Total lazybones mood continues; I blame the Healing Process. And I am healing nicely, aside from various irritations. The vicious cycle of oral discomfort: it would all go away on its own much sooner if nature hadn’t provided a large semi-autonomous muscle RIGHT THERE to bother the irritation on a constant basis. Come to think of it, wisdom teeth are one of the greatest design flaws in the human body. I mean, really. Hey, let’s arrange it so nail grow sideways in your head! Great!

In the mail today, hurrah, my Field Notes arrived. I am not a notebook fetishist. I had a Moleskin once but after a while I started to feel as if anything I would write down would be inadequate. After all, Hemingway had one. Right? Or Duchamp. Or someone artsy and famous who wrote down aphorisms or sketched Notre Dame or did other things you’d see in a Moleskine ad. I took one to the Limbo Room when I was on jury duty, because you couldn’t bring laptops, because that would somehow contaminate everything. I wrote everything in a fine-point felt-tipped marker in my best handwriting, because this was a Moleskine, and I tucked paper souvenirs in the little pocket, and felt so deucedly clever and hip. Never used it after that. It just seemed daunting: does this thought or note or jotting deserve to be in a Moleskine, or would it sully the tradition laid down by Hemingway (maybe) or Duchamp (probably not)? So to hell with it.

But the Field Notes are just little notebooks. With matching pens. This is important. Here they are:

That’s the Minnesota edition, in state colors, sort of. Since they’re three bucks a pop, and they’re graph-paper, not lined, the pressure’s off. I plan to impress people with these wherever I go, writing down pertinent information, and storing it in a pocket. Most people will not be impressed, because they will wonder why you’re not doing things the modern way – getting out a phone, turning it on, calling up the app, typing the information, swearing, backspacing, asking the person to repeat the information, apologizing for not being able to type well while someone’s watching, then storing it, then calling it back up to make sure it was stored – some people may enjoy watching the old folkways at work.

But some people will really be impressed by the matching pen. That’s a whole new level. I kid! But I don’t. I would be drawn to the combination. A retro notepad and a matching pen. Let me tell you this, friends: I took the pen out and clicked it and wrote, and yea, the ink doth flow. This goes contrary to the experience of every single fargin’ pen I deal with every day, and it’s why I hate pens.

Because I expect them not to work. This is one of those things that maddens you, because a pen should do one thing: write. But we all know that when you pick up the standard ballpoint, i.e., one that walked home from work with you one day, it will not write. It will make a faint line; the ball will balk. You look around for another piece of paper, and make the Primer Squiggle. Once you’ve convinced the ink to get on with it, then you return to the task

AH HAH! HAH! SNEAK ATTACK! I just picked up the Field Notes pen without warning and attempted to write with it. And it produced. I am now reproducing the experiment with a Papermate Eagle . . . fail.

Hmm. Just thought of something. Hold on.

Okay, I tried an experiment with two other ballpoints within my immediate grasp. One is a remarkable pen from the local Chinese Restaurant; it has a menu rolled up in the barrel that comes out when you pull a metal edge, and retracts automatically. The other is a Credit Union ballpoint. Both worked perfectly when requested.

So . . . the pens people give you to make you think well of their business, they work. The ones you buy for yourself or your office, don’t.

Got it. Complicating matters is the difficult relationship between ballpoints and thermal paper. When you have to sign a receipt at a store, the pen gets stage fright. Never works, does it? Unless you place the paper on a soft surface, like a piece of cardboard, or your wallet. You’d think everyone would have figured this out, no? No. The customer gets the receipt, tries to sign, no ink comes out, he curses the pen and the store, replaces the pen, tries another, same thing, makes a squiggle, whatever. If someone wanted to make a few bucks he’d market a little pad for signing, and sell advertising: just a tasteful logo at the top, targeted to the type of goods the store sells. People would enjoy the experience of signing a receipt without dealing with the Primer Squiggle.

Here’s the boulevard glacier today. En route to the death it deserves.

More exterior photography can be found in the start of the grandly-named “World” section of the pictures site, available here. It’s just as pretentious as the other examples.

See you around – tomorrow it’s more 70s updates, and . . . we’ll see. Okay, a Diner. Maybe. And more! Perhaps.

Said Mr. Lazybones.

 

65 Responses to The Primer Squiggle

  1. Paul says:

    Have you tried “Rite in the Rain” notepads? They look like something a surveyor would use because they’re, uh, something a surveyor would use. Strong, purposeful, and serious. No defense attorney would want you in the jury box if he saw you whip out one of these pads.

    The paper is thick and comes in a multitude of line formats. And the good thing about it is that you can indeed use it in the rain – the paper doesn’t turn to glop.

    Granted, it does have the annoying tendency to not readily accept ink when the sun is out and the paper warms to anything above about 70, but it does work in a monsoon. I can tell the weather conditions on a day from many years ago based on the number of get-the-ink-flowing squiggles on the page of notes. More squiggles – nicer weather.

  2. Brian Lutz says:

    Pens seem to be one of those things that you never notice until they don’t work the way they’re supposed to. For day-to-day writing, I tend to find the various Bic pens seem to be the most reliable, whereas Paper Mates always tend to be suspect at best, and the Staples brand pens they have in the supply room at work are just fail-on-a-stick (I’ve tried four of them in different colors, all exhibit the same flaws.) You’d think by now pens would be one of those things that would just work

    On the occasions when I can find them, my favorite type of pens would be Pentel Rolling Writers. My uncle who used to do cartoons swears by them, and they make one of the best solid lines I’ve found, as long as you’re not looking for too much precision.

  3. chrisbcritter says:

    Seeing the neat little notebooks made me go back to the promo video again, and the solitary young man peddling them from fair to fair, and I got the idea that someday OGH should start writing about him…

    “Joe Ohio Jr.”

    You’re welcome. :)

    As to the pens, in junior high we had a short story writing assignment. One of my friends wrote “The Life Story of a Bic Banana”. It ended rather badly with the pen being stripped of its empty cartridge and being used to shoot spitwads, then being confiscated and discarded by the teacher…

  4. hpoulter says:

    Surveyors don’t use ink (or didn’t in my long-past day) they used a hard, hard pencil (6H) and not any wood pencil, either – a Steel pencil that holds its lead in a claw-like grip. You sharpened them in a little whirly manual grinder designed for draftsmen, or on a pad of sandpaper.

    Loved those Rite in the Rain books. However, now that I am paying for my own stationery, I stock up on marbled-cover “Composition Books”, full size and pocket size, at Walmart or Target every back-to-school season.

    I suspect that a modern surveyor is more likely to be entering data electronically, so the field book may become as outdated as the draftsman.

  5. Pencilpal says:

    hpoulter – do the marble composition books still have all the wonderful weights & measures on the back cover – exotic avoirdupois, drams, fathoms, hectares, droll pecks & bushels? Or have they scoured them for sterile metrics? To me, marbled means good old anglo dimensions.

  6. Ross says:

    OGH and Brian Lutz: I can’t function w/o Pentel Rolling Writers. I get them at Pentel’s website–the actual purchase goes through a charity out in the Great SW Desert Waste, somewhere. Pilot G4s are also a lovely smooth write.

  7. hpoulter says:

    @Pencilpal – I’m looking at one right now – no drams or furlongs – just English to Metric conversions. Also a multiplication table (quaint) and some simple grammar and spelling rules. All pretty vestigial.

    If you want a cool tool to look up obscure units, you can use Google, but better is WolframAlpha Computational Knowledge Engine

    http://www.wolframalpha.com/

    For instance, “speed of light in furlongs per fortnight”:

    1.803×10^12 furlongs per fortnight

    It’s also good for nutrition lookups -e.g. “fat in 1/4 cup peanuts” produces a wealth of information.

  8. Mike says:

    I work in retail. When our pens don’t work on the thermal paper we slip a piece of paper between the thermal paper and the counter. The counter surface is so hard that many ball point pens will not work properly ans the paper softens things properly. Jell pens work fine but the ink then smears.

  9. Hunkybobtx says:

    Minnesota has state colors? I wasn’t aware. Lord knows Minnesota needs a proper state flag. If I were to guess what would be the state colors, I would think sky blue, white and perhaps maroon. More interested in what Minnesotans think

  10. wiredog says:

    I have a small moleskin notebook, they sell a 3 pack that looks suspiciously like James’s. It’s my short term memory, since the OEM short term memory was heavily damaged by my Sinful Youth(TM).

    I see that hpoulter has moved to Milwaukee…

  11. Mxymaster says:

    I’d rather go through all those gyrations signing the receipt with a lousy ballpont than use the “modern” method. Every time I go to BJ’s and use my credit card, I sign the screen and it looks like nothing. I mean, a blot. A blot of black pixels. Remember Charlie Brown writing to his pen pal with a fountain pen? Much more clear. At least I don’t leave there dripping pixels.

    I should call my card company and tell them someone forged my signature so I wouldn’t have to pay, but they’d cancel the card and that would be annoying.

  12. hpoulter says:

    @wiredog: Whoah! You had me going there for a minute (but that guy has more hair). I will be sending suitable links to that page to many, many people.

    link

  13. jhc says:

    Nice photos in the “World” section. Number 4 looks like a scene from My Neighbor Totoro.

  14. rbj says:

    Yes, more Death of Glacier pictures. Spring arrive on Sunday.

    And I think the knee is the most poorly designed part of the anatomy.

  15. Arkady says:

    The thing I find intimidating about most pocket notebooks is that the pages do not tear out easily. So my profound and deep thoughts are right there next to the pizza delivery number and the license key code to Microsoft Office 2003. Give me the ability to delete the unimportant.

  16. Russell says:

    I can’t remember the last time I had to sign anything when using my credit card; does America not use chip and PIN?
    (Eliminates the pen problem and the blobby black pixels!)

  17. joexrayguy says:

    I found a pen made by Foray that I loved, came three to a packet-large barrel, cushioned grip area, good feel and used them around the clinic. A couple of people commented on them so I handed out the extra two, confident I could just go back to Office Depot and get more. No such luck. Of course, the Murphy Law that says “When you find a product you like, the manufacturer will discontinue it” was in effect. But wait! Unscrewed the tip end, pulled out the guts, uncorked a Bic Clic with my teeth and did an in transplant to the Foray. Huzzah! I have also put a label on the Foray- “JOES PEN”-always comes back to me.

  18. rbb says:

    The Field Notes pens are Bic Clics, which is probably why they work OK. Bics are generally pretty good. My own favorite is a mid-1950s Parker Jotter in a sea-green color — very retro.

    AND you can put modern Jotter refills into it and it works perfectly for about 10 miles of writing. AND Parker and others also make roller-ball refills that fit Jotters, so, hey, is this a great country or what?

    Now don’t buy a new Jotter — they’re made in Uzbekistan out of old Soviet helicopter parts plus cheesy plastic threads. Look in a consignment shop for a Jotter with brass threads. Or google “pen show,” find something local, and go buy a used 1950s one for about $5.

    Jotter: classic retro Americana — and they work perfectly.

    As for Moleskines — couldn’t agree more. Yuppie pretentiousness at its worst. But beware: grid paper is very very French.

  19. Kerry Potenza says:

    Pens. Where do they all go? Must be the same place that all the odd socks hang out. I either have 16 in my purse or none at all. Same thing with my car. I keep a stash of pens under the dashboard for banking, etc. Always there – except when I really need one! Yesterday, for instance, forgot to give a check to daughter’s school for the READ program fundraiser. We were running late, natch. I had one pen in the car – ink ran out mid-check writing. Swore. Rummaged through purse – not a one. Ran in the house – where are all the pens? Finally found one. It was blue. I started the check with black ink. Oh well.

    I hate gel ink pens. Too messy. I am left-handed but insist on writing with a right-handed slant. So I smudge.

  20. John says:

    Ah, the “World” section. I visit the World a lot, but seldom take pictures, so sure, let’s have a look at these. Hmm. OK. The first one could be of Iceland – where they do have ice, and also STOP signs. Well, quite a lot of the World has both, but it was Iceland in 1983, my first European trip, that clued me to the cultural poverty of that continent. Had the U.S.A. never crossed the Atlantic in WWII, what if anything would Europeans have done to induce motorists to pause at intersections? They had to borrow the STOP sign because they had no local alternative? Or did they just envy it?

    That said, Iceland (and here our host’s uncharacteristic withholding of text proves cunning – if this picture is NOT of the place, PROVE it!) will sink back beneath the mental waves. One of those parts of the World that barely registers. I find my chief memory of that trip is of the morning I left for it. Pedaled out to a bike shop near San Antonio International, dumpster-dived to get a box, drug it back to the airport, and stowed my little vehicle inside it. I sure don’t “prepare” for World trips like that anymore! My idea of “preparation” had been simply to phone the bike shop to confirm that they had a dumpster. Oh, and bring tape!

    So, count me stimulated after all. The rest of the photos look more like the “Botany” section, but I don’t mind.

  21. Jennifer says:

    My “astronaut” pen always wrote, but tended to glop. Good purse size, though, so I lament its loss.
    @crisbcritter How odd! I wrote some silly little stories in high school (I was bored in typing class) about a pen cap that escaped the school through a window, etc. I think I still have one.

  22. Lars Walker says:

    My own experience is that my pens generally work, until they stop. When I was a kid, it was important to keep pens capped or retracted, because the tips would dry out, but Modern Science seems to have mostly solved that problem.

    Years back, I decided to become a pen snob. I actually buy a nice pen at an office products store, and carry it with me at all times. My problem nowadays is that everybody wants big fat pens with large rubber grippers on them. These pens are ergonomically excellent, but they don’t fit in my breast pocket, which already holds my pocket calendar and a credit card case. So I have to find a thing pen. I’ve used PaperMate and Cross in the last few years. The Cross is nicer, but you can click the PaperMate with one hand.

  23. Cuneo says:

    Got an email from Amazon asking me to sell back my Moleskin notebook. No way, it’s going straight to “Things White People Like.”

  24. “Most people will not be impressed, because they will wonder why you’re not doing things the modern way – getting out a phone, turning it on, calling up the app, typing the information, swearing, backspacing, asking the person to repeat the information, apologizing for not being able to type well while someone’s watching, then storing it, then calling it back up to make sure it was stored – some people may enjoy watching the old folkways at work.”

    Which is why I still use a pen and ink Franklin planner. I noticed this propensity for modern “speed” and “convenience” well over 10 years ago and started mocking the PDA users by challenging them to a race for meeting dates and notes taken therein. I haven’t lost yet. Take THAT, you recalcitrant digits!

  25. Shinumo says:

    Did you mean to call the bag-piping dudes “Shiners” or are they “Shriners”?

  26. Every day, at some point, we live a Primer Squiggle.

    Our house has an abundance of pencils, due to requirements of our elementary school occupants. It’s maddening to go grab a pen from the utility drawer in the kitchen, and find nothing but pencils. The same in my office, as the kids put a quiver of pencils in every room. Pencils are for the immature, pens are for grown ups. Now, pardon me, while I throw a hissy-fit looking for a pen.

  27. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – i don’t think i’ve bought a pen in years. i just find them. not that i use ‘em all that much. mostly just for filling out cheques. i do wonder… when did the bic pens start putting a hole in the cap and why?

  28. Roy Jacobsen says:

    I’ve been rereading the Sherlock Holmes stories, and twice now, characters have made notes on their shirt cuffs; once it was Holmes himself (can’t recall the story), and once it was Dr. Mortimer (in The Hound of the Baskervilles).

    Seems a bit better than writing on your hand (something that I resort to rarely). Now if only we still used paper shirt collars and cuffs…

  29. Lars Walker says:

    There’s a line in Whit Stillman’s movie “Metropolitan” where one character tells another where to find a place that still made shirts with removable collars. Of course that was set in the 1970s, so such places probably don’t exist anymore.

  30. swschrad says:

    Pilot Precise Grip BOLD for me, thanks. it is a crime against man and nature that they don’t have plain old blue on the pegboards any more, so I am forced to smear my words in black.

    there was a day in the mid-70s when Pentel pens were just being imported from Japan, when that’s all I had at hand. they were of the wicky plastic stylus type and dried out in a heartbeat if you didn’t recap the pen.

    these Pilots just go and go.

  31. Janice says:

    @Russell:
    Nope, us Americans aren’t chip and PIN users. When I was in England last summer, everyone looked at my credit card as though it were some quaint relic from the past. “Oh, you have to sign for this? Let me remember how to do that.”

  32. all my notebooks seem to be from the Sanrio outlet store and I also like to get pencils there.

    go Kitty-chan!

  33. nightfly says:

    I love my Japanese “Le Pens.” Super-thin (can’t find the commenter who needed them that way for pockets), though they will still dry out if you lose the cap entirely. However, they seem to have inexhaustible ink reserves. In fact, I have one of Marvy’s predecessors to the Le Pen, the Buro – it’s at least fifteen years old and it will still write.

    Lately I’ve found myself enjoying the Sharpie pens, which are very like a heftier version of the Marvy “Le Pen.” But don’t drop one nib-first onto a stone floor, if you can avoid it. It will give your pen a sad.

    Regarding notebooks… unlike our host, I am a journal junkie. I have more of them now than I can possibly use, though I do try. Some of the small pocket-sized do come with removable pages; the larger with those pockets. I had one such for two years before I discovered the pocket, and it was like getting a brand-new journal. To me the big advantage is that, unlike my USB drive, I don’t need to plug them into anything to be able to read what’s there.

  34. rbb says:

    The Field Notes pens are Bic Clics, which is probably why they work OK. Bics are generally pretty good. My own favorite, however, is a mid-1950s Parker Jotter in a sea-green color — very retro.

    AND you can put modern Jotter refills into it and it works perfectly for about 10 miles of writing. AND Parker and others also make roller-ball refills that fit Jotters, so, hey, is this a great country or what?

    Now don’t buy a new Jotter — they’re made in Uzbekistan out of old Soviet helicopter parts plus cheesy plastic threads. Look in a consignment shop for a Jotter with brass threads. Or google “pen show,” find something local, and go buy a used 1950s one for about $5.

    Jotter: classic retro Americana — and they work perfectly.

    As for Moleskines — couldn’t agree more. Yuppie pretentiousness at its worst. But beware: grid paper is very very French.

  35. MJBirch says:

    I get the Levenger’s catalog and I wish I dared to purchase one of their mega-hyped limited-edition cartridge fountain pens (“guaranteed to ooze deathless prose!”) but I know myself too well. I’d lose the thing. (Say bye-bye to ninety dollars. Can’t afford it.)

    Do the Sheaffer’s/Parker’s cartridge fountain pens still exist? Anywhere? They left ink bruises all over my fingers, but I still loved them. For awhile, there was an improved version with a better grip that didn’t hemorrhage ink and I bought them whenever I saw them, guessing — correctly, as it turns out — that they were so wonderful that the manufacture would DISCONTINUE MAKING THEM.

    (sigh)

  36. Linda Vernon says:

    I like cheap mechanical pencils because they have erasers. I love erasing or, more precisely, I love having the ability to erase. The actual act of erasing in and of itself comes in a distant second.

  37. You can buy disposable ink “fountain” pens pretty nifty and to heck with the cartridges, inkwells and polar bears.

    OK, the polar bears can stay.

  38. hpoulter says:

    @Gastropoda:

    From bicworld.com:

    Why is there a hole in the barrel of BIC® Cristal® pens?To equalize the pressure inside the pen with the pressure outside the pen. These vents, or holes in the pen barrels, basically help to prevent ink leakage. Approximately 90 percent of all pens are vented to prevent leakage. The pens that do not have vented barrels contain sealed ink systems and are pressurized.

    Why is there a hole in some writing instrument’s cap?
    In addition to help prevent the pen from leaking, all our BIC® caps comply with international safety standards that attempt to minimize the risk of children accidentally inhaling pen caps. Some of these vented caps, like that used for the BIC® Cristal®, has a little hole in the top to comply with the existing safety standards.

  39. swschrad says:

    @hpoulter: makes ‘em leak easier, too.

    @MJBirch: I used the Parker cartridge pens for a couple years in high school. discontinued before the Sheaffer ones were. killed by the Bic.

    @Janice @Russel: the Europeans are declaring economic war on the Yanks. they are putting Euro pressure on the card issuers here to chip the credit cards, and have plans to eliminate the “insecure” signature purchase mode.

    never mind that whatever thug can still get your money out of chipped cards by holding a knife on you until you spit out the magic digits that authenticate the purchase.

    oh, wait, that’s right, they can’t get me unless I go over there. never mind. stand down, Army of Myopia! at ease!

  40. fizzbin says:

    I use flowing ink pens, he said nibbly.

  41. StephenB says:

    Arkady, how do we have the same notebook? I also have the Office key written down the side of one of the pages.

    And James, thanks for the pad idea for signing on thermal paper!

  42. Grebmar says:

    I didn’t know they chopped the top off of the Bic pen cap for safety reasons. I thought it was a money saving thing–when you churn out millions of pen caps a year, that little bit off the top adds up!

    Has anyone ever used up all the ink in a Bic pen? I’ve tried, but I can’t keep track of the pen long enough to see how long it takes to use up the ink.

    I try to use fountain pens as much as possible. It makes my writing far more interesting, and there are so many different colors that are much more vivid than standard pens. Ball point “black” is actually grey, and ball point “red” is actually pink.

  43. nixmom says:

    Swschrad and I are on the same page with this one: Pilot Precise Grip Bold is the way to go. Out entire department banded together against the “fine point whatever’s cheap” pens purchased by our company and insisted that we Needed Pilot Precise Grip Bold, thank you very much. We also insisted that we couldn’t possibly do our Very Important Work when we were all busy whining about inadequate writing implements.

    We got *boxes* of ‘em and we don’t share.

    And they work wonderfully on thermal paper, too. Which means I don’t have to use the disgusting pen-with-a-plastic-spoon-taped-to-it at the gas station. Brought my own, thanks; it writes instantly and it alleviates any OCD brought on by wondering Who Else Touched That Pen. Perfect all around.

  44. Steve Ripley says:

    For several years I’ve been addicted to the Pilot Fine Pint retractable with blue ink. Blue tinted clear barrel. Always write, and I routinely use them down to the last drop of ink. Bics are generally reliable. Papermates, particularly the Eagle, are a crap shoot.
    And while I’m at it, how come free pens are almost always black ink? I like blue – C’mon, you promotional pen makers!

  45. DryOwlTacos says:

    I’d rather write with a pencil than anything else. Give me a good old wooden #2 with a pink rubber eraser on the top. It doesn’t need priming, will write on just about anything, the graphite absolutely glides on paper, and it can be filed to a razor-sharp point or rubbed down to a broad smudge. It produces words and pictures with varying line widths and shadings. The perfect writing instrument!

    That said, at this exact moment, I can’t seem to find one on my desk.

  46. Bob Lipton says:

    Shinumo says:
    March 17, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Did you mean to call the bag-piping dudes “Shiners” or are they “Shriners”?

    It’s the Black Eyed Lodge of the Shriners. The Shiner Shriners.

    Bob

  47. hpoulter says:

    They aren’t Shriners or Shiners. They’re Scottish Rite Masons. Shriners are the dudes with fezzes and mini-cars (and childrens’ hospitals).

  48. NeonCat says:

    In my experience, PaperMates may be the worst pens available. I prefer Sanford uni-ball capped in my pocket and Bic Pro+ retractable on my desk.

    I long ago discovered why you don’t carry a retractable pen in a pants pocket.

  49. Troy Z says:

    Does anyone else think these Field Notes and accompanying pen look uncannily like props from a Wes Anderson movie?

  50. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – thanks for the low-down on the holey bic pencaps. figured it would be for some stupid reason… now if that computational knowledge engine can give me the airspeed velocity of an unladen african swallow…

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