Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Next on: Have Pen, Will Write

HAVE PEN, WILL WRITE Part 1 - 2010

HAVE PEN, WILL WRITE Part 2 -  2010

  With Guest : Garlien Jenkins - Pen Collector

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fountain Pen Photos

Conklin Endura fountain pen with compasses, Rosicrucian Cross & Masonic coin.

Masonic fountain pen with Rose Croix & 33rd Degree Jewels.

Rose Croix & 33rd Degree jewels with a Libelle Nature mother-of-pearl FP.

33rd Degree Jewel with Fleur-de-lis bookend, Scottish Rite coin and Montblanc Le Grande (146) FP.

 33rd Degree & Rose Croix jewels with Rosicrucian Cross & Montblanc Le Grande (146) FP.

Waterford Kilbarry guilloche (right) and Stipula Duetto (left)

Scribo Ergo Sum

Have Pen, Will Write


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Twsbi Diamond 530 Demonstrator Fountain Pen

At the recent New York City Fountain Pen Show I purchased a TWSBI Diamond 530 Demonstrator fountain pen. A demonstrator is a transparent pen where you can see the internal mechanism. Demonstrators are highly sought after and most pen manufacturers have one in their offerings. I'm not a big fan of demonstrators but, I could not leave the pen show without at least one purchase. At a cost of $40.00 this pen is a wonderful investment. In size it is akin to the 800 series of the Pelikan line.

The ink line was a tad to thin for my taste so I flexed the tines of the nib and increased the ink flow and now the pen writes like a charm. I do wish that the internal chamber held a little more ink but that is a minor criticisim.

The price of a pen can increase or decrease according to the materials of which it is made or the method of filling. Some pens use only ink cartridges, not my favorites. Others use cartridge converters which gives you the option of filling from a bottle, which is my preference. Still others are piston fill which means only bottled ink can be used. The TWSBI is a piston fill and at t$40 it is, indeed, a bargain.

The pen comes with a tool to disassemble the piston and with a small vial of silicone grease to coat the piston to prevent leakage which was, initially, a problem. The fact that the pen can be completely disassembled should be a joy to pen collectors who like to dabble in pen tweaking.

All in all the TWSBI demonstrator is a great investment and will deliver many hours of writing pleasure.

Scribo Ergo Sum

Clifford "Jake" Jacobs
Have Pen, Will Write


About a year ago I traded a Montblanc 149 Diplomat for an OMAS Arte Italiana Paragon (pictured above). Some may think that it was crazy for me to do so; I think not. Although the 149 is an iconic pen, the signature pen of the Montblanc line, I wasn't using mine that often. In addition I have a Montblanc 146 Le Grande, which is slightly smaller than the Diplomat, that I use regularly. The Paragon and the Diplomat are of comparable value and I felt good about doing the trade.

About the Paragon: this pen rocks! It is a faceted pen which is a hallmark of the OMAS line. The Paragon is as much a signature pen as is the Diplomat. The Paragon is a hefty pen and some may find it a bit heavy - which suits me fine. It is a piston fill with an 18k gold nib. It's a no nonsense pen that lays down a fat wet  line of ink. My pen is currently filled with Diamine's Presidential Blue ink - beautiful, simply beautiful!

Some owners have complained that they do not like the metal gripping section which is cold to the touch; this is not a problem for me - in fact I like how the gripping section contrasts with the rest of the pen.

OMAS Arte Italiana The Paragon

Montblanc 149 Diplomat

Montblanc is to pens what Louis Vuitton has become to purses and luggage - it's become a household name and even more, it has become a status symbol. The Montblanc line is still well respected and their writer series is great with homages to Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Proust and Hemingway to name but a few. I believe that the older the Montblanc pen the better the quality. I find that their newer output suffers from poor quality control and the pens are more fragile than they were twenty to thirty years ago. Visit John Mottishaw's site for great deals on vintage Montblancs.

The Arte Italiana also comes in a smaller size known as the Milford. Both pens are available with gold or silver accents and different colors of celluloid.
The Paragon retails for $695 but is available from for $536. The Montblanc 149 retails for $760 but there are a few available from for under $500.

Scribo Ergo Sum

Clifford "Jake" Jacobs
Have Pen, Will Write

Monday, October 25, 2010


There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide, that he must take himself for better or for worse as is his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.

Every man is personally responsible for what he is and what he does. When we say that a man is responsible for himself we do not only mean that that he is responsible for his own individuality but that he is responsible for all men.

The power which resides in him is new in nature and none but he knows what it is he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. But God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and filled with joy when he has put his heart into his work and has done his best, but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson & Jean Paul Sartre 


And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire.

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green & pleasant Land.

William Blake

This is my favorite poem by William Blake to which Sir Charles Hubert Parry added music and retitled "Jerusalem".

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Vanishing Profession: A New York Times Reprint


The Ink Fades on a Profession as India Modernizes

International Herald Tribune
Published: December 26, 2007

G.P. Sawant, 61, estimates that he has written more than 10,000 letters for people who were unable to do so.

MBAI, India G. P. Sawant never charged the prostitutes for his letter-writing services.
Not long after the women would descend on this swarming, chaotic city, they would find him at his stall near the post office, this letter writer for the unlettered. They often came hungry, battered and lonely, needing someone to convert their spoken words into handwritten letters to mail back to their home villages.

The letters ferried false reassurances. The women claimed they had steady jobs as shopkeepers and Bollywood stagehands. Saying nothing of the brothels, beatings and rapes they endured, they enclosed money orders to remit rupees agonizingly acquired. Many called Mr. Sawant  "brother" and tied a string on his wrist each year in the Hindu tradition.

Sometimes, suspicious parents boarded a train to Mumbai and turned up at Mr. Sawant's stall, which a daughter had listed as her address. Mr. Sawant greeted them kindly but disclosed nothing about the woman's work or whereabouts.

Such is the letter writer's honor code: When you live by writing other people's letters, you die with their secrets.

But now the professional letter writer is confronting the fate of middlemen everywhere: to be cut out. In India, the world's fastest-growing market for cellphones, calling the village or sending a text message has all but supplanted the practice of dictating intimacies to someone else.

And so Mr. Sawant, 61, and by his own guess the author of more than 10,000 letters of others, was sitting idly at his stall on a recent Monday, having earned just 12 cents from an afternoon spent filling out forms, submitting money orders, wrapping parcels & the postal trivialities that have survived the evaporation of his letter-writing trade.

But this is not the familiar story of the artisan flattened by the new economy, because, it turns out, his family has gained more from that economy than it has lost.

Three of Mr. Sawant's four children are riding the Indian economic boom, including a daughter, Suchitra, who works at Infosys, the Indian technology giant. In the very years that a telecommunications revolution was squashing her father's business, it was plugging India into the global networks that would allow her industry to explode. Suchitra now earns $9,000 a year, three times as much as her father did at his peak.

Globalization is said to create winners and losers. For the Sawants, it created both. And that duality reflects the furious pace at which entire professions are being invented and entire professions destroyed in the rush to modernize India.

There is, on one hand, a national quest under way to excise inefficiencies to cut out middlemen. As go the letter writers, so go bank tellers as India adopts ATM's, phone-booth operators as cellphones spread, and rural moneylenders as new Western-style supermarket chains start trading directly with farmers.

But for every occupation that vanishes, another is born. There are now mall attendants in a nation that until lately had no malls, McDonald's cashiers in a country where cows are sacred, and Porsche sales executives in a land where most people still walk. It used to be hard to obtain a computer or telephone line in India; the country now has more software engineers and call-center operators than just about anywhere else.

G. P. Sawant entered the letter-writing trade in 1982 when he won a government contract for a coveted stall inside the post office headquarters. Before long, he earned a reputation among illiterate migrants as a gifted writer of letters.

Many of the letters were instructions from urban breadwinners on how to spend the money they were remitting to the countryside. They included expressions of affection for family members for whom they toiled in Mumbai but whom they rarely saw. They warned relatives not to squander money. They asked about the health of the aged and the infirm.

There were some letters Mr. Sawant would not write. He refused, for example, to trade in romantic love. Love is fickle and dangerous, he said. Lovers lie; they cheat; they offer their love and rescind it. He refused to engage in chicanery on other people's behalf.

Posted by Clifford T. Jacobs

Have Pen, Will Write

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Tao of Cool

As a youth I spent a great deal of time at the movies and I often tell people that the movies saved my life. Growing up on the mean streets of New York in the 60's, the movie theater was a place of refuge where I could escape for a few hours.

Some movies I saw, in my youth, have left an indelible mark on my psyche. There were three characters in particular that were very influencial: Lucas Jackson played by Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, Frank Bullitt played by Steve McQueen in Bullitt and Randle Patrick McMurphy played by Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

I was taught in high school that literary works fall in one or more of the following categories:

1. Man against God
2. Man against Nature
3. Man against Society
4. Man against Man
5. Man against Himself

To this list I would add Man against Machine as can be seen in, Colossus: The Forbin Project and the unforgettable 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest all fall within the category of Man against Society. There is some overlapping as the protagonists of these three films also struggle with themselves and other "men". I place men in quotations because in Cuckoo's Nest McMurphy struggles against Nurse Ratched who rules the psychiatric ward with an iron fist. But she represents the larger society that stands in opposition to all that McMurphy represents.

In Cool Hand Luke Paul Newman is a man of independent spirit that is sentenced to two years in prison,  a chain gang to be exact, for cutting the heads off of parking meters. At first castigated by his fellow prisoners, he soon becomes a Christ-like figure as he gives them the strength and inspiration that they both lack and need. At the end of the famous egg eating scene  Luke lies sprawled with arms outstretched on the mess hall table. Here the Christ-like image is most apparent. His prison number is 37 and his name is Luke. If we read Luke Chapter 1 verse 37 it says: "For with God nothing is impossible." Luke stuggles against a society that he went to war to defend but that has little use for him on his return home. He is Camus's alienated existentialist searching for meaning in a world that seems totally devoid of meaning. And like all good existentialists his demise is tragic yet heroic. "What we've got here is failure to communicate."

As Frank Bullitt, Steve McQueen is a detective who sometimes work cases according to his own rules. Not because he's a rebel but because those in power whom he works for have been co-opted by the system and have sacrificed their integrity on the altar of social and political advancement. But it is only by working outside the system that justice can be achieved because the sytem has become corrupt. This is key in understanding these characters, they are forced to an existence beyond the fringe because the fabric has been tainted by those who abuse their positions of power. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, Frank Bullitt is hired by the powers that be to provide society with a blanket of protection and is then lambasted for the manner in which he provides that protection.

As R.P. McMurphy, Jack Nicholson manipulates the system to get transferred to a psychiatric ward from prison by pretending that he's looney. Initially his plan works and he finds himself in a ward of individuals that society has labeled as mental cases. But he soon finds that the inmates are not as crazy as they seem and it is the hospital administrators who are truly crazy. This is a simplistic synopsis of the film whose themes and ideas are far more complex. In the end McMurphy's outsider can not triumph over the system of Dante's Hell.

I'm also reminded of the titles of two novels, that were also made into films, that mirror this idea of nature versus nurture: Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse and  A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Both "steps" and "clocks" are invetions of an idustrialized dare I say civilized society. wolfs and oranges are products of nature. Man yearns to be his true self in a world that constantly tries to bend him to its dictates. That process inevitably leads to conflict as the collective fails to create an environment where every man has the freedom to determine his destiny and the right to question the society that wants him to be a mere lemming.

I remember attending a double feature, back in the days when there was such a thing as double feature, of Bullitt and Cool Hand Luke. I sat in the theater and watched Cool Hand Luke twice and Bullitt once. It was a great afternoon of spending time with two of my favorite characters, characters who would not allow their spirits to be amputated for, as we know, there is no prosthesis for an amputated spirit.

Just some thoughts....

Have Pen, Will Write

Friday, February 19, 2010

Inner City Games

Eenie, meenie gypsaleenie
ooh ahh umbaleenie
hotcha kotcha Liberace
I love you!

- Play Ground Rhyme

Tag, Dodge Ball, Red Rover, Mother May I, street games and street rhymes. We were stylists of stickball, sultans of swing and paladins of the pavement, and when we prayed, we prayed at the altar of Mister Softee. Before Nintendo there was Skellies, before X-Box there was Hot Peas and Butter, before SONY Playstation, there was Ring-o-Leevio. Creative play, that’s what it was all about. We were young, inventive and energetic. A length of rope from the hardware store provided hours of Double Dutch fun. Playing fostered social activity and social interaction, we played with each other and not separately with an electronic device. Personal electronics have made young people idle and detached and, as a result, many young adults are suffering from illnesses and afflictions that were formerly in the province of the elderly. Years ago exercise was an inherent part of play time. Some games seemed to have no other reason for existing than to simply go outside and run like crazy e.g. Run, Catch and Kill (thanks Luigi.) Negotiating the rules for playing these games fostered both communication and negotiation skills. Playing outdoor games was warm and organic, imaginative and interesting.

Kick the Can, Steal the Bacon, Johnny on the Pony, Knucks. One of my favorites was Skellies, also known as Skullys or Caps. Skellies was played on a grid drawn on the ground with chalk numbered one to thirteen.

(Originally the number thirteen in the center was a skull with crossbones, hence the name skully.) Players would use bottle tops, or lids from jars, often filled with melted Crayola crayons or pennies in order to give the caps more heft. The game was played by making your way from one to thirteen and back again until you entered the dead zone (number 13) to become a Killer Diller. Now you could knock the other players out of the grid making it difficult for them to complete the game. (I especially favored a lid from a jar of Hellman’s Mayonnaise, filled with melted wax because no matter how hard you hit it, that baby wasn’t going anywhere!).

Then there are the two perennial New York favorites, Stickball and Handball. All you needed was a pink Spaldeen (Spalding), a wall or a broomstick a few manhole covers and the game was on! As a handball player you had a choice of styles, Chinese or American. The Chinese style of play required that the ball hit the ground first and then bounce upwards to hit the wall. In the American style of play, the ball is hit against the wall first, bounces once off the ground and then is hit again by the next player.

As for sneakers, forget Air Jordans and Pumas, Chuck Taylor’s were the haute couture of athletic footwear, giving birth to such poetry as, “You wear the sneakers that slip and slide you need the kind with the Star on the side – Converse All-Stars.” Cost for a pair of Converse All-Stars circa 1967 a whopping $8.00.

This is more than a nostalgic trip down memory lane. It is to say that what binds us together as friends and family is our ability to communicate and interact with each other. Playing games, even board games, allowed us to partake in the ceremony of companionship which is communication. So, if you’re a Mom or a Dad an Aunt or an Uncle find a young person and show them what it was like to play when you were young. “…She asked her mother for fifty cents to see the elephants jump the fence, they jumped so high they touched the sky, they never came back to the Fourth of July.”


Handball Players, Erika Stone, Photographer
Fence Jump, Unknown courtesy of
Skellies Board, courtesy of