What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Posts Tagged ‘Soyuz’

National Identity

Posted by Dirck on 18 November, 2013

A little discussion on a forum lately got me thinking down what is almost certainly a cognitive blind alley.  That discussion was aimed at identifying a Sheaffer Imperial which had a collection of very odd features relative to what one expects (in as much as one expects something specific from Imperials).  Something that put various minds somewhat at rest (as much as minds considering Sheaffer Imperials can be) was the imprint, which read MADE IN BRAZIL.  Various different plants go their own way occasionally with designs– Argentine Parker 45s with long 61-style clips, Sheaffer TipDip Craftsmans from Canada and Australia with plastic rather than steel caps– so discovering an anomaly comes from a plant outside the maker’s homeland renders it less anomalous.

My mind didn’t rest, though.  MADE IN BRAZIL.  In English.


I suspect that the question of national identity is one that occurs more to Canadians than to some other peoples, especially those of us who are old enough to clearly remember the last and happily negative referendum Quebec ran regarding separation.  Because we have a little trouble defining what we are other than by plain differentiation (“like Americans with socialized health-care”; “like Australians who don’t have to be so careful about lifting rocks and logs”), I have a notion we notice little things like this a little more quickly.  Say… maybe I’ve hit on a national trait!

In any event, I looked at that impression, which is apparently pretty standard for Brazilian Sheaffers, and I wonder about the motive.  The wondering is made only a little less pressing by the discovery through on-line translation that MADE IN BRAZIL becomes, when swapped into Portugese, MADE IN BRASIL, because it’s not only Sheaffer’s Brazilian offshoot that did it.

Waterman pens all say FRANCE on them, which is fair enough because that’s the same in French… except the ones made in the 1950s said MADE IN FRANCE, and that’s all English.  Pelikan’s pens have said GERMANY on them for a long time, even if my very scanty looking into the matter is correct during the period when the Nationalsozialistische crowd was in charge; caring about export markets during that phase of the country’s history seems pretty unlikely, as general foreign policy was demonstrably “Lernen Sie Deutsch sprechen!”  Pelikan, interestingly enough, conducted some if its turn of the previous century’s advertising using foreign spelling, with British and French ads offering Pelican materials, so they clearly have given the matter some thought over the years.

I don’t have any conclusions to draw here.  It’s not a universal practice– that Parker 45 I mention above is content to say HECHO EN ARGENTINA on it, and Soyuz pens generally appear in Cyrillic only.  It’s mere observation, and a little bit of sharing of bafflement.  If anyone has any suggestions, I’m interested to hear them; speculations, properly labelled, are also welcome.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Snorkel Sovereign
Today’s ink: Pelikan Violet

Odd that some pens AREN’T imprinted in their own language– Pelikans, Brazilian Sheaffers, French Watermans.

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Brown Study Abolished

Posted by Dirck on 24 May, 2012

I do not, as a general rule, suggest seeking out illness.  However, when acute illness comes, as it does now and again to all of us, it can be useful from the standpoint of a stoic philosopher (which I am almost as thoroughly as I am a Buddhist, which is to say, not quite up to standard).  The trick to being successfully sick is to revel in the contrast of feeling better afterwards. 

I am, I must say, revelling.  But not so as to upset the neighbours to cause my co-workers to stare.  My step is high, my head is clear, innards without grumble, and there’s a private little song in my metaphoric heart.  As an outward expression of this, there is, to the surprise of none, a choice of pen.

The pen is not today’s nor yesterdays, as elegant or whimsical as they respectively are.  The pen is a premature replacement on my standard use desk pen.  In addition to my own unwilling purgation, I used the long Victoria Day weekend to engage in a willful purging of the desk pens.  The Esterbrook has been sitting full of its red ink for rather more than six months, and I thought that something in the line of maintenance was called for.  The brown Sheaffer TD, while not so long on the desk, was through the ultra-fineness of its point given to drying out while under use and thus probably had enough residue in it to call for a flushing.

When the prospect of being able to return to The Regular Job arose, I considered the logistics of returning desk pens to work.  They don’t like travelling, after all; they’re mean to be emplacements rather than mobile units.  Into this consideration of the Sheaffer and its vast pediment (of which I shall have to take a picture, now) crept the notion of, “Well, it’s come home anyway, why not just do the rotation and save an extra trip?”  Thus, I have a different desk pen once more, and one which lends itself to jollity.  This one:

How can I fail to smile, with this in front of me?

That’s right, it’s the pen shaped like a rocket!  It’s not just the mere appearance of the pen that enhances my revelry, but also the way it writes.  It has a slightly flexible point, so I go from the extremely limited expression of the firm accountancy point of the Sheaffer to something that is slightly madcap.  Not absolutely berserk, mind you, but something like wearing rainbow braces under the vest.

The brown pen had little to do with the brown mood (or, alas, the brown flux), but in removing it I have helped to undo the brown study I was briefly in.  Perhaps this supports yoga as well, in connecting contentment with flexibility.

Today’s delightful pen: Waterman Préface (page almost done… enough for public observation, anyway; check in tomorrow)
Today’s amiable ink: Diamine Royal Blue

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I’b zick.

Posted by Dirck on 18 October, 2011

Apparently working with a non-fountain pen over the weekend devastated my immune system; I’ve been laid low by a cold which my son barely noticed.  I am thus writing from my own Fortress of Fortitude, many inches beneath the surface of the earth, from which I will be using the day wisely in pursuing The Great Work.

…while taking lots of fluids.

Today’s pen: Soyuz Luna 2 Commemorative Desk Pen
Today’s ink: Lamy Blue

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

It’s All In the Shoulder

Posted by Dirck on 14 April, 2011

I was, some time ago, at a seminar put on to purportedly enhance our ability to perform our duties at The Regular Job.  As with most such events, it was actually nothing more than a change of venue for getting that day’s pay and a terrible sense of having wasted some time that could have been devoted to digging at the metaphorical heaps of slag.

The pernicious thing about these seminars is that for some reason they feel that the way to inform the attendees of the content is to force them back into the setting of a Grade 10 Social Studies class.  “Here’s some markers and a big sheet of newsprint– BRAINSTORM!”  Sigh.

The reason I mention this here is that it was a proof of concept regarding proper writing technique.  To be legible from any corner of the room, the writing had to be quite large.  This means one has to abandon the smaller movements of the arm, and that means the shoulder is king… as it should be in regular writing.  It had been some years since I’d worked in a classroom setting, and it turned out that my efforts to make my penmanship marginally good had improved my big writing.

This is not world-changing.  It’s just nice to know that effort is, however obscurely, paying off.

Today’s pen: Soyuz
Today’s ink: Diamine Steel Blue

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s the Hold Up?

Posted by Dirck on 12 April, 2011

I’m marking the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s brief, history-making journey into orbit.

Fifty years.

The comparison I’m about to make is unfair, of course, because the technologies and challenges are really not comparable.  With that said, let’s consider the European navigation in the “Age of Discovery”.  Columbus made his way across the Atlantic in 1492.  Fifty years on would give us a date of 1542.  Did anything significant happen between 1492 and 1542?

Well, there was a circumnavigation (finished in 1522).  The establishing of trade routes to India and China (1497 through 1510 or so).  The rather lamentable conquest of the Americas (pretty well established by 1535). 

Overlooking for the moment the cultural destruction which certainly attended the last of these and which at least hovered on the fringes of most other extra-Europe activity which Europeans got up to, one can in a pulp-SF manner draw parallels between these achievements and things one would like to get up to in space– not just brief visits, but the establishment of permanent settlements (the ISS really doesn’t count, since if left to its own devices it will fall down) and consistent importation of the riches of those distant lands.  Why, he asked in an entirely rhetorical manner, aren’t we getting our iron, nickel, iridium and whatnot from the asteroid belt?

I suppose I’m being a little harsh.  Perhaps Columbus is the wrong guy to look at.  Maybe a better starting point is the official Portuguese entry to Madiera in 1419, which means we’re not lagging so much.  I’m just anxious for mining to be moved off-world and put into the hands of robots.  I can only imagine how people stuck down a mine must feel.

Today’s pen: Soyuz (yes, I know Gagarin was in a Vostok, but Soyuz is as close as I get to a Russian Space Pen)
Today’s ink: Diamine Steel Blue

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

What did I say about resolutions?

Posted by Dirck on 30 December, 2010

Did I not repudiate them?  Perhaps not, but I certainly suggested that I don’t believe that they are generally worth the amount of air that goes into their pronunciation.  As I mentioned previously, the resolution and in particular the New Years’s resolution tends to have a whiff of the old cilice about it, and we humans are so given to self-indulgence where the possibility exists that self-denial is tantamount to self-deception.

However, I’m actually going to utter another resolution here.  Unlike the previous one (which is sticking so far), this is not a matter of self-denial, but rather a behaviour I intend to adopt.

Amongst my correspondents is a circular exchange of journals.  The other members of this circle are, by pure accident, all men.  Their example is moving me to undo a weakness of mine, because in the latest volume to arrive… pretty much all of them have used unrepentantly purple inks.

Yes.  As much as I frequently fill up with Poussière de Lune, I don’t really use purples.  Poussière de Lune is a very muted colour, coming across to a casual glance as sort of generically dark.  Purples proper I have a mental block towards, which I burlesque slightly in a previous entry.  For reasons that have no proper foundation, I withdraw from it as a feminine colour.

This is stupid on many fronts.  As I mention down that last link, historically purple inks are a perfectly acceptable alternative for a chap.  I am living in the mode of a historical chap, wearing a fedora and a tie-clasp, so why to I shy away from a mere colour?  Stupid!

I have the example of these other fellows, who seem able to approach various purples and violets without a qualm.  Am I to cower where my peers march along untroubled?  Stupid!

I am not particularly concerned with matters of gender identity.  Check this out:

I’m obscurely pleased at this evidence of online androgyny– it supports my leveling notions regarding the essentially human nature of both sexes.  Certainly, in person, the 185cm tall person with a beard and a size 52 jacket  is unlikely to be mistaken for a girl, so it’s not like I’ve been forever struggling to assert my masculinity.  It’s not something I’m concerned about in others (the only reason I worry whether at length my son will prove straight or gay is the tough row the latter still have to hoe even in this relatively enlightened time), and it’s not something I generally worry about in myself.  So, again, why the ink issue?  Stupid!

Therefore, I am resolved to do away with this unbecoming behaviour.  If anything is unmanly, it’s letting irrational fears drive one’s behaviour.  I am setting down a welcome mat to purple inks.  Let the chips fall where they may!

(Utter silence follows)

Today’s quite burly pen:  Soyuz thingy (EDIT: I previously apologized for having not page on my site for this pen; now I do)
Today’s perfectly gender-neutral ink:  Herbin’s Violet Penseé

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »


Posted by Dirck on 26 August, 2010

To briefly continue in yesterday’s vein (I was this morning asked if we wanted to do an ultrasound to see what was happening inside the cat), something directly related to pens that I wish more people understood is this:  unless an astonishing number of them is used, there is no actual protection to be had from a “FRAGILE” sticker.  Like “DO NOT ENTER” or “WET PAINT”, it works on the attentive individual but otherwise merely expands the circle of blame when things go wrong,.

The place I most frequently see this sticker is on the outside of a brown envelope thrust through the letterbox at my home, announcing the terminal phase of some eBay transaction.  Within, a pen anywhere up to 90 years old, which apart from the dubious powers of Kraft paper may possibly have some fragments of bubble-wrap sharing its space.  I have thus far been fairly lucky, in that nothing of real historical value has arrived in the form of a weight of powdered pen materials and some twisted metal components.  Thus far.

When I see that the shipping cost on an item is, let us say $1.58, I know that there’s a limit to how much effort the person is spending on the package.  Move the decimal one space right, however, and I think I am allowed to get a little cranky at the appearance of an imperiled, paper-wrapped pen on an envelope bearing not quite four dollars in postage.

As a general rule, when wrapping a pen for shipment, it would be well to think in terms of layers, alternating hard and soft.   My own preferred way of doing it sees the pen wrapped in a thin layer of paper towel to prevent it shifting around within a tube– this tube can be a study cardboard item (the middle of an aluminum foil roll is quite good), PVC plumbing pipe, or even a purpose-made item, as seen on this site.  That tube is laid in a bed of resilient material, be they packing peanuts, newspapers, or trousers no longer suitable for company, which holds it stable in a nice sturdy cardboard box.  A couple of turns of packing tape to hold the box closed, and those pens are as safe as reason demands.  I will admit that sometimes, when sending a big bunch of pens, the inner hard layer might be overlooked, but the central point of keeping the pens from sudden shocks and instant crushing is still attended to.

The best eBay wrapping I ever saw was a chap who custom-fit some sheets of foam in a box to act as the soft layer between outer and inner hards– he must have had a LOT of time to apply to the matter.  Possibly the most whimsical was that bringing me the lately-mentioned Soyuz pen, straight from St. Petersburg– a box made of styrofoam in two pieces, with lashings of tape to prevent loss by ablation as it tumbled through all the postal systems between there and here.  It worked well enough, and I suppose if the ship went down my pen might have still made it to me, but it was quite the apparition in the mail box.

Too many not-quite-padded envelopes, though.  The odds are building up that I’ll receive something smashed by a postal engine.  My nerves are growing quite fragile at the prospect.

Today’s pen that actually needs some slapping around:  Hero 001 (not a great writer)
Today’s ink, definitely a survivor:  Skrip #32 Permanent Black (with RC-35!  The box it came in advertises the NEW Snorkel pen, so it probably went in the bottle about 1955)

post scriptus:  Word about the feline ultrasound, since I know at least two readers care (and suspect several others of the same).  There is a mass of odd shape and texture in and about her liver, which is likely the culprit behind all the other symptoms… but whether tumour or abcess only direct observation can tell.  Plus there’s anemia.  As you may imagine, I am writing despite somewhat blurred vision.  Fragility being the theme today, we may also contemplate emotions and the animating spark itself.  At least in these areas there is also resiliency.

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

MiG vs. Phantom

Posted by Dirck on 12 August, 2010

So, who remembers the Cold War? If you’re one born later than 1984, any memories you have are pretty much academic and you’re probably not so interested in fountain pens. For those of us who are older, the Cold War between the communist east and the capitalist west (which we westerners, in our innocence, called “the free world” as if capitalism wasn’t just as much of a trap as Marxist Leninism) was sort of the context and background of everything. And, let’s be honest, when we were thinking of “The Commies”, we were thinking more about the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, with China as a bit of an afterthought. China may take offense if it likes, but consider who’s got the big economic shoes on now.

One of the things which we western types pointed out as the folly of the Soviet system was the command economy, in which (so far as we knew) a factory would shift from churning out vast numbers of tractors one year to mountains of baby carriages the next, each with much the same level of care and finish. We were also convinced that all the stuff they made was simply a crude copy of something developed by brainy western folk who were unfettered and creative and blah blah blah.

There is some truth to this. The Lada, which saw some export (to Canada, at least), was an acknowledged copy of a rather crummy Fiat.  However, there were also some surprises, such as the unexpected effectiveness of the MiG-19 and -21 in the conflict in Viet Nam.  Sticking to militaria, the relative merits of the AK-47 and the M-16 are frequently debated (although the AK was really a development of a German rifle from the end of World War II).  So, in theory Soviet industrial output is somewhat primitive, but may in practice have some merit.

So… what’s all this got to do with pens?  Look what I got in the mail recently:

Soyuz pen

This is a Soyuz pen (Soyuz is the first C of CCCP, as well as the name of a Russian spacecraft– it means “Union”).  Does it look… familiar?  Something like a Parker “51” perhaps?  Well, mostly.  The clip is more like that on a 1940’s Waterman, but the rest of the pen is VERY like the Parker.  Everything under the hood is, frankly, a crude copy of a Parker “51”, very similar to the guts of a Hero 616.  Inside the barrel, things are a little different, though, as the filler is a length of thick accordioned rubber, worked by a clear button.  The same action as a Vacumatic “51”, but with a lot less machining required.  Crude, perhaps even primitive… but also durable.  Were the Cold War still on, I’m sure some chap from Minsk would take me to task for even suggesting that the pure originality of Soviet writing instruments was copied from an inferior and decadent American plan, but in this post-Cold War setting, I think may say that the genesis of the Soyuz is very obviously the drafting table of the Parker company, with certain concessions to the limitations of a washing machine production line.

The cap worries me.  The relatively complex clutch of the “51” is replaced by a simple friction ring, and the plastic of the cap doesn’t strike me as particularly durable against the constant pressure.  The point is also a source of concern.  It’s made of… metal.  Some kind of metal, certainly not gold (decadent western trappings of corruption!) but I don’t think it’s steel, either.  It’s a funny matte grey with a sight tint of yellow, which makes me think of bronze.  The only markings on it are “5-9” which really doesn’t get me anywhere, assuming they are in fact numbers and not Cyrillic letters which I’m misreading.

Like the iconic battles between MiG and Phantom in the air over south-east Asia, the competition between Soyuz and Parker tends to favour the technical sophistication of the American contender.  It’s a lot smoother, and has a higher level of trim.  The Soviet though, for all its low-tech nature, gets the job done pretty well.  I imagine it didn’t cost a mint to make, either, putting it within reach of the common worker.  After all, putting the means of production of marks on paper in the hands of the masses is what the Soviet Union was all about.  I may not be a fan of Marxism, but I am a firm supporter of marksism.

Today’s bourgois pen which taunts the working classes:  Parker “51” Aerometric
Today’s capitalist in-ink-uity:  Pelikan 4001 blue-black

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »