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Archive for December, 2015

The Desert Island, Part 3

Posted by Dirck on 31 December, 2015

Here we all are, once again staring Futurity in the elusive face, with many of us preparing for parties the purpose of which seems to be to blot out all memory of the past.  What better time to consider the Modern Pens of Desert Island than a day that prepares for a shift in what the word “modern” itself means?

As with yesterday’s list, I am working up in order of increasing attachment.  I also want to give an honourable mention to a pen that very nearly got into the list, and was for a long while getting ready to shove off pens which cost at least six times as much– the Pilot Metropolitan.  I could just as easily make this list one of six rather than five and give it proper recognition, because it really does punch above its weight… but I value symmetry, and if there’s five yesterday, then it’s five official entries today.

Also good for close combat, if cannibals come ashore

I have a slight qualm about the Parker 50 coming to the island, stemming from the reputation of the clip for flimsiness.  Other than that, though, it’s really a splendid pen and one well adapted to life under palm-fronds with it’s stainless-steel everything (except the clip).  It’s possible that if I had a chance to try out a Pilot MYU, I’d swap out this one for it, but perhaps not.  I definitely like the Falcon over Pilot’s even-more-similar Murex.

“Doesn’t that clip bother your fingers?” No.

Next, a pen which surprised me by bubbling along to the top of this list, because I never find myself casting lingering thoughts in its direction (see yesterday’s runner up for that sort of thing).  The VP is a darned good pen, for all I worry about crumbs going in its opening when I carry it around.  Not exciting, but smooth and reliable.  The fact that there’s no cap to drop into the sand on my island and lose forever doesn’t hurt, either; I’m not a constant booster of convenience, but I won’t actively work against it.

…hm? Sorry, didn’t mean to stare.

Can I truly be stranded on this island if I have a Carène?  Perhaps not, if I knew the French words for sail, mast, and compass….  In any event, this is a pen that I was actively trying to convince myself to sell during the really rough financial patch over the summer, because by itself it is actually worth some money and there is evidence on the auction site I decline to name today that people are willing to spend to get a second-hand model.  I couldn’t quite get that battle won– I don’t spend quite as much time in idle contemplation of its beauty as I do with the Parker 75, but I will gaze upon it for the simple satisfaction.  It might have run a little higher on this list if it weren’t quite so given to nib-creep.

Typical. Try to set up a new society, and someone has to insist on being called “Souverän”.

Do I cheat if I bring a pen which I can swap points on?  Possibly.  I can settle on just one if so, and I’d still bring this M600– I do not dream of an M800 or M1000, for I like my pens on the light side and the previous two items in this list carry enough heft for all the others.  This pen is carrying the flag for a lot of other Pelikans, too, because just about all that I own or have worked on made it through to the penultimate cut; I discover I really like this brand.

Who else can claim five decades of looking totally cool?

Another German pen tops to Moderns list, and apparently I and the invisible-handed Marketplace agree on this as a good choice of pen; the Lamy 2000 has, after all, been in production since 1966 with only marginal changes.  Good weight, good size, good writing, good capacity, easy basic maintenance, and as sturdy a pen as I know of– it’s not, depending on your personal preferences, a raving beauty, but it has the sort of rugged handsomeness that a few scars won’t injure.

That’s it for the desert island list.  I hope you all have a fine New Year’s Eve, if it hasn’t already swept over your time zone.  We’ll see you in the next calendar with more nonsense.

Today’s pen: OMAS Arte Italiana (because I’m partying like it’s 1959!)
Today’s ink: Herbin Lie de Thé (because it will enforce a little bit of consideration of the past in this reckless amble into the World of Tomorrow)



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The Desert Island, Part 2

Posted by Dirck on 30 December, 2015

Now that the matter of ink has been dealt with, let’s consider the pens to put it into.  I’m doing this in two phases, largely because I’m lazy and don’t want to work too hard today or tomorrow, and I’m dividing the selections into Vintage and Modern groups.  As with yesterday, this is a rough order of preference.  I am also leaving out of this consideration purely sentimental reasons– I have, for example, a couple of relatively early Parker Duofolds which are gifts and thus dear to me, but without that connection they’re not wonderful pens and so don’t follow me into my south Pacific exile.

I can also pretend it’s a space ship! VRROOOOSH!

I have said many times and in various places that I’m not a celebrant in the Church of The Divine and Perfect “51”, so it may come as something of a surprise to find it on this list at all.  While I don’t take any sense of the numinous from the Parker “51”, or at least no more than from any other decent pen, I will admit to its virtues.  They are, generally, very nice writers.  They are made of profoundly durable materials, particularly those made just after the switch to the Foto-Fil with Pli-Glass reservoir– the Aerometrics as they’re known to anyone who isn’t staring at period advertising.  They are, for those not too bound to the open point, handsome enough pens.  Thus, one gets to come along.

To be honest, the emerald or gold pearl would be my preference.

The Vacumatic lacks some of the points that sees its successor on this list.  They are not uncommonly durable.  To keep the filler working, I’d eventually need to open up The Professor’s old lab, find a tree that produced latex, and also figure out where on the island Kirk fought the Gorn so I could lay my hands on some sulfur for vulcanizing.  However, they are a very pretty pen, and even on an island paradise with its amazing sunsets and vibrant flora I perceive there will come a day when aesthetic satisfaction from the works of Man will be wanted.  Also, whatever powers of writing performance the “51” has it came by honestly as a descendant of the Vacumatic.  A Vacumatic was one of the first vintage pens I got my hands on, and I was shocked at how nice writing could feel.

Object of desire not exactly as shown

Frankly, there’s not much to tell between the Vacumatic and the Waterman Hundred Year Pen, and a casual observer may think I’m being redundant in this choice.  However, if I preface it by saying the Hundred Year I’d take is not the one shown here, I make a better defence.  No, what I’d want would be the early Lucite form of the beast, which gives it some of the durability of the “51” at least, and a taste of the visual splendor of the Vacumatic.  It also has a profoundly nice point, big enough to stand in for a shovel if pressed, and the sort of easy semi-flexible writing that a lot of pen enthusiasts dream of when they start considering the whole notion of vintage pens.

Here’s the runner-up

I believe I hear the slamming on of mental brakes.  “What’s this?  The Parker 75 isn’t vintage!  What is this guy at/on?!”  I can offer some persuasive arguments that the “51” isn’t vintage, either, but we’ll leave that aside for a moment.  I decided when I began compiling this list that I would set the cut-off line between Vintage and Modern in 1966*.  This is highly arbitrary, of course, but it’s based on what I view in my site’s history of pens as the beginning of the dark ages for fountain pens, and the end of a golden age seems as good a way to define “modern” as any other.  That it coincidentally also allows for the bench-mark of “older than me” which many hold dear was not (consciously) an element in the figuring.   Since there are a few years of production of the 75 before this utterly capricious watershed, and since those few years were full of what I find the most mesmerizing pen in the world, I’m setting it here.

And “mesmerizing” is the main reason for its inclusion.  It is a nice writer, certainly, but it’s also a pen that I can sit and look at for hours if no interruption offers.  What better bulwark against the growing tedium of island life than a means to escape reality entirely?  Even better– unlike a cask of rum or a crate of opium packed in crab tins, either of which my childhood reading suggests as possible wave-tossed salvage, staring idly at the pen won’t damage my organs.  There’s also a practical reason to choose this pen– it is at base a big lump of silver and gold, the sort of thing even a perfectly illiterate pirate might accept as payment for setting a castaway down at a port of some kind, the first step on the road back to civilization.

Number One in the countdown, “Prince” Valiant

I said at the outset that I wasn’t letting sentiment do the driving on this list, but I stand now at the threshold of hypocrisy.  This pen is here, in the final and premiere position on this list, because it fits into a space in my imagining of the world that describes the truest ideal of the notion of fountain pen… and if you think that’s a supremely irrational notion, I’m in total agreement.  I have deflected myself somewhat in this bowing to unreason, in that the slightly more oval profile of the previous vacuum-filling pens is even more correct a fit into that hole, but the mechanism in them is a persistent source of worry.  The early Touchdown gets the nod as most favoured vintage pen, then.  It is, also, at least as smooth and willing a writer as any of the other pens in this list; I’m not completely swayed by looks.

You will no doubt be wondering at the entire absence of thinks like the Duofold or the Balance, or a whole bunch of Waterman’s early output.  The last I can at least say respond to– do you really want to see a bunch of hard rubber pens exposed to the light and salt spray of an island paradise?  I can’t cower in my two-story bamboo mansion the whole time!  The others I can’t dismiss as easily.  Anyone who has taken the time to look through my site at length will find that I don’t have a lot of dismissal in me as far as fountain pens go.  The ones that are not here are absent not for any particular flaw, but from a combination of what I perceive as the strengths of these five, and of course for rather more subjective reasons of liking.

I’ll be applying the same dubious filters to modern pens tomorrow, just before I take my cask and crate of tins out to a party to see off the old year.  As with the previous entry, I don’t just leave the door open to commentary, I actively encourage it.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

*This policy is for the purpose of the current exercise only.  I remain as open on the idea of “vintage” as the link in the sentence this footnote hangs from suggests, and outside today and tomorrow will continue to dodge any attempt to pin down a specific date to attach to the idea.


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The Desert Island, Part 1

Posted by Dirck on 29 December, 2015

With the impending new year, I’m taking a little bit of time off from the creative writing to engage in some non-creative writing.

Wait… I don’t think I said that right.

Anyway, after the great cull of my pen horde in the September, I find myself occasionally turning over the idea of further reductions in the heap of pens that spend much of their time not being written with.  Inconclusive thoughts, certainly, and frequently transforming into more familiar fantasies of what glories a Waterman Edson or an Eversharp Decoband might bear if inserted into my life.  I’m certainly not planning another vast selling off, nor even moving a few things out.   Just… musing about a simplified roster.

So, in the great BBC tradition, I’ve decided to compose a variant of the Desert Island Discs list.  Were I to find myself tossed upon an unknown shore, what would I wish Fate to toss there as well to keep me happy in my Crusoe-like writing down of what the days there hold?  I’m starting with inks rather than pens to put them in, in part because without ink there’s little point to a pen, and in part because I am thinking more seriously about reducing the vast and slightly redundant heap of bottles I ponder over every time the need to refill comes upon me.

These are in ascending order of preference, so if there are any clever people looking at this and saying, “Oh, sure, but what if you could only have X-1 inks rather than X?” they can start lower on the list.

I know that the format of the BBC original allows to eight choices, but I’m not going to go so far.  With inks, I think four is enough to enjoy life well enough, and at the bottom of this short list is Diamine Evergreen.  I look upon this as a fine replacement for Montblanc’s lamented Racing Green, and it just nudges out Vert Empire by dint of its greater weight on the page.  I would hate to have no green ink at all, given its association with barking mad letters to the editor in England– the mental dissolution of the castaway is a well-known phenomenon, and it would be nice to give my eventual raving lunatic self a chance at full expression.

Lie de Thé makes the cut for two reasons.  First, it is far and away my favorite brown ink, with wonderful shading that nothing else on this list really offers.  Second, it is the one ink out of all of these likely to remain most legible after immersion.  I’m not too concerned about this aspect, since I envision my digs on the island being a water-tight palace of bamboo and palm-fronds (the name HOWELL likely visible, pyrographed onto a slab of driftwood above the door, and from the west window of the upper floor one might see a coconut shell and sisal gibbet still holding the remains of Gilligan), but if the notion of banging a note into a bottle ever overcomes me, this would be the ink to apply to the job.

Pelikan black comes along because sometimes one is simply overwhelmed by the urge to write in the most traditional of inks; “inky blackness” doesn’t get quite as much press these days as it once did, but it’s still a cliché for a reason.  Pelikan’s version of it is one of the more generally virtuous blacks, being quite dark and extremely willing to play along with most pens.

Jentle blue-black is an ink that I think I would chose as the last ink on Earth, were such a choice pressed upon me.  The sample doesn’t begin to hint at how well it looks on paper, especially a good paper like Rhodia or that stuff The Professor made out of Gilligan’s spare trousers after the latter stopped needing them.  It has the presence of a strong black, it has the illegitimate nostalgia of a brown, and I have yet to find a pen it doesn’t work in.

That’s it for the inks.  Tomorrow we’ll begin to think about pens.  I should mention that I welcome comments on this and its brother entries even more than is the usual state– I am curious to find what the drop-dead, last-ditch inks my readers would choose might be.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Cartridge (because, due to a distraction at a vital moment, I neglected something more interesting at home and this was waiting for me at work)
Today’s ink: Diamine Prussian Blue

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If Not Comfort, Then at Least Joy

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2015

Well, here we are at Scrooge Startling Day, hopefully all glowing with the anticipation of a happy tomorrow spent in the bosom of a family of however much extension one can manage.  I certainly am; for the past ten years, there have been three generations at my parent’s place, and for the past seven the same has been true at my in-laws, and we are as non-strife-seeking a pair of families as can well be imagined.

This year, there is a confusion in our plans, because in an act of what should be unnecessary charity, we will be bringing an outsider into the proceedings at both grand-parental abodes.  It’s the sort of thing that ought to get Dickens’s various haunts stirring their stumps, too, because the reason we are doing this is rather scandalous.

Our friend has had what I can only call a dismal year.  The financial problems which I occasionally touch on in my own case are the proverbial copes of lead in her case.  Single, she is not eligible for any of the provincial low income supplement programs; these are limited to low income families (I’ll mention that I am technically able to apply for at least one of these, but due to the gross household income being enough the adults present to be above the poverty line, it would be about $30/month at a cost of many hours/month of dealing with bureaucracy; it’s not exactly an open-handed set of programs).  She is working several part-time jobs in keeping with the current notions of employment, the combined income of which almost covers her rent… in a good month.  Because of the increased workload at the one retail job she has, the main and most regular employment, she finds her hours cut to a maximum of two hours per week, to make room for a load of temporary minimum-wage workers– rise up, o rise, you Dickensian spectres!

We add to this litany of financial woe her mother tipping into full dementia.  This landed her in a public care home (the lickpenny provincial government has not quite unwound the socialist works of the 1950s through 1970s so far as to do away with these institutions), where she may if in a state of relative coherence receive brief visits.  Thus, the friend’s traditional Christmas of spending the day with mom becomes impossible.  Her father, long estranged from mom, and his family live about 2,500 kilometres away, a distance she cannot pay to travel even if she were disinclined to spend whatever of tomorrow as she can with mom.

The most deeply scandalous element of this: there is other family here, diverse maternal aunts and uncles and their progeny.  Many of these people have money in excess of basic need, and a couple we might even call well-off.  They have decided to get together for Christmas… elsewhere.  Only a few hours drive away.  Friend was not invited.  I don’t know, and can’t gather the heart to ask, whether this is a stems from her being born as the result of a fling and never legitimized, if it’s just because she’s from the poor wing of the family and we don’t want their kind at our quasi-posh gathering, or if it is down to her father being black and they not.  I suppose one could imagine a smorgasbord of -isms at work and allow all of the above reasons to have some influence in the affair, life being the rich tapestry that it is.  She can’t just turn up where they are and see if they stand by the exclusion, because she’s too poor to have a car; this would otherwise be what I would urge, because then they’d have to actively tell her to go away rather than just passively neglect her, and that might actually activate some consciences.

Thus, my own Christmas travels grow some curlicues, which I italicize in this roster of waypoints:

  • Take wife and son to her parents’ house;
  • After collecting friend;
  • Enjoy a morning at the in-laws (an unironic phrase);
  • Deposit friend at the care home;
  • Enjoy afternoon at my parents’ place;
  • Then collect friend from care home, unless her visit extends beyond…;
  • The devouring of the traditional Christmas Roast Beast;
  • Which would then see friend collected to be fed left-overs;
  • …and home for my merry little family to settle gifts in the house* and loll in post-prandial torpor;
  • …possibly with friend who would then need to be taken home later.

The selfish brute in me grumbles at the inconvenience of all this to-and-fro.  However, I quell that beast with a mental image of friend stuck in her over-priced apartment, casting glances alternately at the snowy terrain beyond the window, a picture of her and mom in a better time, and the cat toys she hasn’t cleared away after the death of her pet at the end of spring (a hard year indeed).  If she didn’t get suicidal from that, I would from imagining it, and my parents’ new digs offer a fifteenth floor balcony as a temptation to the despondent.

Grim jesting aside, how could one avoid the torments of the Spirit of Christmas Past for all the years to come if one left someone in a lurch like that?  Whatever one’s faith, this season is about enhancing the quantum of joy and human fellowship, and happily all the families involved agree with this sentiment*.  So, as you sit down to your own Christmas dinner, be it Roast Beast or Who Hash, spare a moment of reflection about your power to enhance the lives of others.  It is, really, the whole point of being here.

Now, if that hasn’t put you in too blue a mood, and you’re interested in the old English tradition of being gently frightened at Christmas**, here’s Annie Lennox out caroling:

…and to finish with a grin– the same tune, slightly altered.

Today’s pen: Parker 75 (I indulge myself– tomorrow it’s the OMAS Arte Italiana)
Today’s ink: Quink Black (to balance the indulgence)

* My father, who as I have mentioned before spent his formative years in an only intermittently exciting zone of one of the most destructive wars in the whole of history, suggested about a month ago that money that might be spent on adult gifts be given instead to the organizations smoothing the arrival of Syrian refugees in this country.  Gifts for the kids remain, because their lives are among the ones we all mean to enhance, but we are carrying the principle of mankind as our business unusually far this year.

** In a similar vein– here’s the latest on the fiction side of things, that wee flash I mentioned a couple of progress reports back.

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Posted by Dirck on 23 December, 2015

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 21 December
  • 22 December
  • 23 December
  • First draft of “All the Old Familiar Faces”.
  • First draft completed.
  • Third draft of “Old Home Week”.
  • Seven pages.
  • Three pages.
  • All amendments
  • 55 min.
  • 35 min.
  • 40 min.

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Too Many Notes

Posted by Dirck on 18 December, 2015

Here’s a little something to make the frantic descent into next week’s jollity a little more tolerable.

I am actually planning to do more than this and progress reports here in the next couple of weeks, despite fears of what this will do to keeping up with the fictions.  Stand by for opining!

Today’s pen: Platinum PKB-2000
Today’s ink: Montblanc Royal Blue

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Posted by Dirck on 17 December, 2015

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 14 December
  • 15 December
  • 16 December
  • 17 December
  • First draft of a silly little seasonal flash item, and more or less the second draft, too.
  • Third draft of the previous, because my readers are wonderful, willing people.
  • First draft of “All the Old Familiar Faces”.
  • Some non-fiction stuff that was demanding my attention, and preparation for a new roll-out of fiction.
  • 944 words typed.
  • Two problematic paragraphs.
  • Six pages.
  • Three pages.
  • 55 min.
  • 50 min.
  • 40 min.
  • 25 min

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Put on a Happy Face!

Posted by Dirck on 11 December, 2015

The migraine is trying to make me glum today.  I respond thus:

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling better.

Today’s pen: Platinum PKB-2000
Today’s ink: Montblanc Royal Blue

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Posted by Dirck on 10 December, 2015

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 7 December
  • 8 December
  • 9 December
  • 10 December
  • First draft of “All the Old Familiar Faces.”
  • The same.
  • “.
  • …and some cries of “why won’t they all just leave me alone?”  Oh, for the quiet of The Overlook.
  • Seven manuscript pages.
  • Six pages.
  • Six pages.
  • Three pages.
  • 55 min.
  • 50 min.
  • 40 min.
  • 25 min

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Wait At Least 1 Hour After Eating

Posted by Dirck on 4 December, 2015

I have been unwell the past week, something I attribute to a greater than usual burden of stress at The Regular Job; the lack of progress report yesterday is a result of me taking three days to tap out the last 150 words or so of the story between prolonged sniffles.  Since we are on the very edge of the feast of St. Nicholas, I thought I might offer a Found Film which shows not only the consequences of uncharitable behaviour in this festive season, but also very much the activity in my lungs on Tuesday afternoon at the height of the crisis:

I’m feeling much better now.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Snorkel Sovereign
Today’s ink: Montblanc Racing Green

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