Monday, April 9, 2012

The Palomino Blackwing pencil
and truth in advertising

California Republic Stationers, the division of California Cedar responsible for the replica version of the Blackwing pencil, seems prepared to go to any lengths to promote its merchandise. The company’s page on the Blackwing and popular culture now claims John Lennon as among those

who were just rumored to have used the Blackwing (if you have proof one way or the other, let us know!). When there’s controversy and rumors surrounding what kind of pencil a person used, you know you’re dealing with something big.
These assertions are — I’ll say it — bullshit: “stupid or untrue talk or writing; nonsense” (New Oxford American Dictionary). According to the same dictionary, to bullshit is to “talk nonsense to (someone), typically to be misleading or deceptive.”

The alleged rumor that John Lennon used Blackwing pencils seems to have its source in a comment on a Cal Cedar blog post, a comment naming Lennon as a Blackwing user. There is no evidence of a rumor about Lennon’s pencil use, and no evidence that John Lennon had a particular attachment to the Blackwing pencil. That Lennon’s pencil use is a matter of an alleged rumor hasn’t deterred Cal Cedar from giving a place of prominence to a photograph of Lennon (photographer uncredited) in its banner pantheon of Blackwing users. For a company to advertise its products by using the likeness of someone who could never have used those products — who was murdered before they were manufactured — is about as low as it gets.

The comment naming John Lennon as a Blackwing user names several other alleged users, including J. D. Salinger. Salinger’s name, I notice, is conspicuously absent from Palomino Blackwing publicity materials. No doubt the estate would pounce like a mad beast on anyone using Salinger’s name or likeness without permission for marketing purposes (not that such permission would ever be forthcoming).

In response to recent developments, Blackwing Pages has updated its Q. and A. page on the Palomino Blackwing: The Palomino “Blackwing Experience” as Cultural Vandalism.

California Cedar: please. Gimme some truth, as John Lennon might have said.

Related reading
All Blackwing posts (via Pinboard)

[The funny thing is that the Blackwing isn’t even my favorite pencil. That would be the Mongol. But I care about facts, and I don’t like seeing people’s names used in a shoddy marketing effort. A post at Blackwing Pages prompted Cal Cedar to silently remove Frank Lloyd Wright’s name from its marketing materials. Several Orange Crate Art posts led to the silent removal of Duke Ellington’s name. It is time for Cal Cedar to remove John Lennon’s name as well.]

comments: 7

Pete said...

I'm pretty sure that Lennon once said, "Blackwing pencils are bigger than Jesus right now."

Michael Leddy said...

Cal Cedar, are you listening?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but wasn't it: "the Beatles are bigger?". BTW: This is turning into a game of correction - apparently the Palomino team is correcting faster than Sean (at Blackwingpages)can write...
Regards Henrik

Michael Leddy said...

Henrik, I can’t tell if you’re joking about Lennon’s remark, but I’m sure Pete was joking.

I’m not sure I’d call what Cal Cedar is doing a matter of correction. Making misleading claims and quietly retracting them is not the same thing as acknowledging and correcting a mistake. What else has changed on their site?

Anonymous said...

Dear Michal,
I didn't mean to be a spoil-sport, but English isn't my ”mother language”, so...(yes, I was joking)

Anyway, I don't know if anything else has changed, I do not visit the site that often, but when I checked, the names had changed according to Sean's information. That proves to me, that Calcedar's team is reading the Blackwing pages and uses the content without permission or attribution. I agree with you, that is not ”correction” - other words come to mind....

regards Henrik

Michael Leddy said...

Henrik, I thought you had to be joking, but you sounded serious. Or at least I ought you did.

I thought that “correcting” meant removing names. But now I see what you mean: getting names from other people’s work and adding them.

As of the time I’m writing this reply, John Lennon still appears on the Cal Cedar site. Disgraceful.

Michael Leddy said...

Oops: I thought you did.