That’s when I print out my revolver

And more recent highlights from the Ideas blog

The technosphere—which is currently in love with 3D printing (see the cover of the new issue of WIRED)—was abuzz, earlier this week, with the news that a 3D printer company had seized its leased unit from the home of a man planning to print out a pistol. Cody Wilson, director of an online project called the Wiki Weapon movement, is a second-year law student at the University of Texas at Austin who raised $20,000 online for the specific purpose of leasing a 3D printer, using it to design and produce a 3D-printed pistol capable of getting off a single shot, and sharing the schematics online. Stratasys, the company that had leased Wilson the 3D printer, got wind of the project and—citing US firearms laws—repossessed the printer.

As the design blog Core77 pointed out last week, we’ve heard about a plastic one-shot gun before, somewhere. Where? In the 1993 movie “In the Line of Fire,” that’s where. In it, John Malkovich plays an ex-CIA assassin hiding out—this detail tickled the folks at Core77—as a design professor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He cobbles together a plastic gun, which he smuggles through a metal detector in an attempt to kill the president of the United States. The movie devotes a montage sequence of considerable length to the plastic-gun molding process; thanks to the 3D printing revolution, however, one of these days all we’ll have to do—should we want a plastic one-shot pistol—is upload a diagram and press a button.

“Bring your peashooter!”

When children’s book author Jean Merrill died this past August, at 89, the New York Times obit mentioned Occupy Wall Street.


Strange? Not if you’ve read Merrill’s 1964 (but much reprinted) children’s novel, “The Pushcart War,” in which fiercely independent street peddlers join forces to wage nonlethal but effective guerrilla warfare against the bullying agents (i.e, trucks) of the established social and economic forces that threaten their livelihood. The pushcart warriors, who shoot pins from peashooters into truck tires—Frank the Flower, General Anna, Morris the Florist, and Maxie Hammerman—are truly memorable literary characters. Frank the Flower, in particular, not only because of his floral hat, but because of the courage he displays once he’s arrested; he falsely confesses that he shot all 18,991 of the trucks.

Mike Giordano/Adobe Systems
Designer Megan Orsi displays her tattoo of the Adobe Photoshop toolbar.
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Merrill—who also wrote such terrific books as “Henry, The Hand-Painted Mouse” (1951), “The Woover” (1952), and “The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars” (1967)—died of cancer at her home in Randolph, Vt., on Aug. 2. Her memorial service, which is on Oct. 7 in Chelsea, Vt., is not a public event—but I wanted to pass along a wonderful quote from the memorial invitation, which a friend of mine received. The invite reads: “Please bring a pot luck contribution, a song, a poem, a remembrance to share. Wear your Frank the Flower hat and bring your peashooter!”

La lucha continua!

The ultimate geek-chic tattoo

One of the coolest body art subgenres is the geek tattoo, whether we’re talking about the “Ctrl — Alt — Delete” buttons or the ISO (isomorphic algorithm) symbol from the sci-fi movie “Tron.” Recently, this photo of Megan Orsi, a Web designer with a forearm-long tattoo of Adobe’s Photoshop toolbar (CS3 version), sent a shock wave through the Internet. Why did she do it? “I’m really happy with where I am in my life and in my career,” Orsi explained via Adobe’s blog, “and I felt like I had Photoshop to thank, in part, for that.”

Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He is editor of the blog HiLobrow and coauthor of several books, including the upcoming kids’ field guide to life “Unbored.”