What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Archive for December, 2011


Posted by Dirck on 15 December, 2011

I have apparently scored a goal.  Moreover, I find I have a goal ahead of me which catches me unaware.

I’m not, I have to say, altogether pleased with this development.  Let me show you what I’m complaining about– when I’m finished typing this, I’ll be faced with this bit of unwelcome cheerleading:

Lifted from WordPress's own blog

Apparently I am chasing numbers.  Oddly enough, I had thought my locus of gratification was more internal than this, and that the act of pouring forth a number of words here and the resultant failure to pour forth a number of dollars over at eBay was sufficient reward and inducement.  I’m not sure I welcome, as much as I like cats, being offered a bit of dangled string to chase and eventually chew upon.

You may point out that I am complaining about a minor aspect of something that I’m getting for free and upon whose underpinning mechanism I do no work.  True.  Which is why I won’t go on at great length as I was planning to.  Tomorrow’s stub will be a stub for the same reason as any other Friday’s stub, rather than as an expression of pique, and next week I’ll say something about pens rather than carp on some aspect of modern society (there’s a couple just arrived in the mail…).  And then the cheerleader will wave its mechanical pompom and urge me to do it again the next day.  Alas.

Today’s pen, a reward unto itself: Sheaffer 800
Today’s ink, a joy forever: Sailor Jentle blue-black

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Dirck on 14 December, 2011

Yesterday at the dentist, I was asked to fill in a bit of paperwork.  I hauled out the Pen of the Day and proceeded to do so, while interacting with the receptionist on insurance.

…and then she complimented me on my writing, saying how she wished hers was better.  Very much like heaving an oil lamp into a powder store, of course.  I restrained myself mightily, and what was shaping up to be a five minute monologue on the virtues of the fountain pen became a mere modest declaration that my writing looks as it does thanks to the gentle pressure requirements of my chosen mode of marking.

I admit I am slightly awkward in the social dimension.  However, through decades of making an studied effort, I have become able to pick up on interpersonal cues at least as well as a normally developed nine-year old.  I believe what I received yesterday was a hint of, “Oh, good, an enthusiast in something I really don’t care about.”

This is a troubling development.  If what I think is a mere hint in the direction of the interest is coming across as raving, something is dreadfully wrong with my self-perception.  How, apart from a month or so of desert-island stranding, does one reset that mechanism?  I don’t mind being tedious on the topic of fountain pens in the right context (hey, you came here of your own free will), but I’d like to avoid it when it’s involuntary.

Today’s pen:  Waterman Crusader
Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun

Side note– I now have a deal less silver/mercury amalgam in my mouth.  Perhaps I’ll grow stupid more slowly than I’ve been doing!

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is It Safe?

Posted by Dirck on 13 December, 2011

A broken filling and the resulting laceration of tongue and cheek drive me into the arms of my wife’s dentist.  I should begin a roster of excuses for short entries, eh?

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 800
Today’s ink: Sailor Jentle blue-black

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Verbal Assault

Posted by Dirck on 12 December, 2011

At the Regular Job, I have occasional uncharitable thoughts towards my co-workers.  This is, I think, a common condition in the modern workplace, and as I don’t nurture these thoughts at any length, nothing come of it.  However, there is an item of activity that is starting to unsettle me greatly, as small and annoying as a grain of sand in the shoe.  The fact that it comes in what should be a season of charity and forgivness makes it all the more vexing, as it is also a behaviour which is motivated by the season.

The mis-use of the word “gift”.  It’s driving me right up the wall.  You see, there is a seasonal promotional item being handed out to customers, and a co-worker keeps saying with clocklike regularity, “You can keep it, or gift it to a friend.”

A small thing, yes?  A mere nothing.  Certainly nothing that someone who accepts the role of the Oxford English Dictionary as a descriptive rather than proscriptive organ should kick against.  And yet I almost pulled my hair just typing the quotation.  I may find “blog” slightly distasteful, but I come close to physical pain when faced with the use of “gift” as a verb.  I suspect part of the reason is that there are no advantages in using it rather than “give”.  Only two letters different, and it’s even phonetically more work, with the voiced rather than unvoiced friccative and the following plosive.

One certainly can’t use it as a straight substitution, either.  “Giving the gift of education” becomes a Porky Pig joke.  “Give me the idol and I’ll give you the whip” agitates humour if transposed.  “Give me a break!” becomes even more self indulgent.

I think it agitates me so because I view it as a symptom of a growing inability in the modern English speaker to access our shared colossal (or shall I say “cyclopean?” “Brobdingnagian”?  “Capacious?” ) vocabulary.  Rather than scrape about through the hundreds of thousands of words we’ve invented or pillaged from abroad in search of the mot juste, the impulse appears to be to just press common verbs and nouns into service as the other part of speech where possible.  That this is viewed as a clever way to conduct communication just vexes me all the more.

I cannot be placated by an observation that it’s hardly a new phenomenon, nor that it’s an accepted English practice.  I admit that mine is an irrational anger, and it will not answer to reason.  I vent thus because flinging a stapler might bring forth a reprimand and because not venting at all would see me turn a funny colour and pitch to the floor.  I’m sure the etymology doesn’t bear out the sensation, but I comprehend entirely the use of “gift” in German.  It’s a noun in that language, too.  It means “poison.”

Today’s pen, and possible stabbing impliment:  Waterman Crusader (the one with the hourglass section)
Today’s ink, in my gift to give as I wish: Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Mmpf… Mforry!

Posted by Dirck on 9 December, 2011

The Regular Job Departmental Solstice-Approximate Holiday Lunch takes me away at my usual transmission window.  I’ll see you all Monday, and leave you with this semi-rhetorical riddle:  what do you suppose the person who used “Wife Wancher” as a google seach was really after?

Today’s pen:  1927 Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Wancher Imari

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making an Impression

Posted by Dirck on 8 December, 2011

Pens have become taciturn over the years.  They used to rant quite openly, and now they’re solemn as a parcel of owls.

I don’t refer to the output.  When put to work as a medium between the spirit-world inside a writer’s head and the physical reality of a sheet of paper, they are as yappy as ever they were, but sometime in the 1960s and continuing to the present day, they became withdrawn when left to themselves.

I am thinking of the impressions one finds on pens.  This struck me as I was regarding my current desk pen:

Click on it for a bigger version if you can’t make that out; observe that we are told the full name of the maker, where they have their business, and the nationality of the the pen.  Even at the time this pen was made, though, the sullenness was creeping over them; you wouldn’t get that much out of a contemporary Parker or Waterman.

The impressions were once little billboards, with not only the sort of information shown above, but patent dates and numbers, boasts, brags, and other examples of the die-maker’s art.  I don’t have a good picture of the stereotype “Lucky Curve” banner from my Duofold, nor of the wealth of information on the side and tail of my Waterman 52, but have a gander at this charming little tableau:

Those who care deeply about avian anatomy might want to avoid thinking too hard about the bird itself

Pens made after about 1960 or so seem to have lost this interest in self-description almost completely.  Leaving aside the willfully obscure Lamy 2000, it is difficult on many modern pens to get any but the most basic information.  “Pilot Japan” is as much as you can get from a Vanishing Point without dismantling and a loupe.  A Waterman might condescend to offer “Paris” as well as family and nation.

I don’t know that I’m anxious for a return to the old way of arranging things; this is not, as so many of my posts are, an ubi sunt lamentation.  The old labelling is part of the whole aesthetic of the time, and I think to try to force its return on something that isn’t consciously retro-styled like the Gate City pens would likely result in something a little like wearing a tuxedo and clown make-up.  It’s just something that hadn’t really struck me before and I thought I’d share.  If I were a very bad person, I’d add informational density of the impression to the heap of possible candidates for “true and certain marker of vintage or modern pen”… but I don’t want to enflame that debate any more than it already is, and apart from not having really studied upon it I don’t think it’s any more true and certain than any other anatomical or chronological benchmark yet offered.

There is one positive good to come out of this entry, at least: now you all have an excuse to go stare at your pens for a while.

Today’s mumchance pen:  Élysée Whosimabob (which I tentatively identified the following day as a Series 60, no thanks to it)
Today’s ink, willing to do all the talking: Pelikan 4001 Brillian Brown

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Calling CQ….

Posted by Dirck on 7 December, 2011

I don’t know if you can hear me through all the interference being put out by this colossal mound of work which has descended upon The Regular Job.  I’m going to dig a shelter and start a small fire to keep warm.  I’ll end transmission now to save batteries, and hope that a rescue squad arrives soon.

Failing that, a team of St. Bernards towing a hogs-head of brandy will do.

Today’s frantic pen:  1927 Parker Duofold
Today’s fast-depleting ink: Wancher Imari

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Khan of the plank, and a king of the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans….

Posted by Dirck on 6 December, 2011

I discovered a pen in my email this morning.  Is that not whimsical?

Not, as should be obvious, a literal pen, but a pen in potenial.  This penipotentiary comes to be through a small matter of effort and a fair dose of good luck.  Last week, I listened to the inaugural outing of the FPGeeks podcast, in which there was a trivial question.  Responses would be randomly selected from for a prize pen; effort came in responding, and luck in that I bear the prize away.

That prize is a Noodler’s Ahab, another in the ink maker’s growing stable of things to run ink through (I draw my title from the description of the eponymous captain in Melville’s book) .  Mine is being provided by the small enterprise of Goulet Pens, with the sole restriction that it’s got to be one they’ve currently got in stock.  I’ve given a second choice, just in case my first gets gobbled up before the Geeks are able to put in the order; I’m not very picky once the “fountain pen” qualification has been achieved.

There is a small irony that nibbles at this joy, as is ever the case in my world.  Not very long ago, I gave into curiosity, and ordered the functionally similar Noodler’s Flex (from yet another small but vibrant concern, isellpens.com).  I’ve not quite sorted out my feelings about it, and have only the skeleton of a page yet for my site… and suddenly I find if I’d waited a little, I’d have a Noodler pen with no layout whatsoever.

Oh, well.  Pens task me, and I must have them.

Today’s pen, off the larboard beam: Élysée Somethingorother (just about as different from yesterday’s pen as one can get and still stay a fountain pen (possible ID! See Thursday!))
Today’s ink, fetching how much on the Nantucket dock I cannot tell, but a barrel-full is costly indeed: Pelikan 4001 Brillian Brown

post scriptus: All this referential semi-comedy renews the sadness felt at the disappearance of Ink Quest, one of the great blogs of our age.  Alas, the teeth of memory.

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

PractICE makes Perfect

Posted by Dirck on 5 December, 2011

A digression, prompted by my lunchtime walk.  At the beginning of last month, we had some rather wet snow.  It then got rather cold, then strangely warm, and now seasonally cold.  The effect this has had on the snow is very similar to the effect on gets alternating a lump of iron between forge and anvil; something initially lumpy and relatively soft becomes much harder and smooth as glass.

So, a tip to those who’ve not experienced it, and a reminder to those of us who haven’t practices since last spring took hold, I offer my method for walking on ice without dying of it.

  1. Head up.  You can glance down using just the rotation of the eyeballs, but keep your head fairly level.  This keeps the brain from having to constantly interpret the difference between what is reported by the body (“Upright and walking!”) and the inner ear (“Face down!”).  It also makes the planning for the next step easier.
  2. Don’t walk on it if you can walk around it.  Consider the modern infantryman.  Unlike his predecessors (a very literal word, in this case) who marched in a somewhat robotically straight line, he dodges from cover to cover, avoiding exposure to the enemy’s line of fire as much as possible.  The enemy, friends, is Winter, and his main weapon is a minefield.  Don’t ignore what you’re about to step on, but keep a sense of what lies in your line of advance.  Exposed pavement?  A bit of uncovered lawn?  Great!  That’s traction, and that’s a couple of steps that you won’t have to work so hard for.  This is hard work, too….
  3. Bend those knees.  Stiff, straight legs are not your friend on ice; you may as well strap on some stilts.  By keeping a little bit of flex in the leg at all times, you allow for some reaction of both the bend and straighten sorts, and you lower your centre of gravity somewhat.  Look at martial artists; how many of them step into the ring with their knees locked?
  4. Don’t lift those knees.  Bent a little is good.  Bent a lot is bad, because you are then relying on one foot to keep you from tipping over.  This is a common trick in standard walking, but it’s an invitation to disaster when going on ice.  The ideal is to never take all the weight off of either foot, but just shift it slightly to allow one foot to move more easily than the other.  Don’t be proud; shuffle like a centenarian.  You’ll look like more of a fool if you slide under a bus.
  5. There’s no hurry.  As one may imagine, the previous two instructions make for a relatively low top speed.  Don’t try to exceed it.  Yes, it’s cold out, and no one wants to be out in it, but you did dress appropriately.  Right?  Trying to substitute speed for proper clothes is likely to see you flat on your back, concussed, with a damaged leg and not dressed for the weather.

That’s it.  Five steps on paper for making steps on a slick surface.  I don’t, of course, guarantee the process, but there will be rather fewer scares if it’s followed, and some injuries can be converted to mere scares.

Today’s elderly pen, a-feared for its hips:  1927 Parker Duofold
Today’s ink, from a rather warmer climate and not sure what to make of this “snow” stuff: Wancher Imari

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

For Pants?

Posted by Dirck on 2 December, 2011

Just a quick note on something that has been troubling me this week.  The Blackbird I was using was an advertising pen, marked “With compliments, P. Panto & Co.”

Search as I might, I can’t work out who or what P. Panto was.  The imagination festers in absence of real data, of course, and I am stuck pondering old Giles cartoons with the background ads of early 1970’s London hawking Feeto for feet, and that of course brings up the real-world Beano.  The prospect of someone needing an enzyme supplement to help digest pants is extremely troubling.

Especially given the specific meaning of “pants” in a UK context.

Today’s pen: Muji Cylindrical Aluminum Pen
Today’s ink: Diamine Imperial Purple (no link yet.  Patience)

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »