I can stop. Anytime I like.

15 01 2022

Habits come in many forms.

Some are good habits, like automatically washing your hands when you’ve been to the loo or, just as importantly – in the COVID times – as soon as you re-enter your home.

Some are bad habits, like smoking or incessantly tapping on the edge of your desk when you’re working at home (according to the lovely Mrs E.).

Some are fashionably very questionable in the 21st century.

The thing habits have in common (unless they’re the scratchy wool kind) is that they’re automatic subconscious actions or processes and very hard to unlearn. No. 3 offspring educated me to the unsupported “fact” that it’s of the order of 3 months to “unlearn” a habit. He read it on the interwebs, so it must be true.

Smokers are often heard stating some variation of “I’m not addicted – I can stop any time I want.” It’s the sufficiently wanting to that is often the crux of the issue, though even with that firmly in one’s sight, a true habit still takes much breaking and all too often is readily reacquired. The share-holders of Weight Watchers International bank on it in fact. Literally.

So – enter fountain pens. As a school kid somehow earning a local government scholarship to a grammar school (now a private school beyond the reach of many – yay capitalism), I was required to use a fountain pen. A few came and went – either through the natural rigours of teenage schooling, or occasionally from poor manufacture (looking at you Platignum… just sayin’).

As I grew older though, and entered the sixth form, I acquired a “proper” pen – a Parker 45 – and that saw me through the rest of my formal educational years including university. Being subsequently employed in the newly minted dark arts of computer programming (AKA “the 80’s” for those studying modern history) I had less and less need of an analogue writing stick.

I did occasionally reach for a disposable fountain pen – mainly for the chance to use outlandish colours like green or purple. These were still the days of sedentary Blue/Black Quink ink for fountain pens, but the wily Japanese were busily cross pollinating what they’d learnt from gel pens into more exciting alternatives (if not entirely environmentally sound ones) for fountain pens. It was literally decades before I realised one could refill/reuse a “disposable” fountain pen.

Then the years passed, as they always have. Mortgages got signed. Children got born. Continents got moved. Not in the tectonic way (though that happened a bit too), but in the BA flight 85 kind of way. Somewhere along the passage of time my wonderful father-in-law bought me a new fountain pen (Sheaffer Sagaris), which I religiously used every day for work notes.

Recently, COVID entered our vocabulary, and in a lot of tragic cases, our lives.

Working from home happened.

Profound grumpiness occurred.

A chance re-discovery of my old Parker 45 at the back of a drawer also occurred (distractions had been actively sought… even to the extent of tidying rarely visited backwaters of the newly emptied nest). This was pivotal. I now had TWO fountain pens at the same time. Two is a collection. So is more than two, it turned out. That was 18 months ago.

Today I have around 60 fountain pens. Some are relatively expensive ($250 in my case – though for some collectors that counts merely as entry level), but most are not. I do however use all of them, though obviously not all at the same time!

That many pens could consume a lot of ink, you might think. Well… let’s just say I have that covered too.

But of course if you’ve got a lot of pens and a lot of ink to go in the pens, you’d need a lot of paper to write on wouldn’t you? Well… so you’re getting the idea now why this began as a piece on addiction?

But I’m getting better. Honest I am.

I try not to buy pens now just because I like the look of them. I try and leave those for my family to get for birthdays and Christmas. But it’s not perfect. Without meaning to trivialise the situation of any reader struggling with a health-impacting addiction, I am, nevertheless still drawn to the “add to cart” button on many stationery web sites.

I try very hard to limit myself to one new pen a month, and thankfully my tastes are rarely expensive. But all-metal pens (what Parker terms “Flighter”), or all black pens (AKA “stealth”, especially if the nib itself is coated black) are a particular weakness.

In October, I read the often informative “mnmlscholar” blog, and he described a new pen he’d just acquired. This was the Jinhao 9035, a mid-sized pen made of wood. Neither stealth or metal, but… interesting! Jinhao is a Chinese brand, but I have to say that I now own several different models from their stable, and have found the ones I have acquired to be very well made and reliable. I do tend to go for their metal bodied options which may improve the leeway for higher build quality, but I also own no less than four of their 992 model which are clear plastic and just as reliable.

Whilst innocently investigating the 9035 pen on AliExpress, I discovered another new-to-me Jinhao model, the “Stealth” styled Jinhao 95. The pair of them came to a little over $12 shipped to Canada, and the compulsion was strong with me that day…

Well that was back in late October 2021, and much has happened since then. Including ordering one of a new 200 pen limited release of an all-copper Italia from Ensso, which may well be documented in a later blog post.

Source: ENSSO

Hopefully the delivery isn’t impacted by the recent train robberies in California, from whence it is coming!

Fast forward 2½ months, and on Friday the Chinese pens appeared in my post box.

Wooden Jinhao 9035 and “Stealth” Jinhao 95

To ease my (not very prominent) guilt a little then, I thought I’d share my early impressions of these newcomers to my collection. Maybe someone will find it useful, and at the very least it’s keeping me out of Mrs E’s way for a while as I write this.

Firstly the Jinhao 9035…

I opted for the walnut finish (on some sellers’ sites it’s referred to as specifically American walnut), though it does seem to be available in rosewood too. I’m no wood expert and can’t really comment, beyond a general statement that it’s a lovely colour and seems well finished with no scratches, gaping “pores” or other irritations. There’s also no evidence of what must surely have been a mechanical turning process, so kudos to the QA folks at Jinhao. It seems well smoothed, but not obviously varnished. It may have been treated with Danish oil or something, but has no obvious smell, and I fully expect it to “weather” as the grease from my fingers impact the wood over time.

As you may be able to see from the photograph above, the cap has a pretty standard Jinhao steel clip. It has a springiness strong enough to cause the ball end (formed from the plate steel) to scratch the wood underneath slightly. The clip is adorned with the company’s logo of a horse and chariot. I note that it is the right way round when the pen is held in the left hand… something I appreciate!

The lip of the cap is protected by a metallic ring, though the cap threads behind it are plastic and are part of the seal lining within the cap to prevent the nib drying out. This extends up to hide the inside fixing of the clip, which enters through a simple well-formed cut in the wooden cap. The metal lip of the cap provides a neat IKEA-style wood/chrome finish to the pen when the cap is closed and the cap extends around the barrel by a good millimetre or so giving a vaguely mushroom appearance when closed.

The business end of the pen is a standard Jinhao No. 6 steel nib, which is marked with a border pattern, their chariot logo, their brand name and a claim of being 18KGP, or 18 karat gold plated (carats are for diamonds if you were wondering).

I’m no metallurgist, so I’ll leave that one just hanging there, but I will say that I have used several of these nibs on Jinhao X750s and even bought the simple nibs to replace other No 6 nibs on Moonman, Noodler’s and Narwhal pens. I find them slightly springy, wet and generous and suit my writing well. I have yet to struggle with a single Jinhao nib – though I do tend to avoid their lower end Lamy knock-offs and most of their plastic offerings. I find these No 6 nibs particularly reliable and though I’m sure statistically there must be some duds out there, I’ve yet to get one that needed anything special before using it “out of the box”.

Though I inked up the pen with Lamy Turmaline before checking (my bad… too excited) I’m pretty sure the nib isn’t in a screw-out nib unit, and would require pulling from the section housing along with the feed. I’ll try and remember to confirm that once I dismantle it for cleaning.

The section itself is a little shy of 2cm in length and is bookended by chromed rings. It’s very similar in style and feel to the X750 section, but not the same. The metal ring at the barrel end of the section hides the join and merges with the threading on the barrel to engage the cap. The cap closes in 1¾ turns for those who are particular about those things. The metal here engages with the aforementioned plastic cap threads and gives a firm closure and no noticeable play in the cap once closed. The threads are square cut and unobtrusive when gripping the pen for writing. They also form a transition to the step-up of the barrel, which might be seen in the above photograph.

The pen comes provided with a standard Jinhao converter. Again – apologies for inking it up before checking whether the nipple is of the narrow or broader “standard”. Though both will take arbitrary International Standard cartridges, there is a little less forgiveness when using a third party converter. I believe the difference is 2.6 mm or 3.4mm. Not a lot, but enough to cause leaks with some converters. Again – I’ll try to remember to update this post when I dismantle the pen.

The collar by which the section screws to the barrel is metal and seems well made with no sharp edges. It is engraved with the brand JINHAO in capitals and model 9035 in italics. The collar is around 12mm in length and securely holds the converter in place. About 5mm of the collar are threads to engage the barrel and are finer than those holding the cap in place.

The wooden barrel itself is unlined, save for the metal insert which is threaded to receive the section and engage with the cap. It seems roomy and well finished on the inside, with no visible splinters or cracks.

All in all, the example I received seems well finished, with no rough edges or bad joints. This has been my typical experience with Jinhao, and I am amazed they can make them for the price they are sold.

I don’t post my pens, but the inner threads of the cap – even though they’re plastic – would not be kind on the wood of the barrel over time, I suspect. I briefly tried though, and the cap seems to be firmly held by the friction, if that’s your thing.

OK, so to illustrate my assertion that I can indeed stop any time I like, I’ll call that it for this post and talk about the Jinhao 95 in a separate outing to the keyboard. Until next time…





Self-evident Truths…

8 12 2021

Christmas isn’t Christmas without Brussels Sprouts!

I’d like to thank Mrs E. for sharing this with me, but frankly… I’m still slightly stunned and a little unsteady, and I’m not entirely convinced “thank” is the appropriate action here!

YouTube – Without Brussels Sprouts; David Goody

I think I was even more stunned to discover Mr Goody had gone so far as to set one of philosophy’s greatest unanswered questions firmly to rest, and vaguely to music too…

YouTube – Die Hard is a Christmas film; David Goody

Now if only I knew who Mark Kermode is!





What’s Love Got To Do With It?

14 04 2021

Apart from everything, you mean?

The latest belter from Quadra Island’s Mother Mother is “I Got Love”, with not a small nod to self-awareness and being comfortable with who you are.

They issued a very bland (near static) video with the song then asked fans to do their own, and send them in. With some truly inspired editing, they came up with this – a tribute to the humility of the band and the creativity of their fans. (Well – except me: I’m just posting the YouTube link!) There’s recognisable snatches of the UK, lots of Vancouver area scenery and small snippets of the band themselves mixed in with mostly fan-generated content. Watch it to the end to really understand the power of music.

Source: YouTube – Mother Mother, I Got Love




Love it or hate it

18 06 2020

I saw a typically clever Marmite ad online the other day. If you’re not familiar with Marmite, all I can suggest is you study particle physics instead. It’ll be easier to explain. The rest of us will just quietly continue…

It was making reference to the fact that the source material (spent brewer’s yeast) was currently in short supply and the larger size jars were temporarily unavailable.

It reminded me that many things are quite polarising, especially in the arts. Indeed, as I type this I’m listening to “Too much  too young” by the Specials as Mrs E looks on with undisguised distate.

The works of Roger Waters fall into this category, I found. Ex of Pink Floyd, and no doubt drawing his old age pension, he’s still producing music and touring. I’d bought tickets for my son and I to see him in Vancouver this autumn. COVID put an end to that, so we’ll see how outrageous Ticketmaster behaves when it comes to rescheduling/refunds.

Many people find his music repetitive or dirge-like, but personally I love the imagery of his lyrics. Admittedly they can be a bit self-indulgent sometimes, but I still love the imagery.

Take the lines from “4.50 AM (Go Fishing)” on “Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking”:

You adopted a fox cub
Whose mother was somebody’s coat

There’s mention of Eeyore and Pooh in the song too! Classic word-weaving.

Anyway, Spotify served up one of his later pieces from “Amused to Death”. It’s not what you’d call a light spirited album but again, I find the word pictures very evocative. Given the times we live in, I thought the lyrics for “Too much rope” particularly relevant.

Muslim or Christian, Mullah or Pope
Preacher or poet who was it wrote
Give any one species too much rope
And they’ll fuck it up

Love it. Hate it. Just don’t waste it!





Mike Scott and Wings

19 06 2016

Yeah, yeah, I know Wings was Paul McCartney’s band and you’ve likely no idea who Mike Scott is, but bear with me.

So last night I went to see Lloyd Cole play live in Vancouver with First Born and Mrs. E.

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Now there’s a bit of a story to this. Back in the early 80’s I was at university in Durham and foolishly forewent the opportunity to go and see the upstart Lloyd Cole and the Commotions when they played nearby. Likely Newcastle. I don’t recall… it was after all 30+ years ago! Many years later, in the late 90’s he was still pumping out some great – if somewhat melancholy – music. His style suits my own perfectly, and I’ve always appreciated his deep insightful lyrics… and easily recognise his slight pretensions within myself (not everyone can fit “Simone de Beauvoir” into a song lyric).

I was delighted to learn he was to do a show in Northampton which was an easy drive from Milton Keynes where I lived at the time. I was totally gutted when it was cancelled at the last moment. Years later I even had a brief Twitter exchange with the great man who was kind enough to explain the circumstances.

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Anyway, this time, it all went smoothly. First Born had to collect her ticket at the venue (thanks Ticketmaster… another example of your stellar service that you charge unreasonable amounts to not provide!) so we got there early. The venue didn’t have a separate “Will Call” window so we ended up in the normal queue for entrance and therefore happily close to the front.

The venue is normally a cinema so we ended up with primo comfy seats in the centre and only a couple of rows back from the stage. We had to wait an hour or so for Mr Cole to make an appearance but that was fine. When he first briefly appeared, it was to set up his own gear (plainly a low budget affair… as hinted at by the venue itself). He does not portray “rock star” at all. More “bored dad”, I’d say. He’d definitely benefit from a stylist though… denim jackets went out with Cool Hand Luke. He’s a few years older than me, but looked fit and well… and in possession of a full head of greying hair. Pretty much the same style as back in the 80’s – kudos.

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Lloyd Cole does his own tuning and sound check

The show was in support of a retrospective boxed set of his music covering 1983-1996 so I was anticipating singing along to every song – highly familiar as I am with his entire catalogue. I was slightly perplexed when he came on to perform, picked up one of his two guitars (freshly tuned) and launched into a song I’d never heard. He has a dour face at the best of times, and had not spoken a word. This did not bode well…

Thankfully he then identified the tune as a Prince song. He’d been listening to much of his music of late (no pun intended) and had realised the chord progression was similar to one of his own songs (Loveless) from the setlist. He said it was not originally on the setlist, but I see he played it at the previous gig in Portland, so I think that was a white lie. I’m not familiar with much of Prince’s work, but I identified the song as “Sometimes It Snows In April” and not “Tracy” as listed for Portland.

Decide for yourself with the help of Youtube:

He soon got into his stride and verged almost on the chatty between songs. After playing Butterfly he told a story of playing at a concert with Mike Scott (lead singer of The Waterboys) and finding his music dark and moody. Darker and moodier than anyone else’s. He claimed he’d re-examined his own material and not played Butterfly for a decade after the concert! I’m not sure many in the audience knew who Mike Scott even was, but the point was well made.

He joked about his age and needing to wear reading glasses over his contact lenses for fine work (like tuning his guitar), and admitted to maintaining some small portion of vanity. He laughed and said when he removed his specs, he was sometimes left with “wings” due to his still ample hair, and asked the audience to let him know if this was the case.

Naturally – being an audience full of ageing hipsters – “Wings!” was called out at various times for the rest of the evening. Lloyd seemed to genuinely enjoy his reception and smiled when he got a Canadian “you’re welcome” to his rock star “thank-you” at the end of each song.

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Lloyd Cole getting all emotional… honest

His guitar work was excellent, and I was impressed that he re-tuned his guitars occasionally, “because I care” as he explained. At one point a member of the audience ambled up to the stage and delivered a pint of beer. Something I myself have done to support particularly good pub bands… but I’ve never seen it at a “proper concert”! Oh Canada… you’re so, er, Canadian!

He politely accepted the pint (perhaps in fear of opening the door to a steady stream of further offerings) but said he’d save it until later, explaining he’d once tried Karaoke when drunk in Japan, and realised too late that “We will rock you” actually had verses! Assuring us of his relative success with the chorus, he launched quickly into the next song.

He actually fluffed the words in one song, stopped with an annoyed “dammit”, apologised for the tongue-twister words (hey – come on Lloyd, YOU wrote them!) and continued to a note-perfect ending. It was very human and didn’t detract one iota from the performance. During the intro to another song, he hit a bum note and explained his little finger now had a groove in it due to all the concerts and he sometimes found it hard to hold the string down properly. He restarted and played note perfect for the entire thing. So very dad-like.

After Charlotte Street, he explained he’d written it while living in London. He claimed it actually related to events he’d experienced on Upper Street (the A1), but figured Charlotte Street (off the famous Oxford Street) sounded better. He then poked fun at Big Audio Dynamite, saying someone should have told them Upping St. was a bad name for a record. As far as I can tell, Upping St. doesn’t actually exist.

The night seemed to be over in a blink, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Apart from the unexpected Prince homage, I knew all the songs and heartily sang along to most. Thankfully it was dark. Just sayin’.

He saved Perfect Skin and Forest Fire until the encore and was rewarded with stand up ovations – well deserved! I certainly hope he includes Vancouver in the tour for the next boxed set.

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OK GO outdo themselves

11 02 2016

Masters of the “one-take, no edit” music video, OK-GO have gone a step further in their colourful choreographed music videos. This time – weightless.

  • No less choreography.
  • No less colour.
  • Just less gravity…

EDIT: So it seems the original link to Youtube that I posted wasn’t “kosher” and has been removed. Try instead the official OK GO posting, which can be found here. If you’re interested in how it was done (and where the joins are when gravity returns) check out the FAQ & credits.

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Boob spelled backwards is boob!

13 12 2015

Source: He wrote a song about his mom’s cancer. That’s when famous musicians sent him their version.

When young Archer discovered that his mum’s breast cancer had returned, he decided it was dumb. She’d kicked its arse once, and it was dumb enough to come back for more!

Determined to do his bit to help, he wrote a song. Well, the words of a song anyway. Luckily his dad is a radio DJ and with a little help from the various famous musicians that came through the station young Archer’s song was given form.

Breast cancer affects one in eight women, and Archer’s mum happens to be one. She’s on the mend again and Archer’s creativity has helped shine a bit more light on this disease. Enjoy his song, and look for ways you can help.





The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

15 03 2015

What ever happened to Roger Waters?

Years ago, a great friend of mine asked if I wanted a CD of an album that he just couldn’t “get on with”. We were both Pink Floyd fans (indeed he even got to see them live), and this was a solo album by Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.

Wikipedia: The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

I’ve learnt over the intervening three decades that it is definitely a divisive album. Even those that love The Floyd and even Waters generally can have polarised views on this particular album. He sketched it out alongside The Wall in the late 70s and offered the band one, the other was to be a solo project. It took him until 1984 to finish it.

Even the cover is controversial. The more keen observers will note that the naked woman has been relieved of her face, and arguably then further objectified. The really keen observers will note she’s on the right of the road making her likely a hitcher in the UK, facing traffic driving on the left.

Love it or hate it, it’s a clever concept album. Each track is titled with a time (in realtime if you’re an insomniac) as the narrator spends a sleepless night having various dreams and recollecting his fears, memories and thoughts of adultery.

There are really strong saxophone and guitar elements from  David Sanborn and Eric Clapton. That said, I was personally drawn by the typically clever Waters lyrics. The guy can be provocative for sure, but he can tell a story and wields words with the grace and precision of any master painter.

And she smiled as she finished her sandwich
And her cold eyes fixed me to my dark history
As she brushed the remains
Of our love from the bed

 

Fixed on the front of her Fassbinder face
Was the kind of a smile
That only a rather dull child could have drawn

 

You adopted a fox cub
Whose mother was somebody’s coat

 





I try

24 02 2015

Tick tock goes the clock.

The Vancouver Sun Run is not getting further away, and I’ve been trying to keep up some sort of training regime. Gym a few times a week; running the rest of it; a hike at the weekend…

I did a half-decent hike on Saturday, but have been a bit lazy since then. Even my nagging FitBit hasn’t been successful in breaking my fug. I’ve been a bit low emotionally lately and that never helps with motivation.

Today though, I managed to cajole myself out for a run. As usual, I put my iPod on random and set off into the night. As I’ve mentioned a few times, there is often a single song that sticks with me as particularly memorable out of the 10 or so that play during my circuit. This time though, I noticed just how many of the tunes were about lost loves, or other forms of self pity. It could of course just be one of those weird statistical things, or it might be a reflection of the type of music I am drawn to.

The song that stood out for me tonight was the lovely Macy Gray and “I try”.

I try to say goodbye and I choke
Try to walk away and I stumble
Though I try to hide it, it’s clear
My world crumbles when you are not here

Nice steady beat though, I shaved almost 5 minutes off my circuit time which was a shock. I’ve been favouring the gym of late and didn’t think my road speed would have been maintained. Seems I was wrong. Now if only I could lose some of the excess weight I’d be quids in…

Trawling youtube to find the official Macy Gray video, I came across Natalie Imbruglia and Alanis Morissette videos. Interesting. They are both frequent visitors to my iPod, so I plainly fit whatever algorithm youtube is using for “if you like this, you’d probably also like…”.

So, as a bonus today, I bring you one of my favourite Alanis tracks – “Everything”. Any song that can begin with I can be an asshole of the grandest kind is right up my street.

I love the self-effacing timbre of much of her music, and the celebration that someone can love you despite everything you are…. or perhaps even because of it.

You see everything, you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which you can’t relate
And you’re still here





Criminal

27 01 2015

Well, I’m trying to get my money’s worth out of my son’s monthly gym membership…

If I go, he feels obliged to come too, so’s not to be shown up by the old man. My card is per-visit, so there’s no particular pressure as to when I go, but his is per month, so if he doesn’t go, it’s wasted money… and it’s my money!

As is often the case, the iPod “spoke” to me. Tonight’s stand-out song was Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”. Back from her early days… though she was still as skinny as a beanpole.

Dubious taste in video if I may say, but close your eyes and absorb the imagery wrought by the poetry.