Author: Pao Alfonso

Parker Vacumatic Debutante Emerald Green

Here’s the newest addition to my pen family. What a beauty it is. It’s a Parker Vacumatic Debutante in Emerald Green and it’s in near mint condition. I have to admit I’ve slowed down significantly in buying pens recently, focusing more on using and caring for those that I already have. I’ve shaved down my wishlist to just a handful of pens that I still want to buy at some point, but I already decided that I wouldn’t be acquiring any more pens that aren’t in my wishlist. This specific pen is in my very short wish list, so I picked it up when a friend told me about it.

There’s not a lot of discoloration on the barrel, you can still see through it. The celluloid rings are clear and pearlescent. It has a blue diamond on the clip and a striped jewel of the same celluloid material on the cap. It also has a chevron and diamond cap band. It’s amazing that something this pristine-looking was made in 1939, just a year before my maternal grandmother was born. This pen has a speedline filler, which was discontinued in 1942 because the metal was used for the war effort.

It says a lot about how vintage pens are made. They can still be enjoyed decades after not just as relics from the past but as writing implements. Here are a few more photos of the pen’s details:

Rampage

Yesterday’s journal entry was about my thoughts on the book I’m currently reading, “Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila” by James M. Scott. It’s hard to read this  book continuously. Honestly, it gave me nightmares, the same way that reading books about the Holocaust gives me nightmares. I wrote about how I felt while reading the excerpts from journals and survivor accounts. To think that some of the people living during that time are still alive. I recall back in my college days, one of our professors took us to this home for the aged in Quezon City. This home was different though because the occupants are all former comfort women. We sat with them individually, listened to them, kept them company. This book has graphic descriptions of the human cost of war, and knowing this, one would hope that world leaders would give it a lot of thought before even considering provoking one again. Knowing history is quite different from learning from it, I suppose.

Rediscovering Books

I was a voracious reader when I was young. There’s a whole backstory to that, why I tended to escape between the pages when I was a kid, but it’s really one of the things that I enjoyed about my childhood. I wasn’t a wide reader, though. I had my favorite genres and I rarely read books outside that comfortable corner. When I was a teen, part of my rebellious phase was pointedly refusing to read anything my mom recommended. When I started working, I found that without the benefit of the regular allowance my parents gave me, I actually couldn’t afford to buy books. As a young professional, it became all about the hustle. I worked in the call center industry and I was frequently tired and emotionally spent. Imagine an introvert spending hours constantly talking on the phone. I was overworked and underpaid and I could not afford to shell out the extra money to buy books. They’ve become luxuries. I also felt like I had no time to read. So it faded to the background, along with all the other hobbies that I used to consider indispensable to my well-being–writing, keeping a journal, making art.

When I made a drastic career change in 2009, it came with a lot of challenges but one pleasant surprise was that I started to rediscover the things that used to make me happy. I started to read again. Slowly at first, like someone relearning how to ride a bike, then speeding up to a feverish pace, until this year, when I think I’ve settled into a more comfortable and relaxed pace. I also discovered new genres and developed a taste for them. I’m happy that I can afford to buy books again, and that I also have the luxury of long  blocks of time to sit quietly and read.

This year I read a lot of memoirs, some of my favorites include “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive” by Stephanie Land and Heather Armstrong’s “The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live”. I read books on race issues, politics, religion, history. Some of my favorites are Philip Yancey’s “Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image”, “Uncivil War: Race, Civil Rights & the Nation”, “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future” by Joseph Stiglitz, “Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America” by Michael Emerson, among others. I suppose your tastes in book can still change later in life. I read fewer books this year compared to last year, but I enjoyed most of the books that I picked.

I’m looking forward to the book that I’ll read this 2020. I wonder what new titles I will discover.

Maid – Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

Maid - Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive
Category:
Publisher:
Published: January 22, 2019
Stephanie Land writes about poverty in America, being a single mom, being on welfare, and surviving intimate partner abuse. She writes about her experience working as a maid while she supports herself and her daughter and studies to be a writer.

When I read this book, I knew right away that the reactions would be polarizing. There will  be a lot of people who will hate it, and a lot like me who will identify with it somehow. I think that people who have never been poor will benefit a lot from reading it. The very first chapter of the book drew me in an kept me reading, and it made such an impact on me because the scenario she described there is somewhat familiar. If you've ever been poor at some point in your life, many of the things she wrote here will resonate with you.

The  book goes back in forth to her past and present. She didn't grow up poor, but it showed how a series of events and decisions led her to a path of poverty. She shows what being poor in America looks like for many people, and it's far from the stereotype that people on welfare are all lazy. More often than not, those who work hardest are paid least for their backbreaking labor.

Land writes about the stigma of being poor, that feeling of never doing enough, and the debilitating guilt of not being able to provide better for her child. She writes about some things that some people may not understand or identify with, like why poor people may often spend their money on what others may consider frivolities. She writes about how being poor means that you're one unforeseen expense away from spiraling out of control. An accident, an illness, any sudden expense may upset the budget that's already stretched extremely thin and end up in homelessness. Every moment of every day is lived on a precarious edge. For some people, losing a month's paycheck is a hardship; for some, it sets off a series of events that will take a long time and a lot of effort to recover from.

She writes about the attitude of people towards those like her who are on welfare and uses food stamps, and honestly it made my heart ache. It's so easy to dehumanize people who are poor without even bothering to learn why and how they got there.

Being from a third world country, it fascinates me how many welfare programs there are in the US. They're not perfect, and there are so many paperwork to submit and hoops to jump through before you can qualify for them, but they're there. People can really apply for them and these programs can be very instrumental in helping people get back on their feet. It's so different from the experience of being "third world poor", where there's no single real, functioning welfare program in place. I read about these programs with a hungry heart, wondering if my country will ever get to the point where the government cares for the most vulnerable members of society.

The writer does not romanticize poverty, though she does recognize that the things that are the sources of happiness in her life are those that can't be purchased with money. It's not whole chapters of whining, but an appeal to see struggling people as people. To really see and have empathy for them and not just dismiss them. She writes about having to fight for every single dollar as she lives among what seemed like inaccessible prosperity around her. She writes about how alone she feels, not just because she had separated from her abusive partner and is raising her daughter alone, but because practically all of her family had checked out of her life. She also writes about the sprinkling of people she encountered who treated her as their equal, who respected the work that she is doing and the effort she is making to survive. To them, she's "Stephanie", not just "the maid".

I really loved reading this book. It's one of those books that you wish was a lot longer than it is.

Additive Pen – Double Helix

I’ve been so curious about this pen since I first saw it online, so when Everything Calligraphy offered to let me try it out, I immediately said yes. The pen came in this nondescript cardboard box and I admit that I forgot to take unboxing photos because I was so excited to try it. I inked it right away and took the photos below after the pen had been cleaned.

The pen came in this plastic tube, which I think is secure enough for transporting the pen. There’s a syringe with a blunt needle and a little container of silicon grease. I was surprised that the pen was so long. Here’s a comparison with other pens that I have. It’s 6.69 in long when capped and 5.9 in long uncapped. I’m not too crazy about the fact that the cap isn’t the same size as the barrel, it kind of sticks out when the pen is capped. It is quite easy to forget about the cap when you’ve inked the pen, it just looks so interesting.

The double helix is not your usual demonstrator. This pen is an eyedropper, with two reservoirs that form the double-helix. It’s certainly a looker. I also really liked the section on this pen, it’s long, smooth and comfortable to hold. It’s also not too heavy, so it’s great to use for long writing sessions.

The finial has the double-helix design stamped on it. I think that looked pretty cool.

The nib (Jowo) has no logo on it, just the simple filigree on the sides and the nib size.

This pen is 3D-printed, and the inside of the barrel looks textured. A bit like frosted glass. It smells strongly of nail polish. I inked this pen three times, with three different colors, just to see how it will hold up. I used Vinta Maskara, Sailor Ink Studio 123, and Parker Blue Black.

The nib is a #6 Jowo steel nib. It’s smooth with a hint of feedback and it’s a moderately wet writer. It’s not soft but it is a smooth enough writer to make the writing experience pretty enjoyable. Here’s a video of the writing sample:

It was a bit difficult to get the ink flowing in the double-helix. I read the instructions and it did indicate that you might need to add a surfactant to make the ink flow easier. It’s pretty easy to do this, I learned this little trick from Mona (of FPNPh) a few weeks ago and it really helped my dry-flowing inks to flow better. Anyway, all you need to do is to dip the tip of a toothpick in dishwashing liquid, then dip that in the ink that’s inside the pen. That’s all it takes. Don’t mix in a drop of the dishwashing liquid into the barrel. Just dip the tip, screw in the nib unit and shake it a bit. Et viola, it flows! I’ve had to do this little trick to two out of three inks that I tried. The Parker ink didn’t need the surfactant to flow, but it’s noticeably less flow-y than the other inks that had surfactants added in.

I admit that I was nervous about cleaning the pen. When it comes to demonstrators, you kind of have to be ready for the fact that you can’t keep it pristine for long. The double helix design of the pen made me wonder if the barrel would stain too terribly. I followed the cleaning instructions on the slip of paper that came with the box and it worked like a charm. All I had to do was rinse out the barrel (that was easy enough, the ink just flowed out without issues) and then fill it with isopropyl alcohol. The instructions called for 99% isopropyl but I used just 70% isopropyl, it worked just fine. I didn’t even need to soak it too long. According to the instructions, don’t leave it for longer than 4 hours. I just left it in the barrel for less than 30 minutes. Gave it a vigorous shake while covering the opening with my thumb, then emptied the barrel.

I repeated this two more times and left the barrel to dry. There were no stains left by the end of the third rinse. I’m not sure I would be brave enough to use Baystate Blue on this, though. I’m pretty happy that the stain washed out relatively easily.

Overall, I think it’s a pretty interesting design, which comes with its own pros and cons. It does write well and holds a lot of ink. It’s fun to watch the ink sloshing around, I found myself flipping over and over just to watch it doing that, lol. I think it’s a pretty cool concept and design. It’s certainly an interesting way to challenge our perception of what a fountain pen should look like.

Additive Pens are available in Everything Calligraphy.

Gav and Sav Pen Rolls and Journal Covers

I wasn’t able to go to the Manila Pen Show last Month because I had some schedule conflicts. I was pretty bummed out so imagine how delighted I was when one of my friends from the Fountain Pen Network Philippines sent me some stuff she got for me from the pen show. These items are from Gav and Sav. I love how these sets are really tailor-made for penthusiasts. I got three different sets (well, two actually, one’s for my husband) and my friend picked a color profile that she knew I absolutely loved–greens and browns.

I like that the fabric on the pen rolls are not too soft. This is great because it gives pens that extra protection while they’re in your bag. I’m currently using these two rolls. Aren’t they pretty? I love the fabric they used on these rolls, especially the one with the sketches of bugs and botanical illustrations.

I think they pick really nice fabric designs. The green and  brown wrap has this rigid outer cover, the shorter wrap doesn’t. I’ve always preferred using leather cases for my pens, but you need to be careful when using or making your own leather cases because it can sometimes cause discoloration on the metal parts of your pen. That’s not a problem with fabric pen rolls.

Here’s what it looks like inside. It can hold six pens, and the fabric’s texture is stiff enough so that you can easily slip the clip through the fabric.

I prefer the design of the pen roll below, though. This one houses 8 pens but it has no flap, so I can easily draw the pens if I need them. Just don’t put thin pens or those with a smooth lacquer finish because it can slip out. It’s best to store this wrap vertically in your bag just to make sure the pens don’t slip out. I know it’s less secure than the design above, but I still like how accessible the pens are.

There’s also a two-pen case, which I think is cute. It has another pocket at the back of the two slots where you can store a third pen or a ruler. There’s no divider in the third slot.

This one’s pretty cute:

It’s a pen kimono. You can fit a single pen in it. I close it this way…

I think that’s really cute.

Here are the notebook covers below. They fit A5 journals. I know pen and paper lovers will absolutely love this. I think that color-coordinated notebook covers and pen cases are awfully cute.

These are lovingly made and I really appreciate that the people behind Gav and Sav gave such effort to make these for the fountain pen community.

If you’re interested in getting these sets, check out their IG account: @gavandsav.

A Timeless Gem

My journal entry today is about Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which I’m rereading for a book club I joined. I’ve read this book several times when I was younger but the last time I read it was many years ago. I decided to refresh my memory and read it again, and instantly I was swept away to a different time and place. It’s so wonderful. I remember again why I loved this novel when I was young, it’s so pure and wholesome, and everything about it warms my heart. This sketch in particular is about one of my favorite parts of the book, when they were just beginning to make friends with Laurie. Jo went to visit him while he was sick and brought some blancmange that Meg made, and of course Beth sent the most sensible gift of all, her kittens.

I am halfway through the book and I’m reading slower so I can savor it longer. Of course I’ll need to reread Little Men and Jo’s Boys after this. Reading about Marmee made me miss my mom, though. She’s the same beacon of warmth and light, and her presence is sorely missed. I’m glad she instilled in me the love for books, and especially picked out Louisa May Alcott’s works to introduce me to the wonderful world of the March sisters.

Ink Swab: Vinta Nakar 1934 (Mother of Pearl)

The wonderful people of Vinta Inks sent over a sample of their ink for the Manila Pen Show. It’s called Nakar 1934 (Mother of Pearl). I am today years old when I learned that the Filipino word for mother of pearl is actually “nakar”, probably based from the word nacre. It’s a beautiful shimmery grey ink and it’s unfortunate that it’s a bit hard to photograph the beauty of this ink. It has a purplish tint to it, and it appears to be on the warmer side when viewed in artificial light, but on the cooler side when viewed in natural light.

It has expressive shading on both the medium and 1.5mm nibs that I tried it on. The color does remind me of mother of pearl, especially when you apply water on it. Those who like to use fountain pen ink for art will find this ink color very interesting. Here’s a chromatography of the ink:

The ink has silver shimmer, but for me the shimmer appears pearlescent. Perhaps it’s reflecting the different color components of the ink? Here are some close ups of the writing sample:

I’ve been using it for a few days on two pens (Lamy Studio 1.5mm nib, Tactile Turn Gist Medium nib) and so far both pens still flow well. But, as always, I would advise to only use shimmer inks in pens that are easy to clean, and don’t leave them unused too long in order to avoid clogging. There are only a few bottles of this ink available in the Manila Pen Show this coming weekend.

Overall, it’s a very interesting color. It looks like dark graphite when used with a medium nib, but I suggest using it with a wide nib to really see and appreciate the unique characteristics of the ink.

The Most Intimate Form of Abuse

Today’s journal entry is about how infidelity is also abuse. How many times have I encountered women who say that their husbands have cheated on them repeatedly but “at least he never abused me”. I feel punched in the gut every time because I see the family unraveling before my eyes. Men and women who cheat on their spouses inflict a very intimate form of violence on their family. It takes a very calloused heart to be able to look at the people one supposedly loves and not be moved by the hurt he/she has inflicted on them.

“Do not look for healing
At the feet of those
Who broke you.”
Rupi Kaur