rogue rhetoric

random musings by michael d. durkota

Veterans Deserve a Whole Month

My 5th annual Veterans’ Month charity promotion begins on November 1. As in the past, 100% of all book proceeds will be donated to organizations that support veterans and their families. I’ll divide the proceeds between the following organizations:

As an added incentive, I’ll match every paperback purchase with a signed and personalized copy. Simply send me your mailing address and a screenshot of the purchase confirmation on Amazon and I’ll send a signed copy. Give one to a friend and keep one for yourself.

Get your copy on Amazon: http://bit.ly/BlueYear

Get #books. Help #veterans.

Book Review: Minimize Considered by Nina Murray

I devoured this poetry debut the morning after meeting the astute poet. Nina Murray has a gift of seeing beauty and metaphor in the mundane, the things we walk past every day and fail to notice; a chestnut, a cat, a bridge, a sparrow with a flake of bread. Murray’s words and images linger long after they are read. My favorite: the snow on the tall chestnuts in the park / appeared blue, as if already more in touch with water / than with itself. There are so many great lines that I won’t dare repeat them all here. Buy the collection and enjoy them in their natural state.

Follow Nina on Instagram, visit her website, and buy her books on Amazon.

 

Random Musings about Fountain Pens V

Conklin All American Raven Black

I went with the medium nib and inked it with Kyo No Oto Nurebairo. I liked the feel of the pen, and the bock #6 nib did not disappoint. I had some problems with this pen being slow to restart. And then it seemed to dry completely. I bled off some air and advanced the convertor to get some ink in the nib. It wrote fine, but it was dry again the next day. I thought it was the ink, but I had the same ink in the Conklin Herringbone and that started right up after sitting for a couple days. I was sad, because I was otherwise liking the pen. I decided to clean it out with distilled water and run some Goulet pen flush through it. I re-inked with Monteverde Raven Noir. I’ve been wanting to try this ink and it seems fitting for the pen. I liked the ink. I also liked that it seemed to be flowing nicely. Perhaps that’s all that was needed to get it running well. I put it away for a couple days and it restarted immediately. I used this pen as my primary for several days and I grew fonder of it with each line I wrote. I’ve been working on a rating system for my pens and this one ranks up there with some gold nib pens that cost four or five times more. I highly recommend giving the All American a try. The features betray the price. For under $100, you can’t go wrong.

 

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler

I am not sure why I needed this pen. I had resisted the urge to purchase it several times before, but I somehow convinced myself it was a necessary addition to my collection. I think alcohol was involved. I went with a medium nib and I inked it with Monteverde midnight black ink. I didn’t really care for the way it inked. Seemed simple enough, but I don’t have a clue how much ink actually made it into the pen. I like the overall look and feel for the pen, but the crescent is bothersome. It doesn’t inhibit writing in anyway, but it’s a visual distraction. The weight is just ok.

I was not impressed with this pen at first, but it grew on me. I used it as my primary for a couple days. It starts quick and is comfortable enough for long writing sessions. In many regards, it has the feel of the Auroras (but much less expensive). I think I still prefer Conklin’s All American, but overall, I’m glad I added this one to my collection.

 

Conklin Herringbone – Gun Metal

I went with the medium nib and inked it with Kyo No Oto Nurebairo. The Herringbone is noticeably heavier than the All American, but with a thinner barrel. The pen has a vintage feel and it is comfortable to write with. After writing a bit, I noticed some ink on my fingertip. At first I was worried I had a leak, but I realized that with the narrow barrel there is not much margin to the nib and I must have accidentally inked my finger. I guess that’s a draw-back, but not a major one (at least for now). I’ll have to give it some run-time to determine if it’s tolerable or not. Update: I do not like this pen at all. It might be that I have a tight grip, but my hand seems to slide toward the nib after a few minutes of writing. I get ink everywhere and it is a pain the ass. If you are on the market for a reasonably priced pen, buy anything but this one.

 

Pen Nib Filling System Capacity – ml Weight – grams Price (MSRP)
Conklin All American steel bock #6 Converter 1.04 18 $95
Conklin Herringbone steel bock #6 Converter 1.12 21 $70
Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler stainless steel Bladder/vacuum sac 2.24 18 $195

Random Musings about Fountain Pens IV

I managed to suppress my urge to purchase fountain pens for almost two whole months. I broke down the other day and bought three. Here are my initial reactions.

Sailor Pro Gear

I purchased the graphite lighthouse model. The color was lighter than I expected, but very sleek. I went with the medium 21kt gold nib. I inked it with Sailor black ink. Unposted it is a little short (and light) for my tastes. The style of the pen is simple and classic. After writing a few lines, this pen reminded me of the Pilot Heritage 92 (see review). That said, I prefer the Heritage for style, size, weight, ink capacity, and price. I will keep the Sailor in rotation to run out the ink, but overall, I am a little disappointed.

Nettuno 1911 Black Sands Ruthenium

For starters, the Nettuno packaging was cool. I went with the medium nib and inked it with Pelikan Edelstein black ink. I was almost as excited about trying the ink as I was the pen. They are both divine. The pen is on the heavy side but is nicely balanced and comfortable to write with. The ruthenium-plated #6 Bock steel nib inks a smooth line that is comparable to many gold nibs I’ve tried. The pen lives up to the package in coolness; the details are impressive. Overall, I really like this pen and will keep it in heavy rotation.

Aurora Talentum Black Ops

I went with the medium nib and inked it with Aurora black ink. If you purchase Aurora ink, be warned that the bottle contains a plastic insert that is intended to get ink all over the place; I can think of no other rational purpose for the damned thing. The Talentum is a sharp/stealthy looking pen and I love the weight. In fact, writing with this pen convinced me that 20 grams is perfect for my writing preferences. The 14kt gold nib did not disappoint. This is my second Aurora fountain pen. My first was the 88 Nera Unica (see review). The Talentum is superior in most regards. This realization surprised me when you consider the Talentum retails for about $150 less than the 88; maybe that ink window on the 88 isn’t so great in hindsight.

 

  Sailor Pro Gear Nettuno 1911 Aurora Talentum
Filling system Converter Converter Converter
Capacity 1 ml 1.09 ml .98 ml
Weight (body) 16.4 grams 25 grams 20 grams
Price (MSRP) $390 $395 $495

Review: This One Will Hurt You by Paul Crenshaw

I recently decided to expand my reading list to include non-fiction and essays and poetry, and, generally things other than fiction. Not long after this decision, I came upon an essay by Paul Crenshaw. I clicked the link on my Twitter feed, I read the essay, and then a few minutes later I ordered his collection, “This One Will Hurt You.” I dove right in when it arrived, but I decided I would only read one essay every day or so. For some reason I thought that was the way to digest a collection of essays. Fiction is meant to be binged; I’ve been known to read an entire novel in a single sitting. But essays and poetry should be savored. My approach was flawed, and it failed after the first couple days. I could not stop turning the pages. I read the remainder of the collection in a single sitting.

Reading “This One Will Hurt You” has taught me some things. First, I didn’t think I knew how to read or review a collection of personal essays. I’m comfortable with fiction. I know how to analyze characters and plot. I understand the structure. I suspected the general connection between the two, fiction and non-fiction, would be the prose, the sensory elements, the words and sentences themselves. I was wrong. Stories are stories. Some are attempts at truth based on real events we have experienced, and some are complete lies based on real events we have experienced. As evidence of this truth, you can open directly to page 91 and read one of the best stories/personal essays/poems I have ever read, but I implore you to travel the way Crenshaw intended. To quote Ondaatje, “Meander if you want to get to town.”

The second thing I learned is that I should expand my own writing. As I read Crenshaw’s essays, they evoked memories of my own, things I have experienced that I never considered writing down. Perhaps it was because I grew up around the same time, or that I’ve chosen a similar path for my life. Either way, I connected with these essays more than I expected at the outset. When I came upon this sentence, it made sense: “If the girl is real, then we share the same past in the same place, with a similar hope for leaving it, and I can indulge the notion that we are all trapped by place and circumstance and random forces beyond our control, forever looking back with the sad silly sense that if we could just understand the tragic world we survived as children, we could somehow be better adults, and our lives would fall into the neat categories we have created for them.”

Bottom Line: When I first opened Crenshaw’s collection, I expected to read some good prose. I expected to experience a unique perspective on the world. And I expected to walk away with new insight to my own writing. “This One Will Hurt You” far exceeded those expectations.

Follow Paul on Twitter and order “This One Will Hurt You” on Amazon. While you’re there, you can pre-order his next collection, “This We’ll Defend: A Noncombat Veteran on War and Its Aftermath.”

Flash Review: The Rejected Writers’ Book Club by Suzanne Kelman

In the first book of the Southlea Bay series, a writer’s group that celebrates their failures is thrown into turmoil when their leader receives an acceptance letter. The quirky cast of characters takes a road trip to recover the manuscript from the publisher. Along the way, a mystery surrounding the manuscript is revealed. The stakes are raised, and the misadventures escalate.

Kelman does a fine job assembling an eclectic cast of characters. But more than that, Kelman subtly articulates the fear of rejection and the fear of being judged, two fears that are very real to many artists. Kelman also claims she can sing the first verse of “Puff, the Magic Dragon” backward; that alone should make you want to check out her books.

The Rejected Writers’ Book Club is full of intriguing characters and places, a portion of whimsy, some mystery, and a hint of romance. After reading the first book, there are two others waiting to be devoured.

Follow Suzanne on twitter, check out her website and podcasts, and buy her books on Amazon.

Random Musings about Fountain Pens III

It’s been a few months since my last purchase. I have been enjoying my line-up of Pilots, but I was tempted by these two. I included a summary of features at the end to show how they stack up against the Pilot 823 (my personal standard comparison).

Aurora 88 Nera Unica

I have a few Aurora rollerball pens, but this is my first Aurora fountain pen. I could not resist the black stealth of the 88 Nera Unica. I inked it with Pilot take-sumi. The piston filling mechanism was unique but very easy to use. The ink window is something that I wish every pen had. The pen is lighter than I expected, but I think I like that. The fine nib is a little thicker than I expected, but I think I like that too; it flows a smooth line and the blacked-out 14k gold is sweet. I am glad I didn’t go with a medium nib because it might have been too thick for my taste. Overall, the pen is nicely balanced and comfortable to hold. I can foresee a lot of pages being filled with this one.

 

Retro 51 Tornado – Stealth

I already own the Retro 51 pen/pencil set, so it was a moral obligation to add the fountain pen. I inked it with Pilot take-sumi. I’ve been spoiled by vacuum filling pens, so I wasn’t a fan of the converter; it comes with two ink cartridges that I tossed straight in the trash. The Retro has a noticeable heft compared to the Aurora even though it’s only one gram heavier. The body seems thin for a fountain pen; it is comparable to its rollerball cousin, so that makes sense. The steel nib was a turn-off at first, but it writes smooth enough that you’d swear it was gold. Overall, this pen looks great and functions well enough to be in a league with much pricier pens.

 

  Aurora 88 Nera Unica Retro 51 Tornado Pilot Custom 823
Filling system Piston vac Converter Piston vac
Capacity 1.36 ml 1.06 ml 2.55 ml
Weight (body) 19 grams 20 grams 19 grams
Price (MSRP) $650 $54 $360

Flash Review: The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

I’ve made a concerted effort to work through my reading list and I’ve prioritized debut novels by Indie authors. I received The Life We Bury as a gift, and after reading the first chapter, it ascended to the top of my list. I read some reviews for Eskens’ debut and they are filled with the words “compelling” and “suspenseful.” These are fair and deserved depictions. In short, The Life We Bury tells the story of an innocent class assignment gone awry; an interview with a paroled murderer sets off a sequence of events that are, well, compelling and suspenseful. Eskens does a fine job of developing a cast of characters that are flawed yet likable. The plot is expertly crafted, and the pace is brisk. The story builds momentum and keeps the pages turning until the very last. I wanted to turn the page for more, so I was pleased to discover that Eskens has penned a sequel that I have already added to my reading list.

Follow Allen on Twitter (@aeskens), check out his website, and buy his books on Amazon.

Veterans Deserve a Whole Month

My 4th annual Veterans’ Month charity promotion begins November 1. As in the past, 100% of all book proceeds will be donated to organizations that support veterans and their families. I’ll divide the proceeds between the following organizations:

As an added incentive, I’ll match every paperback purchase with a signed and personalized copy. Simply send me your mailing address and a screenshot of the purchase confirmation on Amazon and I’ll send a signed copy. Give one to a friend and keep one for yourself.

Get your copy of Once in a Blue Year on Amazon.

Get #books. Help #veterans.

Random Musings about Hunter Killer (and other submarine films)

I must admit up front that I have cherished every submarine movie I have ever seen. There is always some quality or aspect that allows me to overlook the technical inaccuracies or the completely implausible scenarios. Bottom line, Hunter Killer has far more qualities than inaccuracies than most submarine films I have seen. This is no doubt because the film is based on the novel co-authored by George Wallace, a retired submarine officer.

The film stars Gerard Butler as Captain Joe Glass. I’ve known quite a few submarine commanding officers, and Gerard plays the part well. The cast also includes Gary Oldman and a few other actors you may recognize. I was happy to see Toby Stephens (Captain Flint from Black Sails) in a new, yet oddly similar role as a Navy SEAL team leader. I miss Black Sails and wish it would return. If anyone from Black Sails is reading this, please make more seasons of Black Sails. But I digress.

The plot of Hunter Killer was unique and intricate. The film contained all the things you’d expect in a submarine drama: undersea warfare, depth charges, coy tactics, harrowing near death scenarios. The lack of communication between land and a submerged submarine means that a submarine commander is often forced to make critical decisions with little or no information; this builds suspense that borders on terror. Good stuff.

My only gripe with the plot was that the stuff between the Pentagon and the White House—the political aspects of military decisions—was a tad heavy-handed and probably a little over-acted at times (even though I love Gary Oldman). The backchannel operations with the NSA operative seemed implausible, but the sub-plot was entertaining nonetheless.

In my opinion, only three things were missing.

  • The order to dive was given early in the film, but the alarm was not sounded. I need to hear that alarm. I miss that alarm.
  • The obligatory emergency blow was down-played. If you blinked, you could miss it. If I ever make a submarine film, the emergency blow sequence will last about 10 minutes. It will be montage of various camera angles and crew reactions. There will be bug juice sloshing in crew’s mess and people hanging onto pipes with their feet swinging in the air. An emergency blow is a rollercoaster ride that very few people ever get to experience. I am eternally grateful to be one of those lucky people.
  • There is a great line about where to find the crew near the beginning of the film. The XO is concerned he won’t be able to round them up. The CO asks how many pubs there are near the base. The XO replies there are two. The CO says, “Let’s try something radical. I will check one, you can check the other.” It was great and realistic and quite funny, but I really wish I could have seen it. I was hoping for a montage of fights and girls and beer and debauchery. Just a couple minutes. Something. Sailors do bad things when they aren’t busy doing good things. It’s ok to tell that tale.

Despite those few missed opportunities, I really hope this film does well and ensures that Hollywood will invest in future submarine films. They average about one every 4 or five years. Since the time of my service, I’ve had the pleasure to have Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, U-571, The Abyss, K-19 Widow-maker, and Down Periscope. Even the latter had its moments of entertainment (I warned you, all submarine films are great in some regard).

I won’t have to wait too long for the next major theatrical release, although this one might haunt me a little more than I need. I followed the Kursk tragedy as it unfolded, and I’ve since read some non-fiction books about the events, including the failed rescue attempts. It will be gut-wrenching to put faces to these men. I will probably have nightmares for a few nights, but that is ok. It is a submarine movie and I will love it. Michael Nyqvist is also on the cast of both Hunter Killer and Kursk, so that is kinda cool for him.

Bottom line: Hunter Killer is an excellent and credible submarine drama. I will watch it again when I eventually add it to my DVD collection, but for now, it’s easily in competition for my favorite submarine drama.

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