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Archive for July, 2009

Exposure.

Posted by Dirck on 31 July, 2009

I chose today’s pen last night. It’s something I prefer to do while I’m still slightly coherent.

I chose today’s shirt while still in my morning torpor. Most of my clothes are much of a likeness– it’s not quite the comedic seven of exactly the same outfit, but primarily because I had the sense to get a variety of colours. This shirt, though, while from the same source as the others, has a little extra something.

Pocket flaps.

I can entirely understand the need for the US military’s mid-20th century regulations regarding the way pen and pocket flap may interact. I look somewhat silly today, the flap pushed askew by the protruding pen– no army would follow an officer that looked like this. If the torpor had lifted before I’d left the house, I’d have borrowed the cap from a recently-arrived item which was designed to pass muster. If I routinely wore a jacket at work, it wouldn’t have been an issue at all. Alas, things are as they are, and my pocket looks goofy.

As an aside, I would wear a jacket to work if I could manage it. I actually want to dress as this fellow does, but I can’t quite follow his lead. “Go to thrift stores,” says he, “and the goodwill.” He, I note, takes a size 38. The vintage clothing market it a bit of a closed door for 52-42-46. I could conceivably beat him up and steal his clothes, but they’d never fit.

Today’s slightly risible pen: Sheaffer Balance (not this one, as it turns out, but a fully-functional lever-filler I seem to have neglected to make up a page for) {editing from the future: a revision of the site makes the parenthesis a bit pointless}
Today’s sensible ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Synchronicity.

Posted by Dirck on 30 July, 2009

I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t give up any interest in creative writing (which I do foster, despite present evidence), and just dive into reporting events, following the model of Charles Fort.

I commented yesterday about the impossibility of bringing a certain friend around to fountain pens. I did not at that time make reference to the day’s number of Ink Quest, since the connection was extremely tenuous– he was working up a convert, I clearly was not. Also, if I’m writing this thing I feel I should actually write something and not just drop a couple of links to more interesting material.

Yesterday afternoon, however, there was a very interesting development that made me think, “Today’s theme is proselytizing The Way of the Fountain Pen.” I have a co-worker who I brought around to pens (not so difficult– despite her early protestations that she liked pressing firmly to get a pen to work, she admits now that someone who spins her own yarn and likes Tim Burton movies is almost an obvious fountain pen user). A friend of hers had wandered over for end-of-day, no-more-work chit-chat, and I found myself sitting outside a conversation I’m usually on one end of.

Or, perhaps, I should say, conversion. When are you getting a proper pen? What’s taking so long? I’ve told you where the best store is! I have not only made a convert, I’ve made a converter. There’s a move afoot, and it’s a move towards fountain pens!

To lend this movement some credibility, I propose a name that, to western ears, will seem slightly esoteric but not unapproachable. I will raid Japanese for my coining:

万年筆 道

Mannenhitsu-do! Declare yourself a practitioner of mannenhitsu-do, and take on an air of dangerous competence. Women (or men, depending on one’s inclination) will be mysteriously drawn to you. Those who oppose you will find themselves facing impeccably written notes of distain. Who follows mannenhitsu-do need never say, “Can I borrow a pen?”

We can all go about in white jackets with the kanji written on the back. At least until Labour Day, when the tweeds should come out.

Today’s implement of enlightenment: Parker 17
Today’s flowing river of tinted delight: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist

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Lamentation

Posted by Dirck on 29 July, 2009

We had a friend over last night– it was her birthday, and it looked like we were the only ones taking note of it (as it turned out, after the plan was made, other friends filled her day with anniversal diversions). We had a picnic, watched a movie based on a work of Jane Austen, listened to an unbroken 45 minute jazz scat by my son (who still hasn’t quite got consonants in hand, so the work was entitled Top Lung Screeches with Growl Variations, and was extremely painful), and handed out presents.

But not a pen. She’s left-handed, and despite using any other writing implement in a deep underhand which would suit fountain pens nicely, she can’t come to terms with the demand they make for little or no rolling (these also dislike, within broader limits, pitching or yawing). I’ve tried her on some very forgiving modern pens, and they just don’t get along.

It was a happy birthday, all the same. Baffling!

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 800
Today’s ink: Skrip Blue

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Avalanche!

Posted by Dirck on 28 July, 2009

…of pens! Unlike the previous use of this title, I’m pleased with this turn of evens. A quite literal heap of late model Vacumatics, mainly Canadian-made, in a variety of colours and a couple with remarkable clarity. They all need new diaphragms (and I hope with all my hoping fibre they don’t need the fillers themselves replaced), so it will be a while before they appear on the site.

Today’s email finds some Parker-flavoured good news, too. My grumpy letter has reached them, and the response is, if I may synopsize, “Huh?! That’s not right!” They’ve asked to have the duff bottle sent in for examination, and have offered a couple of fresh bottles in recompense, which I cannot call other than fair.

Finally, the OTHER thing that was in the mail yesterday was a package from Belgium containing special and hand-made tools for opening the front end on vacuum-filling Triumph-point Sheaffers. Servicing vacs has been a bit of a lacunae in my skill set, and with these new objects in hand I should be able to rectify that. To continue with the due-credit, the maker of the tools is the same chap spoken of in this article, and a very helpful sort.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic (Black Major)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lis de Thé

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Containment

Posted by Dirck on 27 July, 2009

One of the great keys to happiness, I’ve discovered, is to not let your expectations run away with you. Your imagination can always suggest a much better event than reality can produce. Lowered expectations can allow for more enjoyment upon fulfillment– heck, even some Roland Emmerich films can work out for you.

This weekend I found myself at a garage sale. I generally try to stick my head in at likely looking ones (that is, not a pile of kid’s toys in clear sight), as there’s occasionally some fountain pen gold to be had. The Duofold senior I was using last week was bought at a garage sale for a ridiculously low price. A Waterman C/F and matching pencil I got a couple of years back for $5. It can happen.

At this particular event, in a far and indistinct corner, I found a bottle of Skrip in the original early ’70s box and three-quarters full. Seeing nothing else of interest, I took it to one of the householders and say, “I don’t suppose you’ve got the pen this went in?”

He made a face of dismay– his daughter had apparently cried dibs on the pen and a similar bottle, and it turned out that she’d taken in the empty rather than the full. After a moment, he said I might have a look at the pen, as the daughter probably wouldn’t mind if it was going to a collector.

There is a moral element to this story now– if it’s something nice, to I yank it out from under the unseen daughter? Atop this consideration, my imagination offers all sorts of pennish confections– an interbellum Waterman with gold overlay? A “51” Flighter? A functional Dunn Camel?

Contain yourself, excitement! Wait and see!

It’s a good thing I did that, too. The object in question was a dip pen, with a somewhat distorted Speedball point. I thanked the chap for his efforts, apologized for putting him to them so fruitlessly (I blame society for fostering the confusion of dip and fountain pen, not the individual), and departed empty handed.

So, the value of suppressed expectations is proven once again. I might have spent the day in a funk if I’d gotten my hopes up. As it was, I was out in the summer air, I saw a dragonfly, I didn’t provide a source of father/daughter conflict and I lived to see the next day. What more could one ask?

Today’s pen: Lamy 2000
Today’s ink: Lamy blue-black

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Not a failure if there’s data.

Posted by Dirck on 24 July, 2009

Round one of pocket protector experimentation draws mixed results.

Positive: Trimming about 5mm off the bottom, following the original contour of the thing, turns it from a secondary pocket to an interior sleeve. Pens ride happily at full depth, and a certain pen-using looney doesn’t waste a lot of effort fretting about his beloved objects throwing themselves to the pavement or down sewer gratings. Well, he doesn’t waste more effort than he used to.

Negative: I was looking at the bib, the clear bit that hangs down the front of the pocket, and I thought, “There’s rather more plastic visible there than I’d like.”

You know, I can sew. I have made passable men’s trousers from a load of cloth and effort. I have basic carpentry skills. I’ve made tools for bookbinding which actually work. I understand a basic truth attached to cutting things to fit: you can always cut away a little more, but it’s devilishly hard to put any back.

It’s a good thing I ordered two of them. The poor things need a certain minimum of bib to provide purchase on the pocket, after all. The current amendment will hold a pen, and keep it upright within the pocket, which will certainly reduce the wear on the pocket’s upper edge, as the pen seldom even brushes against it. It is not, alas, easy to disentangle the pen from the protector, and one loses the smugness of walking down the street with every passerby agog at the beautiful Parker “split arrow” or Waterman “flying buttress” showing over the pocket top.

Part of my problem, of course, is that I believe other people notice stuff like that.

Today’s distinctive and envy-engendering pen: Sheaffer Statesman vacuum-filler (it’s got the White Dot! The “radius” clip! Women swoon, men wish they were him!)
Today’s ink: Quink black.

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Mailin’ old school.

Posted by Dirck on 23 July, 2009

Yesterday I was speaking to a co-worker (whom I had previously drawn into the Way of The Fountain Pen) about writing letters. I write with some frequency, in the main to acquaintances from the Fountain Pen Network and with whom the main point of commonality is membership in the FPN. It is, after all, a way for us all to play with our inky toys.

The co-worker said that she only sends one letter a year, to a friend who moved to New Zealand. It goes with a big parcel of Christmas joy (which I can only imagine is substantially more joyful in New Zealand’s temperate summer).

You could, I suggested, write more frequently– postage, even to the definitive antipodes, is not so much for a standard envelope. She dismissed this, saying that the writing was an ongoing thing, and a whole year’s worth of letter went along with the great parcel. It’s just the sending that is infrequent.

This is the most romantic (in a broad use of the word) thing I’ve heard in a long time. Patrick O’Brian’s work is a large part of my current library, and the notion of getting letters in the same way as a Napoleonic era sailor sent a shiver down me. Once a year, or so, a great long serialized letter, date after date, few events needing comment because by the time that comment arrives another year will have passed. Astonishing! I almost wish I had a great and distant friend to try it out on.

On a side note– the pocket protectors have arrived, and I must declare a small disappointment of my own generation. They are, in essence, a subsidiary pocket, and they are (as is clearly illustrated on the site) not very deep– the ball of the clip can get purchase on the top of the newly-lined pocket, but the clip’s shoulder remains high in the air. This makes me nervous, and I believe experimentation is in order.

Today’s pen: An Emu (honest!)
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

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Jeopardy and Hope.

Posted by Dirck on 22 July, 2009

This is a little time-delayed– my memory is a spotty thing, sometimes. Recently the TV quiz-programme Jeopardy had it’s regular “Kid’s Week.” We are regular watchers of the show, as not only do my wife and I enjoy frequently shaking our fists at the screen and muttering “those prizes are rightfully mine!” in the mode of Binky, but our son is happily fascinated with text.

The second day in, I commented that the Final Jeopardy answers were much more legible than those seen during the regular adult rounds. The current crop of under-13’s, at least as manage to get onto the highest-brow game show around, seem to be attending to their writing.

Jolly good, say I. You can’t go wrong with legible handwriting. And with a big fat Jeopardy win under your belt, you could afford a pretty good pen, too.

I digress now into a more personal communication (although the format means it’s something like corresponding with ICBMs– anyone who looks up will know there’s a message, even if it’s not for them). In today’s number of Ink Quest, Penquod’s master refers to a subsidiary pursuit of a particular blue ink, and provides a link to a picture of his goal. As I know there are informants who occasionally pass along what goes by here, I have a couple of suggestions.

The first is uninformed by experience: Herbin’s Bleu Myosotis, perhaps? I’ve not tried that one, but the difference between Herbin’s exemplars and the real thing suggests it strongly. It also looks rather like modern Quink washable blue at a particular stage of its decomposition on paper, so there could be a few moments of joy there. It also looks like a more-faded form of the vintage Quink I was using last week, but how old was the card…?

In a Star Trekkier world, I could send a sample of the last to Ink Towers as easily as this sentence. Perhaps one of the informants will suggest a means of contact of a less broad-side nature.

Today’s pen: Parker “51”
Today’s ink: Herbin Blue Nuit, which is not quite as dark as Herbin suggests.

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Consumerism

Posted by Dirck on 21 July, 2009

I’m usually dead against the very concept of Consumerism, which I generally take to be buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff, regardless of actual need. The best example of this is spending actual money on a cell-phone for a Second Life avatar– you’ve put cash down for something that doesn’t exist in a context that renders it useless.

…and then I consider the situation of a chap who has enough pens that he could (if he didn’t keep playing favourites) use a different pen each and every day, and who seems likely to buy more as opportunity arises. Can I reason myself out of being in the same boat as someone who goes into debt for a two-hundred inch TV?

I hope so. The first head is that of utility. They are decorative, some are examples of artistry, but at base they exist to write. Writing is a cornerstone of civilization– leaving words for the future, so upcoming generations don’t have to reinvent the wheel. By ensuring I’ll always have a pen on hand, I do my part to maintain the forward progess of humanity. Stop snickering.

I almost say, “Investment” at this point, but I’ve said in a public forum more than once that this is not the case. With few exceptions, I find that a pen tends to hold its monetary value– if I spend the equivalent of ten loaves of bread to buy it new, I will spend the equivalent of ten loaves of bread to get a decent example thirty years later. The main advantage of pens in this dimension is that they prevent frivolous spending. If I have $100 in my pocket, I might buy a gold-plated noseguard without thinking about it, but if my $100 is in pen form, I have to go to the trouble of finding a buyer and awaiting the completion of the transaction. Plenty of time to ponder whether that noseguard will do as it advertises, whether my nose is truly in need of guarding, whether there aren’t less expensive and equally effective means of nasal defence, and so forth.

Third– as a unit, a pen does not wear out. Parts occasionally need replacement, the ink needs refilling, but the pen is effectively eternal. I could nominate just about any pen in my collection as the one and only, and it would be with me to my final day. The antithesis of Consumerism, that sort of durable good.

So… yes, I think I can claim that I’m not one of the abject before the altar of Consumption. As far as the pens go… I realize that another tab on my browser is open to a place that sells ascots. Shame!

Today’s pen: Parker Duofold senior
Today’s ink: Lamy blue-black (and Pelikan had better watch out; this is well on its way to becoming the favourite)

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Mr. Gripey-drawers.

Posted by Dirck on 20 July, 2009

I’m going to sound like I have something in for Newell/Rubbermaid… well, I guess I do. I’m very crabby about the way they’re letting several previously good pen marques turn to poo. They’ve brought it on themselves.

Yesterday I posted my letter of complaint regarding Quink, of course. Shortly after I wrote that letter, I was in at my favourite local shop, picking up some ink and ogling some pens. There’s another customer in who declares that she would like to buy a Waterman they’re got on display. It is examined, declared delightful, the store owner takes it back to wrap it up… and the little decorative metal tail-piece drops off.

Rumour has it that Newell/Rubbermaid are trying to arrange things so that Parker is the “popular” brand, while Waterman is the “upscale” one. That sort of quality control is not going to cut it. They seem to be having trouble getting the slits right in the points, too, which is even worse– mere decoration is one thing, but the primary functional piece of the pen is quite another.

I’m not anxious to put down any of the lines of pens which currently wriggle in the grip of N/R. I want them to succeed. I think it would be a crying pity if any of their brands were to go belly up, but if they do it looks like the cause will be neglect by the corporate overlord.

What to do about it, though…? Boycott? Chances are that will just give an excuse to close down an unprofitable line. Unless you’ve got the money to buy a good lump of stock, at which point your voice will definitely be heard (and if you do… spare some change?), probably the best thing in this situation is to buy whatever looks pleasing, insist on your warantee coverage (hang onto that reciept!), and write letters outlining the problems. There are some people within the machine who still care about the product, and perhaps if they can show interest still exists they can save the old and abused names from ignominy.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Target (and here’s why– it looks something like a multi-stage rocket, it has a touchdown filler, and I don’t have any Eagle brand pens. Happy landing anniversary, Apollo 11!)
Today’s ink: Herbin Poussière de Lune (“moon dust”– I don’t think I need explain that one).

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