What's up at Ravens March.

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Archive for March, 2010


Posted by Dirck on 31 March, 2010

A lunch meeting commanded by work means I won’t have time for more than this little nod to my daily effort. As a way of making amends, I offer this link to a whimsical web-comic.

Today’s pen: Esterbrook J with 2048 Flexible Fine point fitted
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Van Gogh Starry Night


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Between two fires

Posted by Dirck on 30 March, 2010

I find myself once again quite conflicted about what sort of emotion to call the day’s theme. If this sort of thing happens too often, I am apt to develop surface crazing and deep stress cracks.

On the happy side, a large box arrived in the mail yesterday, containing very few pens. This provoketh glee because it means I’m not the only one in the world who really over-protects pens against the potential evils of internation mailing. I don’t want to cast aspersions on the diverse services, who generally do a fine job in the areas of both care and briskness, but there’s unfeeling machines involved as well. The longest wait I ever had for a pen was one that was sent extra-cost, super-fast delivery, and which was found three weeks later down the inside of some mechanism; there was a large skid-mark on one side which I assume was three weeks worth of grazing contact with a conveyor. More armour on the pens is a good thing, and a large package is harder to loose than a small.

There is a cherry atop this circumstance, as the package contained two pens for attention, a nice old Mabie-Todd ringtop and a Waterman 452 ½ V which I would happily mount in a gallery (pictures will definitely appear on the site as they come available), and also a couple of pens which are apparently mine simply for being a decent chap: a Parker 21 with the wonderful Mk.II clip (with a deep green body) and a Pilot Elite. This latter is a strange object from Japan, with a very long section and cap and a very tiny body, which renders it more easily kept in a pocket when not in use, but quite comfortably long when called upon. Pictures in future, of course, but this is an item which has been taunting me for some time, and it’s like the donor knew of a hole in my collection without being told. I could be delirious with joy.

Could be, except for an item in local news, and I’m afraid I’m going to have another political spasm. Our provincial government, right-leaning and apparently moved by the vocal opposition to socialized health care in our southern neighbours, has decided that the best response to an underfunded public system is to throw some of the available funds at private clinics, in an effort to undo a bit of a surgical backlog we’ve gotten into. This is the sort of thing that makes me livid– removing funding from something which, if properly funded, is perfectly right and proper in the public sphere, and when it stutters for want of funds declaring that it is thus proved that it must be privatized. That those extracted funds are being handed to the private sector to help the movement along makes it all the more wrath-inducing.

I thus retire to compose my letter of outrage to the Health Minister, and his opposition critic will get a copy as well. One of the items in the TV article that really got up my nose is the statement that we don’t care particularly. Well, a letter shows you care, right?

Today’s umbrage-taking pen: Parker “51”
Today’s indignant ink: Quink blue-black

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Go out and get some exercise.

Posted by Dirck on 29 March, 2010

Despite my daily walks, I discovered myself yesterday to be very short of breath indeed. I need to take up some sort of proper endurance-building activity.

Context? Well, I was wearing about 20 kilograms of armour, vigourously waving a length of rattan around to simulate sword-work, while another chap in similar kit was trying to wallop me back. You’d think that this in itself would count as an endurance building activity, but when you only suit up once in a week, it has less of an effect than you’d think.

I could shrug, declare that I’m of a certain age, and leave it at that, but apart from the unpleasant side effects of becoming observably obese (fragrant sweating, wobbling, and the like), I’ve pretty much just got my wardrobe in a state I like it. I’m hard to fit now, carrying not much more than seven kilos too much weight (which, when I tell you I currently weigh 123kg, or a little shy of twenty stone, should give you a sense of how much fruit clothing racks bear for me), and I can’t face the prospect of having to start replacing these clothes not because they’ve worn out but because I can’t wrap them around newly-acquired blubber. I must, so far as I’m able, resist indolence.

Moreover, this past winter has seen my son reach a level of terrifying mobility. He’s fast, he enjoys rampaging, seldom falls over anymore and he’s yet to see the sense of holding a parent’s hand unless towing them to a destination of his own choosing. I don’t care a fig for keeping up with the Joneses, but I really want to be able to keep up with a toddler.

I need, therefore, to find something that I enjoy doing and can fit into the other things I want to do, need to do, and pretend I need to do. Swimming might be the thing, something that the provoking lad might also enjoy as he’s big on water in general. Bicycling might work, although I’ve nowhere to store a bike apart from the back yard where one was stolen after a mere month of saying, “At last I have a bike once more!”

I’ll have to ponder it firmly. Typing doesn’t seem to be as calorie-intensive as is needed….

Today’s fit pen: Sheaffer Statesman
Today’s sport drink (well, it looks and tastes like one): Herbin Vert Empire

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The Language of Colour

Posted by Dirck on 26 March, 2010

On today’s number of Inkquest, one of my regular stops on this mad whirl of data, the Inkanthrope celebrates(?– “observes” seems too dry) the anniversary of the death of favourite author Roland Barthes. One of the portions of Barthes’s writing which he translates struck a chord with me:

To be examined: coloured writings – the few of them that exist. Colour is impulse; we are afraid to sign our messages with it; that is why we write black; we only allow ourselves well-ordered, flatly emblematic exceptions: blue for distinction, red for correction. Any change of colour is particularly incongruous: can you imagine yellow, pink, or even grey missives? books in red-brown, in forest green, in Indian blue? And yet, who knows if the meaning of the words would not be changed?

The chord because there was recently a contemplation on the Fountain Pen Network regarding whether red was an appropriate colour for anything other than a love letter– a use I had hitherto been unfamiliar with. I’m not sure that I, who love my wife to a point which some of our friends find frankly nauseating, or at least sophomoric, could bring myself to enflame further a written declaration of love with red ink (if you think you can, there’s a pretty splendid ink to the purpose just being released by Herbin)

A chord because one of my most prized possessions is the 1931 Random House edition of The Time Machine (apparently re-released lately as a paperback), in which the framing device, the story about rather than of the narrating Time Traveller, is printed in a different colour of ink. I got this book just about the time my interest in the printed word reached its adult height, before the notion of trying craft bindery was even on a horizon, and I’ve always been fascinated by the separation of voices imposed by the different colours.

Here, then, is another point of superiority for fountain pens. You may, with a little effort, moderate your message by adjusting slightly the visual aspect of your medium (not an idea original to me, of course). Combined with the expressive nature of fountain pens, especially those with italic or flexible points, and one’s writing may come closer to expressing the truth of the emotion behind it.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Statesman Tuckaway
Today’s ink (without any particular theme): Quink black

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The Pen is Mightier than The Sword. We’re told.

Posted by Dirck on 25 March, 2010

For some reason, this popular phrase has been drifting through my head today, and I hope a little maundering aloud will make it stop.

I have, in my life, had a chance to use pens and swords, so I feel I might make an informed comparison. The latter has been in the non-exsanguinary, slightly simulated form, but one gets a sense of it all the same. If I am stupidly literal, which frequently happens in the examination of this phrase, I will of course say that it’s utter tripe. A pen is useless for parrying, puts the user at a serious reach disadvantage, and is very limited in possible target areas where a successful blow will even slightly inconvenience an opponent.

I will not be stupidly literal, but I will digress briefly, as I remind myself of a story of Pope Boniface VIII’s 1302 bull Unam Sanctam, which spoke of the church weilding both spiritual and temporal swords– an ambassador from one of the kings apparently waved his own sword around, shouting, “Here’s mine, let’s see either of yours.” Stupid literality about swords was a fairly easy stance to take in the Middle Ages.

The phrase refers to the potential power of the tools, of course. Given time and refreshments, the right guy with a sword can do a fair amount of damage. A pen, on the other hand, can enact laws and promulgate ideas, something history shows us can lead to an amazing pile of consequences. I don’t think that H.L. Mencken’s experience of edged weapons went much beyond a steak knife, nor Karl Marx’s, yet they could both be considered rather more dangerous (depending on who’s doing the considering) than a stack of Conans the Barbarian.

Having brought Howard’s hero into the picture, I suppose one could in the Pen v. Sword contest consider the former as being similar to a magician’s wand– given time to do its thing, an implement of vast potential power, but not to be relied upon in a close encounter in a dark alley.

There is some folly in thinking of one tool as better than an other, when their functions are quite different. A drill-press is a poor choice for making coffee, a screwdriver and a spoon have only a little overlap, and a pen and a sword really can’t do the same job. Having tried both, I have to say that except in a hewing emergency, I prefer the pen. Mistakes made with a pen are far easier to undo, to the point that they might go completely unnoticed. Sword mistakes, even when a good doctor is on hand, tend to leave a permanent mark. Pens also have a chance at making constructive efforts, recording plans, jotting apologies, or recording poetry, while swords are pretty much limited to taking things apart. In daily use, the pen may or may not be mightier than the sword, but it’s certainly more convenient.

Alas, there will never be a scene in a movie involving pens with one part in a thousand the coolness of the duel between Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Today’s implement of very limited powers of destruction: Hero 330
Today’s spurting internal fluid: Skrip blue-black

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Inertial. Guidance?

Posted by Dirck on 24 March, 2010

This morning, I stood before the Grand Pen Repository, poking through the drawers, unable for many minutes to decide which to use.

I could claim, with some truth, that I was heavy and stupid from the early hour and several nights of less than adequate sleep. The reality, however, is that between my own foolish demands for novelty (which I somewhat unfairly project upon the readers of this nonsense– I know at least one of you revels in the diversity of my pens, but I cannot call this a duty) and the bewildering assortment of pens, I am driven to literal distraction.

I used that one only two weeks ago. That one is a pest to clean. Dare I refill that one’s cartridge? Oh, right, that one’s not fixed yet. I haven’t made up a web-page for this one.

[SFX: Sound of several whistling kettles reaching a boil, followed by a brief, damp explosion]

I have with some regularity threatened a culling of my herd. There are pens that I bought for silly reasons, others that I find uncongenial to my hand, still others that are yet another of that model. I can, with a little effort, invent a reason why I must keep any or all of them, but the rational being deep inside me (poor, starvling beast!) will remind me that the reason is invented. I have proven experimentally and through research that a single fountain pen is sufficient– I’m not anxious to cut back quite that dramatically, but it’s possible to survive such a state.

I need to, frankly, just get off my duff and get down to business. Pull pens from the Great Repository, nominate them as for sale, post some announcements in appropriate places, and not act like a wet git about sending inanimate objects of not very long acquaintance out of my life.

That’s a great plan. Entirely feasible. Will I do it? I make noise about it publicly, as a way of making the world in general my overseer, theoretically generating a big, imaginary whip-cracker who will be extremely disappointed if I don’t follow through. This should work… but I guess the figure is entirely too diffuse to cause me as much urgency as I hope. I know many people look at this page each day, but I also know that not one of them will appear on my doorstep, kick me in the shin, and shout, “Get to work!”

Actually, one might, but it’s over a two hour drive, so the chances are slim.

Lacking any other sort of coersion, public declaration of intention is the best I can manage. If anyone out there has a suggestion on the topic of lighting a (non-literal) fire under an indolent proto-hoarder, I’ll be happy to hear it.

Today’s pen (mine! mineminemine!): Parker Duofold
Today’s ink (shared with some freedom): Lamy blue

…and shortly after I finish posting this, I notice that the page for today’s pen not only indicates that it’s for sale, but has a ridiculous price appended to it. I’ll be editing that away fairly directly, and examining the template I use for my pen pages. I will also take it as a sign from some unseen agency that I’d better get serious about flogging some pens.

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Ongoing Series

Posted by Dirck on 23 March, 2010

…which is entitled, “How Humans Baffle Me.”

Today’s guests on the programme are two. The first is just a cameo from the “searches” informant behind the curtain, who informs me that someone was looking for “www.stylophilia.wordpress” and was led to me. Why this is baffling is I’m not sure why anyone who understood the meaning of the word (which is rather more platonic than most of the -philias in the world) would compose that sort of search string. I find it somewhat interesting that they came here in their search, as I’ve not used the word ten times in all these entries.

My true source of bafflement, and I fear I must go slightly political once again, is this whole health care reform foofahrah going on in the US. We hear the uproar coming across the border (in the form of cable TV), and I have to admit the whole thing has me stymied from stem to clew-line, with the sole exception of understanding the desperate need for it.

First head of befuddle– why would anyone in their right mind oppose it? I can see those working in the insurance industry, which appears to wax fat from what it squeezes from the common American, and perhaps some particularly avaracious doctors, but I don’t understand how the average corn-fed Joe USA can not only say, “Hey, I’m deeply opposed to having some portion of my taxes go to free health care for whoever needs it, which includes me,” but actually run around screaming about it like it’s an invasion of robot zombies. There was a bit of an uproar about universal health care when it was proposed here, mainly from the likely suspects mentioned previously, but the will of the people was squarely behind the move. Having heard some of the scandalous untruths about how “Socialist Medicare” is imagined to work in countries where it exists (Canada, as a handy example), I don’t wonder too much that there’s some mistrust of the thing, but the sorts of things they’re saying should be taken as insults by the people that are supposed to believe them. Apparently, we live in a situation much like that in Logan’s Run, with wholesale butchery of the elderly and random organ reassignment. Having passed my fortieth birthday with both kidneys firmly in place, I can’t say I’d noticed such things.

The second head of befuddlement– they think this thing that they’ve passed is… good? I am not part of US culture, of course, despite Hollywood’s best efforts, so I may be unable to understand how something so riddled with holes can be hailed as a great step forward. Something is better than nothing, I suppose, but if one finds oneself adrift on an icefloe, being offered a facecloth as a means of keeping warm seems like little consolation.

Watching the whole sad affair, I am put in mind of a child who screams when offered blueberry pancakes because a kid in the schoolyard said they’re made with bugs and ground glass, and solution offered is to take away the blueberries and replace them with bugs. I’ll stick to the Canadian way of handling it, thanks.

Today’s elderly yet active pen: Packard bulb-filler
Today’s ink of incomprehension: Herbin’s Bleu Nuit

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Rinse, Repeat. No Lather!

Posted by Dirck on 22 March, 2010

I’m going to be fairly brief today, as I’m now not feeling well thanks to whatever was coursing through my son. I am pleased to report that the weekend offered an opportunity to get some work done on pens, and I now really have to update the Collections page on the website to at least include descriptions of a Sheaffer Tuckaway, a Wahl all-metal pen, and a Conklin Glider, the three I’m most anxious to get into rotation. The last was an utter wretch– I think an incorrect, non-shellac adhesive was used to put in the previous sac, and the section was replaced before it was dry. This bonanza of concentrated time was a quid pro quo my wife insisted upon as I was going to be the sole care-giver for Infectious Lad while she attended a craft sale on Sunday.

In connection with the illness, I want to offer a guarded and somewhat hesistant endorsement of the practice of nasal lavage.

Which sounds better as well as more concise than “cramming the spout of a small teapot up one nostril and allowing the contents to flow out the other.” This is exactly as much fun as it sounds, but the results are worth both the sensations and the horrid spectacle that presents in the bathroom mirror. The illness now winding down in my has left much less debris in my respiratory system than the past several, something I’m very pleased with.

I’ll try for less icky content tomorrow. I should have, after all, rather less icky contents.

Today’s sanitized pen: Waterman Citation
Today’s external-use-only ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

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Posted by Dirck on 19 March, 2010

My son has a cold.

I have had about four non-contiguous hours of sleep.

I have no wit for today.

Today’s pen (probably): Sheaffer Valiant  first year touchdown
Today’s ink (I think): Herbin’s Terre de Feu

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Posted by Dirck on 18 March, 2010

I commented some time ago about my not at all understanding the frequent complaint against fountain pens being a source of parti-coloured fingers. It happened to me some time ago, but no more. I do have an odd and connected story from home in this connection, which renews my bafflement.

The night before last my wife mentioned that she wanted to refill some of her pens. She uses Sheaffer No Nonsense pens (and their modern see-through version, the Viewpoint) almost exlusively, and rather than pay a mint of money for cartridges comes at them with bottles of ink and a syringe donated by her parents, who have a diabetic cat. A cartridge can be refilled a lot before it wears a poor seal in itself, and this opens up a world of colours to her which Sheaffer cannot provide.

Last night my wife and I were tag-feeding our son; he’s starting a cold, and not willing to eat in general terms, so having spoons coming at him from both sides seemed a good way to wear him down. I notice two ink-stains on her person. After a certain amount of hesitation and boggling, I finally ask, “How did you manage that.”

“Oh. I had some… trouble.”

A narrative pause: I do not, or try not, to hold people to a higher standard than myself, and in some areas not even so high. I appear to have eerie powers of not getting ink on myself, but that’s no reason to be stunned in amazement when someone else gets a drop or two on themselves.

All the same, I dropped the subject at the point my story has come to. We concentrate on feeding the lad. She from the couch, one leg tucked up under the opposite knee. I from the floor, a few feet away, more convenient to the toddler and a habitual place since a longish visit to Korea.

Had I not been sitting there, I would not have seen the stains. One brown. One green. Both almost certainly Herbin products. Each very nicely centered on the pad of a toe, but with ill-defined edges that do away with thoughts of conscious self-decoration. No other stains on her or about the house. I don’t think I want to know the details.

Today’s curious pen: Waterman Crusader
Today’s baffling ink: Lamy blue-black

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