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Jacob Three-Three and the Hooded Fangs

Posted by Dirck on 17 September, 2013

If this notion had come upon me yesterday, I would have said something about being pounced upon while in a weakened condition.  As it happens, I’ve been laying the groundwork for this entry since last week, so having fallen prey to my conscience I can only concede that it has been sharpening its teeth and visiting the gym.

The attack happened shortly after I selected today’s pen to come into service.  Since I’m strangely obsessed with pens given to quiet reflection, the attack took the form of thinking about the various other pens this exemplar for the ages gave rise to.  From there, and here’s where the teeth and claws come into play, I went on to think of stuff I’ve said about those followers.  Let me give a couple of examples.  Of the “51” Special, for example, I have written:

Having tried both gold and Octanium points, I would say there is no functional difference between them in this pen.

And on the Hero 100:

It is very hard to tell the difference between using the example I own and one of the Parkers [I also tarring the 61 with the brush of comparison at the time].

I’ve said similar things in various fora regarding the powers of the Super 21, since it has the same stuff under the hood as the “51” Special.  Phrases like “identical performance” and “absolute functional similarity” get thrown about.

Now, conscience, having firmly clamped me in its jaws, whispered to me (it being a great ventriloquist), “Have you ever, in all honesty, tried them in direct and conscious comparison?  Is it not the case that you rely more on memory of one while using another?”

Well… damn it.  I can’t really swear that the latter wasn’t the case.  And so, rather than remain the chew-toy of conscience, I did the direct and conscious comparison, at the risk of having a week or two of rather bland and repetitive line-up shots.  Here they are, my test cases:

Marginal differences in appearance, but I imagine you’d be able to pick out the one that made off with your purse if pressed.  Those marginal differences translate, in use, into even more marginal differences in grip– I’ve mentioned before that I don’t insist on a pen conforming to my way of holding it, but such adjustments as I make from one to the other here are below the threshold of quantification so far as my tools of measurement go, and are very near the threshold of perception itself.

This means that such differences as are felt in their writing performance are not in me, but in the pens.  I sat down with them all beside me, and used them in rapid succession, in a variety of juxapositions.  You know what?

I was right!  In your face, conscience!  Had I been blind-folded and handed the pens to doodle with, I would not have been able to tell which was the almighty “51”, which its little brother, and which the alien pretender.  In fact, and I almost guarantee being put to the question by writing this aloud, the Hero is a little smoother than the “51”.

Do not, though, take that as a blanket statement– I will never endorse the proposition “Hero 100s are smoother pens than Parker “51”s”, because that green fellow is not the smoothest “51” I’ve got.  What we can take from this experience is that my statement of functional identicality is correct from one model to another, but breaks down when one starts considering the individual characteristics of a given pen.  Variation occurs within the tribes of “51”, “51” Special, Super “21”, Hero 100… and frankly any model of pen you care to name.  However, when one meets with a good example of, let us say, a hooded pen with a collector and a squeeze-filler, one is going to be hard pressed to tell from the way it puts ink onto a page just where it was made.

Speaking of conscience– the big sale starts with tomorrow’s entry, I have neither forgotten nor backed away from the commitment.  I’m busy dusting things and hanging posters even now, and all will be in readiness (assuming the Inquisition doesn’t push over too many items of furniture looking for the heretic).

Today’s pen: Parker “51″
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

p.s. – apologies for the “identicality” neologism.  “Identity” would have been correct, but lacked music.


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