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Archive for August, 2009


Posted by Dirck on 17 August, 2009

This past weekend, I committed an act with a fountain pen that I regret slightly.

I pause a moment to let imaginations run riot. Unnecessary tracheotomy? Dribbling ink onto the Magna Carta? Pinning someone’s hand to a table and saying some terrible mid-’90s Schwartzeneggerism?

No, no, and certainly not the last one– it would be bad for the pen. No, this past weekend I went to an SCA event, which for those disinclined to follow the last link is something like a ren-faire staged entirely for the amusement of the players. It was held at a scout camp about an hour’s drive from home, and I decided not to change into appropriate clothes (or, not to swap my effort at late 1940s for a slightly more convincing mid-1500s, if you prefer) until we got to the site, just in case the newly-purchased vehicle proved less than reliable. Who, after all, wants to sit in a tow truck while wearing pluderhosen? This meant that when I arrived, I had one of my rough-duty pens right at hand.

This trip was not without some hesitation, vehicle aside, as the weather forecast was for filthy great buckets of rain all weekend long. Saturday morning dawned wet and grey, but as departure time neared things were clearish– I was actually inclined to call the whole thing off, but my wife had been looking forward to the event with great anticipation, and pressed me into going. Arriving at the camp, there was some evidence that the people who were tenting had faced a rather wet night, causing me to thank my son for providing such a valid reason for making a day-trip of the whole thing.

I walked to the gate to pay the site fee (it’s for our own amusement, but we do have to pay for the rental). There are forms that need filling out to satisfy insurers– “I promise I knew that this was a stupid thing to do, and thus can’t sue anyone if a drunken guy wearing full plate armour steps on me”– and I produced my own pen to do so.

The regret? A wet weekend (although the day was as nice a mid-August one as could be asked for), the keeper of the papers stuck camping out in it, and there’s Mr. Fountain Pen negligently signing things in an ink known for its inability to face damp. There may well be blank spaces with a slightly blue tint where I’d put pen to paper.

Yes, I know– small potatoes. Not the sort of thing anyone will die of, but I don’t like to cause upset. Also, it might put someone off of fountain pens, and that I would regret deeply.

Today’s paper moistener: Sheaffer Admiral touchdown
Today’s rain-resistant ink: Lamy blue-black (honestly, given an hour to dig in, there’s no amount of soaking gets rid of this stuff)

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A new leaf

Posted by Dirck on 14 August, 2009

I’m getting a little tired. It’s the pens.

No it’s not. It’s the showing off. Every day, pretty much, I trot out a pen I’ve not used for a couple of weeks. This leaves me, at the end of the week, with a lot of pens in battery. I’ve mentioned before that I give a portion of Sunday to cleaning the pens, sort of my nod to the traditional devotional aspect of the day (I’m not, in fact, a Christian, but I still remember with some fondness the time when Sunday was very quiet and shopping-free). This is fine, but it still keeps me from getting other things done, when the other other things that demand my time might be put off.

There is also the matter of the ink. There are occasional debates about returning ink to its bottle after it’s been in a pen, as it’s possible for a mouldy pen (such things exist, the poor cheese-smelling darlings) to infect all its mates through the vector of a common ink-well. I’ve applied Sterilink to all my bottles, so this isn’t something I worry about… much. And it takes a tiny bit more time with each pen, and each bottle that needs to be opened and closed. So far, our swarm of unusually clumsy cats haven’t added to the fun, but the odds are building that they will.

So, I think that I will return to a way of conduct that I left behind when I started this blog– I may reuse a pen once or twice before cleaning. I hope the impending lack of novelty doesn’t put anyone off. The positive side is that pens I’ve been somewhat ignoring as particularly tedious to clean, such as today’s, are more likely to appear in public.

Today’s soon-to-recur pen: Sheaffer Statesman snorkel
Today’s and next week’s ink: Skrip blue

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Posted by Dirck on 13 August, 2009

I noted a couple of days ago that my son had disrupted the night, and so had stayed home in the morning. Part of my efforts at The Regular Job is to run a set of reports each morning, and note down the run number of each– at some point in the past, I’d mentioned that this is part of why I change ink colour daily. Tuesday morning I was of course absent at the time this needed to happen, so my supervisor handled the task.

She wrote the numbers in ballpoint. Light blue ballpoint. I overlooked it yesterday, but today it throbs at me like a wound of vision. Pale, intermittent lines. I keep a Hero 616 on my desk for the use of passers-by, but she’s convinced herself that she can’t work a fountain pen.

I will admit that, like most obsessives, I am consciously aware that this is not a healthy nor normal way of thinking (of course nothing bad will happen if I don’t touch the stove burners and turn thrice before going to bed, but… excuse me, I need to go to the kitchen for a moment). Honestly, though. Ballpoint. Blah.

Today’s pen: Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Pelikan blue-black

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Use it and lose it?

Posted by Dirck on 12 August, 2009

Recently over at the FPN, someone put forth the question– do you use your pen? This is not quite as mad a question as it seems, since some of the modern “Limited Edition” pens cost tens of thousands of dollars and are seen as an investment, following the line of reasoning that if it’s rare by definition (one of a run of 4000, lets say) and there’s likely to be slightly fewer of them as time goes by through accident and stupidity, they must necessarily appreciate. Since a low mileage car is worth more than a planet-circler, a pen that’s not been used should retain its value better, right?

My response was a somewhat mystical “If the pen does not write, is it merely a thing that looks like a pen,” and that’s my general stance on the matter. Pens are for writing. I recently read a contrary opinion by someone I whose opinion I somewhat value, though, and I invite you to have a look for yourself here. The gist of his opinion is that there are some pens that are so intrinsically rare that it’s folly to lash it to your chest and run about the uncaring world with it, and that only the most irrational animist will worry about the pen’s feelings on the matter.

And, being a philosophical sort, I can see the point. The writer of that article is, however, speaking of vintage pens which have somehow come down through the decades without use. I have one myself that I’ve yet to put into circulation, hesitant at the arrogance (or similar vice) that suggests that I have the force to overcome such inertia of non-use.

However, as I am a philosophical sort, I can happily take two contradictory stances without feeling the queasiness of internal paradox. An unused or even very slightly used vintage pen is pretty safe around me, and will lie quietly. An unused modern Limited Edition on the other hand, I shout, “Ink it!” and will do so myself if opportunity beckons.

Why? I despise the notion of artificial rarity. I will suggest a somewhat rare vintage pen– let us say a Parker Duofold “Geometric”. It is rare because it was made for a short time. Perhaps the plastic was difficult to make, or it was simply an unpopular look, but the point is that there was never a decision taken by Parker that they’d limit production to increase the value. It just happened that not a lot were made, and of those a quantity got used into tiny little flakes of celluloid, or made into cuff-links, or dropped in a river, and eventually someone not unlike me said, “Geez, it’s been forever since I saw one of those– I’ll pay a premium to have that one.”

Compare this to a Montblanc Marlene Dietrich, which is far from the most sinfully ugly LE pen made– they’re making 1,901 of them, and it’s apparently a close secret how much they want for one, but it’s a lot. No one will use them, and the only attrition will be through the most awesome catastrophe as they’re all likely to live in fireproof vaults. In my dark heart, what I hope happens to these things is what happens to most fountain pens– they’ll hold their value in the face of inflation, and nothing more. Of course (and you might say I’m crying sour grapes, since I’m unlikely to ever afford such a thing), one might review the wisdom of buying any pen that costs more than $300 brand new, as it beyond that price there’s no real functional difference, and you’re mainly paying for the right to say you can spend a huge sum on a pen.

So, kids, unless it’s more than forty years old, go ahead and use that virginal pen. To do otherwise is making yourself poor and the pen sad. Can’t you hear it weeping?

Today’s fulfilled pen: Eversharp Skyline
What it’s full-filled with: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Posted by Dirck on 11 August, 2009

Amongst things that are no fun: An insomniac infant.

Mitigation: He’s in an amazingly good mood for someone who’s supposed to sleep 18 hours a day and who hasn’t really slept in 18 hours. I know I’d be pretty prickly in his tiny shoes, but he’s having a laugh.

My wife now having had sufficient sleep herself, I’m off to have a nap work.

Today’s pen: Parker 15
Today’s ink: Quink blue-black (last year’s– no news yet on that front, apart from Canada Post claiming to have delivered it).

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Unexpected developments

Posted by Dirck on 10 August, 2009

But first, why I got nothing pennish accomplished lately– I spent very nearly the whole weekend at the Regina Folk Fest, where latter-day (and some original-press) hippies abounded. My wife, who was there selling her jewelry, and her friend very nearly started a cult. My role was to keep our son from eating too many ear-rings and prevent his destruction by a perpetual game of high-spirited but only moderately-skilled hacky-soccer. If one is looking for a way to rapdily lose weight, three evenings and two days of close governance of a one year old child in an outdoor setting is very effective way to do it… so long as you don’t mind some of that lost weight being composed of spinal bone and knee cartilage.

The unexpected developments were both seen while taking my son to other places, in the interests of preserving his hearing and ensuring that the first time he’s high on some cannabis-related material, it’s by choice. Unexpected item one was a rack of rather nice waistcoats in fine pinstripe and twill materials, in a part of a local moderate-box department store where I expect to see t-shirts. More shockingly, they were about the same price as t-shirts, despite reasonably good construction, and were available in my size. I would have been a fool not to grab a couple, and I try to be a fool as little as possible.

Unexpected item number two was seen moving under its own power in a downtown mall. A young man, early- to mid-twenties, decked out in a quiet stylish suit, topped with a derby. I was not, for the first time in a very long time, the most anachronistically or least casually dressed person in a given enclosed space (wearing as I was a short-sleeved shirt, Panama hat, and a toddler in a chair/backpack rig). As we passed, I congratulated him on his turn-out, but he seemed unprepared for compliment and merely nodded in a slightly off-put way. Perhaps I should have asked him what sort of pen he’d chosen to go with the rest of his ensemble….

It seems that the tide of slovenly dress may be going out. No one could be more surprised than I, and no one happier to discover the possible tide-pool of affordable yet smart clothing. I should note that there were a surprising number of vintage Trilbys (Trilbies?), Fedorae and Homburgen about at Folk Fest, but as is so often the current case, they were generally worn without regard for the completeness of the outfit, which is rather like applying steak sauce to any meal one eats, regardless of whether it or any condiment is appropriate.

Today’s pen: Wing Sung 612
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lis de Thé

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Posted by Dirck on 7 August, 2009

Yesterday’s search bore rapid fruit, but I must disappoint on yesterday’s promise of being interesting– today is for paperwork! To add to the disappointment of the world, it’s not that interesting a vehicle; 1999 Ford Windstar.

Today’s form-filler: Sheaffer Admiral touchdown (not the red one, but the black on mentioned at the bottom of the page {on an eadlier incarnation of the website} as being for sale).
Today’s marking medium: Lamy blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 6 August, 2009

I’ve just had the car in at the shop, and it will manifestly cost more to repair than to replace. This lunch hour is devoted to seeking a replacement– I promise to try and be interesting tomorrow.

Today’s pen: Parker 21
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Posted by Dirck on 5 August, 2009

I was watching TV last night– it happens– and an ad came on. Bic was bragging about their latests achievement: a ball pen which due to some vast effort of science, with improvement in ball and ink-goo alike, was now 35% smoother in writing than the common or garden Bic stick. About 35%, at least– I wasn’t paying much attention to it, being both a commercial and a ballpoint.

Still, a big noise about smooth writing, eh? An overt admission that the ballpoint in its distilled form (and what is more Ur-ballpoint than the basic Bic?) is not necessarily a pleasant writing experience? Astonishing. One might hope that the unenlightened majority will soon be turning its weary carpal tunnels onto the comforting path of Mannenhitsu-do, and the golden age of writing will return… but I’ll admit that I’m not holding my breath.

I wonder, of course, what kind of means of quantifying smoothness was used, and whether it might be applied, for comparision’s sake, to a well-tuned fountain pen. I suspect not– given that it would be much like using a tool meant to distinguish between mice and hamsters to describe a virus. 35% smoother? Not even in the fountain pen league, kids. Not even standing near the fence.

Today’s wonder of low-friction writing: Parker “51” vacumatic (again– I was in a hurry this morning, and it was handy).
Today’s lubricant of both point and creativity: Herbin’s Bleu Nuit.

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Pen Insular.

Posted by Dirck on 4 August, 2009

A couple of times last week, co-workers from distant parts of the building and with whom I seldom interact were near at hand when I wrote something down. Each time, the response was an entirely appropriate, “Oooh. Nice pen!” Exactly what I think people should say around most of my pens.

Today, though, as I was making a note to myself (being literate, I have lost most of my ability to remember things internally), I heard something distressing. “What is that?” I looked up to find a 25ish fellow, not alarmingly attired but in the current jeans’n’t-shirt look that reduces us all to looking like we’re cleaning out dad’s garage. He was bug-eyed at my pen.

Had I been in the wrong sort of mood, I’d have said, “It’s a pen,” inflected to carry the unspoke message, “…you nit.” Since the question seemed genuine and I wasn’t cross, I said with all truth, “It’s a fountain pen.”

“A whaaaat? Is that a new thing?”

Alas. I informed him a little, gave him a card with my website address, and went along my way– I was out buying the lunch I’m eating even as I (attempt to) type. I’ll grant that today’s pen is a little bit on the super-modern side of fountain pen styling, but the point is that the poor young man had never even brushed past the concept prior to this chance encounter.

It isn’t, of course, unlikely in the modern context. People like me, who pursue them, tend to forget that to a lot of people the fountain pen is a quasi-mythical creature, sharing a mental drawer with Al Capone, spats, court swords, and unicorns– if it occupies any space in the sensorium at all. It’s a long, hard row to hoe to get the pen proper into general public acceptance once again.

Today’s Phantasm of Writing: Eversharp Ten-thousand Word Pen.
Today’s Writing Fluid of Ibn Ghazi: Pelikan black.

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