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