Telephones versus old fashioned letters

Last night I watched on Youtube Herman Wouk’s fine mini-series, “The Winds of War.” This is one of the best mini-series I know of.  The central character, “Pug” Henry, plays a U.S. naval officer who becomes heavily involved in activities leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. There are several scenes in this series that reminded me of the old days (e.g. the 1960s) when mail (as in paper mail, delivered to your door) was a source of joy and writing them was all part of the joy (for me at least), partly because I used a fountain pen. (That’s a whole other subject about which I shall say something at the end of this post. Nowadays I don’t think many people write letters on paper that are then delivered by a postman. Everyone is either typing emails or phoning people.

Phoning people has many advantages. It takes so little effort to pick up the phone, connect with a person and then start talking. While you are conversing you can change the subject if It’s becoming boring or you have nothing more to say on a subject. No problem: either of your can start a new subject to talk about. You have to be aware of how the conversation is going and use this feedback to help you decide on what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. You have to think quickly but in time you hone this skill and don’t think twice about what you are going to say.

Writing letters is quite different. You are alone with the computer (or your sheet of blank paper) and there is plenty of time to think of what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. You can try to anticipate how the other person is going to react to your words. You could be totally wrong about this and if you are, there might be consequences. If you had phoned instead of written, you would have had voice cues to guide you and you could have altered your approach. There is something intimidating about writing and maybe that’s why phoning is so popular. Another reason is that phoning has become so cheap. Not so long ago, maybe the 1980s, long distance telephone calls were very expensive. Phoning England from America could easily cost $2. a minute. Those were wonderful days for the telephone companies who called the shots and could set their prices to suit themselves. From our perspective of 2022 we now know how badly we were ripped off way back then.

To return to the subject of fountain pens. I can remember writing with them as a kid although by the time I reached high school I was using a ball pen, like most people. I used one for years even though I had had some bad experiences from time to time with them leaking and messing up my clothes. In the 1990s I re-discovered the fountain pen, not the kind that requires little plastic barrels of ink, but the “real” fountain pen, the kind that you refill by dipping it in a bottle of ink and twisting the top of the pen to fill up the tank.

This kind of pen is a delight to write with. The main reason is that it glides effortlessly over the page. The nib needs very little pressure. The ballpoint needs pressure and this slows you down and makes the writing process a bit tiresome. It also slows you down so that your writing can’t keep up with the rapidity of your thoughts.  A fountain pen is a delight to write with. I flies with your thoughts, it skims effortless over the surface of the page. It energizes and inspires you. A good brand of fountain pen is manufactured in Germany. The company is called “Lamy.”

Another advantage is that fountain pens come very fine tips all the way down to a stub tip. I prefer the stub tip because it enables me write a fine line or a broad line, or a combination of the two. This enables you to have fun with the formation of your letters. You can become a bit of a painter.

I have written here about telephones and letters. In my recent book (“Home Study Projects and New Ideas in English Language Arts”) I have a chapter on books versus movies. That’s another issue one has to deal with in life.  How are they different, anyway? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Should I watch Wouk’s “The Winds of War” or read the book on which the movie is based? Or should I do both?

Check out this book on my website:  Be sure to click on the photo of the book once and then again at the top left of the screen.

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