Zebra Mildliner Review and Journal Comic

I love highlighters, so long as they’re not the blindingly neon ones, as I find them distracting. So when JetPens first offered the Zebra Mildliner Double-Sided highlighters, I had to give them a try. Theoretically, like all highlighters, they are supposed to help you organize your notes. In reality they just add a little colour to my usual mess.

Highlighter pen bodies tend to be on the chunkier side, oftentimes square shaped. The Zebra Mildliners are just slightly thicker than usual pens, and very light. If for some reason you have hours of highlighting ahead of you, these ought to be pretty comfortable to use.

As their name suggests, these highlighters are double-sided. One size is a small chisel tip, and the other is an even smaller bullet tip. I had a hard time achieving coverage with the chisel tip in one go, but I’m not a stickler for these sort of things so it didn’t matter much to me. I was more interested in the Zebra Mildliner’s muted, and rather original colour palette.

This is a close up of the three Mildliner colours that I got: Mild Grey, Mild Orange and Mild Smoke Blue.  None of these colours are standard: the orange looks more like a peach than a traditional orange, the mild smoke blue looks like a muted teal or a light blue black, and I’ve never heard of a gray highlighter before. It sounds like an oxymoron: grey highlighter. But here it is, and it’s pretty cool (no pun intended, plus it’s a warm grey anyway).

Apart from having fun with these in the journal comic above, I tried these on a variety of pens and inks. I’ve been using these highlighters for over six months now, but I don’t highlight over anything but gel pens normally. As expected, these behaved the best with fineliners (see the comics above) and with ballpoint pen. This being Clairefontaine paper may have made the Uniball Signo gel refill drying times long enough for the highlighter to smudge the text a bit even after a full minute. The Ohto Flash Dry is just a miracle refill, but the Noodler’s Lexington Grey just floored me. I never expected to see a fountain pen ink stand up to highlighter so well, so quickly, especially with such a broad nib and on this paper. Phenomenal.

The Zebra Mildliner Double-Sided highlighters come in 15 colours. I don’t recommend buying them all; find yourself a “standard” colour, a “wild” colour, and another that’s your favourite. Despite what I personally may think, you can have too many highlighters.

Advertisements
Zebra Mildliner Review and Journal Comic

In Case of Loss

One of the most iconic things about Moleskines is the “In case of loss, please return to” on the front endpaper. You are supposed to write your name and address on the supplied four lines, together with an enticing, but not too enticing reward. According to Adrienne Raphael this feature of the Moleskine sees little use. If you’re Casey or Van Neistat you label every notebook cover with Whiteout, offering a cash reward.

img_0125-1.jpg

I just write my name and email, and with “let’s talk” in the reward line. I started filling the “In case of loss” at first because at the time I could barely afford to buy a Moleksine and they were really difficult to obtain, so I wanted a chance to get them back if I ever misplaced them. Over the years filling these lines has become a habit, a ritual that makes the notebook mine instead of just another notebook. I never thought that I would come in use.

Until last year.

I used my Moleskine to journal during a night flight from London to Tel Aviv. In the rush out of the plane I didn’t notice that I forgot my notebook in my seat pocket, together with my beloved Ti Arto. I got home at around 3 AM after a sleepless night, and crashed to sleep. When I woke up a few hours later and realized that I lost my journal you could hear my howl around the block. I beat myself up and then contacted the airline (the brilliant British Airways), as well as the Ben Gurion and Heathrow lost and found, in the faint hope that someone found my notebook and didn’t toss it out with the garbage.

A few hours later, while I was still mourning my loss, I got an email.

The Customer Service Manager on my flight had found my notebook, saw my email address on the “In case of loss” page, and had emailed me. There are good people in the world, and one of them was the manager on my BA flight.

Two weeks later my journal arrived through the mail, and I nearly cried when I saw it.

You see, when I first filled that from page this wasn’t a special notebook. I had bought it on sale, it wasn’t a favourite limited edition of mine, and I had just randomly selected it from the shelf when I filled my previous Moleskine.

But then I wrote in it.

By the time I lost it the notebook contained memories of my dog, which died two months before, notes from my London trip, ideas for a short story, and a lot of snippets of everyday life. It had become meaningful, irreplaceable.

So when you crack open a new notebook, any new notebook, take a moment to jot down your name and email at least. You may plan on only using it for grocery lists right now, but you never know what the future holds.

In Case of Loss

Moleskine Fall 2019 Catalog

Moleskine has issued their Fall 2019 catalogue and it’s even more interesting than their Spring 2019 one. As usual, here are the highlights:

  • Classic Notebook Expanded. Johnny Gamber will be happy to see that these are staying on. 400 pages of goodness, which are for some reason also offered in soft cover. <shrug>
  • Classic Leather Notebooks. These got wider release (not just Barnes and Noble) and get more vibrant options besides Black —  Amber Yellow, Forget Me Not Blue, and Bordeaux Red. They feature thicker, 100gsm paper (as in the Two-Go notebooks), and are fountain pen friendly (as are the excellent Two-Go notebooks), but come with 176 pages instead of the regular 192 (soft cover) or 240 (hard cover).
  • Two-Go. These just got a colour change to one of their ribbons (it’s white now).
  • Blend Collection. Four new fabric designs/colours in the FW2019 Blend collection that are added to the four new fabric designs/colours in the SS2019 Blend collection. The covers on these are phenomenal and Baron Fig has a lot to learn from Moleskine when it comes to using fabric. These are still only offered with ruled paper, which in some ways makes sense (still what Moleskine sells the most) but I wish that they at least offered them in one other kind of ruling (dotted?). These all look smart and professional, and they do have a more “wintery” look to them.
  • Planners/Diaries. Fall is the time of year for these and Moleskine offers a LOT of them, in various colours and designs. This year’s limited editions are Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars (so, so pretty), Le Petit Prince, Dr Seuss, and Doraemon. My guess is that the Alice in Wonderland and Star Wars ones will sell much faster than Le Petit Prince or Dr Seuss, so if you like them, pre-order them.
  •  Limited Edition Notebooks. My favourites! Let’s dig in, shall we?
    • Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived keeps getting new limited editions and that’s not really surprising. What is surprising is that Moleskine is coming out with 7 (!) Harry Potter notebooks, one dedicated to a pivotal moment in each book, with four coming out this year and three more coming out in Spring/Summer 2020. All the notebooks share a design language, and the four that are coming out this year are very good looking. The very popular Marauder’s Map edition is getting a fresh take as part of a limited edition, numbered box with a poster as an insert (something that Moleskine hasn’t done for a few years now).
    • Star Wars. Also not the first limited edition for this franchise, and this one has everything I look for in a Moleskine Limited edition. Somebody really thought about the design, the quotes, the colour scheme, and they’ve managed to create a nostalgic feel for a Sci Fi themed notebook.
    • Dragon Ball. THE FIRST DOT GRID LIMITED EDITION, you guys! Who’s excited? I’m excited! Is there anything else that needs to be said? (OK, quickly then: four notebooks, two ruled, two dot grid, really well designed, and there’s a chance that the covers are cloth covers, which gives the whole edition 10,000 more points in my book).
    • David Bowe. I kind of expected Bowe to get a limited edition before Bob Dylan, but Dylan got his in the spring. I think that these are nicer than the Dylan notebooks, but I really need to see one without the paper band to tell.
    • James Bond/007. Moleskine’s second attempt at making a 007 notebook and overall it looks better. Two notebooks, one blue and one black, with the 007 logo and the iconic swirling gun barrel, a secret code table on the B-side of the paper band and a themed sticker sheet. Simple but effective.
    • Year of the Rat. Chinese New Year! It’s nice to see Moleskine trying some new and interesting things with their limited editions, and these are puh-retty! Two notebooks (one red and one blue) and one boxed notebook (not numbered), each with 2 lucky red envelops, and all of them very well designed. Simple, evocative, beautiful.
  • Watercolour Blocks. These are interesting but a little strange. Moleskine’s appeal has always been that they are one of the few to offer halfway decent hardbound watercolour notebooks that can be used on the go. There’s a lot of fierce competition in the watercolour pad market and I really don’t understand what Moleskine are doing there. Waterford, Canson, Strathmore, Bockingford, Windsor Newton, Daler-Rowney, Fabriano, and even Clairefontaine offer artist grade and student grade watercolour pads. Why buy Moleskine’s, especially when they still offer only 35% cotton paper?
  • Log Book. I assume that this was created with the Bullet Journaling crowd in mind, but the dotted paper, index, numbered pages, thicker paper, pen test section, flap and double ribbons will have a wide appeal.
  • Voyageur. This popular, themed notebook is getting two new colours: Hibiscus Orange and Elm Green.

That’s it for me. I’m not interested in the “Smart” stuff or the accessories, and there’s enough here as there is. It looks like 2019 is going to be an excellent year for Moleskine, and I can’t wait to get my hands on several of these notebooks.

 

Moleskine Fall 2019 Catalog

Tournament of Books: House of Broken Angels

I finished reading the last Tournament of Books  novel a few weeks ago, but I waited with the review until I could gather my thoughts about the whole experience. That’s a little unfair to what’s turned out to be one of the best books in the tournament, so my apologies to Urrea. The “The House of Broken Angels” by Luis Alberto Urrea was up against “So Lucky” by Nicola Griffith in the sixth round of the competition.

To call “The House of Broken Angels” heartwarming seems somehow insufficient. It is a heartwarming tale of a man celebrating the last days of his life with his extended family. It’s also an immigrant story, a story of overcoming abuse, poverty, racism, and your own preconceptions even when you’re on the verge of death. It’s a story of one generation passing the torch on to another. It’s a story of women finding their voice in a world of men. It’s a story with tremendous tragedy and a lot of humour. It’s a story about the poetry of everyday life.
But most of all it’s a story of family and love, created without cynicism or cliche: unique, realistic, flawed, and intensely powerful.
In two days life, in its mundanities and most profound and heroic moments, unfolds before your eyes and leaves you at times laughing, crying or merely breathless with anticipation. Urrea moves you from past to present, from one character to another, effortlessly and seamlessly. It’s one of the few cases that I’ve seem where a complex narrative structure feels like a light read simply because it’s so well created.
This is a must read, especially these days, when the Mexican and Latino population in the US is constantly under attack.

There’s not much in common between “So Lucky” and “The House of Broken Angels” apart from them both being centred around people who have fallen seriously ill. “So Lucky” deals with the first days of dealing with illness, and the “The House of Broken Angels” with the last. The protagonist in “So Lucky” is a lone woman, and in “The House of Broken Angels” it is a man surrounded by a large, loving family. The trick lies in reading the acknowledgements in the end, as it is then that you discover that both narratives are based on the true life experiences of the authors. That adds impact to the stories in some ways, but I think that it mainly creates a level playing ground where they both have a similar gravitas and you can simply judge them by their merits. I highly recommend reading both, but that being said “The House of Broken Angels” is a much better work of fiction. It’s also more enjoyable to read despite its oftentimes tough subject matter, and unlike “So Lucky”, it’s a literary novel and a story of its time that is also timeless. Imagine comfort food that isn’t boring and provides you with all your daily nutritional needs and you’ve got “The House of Broken Angels”.

Have you not read it yet, mijo?

Tournament of Books: House of Broken Angels

Tournament of Books: There There

There There” by Tommy Orange was originally going to be the last Tournament of Books  novel that I read, but because “The House of Broken Angels” was delayed by the post office, it turned out to be the penultimate book to be read. It was up against “America is Not the Heart” by Elaine Castillo in one of the toughest rounds to judge, at least for me.

Wow this book was quite a ride. There are 12(!) protagonists in this book, and a good deal of the subject matter is difficult, but the challenge is worth it. The stories of several Urban Indians converge as they gather to celebrate the Great Oakland Powwow.
Are all the characters necessary? No. But most of them are, and the story that emerges, of urban Native American life is worth reading. It’s a tight-knit and small community so there are a lot of ties between the various characters, and it could have been a very small, very anecdotal story if not for Orange’s moving interstitial background passages. The tragedy of the characters’ lives is made manifest through these pieces, and the result is not unlike a patchwork quilt, where a lot of small parts make a beautiful, interconnected whole.
Not an easy read, well worth your time.

Tournament of Books: There There

Tournament of Books: The Mars Room

The Mars Room” was the book that I most dreaded reading once the final list of the Tournament of Books 2019 contest was published. The story of a stripper sentenced to three life sentences in a California prison for killing her stalker didn’t seem like the kind of reading that I’d enjoy. In some ways I was right — this wasn’t a fun read. What I hadn’t anticipated was being moved and touched by a story not so dissimilar from those that I’ve recently read and heard about in the news or in “This American Life”.

“The Mars Room” is about as far from light reading as you can get. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s violent. It’s relentless. It’s excellent.
We are living in a time where at least in parts of America there seems to be a growing awareness of the failings and injustices of their criminal justice system. There are a lot of non-fiction pieces coming out now that are bringing to light the toll mass incarceration, the “war on drugs” and prison privatization have taken on communities. So why read a work of fiction, no matter how well researched, when you can read an article or a book, listen to podcasts or watch documentaries on the American criminal justice system and the people at its mercy?
Because Kushner lets you into Romy’s mind, into her fellow inmates minds, into her victim’s mind. You see the people working in the system and incarcerated in the system as intimately as you possibly can – their mistakes, the tragedy of their lives, their big and small moments, their cruelties and their kindnesses. They aren’t opaque any more, they aren’t invisible. You get to see not only the systems of poverty, injustice, racism and abuse that started them on their respective journeys to prison, but you get to see them, to experience them as full human beings. That’s what makes it so terrible, and such a great work of fiction to read.

Tournament of Books: The Mars Room

Tournament of Books: The Golden State

I finished reading the eleventh Tournament of Books 2019 book, Lydia Kiesling’s “The Golden State“, which is running against Jesse Ball’s “Census” in the fourth round of the competition.

You would be forgiven if you read the premise of “The Golden State” book and thought that you are about to read an “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of book. This is nothing of the sort. Kiesling has written an intensely realistic and touching piece about loneliness, particularly female loneliness.
The heroine of “The Golden State”, Daphne, is a young, neurotic mother to a precocious 2 year old, left alone due to the machinations of the US Immigration system. The daily grind at her unfulfilling job finally makes her snap, and she decides to take her toddler and run back to Altavista, where her late grandparents lived. The narrative follows her through the 10 days of her escape. So far the “Eat, Pray, Love”.
Daphne is a victim of a society that does nothing to help young mothers (except pile guilt and anxiety on them in the form of study after study), especially young mothers who marry outside the tribe. She is caged in a pointless job that is full of daily humiliation, but the money is “good” (not good enough for SF) and the health insurance… She has no friends, no family, nothing of interest in her life except her daughter, who she can’t afford to spend time with. Her husband and his loving family is in Turkey, and apart from skype calls, she has very little chance of seeing them any time soon. No wonder she snaps.
Altavista is no paradise, and isn’t portrayed as such. It’s a semi-deserted place full of angry white people, only a handful of which remember Daphne and her grandparents. She has unknowingly fled to the only place where she could be more lonely than she was back home. So when an old lady who visited Turkey one time befriends her, she can’t help but reach out.
This novel would not work in any place but today’s US. It’s a novel of time, place and character more than plot. Every breathless rush to change diapers or calm a screaming toddler becomes momentous once you realize just how alone Daphne is, just how alone the society she lives in wants her to be.
The novel is interesting, fresh, sharp and well written, and it beautifully breaks down large political ideas to small, everyday encounters.

This book is running against “Census” in the fourth round of the Tournament of Books, and though they have very little in common apart from being stories about single parents and their children out on a trip, it was not hard for me to pick “The Golden State” as a winner. It’s a better book in terms of writing accomplishment, and it has much more heart than “Census”. I highly recommend skipping “Census” entirely, and reading “The Golden State”. It’s a very good piece of contemporary fiction.

Tournament of Books: The Golden State