Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The CEI has put together a nice website ipencilmovie.org that includes the movie and a supporting curriculum and many other resource links. So it's a great new resource for teachers wishing to give thier students a good introduction to some of the key economic concepts behind Read's essay.
We've agreed to do some cross links from our Story of Pencils pages over at at Studio602 on Pencils.com, to help build awareness of this new learning resource.
Friday, August 10, 2012
The Summer Jazz Colony occurring this week is one of core programs of the Institute which brings in 18 of the country’s top high school jazz musicians for further training in music theory and performance with dedicated artists in residence and special guest performers and instructors. Including Blackwing featured artist, Christian Tamburr. Here’s a quick clip of Christian at his performance last Sunday at the new Take 5 Jazz Club, nearby the University and the Brubeck Institute. The Wednesday Jam session I attended featured some very talented young musicians playing Brubeck songs and sit ins with instructors as well as special guest, another vibraphonist Stefon Harris
One of the special gems of the Institute is the Brubeck Collection, an archival collection of Dave and his wife Iola’s life’s work in music, international diplomacy and active leadership in the civil rights movement. Iola, herself a playwright, collaborated with Dave on a number of projects. About 20 Brubeck Insitute embassadors had the opportunity for a personal tour of the University’s Holt-Atherton Archives which house not only the Brubeck Collection, but also the John Muir Papers collection which holds about 75% of the extant papers of Muir. Michael Wurtz, University Archivist, informed us of some fascinating facts on Dave and Iola’s lives and careers, and we got to see first-hand a number of these important letters, contracts, albums, marketing materials, music scores and more.
One interesting fact is that Dave really couldn’t read and write music on paper himself much. His creative, improvisational style just wouldn’t conform well to putting something fixed on paper. When he did compose some of his more extensive orchestral arrangements his brother or another collaborator usually did most of the music notation. We were shown one of the first pieces of music he wrote for a school assignment which he subsequently was told what he played was very good, but wasn’t what he had written. Dave tore up the score and threw it away. A fellow student saved the pieces from the trash taped them together and later sent them to Dave as a memento. Here's a link to one of Dave's scores a lullaby from 1941, though I could not find a digitized image for the torn score we were shown during the presentation.
Finally, I was very pleased to see the “Use Pencils Only” sign in front of desk of Special Collections Assistant, Trish Richards, shown in the photo above. Certainly, they want to protect these one of a kind archival materials from any accidental ink spills; another important benefit of pencils over pens. I don’t know if Dave and Iola have ever been Blackwing pencil users, but perhaps some time in the Archives exploring may turn up a photo or other evidence as to their preferred pencil brands. I was able to leave a special gift of several dozen Blackwing pencils for the Summer Jazz Colonists and members of the Brubeck Institute.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
My last post addressed recent news regarding allegations of illegally imported Chinese pencils. In order to avoid anti-dumping duties these pencils were apparently transshipped via third party countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia and mislabeled as to country of origin. Today I am addressing the overall U.S. market for pencils and future of U.S. production of pencils relative to how I see this topic coupled with other developing industry trends.
The rise of computers, tablets, or smart phones over this period have yet to prove to me that these technologies are going to displace writing instruments and pencils as a whole. Technology certainly can impact how and where we use pencils at the margins. However, there is a strong emotional and tactile connection people have with their preferred writing tools and the physical act of depositing graphite, ink, paint or color pigments onto paper. What could impact per capita pencil consumption even more than technology is allowing another generation of kids to be raised without access to and experiencing the use of good quality pencils. This could drive consumption patterns to alternate writing instruments in the long term. Despite the benefit of ever cheaper wood-cased pencils on household budgets over the past 20 years , one negative byproduct has been exposing children, teachers and other consumers to a general reduction in the quality of the average pencil sold here in the U.S. At Pencils.com one of our most common consumer questions is: “Where can I find a decent pencil at a reasonable price in which the lead won’t break, the eraser works without smearing and that actually writes well?” Teachers often report that the simple act of more frequent breakage and sharpening has become a disruption in the classroom.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Today I estimate that less than 10% of U.S. pencil consumption consists of pencils actually manufactured in the United States. Certainly the actual market share of the traditional U.S. producers is much higher when factoring in production imported from their own facilities in Mexico or China plus what they import from other foreign producers. Perhaps 50% of the U.S. market today are pencils imported directly from China, despite the anti-dumping duties of 114% levied on Chinese pencils since 1994. Most of these direct Chinese imports do not pay the full anti-dumping duty given that provisions under the statutes allow for a review process with the U.S. Commerce department that results in reductions in these duties applicable to some Chinese producers/exporters. However, the review process is expensive and only the largest Chinese producers that export to the US participate. As a result it has been long suspected that there also have been a substantial number of Chinese produced pencils being illegally transshipped via third countries to avoid these duties. Suspecting and proving such transshipments however are separate matters.
Now for the first time since implementation of the duties it was made public in May that there is an active civil case proceeding against several large U.S. retailers and importers for participating in the importation of illegal transshipped Chinese pencils via countries such as Taiwan, Indonesia and Vietnam. This case was filed in 2008 by the Cullen Law Firm in Washington, D.C. per the this press release published May 17, 2012. The public docket was made available May 1st. Note that at this time these remain only allegations, but if the case prevails there are substantive fines and penalties that would be accruing going back to at least 2006 as it’s not just the transshipment to avoid duties that is a potential violation, but also incorrect marking relative to country of origin laws as well.
Friday, June 08, 2012
Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the introduction of our Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil for sales on Pencils.com. It's been a fun first year with alot of positive developments, including most recently our original Palomino Blackwing pencil being featured in an upcomming movie. But today is really about poetry.
As we are celebrating Literature and Poetry as our theme on the Studio602 blog this month and yesterday we launched our Pencils.com Poetry Slam contest I thought I'd share this video for a bit of inspiration. Hope you'll enter by June 19th for a chance to win a great giftset.
Friday, April 13, 2012
I find myself in the distasteful postion to publish the following letter, which in my view should be a private communication between Sean Malone, the Publisher & Editor of Blackwing Pages and myself. Unfortunately, the increasing intensity and method of his campaign against me and our company and now the additional posts of a couple others which appear to have jumped on certain of his themes, have now crossed a line where I feel some public clarification is required. Given Mr. Malone's approach to date, I felt it best to publish the entire letter and let you decide for yourself. I realize by publishing this letter I am opening myself up to further criticism and to further parsing of my intentions to fit the purposes of my detractors. I have always prided myself on my overall transparency. I could have approached Sean sooner to address his claims, but it has been unclear by his actions to date that any earlier response or even this letter will do any good. I hope it will, but who knows. Then again neither Mr. Malone, nor anyone else who has been critical, has ever bothered to directly contact me or my team these past few months to address their greivences. I have also just responded over at Pencil Talk to a new post on related topics to furher clarify certain questions asked today.
April 13, 2012
Sean Malone, Publisher/Editor
In the last three months you have devoted a great deal of energy to not only criticizing the marketing efforts around our Palomino Blackwing pencils, but more recently to calling into question my personal integrity and the reputation of our company. Now you’ve apparently enlisted others in your campaign. I am honestly startled as to how we got to this point. In my acknowledging an inadequately vetted claim about Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of a Blackwing, it seemed that we were both interested in documenting as available the history of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 and the following it engendered. Prior to that event, I felt we have had a long, positive and mutually supportive relationship where you had willingly provided various images, sent us music scoring sheets for promotional photography purposes, etc. and had never expressed any sentiment that you were dissatisfied with the manner in which we may have utilized any material from your blog. In fact in our e-mail ommunication of Jaunary 6th after the whole FLW affair, I apologized again personally to you for our faux paux and invited you to be an active participant in our planned Blackwing Experience event to help us get the facts right. You indicated you had nothing against me personally nor were you trying to assert some moral high ground on the issue.
You also politely declined my invitation to participate in the Blackwing Experience event, which I have fully respected. As such, I directed our team to work on our own historical research elative to prior users of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing and to provide appropriate attribution for source materials. We have done just that. In fact, our “Blackwing in Pop Culture” page on our recently published Palomino Brands website lists sources for each Blackwing user mentioned, lus includes a link to a bibliography page. None of these reference your work as they have done independent verifications, respecting your wishes not to be associated with our endeavors.
We have also reached out to a number of users, and families of users, of the original EF Blackwings with very positive and supportive results and continue to focus on that effort. In fact, the grandson of Chuck Jones, head of one of the many estates of former users who support our efforts, extended his appreciation personally for us bringing back the Blackwing because it was such “a huge part of what Chuck was able to accomplish”. He will be a participant in our panel discussion on Creativity and what it means to pick up a pencil in the digital age. An invitation I ould have gladly extended also to you, but again, you declined any involvement. We have the upport of not only Mr. Jones’ estate, but as I understand it from the estates of Nelson Riddle and ohn Steinbeck, among others. Stephen Sondheim himself is a fond user of our Palomino lackwing pencils and has voiced his support of our Blackwing revival publicly in his book and privately, as well as of the upcoming Blackwing Experience exhibit in New York. We are expecting a very informative Blackwing Experience event in New York that both honors the reative legacy associated with the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencil as well as brings to the forefront the talents of the fans of our new Palomino Blackwing generation of pencils.
In recent weeks, however, since our last private communication in early January, the frequency and intensity of your posting activity has increased, as has the series of ever-critical posts and attacks on both me and CalCedar. You have parsed the language used in our communications to fit your arguments and challenged nearly every new piece of information we have put out about Blackwing pencils or the upcoming event. Your invective has now bridged the gap to calling me both a thief and a liar and to attacking the integrity of third parties, Justin Oberman and The Art Directors Club. On that latter subject, we are advised by counsel that the fleeting use of your picture of pencils in the documentary and enlightening video on pencil sharpening was well within fair use rights by video’s creator. I never saw that piece before it was published as it was a project between other parties; though I now see we were given a credit as “Palomino Presents”. Had I seen it, I would have immediately recognized your photo and suggested it be changed to one we could happily provide, and in fact the offending photo has since been replaced. However, I am probably the only one who would have recognized that photo as coming from your blog as with most other historical material on Blackwing Pages. Our day to day team has simply not been referencing Blackwing Pages since early January, until your recent aggressive posting activity against our company has necessitated such visitation to assess your claims.
There seems no substantive reason for your harsh treatment of Justin, except for his association and collaboration with our company on the upcoming event, and perhaps that you feel he has not apologized to you for accidental use of your photo. Likewise, your statements about me and CalCedar have now become defamatory. If you feel we have “stolen” anything from you or take issue with anything else, please feel free to contact me directly and privately, and I give you my personal assurance that I will investigate specific and clear claims you may have. I am open to considering that there may have been one or two places we could have erred since the FLW issue, I understand a couple factual errors were corrected when brought to our attention, but your claim that this is somehow evidence of some underhanded strategy or theft on our part is ludicrous. You have not once shown the courtesy of communicating such specific concerns directly to me in all this time, preferring instead to use your blog as bully pulpit. However, public and potentially libelous charges through your blog seem inappropriate and counter-productive to the support that the original Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602, our new Palomino Blackwing models and all pencils in general deserve. I stopped commenting on your blog because you told me you didn’t want any association with our efforts and because your attacks indeed became personal and morally based contrary to your communication to me on January 6th.
Sean, I don’t expect you to agree with me on the marketing approach to CalCedar’s business, and indeed there are other protectors of the original Blackwing product. You are entitled to your opinions on these subjects. We have never claimed we are producing an exact replica of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602. It’s impossible to do so in my opinion. We are trying to do the best we can to produce a modern successor and build a new following for our Blackwing pencils, as a premier writing instrument, one that honors the creative tradition of the original pencil and its users. Those values are inherent in the Blackwing brand whether printed on an Eberhard Faber version or a Palomino version. It is your prerogative to rail on these efforts, but the increasing move towards outright defamation is simply inappropriate. Hopefully, we can discuss and resolve these issues reasonably and move on. I hope you’ll agree there are more important things we can both be attending to in our lives.
California Cedar Products Company
Monday, January 02, 2012
So picture my mood last night, alone on the road thinking, "Here we go again, what a lousy start to the New Year!", kicking myself for failing to button up all the details before leaving the beach earlier in the day, half-resenting my wife who's comfortable at home despite offering to accompany me. In an effort to change this dark disposition I turned on Sirius radio looking for some Jazz and was surprised to find a rebroadcast of NPR's Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland from 1994 featuring an hour long session interviewing and playing with Stephen Sondheim. I had only missed the first 10 minutes or so. As I am also a fan of musical theater (performing some show tunes now and then as part of a chorus) and of Sondheim's work, (not just because he's a great fan of the Blackwing pencil), I couldn't help thinking about Angel's tire and that perhaps good providence was returning again to salvage my first day of the year once again.
This is a great listen. There is some great discussion between Stephen and Marian in this segment and with her playing some of his tunes on piano with her own interpretations and Stephen commenting back about those as well as his own thoughts and stories about composing those songs. One of my favorite parts is when she plays "Send in the Clowns" and he talks about both the Sinatra version, re-scored by Nelson Riddle (another Blackwing pencil user) and trying to get Nelson to change something he didn't like and then alternatively willingly making a change for Barbara Streisand request on another change in the same tune as he agreed with the reason for the change. This segment starts about 22 minutes into the session, though the whole show is a highly recommended listen and very enjoyable.
I forgot fully about my false start to the year and even had a lovely drive back this morning witnessing a gorgeous sunrise coming up over the fog rolling out of the central valley and covering the lower reaches of the San Luis Reservoir as I drove down the pass. I just had to stop and take the photo here along the way. Then I return to the office this morning and find an e-mail from Justin over at Obercreative that had come in over the holiday with a scan of a page from Sondheim's new book "Look, I Made a Hat". In it Sondheim mentions "In Finishing the Hat I sang a paean of praise to the Blackwing pencil" and then goes on to mention. The timing really couldn't be any better. What a great start to the New Year. Going to have to order this ASAP.
So thanks Stephen and thanks to Angel for brightening up my false starts these past two New Years. And to any of you who'd had a somewhat slow beginning to the new year I hope this story has been at least a little "enlightening". Happy New Year and here's to having a great and very creative 2012.