Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Globalizing Stylus -- The Cristal Bic

Normally, I have an aversion to ballpoint pens. As I am heavy-handed when I write, I found that ballpoint tends to skip when writing quickly. However after watching the documentary Design (which is available for rent via Netflix), I felt I had misjudged such a revolutionary item.

One thing that really amazes me is that this single pen, with a virtually unchanged design, allowed people from across the globe to write in ink with the same instrument. Before this, writing with a dip pen required you to learn up stokes and down strokes in order to write without splattering or breaking the nib. A dip pen would never work comfortably for writing Japanese characters. Because the ink is guided by a ball and not a point, it can write in any direction without any troubles.

Why they ever made the Bic pens with white casing, I will never know, as they are aesthetically boring. The clear plastic lets one see how much ink is left in the pen, and looks much more modern and sleek.

While I am still a fan of the gel and roller ball, I do think the Cristal Bic was the item that allowed everyone to write with the same instrument. It brings us together, and reminds me of a quote by Andy Warhol.

"What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it..........."
— Andy Warhol

Okay, maybe not everyone normally writes with the Cristal Bic, but they probably have at one time. I know that I hand this instrument to someone in Japan, he or she will be able to use the pen to write just as easily as I.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mad Men

I just started watching Mad Men, and what an excellent show! It's a magnificent pastiche of mid-century New York with beautiful clothing, furniture, and flawless hair. After only three episodes, it has become my new favorite show. The open sequence is beautifully done, with silhouetted graphics that may remind you of two of my other favorites that take place around the same time period, Vertigo and Catch Me If You Can.

However, I did notice an anachronism in episode three of the first season. The firm is trying to drum up business for a New York department store called Menken's. Don Draper decides to drop by the building, giving us an excellent shot of the store logo etched in glass.

I'm sure it was inspired by handwritten logos of stores with similar price points like Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus.

After a second glance, I realized that this was not a handwritten logo. Most of you know I have an aversion of fonts that mimic handwriting; this font would not be available for another thirty-six years. To be sure, I looked it up at FontShop, and sure enough, it was Cezanne.

It's too bad they just didn't use someone's signature, as that would have been a simple solution. Oh, well, I still love the show and look forward to catching up to the current season.