Archive for June, 2009

Hey, Maintain That Hierarchy


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MORE Ink Tests & Reviews, plus Bonus Side Notes

I’ve had another set of ink samples sitting around for a few weeks now, including three new J. Herbin inks that I received in my Rhodia Drive giveaway prize. It’s always frustrating to color-correct scans, so like last time, I offer some slightly more color-accurate photos.

The last time I ordered ink samples, I stuck pretty safely to a range of neutral colors. Maybe it was the winter weather, because I definitely branched out when ordering these in late May. They’re not all exactly functional, per say, but I’m planning to use them for colorful handwritten letters this summer.

For all of these tests, I used a dip pen, first with an italic nib and then with a rounder nib
(underneath). The rounder nib is a better demonstration of how this ink will appear in a fountain pen. All of these were tested on Clairefontaine bright white paper. As always, click on the images to view a larger version.

J. Herbin Gris Nuage: Ohh, I’m obsessed with this ink! This isn’t one of the bottles that I received from Rhodia Drive, but I wish it was. Compared to other grey inks (such as Noodler’s Lexington Gray), this is a cooler gray ink– the color of clouds on an overcast day. Gris Nuage is also a true grey ink, not a diluted black, and has beautiful shading. View more photos of this ink here and here.

Private Reserve Electric DC Blue: As my writing sample demonstrates, this is a very sexy ink. I tend to hate navy blue and blue-black inks, but I would definitely use this as an everyday color. It’s professional, in the sense that [*warning: mildly sexist remark*] a sexy high-heeled secretary is professional. View another photo here.

Private Reserve Blue Suede: I have to compare this to some of the blue-black inks that I already have, because it seems to fit into that color family. It’s also probably a tiny bit more green than it appears in this picture. Some shading.

J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe: Okay, this color is totally indulgent and I have no idea when or how I’ll use it, but gee is it summery. It reminds me of those chemical-laden cocktails that they serve at bars with blacklights. I was a little nervous ordering this one; most of the reviews that I saw said that it barely showed up. But for me, Diabolo Menthe is definitely legible, at least on Clairefontaine bright white paper. It also has beautiful shading– perhaps I’ll use it for calligraphy. See some of those reviews here and here.

J. Herbin Vert Reseda: Reviewers of Diabolo Menthe claimed that Vert Reseda was a darker, more legible version. This was one of the three inks that I received from Karen Doherty at Exaclair, for the Rhodia Drive giveaway. This ink is also a bit more green than it appears in the photo, with no shading. On the bright white paper, it’s not only darker than Diabolo Menthe, but also more green– it almost resembles the “jungle green” crayon.

[*side note: is most of my generation going to remember specific crayon colors, even into adulthood? Remember “macaroni yellow”?*]

Private Reserve Shell Pink: This may be to be too light for dry-writing fountain pens. For thicker nibs, especially italic nibs, it has beautiful shading. For a pink ink, it’s not too pink. In fact, it’s rather tasteful– not at all like that sexy high-heeled secretary.

J. Herbin Rouille D’Ancre: I try to avoid pronouncing this ink’s name, as I’ve only studied German and Spanish and would probably butcher it. This is another one of the full-size bottles that I received in the Rhodia Drive giveaway. It’s more coral than I expected, but not too orange. I was a little afraid of Biffybean’s “band-aid” description, but I think with the right paper it’ll look quite nice. No shading, though.

Noodler’s Ottoman Rose: Another sexy color, very saturated. It’s probably a bit darker than it appears in the photo, and has no shading. I decided on this ink instead of the other “rose” inks out there, such as Sheaffer’s Persian Rose and Private Reserve Arabian Rose.

[*Side note: I’ve been uncomfortable with the Orientalist tradition of ink-naming every since I began to explore fountain pen inks. It’s understandable (if not excusable) for ink manufacturers a hundred years ago, but it’s absolutely unnecessary and somewhat offensive for modern ink makers to promote Orientalist discourse. In other words, why is it that deep red/rose inks are always “Persian,” “Arabian,” or “Ottoman,” while an “English Rose” colors tends to be a faded/dusty pink?*]

J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune: This is the third bottle I received in the Rhodia giveaway. Of the inks that I already own, I’d compare it most to Noodler’s Nightshade (which I swatched below to compare). It’s definitely lighter, and more purple than Nightshade, and I think I like it less. Interestingly, it feels like a more “feminine” ink to me than the Shell Pink– not in the good way. Read more reviews here and here.


Noodler’s Habanero: I wanted an orange with heavy shading, and I was torn between this ink, Noodler’s Cayenne, and Noodler’s Apache Sunset. For all three inks, reviews seemed to depend primarily on the pen used. I was expecting more shading, though I’ll have to try this in one of my italic-nib pens and see if it makes a difference.

Noodler’s Tiananmen and Waterman Havana Brown: I included these swatches to compare with Habanero and Lie de The. I reviewed them originally in this post.

J. Herbin Lie de The: I was really jonesin’ for J. Herbin’s Cacao de Bresil, but I like this ink! It’s almost the color of a nutshell after being buried under leaves, or of tea with milk (thus the doodle). Some other reviews have noted a slight green undertone, which makes it distinctive from other neutrals. It has some slight shading, and I wonder if it will come out more with a different pen. This would be a great letter-writing ink, especially on some nice parchment. Read more reviews here and here.

Waxman-Markey Passes in House

The first major piece of environmental legislation passed in the House today. The vote was 219-212, which means all of the individual campaigning that happened at Powershift and in the follow-up meetings was crucial in convincing some of the fencesitters (hooray!)

As the Times article notes, though, the bill was heavily compromised in order to get the votes: “the bill’s targets for emissions of heat-trapping gases were weakened, its mandate for renewable electricity was scaled back, and incentives for industries were sweetened.” In specifics, this means that bullshit “innovations” such as “clean coal” and nuclear power plants are endorsed in the bill– in fact, far more than renewable energy resources. This Guardian article provides a good global perspective on the bill, and George Monbiot provides, um, a more cynical perspective.

Representative Zack Space (of my district at school in Ohio) did vote to pass the bill, but he faced some complex pressures and never became the champion we needed him to be. Honestly, I do have a bit of sympathy for the guy (and not just because he’s a Kenyon alum)– he’s a Representative from coal country hoping to push through major environmental legislation. It sounds like he was holding out, undecided, until late in the vote.

On an amusing sidenote, Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona called the bill “communist.” It’s very interesting to me how the act of taking (personal and collective) responsibility has become associated with communism, while “individual liberty” has come to mean “freedom from responsibility.”

The bright side of all of this is, we are finally a country with (almost) environmental legislation! The U.S. has lagged severely behind other nations in addressing climate change, and at least we’ll have something to talk about at Copenhagen in December.

Weather Forecast

Highs in the early nineties, sixty percent humidity


It’s a good thing I’m a hundred yards from the Rivanna River.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisps

Much more exciting things have been happening, but I only have a little time this evening so I’ll post about the simple things– like seasonal desserts! Rhubarb season coincides with strawberry season; thus, the strawberry-rhubarb phenomenon. Although we’ve gotten used to having strawberries year-round at the supermarket, rhubarb is still generally considered a seasonal crop.

I’m not a fancy chef, so I cooked up the student DIY-version using a cupcake tin and some old pastry dough that a friend had wrapped up and given me to save in the freezer.

Rhubarb 14

I’m not gonna lie– even homemade pastries use a heap of sugar.

In the Filling:

  • sliced rhubarb stalks
  • sliced strawberries (half the amount of rhubarb)
  • About a cup to 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

Let the mixture sit in the bowl until it gets, um, “sludgy”

Rhubarb 10Spread the table with flour, cover your pastry dough with the flour, and pat into cupcake tins.

Rhubarb 9Action shot

Rhubarb 8I didn’t get a picture of them covered, but make sure to cover them with another layer of the dough, and then pinch the sides with a fork or something.

Then, put them in a preheated oven (375 degrees) and check on them every five minutes until they turn golden.

Rhubarb 5At some point, they’ll start vomiting up their fruit filling, but don’t worry! That makes them delicious.

Rhubarb 2Done! One for each guest, and one for the chef.

Rhubarb 3Lick the fruit lava spill. Consume crisp/muffin thing. Enjoy summer food.

Five Really Good Things


Festival of the Photograph

Last weekend my native town (Charlottesville, VA) was covered in urbanite photographers here for the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. I’m not nearly serious enough about photography to warrant paying for some of the workshops or lectures, but I did manage to browse some of the galleries, and spend a wonderful Saturday night eating hot fresh doughnuts and watching the photographic projections at the Charlottesville Pavillion. I did take some notes during that event, so look for more on that soon.

(p.s. I yanked those images from the LOOK3 website, which didn’t have a photographer credited. But all credit goes to them and the site!)


Rhodia Drive Raffle Giveaway

I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the Rhodia Summer Raffle Giveaways over at RhodiaDrive! I’m looking forward to a box of notebooks, stationary, and inks– what more could an art supply fetishist ask for?



Financial Aid Increase

I received my financial aid package for this upcoming year at Kenyon– an event which, for the past two years, has ranged from “highly disappointing” to “oh shit I’m going to have to sell my eggs.” Needless to say, I spent much of last year pushing the school to give me the aid that I deserve– and it looks like it paid off! It’s not as though I’ll be financially comfy this year or anything, but it does feel SO good to know that my work has gotten some recognition.


Leaving the Tiki Trailer

Some friends of mine are spending a few weeks in France, so I’ll finally be able to move out of the ugly tiki-decorated trailer that I’ve been inhabiting for the past two months. I’ll be taking care of their house and organic garden, the fruits/vegetables of which I can take freely. It’ll be nice to have some income, and to be a little closer to town. 



Central Virginia Farms

I spent all day yesterday driving around central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, picking up food from the famous Polyface Farm, Cherry Ridge Farm, and others. Of course I didn’t have any camera except a phone on me, so the pictures are sub-par. At Polyface, we were lucky enough to arrive on slaughter day. I’ll elaborate more on this later, but if you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma you know that this is a very fun day to visit. What Michael Pollan didn’t mention, though, is that the farming Apprentices aresome seriously handsome young men.


0617091437b 2


If I hadn’t already fallen back in love with my homeland, I certainly did yesterday.

Block Printing (or, How to Market the “Rural Look”)


One of the benefits to starting a local food distribution business is the many haphazard, DIY projects that spontaneously need doing. Sometimes this can be a total pain (e.g., when I’m planting a field of asparagus and my boss suddenly needs meat sorted and fridges cleaned), but it can also be a pleasant surprise (when, say, I suddenly need to design, carve, and print a stamp for his delivery bags).


So I spent some quality time with the Speedball stamp carving tools, and came up with two designs: a rooster and strawberries. My friend O., who was helping with this project, compared the process of carving stamps to “trimming cuticles.” Very accurate, I’d say.

To be honest, I feel a little yucky after this project. I don’t like the marketing side of food– I think it’s sad enough that we need advertising to convince us to eat healthy foods. I also don’t like when my boss instructs me to make something look “farm-y,” basically reducing a complex and fraught way of life to a children’s book cliche. I might as well have put a man in overalls and an ear of corn on the stamp.




Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

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