting, we citizens of the land of the free and the home of the brave have happily traded freedom for every scrap of bogus safety dangled before us. Indeed, we have devoted prodigious energy to inventing threats that demand the sacrifice of liberty, privacy and even basic human dignity.

Blowing threats out of proportion is, of course, the stock in trade of TV news, whether the menace in question is a summer rainstorm or the distressing stains revealed when an investigative reporter shines ultraviolet light on a freshly laundered bed sheet at an upscale hotel. But television reflects its viewers' attitudes as well as shaping them, and clearly there exists a very large audience receptive to the never-ending theme: Life is meant, ever and always, to be safe–and you're not safe.

Gordon's full essay is here.