Wörther Shorty 3.15mm Natural Aluminum

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

The main point I hold against my other Wörther pencil is it’s mostly plastic construction and the resulting exceedingly light weight. They offer the Shorty in all plastic in a rainbow of colors which I wrote off as certainly too light and all wood which I passed over for the same reason. In the pursuit of something more substantial I picked up the pencil in “Natural Aluminum.” Calling it that appears to be done to draw contrast with a polished, knurled, or brushed aluminum that’s common on writing instruments.

As with other variations of the Shorty the clutch is four segmented, the body is hexagonal in section, and the button depresses quite deeply. Unlike other variations the clip is hinged and smoothly pivots up from the body. It’s a small thing, but a nice touch, even if it’s unnecessary because the clip naturally stands off from the body a bit more than one may expect. That the clip is also aluminum, with the same finish as the body was the right design choice. The leaves of the clutch are a shiny steel, and there’s a small crescent of plastic on the button (embossed with the brand), based on which I expect Wörther could have easily gone with a steel or plastic clip; so their choice is appreciated.

It’s not a heavy pencil, but feels substantial, and for forty five dollars it’s not a pencil you’re going to buy for each color lead you plan on using (like you would with the seven dollar rainbow plastic models). It’s a pleasant pencil though, particularly if you like the Wörther leads and want to use those in a native pencil. It’s chunky and something about the natural finish makes it feel delicate in a way another metal wouldn’t. The six facets of the wide hexagonal body make it hard to hold comfortably in a non-standard grip. This could be good or bad depending on if you’re trying to break a bad habit or not.

If I lost it I would be sad, but I don’t think I would replace it. I could see buying another as a gift. I do not expect it would survive unscathed knocking about in a pencil box, it might not scratch as readily as I expect it may but the sharp lines where the facets come together seem only too delicate.

Available from: ipenstore.com Orange Art eBay.com

Parafernalia Neri S Lead Dispenser 3.2mm Orange

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

I like a short pencil, and this is one. It’s a bit unusual in that it’s neither a propelling nor a clutch pencil. If we’re giving it a description it’s a set screw pencil. There’s no complex moving parts, just a tube with a tapered end, a threaded hole and a thumb screw. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot to get for fifty six dollars. Parafernalia is a design focused Italian brand and the Neri pencil is manufactured by them for Internoitaliano who are another Italian brand that if anything is even more design focused.

Neri, is a whole lineup of pens and pencils although calling it a lineup may be a bit generous. It’s really just one design iterated into just enough variations to give a collection minded person something to buy multiple over and over. And what exactly would you be buying? An anodized aluminum tube with the most unpleasant texture of any material I have ever encountered.

The pencil looks good. That’s all you should ever do with it though, look. It’s not something that you can un-touch, which having touched it is the only thing I ever want from it. The texture could be described as broken fingernail, or fine sand eyedrops. It’s so excessively unpleasant that I’ve never marked a page with it. As I wrote above, it looks nice. The orange anodized finish is without flaw, and the printed branding is perfectly executed. The unique and profoundly simple design is reminiscent of one of those carefully laid out fonts where all you can see is the words unless you focus on the letters and start to pick up echos of everything that went into it.

I like it, I do. But I wouldn’t buy it again and if I could exist in a timeline where I never bought it and felt the too-fuzzy almost frothed aluminum finish on it I would.

Available from: No, I will not help anyone find this cursed object.

Wörther Shorty 3000 3.15mm Walnut

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

Wörther is a German stationer, although that might imply more depth to the brand than is warranted. Near as I can tell they offer only 3.15mm short form clutch pencils and matching leads. Their pencil is called the Shorty and it’s generally hexagonal in section, which makes the round barreled Shorty 3000 someone of an outlier. It’s worth noting that if you want 3.15mm leads Wörther themselves is the only source. Fortunately, Koh-I-Noor offers 3.2mm leads which fit and 3mm would likely fit as well if it were possible to find without getting flooded with results for 0.3mm propelling pencil leads.

The leads Wörther offers are oil based, except for their graphite leads and although available in a range of colors come only in single tubes of four leads each for from two to seven dollars. This is potentially expensive (depending on the convenience of one retailer or another) for oil based leads as they wear so quickly. A benefit of the fast wearing leads is the lack of a need to point them. Because it’s so soft, and so much is consumed even in drawing a line of moderate length, one needs only to rotate the pencil to keep lines a constant width. Wörther goes so far as to make that point in the advertising copy. Emotionally, it comes across defensive as they frame it around their justification for not including a pointer. I suspect that except for the graphite leads a pointer or bladed sharpener would eat the oil based leads so rapidly that people would complain.

I may be wrong, but I think these are meant as marking pencils rather than writing or art pencils. Wörther touts them as able to write on glass, X-rays, wood, fabric, tile and virtually any surface. The wood finish Shorty 3000 looks wonderful, but in the hand feels exceptionally cheap. This is probably because apart from the thin wood body, the four segment clutch, and whatever spring is inside it’s made of plastic. And it’s rather lightweight plastic at that. I found mine used for sixteen dollars, including shipping.

I would not replace it if I lost it, or if worn out. I wouldn’t feel bad if upon loaning it to someone it wasn’t returned. I don’t mean for this to sound like any sort of indictment or criticism of the brand. They make a range with significant variety and I think this is just a cheaper model.

Available from: Orange Art

Cretacolor Ecologic 5.6mm Natural

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

Cretacolor is the first brand listed here which is really an art materials company. The odds are good that if you’re the owner of a lead holder you’ve picked up leads from them at least once. The Ecologic is their purportedly environmentally friendly lead holder though they make a point of advertising it as suitable for charcoals. They would have to be processed charcoals, only the thinnest vine will fit. In consideration of fit, Cretacolor sells a wide variety of 5.6mm leads and they are longer than would fit in the two short-form holders reviewed above, but are the longest suitable for this holder.

The clutch mechanism is all metal of a uniformly reflective finish. It does not unscrew from the wooden body and it is unclear if it is glued or simply press-fit. I do not know the type of wood, but it feels like something common rather than some level-the-rainforest exotic. It’s sanded smooth but unsealed and not lacquered. It tapers somewhat towards the clutch release while the other end has a significant hour-glass grip. It’s not uncomfortable.

At retail the lead holder is from ten dollars to the high end of less than twenty dollars. This may feel expensive for the unfinished wood and common metal. The impression one gets is that it’s made to be inexpensive and more than that, it is made to feel plain. It’s the kind of lead holder one might be provided at an adult-education life drawing class. It will do the job but is not so appealing that it’s apt to walk out with a student. Neither is it so precious as to be upsetting if it does go missing.

If I lost it I wouldn’t buy it again. It feels as if it would last through four years of art school, provided it isn’t dropped. I don’t know if it’s justified or not, I do feel though, that upon impact with the floor from a moderate height the wood may crack and split. Perhaps it’s better to worry about how the wood is sure to discolor upon contact with smudged fingers or knocking around in a pencil box. On a glossy surface dust is expected to brush off, on this raw wood it’s sure to impregnate.

Available from: Cretacolor on Amazon.com Dick Blick Jacksons Art

Kaweco Sketch Up Brass 5.6mm

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

Kaweco is a German stationer with broad and deep coverage as far as their writing instruments go. For short form pencils they offer 5.6mm and 3.2mm clutch pencils and 0.5mm click propelled pencils. Materials for the 5.6mm versions are limited to one in brass, one in aluminum, and one in black plastic. It’s exceptional that they only offer the plastic one in black because they offer everything else in multiple colors. I selected the brass version because the idea that it would change appearance over time appealed. Mine is unlikely to acquire any sort of patina, because I’m not a fan.

The pencil is heavy and doesn’t have a clip unless you bother to buy a slide on one from Kaweco. I could forgive this if the clip was more snug, as it is it slips and slides too much for any sense of security. For those who hate a clip I’m sure it’s welcome as an optional rather than built-in feature. For the octagonal body it’s mostly unnecessary as a roll-stop. Even if it doesn’t roll, it’s going to slide if you put it down in the wrong orientation on any sort of slope. This is a product of its slick finish and substantial weight. That weight is balanced and as a result how it is gripped governs the feel in use more than the design of it does. It’s unfortunate.

Depending on the retailer the brass finish Sketch Up will be in the general neighborhood of thirty dollars. In all honesty it’s overpriced, but this is due in some part to the decisions Kaweco makes regarding packaging. A cardboard sleeve around a stamped and painted tin is, excessive. As you might find in a draftsman’s 2mm lead holder the push button holds a lead pointer, and threading that as well as the mechanism and body certainly contributes to the cost of manufacture. Note, it’s an omnidirectional pointer, and not a bladed sharpener.

I wouldn’t purchase it again if I lost it and I don’t project that it would wear out within any individual lifetime. My expectation is this would be exactly what some other artist could be looking for. Why shouldn’t it be? Brand loyalty is a thing and it’s not ugly even if it is a brutalist Soviet apartment tower of a thing. Kaweco has a brass pocket style fountain pen and I could see an owner of the pen justifying the purchase of the pencil.

Available from: Amazon.com Jet Pens Kaweco and certainly other retailers.

e+m Germany Clickman 5.6mm Beechwood

Pictured Above & Reviewed Below

The brand “e+m” is a German stationer and every instance of their name I can find is in lowercase. They have been around longer than both k. d. lang and her inspiration, e. e. cummings, though I have to imagine they were not always averse to capitalization. Who knows, German isn’t bound by my native English conventions on capital letters. They make a variety of products, writing instruments and the usual affiliated objects. I have a pencil and lead pointer.

The Clickman by e+m in beechwood, is a short body, 5.5-5.6mm lead, push button clutch pencil. They also offer a ballpoint ink insert which transforms it into a pen. I selected it in beechwood because wood should look like it, and of the various models I noticed at the time none of them had anything that will stop them rolling (essential for a round body), save the Clickman, which has a lanyard horseshoe. It was pennies more than seventeen dollars. I will have to obtain a lanyard.

An all-metal mechanism of brass and steel with a brown (possibly anodized, both aluminum and titanium could be made that color) finish gives the pencil a reassuring weight. That weight is tip-heavy, rather than balanced, and it feels better for it. I don’t know if this was a purposeful design consideration, it seems like it would have to be, there’s no other reason to have the amount of mechanism beyond the six segment clutch sticking out from the body. The smooth finished wooden body has a metal inner tube with threads at the tip end. I don’t know if threading the metal and pressing or glueing it into a wooden cylinder is a cost saving measure; a hit to material cost certainly but threading wood consistently and cheaply feels like a tall order.

As far as the strength of the spring on the clutch goes it’s noticeably stiff. This is good, particularly for something in the 5.6mm diameter, as it means softer leads or even (thin) vine charcoal can be grasped by the clutch without slipping. There are, so far as I can tell, no corners cut. If I lost it I would buy it again. I cannot imagine that I will break it or wear it out to the point of inoperability. Somewhat oddly the photos I can find online from various retailers all show the brand emblazoned on the wooden body near the push button. On my example there is no marking on the wood, instead it is printed on the metal surround of the clutch mechanism.

There is no integrated lead pointer in the pencil. So for the cost of the pencil I purchased one from their available lineup. I consider it a point in their favor that a pointer is not integrated. The last thing one should have is a dust filled pointer screwed into their pencil. Searching reveals that e+m only offer wooden pointers (as distinct from a bladed sharpener) and those are available in a variety of stained and natural woods. There are two form factors, one bulb shaped and the other die shaped. The die shaped model is the objectively superior choice.

Pointing is an infrequent activity with a 5.6mm lead, or it should be. The only way to work small with such a wide lead is to keep it pointed, and that being wasteful, it’s best to work at A5 or larger. Starting with a point, turn the pencil frequently and it will yield a more or less consistent line until the cone is as much as half gone, when it should be re-pointed. That advice should be thrown out the window if you’re heavy handed or working with soft or oil-based leads.

Available from: Creative Art Materials on Amazon.com Cult Pens Jet Pens Hyatts and probably plenty of other retailers as well

Is This Why People Doom-Scroll? I’m Here For It!

The popular rise of artificial intelligence, which I feel we should all just admit is not “AI”, has given rise to something awesome: widespread, boarder-line irrational anger. I can appreciate this because I both do not care, and find it hugely entertaining. I guess there’s AI out there where you tell it something like “creepy Victorian child who is frail but also a Dyson vacuum cleaner in the style of Harry Clarke” and it goes out to whatever image collection and language interpretation database it has been trained on and a machine learning language engine algorithm spits out a drawing for you. Let it be known I do not know any of the proper terms, I skip those paragraphs, they’re boring.

Some people do the prompt crafting and enter the result in art competitions, and win. A that causes internet fights.

The argument is usually between a side that says “you didn’t produce this art, it’s not your work, you should not have been allowed into our competition” and the other which says “I had to come up with an idea, and then I had to carefully craft my instructions to the AI to get this image, I made it, it’s art.” Maybe they say they tweaked it some in photoshop. This opposition is great ‘cause someone, eventually, always mentions assistants.

Is this really a Rembrandt or did van Rijn just sign the work of one of his apprentices? Is this really a Koons or did he and the gallerist just get to cash the check? And it gets to be so wild because the fine art market and it’s participants made their choice centuries before Warhol’s factory made it acceptable to talk about, and now all the paint-spattered, charcoal-smeared, my-hand-feels-like-numb-claw, lower-caste artists are solidly rejecting that position. And it’s like, it’s not your fault, but you’re the reason big names in the fine art community even exist. Withhold your artistic labor, your technical skill, and the big names will collapse.

The proletariat doesn’t just own the means of production, they are the means of production.

And people know, but it doesn’t matter because even if 99.99% of the anonymous working artists out there went on strike, a couple hundred people are sure to be willing to bet that this is their chance to transition from nameless assistant to name on the shingle. That could be true to, if they’ve been careful about swiping phone numbers. Seriously, like having the right number is a fine art fundamental. But none of that’s knew.

And not all the threads last long enough to make it to the obvious. When they do though it’s amazing cause you can practically witness both sides just silently mouthing “well… fuck.” See, my position is just make it. Produce. That’s the opposite of consumer culture, producer culture. Like the good stuff that the world is better as a result of, the secret stuff that is created under compulsion because you have to, the terrible stuff that you gotta get out of the way before you get to the real stuff.

Support Can Be Literally a Few Crumpled Bills

You should support the arts. You should support artists. You should support people who aspire to be but are too meek to claim to be artists. No I don’t mean me. I mean the homemakers at the local arts council. The teens and no-bodies on Etsy. You should go to the craft-sale day of the annual carrot harvest festival two towns over and buy that 5×7″ watercolor of the old mill. You should shell out for a caricature from that lady way down at the empty end of the street fair, the one who looks like she’s trying to disappear between her own shoulders. And by you, I mean all of us.

I have never regretted buying something from the person responsible for its existence. I have regretted being the person who is responsible for somethings existence.

This is the story of that regret. It’s been a long enough time and I’ve moved around enough that I’m sure this wont identify anyone unless they somehow come upon it and out themselves. A gig I had a long time ago was working as a photographers assistant. Film was still more common than digital then so I mostly ran and kept film backs loaded during weddings then stayed up all night processing film so it’d be ready to go for the real photographer in the morning.

Every now and then the photographer would get a call from someone with next to no budget or a couple hundred dollars and a city-hall ceremony. Some of those calls would lead to me shooting a roll or two and eventually providing some very school-picture-day quality prints. I’d get some “practice”, a few dollars, and a bunch of admonitions of the “what you should have done…” type. If that’s an apprenticeship, it’s a wonder anyone ever becomes a professional.

I got called off once for a job that was on the calendar Friday, and canceled the Saturday before the Sunday ceremony. That never happened. Cancellations happened, sure, but with weeks or more of notice and even then security deposits being non-refundable made them rare. With nothing to do Sunday, I tried doing some shot-from-the-waist street photography Saturday with the understanding that I could use the darkroom to proof and print the next day because the place was always closed Sundays.

Sunday morning and I’m mixing up some D76 when I hear a pounding. The place was a camera shop, when those were still not such a rare thing. The photographer sold cameras, ran a lab, and shot weddings and portraits all out of a narrow storefront that barely had a window big enough for a cap and gown draped on a chair. I went in the back door from the alley, because I didn’t have a key for the front and was told to keep the lights off and “look closed” whenever I was there alone. Banging turned to screaming, like bloody murder screaming and I peeked through the curtain to the front, half expecting the place to be on fire. A tiny woman who looked about a hundred and twenty years old and dead for the last two was beating on the door. And that’s how I got roped into shooting the canceled wedding.

Grandma drove me to a big white farmhouse at a speed that I think was probably faster than any ambulance I’ve ever been in. There was a field full of cars, a crowd of people in front of the house, and just like a very tasteful arrangement in the back. All classic white chairs and a rose covered arbor that put commercial wedding venues to shame. It was perfect, if you could tune out the farm smell. Everyone there seemed either on the edge of violence or sincerely relieved when we pulled in. Grandma gave some of the angry young men orders and disappeared into the house. People were seated, some kind of vaguely martial operatic organ music started blasting, and I did my best to pretend I knew what I was doing.

I really felt good for a while, like I was accomplishing something. Then I learned why this had been canceled so suddenly. The officiant said a lot of stuff, the only bit I remember, and I’m paraphrasing, was about the couple’s sacred duty to secure the existence of our people and a future for their white children. So yeah. Did Nazi that coming. I should have found a way to leave, even if it meant just walking until I was out of there. I should have opened the camera and pulled out all the exposures I had made to un-make them. I should have done anything other than what I did do which was to just carry on. When I don’t know how to react, I just don’t, react.

I shot the ceremony. I shot the wedding party. The couple, the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and families. I stayed and shot the cake, the first dances, all of it. Then three different people gave me envelopes of cash and an absolutely jacked teenager in work boots and red suspenders drove me back to the shop. I dropped the film at a drugstore and went back afterwards to order enlargements and additional prints to be mailed to the address on the thank you note that I found in one of the envelopes. I couldn’t not do that, I had every reason to literally take the money and run under the “it’s okay to punch Nazi’s” law. I however, am completely spine-free.

Two of the envelopes I was passed had $2000 each and the other had another $1000 but all in odd bills, as if it was filled by a passing hat. The thank you note was in one of the big envelopes and it was very normal. Their money paid for their processing and prints. Everything that was left, I should have donated or something, but I didn’t know how to do that. I should say I couldn’t spend it, that it was tainted. The truth is if I had needed the money right then, I would have spent it. I carried it around for a few weeks and then I had an incident and lost it, or spent it, or had it stolen. I don’t remember what happened to it. It would have been very useful when I got back out of the hospital.

When I was stable again, and in another new town, I decided I’d spend double that money creating something good to cancel out the karmic debt. Some thing awful existed because of me, so now, something beautiful needed to as well. I bought folksy watercolors tentatively daubed on the worst paper ever. I commissioned portraits from people who didn’t know what to charge, and paid them too much. I know it doesn’t undo anything I made that Sunday. I know it’s nothing to those hateful people.

Abandon Fine Art Photography, Be a Photo Operator!

I’m thinking about photography more than normal lately, an upcoming post should explain why, and when I think about things I have to read about them. It’s a coping mechanism to help keep loud things quiet. Now, I’m reading Photography After Capitalism, and you should too, it’s great. Don’t get me wrong, like everything in the genera parts of it read like randomly generated postmodern nonsense. Fortunately, most of it is just very dynamic and original.

One section early on talks about Francis Hodgson and a distinction he draws between photographers and what he’s termed photo operators. It’s a method of addressing the photograph as art debate. I love it. The thing is though, I think there are only photo operators. Photographers are a popular delusion of the fine art market, everything making photographs is a photo operator and it’s simple and beautiful.

Like, Earthrise, is an amazing photograph. Is it art? Is William Anders a photographer because of it? Terry Richardson was an anointed photographer, now he’s just another Harvey Weinstein with a shorter (for now) list and literally indistinguishable from any amateur pornographer on the web. How about that random lady Vivian Maier? Well, how badly do you want to see some arty people fight? Ask them! Ever see one of those one-in-a-million shots where a bird blocks the number plate on a speed-trap or red-light camera? Is something like that a great photo, or would it be if a person took it?

The answer to all those questions, is simple, it doesn’t matter. All those photos exist because of photo operators.

Found Audio Three

Panasonic released microcassets four to a set in a plastic case that was nominally the size of a standard cassette case, though thinner. The four here appear to be recordings of the proceedings of the board of the Yuma Venture RV Park, Yuma Arizona in the Southwest United States. For a place with RV in their name, their lone photo on Google maps shows only trailer homes. The first three tapes date to November 11th 1998 and are recorded on side A only. The final tape is marked in faded pencil with the date March 10th 1999. It’s a strange window into the goings on in a particular type of community just before the turn of the century. There’s something to be read into a man relaying the same anecdote about a pavement seal-coater in two meetings almost four months apart; something about the pace of life perhaps or what it takes for something to rise to the status of a 3.

11 November 1998 #1
11 November 1998 #2
11 November 1998 #3
10 March 1999 Side A
10 March 1999 Side B

I wonder how much of this sort of thing exists out there in the world, sitting in boxes slowly shedding magnetic oxides. The digital dark age has probably put more of this sort of thing out there, everyone has a voice recorder in their pocket these days. Sadly, no one’s selling access to used Google Drives, iClouds, or OneDrives that I know of.