Finding the Art in Everything

31 December, 2009

Christmas Presents

This year I made most of my gifts for family and friends. Below is a set of paintings Ben commissioned for his sister-in-law(He chose the colors) , and at the very bottom is a jewelry set I made for my sister. I'm really quite proud of these!

Acrylic, 12x12
Detail 1
Detail 2
Necklace, Bracelet, and Earrings, Ribbon Closure
turquoise and silver glass

30 December, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Each year, my mom buys us a Hallmark ornament to commemorate something important to us from the year, or because the ornament shows one of our favorite things. We are each responsible for hanging our respective set of ornaments on the three. Some ornaments have a lost history, resulting in the occasional fight over ownership. These ornaments, however, have unmistakable owners.

Dad's. Obviously.

Mine, from the year I declared an English Major

Lindsay's, from the year she got Baron--her blond, deranged spaniel

Mine, from my year as captain on the Drumline

Tim's, because the kid carried a blanket until high school (not really.)

29 December, 2009

Christmas Lovelies

My mom was Real Life's Christmas Decoration task force this year, and it spilled over into her home. She put up three trees and put Martha Stewart to shame with the present wrapping. All of her Christmas festivity was so lovely I couldn't resist taking photos.

27 December, 2009

Teaching Statement of Purpose


I am here to encourage you in your search for truth or help you begin it;
To refine your capabilities of discernment and expression;
And to challenge your understanding with good-faith information and arguments
presented in a careful, loving way.

You are here to humble me with your talent, strength, and potential;
To refine my capabilities of discernment and expression;
To challenge my understanding with your honest questions
and diverse life experiences;

And to remind me that teaching is a personal, individual,
relational and sacrificial act for the glory of God.

04 December, 2009

12 September, 2009

Rampant Materialism, Continued

Mom asked for my birthday list. Since I was making it anyway, thought I'd post it.

21 June, 2009

Top-five Literary Men

I was thinking about things I wanted to bring back from Ireland, and a souvenir named Conor Larkin is among them. That will be difficult because Conor's an Irish, rugby-playing, artisan blacksmith and poet from Northwest Ireland--and also from Leon Uris' fictional work Trinity. I can't bring home a fictional man, obviously, even if he is the man of my dreams.

He's also not the only literary male on whom I've had a small crush. Fiction or no, I find the following men very attractive:

  • Mr. Rochester, from Jane Eyre
  • Hector, from the Illiad
  • Rob, from High Fidelity
And then a couple authors--probably bad news, but....
  • John Keats
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Pablo Neruda

06 June, 2009

Poetry and Prayer

Reading Yancey's book on the relevance of prayer, I spent time with his section on "The Grammar of Prayer," where he explains ways we can pray effective, theologically-sound prayers, even when we don't "feel like" praying.

One method is to use scriptural prayers or the fixed, liturgical prayers that are part of something like a Book of Hours. But then he made an interesting departure, and pointed to the 17th and 18th century English poets that can lead the heart into prayer much the same way--poets like John Donne and George Herbert, but also hymnodists like John Newton and William Cowper.

I also came across Cowper in the archives of some other blogs I read, where they reflect on the role of poetry and spirituality in dealing with insanity.

Pleased to see some of my favorite poets mentioned in unexpected places, I remembered I'd purchased a 1st-edition volume of Cowper's poetry at a bookshop in Paris for a Euro several years ago.

I'm familiar with Cowper's typically anthologized pieces like "Light Shining out of Darkness", but this collection offered gems outside his traditional devotional verse: "Lines Written During a Period of Insanity", "An Ode to Peace", "Human Frailty", and "Impromptu on Writing a Letter Without Having Anything to Say".

The critic in the introduction supposes that Cowper's poems are often overlooked because they're preoccupied with his defense against his own madness. Since all his efforts go to reconciliing what his mind and emotions tell him with the reality offered by Christianity, he never gets to extend his genius into the realm of creativity and imagination that would have brought him distinction.

It's these "Miscellaneous Poems," as they're categorized in the Table of Contents, in which we get a picture of the day-to-day life someone who was likely bi-polar and manic-depressive but still clung to God. We see someone actually in spiritual battle with forces of darkness in himself.

In my consideration of the role of spirituality and insanity, this makes me recall what Paul says in Ephesians about how we're not at war with flesh and blood but with forces of darkness that are not of this world.

I realize have a tendency toward these emtional extremes. I have been struggling with a relationship lately regarding its purpose and my prayers for it. Sometimes I am seized by this heart-sickening darkness and frustration that seems to be, in scale, unmerited by the context and situation. The darkness I feel seems utterly irrelevant, sometimes, to both the specific problem and the truth and power of the gospel.

Much of Cowper's reconciliation between madness and the Gospel is tempering his passions and self-condemnation with the reality of Grace and Mercy and Peace. When he does this, he composes the evocative devotional poems for which he is famous. In these, the poetic turns and movements that make them clever, crafted poems also reveal the power and purpose of prayer. Instead of tracing the movement of an idea, we see the movement of the Holy Spirit in a conversation with God.

Without the role played by the Holy Spirit, prayer is just a conversation a madman has with himself. And without the Holy Spirit, that conversation would not have the power to transform our torment into "Thy will be done" as we saw in Gethsemane.

Spending all morning with this volume, I can see the shame and hatred Cowper has with his own madness. But he illuminates the darkness in a way only he can. And I think the editor of the volume, who relegated Cowper's work as waste of genius has it wrong. Cowper joins the ranks of the other Hand-Picked saints with disabilities--the ones with thorns in their sides--who glorify God more because of their brokenness than anyone else could have without it.

In times of strain and darkness, I'm using Cowper's poems as the base for the prayers I don't "feel like" praying. In his struggle, I'm finding words for my own. Thank God for the poems of Cowper that can lead us through that process of transformation, grounding dark emotions in Truth.

05 June, 2009

What I'm Reading

I came across the most annoying thing the other day: I was reading and in the middle of the book, for three chapters, the pages were out of order! 148, 152, 151, 150, 149, 153, 154, 155, 156, 161... and on. I have never had a book where the printing flaws were so debilitating! I figured it's because I only paid $.75 for it at a used book sale, but still! Someone should have put a warning sticker on McCarthy's Bar: Warning: This book was assembled by an Irishman who has had too much Guinness.

I have been plowing through a few other things since Christmas, and in honor of having just finished the school year, I thought I'd post the list of books I have a new capability finishing in the coming weeks (provided all of the pages are in order).

I'm well into, and sure to imminently finish:

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
McCarthy's Bar, by Pete McCarthy - a travel narrative to get ready for my trip!
The Dubliners, James Joyce
The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Phillip Yancey
For the Love of Ireland: A Literary Companion for Readers and Travelers by Susan Cahill

07 April, 2009

Meditations III

Refine Me
Jennifer Knapp

I come into this place, burning to receive Your peace
I come with my own chains, for wars I fought for my own selfish gains

You’re my God and my father, I've accepted Your son
But my soul feels so empty now, what have I become?

Come with Your fire, burn my desires
Refine me
My will has deceived me, please come and free me
Refine me

My heart can't see, when I only look at me
My soul can't hear, when I only think of my own fears.

And they are gone in a moment, You’re forever the same
Why did I look away from You; how can I speak Your name?

Come with Your fire, burn my desires
Refine me
My will has deceived me, please come and free me
Come rescue this child, cause long to be reconciled to You...
It's all I can do, to give my heart and soul to You
and pray..... and pray..... oh, I will pray...

Come with Your fire, burn my desires
Refine me
My will has deceived me, please come and free me
Refine me

Refine me... Refine me...
Refine me....

Meditations II

Martyrs & Thieves
Jennifer Knapp

There's a place in the darkness that I used to cling to
It presses harsh hope against time
In the absence of martyrs there's a presence of thieves
Who only want to rob You blind
They steal away any sense of peace
Though I'm a king I'm a king on my knees
And I know they are wrong when they say I am strong
As the darkness covers me


So turn on the light and reveal all the glory
I am not afraid
To bare all my weakness knowing in meekness
I have a kingdom to gain
Where there is peace and love in the light, in the light
Oh I am not afraid
To let Your light shine bright in my life, in my life
Oh I... am, I...

There are ghosts from my past who've owned more of my soul
Than I thought I had given away
They linger in closets and under my bed
And in pictures less proudly displayed
A great fool in my life I have been
Have squandered till pallid and thin
Hung my head in shame and refused to take blame
For the darkness I know I've let win


Can You hear me? (repeat 6x)

Well I've never been much for the baring of soul
In the presence of any man
I'd rather keep to myself all safe and secure
In the arms of a sinner I am
Could it be that my worth should depend
By the crimson stained grace on a hand
And like a lamp on a hill Lord I pray in Your will
To reveal all of You that I can


There's a place in the darkness that I used to cling to
It presses harsh hope against time...

Meditations I

Psalm 139:23-24

“ Search me, O God, and know my heart; know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of the Everlasting.” (NIV)

27 March, 2009


This summer, I started making my own books. I really love my Moleskine, but I wanted something with the same design of different sizes, distinct appearance, and varying page count. I need to tell one notebook from another.

From my moleskine design, I kept:

  • blank, non-lined paper (a must! also hard to find in notebooks instead of sketchbooks)
  • a closure
  • a hard cover
  • pocket
  • a bookmark ribbon
  • and hand-sewn pages that lay fully flat
I added:
  • unique cover art
  • varying page count
  • wider page width
I have made about twenty now, and I gave most away as gifts. This is my most recent and some of my most favorite work:

25 March, 2009

Art and Museums

I took a class when I lived in England taught by an Art History professor called “Art and Museums”. We met once a week at a gallery somewhere in the city, which made me explore art galleries AND the city. Apart from being a fun class, it changed the way I spend my time in a gallery.

First, we go there to see the art, not the collection. With Art Museums, in order to “survive them”, we are always supposed to assume we are coming back. Pleasure comes from depth of personal experience, which can’t be hurried, can’t be checked off a list, and can’t be done 50 times in a day. Less is more. To see everything is to see nothing.

Second, the best way to see a pieces is to imitate it. Look where the subject looks, assume their poses, try to speak and listen to it. (it’s less embarrassing when all of this is subtle and non-verbal). It’s imitating art that imitates life. Or is life imitating art?

Third, the goal is to take something away with you from every gallery experience. You should have at least one piece which spoke to you—often, like a poem, because you worked at it. For the last few summers, I have taken two dozen kids to London, Paris, and Rome. Their first gallery experiences, for many of them,(because we live in an art-starved area) is in 2-3 of the most important galleries in Western Art. I deploy them into the Lourve, point them to the Mona Lisa, and then make them promise me they will at least bring one other piece out with them.

Last, the more time you spend in galleries, the more you appreciate each gallery experience. I have been in galleries all over Europe and the United States. It’s amazing to see the way a dead artist’s oeuvre has been strewn all over two continents. Going to many galleries helps reassemble Raphael, Bougereau, Rembrandt and Chagall. This takes longer with artist like O’Keefe and Monet, because it’s hard to find a gallery that doesn’t have one of their works.

The more you see of a particular artist, the more his work means to you. The more the work means to you, the more worthwhile the Art Museum visit.

18 March, 2009

Seattle Art Museum

Not all art is created equal, despite SAM’s best attempt to assert its own significance. Significance comes when a gallery displays pieces that are actually important.

What makes a work of art important?

It is something that challenges the way we think or see already, if not bringing us to a new place of thinking with an original idea, new technique, or superior craft.

Unfortunately, these pieces sparsely populated SAM’s collection. More often, they were pieces produced for a commercial purpose (i.e. commissioned by a wealthy family), created for their own sake and self contained.

Most of the best works were visiting pieces from the YALE collection, such as Paul Revere’s Boston Massacre Engraving, John Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the piece I personally enjoyed the most, Winslow Homer’s The Old Mill (Morning Bell).

I love Homer because he presents such an intricate narrative with such compositional simplicity.

What I don’t like are academic landscape paintings, like SAM’s feature Bierstadt. It bores me (unless it’s part of a J.M.W. Turner-esque depiction of the Sublime).

Other highlights include Georgia O’Keefe’s A Celebration, one of her few canvasses without flowers or cow skulls or cityscapes, and this one, Jesseca Penn in Black, by Robert Henri.

I looked everywhere for an artistic rendition of Mount Ranier--no luck.

Seattle Photos

I have more writing coming, but I thought I would put these up since I have them ready.

16 March, 2009

Travel top-fives

I've spent a lot of time in airports this week, which got me thinking about my travel routines, particularly when I travel alone.

Five things I always do in an airport:

1. Buy magazines. I rarely indulge my appreciation for the Economist or The New Yorker.
2. Buy a bottle of water-- because I can't carry one through security.
3. People Watch. I usually travel alone, so while I am in the airport, there is a constant internal commentary on the people I see and the fiction I impose on them.
4. Wish I were carrying less.
5. Try not to look like an amateur. I don't know why I care or where this comes from. I always walk with purpose and go through security with the efficiency of a person who does this every day. I really don't, but this mindfulness let's me internally judge all of the other apparent "amateurs".

Five things I consider irreplaceable
I can't live without them.
Ironically, they are the five things I must have when I travel, which is where I am most likely to lose them.

1. My makeup bag--It's taken me years to find just the right versions of everything and to acquire that designer collection.
2. My Notebook--It's always worse on the way home, because I'd have lost my most recent travel notes.
3. My ipod. I shouldn't have to explain this one.
4. My pen. Since I spend so much time by myself, I always want to write more. This requires a good pen, but then if I lose one of my pens here, I'll never get it back.
5. My red messenger bag. I got this one in Florence, Italy, after years of searching and saving. It has all of the right travel pockets, including one for my boarding pass, drivers' license, and phone. I often get compliments on it; it's distinctive and beautiful, as well as (for me) uncommonly utilitarian.

06 March, 2009

Imagism and Transubstantiation

I read some more of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek this morning. I'm 2/3 of the way through it. It's summer in the book, and there's been a devastating flood because of a tropical storm.

Even her most benign descriptions move me, and I hardly ever know why.

At the end of this week, we looked at the Art of Modernism in my AP Class: Hopper, Stieglitz, Okeefe, Demuth.

I showed Demuth's The Figure 5 in Gold and the corresponding poem by William Carlos Williams.

It reminded me how much I enjoyed the work I did in college on the Imagist poets, particularly Williams.

I love the aesthetics of vacillating between the literary line and the figurative one, and I'm fascinated by the emergence of meaning from the point where language meets visual perception. I think this is why I like Dillard so much: meaning emerges from the point where language meets biology and place--only with Dillard, the emergence is more of a transformation.

Her language does to nature what transubstantiation does to the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

26 February, 2009

The Church

A few recent things challenged my resigned separation from the church.

So yesterday, I called my friend Allen.

He recently became pastor of an unconventional church just north of San Fransisco. I called him because, even after delivering a sermon called "I hate people" (and he meant it), he still has a place in and for a church.

I asked, "How can you love the church after what the institution and its people have done to you?" How can you love something that's so broken?"

He is doing a 5 week series on The Church, the Bride of Christ. He said, "I love the Church because of what it really--biblically--is, not because of the Western modern traditions that now govern it. "

"And what is that, exactly? What makes a real church?"

He replied:

"The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the great commandment and the great commission as missionaries to the world for God's glory and their joy.

The marks of the church are:

1) Regenerated church membership - you met Jesus and you've changed. (ACTS 2:38-41)

2) Qualified Leadership (ACTS 2:42, 6:1-6, 8:14, 14:23)

3) Gather for preaching and worship (ACTS 2:42, 47)

4) Sacraments rightly administered (ACTS 2:42)

5) Unified by the spirit - we agree on what we will and will not fight over. (ACTS 2:44, 1 Cor 1:10)

6) Disciplined for holiness (Matt 18:15-17, Gal 6:1, 1 Cor 5:1-13, Titus 3:10-11, 2 Thess. 3:14-16)

7) Obey great commandment (ACTS 2:45)

8) Obey great commission (ACTS 2:47)

How can we not love what this is?"

24 February, 2009


A student just gave me a pile of maps that came out of some National Geographic magazines. He's Chinese, so I am not sure where he came by ones that were ten years old, but he presented them with a flourish.

"I think you like these," he said.

He has no idea. Maps are some of my very favorite things. My dad got National Geographic for years when I was growing up, and we were allowed to look at the magazines as long we we kept the maps tucked in their correct issue. I was too young to read it, but I would look at the pictures and pore over the maps. I have map of the city of London covering my desk at home and have many of the streets memorized. The maps on the wall of my classroom are not only useful teaching tools, but cosmic verification that I am in my predestined place.

When my parents moved to Florida, they had to dispose of all the magazines with their carefully-filed maps. I remarked to a friend last weekend what a loss this was. Ten years of magazines and maps in the dumpster!

How peculiar that a pile of these maps finds its way to me today.

23 February, 2009


I eat dinner with my friend and her family most Mondays. She's Italian, and quite an accomplished cook. I never know what we'll eat, but it's usually the best I've ever had of its kind. She makes well some very gourmet and complicated dishes, but the best part of Mondays are often their simplicity: Last night she made--from scratch, as she makes everything--ravioli with sauce and meatballs. It was the best I've ever had.

I realized how Italian I was, too, when it occurred to me that I consider sauce and pasta the highest form of comfort food.

27 January, 2009

Phrases That Should Not Appear in a Facebook feed.

One of the things that explains my fixation on Facebook is that it functions as a repository for funny turns of phrase, which I can post as statuses. At the same time, many people see their Status as a kind of self-identification and expect some authenticity in it. What do I do with turns of phrase that should not be authentically applied? Here are a few examples:

is senora pantalones del fuego.
is fast, cheap, and classic.
is learning you should always toast your nuts.
is free. First come, first served.
is sober, Officer, she swears.
is cool, minty bliss.

Of course, one might speculate that Facebook is also not the place for profoundly veritable labels either.

23 January, 2009

Common Threads

A few of us at school share the same specific group of students. We joked with them today by nonchalantly tossing the phrase "sexy beast" into our instruction, wondering if they'd notice the pattern. For the record, another colleague started it, but I played along by pointing to a portrait of Abe Lincoln in my classroom and told them to focus on "that sexy beast (pointing) instead of their own panic" during the exam. They went to the next class and got something similar from their English teacher.

If I didn't know better, I'd think there was a committee doing that to me with a strange confluence of references I've encountered this week. At least three times, someone has mentioned the following odd things:

1. Our Florentine tour guide with whom I was madly in love,
2. John Hughes movies
3. Whole Foods
4. bloody stumps
5. Idi Amin

I'm reading Joyce's The Dubliners lately, where every detail means something. Maybe that explains my observation and fixation on these minutiae.

21 January, 2009

On Worship

I came across an outstanding definition of "Worship" the other day, from Ravi Zacharias:

"Spring[ing] forth out of gratitude and tak[ing] into full cognizance the mystery of my being before the One who is the cause of my being and who Himself can never, not be.... It is a response of apprecation... of awe, of surrender, of hunger to be consummated in the Spirit..."

Zacharias offered this defintion as he offered the practice of Christian Worship to counter the act of lonliness. I'll be honest, I'm really glad he dwelt foremost on the problem of lonliness and snuck in the solution of worship near the end--because my impresion of worship is mediocre (and if you've rare luck, good) music on a Sunday morning that can't really be offered as an answer with any real sincerity.

But the "worship" described by Zacharias is also something much more comprehensive than that. Worship as he describes it, overflows from the most powerful kind of Love:

It is an expression of wonder--the awe of being. Our existence alone is enough to inspire awe and wonder. The observant--artists and scientists--are not short on this. But the problem, often with the wonder of science or art is that neither discipline can be thanked. In this, wonder has to stop at itself. Z. suggests that one cause of the pervasive human isolation is when the worst happens: becoming an ungrateful people, thinking that by their own hands people had planted and reaped. Self-congratulation is inherently isolating.

The second characteristic of real worship that answers lonliness is the way that it acts as a conduit for love. Wonder turns to appreciation, and appreciation, through gratitude, turns to love. To paraphrase Z. and C.S. Lewis, the love of appreciation flows to a giving love for those in the throes of love that is based in need (a sense of deprivation). Because of love for God, based in wonder, love can endure all things. This is the the only way "the spread of alienation is arrested and the nearness of Christ's love is brought to those who are lonely."

Last, worship brings a "coalescence of essence", bringing life into a single focus. Again, Z. uses the example of gifted artists and writers in that they "more poignantly feel the ache of lonliness because their is a mangled finds fulfillment in its expertise before it finds fulfillment in its being... the ache is a deeply-felt fragmentation...we cannot mangle ourselves essentially without a resultant sense of desolation." Worship may be the only thing that can reach the severed soul, because it acknowledges "each individual is a unique and distinctive offering brought to God in gratitude".

Several circumstances lately have called me to reflect on the defective relational behavior begotten by the deepest lonliness. The most devastating effect of the lonliness is that it motivates destructive behavior with isolating consequences, and that isolation brings lonliness. Seeking something from other people in this situation is a grave error, because even the balm of meaningful contact can't be applied to these open wounds, much less the disappointing substitutions we have for meaningful contact.

Maybe the only solution to this viscious cycle really is to acknowldge our very real hunger and, being awed by the unique and distinctive features of existence, respond in appreciation and surrender.

11 January, 2009

Live Music

I am really looking forward to Brett Dennen and Erin McCarley on Friday.

And I was thinking, with deep gratitude for my musically savvy friends ( him and her), how much incredible music I've had this year. A Paste article inspired me to make one of my top-five* lists.

My Top-5 Shows in 2008

1. Iron and Wine, at The Plaza Theatre in April. There was a version of "Trapeze Swinger" and one of "Resurrection Fern" that a handful of us can't get over.

Tilly and the Wall, at the Social in July. People can't get the impact of a Tap-dancing percussion section until they've seen this dancer have the time of her life dancing/playing with a kick-ass band.

Manchester Orchestra, at the Social. It's touch to pick a single show, because I saw them three times. They are always great to see, but the worst one was at House of Blues, where they opened up for Say Anything. I think the energy of the January show was best, but I was most familiar with them at the June show. I can't pick, but I do know I'm not the same after getting their discography. They answered my cry a year ago for needing new music.

Kevin Devine at the Social, September. It was one of the smallest crowds I've ever seen at The Social, and I couldn't have expected something so intimate. He gave a really meaningful show and had a lot of face time before and after. I really want to be his friend.

Coldplay- my first arena show, and I'll probably never see anything like it again. I have been a longtime fan of this band, and I know they're the kind that anyone can like, but they play an outstanding show--fantastic production and musicianship, with a French post-revolutionary Neo-classicist art theme. Amazing.

Honorable Mentions include Band of Horses at a rainy skate park in Tampa, and Inkwell at the Back Booth. These are both good bands, but these shows make the list more for their sociological experiential qualities: One makes the list for introducing me to the violence of hipsters, the other for introducing me to the vile quality of some clubs and openers in Orlando. I'm never again ready for auxiliary percussion and bathroom queues with musician-punting Breanne.

I didn't mention a good HOB show by Jimmy Eat World, because it took place in December of 2007. They are one of my favorite bands, and it is funny to note that Megan was irritated by the garage-band quality of their performance and forswore live music because of it.

* It is important to note that "Top-Five" does not indicate any kind of priority order. In fact, it is quite the opposite: a refusal to pick a single favorite.

07 January, 2009

The Lazarus Pen

Over Christmas break I undertook some significant pen-repair projects. After extensive online research, I found the causes of scratchy nibs and limited and skipping inkflow. Over the last couple of days, I repaired the first one I ever bought, the Rotring Freeway.

My first year of teaching, a student knocked it off my desk and, uncapped, it landed on the tip of its nib. It never wrote the same after that. Since it was my only pen, I couldn't tell the scope of the damage. The tines became misaligned, and the point of the nib actually curled under itself! Since the inkflow was really poor, I would open the barrel and force more ink through from the cartridge to simulate the former flow. Over time, the ink built up and it was a clogged mess.

I was lamenting the other day about how we don't live in a society that fixes things--this pen was the object of my frustration. I didn't want to throw away my first pen, but sending it somewhere for repair would have cost as much as the pen did. I am probably the only one who found it that valuable, and I think it costs so much because pen repair is really rare. It's an indicator of how little we take the chance to repair things instead of dispose of them.

I figured that the pen couldn't end up any more unusable than it was, so i tried fixing it myself. Success! With total disassembly, some heat, full flushing, and a pair of jewelry pliers (not entirely recommended), my pen feels like it's supposed to--how all fountain pens are supposed to, which is, according to a friend," like you're not writing on paper".