“I’m not in the employ of Eberhard Faber, but I regard it as duty to set down his devotion to the Blackwing.” ~ Joseph McElrath, from John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews

Vladimir Nabokov writing draft on index cards with Blackwing Pencil getty image
Vladimir Nabokov writing a draft on index cards with Blackwing Pencil
(Getty Image attributed to his wife Vera)

Writers are a funny bunch . . . I have always insisted on using Ticonderoga #1 pencils because of the softness of the lead. Believe me this desire has caused consternation for many an office manager.  Then there is my need to write on graph paper, usually four lines per inch; I even use a grid when working in Word, which has frustrated many people when I send them a document that still has the visible grid.

Oh well.

In fact, I’m down to my last box of #1 pencils, but my goal is to replace these yellow Ticonderogas with Blackwings . . . some day.

                   

Blackwing 602 by ursonate fcc
Vintage Blackwing 602
by ursonate (FCC)

When Eberhard Faber discontinued production of the original Blackwing in 1998 because of production costs, original 602’s could be found on E Bay for as much as $50 per pencil. Devotion is a wicked mistress.

“Since the pencil’s introduction in the 1930s, the Blackwing has developed a cult following of artists, writers, and designers. Vladimir Nabokov preferred Blackwings for sketching out his novels on index cards, Truman Capote kept boxes of them on his nightstand, and John Steinbeck once declared the the pencil  ‘the best I have ever had.’ (He used some 300 of them to complete East of Eden.) The pencils have appeared on “Mad Men” and in the hands of the likes of Quincy Jones and Stephen Sondheim.”

~ Margaret Eby, An ode to the Blackwing 602, Vladimir Nabokov’s favorite pencil

                   

From the Palomino website:

Palomino founder and CEO Charles Berolzheimer re-introduced the Blackwing pencil in 2011, both in its original form (the “602″) for devotees, writers and everyday users, as well as a modified version with a slightly softer lead for artists.

Some of the world’s most legendary Grammy, Emmy, Pulitzer and Academy Award winners have created with Blackwing pencils. The list of known users includes John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Chuck Jones, who proudly used Blackwings to create Bugs Bunny and countless other Looney Tunes characters.

Its roots go back to the 1930’s when it was first introduced by Eberhard Faber. In 1998, after several corporate acquisitions, it was discontinued, but not forgotten. In fact, fans began paying as much as $40 on eBay for a single Blackwing pencil.

Black Friday is Going to Be Black and Blue and Red All Over

Where Has All of the Time Gone?

Heads Up People: Thanksgiving is Next Week

I’ll admit that I’m not really with it all of the time, but I just realized tonight that Thanksgiving is next week. I really thought that I had at least two weeks to go. Now aside from the fact that I would really like to skip this particular holiday entirely, there is another big problem: Black Friday. The term Black Friday was coined in retail for the day after Thanksgiving, which came to be the biggest day in retail for the whole year, the day on which most stores could count on record sales. Unfortunately, most stores are expected to take a pummeling this year and not end up in the black.

Last year, Corey and I actually stayed up and went out to the sales at 4 a.m. and finished most of our Christmas shopping by 10 a.m. We had never done this before, but we decided to try it. We found terrific deals, got almost all of our shopping done, and came home and went to bed. It was kind of whacky but also a lot of fun for the two of us. We had already planned to do it again this year.

money-countingWell . . . it’s next year. Black Friday is next Friday. Just one little problem: no money. I know that retailers are sweating it big time, too, because we aren’t the only family with this problem. I just read that Target has made major slashes in their prices store wide. I was really looking forward to shopping at Circuit City this year because not only they have declared bankruptcy, but they always have great day after Thanksgiving sales. Stores everywhere are preparing to offer major deals to anyone that they can get into the stores, but that’s the biggest hurdle: getting people to leave the safety of their homes and spend money, especially when many people just aren’t certain if they are going to have a job in the coming weeks or months.

Let’s see: mortgage and groceries versus that new gaming system and Iphone for the kids . . . hmmmm

The Layoff Reality

December is a notoriously bad month for layoffs. According to a story in Reuters, “The situation is poised to worsen as the holidays approach and many businesses scrutinize budgets for the coming year. The sad truth is that Christmas layoffs are common in tough times.”

And people who are afraid of losing their jobs tend to be afraid to spend money. That’s not a hard concept to swallow. In a poll by Workplace Options, approximately 47 percent said “news of the financial crisis made them fearful about job security, and 25 percent said they had begun scanning help-wanted ads or updating their resumes” (Reuters). 

In a brief scan of recent news, these are the numbers I found on company layoffs in previous weeks:

  • DHL: 10,000 worldwide
  • Citigroup: 53,000 to date
  • Sun Microsystems: 6,000
  • Nokia: 600
  • Motorola: 3,000
  • Kansas-based Hawker Beechcraft: 500
  • e-Bay: 10% layoff
  • JP Morgan: up to 25,000 depending on if they keep it local or go worldwide
  • Even America’s beloved NASCAR has not been untouched: up to 1,000 people

These are only a few of the many, many recorded layoffs in private companies and industries. I didn’t even begin to delve into the projected government layoffs, for example those projected for the state of Massachusetts. Or the major layoffs in banking, Wall Street, and the auto industry. Even PepsiCo is anticipating layoffs of several thousand workers in the coming months.

Those Few, Those Happy Few

Those individuals who look forward to picking up extra cash during the holidays by working temporary jobs will probably be hard-pressed to find temporary work. Most companies would rather keep their permanent workers than take on temporary help. Those individuals who are fortunate enough to keep their full-time jobs will probably not be on the receiving end of bonuses or raises in the coming year, but will feel fortunate that they have kept a full-time job with benefits.

What is truly frightening is that this grim news is not sensitive or proprietary information. You can find it in at least 10 different articles at any given time.

Be Careful What You Ask Forthanksgiving

So I suppose I should do two things now: stop drooling over that Infiniti commercial because it just ain’t gonna happen (not that it ever was, but the idea of it was nice), and figure out how I’m going to make it through yet another Thanksgiving dinner with my family without losing my mind. I love my family, I truly, truly do. You just don’t understand what family dinners are like at my mother’s house and how they turn me into a nervous wreck. One of these days, my house will be finished; my new dining room table will be set up and no longer in storage, and I will be able to host a real dinner at my house the way in which I want to.

I can dream can’t I? Well, more later. Peace.