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Posts Tagged ‘International Correspondence Writing Month’

Spine-tingling Writing!

Posted by Dirck on 20 January, 2017

As a gentle distraction from the flaming horror of what’s happening in Washington DC today, here’s four nice people showing how letter-writing in a group setting can look.  International Correspondence Writing Month is just around the corner, after all, and those with the free time to pursue it should start loosening up their joints.

Today’s pen: Pelikan New Classic
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Posted by Dirck on 19 February, 2015

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 16 February
  • 17 February
  • 18 February
  • 19 February
  • Finally catching up with letters, it being a day off (merry InCoWriMo, everyone!)
  • Choose Your Own Unspeakable Doom…
  • …oom…
  • …ooooom.  Also, a migraine.  I’m a trouper.
  • All of them
  • Six manuscript pages.
  • Ten pages.
  • Five pages
  • All damn day
  • 35 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 45 min.

Also, merry Sheep/Ram to everyone who attends to that particular calendar.

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Plus an Unrelated Reading Assignment

Posted by Dirck on 14 March, 2014

Before I got to today’s film, I thought I should mention here (as I’m told self-promotion is no longer viewed askance) that my Etsy endeavour is now capable of transactions without resort to Paypal, and that includes Etsy gift cards.  I should probably reinforce the few lonely puppies in that shop window.

Now, on to the fun– a trip to another pen factory!  This one takes us to the Pilot factory in distant Japan; make sure to click the “CC” button at the bottom of the window for the subtitles. There’s frequent appearances of a demonstrator pen in the original use of the term, and plenty of places for Joel and the ‘bots to shout “Watch your fingers!”

It’s the lady at about 12’30” that runs up the price on these things. Because she stands in the overlap between craft and art.

Also, BBC has taken notice of InCoWriMo (or something similar; there’s a broken link); it’s worth a look.

Today’s pen: Lamy 2000
Today’s ink: Pelikan black

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Concession Speech

Posted by Dirck on 3 February, 2014

I’m having a moment of self-clarity, and it’s just as uncomfortable as one could expect.  My current powers of dashing letters off are such that I dare not commit to InCoWriMo even so far as I did last year.  The most I will manage is getting caught up with the current smallish backlog of smallish letters and sending an apologetic post-card off to someone to whom I owe a great deal of writing.  I’m unwilling to give up these little clumps of nearly-satisfactory fiction writing I’ve been engaging in (see previous comments re: momentum), and I somewhat doubt it would work anyway.

Today, for example, all the sutures on my skull have let go, and my brain is exposed to the air.  Or so it feels.  Before I subside into utter insensibility, though, let me encourage all with a whiff of spare time to mount the InCoWriMo barricades.  I seem to recall it was fun.

Today’s Pen: Parker Challenger
Today’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

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Horror from the Coast!

Posted by Dirck on 2 May, 2013

As with so many of my titles, I’m not altogether accurate here.  Glendale is part of the amorphous conurbation that gets “Los Angeles” applied to it, so it’s near the coast.  Horror has come to me from there, but it’s the welcome artificial sort, and the emotion it mainly fosters is delight.

“Explain yourself!”

You see, back during InCoWriMo, as I cast about for recipients of my output, I realized that I was long overdue in writing a big soppy fan-letter to the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, whose headquarters are in the aforementioned location.  Apparently the fine people who direct the Society were able to tell that the lunatic writing to them was not a dangerous sort, or was at least far enough away that an actual visit was unlikely even if he were encouraged, and so they responded to that big soppy fan-letter, in which I rather gushed with admiration for their films (yes, that’s plural!), their Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, and generally every other thing of theirs which I’ve seen, which are equally well described as “rather cool” and “carefully crafted”.

The response was a plain brown envelope, in which lay two items.  The larger of them was a recently printed monograph from the Miskatonic University Press, and for those who can deal with a veneer of dry academicism it is a giddy little gem– that veneer, by the way, is absolutely vital to the effect and is magnificently accomplished.  The other item could be described as a note of thanks for the letter… except it takes the form of a Cthulhugram.  This is very like a telegram, and is modeled upon one of the diverse prop documents they offer, but rather than reproducing an item from the past it merely offers that sensibility– after all, anything with CTHULHUGRAM across the top in bright yellow on a red background is pretty obvious in its era.

On the back of the ‘gram, is a printed panel explaining what exactly the Society is all about, and it contains a passage that cements my regard for them.  Let me quote, and add emphasis with a stereotype Lovecraftian italicized ending:

The Society depends on new-fangled electronic methods of communication in conducting most day-to-day business, but also likes to use good old-fashioned paper and ink the way Lovecraft did when possible.  We can only hope the U.S. Post Office stays in business.  We’ll do our part to keep it afloat and hope that you will too.  Using the mail is more fun!

Today’s sly foreign pen: Pilot Elite
Today’s odd-smelling stygian gloom: Jentle blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 5 March, 2013

A sign of how distracted I was yesterday: I completely forgot that I’d already come up with a topic for the entry, and that it was one that was very easily addressed.  While my son’s bout involved a great deal of unfortunately literal debriefing, I owe a retrospective glance at the just-concluded International Correspondence Writing Month.

Well, I did manage to get to the bottom of it, and it was, despite the big stumble in the middle, not too terribly difficult.  The interesting thing is that not more than a half-dozen of the recipients were regular correspondents, and of those only one was done out of the natural sequence of exchange, as I didn’t want to get all clingy not to throw out the correct pacing of to and fro.  Happily, a number of my regular correspondents sent something either just before or during the month, so I could plump up the numbers without being very desperate.  Also helpful was the InCoWriMo site, with its list of willing victims recipients of unheralded mail, and which I’ll touch on again presently.

What truly surprised me about the writing side of the enterprise was the relative ease and speed of dashing off a brief note.  My regular correspondents will be surprised to learn that I suffer through drafting letters almost to the same degree as Gilbert Norrell, for fear of getting well down one of my common over-inflated and slightly baroque sentence only to find that by the time I’ve landed at the terminal punctuation that I’ve got a mismatch in the quantity of subjects and objects, or a change of tense, or perhaps a misgendered pronoun (guess how long this sentence took to work up…).  I couldn’t really do that with all the InCoWriMo items, and since many of them were a single page I took the plunge and just wrote out of my head– not unlike what I do here, but without the option of a backspace key.  Very little scratching out of foolishness, mainly correct spelling, and a letter down and folded in under an hour!  Astonishing.

Less surprising was the fact that I got so little inbound mail during the event.  I did not, as an exchange in the comments a couple of entries ago points out, join the brave band of folks who offered their addresses up on the aforementioned list.  Being the age I am, I have a long established habit of not admitting who I actually am to the internet, and despite it being about as safe as getting mail at all, I balked like a big coward.  Those who wonder at this bit of information, by the way, in conjunction with the address of my web site; my brother made a point of registering all the family as domain names during one of those phases when there was a lot of domain camping, and I’m not one to look a fait accompli in the mouth.  I was, in fact, rather surprised to get a couple of letters from non-regular correspondents in the course of the thing, who had scraped up my address from entirely legitimate sources; that “non-” is going rapidly by the board.

At the risk of becoming overwhelmed with regular correspondents, I think I shall participate again next year.  Not only does it support the international postal system in a trying time, its not that big a hassle and if my own reaction to the unexpected apparitions is anything to go by it brings delight to those on the low end of the slide that starts at the yawning trap of the big red post box.  Also, you get a non-cropped one of these if you ask nicely:


Splendid, is it not?  Well worth the price of admission.

The following chart is going to take a little looking back at my records; don’t take it as definitive until at least the 8th:

InCoWriMo I: Things I think are worth counting
  •  Pens Used:
    • Fuliwen 2024
    • Italix Parson’s Essential
    • Kaweco Sport
    • Lamy 2000
    • Parker 45
    • Parker “51”
    • Parker Duofold
    • Pelikan M600
    • Sheaffer Balance
    • Stipula Passaporto
    • TWSBI Vac 700
    • Waterman 52
  • Inks Used:
    • Diamine Steel Blue
    • de Atramentis Elderberry
    • Herbin Lis de Thé
    • Herbin Orange Indien
    • Kaweco blue-black
    • Mont Blanc Royal Blue
    • Noodler’s La Couleur Royale
    • Organics Studio Cobalt
    • Pelikan black
    • Pelikan blue-black
    • Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue
    • Sailor Jentle blue-black
    • Skrip blue-black
  • Letters Sent:
    • 2 Journals
    • 3 Multi-page
    • 24 Single Page
  • Letters Got:
    • 5 Multi-page
  • Countries Contacted:
    • Argentina
    • Australia
    • Canada (it’s big– I can count it, even if I’m in it)
    • Great Britain
    • Norway
    • The Netherlands
    • United States

Today’s pen: Parker “51” Fantasy Demo (yes, I did put it on the page)
Today’s ink: Pelikan black (for fear of staining)

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Quality Quontrol

Posted by Dirck on 28 February, 2013

One other item of pen-repair achievement from the previous weekend.  The friend I mentioned having recently given a Hero 001 to came around for a visit, and she brought her pen with her.  Broken.  Not working.  Can I fix?

The first step is diagnosis, which calls for a lookin’ at.  She told me that she was pressing down to get it to work, and with any other pen that would be the big “Ah HAH!” moment, but with this pen is merely suggestive.  There was clearly something askew with the tipping, and when I applied magnification the askewness came clear; one of the four tines was bent.  How’s that happen?

Since the mechanism didn’t instantly appear, I went to work on the symptoms.  It took very little work to get all the tips back together, but when test-writing to check on the trueness of the alignment, that same tine jumped up.  That’s not so good, and it took some studying.  To explain what I found, let me turn to geography.

My own personal "You Are Here" arrow is around the back.

My own personal “You Are Here” arrow is around the back.

When looked at head on, the tipping of a Hero 001 should look something like a globe with only the equator and the prime meridian showing.  This particular example was OK in the longitude department, but the cross-cut was more sub-tropical than equatorial.  When I’d tested the pen prior to giving it, my habit of light-handedness hadn’t uncovered the problem, but the friend had not hitherto used fountain pens.  A steep angle and the pressure of a habitual ballpoint user got the necessary purchase on the paper, and the weak high-latitude tine peeled right back.

The solution then became easy, although it’s not quite in line with the sort of things I managed in the entries at the start of the week.  I simply hauled unscrewed the section from another I’d bought to have on hand as a Johnny Fountainseed hand-out, after peering though the magnifier to check on balanced cuts, put it into the barrel of her preferred colour, and off she goes, although I don’t think she quite believed my insistence that it was not her fault that this had happened.

I don’t want to be too harsh on Hero, either, since this model is one of their cheaper offerings.  I’ve seen Watermans and Parkers, and even some vintage examples, with the slit a little bit astray.  The fact that the wandering cut in this case was in the same plane as the metal of the point was unfortunate, but understandable.  There’s a task-master in me who is in a bit of a state, as he agrees with this only up to the point that the pen was assembled and put out into the world… and I can also see his point.  I guess this is the sort of price we pay when we buy cheap.  If there were someone tasked with making sure this sort of thing never got mounted into a pen going to market, the cost would inevitably go up on the pens that got sold.

Heck… it might even double.

Today’s pen, double-checked at the factory (or so the maker claimed): Eversharp Skyline
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green

post scriptus: InCoWriMo ends.  I’ll probably do a debrief (oooh!) on Monday, but for the moment I will merely say with some smugness that I’ll be putting in a request for my Certificate of Achievement.

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King Me!

Posted by Dirck on 19 February, 2013

H.G. Wells has already quite brilliantly exploded the old saw which runs, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king,” and I’m tempted to stop immediately after urging you to go and read his story.  However, the saw retains some teeth, and while I did not spend the weekend in the kingdom of the blind, I did spend it largely in the grip of a migraine which left me with one functioning eye.  It’s not that the other stops working, really, but if I try to use it, it wanders around like Homer Simpson’s when he’s posed a question of high-energy physics and then starts trying to bite its way free of the socket.  Not a lot of fun.

It also reduces productivity immensely.  I managed, before the problem descended, to get some fresh stuff published on my site, and then as incapacity grew I turned to getting client pens squared away before the multiplicity of them becomes an authentic backlog.  Some success there, hoorah, including some interesting forays into parts making which I’ll report on when the exercise proves successful.  However, what I couldn’t apply myself to, since migraines render me almost incapable of speech as well as enjoyment of life, was InCoWriMo.  Can I catch up?  I have some serious doubts.  Since my son has come down with a case of Gargling Awfuls, the next couple of evenings don’t look too hopeful.

I’ll finish my whine by noting that the fine weather has broken, and February has remembered it’s duty to be as cold and miserable as possible.  Good thing it was a long weekend, eh?  Anyway, I’m going to try getting some letter-writing accomplished to convince myself there’s potential for recovery.

Today’s pen: Italix Parson’s Essential (in part because it’s heavy, and I need extra ballast in the face of the gales of wind)
Today’s ink: Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue (which does actually cheer a guy up– such a jolly blue!)

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Off the Usual Path

Posted by Dirck on 1 February, 2013

Because I’m not away over this particular lunch hour, I’m not showing a film.  I am, however, talking about one which I would have yesterday had sense not gone from my fingers.  A couple of nights ago, TCM showed Over the Moon, a film starring Merle Oberon and a Rex Harrison so young as to have almost no distinguishing features.  I found it an interesting departure from a lot of films of its sort and age, and I want to get my thoughts about it somewhat crystallized.

If one glances briefly at a synopsis of it, it seems a fairly standard rags-to-riches tale: a young woman in a reduced state is on the verge of marrying a young doctor who is probably about to make his way in life when the death of her grandfather (her parents are gone before the start of the picture) dumps a huge mining fortune on her– in modern terms, roughly 1.5 billion dollars.  This unsettles her life, disrupts her relationship, and sees her leading a dissolute life of high antics before settling down and mending bridges with her former beau.  The usual thing, right?

Well, not really, but before I get into the how of its departure from the pattern, I want to speculate on the why.  Over the Moon was “post-Code”; it appeared somewhat after the makers of film in Hollywood began actually bending to so-called Hayes Code, which was an attempt to keep films from upsetting the morals everyone had sort of loosened in the 1920s anyway.  However, Over the Moon is not a Hollywood production, and so the Hayes Code meant little to it.  It was made in England, and suffered under the despotism of the British Board of Film Censors, which had always had the power to not only rate but outright ban a film.  This office was dead against the supernatural, but either it didn’t care too much about the way unspeakably rich people disported, Alexander Korda knew exactly who to pay off, or… well, maybe they saw some what I saw in it, and let is go about its business, but if that’s the case, they’re a rather more complex bunch than one might have given them credit for.  It may be that having held such power from the very beginning rendered the Board a little more considerate in its application, while the Breen Office was drunk on the power it had technically held but been unable to wield.  I’m probably making up stories in this regard, but if the internet is for anything, it’s for rampant speculation pretending to be scholarship.

I want to dispense briefly with Rex Harrison’s character.  In short, he’s an idiot.  He has a very standard notion of offering his intended all sorts of “One day we’ll do something fun” dreams, and to a certain extent is working to bring them to life, but when she suddenly has the means to do all they could wish, including funding the medical research he’s just sold his practice to underwrite, he stomps off in a huff which is fuelled by his own unwillingness to be a kept man and his assumption that she’s going to undergo dramatic transformation under the effect of the money.  We’ll get back to him later, but he doesn’t figure in the film a whole lot until the end and I don’t want to give him more air time than he’s due.

The main character is Jane Benson, who is not quite twenty and has been living on roughly tuppence a month with a crowd of apparently unpaid servants in a dismal manor in the Yorkshire moors.  When her ship comes in, she declares that her style of life to date was likely inflicted upon her by her benefactor in hopes in creating as miserly a soul as himself, and she’s not having any of it– she’s going to have fun with her wealth, and farewell thrift.  That is in a lot of films the start of a spiral of some sort, or perhaps a roller coaster, but this is where Over the Moon separates itself from the rest.  Jane certainly lives up to her declaration, and with the departure of her fiance she is surrounded only by parasitic semi-relatives (“nearly fifth cousins!”), cads and gigolos.   However, while her clothes are certainly more splendid, her trappings more gaudy, and her daily affairs less concerned with getting the ironing done, the core of who she is appears to undergo no change whatever.

Observe: the gigolos are strung along, but she keeps them in opposition, and so long as they are in conflict with each other, they are only in such contact with her as she allows.  When a fellow heir to untold wealth appears, one who has always known riches and feels hollow from it, she doesn’t instantly toss aside the whole pile and go back to Dour Manor.  Neither does she give up her aspirations of convincing Doctor Stupid to rejoin her when the rich fellow suggests that, as the only person in England who can match her wealth, he’s the only possible mate who would understand her “plight” and not try to use her for her wealth.  The closest she comes to contrition is agreeing to an economy-class vacation with Dr. Stupid to convince him that she is unchanged in her important aspects, but all this does is make clear what is already reasonably obvious.

Returing to Dr. Stupid for a moment– he landed at a spa/clinic in Switzerland which apparently specialized in lucreotomy and radical wallet reduction, where his main employment is taking the pulses of manifestly healthy young women and inducing swooning.  The offer of employment and the swooning are both a result of the mystique which grows up around a man who walks away from Jane Benson.  While, as I say, the film doesn’t follow him too much, when Jane decides it’s time for her to go to the mountain rather than waiting for it to come to her, she discovers that the Legion of Swooning Lasses have had no more effect upon him than the League of Creepy Lotharios has had upon her.  He’s still all of what he was when last they met, although perhaps a more accomplished skier.  The one effect of his time at the clinic seems to be to have educated him in what authentically shallow rich dinks are like, as he’s now willing to give Jane the chance he couldn’t consider immediately after her enrichment.

That difference of awareness being the only real change wrought in either of the central characters means that the underlying the story is a message of the durability and perhaps elasticity of moral fibre.  The durability lies in the resistance to unforgivable temptations in both Jane and Dr. Stupid, and it’s hard to say whether he’s more proven than she; after all, she only had to put off a couple of obvious gold-diggers and a chap who’s merely rather nice and about as wealthy, while he was defending against a veritable horde of well-heeled snow bunnies.

The elasticity is all in Jane, though, because while she does put off the gigolos, she also is true to her vow to have as much fun as a bottomless wallet will support; she goes to as wild a party as high-society London in 1937 could offer, she allows a certain amount of pawing by the aforementioned scoundrels, and she gets what we’re meant to believe is monumentally drunk, and yet at no point does she become a fallen woman even though this all happens to an orphan still short of her twentieth birthday.  I can’t think of a picture out of the US that allows that sort of liberty-taking, and it has me thinking a little about the way in which protection of public morality was approached on either English-speaking side of the Atlantic.  I also wonder if the “good people don’t need to be made to be good” content was in some ways a response to the rise of Fascism over the previous decade, a way of living which definitely founds itself in “do as you’re told.”

It’s a little conventional at the start and end, but I recommend a look at it for all that comes between the conventionality.  One might also ponder the remarkably un-closeted gay fellow who is shanghaied into hosting the big party; it’s a caricature that will probably offend many, but there’s no question that he is stark raving gay, yet no come-uppance for being so develops and his valet seems to approve entirely.

Now, before I leave off, I should mention that I’ve got an external conscience set up  for this month of correspondence we’ve entered upon; I’ve not been entirely given to film critique, and I’m told “well begun is half done” although I think in this case it’s more “14 February is half done.”

Today’s pen: Waterman Master
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Obligatory Scribbling

Posted by Dirck on 30 January, 2013

I’ve never attempted to write a novel in a month, even though a month is specifically marked for making such an effort.  I know the boundaries of my freedom and abilities, and while I suppose I could probably bang out the requisite stack of words, the effort would introduce far too much friction into the mechanism of the house and all for a stack of words I’d likely find arranged in a displeasing manner anyway (sour grapes, that last bit).

The lads over at Fountain Pen Geeks have undertaken to foist upon the world another month of writing, and I am trying to develop excuses to not join in.  There is, of a sudden, International Correspondence Writing Month looming up over the horizon, and a splendid and daunting prospect it is!  Sit down and write (without resorting to computer or, I suspect, typewriter) a letter each day of the coming month and then rise up and mail it, or even hand it directly to the intended reader; what an excellent way to distract oneself from the worst month the northern hemisphere has to offer.  In passing, I think the novel-writing month was out of tune; clotting up the a month when the weather is just starting to go bad with an indoor activity and distracting from what would be a comfortable lead-time of pre-Yule planning?  Madness.  January would be better; a resolution one might stick to, a reason not to go outside in some rather ugly weather, and in all likelihood starting the effort with a Hemingwayesque hang-over all make much more sense.

All the same, I’m not sure I have the grit to involve myself with InCoWriMo.  I’m barely keeping up with the correspondents/correspondence I have now; committing myself to that sort of output, even though it seems a postcard with “Hope all is well” scrawled on the back is sufficient for a day, seems as likely to disrupt the domestic harmony just as much as NaNiWriMo’s 2,000 words a day.

I do owe a couple of letters, though, and perhaps I’ll informally apply myself to the endeavour.  No resolutions, no oaths, but a simple “let’s see how I get on.”  I’ll be happy to get letters during this event, of course, so I certainly urge those who feel they can devote the time to make at least as much of an attempt as I’m at.  Write a family member a note.  Send something scathing to the politician in your life.  It all counts, and you’ll probably feel better for it.  It may even become habit forming.

Today’s pen: Waterman Master
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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