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Posts Tagged ‘history’

Get Outta Here

Posted by Dirck on 9 March, 2018

I may have phrased that poorly.  It’s just that to see the film for today, you’ll have to just click on this link:

San Francisco Before The Fire

It’s quite worth it to see what a bustling North American metropolis looked like around the previous turn of the century.  The person who brought it to my attention noted that it was an era of getting dressed completely; no tossing on t-shirt and sweats for those folks!  What struck me particularly is the fearless attitude of pedestrians in a setting where transport is largely horses or trolleys.  Watch if you will the fellow who disembarks from a cable-car carrying a baby– that’s a guy who is confident in the strength of the pedestrian right-of-way.

Today’s pen: Waterman Super Master
Today’s ink: Waterman Florida Blue


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Generating Controversy

Posted by Dirck on 24 February, 2017

The following film has nothing to do with the elections underway in France.  It’s just a little look at history which will likely get up the noses of French people of most political stripes, offered by a guy I find amusing, because I was amused.

Yep.  Makes me giggle.

Today’s pen (French): Waterman Executive
Today’s ink (also French): Waterman Florida Blue

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History as Warning

Posted by Dirck on 18 November, 2016

I promise I’ll lay off political stuff for a while after this.  Heck, this is hardly political at all.  It’s just a quick look at a major city with a space of nine years between the glimpses.

Nothing political there.  Mere history.

Today’s pen, of a certain age: Sheaffer Balance Defender
Today’s ink: Waterman vintage blue

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Duelling Magicians, Drooling Comedian

Posted by Dirck on 26 July, 2013

Earlier this week, I mentioned T.A. Edison and his Electric Vendetta– the man really had something up is nose on the subject of alternating current.  The cause of wacky summer fun suggests pursuing this notion by presenting a catastrophically drunk person speaking about the rivalry between notable deaf fellow and Nikola Tesla.  Due to an inexplicable decision of the content’s creator, you’ll have to click the following link and watch it on Youtube itself rather than have it conveniently embedded right here.  This may be to give you a moment to consider if you’re in a place where watching a catastrophically drunk person hold forth on any topic is appropriate.  If the boss is looking over your shoulder, you may be embarrassed.

So, if you’re ready for it, it’s ready for you.

Today’s pen: Pelikan Souverän M600
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green 

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The Golden Age

Posted by Dirck on 30 May, 2013

I got around to listening to FP Geeks TV #72 yesterday (aside: this is ever a “listen” experience, as my weekly duties about the house preclude “watch” of any fountain pens I’m not actually holding).  The discussion between the assembled luminaries there got me thinking about the golden age of fountain pens.

Visitors to my site will know that my entirely arbitrary definition of this period opens with the introduction of Parker’s Vacumatic filler until the introduction of Biro’s goop-filled writing device to the North American market– roughly 1932 to 1945.  I stand by this entirely arbitrary definition, as this period has almost all the interesting filling mechanisms pens would ever enjoy appearing (capillary fillers absent hurrah) and the appearance of the most attractive and most durable barrel materials (not the same ones).  I also readily admit that other people’s entirely arbitrary definitions which disagree with this are probably just as valid, but are also just as incorrect in the light of my contemplation.

The question that the Geeks and guests were mulling was not one of history, but of personal chronology, as they were considering what age they were when they took to the fountain pen.  The answer was not universal, but is was near enough unanimity and close enough to my own response to the question that I realized that the golden age of fountain pens is not a set time in the past but a window of susceptibility during one’s development.  Pick up a fountain pen at a given age, and it will be very hard to put down– miss that age, and there’s a good chance that one will feel only indifference with a frosting of befuddled confusion at the delight of others in the item.

This is not an original thought, I’ll admit.  The notion, in almost the terms I’ve used above, was mentioned on the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast extending principle previously developed in connection with comic books, and I find that I agree with it (although I was a little past the best-before date for Lovecraft).  The discovery that the principle extends to fountain pens makes me consider other things that I got stuck on.  Star Wars, for example, hit at the right time and only George Lucas’s herculean efforts to wreck the franchise have cured me.  Tolkien… same thing, thanks to the cartoon rendition of The Hobbit, and my wife’s not touching any of his stuff until she was in university and her indifferent befuddled confusion regarding it bolsters the idea.  The golden age, the personal era of fascination, appears to apply to almost everything.

I haven’t done any studies, of course, so this is only an empirical suggestion; the golden age is 12 ± 4 years.  Roughly.  So maybe there is something in keeping kids out of stuff we don’t want people getting overly involved in, like drink, drugs and politics.  I think I may look into writing a cartoon series centered around some sassy-but-appealing anthropomorphic creatures who travel the world having adventures between rounds of an international calligraphy competition.  Dumber things have taken off….

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

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By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Posted by Dirck on 3 May, 2013

Not a film today (because I’ll be you’ve all seen that stop-motion thing with the atoms already, but a bit of arts and crafts.  The good news is that no actual needles are involved:


When I say “Is that not a wonderfully whimsical thing?” I don’t refer to the dubious content but to the fact that a generator of this sort exists.  Editing the text can get a little frustrating, but the options for amusement make it more than worth while.  So, off you go, have some creative fun.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Imperial Triumph
Today’s ink: Herbin Poussière de Lune


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Bomb Site

Posted by Dirck on 4 January, 2013

In lieu of a film, here’s a little toy I’ve stumbled upon which fits the backward-glancing I’m currently engaged in (and will soon drop).  Some industrious folks have charted out the places in which bombs were dropped during the London Blitz.  A friend of mine (in spite of the so-called generation gap which should yawn between us) who lived in East Finchley during the festivities declares that the bombs on his block are misplaced by a matter of several feet, but we may perhaps forgive a little error seventy years on and perhaps include the old saw about close being good enough for horseshoes to medium and large aerial munitions.

What I find really astonishing about this map is that, at the end of the blitz, there was something recognizably London-ish still standing.  Zoom out until you can see the whole of the city, and join in my amazement.

Today’s pen: Rotring Skynn 
Today’s ink: Lamy green (I just realized… there’s noting in my pocket today that’s not German)

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Progressive Attitude

Posted by Dirck on 28 February, 2012

My son’s peregrinations about YouTube have uncovered a couple of interesting little items from the world of Disney.  Since I’m not here on Friday, I’ll bring in a couple of shorts for your… enjoyment?  I do have comments to make upon them, unlike the usual Friday frivolity.

The less affecting one (perhaps because I’m mad at my vehicle) regards a little blue car’s trials as it passes through a use cycle:

The other one, which keeps knocking my wife and I for a loop every time sonny makes us watch it, is about a little house’s career from one century to the next.  I warn you, if you have a scruple of sentiment in your make-up, this is likely to make you cry:

The reason that these stick in my head is the unexpected attitude towards Progress as a general concept.  Both were made in the early 1950s, when progress seems to have been generally considered as a nearly unmodulated force for good (with a little bit of eyebrow raising towards nuclear power).  Ol’ Uncle Walt’s statements on progress are likewise fairly positive:

Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

It is thus rather surprising that we find these two cartoons coming out under his signature with their relatively overt warning that progress for its own sake not only is not necessarily desireable but can be a source of misery.  It is better, suggests the first, to maintain a vehicle than to cast it aside once a lack of maintenance brings it low.  The second offers the notion that what is lost to progress may well be precious and worth reclaiming.  Isn’t that an interesting set of concepts from the chap who was even then drafting out Tomorrowland?

These are not, if a little thought is applied, contradictory positions.  Progress offers promise of improvement, certainly.  So does getting ahold of piles of cash, or going to the gym.  Too focussed a pursuit of any of these things serves to distract from other good aspects of life, and imbalance in life is a true ill.

That’s why I use both vintage and modern fountain pens.

Today’s bridging of the gap between new and old: Parker Frontier
Today’s ink: Sailor Jentle blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 26 April, 2011

I am about to dive into some extremely fiddly minutiae.  You’ve been warned.  Let’s have another look at yesterday’s pen:

Sharp eyes will detect the loss of gold plating on the end of the clip, and on the rings, especially the one closest the mouth of the cap.  Note that I do not say “brassing,” the term most commonly applied to this sort of evidence of age and experience in pens.  The term comes from the most common metal used to form the furniture on pens, but that metal is a distinctive colour.  These items are not that colour.

An interesting (for a very limited range of people) conundrum, then.  It is not brass.  What else was typically used?  Well, during the Second World War, brass supplies went largely into making cartridges of firearms great and small, and US pen manufacturers started using silver.  Silver, while technically a precious metal, was not considered particularly important for the war effort, and it’s nothing like as precious as gold and was thus a better economic choice that just casting all that hardware in solid gold.

One of the reasons silver isn’t so popular for these purposes, though, is that it tarnishes.  That tarnish can actually appear on top of the plating, and is frequently a give-away that a certain pen was made during the war.  This stuff, however… doesn’t tarnish.  Also, while Sheaffers and Watermans (yes, that is the correct plural) put one to some trouble in working out their age, Parker was extremely accomodating to the collector and stamped the pens with obvious and unambiguous date codes.  This one was made in 1939, sometime between October and December.

The war started in September of 1939, with the invasion of Poland.  Therefore, tarnishing oddity aside, silver makes sense.  Problem solved!

Well, no.  From the perspective of the US, and therefore of this pen, the war started in December of 1941, when this pen was two years old.  Brass was plentiful and even less expensive than silver.  The question is still open.

…and remains so, for the moment.  I’m comfortably certain it’s not pewter.  I doubt it’s steel (note for later– try a magnet).  I don’t really have the mass spectroscopy set-up required for a definitive answer nor the will to use it.  This pen may hold its secret for some time to come.

Today’s less mysterious pen:  Sheaffer Junior
Today’s ink (could be made of anything): Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Historical Errors

Posted by Dirck on 19 October, 2009

I am going to have a political moment. If you’re here for pens today, I don’t have a lot to offer.

Actually, it’s not political. It’s historical. I am, at my core, a history teacher (with a Professional A certificate and everything– sadly, there’s not much call for that sort of thing ’round here, so that’s not The Regular Job). I heard an item on CBC radio last week that’s been troubling me, and I’m going to have a brief rant about it.

The item itself is laid out on CBC’s website, but as is usual I will synopsize– there’s an exhibit on in Vancouver about the politicization to the Olympics in 1936, when they were hosted by Germany… which at the time was under the control of Adolf Hitler.

The thing which got up my nose was the mention of a picture showing some Canadian athletes apparently enjoying themselves while within touching distance of one of the top monsters of human history. The reason this got up my nose is that there was a tone of condemnation for the athletes.

Now I step out onto dangerously thin and slippery ice. I am second to very few in my condemnation of Hitler– one of the few I am second to is my father, who had first-hand experience in occupied Holland, while my opinion is ex post facto. However, as a student and teacher of history, I think it’s important to be fair to those who at some points in the past might have failed in this condemnation.

In 1936, there were very few people who had a word to say against the stubby brute. At that point, he was just the guy who had pulled the German economy out of the deepest pit anyone had ever seen, a trick which most of the rest of the industrial nations were fairly anxious to learn at the time. To be a young athlete standing beside him at that time was to be a young person (i.e. not very wise, easily impressed) standing next to a celebrity. Of course they look jolly.

The CBC article also mentioned a Jewish-Canadian boxer who declined to attend the games, as it was evident even at that point that the Nazi regime was bad news for those of that faith. He was true to his principles, but apparently he undid his boxing career (this is missing from the online write-up, so I can’t offer any better detail). Fair enough, and good on him for seeing where the path led. The problem here is that it doesn’t mean that the others who still chose to participate were participating in Hitlerian evil… at least, no more so than the rest of the world at the time.

In 1936, sad to say, anti-semetism was pretty much status quo. In 1939, after it was clear that part of Hitler’s economic revitalization program was empire-building in its bloodiest manifestation, Canada was still willing to turn away ships full of refugees… because the government of the day felt there were already plenty of Jews in Canada, or thought that it was poor policy to encourage refugees in general, or some similarly horrid reason. It’s unfair to cast aspersions upon participants in the 1936 Olympics just because they held the common opinion of the day. At least, it’s unfair to cast any more aspersions than we would upon anyone else alive at the time.

Besides, if anyone who wasn’t a serious supporter of the Third Reich and its aberrant, abhorrent policies had stayed away from the 1936 Olympics, we’d have been denied the jolly and ironic spectacle of the celebration of blond, blue-eyed superhumanity having to hand a gold medal to Jesse Owens. It’s comedy bought at a very high price, I’ll grant, but how much worse would the whole episode have been without the occasional leavening?

My point is not that one shouldn’t condemn people for foolish acts in the past (13th Century Europe, you’re still grounded!), but it’s important to understand what you’re condemning them for. Standing beside a bad person doesn’t necessarily make one a bad person.

Today’s yet-to-be-contextualized pen: Lamy 2000
Today’s reconciliatory ink: Herbin’s Bleu Nuit (see– French and German can get along nicely!)

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