Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Generation to Generation: The World of David Oscarson

If you are of a certain age you may recall an advertising campaign from the 1960's by the Blackglama Fur Company. Their advertising slogan was: What Becomes a Legend Most? The ads featured celebrities like Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Maria Callas and Catherine Deneuve wearing Blackglama mink coats, photographed in luxurious black & white by the great Richard Avedon. Regardless of how you may feel about the wearing of fur, which I'm certainly not advocating, the advertising campaign was a huge success. It's the question that intrigues me: What Becomes a Legend Most?

In the world of writing instruments there are pens that have achieved the status of being true icons: the Montblanc 149 Diplomat, the Arte Italiana Paragon by Omas and the Pelikan Souveran Collection. These pens are cherished the world over and are among the most recognized pens in the world. But there exists a Pantheon for those writing instruments that have achieved a status beyond that of simply being an icon or legend. The only occupant of this Pantheon is David Oscarson a designer whose work transcends time.

David Oscarson's writing instruments are hand made from 18-karat gold and .925 Sterling Silver. Each pen passes through many levels of engraving which produces unique patterns known as guilloche. Guilloche is a time intensive process that brings to the fore the essence of the precious metal used in the manufacture of each pen. The pen is then overlaid with hard enamel which is comprised of a mixture of glass, water and metal oxides which is ground for hours yielding the most beautiful translucent finish that I've ever seen. David Oscarson's pens also offers a choice of filling system including: cartridge, converter or eyedropper fill. The nibs are made in Heidelberg, Germany in 18-karat gold with an ebonite feeder. Each nib is plated with rhodium and tipped with iridium to ensure the smootheness of writing for years to come. Nibs are available in fine, medium and broad sizes. A rollerball version of each pen is also available. All writing instruments made by Mr. Oscarson are Limited Editions which makes them highly sought after treasures.

Pictured above is a sample from the Harvest Collection, which was the first to incorporate three levels of Guilloche and two colors of hard enamel. The pen features a basket-weave background supporting wheat stalks, grass and kernel outlines. The pen was created in a limited edtion of 88 pens, including fountain pens and rollerballs and is available in five colors: bronze, blue, red, yellow and amber.

One of my favorite pens is the Celestial, pictured above. The barrel of the pen features the moon in each of its four phases (new, quarter, half and full) amid stars of various widths and depths. The barrel is midnight blue with the moon depicted in high relief, but its the Celestial cap that makes this pen a wonder to behold. The sun with its bold rays require multiple levels of engraving with the rays in high relief and the face of the sun rendered in three dimensional relief on the tapered surface of the cap. While the body of the pen is the same in this series, the caps are rendered in five colors: blue, white, red, orange and yellow. Truly a pen for which there exists no superlatives to describe.

Jacques de Molay was the last Grand Master of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, otherwise known as the Knights Templar. On Friday the 13th in the year 1307 Jacques de Molay and those members of the Order that were found were arrested by Philip IV "Le Bel" and Pope Clement V. Philip was heavily in debt to the Templars and his coffers were empty. Philip applied for membership in the Order, presumably to gain control of the Templar's assets, but was rejected. Broke and rejected Philip along with Pope Clement V devised a scheme to rid themselves of the Templars and confiscate their property. Jacques de Molay and his Knights were falsely accused of hersesy and were summarily tortured and burned at the stake. Initially de Molay confessed to the false charges but on the morning of March 14, 1314 he recanted saying that he was only guilty of having originally agreed to the false charges. He professed his innocence and that of his Fellow Knights before he was consummed by the flames.

In commemoration of that event, David Oscarson created the Jacques de Molay pen. Those of my readers who happen to be Freemasons will not fail to recognize features on the pen that evoke not only DeMolay but Freemasonry as well: the sprig of accacia, the Croix Patee, the Apprentice Pillar from Rosslyn Chapel, the Skull & Crossbones and the Mosaic Pavement. Appropriate to the theme of the pen is the clip which is rendered in the form of a Templar sword. On the cap is an engraving of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher while the bottom of the pen features the Templar insignia of two Knights riding on a horse symbolizing the Templar vow of Brotherhood and Poverty. To quote Ms. C.C. Reilly, MPS:
 "By producing this breath-taking commemorative pen, David Oscarson has done a tremendous service for all those who honor de Molay. May it always serve to remind us not only of the martyrdom of de Molay but also of our Founding Fathers' prudence to include freedom of religion in our U.S. Constitution."

Like many of the writing instruments in Mr. Oscarson's collection, cuff links are also available with the pen's motifs carried-over.

 The Valhalla Collection is another striking example of the genius of David Oscarson. In this collection we have a tribute to the Norse Gods: Thor (Blue Guilloche), Odin (Gray Guilloche) and Frey (Red Guilloche, pictured below). The cap features an Ourobouros-like serpent about to swallow its own tail covered in runic script. The barrel features the guilloche engraving of a Viking long ship with Mr. Oscarson's trademark hard enamel finish. The cap band bears an engraving of Mr. Oscarson's name rendered in the runic alphabet.

Before closing I return to my original question: What Becomes a Legend Most? The answer: David Oscarson. A designer of incredible writing instruments and accessories that are both treasured jewels and family heirlooms.

Mr. Oscarson's writing instruments are only available from fine pen boutiques three of which are listed below:

The Fountain Pen Hospital:
Art Brown International Pen Shop:

A Final Word:
In the community of pen enthusiasts there's a question that is often asked: What's your Holy Grail Pen? Which is to ask, What pen are you most seeking? The pen that represents, for its future owner, the ne plus ultra of imagination, design, collectibility and writing perfection. For me there has been only one answer: a David Oscarson.

Please visit David's site to view his entire collection:

Clifford Jacobs
Have Pen, Will Write
Scribo Ergo Sum

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pelikan Ductus

No sooner had I written my review of the Laban Mento Terrazzo, I traded it away for the Pelikan Ductus pictured above. The Pelikan Ductus is a much villified pen and the Internet has no shortage of disgruntled purchasers. So why trade a pen that I loved, the Laban, for a pen that doesn't move me? Well, I have this theory that I can turn a frog into a prince, or in this case a princess. And I think I've succeeded in doing that, well at least for the most part.

First and foremost: Pelikan is one of the finest pen manufacturers in the world and I would spend my money on a Pelikan writing instrument before purchasing a Montblanc. Pelikan is known as "the writer's pen" which is to say that Pelikan writing instruments are for people who enjoy using fountain pens.

The Ductus is a beautiful writing instrument. It is a classic and classy pen that commands authority. An alternative name for this pen would be "Black Tie" but, alas, the Monteverde company already has a fountain pen with that designation. The pen comes in two versions: black & gold or black & silver. The pen is made of black high-grade resin and lacquer over metal. In a departure from their Souveran series of pens, the pin stripe is on the cap rather than the barrel. The clip is big and springy in the traditional shape that resembles a Pelican's beak. The pen has heft and feels wonderful in the hand. It's not a light-weight pen but neither is it heavy.

The Sanctum Santorum: Going Inside
Where the Ductus fails to live up to its initial good looks is on the inside. The nib on this pen has got to be one of the most unattractive nibs I've ever seen. It resembles a shovel that you'd use to dig a ditch.

The nib takes away from the beauty and elegance of the pen, a traditional Pelikan nib would have been more befitting. (And you're probably still wondering why would I trade my Laban for this pen, I'll get there soon.) The nib is smooth like all the nibs in the Pelikan line, which works in its favor. The nib on the pen that I received is extra fine; I usually prefer a medium, broad or italic for a bolder writing line.

The feature that most collectors and writers dislike is the fact that the fountain pen is cartridge only. What were they thinking? Pens can be cartridge/converters which gives you the option of using a cartridge or filling from a bottle. Higher quality pens have an internal piston filling system which is, for me, preferable. Not being able to fill the Ductus from a bottle is frustrating. Fortunately I have syringes that allow me to fill the cartridge with the ink of my choice. I hear that it is possible to fit a cartridge/converter into the cartridge only receptacle which makes it easier to fill the pen using bottle ink.

In the picture above you'll notice a small U-shaped clip that holds the cartridge in place. The U-shape clip is very delicate and was the first casualty in my attempt to modify the pen. To replace the clip is too difficult to do one's self, so I didn't bother. The good news is that, the cartridge attaches snugly to the feed whereby there is no leakage due to the clips absence.

From Frog To Prince: The Modifications
The first task was to increase the ink flow so that the pen would provide a thicker line of writing. The easiest way to do this is to, with great care, pass a razor blade between the tines of the nib. Care must be taken not to mis-align the tines. I also gently increased the space between the nib and the feed to allow for a more generous flow of ink. The pen is now closer to a medium European nib which would still be considered fine by American standards. But the pen is no longer an extra fine which is sufficient to make this writer happy.

Because the nib started as an extra fine, I found it to be a bit scratchy as it moved across the page. A few circular motions on a medium grade Emory board eliminated some of the bite from the nib: there are no more hiccups as the pen moves across the surface of paper, even paper with a toothy grain.

Purchasing a fountain pen is like buying an off-the-rack suit. While the basic suit is well made, it may need some tailoring to fit one's frame more elegantly. Generally, fountain pens write very well right out of the box but occasionally the pen may need to be modified to the owner's taste. There are many nibmeisters who do this professionally like Richard Binder and John Mottishaw (Links to their sites can be found elsewhere on this blog.) I have a strong interest in developing my pen repairing and modification skills, so I'm willing to take the chance of making a mistake in order to learn how to take a good pen and make it better. But I do not recommend doing so if you are unsure. The discussion forums over at The Fountain Pen Network are a good place to start if you wish to increase your knowledge about pen repair and modification. Perhaps, one day, you too will be able to turn a frog into a prince.

Have Pen, Will Write

Clifford "Jake" Jacobs
Scribo Ergo Sum

I must thank my dear friend George Henry "Sandy" Campbell for trading pens with me and giving me the inspiration and opportunity to write this blog. Sandy was my high school English teacher who taught a class entitled, Being and Non-Being a literature class that focused on the work of Existentialist writers like Sartre, Camus, Buber, Kafka and Hesse. He was, and remains, the best teacher that I've ever had. Thanks Daoud Kahlil.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Be Noble!

My best friend Dave Reichley April 25, 1982

One of my Masonic Brothers, Balvin Dunn, posted this quote on his Facebook page. I loved the quote so much that I thought I'd reproduce it here.

"Be noble! And the nobleness that lies in other men, sleeping, but never dead, will rise in majesty to meet thine own."

James Russell Lowell
1819 - 1891

Nota Bene:
The quote is given as it was written. Although the word "men" is used, the message is univesal and applies to both men and women.

Have Pen, Will Write

Sunday, October 18, 2009

An excerpt from: On The Pulse Of The Morning

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes
Upon this day breaking for you
Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men
Take it into the palms of your hands,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

Written by
Maya Angelou
Read at the Inauguration of
William Jefferson Clinton
January 20, 1993

Friday, October 16, 2009


With the film The Wolfman starring Benicio Del Toro on the horizon, I thought I'd revisit a topic that I've explored before: Lycanthropy or werewolves. At first glance the topic may seem silly and frivolous but if we look closely a pattern emerges and we catch a glimpse of our ancient selves.
The concept of werewolves may have had its origins in primitive societies. Men would gather in the men's house or lodge to discuss the issues facing the tribe, usually with the wise counsel of an elder or elders. These lodges would also serve as the gathering place for the men as they prepared to go hunting for food. Often they would don the skins of the animal that they were intending to hunt in an efficacious act designed to insure the hunt was a success. The donning of wolf or bear skins was usually accompanied by a ceremony or ritual designed to propitiate the gods. By wearing the skins of their intended prey, our primitive ancestors hoped that the object of their hunt would be unable to tell the difference between the hunter and one of their own species.

These early gatherings of men to perform ritual and conduct business became known, in German, as a mannerbund or male transformational society.

In Ancient Greece the god Apollo was worshipped in the lyceum or "wolf temple." Lycanthropy translates to, roughly, as man-wolf or as we sometimes refer to it: werewolf. The full designation of the god Apollo is Apollo Lycaeus who was worshipped in the lyceum where Socrates was said to have taught.
We find further evidence of wolf homage in the legend of the founding of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus who were suckled from birth by a she-wolf.

I hear too that in India there exists a group known as the Arya Haoma Varka, a society devoted to the worship of wolves which, as we shall see later, is also devoted to goddess worship. I've searched high and low for information about the Arya Haoma Varka but there is scant information available.

Irish tribes acknowledge that their spiritual fathers were wolves, and they often wore the teeth of wolves as healing amulets. Further south in Italy we find the myth that a man who slept outdoors on Friday could or would be bitten by a wolf and then himself turn into one. In France and Haiti he is known as Loup-garou. In France there is the legend of the Beast of Gevaudan whose retelling can be found in the movie Les Pacte Des Loupes (Brotherhood of the Wolf

Perhaps as a young man you were a member of the Cub Scouts. Were you a member of the Wolf Pack? Which Den did you belong to? While Boy Scouts are organized into troops, Cub Scouts are are organized into dens. Wolfish indeed!

In fairy tale lore we find that there may be more to the Little Red Riding Hood story than what meets the eye. I've been told that this particular fairy tale had its origin in a mannerbund.

A key element in the the wolf legend is the moon. Men turn into werewolves 'neath the cover of the full moon. "Even the man who says his prayers at night can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the moon is full and bright." We know that a woman's menstrual cycle follows closely the phases of the moon, which cycles through its phases every twenty eight days. Hence the color red in Little Red Riding Hood takes on a slightly different significance much like the beloved Maypole. Here we have a veiled story of a young woman's entry into adulthood. The wolf is the male who will try to steal Red Riding Hood's innocence.

The introduction of the moon into the myth of the werewolf suggests the presence of the Goddess. Lycanthropic mannerbunds could often be identified by the symbol of a crescent moon and a star. In these groups there was a definite acknowledgement of the feminine principle of creation coupled with Goddess worship. (One historian informed me that prior to the arrival of Muhammad, many tribes of Arab descent were devoted to Goddess worship, hence the preponderance of star and crescent symbolism on the flags of many Islamic nations. The same historian also informed me that the sickle and stars motif on the old Soviet (U.S.S.R.) flag is but a variation on the same theme, Russia having been the home of Goddess worshiping male transformational societies.
The Goddess most often associated with these societies is known by different names: Anahid, Anahita, Venus, Ishtar and Astarte the essential component of the principle of creation: the Yoni and the Ying.

If Freemasonry is a male transformational society then it is interesting to note that a French version of that society presented the American version of the same society a gift that is symbolic of their bond as Brothers: The Statue of Liberty.

"I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain,
He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's
Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein,
Ahooo, Werewolves of London....
Ahooo, Werewolves of London - Draw blood !"

Warren Zevon, The Werewolves of London

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Laban Mento Terrazzo

Ostensibly, this blog is about fountain pens and the art of the hand written letter. However, I sometimes venture off into other realms of thought and forget to write about writing, so a mini review of my recent pen purchase should, to paraphrase Dylan, "bring it all back home."

The writing instrument pictured above is the Laban Mento Terrazzo marble resin fountain pen. If you are looking for an impressive writing instrument that performs well and doesn't cost too much the Mento Terrazzo may be the pen for you.

In size it's as large as the Montblanc 149 Diplomat. If you are unfamiliar with Montblanc's signature pen let me say this: The Laban Mento Terrazzo is hefty but it's not heavy. (It ain't heavy it's my writing instrument.)

In looks the pen is very retro, and is not as yellow as the photo above would have you believe. The tones are more in the spectrum of blacks, grays and egg shell. What's nice is that the pattern is carried over to the gripping section, which on many of the Laban pens, are black. The clip and the band are made of steel. For its size it is very light in weight so it is not fatiguing to write with for extended periods.

The nib is two toned stainless steel and lays down a line that is on the thinner side of medium. (More like a European medium than an American medium.) At first the pen seemed very dry to me; the ink flow was rather stingy. By slightly increasing the space between the nib and the feed I was able to increase the ink flow. Because the nib is stainless steel and not 14k gold, the pen is very affordable. Over at iSellPens ( you can purchase this pen for $69.00. Some dealers are asking anywhere from $89.00 to $125.00 for this pen. Even at $125.00 dollars this still makes for an excellent purchase Have Pen, Will Write

Cliff Jake Jacobs
Scribo Ergo Sum

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Daniel D. Tompkins: Freemason & Patriot

Daniel D. Tompkins
Freemason and Patriot
1774 - 1825

Daniel D. Tompkins was born in Scarsdale, New York on June 21, 1774. He attended Columbia University which was known, at that time, as Columbia College, and was admitted to the bar in New York State in 1797.

Tompkins had a stellar career not only in New York State politics but also on the national stage. In 1804 he was elected to Congress but he resigned before being seated in order to become an Associate Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. He served in that capacity from 1804 - 1807 when he resigned in order to preside as the newly elected Governor of New York, a position he held for ten years. But as fate would have it Tompkins was once again in the distinct position of resigning from a prestigious job to serve in a higher office, that of Vice President of the United States.

Before resigning from the Governorship to assume his seat as Vice President of the U.S., he wrote a letter to the New York State legislature recommending that a date be set aside for the abolition of slavery within the borders of New York. His voice was heard and the New York State Assembly chose the date of July 4, 1827 as the official date to end slavery in New York, thirty six years prior to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Immediately thereafter he began his service as Vice President of the United States under the Presidency of James Monroe from 1817 to 1825

Tompkins' Masonic career began in 1800 when he was made a Mason in Hiram Lodge No.72 located in Westchester County in New York. He was only a Mason for four months when he was elected Deputy Grand Secretary in 1801.

While serving as Vice President of the United States, Daniel Tompkins was twice elected Grand Master of the State of New York and served in that capacity from 1819 to 1822. During his first run for the position of Grand Master his only opponent was Dewitt Clinton who would later succeed Tompkins not only as Grand Master of Masons but also as the Governor of New York. While serving as Governor, Tompkins found time to host the visiting Marquise de Lafayette and entertained this esteemed Brother Mason at his residence on Staten Island.

Tompkins received his Scottish Rite Degrees in 1808 and received the 33rd Degree on August 5, 1813 at the hands of a provisional Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Once the Supreme Council, NMJ was officially formed, he assumed the title of Sovereign Grand Commander and was the first to hold that position. He served as Sovereign Grand Commander until his death in 1825.

It was during his tenure as Governor of New York that Tompkins' life began to take a tragic turn. When the New York State Legislature refused to approve funds to finance the War of 1812, as other States had done, Tompkins took out loans using his personal property as collateral to help finance the war effort. When the war ended, neither the State nor the Federal Government saw fit to repay Tompkins for his generosity so that he could free himself of the debt that he incurred on behalf of his country. In 1824 after years of litigation both the Federal Government and the State admitted that they owed Tompkins ninety thousand dollars, which was a considerable sum of money in those days.

But it was far too late, Daniel Tompkins' financial woes caused him much grief and he began a slow and long descent into the bottle where his life was consumed by alcoholism. He died three months after retiring as Vice President of the United States and his body lies in a vault of the Churchyard of St. Mark's on the Bowery located on Second Avenue and 11th Street in Manhattan. Also in the Churchyard is a bronze bust and a plaque commemorating the life of Daniel D. Tompkins. Until recently, Daniel D. Tompkins' final resting place was neglected.

On Monday November 9, 2009 the United States Daughters of 1812, New York Chapter, will conduct a ceremony to honor Daniel D. Tompkins. The Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Ill. John William McNaughton, 33° will be present and will speak about Tompkins' Masonic service. The Deputy for the State of New York the Ill. Peter J. Samiec, 33° will also be in attendance. Representing the USD 1812 will be Ms. Emily Malloy, Chairman of the Tompkins Commemoration Committee and Ms. Anne Farley,President, NYC Chapter, USD 1812. The event will be held from 9:00am to 12:00pm; a reception will follow.

A special thanks to Brother Isaac Moore Devine for bringing Daniel Tompkins to my attention and thanks to John Mauk Hilliard for leading me to the Daughters of 1812. I also would like to thank the Supreme Council, NMJ, our Sovereign Grand Commander and the Deputy for the State of New York for contributing financially to this project.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of America this coming weekend, let us not forget Daniel D. Tompkins: a man, a Mason and a patriot who served his country admirably and whose legacy shall not be forgotten.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why......I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"
- Robert Kennedy

Have Pen, Will Write

Clifford Jacobs
Dieu et mon Droit

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


The concept of TIME has been on my mind a great deal recently. Time is so ephemeral and fleeting yet poets and artists have tried to give form, shape and substance to this idea for ages.

I suppose that our sense of time comes from the rising and the setting of the sun and the changing of the seasons. These two phenomenon are the most obvious manifestations of time. Does time exist in deep space where there is an absence of a rising and setting sun? There's no winter, spring, summer or fall in space just a constant night. But here, on Earth, we view time as a forward linear progression as we traverse the road between birth and death. We have this sense of forward momentum as we age over the years. In our youth time seems to be endless; as we get older we seem to be "running out of time." We even want to borrow it, "Can I have five minutes of your time?" I've asked that question on many ocassions yet my time never increases no matter how much of it I seem to borrow.

As Freemasons we view a twenty four inch gauge as being indicative of the twenty four hours of the day whereby we are told to apportion eight hours for God and humanity, eight for our vocation and eight for refreshment and sleep. Most Masons that I know operate as though they
have a forty eight inch gauge because they give so much to their community,
their family and to the Great Architect of the Universe.
Many indigenous cultures do not share a Western notion of time. For them time is an all pervasive soup that is a constant and it can not be divided into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks or years.
The division of time into sub divisions is simply an arbitrary construct on which we collectively agree so that we can fashion some form of order out of chaos and randomness: we give form to that which is, essentially, formless.

And the songs, ahhhhh! The songs of the poets. There's TIME by Pink Floyd, Cyndi Lauper's TIME AFTER TIME, The Rolling Stones' TIME IS ON MY SIDE, The Chamber Brothers' THE TIME HAS COME TODAY and the Zombies' TIME OF THE SEASON. And lest I forget, Jim Croce's TIME IN A BOTTLE. Now there's a notion, what could or would we do with time if we could bottle time? Could we add it to our years and prolong our life? Probably not. Perhaps we would just hold the bottle up to the light and merely look at it, but then wouldn't that be a waste of time?

I remember the Astronomer Carl Sagan pointing out that, the total time that human beings have been on the planet Earth is equivalent to the hands of a clock that read 11:59pm; a clock that has been running for a full twenty four hours. Human existence is represented by that one minute before midnight: the Pyramids, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, Revolutionary War, World Wars I & II, Vietnam, Space flight have all taken place in that single minute before midnight. It is said that: No one can have a better past only a better future yet, what is past is prologue.

Over the past two weeks Time has called from labor Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Karl Malden and Natasha Mahelona. Perhaps it is because of their passing that I'm reminded of the transitory nature of time.

"Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say."
- Pink Floyd

Scribo Ergo Sum
Cliff "Jake" Jacobs
Have Pen, Will Write

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Fleur-De-Lis

The Fleur-de-lis has become the icon du jour these days. Take a quick glance around you and you are bound to see this image on a tee shirt, jeans, handbag or hat. In my case, it's one of my tattoos.

The Fleur-de-lis is a symbol that is laden with meaning, far too many to enumerate in this brief blog. So I will share with you my fondness for this image.

My first awareness of the Fleur de lis was as a member of the Boy Scouts of America, which uses the Fleur-de-lis as its primary symbol. It is used to represent the first step in Scouting: the Tenderfoot. My dad was a Scoutmaster for over twenty years, so the symbol constantly reminds me of him.

The Fleur-de-lis is also described as being a stylized version of a lily or iris. In fact the actual translation of the name means "lily flower." But it can also have political, religious and dynastic meaning as well. It is associated with the French monarchy, and continues to appear in the coat-of-arms of Spain. The red version in the upper left hand corner is the symbol for the Italian city Firenze (Florence). It appears as a symbol in North American provinces that were settled by the French: e.g. Quebec and Louisiana. It has been written that the Fleur-de-lis is also representative of the Merovingian Dynasty of France whose reign is symbolized by a bee. And there are some who see in the Fleur de lis a very stylized bee.

In religious iconography the Fleur-de-lis is symbolic of Trinitarian belief and has come to represent both the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary.

Universal Symbol for Scouting

In both Holy Blood, Holy Grail and the DaVinci Code the Fleur-de-lis represents the Order known as The Priory of Sion. (Yes, those guys again!)

For me it is the perfect symbol of the triplicity of ideas: Wisdom, Strength & Beauty; Faith, Hope & Charity, Tres Reyes (Three Wise Men); Three distinct knocks, Three Ruffians, Three Blind Mice, Three Little Pigs; The Three Fates; three major Religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam; Three Great Lights (& three lesser); Youth, Adulthood and Old Age; past, present and future; thought, word and deed; mineral, vegetable, animal; Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Holy Mother); Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Isis, Osiris and Horus; The Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; Kether, Hokhmah and Binah, The Three Musketeers. (One could do an entire treatise on the number three alone.)

I'm also the third of four children born thirty three years after both parents. (Recently I became a 33° Freemason.)

I find something Jungian about the Fleur-de-lis. It speaks to my sub conscious mind and gives me a feeling of stability, spirituality and an overall sense of well-being.

Of course one can find much more significance in this symbol, this is merely my rumination, though brief, on the subject.

Have Pen, Will Write.



Ennio Morricone is, perhaps, the most prolific film composer in the history of the art form. John Barry and John Williams come close, but I don't think they have scored as many films as Morricone. Certainly he is my all time favorite.

Morricone's work is best known to Americans through those wonderful Italian Westerns that were produced in the sixties, known as "Spaghetti Westerns." The term was originally thought to be derogatory but has since become an affectionate description of a sub-genre of film. A few years ago I coined the phrase, Pasta & Pistolas.
Who can forget those whistled notes that introduce the theme from A Fist Full of Dollars. Or the wah-wah echoed tune from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. (The real gem from this film is the track, The Ecstasy of Gold.)
Morricone's music elevated the Western genre to new heights. Of course credit must be given to Sergio Leone, the Ayatollah of the movieola, whose mis-en-scene and montage redefined the horse opera. But Morricone's music became a character in itself. Great filmmakers have often been paired with great composers: Hitchcock and Bernard Hermann; Fellini and Nino Rota; Spielberg and John Williams. But the Sergio Leone / Ennio Morricone combo changed film music forever.
One of my favorite scores is from a film not directed by Leone but by Sergio Sollima entitled, The Big Gundown, or in Italian La Resa dei Conti. The Big Gundown features tracks that reference Beethoven's Fur Elise, a Mormon Choir and the main theme Run, Man, Run sung by Christy. Ennio's score to the film Once Upon a Time in the West is considered by many to be the perfect pairing of music and visual image: Charles Bronson is Harmonica, Henry Fonda's theme is rendered with the steeliest of steel guitars, Jason Robards' theme is a classic western tune whistled by Alessandro Alessandroni, while Claudia Cardinale's theme shows Morricone's sweet and romantic side.
Other scores include The Untouchables, check out the track Strength of the Righteous, The Mission (Gabriel's Oboe & On Earth As It Is In Heaven), Cinema Paradiso, Bugsy, Wolf, The Battle of Algiers, In The Line Of Fire and Bulworth. Ennio Morricone has scored over 500 films and television programs.

One of my favorite tributes to Morricone is John Zorn's The Big Gundown. Zorn deconstructs the music and re-assembles it as only he can. Powerful and edgy.



Sunday, March 22, 2009


A comment that I received that deserves to be posted as a blog entry.

Dear Cliff,

I love the article that you have written about Edgar Allan Poe. He was an extraordinary man and an incomparable artist! He created a particular style of writing that influenced and continues to influence not only American writers but foreign ones as well, as you stated. It is wonderful that America is honoring him on his 200th anniversary. I happen to be French and a Baudelaire follower and it was through Baudelaire that I discovered Poe at the tender age of eleven.

Baudelaire admired Poe so much that he translated his work into French. It was Baudelaire that stated that " Poe's condemnation by his country fellowmen springs from a democratic hatred of genius". I would greatly recommend Charles Baudelaire's work to all the Poe lovers. He and Poe have quite a lot in common, from the general metaphysical boredom that they both felt to even physical resemblances. And, may I say that Baudelaire's poetry will either enchant or schock your mind. It will have an effect on you! He is called "le poete maudit" which translates as the cursed poet.

Great French authors like Victor Hugo, Stephane Mallarme, J.K. Huysmans, Alfred de Vigny to name a few all acclaimed Baudelaire's genius when his work was censured. Thanks Cliff for reminding us to honor the great Edgar Allan Poe.Vive Edgar Allan Poe! Vive Cliff (or Jake) as you like to be called for writing about him!

March 20, 2009 3:17 PM

Baudelaire's lover, Jeanne Duval, Haitian Dancer & Actress
"La Venus Noire"

Thank you Antoinette for your informed and gracious comments about my blog entry on Poe and Baudelaire. It's comforting to know that you are aware of and appreciate the relationship between these two wonderful writers. Your mention of Huysmans is also intriguing. I read A Rebours in college and his Las-Bas sits on my shelf waiting to be read, again!
Chien Cliff

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


January 19, 2009 marked the 2ooth anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and the U. S. Postal Service has issued a stamp to commemorate him.

Poe was always my favorite writer as a youth and his tales of the macabre continue to delight me as an adult. At present I'm reading Poe's only full length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. I've always had an interest in reading Poe's novel but became particularly interested when I heard that it may contain some Masonic references. I know for sure that, The Cask of Amontillado does contain at least one Masonic reference. Being a Freemason it's always a delight to discover references about our beloved Fraternity in great works of literature.

As a youth I also loved those great films of Poe's work directed by Roger Corman and produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff with Vincent Price as the featured player. If you search the Internet Movie Database ( you will see that Poe's stories have found their way to film from as early as 1908 with films currently in production to be released in 2010. Not only has most of his short stories found their way to film, but they've done so multiple times.

Poe is also considered to be the father of the modern detective story, everyone from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett have been influenced by Poe.
Poe's work has also influenced science fiction writer Jules Verne who wrote a sequel to Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Le Sphinx des Glaces. The literary descendants of Poe include H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King masters of horror and the macabre in their own right.

Poe also had a keen interest in cryptography and ciphers, the best example of which can be found in the short story, The Gold Bug. Another common theme that runs through his fiction is the idea of being buried or interred alive. The Oblong Box, The Cask of Amontillado and The Premature Burial are all concerned with the idea of being sealed in a grave prematurely. Okay, okay Poe's not a happy camper but his prose is pure poetry and his poetry is, well, poetic.

Like most people who read Poe, The Raven, The Bells and Lenore are my favorite poems.

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

- from, The Raven

Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,
To the sobbing of the bells; Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells, In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells, Of the bells, bells, bells,
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells.
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

- from, The Bells

Charles Baudelaire

Edgar Allan Poe was embraced early on by the French due in large part to the translation of his work into French by the poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). I was recently given a copy of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal a collection of poems that are, at times, decadent, erotic and mystical. Baudelaire's work received the condemnation of French Society, but has since been heralded as a major work of French Literature. There is something of the doomed Gothic artist in the personas of Poe and Baudelaire. And yet there is the evidence of something mystical in their body of work.

Back in 1999 Montblanc honored Edgar Allan Poe by creating a limited edition fountain pen to commemorate his life and work. These are highly collectible and rarely find their way into the market place. The fountain pen, as well as the matching ballpoint and pencil are made from a midnight blue resin with gold plated fittings and an 18 carat gold nib. The cap is inscribed with Poe's signature and the nib is engraved with the image of a raven inspired by Poe's poem.

Every Sunday for the remainder of 2009, the Radio theatre of New York City will hold readings of Poe's work at 2:00pm. The readings will be held at:

UNDER St. Marks Place
94 St. Marks Place
(8th Street between 1st Avenue & Avenue A)
Tickets: &18.00

With some irony I conclude with a lesser known poem by Poe, An Epigram for Wall Street, which seems fitting for the current economic climate that we find ourselves in.

I'll tell you a plan for gaining wealth,

Better than banking, trade or leases Take a bank note and fold it up,

And then you will find your money in creases!

This wonderful plan, without danger or loss,

Keeps your cash in your hands, where nothing can trouble it;

And every time that you fold it across,

'Tis as plain as the light of the day that you double it!

The End

Cliff Jacobs

Have Pen, Will Write

Scribo Ergo Sum

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Scented Letters: A Paean to Valentine's Day

If you've visited this blog before you know that it is dedicated to fountain pen collecting and the art of the hand written letter. Nothing beats a hand written letter, except one that has been scented with a fragrance. I've received two such letters recently and the experience of opening the letter and having the scent of perfume waft over me was quite exhilarating. Perhaps the fragrance reminds me of a brunch or dinner and the wonderful conversation that was had at that time. Sometimes I open the letters to re-read them at other times I simply hold them to my nose and close my eyes and - remember.

Valentine's Day will be here soon. If there was ever a time to take pen in hand to write to someone that you love, now's the time. You can write a letter to your wife, your girlfriend, husband, mother, father, son or daughter. You can write to someone though you may see them everyday. It's funny how so many of us never consider writing to someone nearby; they need not be far and away.

My dear friend Fifi pointed out to me how she hears the voice of the person in her head while reading their letter. That is so true! It's an aspect of letter writing that I had not thought of before. Fifi also pointed out that she never hears the voice of one sending an email, and neither do I. I only see the cold and dry text, which is often written in terse language which doesn't engage the emotions. Valentine emails are simply not an option for this writer.

A few words about Valentine's Day.

The original Valentine's Day was celebrated in Rome as the festival of Lupercalia a festival of sexual license. Young men and women would write their names on pieces of paper and after drawing the names out of a bowl would then engage in erotic games. Well the Christians were horrified by this practice and would try to suppress this day celebrating the feast of a saint, in this case St. Valentine. February was also the month that was sacred to the Goddess Juno Februata, Goddess of the "fever" or rather the "febris" of love. She was replaced, by the leaders of the early Christian the Church, by St. Valentine. But the erotic festivals continued in the form of a "sacred marriage with the angels in the nuptial chamber." This sacred marriage involved a man and a woman who portrayed Sophia and the Redeemer in connubial bliss. During the ceremony the following words were spoken: "Let the seed of light descend into thy bridal chamber, receive the thine arms to embrace him. Behold grace has descended upon thee."

Last year Montblanc created a scented red ink for Valentine's Day. I like the idea of scented ink but they are rare and are hard to find. This particular bottle carries the fragrance of red roses. I plan to purchase a bottle on my next visit to Art Brown & Brother.

[The quotes in this blog are from the Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker]

Pour Fifi

Have Pen, Will Write
Scribo Ergo Sum