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Archive for June, 2014

See-Saw (and see ya in two weeks)

Posted by Dirck on 20 June, 2014

It has been another one of those twenty-four hour periods in which I’ve experienced strange extremes of emotion.  Hearing that my brother’s girlfriend is getting a novel published produced joy, as she’s a very nice person and deserves all advancement, and wretched irrational envy, because the part of the psyche responsible for that sort of thing cannot be convinced that there’s not a limit on the amount of books that can be published.

Swinging the pendulum back to the bright side, I got a reply to a response I put down on the blog of one of the people who follows this screed of mine, in which I mention my habit of tipping the hat to corvids:

I think you are a type of person like John Steed from The Avengers, i thought he is that kind of typical person that also wave gently with his had to crows and ravens when they passed by

This is one of the nicest things uttered in my direction in a long time, especially as it was entirely innocent of the knowledge that one of my childhood television idols was…

JOHN STEED!!! (the Patrick Macnee original)

…this fellow.

However, this exchange also underlines a befuddling fact of modern existence: people follow my blog.  Even more astonishing, people have chosen to follow it since I started giving most entries over to Progress Reports!  I can’t get my head around it.

So, in the spirit of that befuddlement, and to give you all something to tide you over during my summer vacation (when “painting the bathroom” replaces “working on stories or having any real fun”, and a two week silence here, more or less), here are two extremely unconnected things lifted from Youtube, which bear within their boundaries both mirth and upset.

Today’s pen: Pelikan Signum
Today’s ink: Herbin Poussiére de Lune



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Posted by Dirck on 19 June, 2014

WHAT: Third draft of short story “Common Wall”; I have very nearly dug all the charred timbers out of the foundation, and there’s some sawing of the new joists begun, if I can stretch a metaphor into a funny shape.

HOW MUCH:  A couple of paragraphs of all-new material.  A lot of removals, re-arrangements, and amendments.  We’ll just have to see how the final word count compares to the second draft when I’m done.

HOW LONG: About 45 min.

And if I can step out of my set pattern for a moment: I don’t set up to be a “writing blog” by any means, but I will pass along some useful advice that I’ve gleaned from glancing at useful examples of such creatures.  The advice is this– let other people read your stories, and insist that they not be nice about them.  The holocaust which overtook “Common Wall” is a good thing, for all that it touches on my pride as a setter-forth of perfect gems of prose; the accelerant used in the destruction was insightful criticism.  Pages of it, almost more words than the story itself came to.  I’m profoundly grateful for it, and the story (and hopefully, everything else I ever write) will be better for it.

Today’s pen: Lamy Studio
Today’s ink: Diamine Syrah

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Posted by Dirck on 18 June, 2014

WHAT: Third draft of short stories “E Z Notes” and “Ring and Run”, plus some slack-jawed staring at the mass of notes attached to “Common Wall” which essentially boil down to “nice try, but you really need to take another run at this.”

HOW MUCH:  The first two, as yesterday’s, ready for a final vetting and submission.  I think I might be able to find the foundation for the other, but there’s all this rubble in the way.

HOW LONG: About 45 min.

Today’s pen: Pelikan P1
Today’s ink: Pelikan blue-black 

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Posted by Dirck on 17 June, 2014

WHAT: Third draft (which is to say, polishing and gilding) of short stories “Eyeing the Neighbours” and “Old 237”.

HOW MUCH: Both of ’em; the word count, given the nature of the exercise, is pointless

HOW LONG: About 35 min.  I have indeed whimped (sic) out on the second draft of “Yard Light” as I want to try and get an entry or two in for this thing, and I fear the amount of typing that one is going to call for.

…but I really need to get a College of Muses in special setting on the title of that first one.  “Eyeing the Neighbours” is sucky in an almost fractal way.

Today’s pen: Waterman 52
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis

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Here’s Hoping

Posted by Dirck on 16 June, 2014

I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the recent past that there’s a review I have been meaning to at, as soon as I remembered to process the pictures.

Well, it turns out it was “picture”, singular. I thought I’d snapped more.

No, I have not shown you this picture previously. It just looks rather like a lot of other pens.

What we have here is a bit of an enigma, and I have little to offer on it other than my own particular flavour of speculation.  The word, offered by none other than Dame Rumour herself, is that this is a company set up in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, and that the production was aimed at sales to the occupying forces.

I have no evidence for nor against this.  However, it doesn’t sit quite right, for a few reasons.  First, there’s the very notion of a new business setting itself up in wartime Holland.  Amsterdam, unlike Rotterdam, was not particularly worked over in the invasion, so it’s not an impossible prospect, but it seems likely that anyone doing so would be apt to be tarred with suspicion of collaboration even if they were not collaborating with the invaders.  That would make it hard to hire much of a workforce, if my father’s stories of the social forces in the Netherlands at the time are valid.  However, like certain current national governments, the Nazis were great friends to business, so it’s not absolutely out of the question.

With an eye specifically on pens, established makers in Germany like Pelikan and Montblanc were rather oppressed by the demands of the wartime economy, and it seems out of character for the Reich to smile upon an effort to set up new enterprises which weren’t given to at least nominally military goods.  If the target market were the Dutch population itself, it might be a little more likely, but since the Dutch population was having trouble getting enough to eat, the pen market was probably not so big.  There were the occupying forces, of course, but (1) they were busy with the occupation, (2) they also didn’t constitute a huge market (non-comms and other ranks got more mileage out of pencils, officers weren’t so thick upon the ground), and (3) I suspect they’d prefer a German pen, just to keep the Gestapo from asking pointed questions about loyalty.  One is led to believe this last item became extremely pointy as the war went on.

Then there’s the name– “espero” is Spanish for “I hope”, on the face of it a likely name for a company set up under the shadow of the Nazi eagle, and the sort of thing the Dutch have gotten up to since at least the time of Napoleon when very unlikely family names were offered to tax collectors (things like “of the Salmon” or “the Ribbon“– ridiculous!).  Spanish is a very odd choice, though, as if there’s any nation the Dutch have a historical grudge against, it’s Spain– the yuletide threat against naughty Dutch children is the prospect of being spirited off to Spain by the helper of St. Nicholas.  Now, this may have been a way to disguise subversion, and the same word is used in Portuguese, so this may be another front of speculation that can’t stand up to scrutiny, but I still harbour doubts.


“The better fountain pen made in the Netherlands”

There is, however, evidence that Espero is an actual Dutch company.  The image to the right is, according to the scanty information provided at the source, from March of 1949, so if the brand wasn’t wartime it might be a post-war employment builder like Merlin.  The slogan is a bit of a slag upon other Dutch pens, because the examples I’ve seen on the internet prompt one to ask, “Better than what, exactly?”  One may usefully compare Espero to Wearever of similar age; an exterior of perhaps slightly better than average attractiveness, filled with works that aspire to nearly being adequate.

The actual pen I had in hand, for example, is a generally robust button filler– it seems a reliable rig, but the whole inner mechanism was gone.  I don’t think it actually dissolved, but if someone took the trouble to shake it out, it can’t have been in good shape.  The clip is interesting, as it is mounted on a very flexible bit of steel in such a way that it can be opened like a clothes-pin, similar to earlier Conklins and the later Sheaffer Stylist.  However, that very flexible spring also gives a little tremulous feedback, as if it is only just holding itself together; “hope springs eternal” does not seem applicable in this case.  The plating is very nearly a res ipsa loquitur;  it might be gone merely due to a long and interesting career, but it’s more likely a result of having been no more than a couple of molecules thick.

The point… how can I hope to comment on it?  If this is a post-war rather than a wartime pen, it might be the original.  If the pen is pre-1945, though, it almost certainly can’t be– it’s of English manufacture, and the rules governing gold-use under the Nazis were essentially “Send it all to Goebbels; he’ll put it somewhere safe.”  Pelikan and Montblanc were having trouble getting any.  A start-up in Amsterdam was unlikely to get special dispensation.  Having said all that, it’s a delightful example of a loose flex point, and I was very happy to have a chance to play with it, however briefly.

And that’s about all I’ve got on the topic.  I hope I wasn’t too contrary, and I hope the owner of the pen enjoys it for a good long time.  Hopefully it’s such a tissue of nonsense that someone with firmly grounded facts will swing in to explain the truth of it all.  We live in hope!

Today’s pen: Cross Century II
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

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It’s Just Some Old Pen

Posted by Dirck on 13 June, 2014

Today’s Filched Friday Film is a nice little story about continuity of things across generations.

It even makes me feel a little bad about harsh comments I’ve passed about Montblanc.

Today’s pen: Stipula Passaporto
Today’s ink: Calamo Deep Blue

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Posted by Dirck on 12 June, 2014

WHAT: Second draft of short story “Yard Light”.  I’ve hope I’ve hired enough camels to get to the far side.

HOW MUCH: 883 words.  Well begun is half done, we’re told, but I don’t think I’m going to put much stock in that.

HOW LONG: About 40 min.

Today’s pen: Cross Century II
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

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Posted by Dirck on 11 June, 2014

WHAT: Second draft of short story “Story Time”.

HOW MUCH: 1,129 words

HOW LONG: About 55 min.  It’s nice to get one run out so fast– and next it’s the mighty labour of the second draft of “Yard Light” unless I whimp out and begin third drafts of some things in an effort to creep up on the cliff of submission.

Today’s pen: Waterman 52
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis

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Posted by Dirck on 10 June, 2014

WHAT: First draft of short story “Story Time”.

HOW MUCH: Five pages of manuscript, and that’s all it’s got in it.

HOW LONG: About 35 min., and the rest of the break spent on what I think is a bit of clever organization, in which I start a central note book to keep track of which stories are at what stage.  This includes, with some optimism, a space to show to whom and when they’ve been submitted.

Even more optimistically– I’m going to keep a separate book of the same sort for novels.  The past few months suggest that with a little ignoring of my… duty?… to the blog, I can get an awful lot of writing on paper (notice I don’t say “done”).

Today’s pen: Pelikan P1
Today’s ink: Pelikan blue-black 

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Posted by Dirck on 9 June, 2014

WHAT: First draft of short story “Story Time”.

HOW MUCH: Six pages of manuscript

HOW LONG: About 45 min., and in the face of many distractions. Where’s a garret when you need one?

Today’s pen: Lamy Studio
Today’s ink: Diamine Syrah

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