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Pilot's Namiki Iroshizuku Tsuyu-Kusa UPDATED

3/30/12
I'm conflicted about this ink. I LOVE the color. I don't like the way that it behaves. It spreads more than any other ink that I've tried a lot. **The Spreading Award now goes to Sheaffer Skrip Brown.** I love the way it looks when it spreads out and you can really see the shading, but that same beautiful spreading makes the ink pretty useless for most papers and applications.

**UPDATE: I tried this ink out in a pen with a significantly finer nib, and I'm not nearly as impressed with its performance. It seemed washed out and not nearly as vibrant as it was in the Ahab. It still did a little spreading, but I lost most of the glorious shading. **

It's also really expensive at $35, though the bottles are big and super good-lookin'. I'm going to try this ink out in a really fine point pen to see if that eliminates the problem. I've seen this ink reviewed over at the Fountain Pen Network, and those reviewers don't seem to have the problem, so it might be that it just doesn't play nice with my Ahab Flex Pen. Check out these pics, and find the sample over at isellpens in the Pilot section.

7/13/2012 Update:
I really liked this ink when I first got it. It was a really good color in my Ahab, but it was too bleedy to be used on anything but awesome papers. I just got another sample of this ink from Goulet's July Ink Drop, and I decided to try it out in my TWSBI 700. That pen is a good deal drier than my Ahabs, and I thought it might look good from my new Knox nib. It does look nice, but it's much more run-of-the-mill. It's a nice blue, but it's not fancy or all that interesting. I wanted to like this ink, but it's either pretty and unusable or blah but usable. Oh well. My verdict: Not worth the price tag.



The Hunger Games Movie: Better than the book?

3/28/12
We went and saw the new Hunger Games movie. I guess you probably did too since it is, like, the third-highest grossing opening of a movie ever. One of the people sitting next to us was seeing it for at least the second time. That was Sunday. I guess they couldn't get enough of kids fighting to the death.

This is probably the first time that I've seen a movie and thought, "Wow, I wish the book had been this good." If there's a movie that is based on a book we almost invariably like the book better. I was thinking about why this might be, and it strikes me that we movie-goers are a self-selecting group of people.

When we read a novel, we create a vision of that world in our minds and we create a vision of the people in that novel and what they look like while they do the things that they do. Most times an author will tell us what a person looks like, but there are lots of times that we sort of skip that description if it isn't drilled into our heads. Some authors are pretty heavy-handed in this regard.*  Other authors seem light on description and just let us decide for ourselves what a character looks like. In the second case, we do a lot of the creative work for the author. I don't think it's a bad thing, but I bet it leads a lot of people to be disappointed when they see that character onscreen in the flesh of some actor or actress. I bet that's not news to anyone, but I just typed it and I'm not going to delete all of those characters. It's my blog.

The self-selection that takes place in the theater stems from the fact that if we have read a book and it sucks (Twlight, for example) we are much less likely to go to the movie. We've already paid for the book or spent the time reading it and we are loathe to fork over another $7 to see the same tripe acted out for us. We are pretty unlikely to enjoy it, and we don't want to pay double.

If we've read a book and enjoyed it, on the other hand, you're likely to go see the movie but your enjoyment will depend on how closely the product matches your pre-conceptions. If the product is good, but it doesn't match what you were expecting then you're going to be disappointed. This probably doesn't have anything to do with the goodness of the movie. It's way more dependent upon your judgment that your imaginary version of that story is "the right way" to portray the story, and the director's imagining of the story is totally wrong and bad.

If you've read a book and it was so-so you might go see the movie, or at least you won't resist when someone suggests that you should go see it with them. You've got an imaginary version of that story in your mind, but it's probably less concrete and you're not so taken with it that you can't imagine a better version. In fact, you probably hope that the version that will be on the screen is better than the version in your mind.

I was in this third category when I went to see The Hunger Games. I read the trilogy, and it was okay. The first book was good enough to get me to read the second one, and the third was total crap (I mean, total nonsense-crap). My wife was pretty psyched about seeing the movie, and I wasn't opposed to it. I was cautiously optimistic. The previews looked pretty good.

The movie was a bit gritty, and that fit my expectations. The camera work was really nice, and they used interesting focusing and camera positions. I found myself saying, "yeah, I bet that's what my point of view would be like if I were to experience that situation."

The really nice surprise, though, was that I didn't detest the main character. Katniss was much more like a real person in the film as compared to the novel. She seemed to have a genuine range of human emotions, and I could empathize with her and the choices she made. This surprised me because the Katniss in the novel was cold, distant, and super-damaged. I don't think it's giving away anything to say that she had a hard life, and that life left her in a condition which was not conducive to being a fully functioning person. She couldn't love anyone but her sister (and I'm not totally sure that she really loved her sister either). She didn't really have compassion for anyone except for her sister. She had a hunting buddy named Gale, but she didn't love him (she seemed... accustomed to him in the sense that she would miss him if he weren't there and he added to her efficiency). She had this partner in the games named Peeta, but she didn't love him either. She had a mom, but she only felt a sort of cold disdain and disappointment in her. Her main attribute was something like "loyalty" to her sister, her family and District, and eventually the rebellion. All of the things that we know about the world that Katniss lives in are filtered through her damaged and broken perspective. It made for an interesting main character that it was nearly impossible to like or to root for. I kinda liked that about the book. I thought it was brave for Suzanne Collins to do that in a "young adult" novel.

I think the difference might have been due to the perspective from which the story was told in the novel and the film. The novel was a first person narrative. It was told from the perspective of this profoundly damaged and pretty naive teenager. She was focused on  survival. There was no room in her for such petty things as love. The film gave us largely the same story, but from a more objective third person perspective. We could see the actions of others, and of Katniss, without it being filtered through Katniss' perception. This made her more relateable and gave her character more depth.

I think this was a really good move for the Gary Ross (the director), but I don't know if the character is really the same as the character in the books. She's not nearly as closed off to the world, and she seems to be able to be at least intermittently happy and engaged with the people who surround her.

I enjoyed the movie. What did you think? Can you think of any other movies that rose above their source material?



*Stephenie Meyer (of Twilight (in)famy) relentlessly drilled the phrase "flawless alabaster skin" (or some such similar nonsense) into her reader's skull. Those books would have been far skinnier if she had not used those ridiculous adjective-laden descriptors over and over and over. (I have a hunch that she had to do so in order to make the reader overlook the paucity of characterization, but whatever.)

Private Reserve's Blue Suede

3/27/12
Private Reserve's Blue Suede really looks like some blue suede shoes. It's a lush teal green/blue that gives your writing that hint of an odd color that you're looking for. It's an ink that I keep going back to even though I have several inks that I need to try out. Every time I see it in my ink drawer I reach for it. I have a growing collection of greens and blues, but this is still one of my favorites.

It shows 6 second drying time on this thick journal paper that I bought to use for my ink reviews, but I've never had a problem with it smearing on other papers. Even on that paper, it doesn't smear much at the 4 second mark. Check out the close up for more details. You'll also see a really nice shading in this ink. It's pretty obvious in the close up that the line shades from dark green to the regular blue suede that the ink is named for. I'm not sure what it looks like in a really fine nib, but I might try it in my Rotring Core's fine nib. I'm sure I've used it in that pen before, and I think it came out almost dark enough  be mistaken as a green-black. Another thing to notice is that there's not much nib-creep even on my creepy Lamy's nib.

If you right click on these images and open them in a new tab, you'll see that they're actually pretty big images that Google shrinks down a bit.

If you haven't tried this ink, and you're looking for a teal that you'll keep coming back to, this is one to snag.

A Haul of Ink!

3/26/12
 A little while ago, Goulet Pens had a sale on their ink samples, and I decided that it was time to get a whole bunch of them. I ended up with 8 new colors of ink, a bottle of their Perfect Pen Flush, and the Bandzug writing set that I was talking about yesterday.

I don't know if anyone else is interested in how they package and ship their products, but I like to show them because they should really be the model of how fragile or liquidy things ought to be shipped. Exemplary work, folks.


These are the inks that I ended up with along with a little smear of the ink. There are two browns, an orange, a blue, three greens and an interesting dark red. I have the Spearmint green in one of my Hero pens, and I've just loaded up my Wing Sung 101 with Widow maker. I'll have those writing samples posted in the near future, but I want to do some writing with each of them before I talk about them much. I'm pretty excited about this set of colors. 

Brause Calligraphy and Writing Set

3/25/12
I have been accumulating a backlog of interesting ink samples, and I don't have enough fountain pens to try them all out or write up reviews and such. My mother has a really nice glass pen, but those are running in the $18-20 range, and I thought that a good alternative would be this Bandzug writing nib set from Goulet Pens. It was only $12 and it includes 6 assorted nibs and a wooden nib-holder. I've always wanted a dip pen. They're the ideal thing for a guy who can't settle on just one ink.

It's not. Or, at least, it's not yet. I couldn't quite wait to try out a new nib, so I inked one and tried it fresh out of the packaging. It didn't work at all well, but I wasn't too surprised. The instructions that come with the set advise washing or soaking in some mildly soapy water to get rid of the machine oils and such that are going to be on the new nibs. (Why they can't do that for me before I buy them, I don't know.) I washed, rinsed, soaked them for a while as per the instructions. "Hooray!" I thought, "Now I can use my new nibs!"

Nope. They are pretty terrible. The fine blue one is crazy scratchy and alternately blotchy and dry. It holds about half a word's worth of ink. Worthless. I tried some of the broader ones, and they are only slightly less terrible. They seem to hold about one word's worth of ink (if your words are short), but they go dry even when there is obviously still ink on the nib. I must be doing something wrong, but I can't figure out what.

The other problem is the wooden holder that comes with the set. It is already stained (from reaching into the ink sample bottles), and the little metal tines that are supposed to hold the nib have sort of pushed back into the holder. It'll still kind of hold a nib, but I am not impressed at all.

I'm going to send an email to the Goulets to see if perhaps there's some secret to using this set that I don't know about so far, but I'm holding out little hope.

(I should reiterate that I'm sure this isn't their fault. They're great and their customer service has been impeccable.)
(3/25/2012)


I corresponded with Brian after he commented here, and they offered to take the product back even though I had clearly used it. Class acts at Goulet Pens. Class acts.  As Brian says in the comments, the secret to using the set is to use inks that a suitable for it. I don't have any calligraphy inks, so it's just not for me.

Noodler's Air Corps Blue Black

3/15/12
This is an ink sample that I got a while ago from Goulet Pens, but I didn't get around to trying out until just now. I also got samples of Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia and Zhivago as well as Private Reserve's Ebony Blue in the same batch. I've been looking for an interesting dark ink, and some of these are really nice.

The ACBB that I'm talking about today is an off-black. It's currently inhabiting my Lamy Vista with a medium nib, and the breadth of that nib gives the ink a bit of room to shade. It's dark enough to use anywhere, I think, but interesting enough not to be boring. (I'm one of those people who thinks that black is a boring color. I know that it's more formal than a blue or a green, but I just don't care.) 

The ink shades from pretty dark to a lighter not-quite-green and not-quite-blue. It's like a green/navy, really. Pretty neat effect from an ink. I know there's a good blue in there, too, but you can't really see it unless you let a drop fall on a tissue. I do that sometimes because it lets me see the shades in an ink, and I've shared a pic of that here. (I almost certainly didn't blow my nose on that one.)

The ink doesn't feather or bleed, and it's a little unique so you'll know that it's your signature if you need to be able to tell. It's not waterproof, though, so don't use it for checks and such if you're worried about forgery.

If you're looking for a good not-quite-black, check this one out. It's good.  

Hero Pens and Ink Samples

3/14/12
I've been on a bit of a roll, lately. I didn't buy a new ink or pen for a few years, and now I'm unstoppable. Last week I bought these two pens and 6 ink samples from isellpens. The two pens are both Hero pens that are supposed to be knockoffs of the Parker 51. The burgundy is a Hero 616, and the green and gold one is a Hero  330. They have hooded nibs and fill using a metal sleeve over a rubber sack. It's permanently attached, so you'll have to use bottled ink. (I don't know why you would want cartridges, but some people are into that.)

These pens are on the really cheap end of the spectrum ($3-6), but they're really good. I have a Wing Sung 101, but I couldn't find another, so I got these. They start every time you put nib to paper, and they aren't complicated. The only unpleasant part is rinsing them out. The rubber sack inside takes a little while to dry, so you can't switch inks very quickly.

I know the burgundy one writes really well in the Pilot Ku-Jaku ink at the bottom of that picture. (I'll write up a review of those inks soon.) The green one is filled with Noodler's Beaver ink, but my wife said "Oo! I want that one!" as soon as she saw it, and I haven't written more than eight words with it. She says that it's now one of her favorite pens. I don't doubt it.

Pick yourself up some while they're on sale.

Noodler's Summer Tanager and Private Reserve's Chocolat

3/6/12
I've been toying with the idea of writing some reviews of fountain pen ink. I've never really done it before, but I'm accumulating a fairly good collection of inks, and it might be fun to try out for a while.

I've been interested in fountain pens for a long while (ever since my mother showed me one of her snorkel-type pens when I was a kid) and I've been using them for several years now. I started off with a fairly modest collection of Private Reserve inks, but that collection has expanded exponentially over the last few months. I discovered that one could get samples of inks through the mail. FANTASTIC!

Anyway, here are two inks that I have as samples. The first is one that I'm actually pretty fond of, and the second is a total dog.

Private Reserve's Chocolat is a deep brown. In fact, it could probably pass a black unless you look closely. It's smooth and thick, so it lays down really nicely on the page. If you like the idea of writing in actual chocolate, this one might be for you. It's also just different enough from black that that you would be able to tell the difference if you look closely. That might be useful for people who sign things and want to know whether it's actually their signature or not.

On the other hand, the ink might stain your converter, so I don't think I'd try it in a demonstrator or other clear-ish pen.

Noodler's inks are generally very nice. They've got interesting colors and the inks that I've tried from them are generally well behaved. This one, though, sucks. It's just no fun to use at all.

Summer Tanager is a pretty bright orange, and I really wanted to like it. I can't. I just can't. It feathers, it bleeds, and if there were other ways in which it could misbehave I'm sure it would.  The one thing that it did really well is wash out of my Ahab when I was finished writing this page. You'll notice that there's a mistake or two and some awkward phrasing in the written sample. I just left it that way because I didn't want to waste more paper on it. The sheet under that one is already covered in orange dots and lines. Avoid it unless you...well, just avoid it.

Word.
Mike