Friday, April 13, 2012

Dear Sean

To my readers:

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
Blackwing Pages

Dear Sean,
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.


Charles Berolzheimer

California Cedar Products Company

1 comment:

JamesP said...

Well stated. I read pretty much all of that blog, and prior to reading your statement, I thought he was being a bit, er, strident.

I'd much rather the Blackwing brand was acquired by somebody who insisted on putting only on top-quality pencils, than someone who would put it on junk.

I happen to like both of the new Blackwings very much - I use the Blackwing for writing music (notation) and the Blackwing 602 for writing words. Both are best-quality pencils and worthy of the name Blackwing, IMHO.

So thanks for not "leveraging the brand," as too many MBAs say, by using it to sell junk.