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Archive for September, 2015

Light Speed (Slower than the Eye)

Posted by Dirck on 25 September, 2015

The only thing this week’s lifted film has to offer is REALLY COOL SCIENCE!

I’m a fan of abstract knowledge, so I’m glad we now know how to do this against a day when we might need to know how to do this.

Today’s geologically slow pen: Italix Parson’s Essential
Today’s ink, hopeful for peaceful uses: Diamine Evergreen

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Posted by Dirck on 24 September, 2015

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 21 September
  • 22 September
  • 23 September
  • 24 September
  • A free lunch (yet I grumble)
  • Second draft of “Old Home Week”.
  • The same.
  • So near the end….
  • Not a metaphoric sausage
  • 1,036 words typed.
  • 978 words.
  • 1,041 words.
  • 65 min.
  • 35 min.
  • 35 min.
  • 40 min.

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RE: Blaming Tools

Posted by Dirck on 18 September, 2015

It’s been a while since the Friday Film Feature was about pen-use.  Time to fix that.

And yes, before anyone points it out, there was a ballpoint in there.  That’s a pretty non-traditional grip in use, too, although it says “art” more than it does “writing.”

Today’s slightly jealous pen: Sheaffer Targa
Today’s ink, feeling it hasn’t been living properly: Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku

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Posted by Dirck on 17 September, 2015

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 15 September
  • 16 September
  • 17 September
  • Second draft of “Old Home Week”.
  • The same.
  • …and again.
  • 1,366 words typed.
  • 384 words.
  • 1,008 words.
  • 50 min.
  • 15 min.
  • 35 min.

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The Life Anachronistic

Posted by Dirck on 16 September, 2015

This week I joined a bunch of people in reading this article by Sarah Chrisman, in which a woman apparently in command of her faculties describes her decision to adopt the lifestyle of a latter part of the Victorian era.  As a fellow who consciously adopts some of the ways of the middle of the 20th century, I appreciate the depth of her commitment to a way of living which does away with a lot of conveniences, and I think that the important lesson for us all to take from the article is this:

Much of modern technology has become a collection of magic black boxes: Push a button and light happens, push another button and heat happens, and so on. The systems that dominate people’s lives have become so opaque that few Americans have even the foggiest notion what makes most of the items they touch every day work — and trying to repair them would nullify the warranty.

I also, because I came to the article in question via Facebook, read an article responding to the first which… is pretty venomous, in all honesty.  It’s here, and I’ll warn sensitive readers that it’s rife with extremely modern sailor-talk, and it wasn’t the only place where this sort of reaction occurred– a snapshot of Twitter also provides some sense of the anger engendered by the original article.

I can understand some of the reaction.  We’ll dismiss at once a certain amount of mere jealousy at having the funds to pull off an all-Victorian life, a jealousy I’ll admit to sharing.  When reasons for the outpouring of anger appear, they usually take the form of an accusation of wearing either blinkers or rose-coloured glasses regarding the era.  It is true that the comfortable upwardly-mobile lifestyle Chrisman and her husband have taken up was built on an awful lot of backs, from the pitmen of the Ayrshire coal mines to the colonized people of what is now Zimbabwe.  I would certainly chastise them myself if they were calling for a return to the politics of the time they take their physical comforts from.  I did not, though, notice that as being the case.  There’s an awful lot of assumption going on in the minds of those hurling accusations.  Assumptions, as we all know, are problematic.

Let me personalize this for a moment (because this modern age is firmly founded upon “How does this effect me?”), by reminding my readers how I conduct myself.  I wear, for preference, three-piece suits.  If I could arrange to get my entire wardrobe from 1947, I’d be a very happy guy indeed.  I keep my hair cut short.   I write with fountain pens.  I enjoy sending and receiving actual, physical mail.  My wife does not work outside the house.

Assume on that for a moment.  I’m living some sort of deranged Mad Men first season fantasy, and forcing my wife into drudgery… right?  I must long for a day when everyone knew their place, when the civil rights movement had not had any effect in North America, and when a beefy white guy could settle into his armchair, pipe firmly clamped in his teeth, and reflect upon how great it was to be a beefy white guy without a trace of guilt or shame.

Hogwash.  As Chrisman’s article indicates, this is how that era is viewed from now.  Orwell and Huxley were writing their dystopian warnings in that setting (in fact, Huxley’s Brave New World was written in the ’30s– in the time I’m mostly emulating, he was adding a “holy crap, this is happening faster than I’d expected” foreword to the new edition), and there was a sufficient power of political differentiation in people’s heads to allow the election of low-key Socialist governments even in the face of a serious threat from Communism… or at least the Marxist-Leninist expression of Communism.  There were activists for women’s and minority’s rights at the same time as there was a House Un-American Activities Committee, and indeed even at the same time as the unamused Hanoverian rump of Victoria Regina was planted upon the throne of England.  One need only look at Fox News or (shudder) the New Observer to see that there’s some pretty retrograde ideas loose even in our own enlightened day, and one need only look down the back of one’s own shirt to see a tag suggestive that there’s still plenty of oppression of the third world.

More to the point, though, is the idea that saying “I dig this houndstooth” is not the same as saying “I hate {insert racial epithet here; I’m not providing one}”.  I can’t speak for Chrisman, but I am certainly aware of the less laudable aspects of the era I emulate.  I can quite happily say yes to a double-breasted suit with the very same breath as I say, with full awareness of the underlying nuances, Black Lives Matter.  I choose aspects of the past, and I firmly reject others.  My wife doesn’t work outside the house because she has the right to decide this for herself (that decision is somewhat health-driven, but it’s still hers), not because I think it’s some sort of Ozzie and Harriet ideal is either wise or attainable.  Now, I’m not as thoroughly immersed as Chrisman, and I won’t assume her inward state in the same way (if in a different direction) as the Twitter-haters, but I suspect that she can reconcile “I wear ankle-length skirts” with “I get to vote” just as easily as I can.

Something which this whole foofahrah brings to mind is the baffling degree to which people in our purportedly enlightened age feel threatened by those who live somewhat out of step.  As I say, I’m less immersed than Chrisman, and thus stand out less, but I don’t have to think too hard to bring to mind the last time some goober hung out the window of his chum’s vehicle and shouted some variation of “your hat looks dumb!”  Subjective opinion, of course, because I feel exactly the same about the beer- or car-advertising ball-cap the shouter invariably is wearing, but the difference is I’m not moved to scream at the wearer.  It is an honest source of befuddlement to me that in a world where there is finally a groundswell of support for LGBQT people, where there is at least the beginning of the dialogue needed to address the imbalance of rights bound up with notions of race, where so much headway has been made in rendering ridiculous the more repellent attitudes of the previous two centuries, that someone’s decision to dress olden-timey gets so far under some people’s skin.  Chrisman refers to this at the end of her article, anticipating the tirades the article would bring on.

Honestly now– how does it hurt you if someone wears a broad-brimmed fedora that matches his suit?  What injury do you suffer if someone uses an open-wick kerosene space heater in preference to a 97.3% efficient furnace (especially if, if you’re about to shout “global climate change,” the same someone never uses a car)?  The hat may look silly, the heater may be a fire hazard, but there’s no suggestion by the user that anyone else should or must take them on.  The reaction reminds me of a monkey flipping out when it’s shown a rubber snake, except snakes can be dangerous and monkeys don’t know about joke shops.

The only basis for it I can think of, and I suspect I’m trying to impose reason on something that is founded in irrationality, is connected to something else Chrisman mentions:

…[A]nyone can benefit from choices that increase their awareness of their surroundings and the way things they use every day affect them.

Can it be that the anger comes from the mere suggestion that people think about all the effort that lies behind whatever comfort their life contains?  Is there such dismay at being presented with a symbolic indication that the iPhone did not spring up out of the shop counter, such angst that the light in the bulb is an effect whose cause is not merely the flicking of a switch?  I almost hope that’s the case.  The provoking of thought is a provocation I’m happy to engage in.

Today’s pen (which, if you want to impute things, hit the market during the Summer of Love):  Parker 65
Today’s ink (probably not a commentary on the role of the Versailles Treaty in setting the stage for the disastrous selection of Germany’s Chancellor in 1933): Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Now I’ve Gone and Done It.

Posted by Dirck on 14 September, 2015

Well.

{Pauses, panting, to wipe cold sweat from brow}

Now I’m committed.  I’m so far committed, in fact, that I’m actually using my name on my WordPress ID, an act that upsets me more deeply than I can express.  I’ve been online since… well, 1983 is when we got the 300 baud modem for the Apple IIe, and it has always been the case for dinosaurs of my era that you just don’t tell the connected world who you are.

This becomes self-defeating, of course, when one throws open a new site which has as its entire point to connect one’s name to the fictions one invents.  Which I’ve just done, and I’ve done it in such a tentative and hesitant way that I’ve likely done myself more injury than benefit.  Those who follow me here will find only one item not already found on one of the sub-headings here, and how dull is that?

{Eyes dart in search of an escape door which the conscious mind knows is only metaphorical}

But it’s done.  Once my adrenal glands are exhausted, I’m sure I’ll be quite pleased with the result.

Right?

Today’s trembing pen: Sheaffer Targa
Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku

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Moonlit Romance

Posted by Dirck on 11 September, 2015

I started out calling this Friday Film Folly “To the MOON, Alice!”, but I never find myself longing for the days when it was thought comedic to threaten to punch your wife as hard as you could.  Nuts to you, Kramden.

I do, however, find myself occasionally wanting to send a cat to the moon.  One specific, subtly brain-damaged cat, without whom our house would smell oh, so much sweeter.  However, funding, physics and (in the driver’s seat) morality prevent this, so I’ll have to stick with this rather nice little object.

Not only does it have some very subtle overtones of Lovecraft, it references the word I was so caught on yesterday.  Now, back to work on prepping.  Dig, dig, dig!

Today’s pen: TWSBI Vac 700
Today’s ink: Diamine Sargasso Sea

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Prep Cook

Posted by Dirck on 10 September, 2015

The latter word in today’s title describes what I’ve been doing with my brain this week.  The former explains why and how.  Over last weekend, while smashing my body with physical effort, I was also engaged in serious cognition regarding last week’s open question about possible means of getting money out of my art without having to be the most impressive thing wriggling around in a slush pile.  About the time I put down the last box, I had ground around to a conclusion.  I’ll get a separate venue set up for presenting my writing to the world, and once it’s ready for launch, I’ll tether a link to a Patreon account to it.  This week has seen me working up that new site, putting a final polish on a few stories, getting them into the shot-locker for present publication.

Part of the consideration ran thus:  While I am in need of money, there is satisfaction in the same genus, or perhaps order, as that derived from living in a city of many trees, if not quite the same species, to be taken from writing.  Writing for one’s own amusement, tapping out a nice little yarn and then stuffing it down the back of a drawer, offers a taste of that satisfaction, but it is, if I can merely allude to a metaphor, an unconsummated satisfaction.  Certainly, the first months of knocking out this blog (a word I still dislike, after all these years) were done with a sense of merely listening to my own head roar, but the discovery that actual people were casting their actual eyeballs over the words I was stringing together put the thing on an entirely different level.

It also introduced a foolish sense of duty to others in what had been a simple distraction, but that’s about flaws in my own make-up.  Let’s press on.

Consummation.  Writing is not fully formed until it is read.  This is only partially brought about by handing things to beta-readers at various removes; they’re looking for problems, after all.  Gliding within sight of my metaphor, there is a difference between disrobing in the doctor’s office and ditching the bathrobe at in the honeymoon suite.  So, whether Patreon produces the proverbial plug nickel or not, I will at least be reaching the ultimate phase of the writing act.  I am gratified by having some people in the fountain pen fora say, “That guy knows some stuff about pens,” and I hope I can look forward to more gratification from hearing (although I’m not sure where) “That guy gives the occasional literary shudder, doesn’t he?”

As a side-benefit, this sort of shaking of the money-maker whether it makes any money or not can, theoretically, give a little extra lustre to things I fling at future slush piles.  Or so I’m told.  It’s a comforting illusion, at least.

This means that sometime in the very near future, possibly even next week if I don’t lose my nerve, I’ll be making an announcement of the new venue’s opening on these pages.  It may also see the progress reports go by the board, although I still think there’s a role for them in keeping me honest in my creative labours… and they help me keep track of what pens I’ve been using, which assists in choosing the next subject for use.

Today’s pen (last used in January): Sheaffer Targa
Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku

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Demurral

Posted by Dirck on 9 September, 2015

Just a quick note; I was reading this item in the “Freshly Pressed” bin of WordPress, and I happened upon this (the italic emphasis is mine):

Writing is always dictated by the tools we use. Runes developed because straight lines are so much easier to carve in stone or onto bone. Roman inscriptions are all in big CAPITALS because they’re easier to carve. When quills and ink were developed, writing got curlier, but it was still slow because, as anyone who’s written with a fountain pen will know, you can’t go up without the ink splattering, so letters were formed carefully, using a series of strokes, rather than in one long scrawl (like my writing with a biro, which is possible because of the flexibility afforded by the ballpoint).

This is absolutely aside the point the author is trying to make, so I won’t clutter up the response feed with my own nit-pickery… but I need to make a noise or I’ll damage my nerd gland.  The behaviour described is almost never seen in fountain pens; it’s likely in dip pens, in the hands of those unused to them, and can be wrung out of a fountain pen by holding it upside-down and a little sideways.

There.  The pressure is off the gland.  All’s well.  The rest of the article is jolly interesting; I urge reading it, even if it does have horrifying ballpoint propaganda lodged in one paragraph.

Today’s non-splattering pen: OMAS Arte Italiana
Today’s carefully-distributed ink: Jentle blue-black

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It’s in the Trees!

Posted by Dirck on 8 September, 2015

Labour Day this year was more than usually labour-intensive.  My parents have moved out of the house they’ve occupied since 1968, and this weekend saw the… pre-penultimate push, as it turns out, of getting the decades of accumulated “hey, that might be useful later” out of the place.  Among these items was a post-card, which I took with me to a foreign country as the thing I’d send on arrival to prove I’d gotten off the plane intact.

“Having fun, don’t you wish you were here too?” has never been written on the back of this image.

I have never understood how anyone could have chartered a plane, taken a bunch of pictures from it, and looking at the results said, “Ah, that’s the one for the tourists!” because it not only suggests a very pokey Central Business District (true, and something city council has been working on since the late 1970s) and a train-centric geography (also somewhat true– lacking a major river, we’ve made it hard to get across the city by artificial means), but it only hints at one of the things this city should be justly proud of.

Happily, the parents’ new digs are well up in a high-rise, so I can get my own camera to sufficient altitude to give a sense of this city’s greatest asset.  Have a look.

Welcome to Dunsinane, everyone!

Welcome to Dunsinane, everyone!  I’ll let Mr. MacBeth know you’re here!

Some people will say, “Trees. Big deal.”  Fair enough.  However, what you’re looking at there is actually the city in which I live, and which in the department of trees is something I think most cities should seek to emulate.  This is not to say that I think no other cities have trees, but I know many urban environments that are a little shy in the greenery department.  Let’s pull the camera back a touch, and then I’ll explain myself a little further.

Say, that's not Birnam Wood.

Say, that’s not Birnam Wood.

It’s a little more obviously inhabited at this magnification.  What’s also evident, up towards the top of this shot, is that when you run out of city, you run out of trees.  This city is smack in the middle of a vast steppe, and it was once said that every tree here was planted by someone.  This is no longer the case, as there’s some objects in my own back yard that got there in the usual way of nature (and weren’t there when we moved in), but it’s definitely a case of one invasive species bringing other with it.

I should also own up to this photo being taken from relatively near the edge of the city, and looking outward rather then towards the wonderful collection of roof-bearing items in the post-card.  That’s because I could stand on a balcony to take this, while the view towards city centre has some window-screen interference.  However, since we’re not here for art particularly, let’s have a look at a panorama of the west, north and north-east parts of my home town, c. within the past month.

Regina Trees 4Regina Trees 5
Regina Trees 6

The oil refinery really makes the place, doesn’t it?  One of the reasons I started with the angle I did is that the foreground for all of these is a vast park that takes up something like a five percent of the area of the city.  However, you can’t really see where the park ends and the standard detached single-family dwellings that make up the most of the city’s footprint begin, because a yard without a tree is hardly to be found.  Consider also that the spacing of those dwellings is considered by people from many other places in North America to be scandalously tight– I’ve never lived in a house that was more than two metres from its neighbour, and it’s not hard to find places in the more tree-intensive parts of town, the old and established places just south-west of the horrid-looking post-card, where you can walk between houses and keep a hand on each of them without straightening your elbows.  I watch with amazement house-finding shows in which people look out a window across a space sufficient for three tennis courts and lament at how close the next house over is.

My point, because I admit I wander a little: trees are awesome.  I love living in a city in which it is hard to tell from a low altitude that there is a city.  I think that this vast forest, made by people, is what keeps the people here as tolerable as they are.  I’m not alone in this opinion, and I could wish the whole world’s population could spend at least part of the year under a nice leafy canopy like the one I’m lucky enough to get non-fiduciary benefits from for nearly six months of the year.

In about a week, I’ll be grumbling at how they’ve all shed their leaves too early, the deciduous cowards.

Today’s touchy-feely pen:  Parker 65
Today’s earth-toned ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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