Posts Tagged ‘Cross’
Posted by Dirck on 14 April, 2016
Posted by Dirck on 8 April, 2016
I would be comfortable betting that most of the people who look in here are fans of craftsmanship in its general meaning. With that in mind, here’s a little bit of pornography which is entirely safe for work. Heck, you could share it with your kids and no prude in the world would say “boo” about it.
Isn’t that astonishing?
Posted by Dirck on 31 March, 2016
Posted by Dirck on 24 March, 2016
Another new development in the past two weeks– I’m writing not merely to get the stories down, but to externally-imposed deadlines. “Wildenklausen” and “The Loss of Deep Waters” are aimed at two different anthologies, both of which close at the end of April. This is not a very tight pair of deadlines, admittedly, but it’s a good deal more pressure than what has been my usual practice of getting the thing written briskly but comfortably, for eventual presentation. I think I’m enjoying it. Probably.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Posted by Dirck on 3 June, 2014
I’m distracting myself from finishing that damned story, but I made a promise to my wife I’d get this entry out while the effect was still fresh. It’s a movie review without reference to any other reviewers work, regarding something that’s still in the theatres. I’m probably in over my head.
But first, a word on the combination of logistics and the effect of expectations. My wife and I have not been to a movie together and unaccompanied since the decent but slightly silly The Happening. My son appeared shortly thereafter, and because we got a late start on child-bearing and keep odd company, we’d no one to look to for babysitting– friends either physically distant, past the screeching infant phase of their lives, or not inclined to deal with such things in the first place, and parents too old for the pressure. However, with the lad’s sixth birthday impending, he’s reached an age when the beginnings of civilized behaviour are starting to appear. This means that we sometimes think it might be safe for his grandparents to be left alone with him for an hour or two; like the cats, they’re not to be rubbed the wrong way, folded, or hurled onto the roof. And that means we can look at going to a film.
But the first film seen in six years is going to have unfair expectations set against it, right? Or rather– the first film for which the vast heaps of treasure are paid out for the privilege of seeing it in a first run theatre. We’re not hermits. Anyway, that’s the context of what follows.
We went to see Godzilla. I’d also run expectations up on the foundation of the ads. It was, to look at those, a proper Godzilla film, as opposed to the 1998 foolishness (which, because I am a devil and an idiot, we had gone to while on our honeymoon; thank heavens Jean Reno was in the cast). Godzilla as an impossibly huge, atom-powered, semi-allegory, rather than a hermaphroditic Bruce Campbell caricature with a fondness for fish. I was excited, and my wife wanted to see me giggling with glee at the action.
And there’s the first problem. Action. There is action, to be sure, but it is interspersed with such deserts of not-action that by the time if comes around, all your blood has pooled in your feet. Holllywood apparently doesn’t quite get how to make a proper kaiju film, and the problem appears to be this– they think it’s a disaster film. There are similarities, in that something terrible happens on a rather large scale. However, the central hook of the disaster film (and, to my taste, central failing) is the fates of the people caught up in it. We have tragic swimming, leaping across chasms, pinnings under heavy things, immolations, but it’s all at the scale of humans. Kaiju films do not work at this scale, because what we’re there for is, at that scale, a mere toenail briefly filling the background. The closest approach to doing kaiju right with that sort of approach was Cloverfield, and when I say closest I mean the best possible, ever, and any further attempts should be shelved as a waste of time and effort. I liked Cloverfield, and I suspect the reason I like it and not this new Godzilla is that it isn’t Godzilla and there’s rather fewer contrivances demanded to keep the human characters in the action.
Well, to be fair, there’s two big contrivances, and at this point I’m going to start waving spoilers around rather freely. One is that the son of The Only Man Who Understands What’s Happening is a highly trained soldier with enough freedom and loose cash to visit Japan at a moment’s notice, and thus get initially inducted into the action. The other is that his efforts to get home to his wife and son are constantly derailed by the appearance of the various monsters who seem to be following the same route as he is. By the end of the film, I leaned over an whispered to my wife, “Obviously, the problem is that the monsters don’t like that guy. They should run him out to sea on a raft, and the problem is solved.”
Putting the emphasis on the human face of the drama also apparently required Hollywood to turn on the saccharine spigots. Our central protagonist (who is not, to our bitter disappointment, Bryan Cranston, whose absence from most of the film is bad news indeed) has a wife and child, and as you might guess, they are frequently menaced with the possibility of squishing during the supposed climax. However, not content with this particular use of the cliche, protagonist also finds himself in loco parentis to a Japanese kid in short pants during an earlier rampage– as obvious a reference to the noxious Kenny of Gamera and some of the more kid-friendly Godzilla films of the late 1960s and early ’70s as one could fear. But wait! There’s more! A sweet innocent little girl is threatened by a tsunami which somewhat inexplicably accompany’s Godzilla’s big entry. The same tsunami also menaces a helpless doggie, just in case your pancreas was still working. It’s an almost Spielberg level of unnecessary emotional manipulation, although Spielberg is usually a little better at making it work.
Adding to my complaints is a sort of running gag nuclear countdown– a device meant to put an end to the monster menace by blowing up in their faces, which one of them steals and inconveniently embeds in San Francisco. The exact yield of the item is never specified, but it’s some number of megatons, which means it’s a really big explosion when it goes off. Our intrepid protagonist volunteers to join the squad tasked with either de-activating it or getting it far enough out to sea that it won’t destroy the city. When the squad arrives at it, it is down what the 3D glasses suggested was a very deep hole indeed. There’s 27 minutes left on the clock, and the access panel is sticking a little. Personally, I look for a crowbar, but the decision is made for six guys to carry this very heavy object out of the very deep hole, at least a kilometer to the seafront, put it on a tour boat, hotwire the boat, and… get rescued by a deus ex helicopter. All of which happens, at least for the protagonist; his buddies Pay The Ultimate Price, somewhat predictably.
I have to imagine that the hole was not as profound as it looked for this to work at all. However, when the boat gets up and running, there are five minutes on the clock. If it were the sort of boat that can do 100km/h, the bomb could be gotten… nothing like far enough away. The boat is the sort that probably glows with pride if it manages 40km/h with a following tide. And yet, the city is saved, in so much as only some of it was rolled around on by huge monsters. It’s the one thing too much to swallow (and I gleefully accepted the Traditional Nonsense Science Exposition scene about the end of Act I).
Gripes also about the monsters, but minor ones. The central gripe is that we hardly get to see them at their tussles. The action is implied by wreckage. It is obscured by swirling dust. It is shown diminished on a background television, which brushed up against an insult to the audience. If the few clear looks we’re given of the actual monster wrasslin’ is anything to go by, there was the potential here for a proper Godzilla movie. The fact that it hints at the potential without ever really engaging it is enough to make a fan like me a little angry. That the monsters are not extremely overheated stuntmen in heavy suits who are stumbling around a large model city is small potatoes next to that; the computer effects were quite good, to be honest, but whatever element in the human brain is that detects fakery was not fooled. The addition of 3D to the pot was really neither here nor there– as was the case in the ’50s and the ’80s, when there were also 3D movies, it’s a mere condiment, and easily lost in the face of miscarried storytelling.
I guess it really comes down to pacing. If this film were 95 minutes long rather than 125, and that reduction were at the expense of protagonist getting to and from places and the general, “Oh, who will save the little doggie?!” junk, this could be a cracking good example of a Godzilla movie. As it is, I’m hard pressed to recommend even waiting for it on video. Get thee to a place of renting GMK: All Out Monster Attack, or any of the Gamera films of the late 1990s; they’re kaiju films made by people who know how.
p.s. I know there’s at one reader here waiting for me to comment on a specific pen, which I long since should have done; it’s down to getting the pictures processed, which I appear to be developing some kind of hysterical blindness about. Soon.
Posted by Dirck on 27 May, 2014
Unless referring to the pounds per square inch of atmospheric pressure one is experiencing, or the size of the hole in centimeters one had just discovered is newly made in one’s body, 38.1 is not a big number. And yet, just before Sunday night became Monday morning, I found it was a number with profound ramifications.
It was, it turned out, my internal temperature. In Celcius degrees, because that’s how we rôle here in Canada.
The majority of the world, used to metric, will be shaking their heads at this point, but I’ll do the conversion for those still labouring in the Fahrenheit mines– that’s not quite 101°. Not great, from a health standpoint, but certainly not life threatening. And yet, I crept out of bed, quivering and with the sense that the skin on my head had been replaced with over-roasted gila monsters. I wished I were drenched in sweat.
The next six hours were spent sitting up in an armchair, wishing for sleep, an effective febrifuge, and someone else to bring me more juice, all the while having my intelligence subtly insulted by Hollywood and its herald, Netflix. Shortly after dawn, I put on a brave face so as to not alarm my son, drank more juice while he was made ready for school, and then collapsed into a heap that eventually became a sleeping human. At some point, I remembered how to sweat.
I’m fine today. A little hoarse, but otherwise asymptomatic, and absolutely without notion of where the infection came from. If it was the same thing that made my son sneeze a few times last week, then either my immune system is in extremely poor shape or he was meant for delivery in Sparta (I suspect the latter, given some of his recent Feats of Strength, like “push the shopping cart at a fast walking pace while Daddy clings to the front acting as a brake”).
And the reason I share all this is to explain my absence yesterday. I was, in most senses of the phrase, out of it. It wasn’t until I was leaving for work this morning that I even noticed yesterday’s mail had included an expected client’s pen. Good thing, too– if I had seen it yesterday, I might given into the urge to handle a pre-celluloid pen while in an incompetent state. What a chilling thought!
(ed. note: [sic] to “rôle” because I’m still giddy enough to think that’s either clever or funny)
Posted by Dirck on 20 December, 2013
The weekend before Christmas, and what do we do? We watch Alastair Sim, as it’s less rough on the Whos.
…and when I was looking for something to stick up here in that line, I found a perfectly terrifying overlap of two favourites– Alastair Sim making Scrooge noises, but not in the usual shape, as he’s being animated by Chuck Jones. How did I not know about this before?
Now, to finish the shopping….
Posted by Dirck on 17 July, 2013
If one presses me to describe myself in terms of religion, I will usually say I’m a Buddhist. Some Buddhists disclaim it was a religion, preferring to use “philosophy” to describe it, but it fits etymologically as a religion in as much as it brings clumps of people together to pursue a given philosophy in, with allowance for sectarian variation, the same way.
If pressed further, I’ll own being not very good at Buddhism. I’m far from a vegetarian, I have habits of acquisitiveness and covetousness, and I will happily put alcohol in my system. I even carried an ant out of the house this morning, knowing full well that taking it off its scent-trail was writing its doom. I try, but I have lapses. It’s the lapse in the direction of alcohol that gives me some insight into an aspect of the thing I’m most interested in acquiring and coveting.
I recently read an article, which you may also wish to glance at, which spoke of some semi- or perhaps quasi-craft breweries currently in production. I use the prefixes because at their creation, there was no question about their nature; small or even micro-breweries which produced beer of at least decent quality and in which flavour was allowed to reside (as opposed the extremely weak lagers of the major breweries, which are relatively uniform in the “taste” they offer and even more uniform in suggesting serving them at 0.01°c as a means of keeping your taste buds from working). As beers in which flavour other than skunk could be found, many of these small operations found that they could not keep up with demand and the major players became aware of the public demand for something other than what they were churing out by the teraliter. Big fish eat small fish, even in the beerquarium.
The thing that resonated in my head was this (which you’ll find about 2/3rds the way down that article):
Molson has also recently spun both Creemore and Granville into a separate corporation called Six Pints — a good sign that just might mean the big boy brewers are finally learning that the methods and metrics of craft beer are vastly different than mass-produced lager, and that their usual cookie-cutter approach simply doesn’t work.
The resonance comes from the frequent lamentation by myself, both here and on my site, and others about the pen forums, of the state of some major pen makers today. The ones about which the most concern is heard, in my non-scientific observation, are Parker and Waterman. They are also the ones which seem to suffer most from direct interference in in their craft from an owning corporation which cuts the cookies of disposable goods– Newell-Rubbermaid.
Sheaffer also gets a fair expression of concern, but certainly less than the other two. They’re owned by Bic, which is also primarily concerned about disposable goods. However, Bic is also first and foremost a maker of disposable pens, and I think this greater understanding of the specific domain has made for slightly fewer ructions in Sheaffer’s on-going existence.
Looking at a few others, the same effect seems to be at work. Pelikan was having its worst time when it tried to diversify into other things, and the new owners lopped off the diversification; Pelikan is now, to all appearances, thriving. Lamy sticks to what is knows, and look like lasting, and likewise Cross, Pilot and Sailor. Mont Blanc is a bit outside my model, but they’re also in an incubator for golden eggs– they’re bound to be atypical. I’ll stick Hero in as an atypicality at the other end of the price spectrum, as their expansion into various lines of industry don’t seem to have done them any harm; they are, of course, in a rather different atmosphere, and I don’t pretend to understand how China’s economy works apart from “through lashings of coal.”
I wonder if there’s any way to suggest to Newell-Rubbermaid that giving more autonomy to their pen-making appendages will lead to them functioning better? I wonder if their understanding of “better” and mine have any overlap, too… I’m thinking of how Parker and Waterman might wander gently towards their respective bicentennials, rather than how they might maximally enrich shareholders during the next quarter. As a certain cartoon and popular beer flavour once said, Le Sigh.