Saturday, January 31, 2009

Metallica Fans, Check This Out: Whiplash in Lego.

Found this on You Tube and it had me rolling. Metallica in Lego. Who would have thunk?

Friday, January 30, 2009

5 second interview with Susan Jane Gilman and review of her recent book "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven" (She's also a Fountain Pen User!)

I just finished reading Susan Jane Gilman's Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven.

Having previously read and enjoyed Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth Goddess and Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, I was really looking forward to Susan's memoirs of her mid 80's backpacking trip to communist China.

One word: "Wow." Then four more. “Are you kidding me?” One more: "Wow."

Susan and a casual acquaintance from Brown University, sit at an iHop planning a year long backpacking trip around the world. They plan to go to China, India, Bali, Thailand… Each of these girls are 21 years old and have little to no real world experience- which doesn’t stop them for traveling to a communist country at a time when very few Americans had been permitted to venture behind its walls.

1986 means no internet, no cell phones, no GPS, and international collect calls take hours to be patched through.

Once they begin their journey, Susan’s friend Claire seems to start acting differently than the girl she knew from college. Meandering through Hong Kong, then on to Beijing, Claire becomes overtly paranoid of the people around her. She develops a fever and is taken to a filthy hospital and Susan has to pull her away from the doctor that wants to give her an injection using a rusty needle. Claire eventually recovers, but her paranoia increases until she suffers what appears to be a psychotic break. They are lucky to befriend a Canadian nurse that helps them to return safely home.

I cannot even begin to fathom what Susan went through on this journey.

Susan is an excellent writer that tells a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. There were parts of this book that I read for hours at a clip because I wanted to know what happened next.

Highly recommended.

So being the curious person I am, I wondered to myself what kind of journal Susan took with her on this harrowing journey, as well as what pens/journals she might be using today. I was delighted by her response:

"When I traveled through China, I was a student on a budget, and so my materials were simply 1) cheap and 2) lightweight. I used Bic ballpoint pens that I'd probably taken from my dad's office, and my journal was the thickest but lightest thing I could find, a "Jumbo count" spiral notebook measuring only 9.5 x 6 inches with 200 college ruled sheets. (Soft cover spiral notebooks, as I quickly discovered, are bad for writing -- they fall apart easily, get wet & warped).

I now know better. For whatever it's worth, my "drugs" of choice these days are great little French bound notebooks with lined graph paper (see and omniBall rollerball pens. For special occasions, like book signings, I've got two Waterman pens -- a black fountain pen and a red rollerball.

I love fountain pens, but they're not always practical when I'm running around, and I love heavy, fancy pens, but I don't own one. I lose pens like I lose umbrellas."

Check Susan's website for dates on her upcoming book tour to promote "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven." If you are lucky, she'll sign a copy for you with her Waterman fountain pen!

Read her blog: A View From A Broad

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'd like to introduce a friend of mine, Mr. Jim Donovan

Photo by Barone Photography

A dozen years ago, I went camping with some friends on the beaches of Assateague, MD. Someone at one of the other the campsites was playing music- the same CD over & over, all weekend long. It wasn't a band I was familiar with, but I really liked it and I asked one of my friends what it was. The band was Rusted Root, the CD "When I Woke." To this day, it's still one of my favorite albums.

A Pittsburgh based band, Rusted Root gained popularity at a time after MTV had stopped regularly playing videos and way before MP3 downloads and file sharing was possible. They became popular through their dedicated local fan base, and ultimately through extensive touring with acts such as Santana, The Grateful Dead, Sheryl Crow, Page & Plant and the Allman Brothers. "Send me on My Way" (#72 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1995) was their most recognizable song, and the album "When I Woke" went on to sell over 2 million copies.

I saw Rusted Root perform at the Horde Festival in 1996 and I was instantly taken in by their heavy use of percussion and groovy beats. They were even BETTER live than I thought possible. It was a unique mix of rock/bluegrass/world music that most people were hard pressed to categorize and what ultimately made them stand apart from other bands at the time.

Jim Donovan was one of the founding members of the band, having met bandmates Liz Berlin and Mike Glabicki while at college at the University of Pittsburgh. He played drum set and was the funky beat behind the music I loved so much. He played with Rusted Root from 1990-2005.

In 2000, he developed a series of drumming workshops that he still teaches today. (He was just named 2008 Drum Circle Facilitator of the year by the readers of Drum! Magazine.) In fact, it was his love of teaching that led to his decision to leave Rusted Root and become a full time instructor of music at St. Francis University in Loretto, PA.

Photo by Kaylyn Oshaben

I took my first workshop with Jim in 2005. I quickly found that there was much more to his teachings than simply learning traditional African rhythms. He teaches about how drumming can be used to focus on being in the moment - a vital concept in personal development. He teaches about the importance of connecting your breath to your instrument, and I literally have him to thank for teaching me how to breathe. I mean REALLY breathe. I became so connected to his teachings that over the last few years, I've been working with him on a number of projects because I wanted more people to be able to share in what I came to experience as "the really good stuf." I would even go so far as to call some of what I have learned as being life-changing.

Not only is Jim a talented musician and an inspiring teacher, he's truly a wonderful human being. Just ask anynone that's been to one of his workshops, or to his multi-day drumming retreat called "The Rhythm Renewal"

Photo by Heather Herteis...I think

Jim has a new blog called Rhythm :: Ecstasy :: Evolution with lots of new writings, vintage Rusted Root photos with short stories, and various other musings... I highly recommend it.

Jim can also be found on the web at Jim Donovan Drums on MySpace and on You Tube


You are now a proud owner of a fountain pen. But if you are like me, you are the only person you know that uses one...

Pelikan M200 Fountain Pen on Moleskine

So where can you go to talk to other fountain pen enthusiasts?

I highly recommend the The Fountain Pen Network but I'm warning you now... It can be very addictive. It's one of the friendliest groups of people, (over 20,000 registered users) willing to help with questions, or just to discuss fountain pens, fountain pen inks, and the best paper to use with your favorite pen/ink combination.

There is a marketplace section where you can buy/sell/trade pens and inks, a section to get repair advice, as well as brand specific areas for discussion pen manufacturers such as Pelikan, Montblanc, Sheaffer, etc.

Lots to see, but thankfully, no annoying ads on the site. Membership is free- the site being user supported through member donations, and also via sales of exclusive Noodler's brand inks created specifically for the FPN.

I've also recently been made aware of an Asian forum, called MoonBang SamWoo which is the Korean forum similar to othe FPN. They have over 4100 active members including many members in Korea, China etc.

Per my friend Kevin, "MoonBang Sa Woo (Sa meaning 4) in Korean & Chinese means 4 friends of the writer/thinker: Brush/pen, Paper, China Ink stick, and Ink grinding stone. They named their organization MoonBang Sam Woo (Sam meaning 3) as they are into fountain pens and 3 friends (Pen, Ink, and Paper/notebook).

Moon (Writers) Bang (Library/room) Sam (3) Woo (Friend) **Rooted from very old Chinese word."

Now be sure to go and mingle- and tell them Biffybeans sent you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Journals: Fashion or Function?

Grande Red Ciak Journal

Throughout my journey to fine the perfect journal, I've found that there seem to be two distinctive types of manufactures. One leans towards creating fashionable product and not necessarily emphasizing on paper quality, and the other is all about the paper. (Clairefontaine seems to be the exception. They do make some cool fashionable product combined with some of the best quality writing paper around.)

I prefer function over fashion in a journal. I am a writer, and I want every moment that I am putting pen to paper to be the ultimate in pleasurable writing experiences. Sometimes thoughts are hard to come by, or difficult to express. Do you want to be using a scratchy pen that skips, paper that's rough- in a book that doesn't open flat on your desk? I know I don't. I know a lot of people with bad handwriting, or those who say they don't like to write and I wonder if someone would just hand them a smooth writing pen and quality paper how much it would improve the situation.

If you've looked through any of my reviews, you will notice that most of the books are quite plain in color and design. I like that. Black or red covers are fine for me - beyond that, I couldn't care less. The only aesthetics I care about are functional. Rounded pages for comfort when moving the hand to the bottom of the page as I write. A nice hard cover so I can write with the book propped on my knee anywhere, at anytime. Paper that readily accepts fountain pen inks without bleeding or feathering... That's what I look for in a journal.

How about you?

Monday, January 19, 2009

1966 Ronson Wedgewood Jasperware Table Lighter

Wedgewood Table Lighter 1966

I went through this period back in the early to mid 90's of collecting vintage smoking paraphernalia. I enjoyed collecting table lighters primarily from the 30's and 40's, but this 1966 Ronson Jasperware Wedgewood table lighter was a special find.

Like many people that become obsessive with their collecting, I had several guide books on vintage lighters and would sit and mark off the ones I owned, note when and where I bought them, and how much I paid for them. I'd also sit and look at the ones I didn't have, but desperately wanted to add to my collection.

Case in point, the Ronson pictured above. I used to LOVE Wedgewood, and all of the tinier pieces that they produced, and I LOVED Ronson table lighters so it went without saying that I would HAVE TO HAVE this particular lighter for my collection.

This was before I owned a computer, (or even knew how to use one) and before I knew of Ebay. If I was to find a new lighter for my collection, it was from a flea market, antique shop, auction or garage sale.

So one day, I'm out driving in a slightly rural area. I see a sign for a garage sale, and pull over. It's a real garage sale in that it was actually being held in the person's garage. I get out, walk in, and see that there are shelves of antiques set up all around the inside of the garage.

And then I see it. My mouth goes dry. I whisper to myself, "there it is...." I calmly walk over to it and pick it up to make sure it's not a replica, because there were many knock off's made to look like Wedgewood.

It's the real deal, but this was no normal garage sale, this was a man selling antiques from his garage and he knew what both what he had and it's current market value. I paid him his $25 asking price because I'm not a good haggler. He could have asked me for $50 and I still probably would have paid it. It was just one of those things I just *had* to have.

So now, a dozen years later, I have this lighter and it's wrapped in tissue paper, packed in a box in the attic. It's not a useful or practical object, and I no longer have a place to display it, nor would I really want to. It's just not important to me any more.

And that's the thing I'm really focusing on these days. Do I really need to buy things that aren't useful or practical? Maybe if I'm lucky, someone will trade me a fountain pen for it.... LOL

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Review: J. Herbin Orange Indien Fountain Pen Ink

122708 197

From the J Herbin website:

"J. Herbin is the oldest name in pen inks in the world. M. Herbin created “The Jewel of Inks” in his shop on the Rue des Fosses Saint-Germain in Paris in 1700."

"Each bottle of 30 ml has an integrated pen rest. They are known as “D bottle pen inks. The “D” refers to the old French unit of measure “la Demi Courtine”.

* 30 beautiful colors!
* Non toxic and pH neutral
* Lightfast
* Water based
* Flows smoothly and is fast drying
* All natural dyes

Herbin 202

Ink on a windowsill

011609 029

Mandala doodle in a plain Pen & Ink Sketchbook. The quote, "Simply existing is not enough. Movement and action is imperative to living life to it's fullest." is mine. Misspelling and all.

Herbin 011709 004

Orange Indien in a Canteo journal, (on left) and a Clairefontaine Basics journal. (on right) Photos were taken today, in full sun. This was the best I was able to do given the time of year and angle of the sun. All examples were written & doodled with a Sailor Sapporo fountain pen, medium nib. This side by side example gives you an idea of how the ink looks on cream colored paper versus bright white.

Herbin 011709 009

The Canteo absorbes more ink on the page, (spreading) and makes the lines wider than normal. Canteo paper shows some bleeding & feathering with this ink, which I see as being close to the color of rust. It's brighter on the cream paper, but it's not an "in your face" pumkin orange.

It's a typical free-flowing Herbin ink, not highly saturated, lots of shading with this color. I do seem to think that this particular color was a bit more free-flowing that the other 9 Herbin inks I've tested so far. It could just be because it's in a medium nibbed pen that tends to write pretty wet to begin with.

Herbin 011709 010

Clairefontaine paper generally shows the correct nib width. I think this ink looks good on either the cream, or the bright white paper. It is a color that I could use in a daily writer, or for doodling.

Herbin inks run $8.75 per 30ml bottle at Pear Tree Pens

See a good article on Pentrace where I think they did a great job demonstrating the Herbin colors.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Stack o' Journals. See? Not really as bad as I make it out to be.

My Stack. Of Journals.  See?  Not really as bad as I make it out to be.

Click on the image to go to Flickr where I have noted what each book is.

Though they never seem to stay in this location for long... They migrate all over the house all the time. They are like Tribbles.

Several of these are completed and should be moved to another location. Some need to be given away, as I am unlikely to use them. Many, many, are in use as art books. I typically only have one real "journal" going at a time, though I do use many smaller project books.... The Cahiers are good for that.

Review: J. Herbin Vert Empire and the Overall Challenges of Reviewing Ink

122708 191

From the J Herbin website:

"J. Herbin is the oldest name in pen inks in the world. M. Herbin created “The Jewel of Inks” in his shop on the Rue des Fosses Saint-Germain in Paris in 1700."

"Each bottle of 30 ml has an integrated pen rest. They are known as “D bottle pen inks. The “D” refers to the old French unit of measure “la Demi Courtine”.

* 30 beautiful colors!
* Non toxic and pH neutral
* Lightfast
* Water based
* Flows smoothly and is fast drying
* All natural dyes

Herbin 212

Ink on a windowsill.

Empire outside no corr

You would think an ink review would be easy, but there are a million little factors that come into play. To me, the most important thing is to do your best to accurately represent the way the ink looks on the page. Sadly, I struggled a bit with this one.

To my eyes, on this cream paper shown above, (Exacompta Basics Journal) J. Herbin's Vert Empire is a gray green. A khaki army green. The image above was just taken outside (in 10 degree but very sunny weather) and as usual, the image is too dark & needs to be corrected.

On white paper, the ink looses a bit of the yellow that the cream paper adds, and it looks more like this:


Vert Empire swabbed with a Q-Tip onto white Blick drawing paper.


This is the same image lightened, with a bit of cyan added to make it look (at least on my monitor) more like what it looks like in person - on the cream paper.


Then I try and scan as a 150 dpi tif file. As usual, my scanner blows out the image, and the color is all wrong - BUT the color is slightly closer to how it looks on white paper. But this isn't white paper, it's cream. So I attempt to correct it.


Tweaks in Levels and I think a little bit of yellow once again got it close, but still not perfect.

In testing a fountain pen ink, I'm really only looking for two things. Good flow, and a color that I can live with. Unless a particular ink takes an unreasonable amount of time to dry, (like Noodler's Red-Black) I usually don't pay much attention to dry time. I don't concern myself with whether or not a color is waterproof, or as with Noodler's, "Bulletproof." I use the Noodler's BP black, but I don't really care for their other BP colors, so I have resigned myself to the fact that most fountain pen inks are NOT permanent and I just move on with trying products that I enjoy for their flow and color selection.

J Herbin inks are not known as being super saturated as much as say, Private Reserve inks are. But the thinner, slightly less saturated inks FLOW WONDERFULLY and it makes writing a joy. When you find a good free flowing ink, it can sometimes turn a good pen into a great pen- not that you want a pen that "gushes" with an ink that's just TOO thin, but rather one that makes the pen glide over the page with ease.

So I want colors that I can live with, but I have to keep in mind that any tested ink is most likely going to look different on different color paper. You will get a variety of shades if you try this ink, (or any other) on bright white paper like Clairefontaine/Rhodia, off white paper like Apica, or cream/ivory paper like Moleskine, Cartesio, Canteo, or Ciak.

The pen you use is also going to make a difference in how an ink looks. Thinner nibs versus wider nibs... one may make the ink appear more saturated than another. The drawing above was done with a .05 Cursive Italic nibbed Lamy Safari fountain pen.

If you tend to write fast, like I often do, it seems that this ink comes out a little lighter than if you write slowly. (I'm assuming more ink can flow onto the page when you write slower. )

I don't know that it's dark enough for me to write with on a day to day level, but drawing with it? It's awesome. Laying down line after line allows a great build up of layered color. It does have some shading and doodles look great.

So when considering an ink, you have the ink itself, the paper you will use it on, and the pen. All three things come into play when making your selections.

All Herbin inks provided by Exaclair for the purpose of review,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Got Ink? Try painting with it.

Ink Mandala

My second hand bottle of Private Reserve's Burgundy Mist is acting a little funky in my pens, so I decided to re-purpose it. I opened it, stuck in a brush and voila!

Inky Mandala!

Keep in mind that you wouldn't want to put a (water) wet brush into the bottle, or you will end up watering down your ink.

Overdoodle drawn with a Staedtler Lumocolor marker.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You have to read this. Seth's Mother in Law Rocks. And no, I don't hate him at all.

Seth, my friend over at the Good Pens Blog, has taken to photographing his friends and relatives pen cups.

You MUST read what happened when he wanted to photograph his Mother in Law's pen cup.

This is the kind of outward generosity that moves mountains.

And yes, that is a Montblanc...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Liberated From the Scrap Pile at the Public Library


Today, on a trip to my local public library, I discovered that they were using their old card catalog cards as scrap paper. I was heart broken. I felt I just *had* to liberate a few as personal mementos. I looked through about a dozen 3 inch stacks of cards to find some that looked particularly interesting. Most of the titles and authors started with the letter "P".

I guess A-O were already used up. I love that I found the card for Norman Vincent Peale's book, "The Power of Positive Thinking".

I just came to the realization, that most teenagers don't even know what a card catalog is. They just sit down at a computer terminal and click "search" to find what they need.

I started reading at the age of four, and have owned a library card for as long as I can remember. I grew up at a time when they would slip a piece of pink paper into a pocket inside the front cover of the book. These slips of paper would be hand stamped with the due date, and would be re-used as scrap paper when the books were returned. I'm so ancient. :o)

So what will I do with these cards? Not sure yet. I was contemplating painting then with watercolor washes and drawing on them. (Mandalas - could you have guessed?) Or maybe I will leave them intact. Either way, I'm happy to hold them in my hands. To look at the different font types. To turn them over and see the impressions that the typewriter keys made some 30+ years ago. To look at the smoothed and thumb worn edges from thousands of school children that had to find books for school assignments.


I'm beginning to sense a pattern.... Uplifting colors for Mandala Monday

Watercolor and Ink mandala

Watercolor and Pitt Artist pen in a Linen Cachet watercolor Book.

Doodled over previous watercolor. Is it finished yet?

Watercolor and Pitt Artist pen in a Linen Cachet watercolor Book.

Oil Pastel Mandala

Oil Pastels in a Canson All Media book.

Hotel painting in Atlanta.

Watercolor in a Linen Cachet watercolor Book.

Happy Mandala

Watercolor and Pitt Artist pen in a Kunst & Papier Sketch Journal

Happy colors

Watercolor, Prismacolor pencil, and Pitt Artist pen in a small Fabriano Classic Artist's journal

What wonderful paper.... Watercolor mandala

Watercolor on Fabriano watercolor paper. (The exact type is currently escaping me)

All art created by Biffybeans.

Review: Danny Gregory's book "An Illustrated Life" If you keep a sketchbook or art journal, this book is for you!

About 2 years ago, I began uploading my photographs and artwork on the photo-sharing website Flickr. I found that Flickr had numerous user-created groups where you can share and comment on people's drawings, sketches, paintings, colleges, you name it.

I love to peruse these groups to see what other people are creating, and one of the most popular of such groups is Moleskinerie, where people (over 10,000 members in this group) share their journaling/art journaling images in the popular Moleskine journal.

It's impossible to not start to develop a liking for certain artist's creations, so when I was at the public library a few weeks ago, I found a copy of Danny Gregory's book An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers and was pleasantly surprised to see many of my familiar Flickr artist friends depicted in this fantastic book.

I'd originally become aware of Danny through his blog, but this was the first time I had seen the book in print.

I took it home and started to flip through the pages and found some of my favorite artists such as: Cathy Johnson, R. Crumb, and Tommy Kane.

As the book's full title dictates, An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers, the book is filled with illustrations from 50 top artists- reproductions of their art directly from their personal sketchbooks, photographs of their sketchbook and journal collections, interviews that contain the artist's personal choices for media and sketchbook preferences.... It's a lavish feast for the eyes and a glorious boost of inspiration for the creative soul.

As I must soon return this copy back to the library, I must quickly order a copy for keepsies. Really great stuff. Bravo.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Abacaxi: Samba Percussion Band from Hamburg, Germany. I want to do this!!

I found this clip on You Tube when I was looking for Brazilian drum rhythms. Abacaxi is a Samba Percussion band from Hamburg, Germany and this clip made me want to jump up and start banging on things immediately. I quickly set out to see if they had any recorded music and I found the following CD on Amazon: Samba Percussion Live In Concert and it's excellent.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Writer's Inspiration: The Moleskine Book of Lists

Rhodia ePure, Large Moleskine & my current favorite fountain pens

If you ever experience writer's block, or if you would like a way to keep the creative juices flowing, you might want to start a "Book of Lists." I have one large Moleskine journal set up as a "BOL" and I use it to list out whatever comes to mind.

Such as:

Concerts I've been to
People I can remember from elementary school
People that have broke my heart
Books I've loved
Movies I hated
Favorite foods
Favorite Music
Birds I've seen
Pets in my life
My old neighbors
Top meals ever

Lists such as these can trigger a lot of memories and material to write about. Be prepared to put pen to paper when the juices start flowing!

Tell me - do you keep a book of lists?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Review: J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune ink

J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune ink

Poussiere de Lune on a sunny day.

J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune ink

Bottle of J. Herbin's Poussiere de Lune fountain pen ink, pictured with a Sailor Sapporo fountain pen, large Red Moleskine journal, and a Canteo journal.

J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune ink

From the J Herbin website:

"J. Herbin is the oldest name in pen inks in the world. M. Herbin created “The Jewel of Inks” in his shop on the Rue des Fosses Saint-Germain in Paris in 1700."

"Each bottle of 30 ml has an integrated pen rest. They are known as “D bottle pen inks. The “D” refers to the old French unit of measure “la Demi Courtine”.

* 30 beautiful colors!
* Non toxic and pH neutral
* Lightfast
* Water based
* Flows smoothly and is fast drying
* All natural dyes

J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune ink in Clairefontaine

Clairefontaine Basics journal, written with a Lamy Safari EF fountain pen.

Poussiere de Lune is a grayish purple ink that leans towards red. One of Herbin's more saturated colors, it reminds me of Private Reserve's Burgundy Mist, though not as gray. It's also similar to Caran d' Ache's Storm, but Storm isn't as saturated, and has a great deal more shading.

This is one of my favorite Herbin colors. It's smooth flowing and I love the muted tone.

J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune ink in Clairefontaine

Close up of writing in Clairefontaine Basics journal, showing some shading.

J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune ink in Canteo

Close up of writing in the Canteo, showing a little more shading and a wider line because the Canteo paper is more absorbent that the Clairefontaine. On my monitor, the ink appears to be closest to it's actual color in this image.

See a good article on Pentrace where I think they did a great job demonstrating the Herbin colors.

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