Posts Tagged ‘friends and family’

china’s ‘four treasures of the study’

China possesses one of the world’s oldest scholarly traditions, dating back millenia. Symbols scratched on oracle bones found in Jiahu, a Neolithic settlement, suggest that the evolution of Chinese writing began around 6600 BCE. A trove of classical works from 770 BCE onwards enriches Chinese literature; these were appreciated and added to by the intelligentsia and, upon the invention of woodblock and moveable type printing, were widely disseminated and read by the learned for generations.

From carvings on bone and turtle plastrons for divinatory purposes, Chinese writing evolved into logosyllabic characters of ink brushed on paper serving practical (record-keeping) and artistic (literary) functions. The art of writing and calligraphy became skills cultivated among the upper and middle classes.

The tools of calligraphy were highly prized. Chinese scholars called them “the four treasures of the study” – the inkstone, inkstick, brushes, and paper. Other tools used were carved seals of stone, wood, or ivory; seal paste of cinnabar mixed with castor oil and silk strands or plant fiber; sculpted or carved paperweights; and desk pads.

Calligraphy is still taught in Chinese schools to the present day, all over the world. Filipino students work with writing sets, learning to imbue characters with emotion using deft, fluid strokes with an ink-dipped brush.

UK-based AL Merginio-Murgatroyd, a friend from school days, sent me this set. The cardboard box is covered with green silk that shines bluish in sunlight; the pattern is embroidered with violet-gray thread.

Inside, on red felt, three of the ‘four precious things of the library’. This set includes a seal and seal paste.

The seal is marble, uncarved, waiting for me to choose a special sign to have engraved upon it. The inkstick has a golden dragon upon it – it’s too beautiful to use!

Inksticks were traditionally made from soot and glue. They often have carvings or were molded into whimsical shapes like flowers. Many inkstones, especially antiques, are works of art and cherished by collectors.

To use, drag water from the inkstone’s ‘well’ on to the ‘plain’; grind the inkstick against the stone until the water in the well runs dark enough.

Seals are used like rubber stamps – dab the carved side into seal paste, and gently press it onto the surface of the paper, rocking it back and forth to ensure a good impression. Remember to keep seal paste containers covered and in the box to prevent it from drying out.

As I hold this box in my lap, I think of many things – the sheer weight of the thousands of years of Chinese culture; the literature classics written with materials like these, from the Tao Te Ching to the Confucian Analects; that practical things may also be works of beauty, and uplift to an art the labor done with them; how writing tools have evolved through time in various civilizations; and more, and more.

Most of all I think of how a friend now in a cold country far from her motherland’s tropical warmth, who taught me Math and conversed with me when I was in elementary and she in high school with license to ignore the small fry yet still kindled the fires of friendship, a friend whom I have not seen for more than two decades, keeps our connection burning with this and other tokens of remembrance.

Thank you, AL. I hope one day to see you again, and embrace you again, and show you my gratitude for your love through the years. Be blessed.

Photos by Alex Alcasid; inkstone and seal ‘how-to’ images here.

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frankenpen; or, a pen reborn

Oh joy of joys! A frankenpen for my very own from frankenpen creator Tom Overfield!

The term “frankenpen” is used by fountain pen collectors to refer to a pen that incorporates parts from other pens – say, a cap or a barrel. The prefix “franken-” comes from the fictional monster cobbled together by Dr. Frankenstein.

Tom, an IT expert and a FP user and collector, makes entire pens from vintage Sheaffer parts. Like works of art, his creations have titles or names. This is “Thinenstein”. It has other siblings, all Sheaffer Snorkels – the first one he made was called “Frankensnork”, followed by “Son of Frankensnork” and “Bride of Frankensnork”, and all in the collections of Filipino penfriends.

Thinenstein is made from Thin Model (TM) parts and has a Touchdown fill system and a Triumph nib. The parts are of different colors – the cap burgundy, the barrel blue, the end cap green, the section dark amber.

“Sheaffer TMs were made for only a few years,” wrote Tom in an accompanying note. A Penspotters article says that the TM pens were introduced in 1950 and were fitted with the Touchdown system until the switch to the Snorkel filling system in 1952. For the bodies of their pens, Sheaffer used Radite (celluloid) until 1948, then brought in a new synthetic cast resin called “Fortical”.

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Thinenstein’s section is a translucent or “visulated” dark amber plastic, which could not be used later on with the Snorkel “because of the need to house the Snorkel tube.”

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The 14k two-tone gold Triumph nib is a marvel of design and engineering. It is a firm and sturdy nail, without the slightest hint of flex, making it more than robust enough for daily use.  Slightly upturned at the tip like a Turkish slipper, it lays ink in a consistent line.

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It is is steady, reliable writer, one that can be counted on to perform day in and day out.

Its appeal also lies in its origin. Made from rare, old, and unusual but discarded parts joined to create an object of function that is at the same time an original work of art, Thinenstein is a perfect road warrior, combining the charm of vintage things, the attraction of beauty and exclusivity, and the practicality of performance.

Thank you very much, Tom, for this token of friendship that I will always treasure!

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the caswell has a phd in dance

This is officially the flexiest pen I have.

A Caswell black hard rubber with eyedropper fill, it comes from Prof. Butch Dalisay’s collection of vintage American pens.

Made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, circa 1910-1915, this would have been new and modern around the Art Nouveau period, one of my favorite movements in art. Though the pen itself is simply adorned with geometric feathering all along the cap and barrel, its flexible Sanford nib, in a practiced hand, can recreate all the whiplash curves, ornate flourishes, and  stylized lettering of that era.

Ink: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist + Diamine Cerise; Journal: teNeues.

A heart-shaped breather hole  decorates the nib; it’s a common design element in older pens that helps date them. As an eyedropper fill – the hollow barrel itself contains the ink – it holds an inordinate amount of writing potion, perhaps the best fill system to accomodate its lavish gushing.

The nib bends and sways at the lightest touch, delivering lines that vary from eyelash-thin to broad Pentel-wide with just the right combination of ease and pressure.

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It’s amazing that this pen has survived for nearly a century. Simple in design and construction, yet well-made enough to withstand the rigors of use by many hands, the Caswell proves the functionality and practicality of many vintage pens.

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an unusual sheaffer

In the beginning was the box.

And the box was good.

Lo, inside the box was yet another box.

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And within the second box reposed a thing of surpassing beauty.

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Verily, verily, I say unto thee, mine eyes have not beheld such in this lifetime, yet perhaps in the ages to come, shall another come forth to amaze and astound.

Of exceedingly rare and wondrous beauty it is, its outer skin of silver like the burnished wings of a dove, likewise patterned intricately in gilt, its point of gold.

Yea, unless mine eyes deceive me or my knowledge be false, its sharp nib is of the type named Triumph by its makers, created of the finest fourteen-karat gold, encircled by a band of azure, its section of ebony black, marked with mysterious symbols that none but the enlightened or adept may comprehend.

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And it came to pass that it was delivered into mine hands by a man enamoured of horse racing, Jowell Tan, as an heirloom of his house, to cherish and uphold as a singular specimen of its kind. Unto him I give thanks and unceasing gratitude, and so wilt my descendants unto the tenth generation.

Yet its true name is unknown. Unless one shall step forth and say “It is called thus,” or another, “Nay, this is the name and provenance of it,” I shall call it after the style proposed by mine wise and venerable teacher, the Rabbi Butch, who bestowed upon it the name ”the fishscale Sheaffer”.

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Though the mountains fall, and seas rise, and heavens crumble, my tongue shall declare to all its fairness; for it hath no blemish, from the tip of its cap to the tassie at the bottom.

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Not only shall its comeliness be praised, but its usefulness withal, for it writeth exceedingly fine, and taketh ink without leaks, and performeth as well as it looketh.

And therefore hath the Rabbi Butch proclaimed its condition “mint”.

Yea, verily it shall be my mainstay and my delight, and assist me in my tasks as a scribe. And success and impressive penmanship will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in joy and continued employment forever.

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tag ni sarah

I’ve been tagged! Hey, this is fun, I love making lists.

From writer/editor/heartbreakee Sarah Grutas, this meme:

Here’s the rule:

Click copy/paste, type in your answers and tag four people in your lists! Don’t forget to change my answers to the questions with that of yours.

1. Four places I go over and over

MARHO office
Fully Booked at Powerplant
National Bookstore
Philracom

2. Four people who email me regularly
Fountain Pen Network Phils. penfriends
Annie Merginio-Murgatroyd
Gigi Tejada
Kites Cayetano

3. Four of my favorite places to eat
Zaifu at Powerplant
Pancake House
Crustasia
Le Souffle

4. Four places you’d rather be
On the beach
In a spa, having a massage
Any branch of Barnes and Noble or Borders
Kentucky

5. Four TV shows i could watch over and over

The Ghost Whisperer
Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone
CSI: Miami
Star Trek

6. Four lucky winners (of this tag)

Alex
Adelle Chua
Leigh Reyes
Ik

Image: banner illustration of Sarah’s blog.

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dresden plate quilt

The quilt on the bed, in a Dresden Plate design, is one I made for my sister-in-law, Gigi Alcasid, whom we visited last February 2007 in her home in Baldwinsville, upstate New York. I made it for her around 2001. I’m glad to see she’s still using it. In this photo, Alex poses in the spare bedroom where the quilt is laid out on ate Irma Nuevo’s bed, who was also visiting from the Philippines at the same time.

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ateneo gsb commencement 2007

Finally, nairaos din!

This was the sentiment of us graduates of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business (AGSB) of the Ateneo de Manila University at our Commencement Exercises held August 5, Sunday, at the Irwin Theater, AdMU-Loyola Campus in QC.

The activities started at 330 pm with a processional of graduates (by program) from the Grade School auditorium adjoining Irwin Theater. We trooped into the Theater as our professors waited by the doors, pride beaming on their faces.

I walked inside with Ik (Aya was waiting for Alex at UP, who was taking the UPCAT that same day) and took my seat in one of the center rows. We were arranged alphabetically and according to program (Standard, Middle Manager, Regis, Special-Allied Bank, Special-ADB, and so on).

As an honor graduate ( Silver Medalist), I was allowed two guests, with assigned seats near the stage. As I was first in line alphabetically, Ik got a good view of the proceedings and was seated near the aisle.

At 4pm, a Baccalaureate Mass was held, AdMU president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, presiding. After the Mass, the altar was taken away and the stage curtains raised to reveal a beautiful set, all blue and gold and silver, covered with masses of real flowers – pink and red roses, yellow mums, red anthuriums, purple and blue blooms, green ferns and foliage, all in a riot of colors, almost as if we were in a garden.

The Commmencement Address was delivered by the former dean of AGSB and now dean of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, Dr. Alfredo RA Bengzon. It was a stirring speech that reminded all us graduates of our school’s “value proposition” – “My Business, My Country”. Wherever we are, Dr. Bengzon reminded us, we can all make a difference towards positive change and growth for nation-building.

Next came the medal awarding ceremony. Again, alphabetically, I was the first one called forward to receive my silver medal from Fr. Nebres. Since Aya and Alex were still at UP, it was Ik who went up on stage with me, and afterwards hung my medal around my neck.

After all the awards were presented, next came the awarding of diplomas, by programs. Edmar (de la Torre), who was seated behind me, passed the word that we would all yell when Regis was announced. (Pasimuno talaga sa kalokohan.)

Sure enough, when it was our turn, we let out a chorus of yells and applause when AGSB Dean (and my Strama professor) Alberto Buenviaje called on the Regis graduates. We walked down the aisle (me in front again) shouting and clapping as everyone stared. By this time, Alex and Aya had arrived and just shook their heads at our kalokohan.

As I passed the faculty seated near the stage, I shrugged and told our Quanti prof, Prof. Ralph Ante, “Sir, pasaway talaga kahit kelan!” He said, “It’s normal!” meaning he knew our batch was up to its old antics as usual. See, none of the other programs were as loud and vocal. They were staid and boring, teehee. And to think most of them were younger than us Regis students.

We received our diplomas (original, in Latin), one by one, so it took time, but we were all very happy to finally end our MBA education with such joy and laughter. We ended on a tearful note with all the graduates, faculty, and staff singing the Ateneo Graduation Hymn “Mary For You” complete with battle chop.

The whole stirring ceremony inspired Ik so much that she wants to go to Ateneo – and nowhere else – for college! Alex will be taking the exams for Ateneo soon; hopefully she will pass them and receive the Jesuit training that I am proud to have experienced.

Congratulations, 2007 MBA graduates of the AGSB! Primus inter pares!

Our barkada and batchmates – (L-R) Capt. Edmar de la Torre , Gina Matawaran (gold medal), Cynthia Jose, me, Wilma Torralba.

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My MBA ring. I chose a blue sapphire (an Ateneo color) for the stone.

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One side of the ring has the Ateneo Eagle; the other, St. Ignatius of Loyola at prayer, along with the year of my graduation and the degree.

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