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Archive for February, 2012

Show Season Affective Disorder

Posted by Dirck on 29 February, 2012

I’m about to have a brief whine.  I’m listening, even as I type, to the Fountain Pen Geeks Podcast, in which they are recounting their adventures at the Los Angeles Pen Show.  They also mention in passing upcoming pen shows in Baltimore, Long Island, Cambridge, and Little Rock, all happening between now and the end of April.

Yes, it’s not even a month since I got back from Disney World.  Yes, I had a very nice time there.  But as you will recall, one of the things I felt the whole experience lacked was pens.  And my travel budget isn’t up to any of the above.

I’m so disturbed, I’m writing in sentence fragments.  If I’m truly serious about being a pen-gamesman, I should, nay, must get to pen shows, but they are all painfully far away.  This is not the first time I’ve found my fun being afflicted by geography.  I love my home town, I’d hate to move… but things I find interesting are almost always happening not only elsewhere, but elsewhere.  I understand George Bailey’s desperation all too well.

That’s it.  I’m done my whine.  I think I’ll go work on updating links in old posts as a distraction therapy.

Today’s immobile pen:  Reform 1745
Today’s stagnating ink:  Herbin’s Vert Empire


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Progressive Attitude

Posted by Dirck on 28 February, 2012

My son’s peregrinations about YouTube have uncovered a couple of interesting little items from the world of Disney.  Since I’m not here on Friday, I’ll bring in a couple of shorts for your… enjoyment?  I do have comments to make upon them, unlike the usual Friday frivolity.

The less affecting one (perhaps because I’m mad at my vehicle) regards a little blue car’s trials as it passes through a use cycle:

The other one, which keeps knocking my wife and I for a loop every time sonny makes us watch it, is about a little house’s career from one century to the next.  I warn you, if you have a scruple of sentiment in your make-up, this is likely to make you cry:

The reason that these stick in my head is the unexpected attitude towards Progress as a general concept.  Both were made in the early 1950s, when progress seems to have been generally considered as a nearly unmodulated force for good (with a little bit of eyebrow raising towards nuclear power).  Ol’ Uncle Walt’s statements on progress are likewise fairly positive:

Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

It is thus rather surprising that we find these two cartoons coming out under his signature with their relatively overt warning that progress for its own sake not only is not necessarily desireable but can be a source of misery.  It is better, suggests the first, to maintain a vehicle than to cast it aside once a lack of maintenance brings it low.  The second offers the notion that what is lost to progress may well be precious and worth reclaiming.  Isn’t that an interesting set of concepts from the chap who was even then drafting out Tomorrowland?

These are not, if a little thought is applied, contradictory positions.  Progress offers promise of improvement, certainly.  So does getting ahold of piles of cash, or going to the gym.  Too focussed a pursuit of any of these things serves to distract from other good aspects of life, and imbalance in life is a true ill.

That’s why I use both vintage and modern fountain pens.

Today’s bridging of the gap between new and old: Parker Frontier
Today’s ink: Sailor Jentle blue-black

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Discoveries, Brilliant and Horrible

Posted by Dirck on 27 February, 2012

Despite the prediction on Friday last, I will be about with some consistency until diverse doctors’ appointments on Thursday and Friday.  The reason for this is a visit to my banker on Saturday, after looking at a couple of potential replacement vehicles in the teeth of what is almost certainly the worst weather this winter has had to offer (this is less a declaration of my own sturdiness than of the mild nature of the current season).  The banker proposed something that is either extremely clever or the worst idea I’ve ever, ever had, but which will in the short term give us a lot more latitude in just what the Family Transportation System is going to be.  This cleverness is going to take a couple of weeks to come to fruition, though, so my pursuit of a vehicle becomes a little more leisurely and academic for a while.

The horrible discover stems from a trip to the post office to return some pens to a client.  The post office occupies a corner in a larger store, and immediately (and even sensibly) opposite is the stationery area.  I finally gave into the foolish urge to be fair, and bought a “Bic Velocity Bold™ with Easy Glide System®” whose packaging declares it the “Smoothest Pen in the Universe!™”

Apart from the disturbing prospect of having the word velocity trademarked, there is this unlikely (and also trademarked) claim to fill the heart of a fountain pen user with upset.  Can it be? I have previously, and from a position of complete ignorance, derided the possibility.  As I find ignorance unappealing, I decided it was time to address the question directly.  That’s right, folks– I voluntarily bought and then used a ballpoint pen.

The results form the “horrible” aspect of this entry’s title.  It is, in fact, a rather smooth-writing object.  I might even admit to the smoothness equalling that of many fountain pens.  How’s that for a terrifying turn of events? 

It is, I hasten to say, still subject to the other ills of the ballpoint.  There is still a requirement of downward pressure that no decent fountain pen calls for, and there is still the matter of blobbing as inky material builds up around the ball and its mounting.  It is not able to live up to its brag, either– smooth it is, but smoothest in the universe?  Lawyer’s shenanigans aside, it can’t support the claim.

Today’s pen, no less smooth than the pretender:  Reform 1745
Today’s ink, blob-free and a colour Bic doesn’t offer:  Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Auspicious Birthday

Posted by Dirck on 24 February, 2012

I’m in my Friday mode, so just a couple of brief notes:

– Transmissions may be a little spotty next week, depending upon the weather this weekend; car shopping must occur, but we’re told a big blizzard impends.  There’s also some medical appointments in the offing that will keep me from looking in here at the end of the week.

-The title refers to tomorrow, which is the 88th anniversary of the Art Brown International Pen Shop, of whose earlier stock I have an interesting example.  88 being a very lucky number in some cultures, I hope the year brings them ample prosperity.

Today’s pen: Eversharp Symphony
Today’s ink: Diamine Syrah

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Healthy Relationship

Posted by Dirck on 23 February, 2012

My wife and I are frequently driven to marvel at what the entertainment media offer as the way couples are depicted going about the business of being couples.  Apparently, one is supposed to devote a good deal of time trying to achieve petty victories over the opposite number, while remaining at constant hair-trigger for any signs of infidelity.  This latter is defined as an inability to overcome countless millenia of biology and a lifetime of programming (largely by the very same media) to have one’s attention engaged by an attractive member of the opposite sex (or, in roughly 10% of cases, the same one).  We are of the opinion that people who actually act in this manner are extremely insecure in their relationship.  She does not panic when when I’m in the room during an airing of “Next Top Model”, I do not decry her watching of Conrad Veidt or Vincent D’Onofrio films.

Which brings me to a couple of nights ago, when Flying Down to Rio was showing on TCM.  I was giving our son a bath, and missed the beginning; I came out to find a musical number underway, which given the era and nature of the film unsurprising.  My wife entered from the kitchen, and we spoke to each other, she with her back to the TV, and so she missed Ginger Rogers appearing in a dress that I have to imagine was viewed in 1933 as somewhere between “extremely daring” and “utterly scandalous.”  As we conversed, I interjected, “Say, have a glance at what she’s wearing.”

“Well, that is a corker,” said my wife, and we went on with the topic of the moment.

A few minutes later, the scene went to Gene Raymond and Dolores del Rio writing telegrams in adjoining booths in a hotel lobby.  Both of us had left the room to attend to diverse cat emergencies (she a hairball, me our son’s efforts to draw one of them into recreating a Looney Tune scenario), and we found ourselves in much the same arrangement as previously.  She said something to me, and I attended not in the least, my gaze fixed upon the spectacle on the screen.  Eventually she stopped talking, looked at the TV, turned back to me, and poked me gently in the chest to bring me back to the present.

The astonishing thing I could not tear my focus away from?  The amazing penmanship being attributed to Gene Raymond in a close-up of whatever he was writing.  I don’t even remember the content.

…and yet, somehow, she puts up with me.

Today’s pen: Parker 50 Falcon
Today’s ink: Noodler’s blue

A quick filmographic aside:   If you’ve not seen Flying Down to Rio, it’s worth a look for three reasons.  First, there is amazing whimsy of a restaurant called The Aviators Club, which includes some dining spaces in an upper area rigged to look like an airship’s gondola.  Did they have such things in the reality of 1933, or was it as astonishingly unreal to the contemporary audience as it was to us?  Second, there is a lovely deflation of the racist notions of the day, regarding some “island savages” briefly encountered about half-way through.  Finally, for those who want an example of the sort of saucy stuff movies were getting up to before the actual enforcement of the Hays code, there is the big final dance extravaganza, in which some of the chorines’ tops are far more diaphanous than the thing Rogers was wearing.  One doesn’t really expect to be able to describe a single film as containing Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and frontal nudity, but this one can manage it of one doesn’t balk at some purely technically-present garments.

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Joy Division

Posted by Dirck on 22 February, 2012

In the past couple of weeks, in a couple of slightly different contexts, I’ve made a comment that more or less boils down to, “The urge to put fountain pens in more hands is a positive good and will enhance the happiness of the world.”

And then, because I’m an inveterate user of my head-meat, I started to actually think about what I’d said.

Because I’m a happier person when engaged in fountain pen use, I assume that all people will be the same, and if one follows the ‘logic’ to its ultimate extremity, if fountain pen use is universal, so will be contentment.  This is the sort of faith-based statement that a moment’s mental effort can bring crashing down like a crystal palace struck with a perfume bottle

My moment’s effort brought me to the world of 1939.  Dip pens remained in use but fountain pens were so ubiquitous that they appeared in cartoons, Marx Brothers’ films, and pulp fiction.  Thus, by my reasoning, all should have been sunshine and candy floss.  And yet, I have a vague notion that about that time, a good many people were quite crabby, many with very good cause.

I might offer that, in that time before the coming of the ball-point, people didn’t know how good they had it, and that the contrast now available amends the situation.  To mis-use a common metaphor, a fish may not complain of dampness, but it might enjoy dampness more after a while on the hall carpet.  Indeed, the ball-point pen might be seen as a long-lasting residual misery with roots in the great war against fascism.  Yes, with a little concentration, I can turn the power of irrational logic to blaming Mussolini for the Bic Stic.  There’s a proposition likely to draw… derision?  Law suits?  Neo-fascist assassins?  Oh, dear.

Gosh, what a lot of trouble a little thinking can give a person.  I can see why so many folks seem to avoid it as much as possible.

Today’s happy pen: Eversharp Symphony (which I cannot make into a decent segue for this apropos song)
Today’s thoughtless ink: Diamine Syrah

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Posted by Dirck on 21 February, 2012

Or is it, perhaps, an aspect of the model of pen I’m using today?  I hope not.  Frankly, I hope it’s just this pen itself.  But I should explain.

Yesterday, I settled upon this week’s pens, and I though as I like the looks of this model so much (as revealed last Valentine’s day) I’d make it yesterday’s pen as well.  A good thing, then, that it was a day off, as this decision led to a great deal of wrestling, cursing and, I admit it, finger-staining.  What had been put away as a willing, happy pen had emerged a thorough disgruntled object that would not write six words without going dry.

What gives me a quiver in my spine is that this is essentially the state in which this pen came to me.  A recidivist pen?  What a horrible thought!

The resolution, as I’d thought it at the time, had been prolonged soaking with punctuations of squeeze-bulb pressure.  After rather more than a week of this, I ejected a great clot of… well, I’ll say “old ink” because anything else is too horrible to contemplate.  Subsequent to that and a little bit of a rinse, it ran brilliantly.  I used it, cleaned it, and set it aside… and it apparently lay dreaming plots of my frustration.

In the end, my salvation lay in a bottle.  My ultrasonic tub proving insufficient, and daunted at the thought of trying to dismantle one of these things to apply myself directly to the feed, I went with a brief campaign of chemical warfare, and lowered the point into a shotglass of pure household ammonia, where it stood for about three hours.  A converter served to pass the stuff through the point under pressure, and I am able to report success for the moment.  I know if I’d been made to stand head-down in a bucket of ammonia for three hours, I’d do almost anything I was asked to bring the treatment to an end, and this pen seems to be of the same opinion.

Lying unused overnight, the pen did not return to its tricks; ink passes readily, even eagerly, though it to the page.  I can’t imagine how, other than a very poor job of flushing at week’s end, it might get back up to this sort of nonsense, but I didn’t expect it this time, either.  I must, it seems, expand my philosophy to include self-clogging feeds.

Today’s pen, currently toeing the line: Parker 50 Falcon
Today’s ink, possibly part of the problem: Noodler’s blue

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A Crass Commercial Moment

Posted by Dirck on 18 February, 2012

In the interests of reducing pressure on both the walls of the house and my credit cards, I’ve put a few totally non-pen items up on my eBay account– a couple of compendiums of Usagi Yojimbo, and what is about the middle volume of the epic Lone Wolf and Cub series.  I am not hugely given to self-promotion, but sometimes I bend to it.

Ironically, I just put this up on my Facebook page.

Today’s pen, holding itself aloof from that sort of thing: TSWBI Diamond 540
Today’s ink, refusing to engage in that sort of thing on the weekend: Pelikan Royal Blue

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Make-Work Project

Posted by Dirck on 17 February, 2012

I freely admit to trying to use my thinking mechanism as frequently as possible, in the hopes that when I really need it its functions will be available to me.  Thus, when someone points out a blunder connected to the operation of that mechanism, I feel the sort of embarrasment connected with arriving at school without trousers.

The current blunder is somewhat mitigated by not speaking the language of the product, although I do use more or less the same alphabet.  The blunder is attached to what I just this week describe as my favourite brown ink. Lie de Thé.  At some point in the past, apparently before I started in on this little expository project, I decided that was “Lis de Thé”, and forever after avoided looking at the bottle.

I’m going to go in and edit all the previous mentions of it (there’s the work aspect) for fear that it’s something scatological in French.  This may take a little time.

Now, once you’re done laughing, have a look at a clever video of a TWSBI hatching from its egg.

Today’s monoglot pen: Parker 65
Today’s uncomplicatedly-named ink: Pelikan violet

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New Arrivals, Here and There

Posted by Dirck on 16 February, 2012

This may be thought of as merely making noise to hear my own head roar.  As that nicely describes about 92% of internet traffic, I’ll not blush for it.

The arrivals here are a pair of Sheaffers from a client the next province over, and they’re very different prospects. One is a relatively late example of the Balance Admiral, and I’m extremely pleased with its arrival for two entirely selfish reasons.  The more practical is that the problem is not in the vacuum-filler mechanism, which was recently and competently serviced, but rather in the area of the feed not feeding consistently– much less daunting.  The silly reason is that it gives me a chance to add a decent photograph to the profile page for that model, as the sole image currently present is… not good.

The other is an Imperial II Deluxe, which also provides me with a chance to get a photo of an unshown variant (shorter clip, white dot).  That one has a very common problem for Touchdown fillers; a barrel crack preventing the pressure build-up necessary to filling.  Should be a dawdle, which means you can look in here next week for me whining about being hoist on the petard of hubris.

While I’m mentioning Imperials, I’ll also note an impending arrival here; I’ve won an auction on an Imperial I, which has been a sad hole in my collection.  It’s coming from England, so it may be a while getting here.

The “there” arrival is a new filler mechanism that I’m rather impressed with.  I’ll just hand you a link to the announcement/discussion on the Fountain Pen Network, but to encapsulate, it’s the simple and effective stick-piston or syringe filler cleverly rearranged so that it can have a piston travel of almost the entire length of the pen aft of the section.  Since that sort of mechanism generally only allows for about a half-length throw, and even the more complicated screw-piston loses a lot of interior space to mechanism, this is a pretty cool trick; this sort of ink volume usually appears only in eyedropper pens and in vacuum-fillers like the one I’m using today.  Since inventor Francis Goosens is firmly connected to Conid Pens, I don’t anticipate being able to afford an example bearing this filler any time soon, but the fact that it exists still pleases me.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Sentinel 
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lie de Thé

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