Going Analog (Pt. 2): The Tools

In the first entry in this series I discussed my love of all-things analog and went into some detail about a few of my favorite tools and gear. In this installment I’m going deeper into the tools and will give some specific recommendations for what to use when you’re ready to embrace the analog. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started. Oh, fair warning: This is gonna get nerdy.

Notebooks

First off, you’re gonna need something to write on. You can’t really make important notes, or write your first novel, on a cocktail napkin or your hand. Well, you could. However, it’s probably not a great idea. So, you need a notebook. More than one, really.

I use a few different notebooks depending on what I’m doing and/or where I’m going. I always cary a small notebook in a pocket for those times when I need to write something down right now so I don’t forget it. For that, I most often choose one from Field Notes. These notebooks are small enough for a pocket and tough enough to stand up to everyday use.

The paper in the Field Notes notebooks isn’t the best, a trade-off for their portability and durability I would guess, and it doesn’t handle fountain pens particularly well. But if you use pencils or gel pens it works great. I love them.

For a larger notebook, I used to be devoted fan of the venerable Moleskine. But in the last few years, their quality has declined quite a bit so I don’t use them anymore. The main larger notebook I use daily is from a company called Rhodia. The Rhodia Webnotebook is a bound notebook with heavy, quality paper I really enjoy writing on.

It handles pretty much any type of writing implement with no trouble. Pencils, gel pens, fountain pens, whatever. My only minor issue with the Rhodia (and this could just be me or the pens I’m using it with) is it tends to be a bit scratchy, for lack of a better word, when using some fountain pens.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t, or can’t, use a fountain pen with them. You can. I would just prefer a bit less resistance/drag from the paper. This isn’t an issue when using pencils or gel pens, just some fountain pens. And really, it probably isn’t much of an issue at all.

You might not even notice. It’s also quite possible I press too hard when writing. I’m going to try some different fountain pens, nib sizes and inks to see if any of those make a difference. But even with that occasional, minor issue, the Rhodia Webnotebooks are terrific.

I’m also a fan of products from Doane Paper. They make some great notepads and notebooks. Two in particular I frequently use are the standard large Notepad and the Idea Journal in both large and small. The Notepads are just what you think they are: a notepad. The difference is the paper. It’s way better than something like a traditional yellow legal pad or what you would find at the local Target.

The notepads are very good. I keep one on my desk all the time to make notes during phone calls or to write down what we’re going to discuss during the latest episode of The Flickcast. They’re very useful.

The Idea Journals are wire-bound notebooks and built like tanks with nice, think, quality paper and a thick cardboard cover and back. They also have a remarkably useful grids + lines pattern that allows you to both write on them and do sketches, drawings or whatever “idea” you may come up with.

I mostly use them to write down ideas and sketch concepts for things I’m going to make in the woodshop or other to-do projects I need to tackle around the house. They can also function as regular notebooks if you’re just looking to make a grocery list or something. Plus, the paper is perforated so if you need to pull out a page and give it to someone, you can.

Pens & Pencils

Now that we have the notebooks and paper sorted out, we need something to write with. Of course, that means we need a pen or pencil. Or several of both.

I often carry several different pens and pencils with me, depending again on what I’m doing and/or where I’m going. Let’s start with pencils. My top choice is the Palomino Blackwing 602 followed by the General’s Cedar Pointe 2.

Both of these are terrific to write with and prime examples of a great pencil. Real cedar bodies and premium graphite cores that write smoothly and last a long time before they need sharpening. I can’t recommend them enough. There’s also a few other ones such as the Golden Bear Blue #2 and the Forrest Choice #2. Field Notes also makes a good #2 pencil which is worth checking out.

The other ones are quite good and a worthy alternative if you’re just starting out or if price is a factor. However, the General’s Cedar Pointe #2, and the Blackwing 602 in particular, are the best. Give them a try and you’ll see what I mean.

Turning to pens, there’s a few different styles/brands I prefer. Fortunately, none of them are the most expensive available. You can definitely spend a lot of money on fountain pens. But from what I’ve found after trying a lot of different ones, you don’t need to to get the pleasure and experience of using an exceptional writing tool.

For fountain pens, the two I recommend to start with are the Pilot Metropolitan and/or the Lamy Safari. They are both excellent and won’t break the bank. If you really end up enjoying fountain pens, you can always buy more and spend a lot more money on them. But if you just want a great fountain pen and aren’t ready to throw down a few hundred bucks, either of these will serve you well.

I’m also a big fan of gel pens, which are pretty inexpensive and handy to have. I always use one or both of these: the Uni-ball 207 or the Uni-ball Jetstream. Buy a few boxes and keep them around the house, in the car or in your backpack or purse. It’s good to have a pen handy.

Accessories

If you use notebooks, pens and pencils, you’ll likely need something to carry them in. You’ll also need some other support items. For pencils, you’ll need a way to keep them sharp. For home use you can opt for a tabletop sharpener like the Uni KH-20 or the Carl Angel-5.

I have and use both and they each do a fantastic job, with the Carl Angel-5 probably being slightly better. When you’re on the road, there’s nothing better than the KUM Masterpiece. It’s an amazing device with a two stage process that sharpens a pencil to a long, fine point. I always have one in my bag.

And, if you use a pencil very often, you’re probably going to need an eraser at some point. The pencils I recommended above come with an eraser attached. However, I tend not to use those unless I have too. They aren’t the most efficient and I like to keep my pencils looking tidy. So for most situations, I use an eraser like the Staedtler Mars Plastic to take care of mistakes . . . not that I make very many.

For fountain pens, you’ll need ink. Some pens, such as the two I recommended above, come with an ink cartridge and that’s something you can use. If you want to take it a little further you can add a converter to the pens and use actual fountain pen ink instead. That’s the method I prefer. The Pilot converter can be found here and the Lamy Converter here.

And yes, I have a favorite brand of fountain pen ink. I told you this was gonna get nerdy. The ink is called Pilot Iroshizuku and I most often go with Bamboo Charcoal Black (take-sumi) or Deep Azure Blue (kon-peki). But feel free to branch out color-wise. There’s quite a few choices.

However, the ink cartridges that come with the pens from better companies like Pilot and Lamy are just fine to get you started and, in fact, would be fine to use on a daily basis. I just prefer nicer inks like the Pilot Iroshizuki.

Gel pens have ink when you purchase them and once you use it, it’s gone and you need a new pen. Actually, that’s not entirely true. You can refill some brands of gel pens. People do it, but I don’t. Even I’m not that nerdy. I just grab a new one and go.

That’s one of the reasons I prefer fountain pens. You only need to buy them once and over time purchasing ink in a bottle and refilling the pen is more economical than throwing away a gel pen when it runs dry. A fountain pen doesn’t use that much ink so a bottle will last you quite a long time. I’ve had a few bottles for over a year and they’re still not empty. Plus, refilling your fountain pen instead of throwing more plastic in a landfill is better too.

Now that you have all of your tools and accessories assembled, you’ll want a way to transport them to wherever you need to go: work, school, the local coffee shop, etc. That means, of course, that you’ll need a bag.

As with the other tools I’ve already mentioned, I’ve gone through a lot of bags over the years. A lot. I could never seem to find the right one to accommodate the things I want to carry but also be comfortable and not give me shoulder and back problems from its bulk or weight. Fortunately, my search ended when I discovered a company called Tom Bihn.

The bags are terrific and, as a bonus, made in the USA.

My two favorite bags from Tom Bihn are the Pilot and the Co-Pilot. If I just need a smaller bag to take an iPad, some pens, pencils and a notebook with me, I use the Co-Pilot. If I need to bring a laptop, I opt for the slightly larger Pilot, which accommodates my 13″ MacBook Air with room to spare.

These bags both have exceptional design, are built to last and look good too. You can also customize the colors and bag components to a certain extent, which only adds to their awesomeness. In addition to these two, Tom Bihn makes quite a few other bags, backpacks and accessories. I haven’t tried them all (yet), but I have no reason to doubt the quality is the same as the ones I already have. If you need a bag (or two), you can’t go wrong with Tom Bihn.

These recommendations are by no means exhaustive. They are just to give you a starting point or some potentially new ideas if you’re already embracing the analog. One of the great things about life is experimentation. Try things out. See what you like and don’t like. Have some fun with it.

I’m also not saying you should give up your digital tools completely. My analog and digital devices co-exist and work together to help me accomplish what I need to accomplish. I’ve found a good workflow that encompasses all my gear. Hopefully you will too.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below or drop me an email. I’m happy to help.

In the meantime, enjoy your new tools and get to work!

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‘Blade Runner: 2049’ May Not Be Terrible

I was against the idea of a Blade Runner sequel when I first heard about it. It’s one of those movies that stands on its own and I never really felt like I needed more of the story. They didn’t know how long they had. But then again, who does?

For me, that ending worked. And that was it.

However, as I’ve heard more about the sequel and what elements are involved (writer, director, stars), I became more interested. And now with the first trailer released today, that interest has turned to actual desire to see the movie.

Yes, I’m as surprised as you are.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t already watched it a bunch of times. Gotta say, it looks pretty darn good. And no, I don’t think it will be terrible now. In fact, I’m glad it doesn’t seem so. I don’t want things to fail. Really I don’t.

Enjoy.

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Going Analog

It’s no secret I love gadgets and technology, and products from Apple in particular. I’ve been a user and fan for as long as I can remember. But as great as gadgets and technology are, they’re not without problems. They can’t all be great, can they? No.

Some are crap for sure. Many of these devices or gadgets break, need updates or whatever at often the exact time you need them to work, which leaves you with no way to get done what you need to get done. Apple, at least, seems to do a pretty good job of putting out tech people want and products that, as they say, “just work.” But they’re not perfect either. The truth is, no piece of technology is perfect and it may never be.

I know. I’ve already said a lot of pro-Apple stuff here. But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a pro-Apple or anti-technology article. I also won’t try to get you to switch to a Mac or iPhone. But I do have a few positive things to say on a related subject.

Put simply, I’ve re-discovered the joys of analog.

Even as a long-time tech devotee,  I’ve always used analog tools too. I believe they can co-exhist and compliment each other. I’ve written blog posts, articles, screenplays and more using a computer for many years, but I’ve always put things down on paper, in a notebook, using a pen or pencil first before I start banging away on the keyboard.

I’ve got notebooks full of the stuff in boxes. Recently, I was going through them in an effort to organize my office (after all, we did move almost two years ago so it’s past due), and I discovered something: I missed them. I missed my notebooks, my pens, my pencils and my paper.

The sad fact is I haven’t been writing much of anything lately. Being a father who stays home most of the time with a toddler has a tendency to stifle your creative flow. In a lot of instances I’d rather be catching up on sleep instead of doing any writing.

But that’s not all of it. There’s a lot of reasons not to do something and I’ve been good at finding most of them. Sometimes you just get into a slump. Consequently, I haven’t been writing much or using my analog tools.

But that changes now.

I’m going to embrace the analog and go back to my notebooks, pens and pencils. The spark, actually, was my return to film photography. It got me thinking. Then, going through my office I found the cache of pens, pencils and the notebooks I had spent years filling up. That was the rest of the inspiration I needed.

So, to kick things off, I’m starting a new journal project. My notebook of choice will be the Rhodia Webnotebook, which I will write in daily. To accompany said journal, it’s into the fountain pen and pencil drawer I go to retrieve my old friends the TWSBI Diamond 580AL and the Blackwing 602. I may bring other pens and pencils on this journey with me, but those two will be the main companions.

To help get the word flow started, I’ve decided to adopt this simple plan highlighted in an article I recently read. Unfortunately, I forgot to bookmark the link and now can’t give credit where credit is due. I wish I could.

If I find it, I’ll update this post. Or, if any of you know the origin, feel free to let me know in the comments so I can credit it.

The approach is simple. Ask yourself three questions in your journal every day. If you answer them, even in a few sentences, you will at the very least be writing every day.

What I’ve discovered is if I start answering the questions, I usually end up writing a few more pages beyond the simple answers. That may just be me, but I’ll bet if you try it, you’ll get similar results. And you’ll be writing.

Here’s the questions:

  1. What was accomplished? As in, what did you do today? Took out the trash? Read a good book? Had some great coffee? Made a new friend? Whatever happened, write it down. It doesn’t have to profound or life-changing, it just has to be something (or somethings) that you accomplished that day.
  2. What should not be forgotten? Did something really great and memorable happen today? If so, write it down. Did your baby crawl for the first time? Did you get that dream job you always wanted? Did you get to spend ten minutes just thinking and dreaming? If you want to remember it and never want to forget it, write it down. Years from now when you’ve maybe forgotten this day completely, you can open the journal, read all about it, and remember.
  3. What’s coming up? What are you doing tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Are you taking a trip, getting a raise, adopting a baby or going on a blind date? Write it down. Are you looking forward to something? What do you want to be doing in a year? Or, it can be as simple as reminding yourself that tomorrow is trash day.

Simple, right? Now all you need is a good notebook and a pen or pencil to get started. What are you waiting for?

 

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‘The Silence of the Lambs’ As a Romantic Comedy

Sure, The Silence of the Lambs is a creepy, psychological thriller/horror movie about women’s empowerment, cannibalism and the search for a serial killer. It also won a lot of awards (including the Oscar for Best Picture) and is, at least to me, an exceptionally well done film.

But what if it was a romantic comedy? This trailer shows you how that just might work.

Enjoy.

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The First ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Teaser Has Arrived

I’m sure you’ve already watched the teaser for The Last Jedi a hundred times, but I just wanted to make sure. I’ve watched it quite a few times myself. In short, I like it.

It’s a Star Wars movie. Of course I like it. That said, it didn’t have quite the same impact as the first teaser for The Force Awakens did, at least for me. The Force Awakens was the first real Star Wars movie in a long time. A long time.

So, it was more of a big deal to me. And no, I didn’t have the same feelings about Rogue One either. The move itself was okay, but it was hard to make much of a connection to any of the characters and the story was, well, lacking in some areas. I still enjoyed it, but in my mind it’s more of a whimsical diversion and will never be a real Star Wars movie. Fight me.

But The Force Awakens had Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess/General Leia in it and looked, felt and smelled like a real Star Wars movie. So naturally, as those are the characters and story I grew up with and loved since that first dark Valley Circle, CA theater in 1977, those were the characters and story I was, and am, most interested and excited about. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the new characters, especially Rey and Poe. And perhaps if I was seeing these movies for the first time as that kid who saw the first Star Wars, I might feel differently. I’m pretty sure I would. But it’s just not the same. It can’t be.

And that’s not to say The Last Jedi won’t be great. I’m sure it will. Once the movie hits and I get a chance to see it, I have no doubt I’ll love it. Will I love it as much as the original trilogy?

Not on your life. And that’s okay. I’ve always got my copies of the original, un-altered trilogy to watch. In fact, I think it’s about time for a rewatch.

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The ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Trailer Looks Awesome

I realize this has been out for a bit, but I just watched it again and, gotta say, I still love it. The whole vibe seems just right as does the look, the tone and pretty much everything else. Of course, you can’t tell everything from a trailer.

Still, if the movie ends up being close to this, I’ll be very happy indeed. Plus, who doesn’t love Led Zeppelin?

Anyway, if you haven’t watched it yet, what are you waiting for? Here it is.

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Some of My Recent Photographs

I’ve decided to eschew digital photography and return to simpler times and shoot film. Yes, film. It’s still around. In fact, it’s around in a pretty big way.

Companies like Kodak and Ilford still make many different kinds of film. Actually, Kodak recently announced the return of the venerable Ektachrome and several other companies are coming out with new film stocks too. Plus, more and more pros, semi-pros and amateurs are shooting film again or trying it out for the first time.

It’s a great time to be a film lover.

No, I won’t be abandoning digital completely. I still scan my film after it’s developed (a process I often do myself) and take the occasional photograph with my Fuji X100T or iPhone. Digital isn’t going anywhere.

But for the last six months or so, I’ve used film pretty much exclusively. Black & White, 35mm film in particular. I just like the way it looks and I like the camera I’m currently using: the Leica M6.

Check out some more examples of my recent work after the break. Of course, that’s one of mine at the top of this post and another one as the header for this site.

For even more, take a look at my Instagram devoted to film photography.

Continue reading

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The Family Way

It’s been awhile. Yes, I know, you’ve missed me. I get it. I’ve missed you too. We used to have a pretty good relationship. And then I went and messed it up by not being around for, what, almost a year? Sorry about that.

It doesn’t really seem like its been that long. But time flies. Oh yes it does. In case you’ve forgotten what’s happened recently, here’s a bit of a refresher. I left LA/California and now live in Austin, TX. I’m a father. It’s a boy. He’s three. I’m semi-retired and stay home with him, which basically makes me a stay-at-home dad.

I love my life. I do, however, sometimes miss work. It was fun (mostly) and I’ll probably do it again one of these days. But I can’t complain, my kid is awesome and I get to watch him grow up every day. I’m very fortunate to be able to do that.

Also, I still do a podcast called The Flickcast with Joe Dilworth, my awesome co-host. And I take photographs, make things from wood and occasionally write. That pretty much catches us up.

Well, there is one other (pretty big) thing that’s happened since we last got together. As some of you may know, I’m adopted. Both of my adoptive parents are no longer alive and I miss them every day. I especially miss them when I want to ask parenting questions, but pretty much the rest of the time too.

I realize I’m far from perfect, but I think they did a pretty good job with me considering how much of a pain I was growing up. Spoiled only child and all that. Yes, I was quite the troublemaker. But in the end, I think I turned out okay. I only hope I can do the job half as well as they did. I’ll keep working on it.

But that’s not the big news. This big news is I’ve found my biological mother. Well, actually, H found her. H is good with stuff like that. But found she is and contact we have had. Quite a bit, actually. She’s great and we’ve discussed all sorts of things.

I’ve been to see her twice so far and plan on going again soon. I’m looking forward to it. But wait, as Steve Jobs used to say, there’s one more thing (at least). I’ve also got a brother and sister. And a niece. I know, right? A whole new family I never knew about.

I’ve spent time with my new Bro and Sis too. They’re terrific people and I look forward to getting to know them more. Actually, my sister, her husband and their daughter (the niece I mentioned) just visited us. And yes, a good time was had by all.

Just when I think life can’t get any better . . .

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‘Star Wars’ ‘Suicide Squad’ Trailer

princess-leia-star-wars-1

As I’m a huge fan of Star Wars (of course) and also looking forward to Suicide Squad, this mashup trailer by The Usual Suspect amused me quite a bit.

Enjoy.

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The History of Cinema in 100 Shots

The-Searchers-End-Shot

This video, put together by Editor Jacob T. Swinney, is very impressive. It chronicles the history of cinema, starting with the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, by highlighting iconic shots from 100 films of the past 100 years.

Very impressive indeed. Enjoy this bit of history.

(h/t to the a.v. club)

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