Friday, July 23, 2010

David Rees's Artisanal Pencil Sharpening

[Editor's note: It is super-duper hard to write an entire piece about a pencil sharpening business without devolving into puns. Any usage is inevitable and completely unintentional.]

Political cartoonist David Rees had already been high in the running for the Award for Funniest People Alive in Rob's Opinion when he masterminded the brilliant "Get Your War On" during the reign of W. His latest brain child may have just put him over the top of that most-prestigious (in my apartment) heap.
Rees is now offering a service he's calling "Artisanal Pencil Sharpening", a service for which he charges $12.50 per pencil.

Via the site:

"REACQUAINT YOURSELF WITH THE PLEASURES OF A HAND-SHARPENED PENCIL. In New York's Hudson River Valley, craftsman David Rees still practices the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening. His artisanal service is perfect for artists, writers, and standardized test takers. Shipped with their shavings and a "certificate of sharpening," these extra-sharp pencils make wonderful gifts.

Traditionally people mail in their pencils to be sharpened; however David now offers a new service: He will provide the pencil.

Rees has now undertaken a Facebook campaign in support of his appearing on the David Letterman Show for a live pencil sharpening demonstration. I just became the 132nd person to "like" this. I suggest you become the 133rd.
I hope he makes gobs of money from this and I suspect he will too. It's just genius enough to work. My prediction: a glut of imitators when this thing goes crazy as I suspect it will. In college, my best friend Cha was evangelical about "Get Your War On" and introduced me to Rees' comic stylings. I know we aren't the only ones. I don't have any hard and fast data to support this, but my hunch is that he's got mad support amongst white liberal males.
"Just because something makes you smile or laugh ... doesn't mean it's a joke," quotes Rees, and he's right. At its core this isn't a joke. Rees is a working man in an increasingly brutal industry. "Red Meat" author Max Cannon described the situation on the ground for political cartoonists in a piece entitled, "The Alternative Comics Apocalypse Has Begun". Like schools slashing art and music during the first signs of trouble, struggling alternative weekly newspapers have summarily dropped long-running comics one after the other. My former employer, the Ukiah Daily Journal, dropped its comics section in favor of free alternatives of which no one had ever heard. (Not that they ever had anything as cool as "Red Meat" or "Get Your War On". It was more like "Family Circus" and "Hagar the Horrible", but the point remains.)
In the age where we routinely expect our most beloved media to be free and accessible instantly and all the time, Rees' pencil sharpening business points out that if we indulge in artistic output, we have to make an effort to support the expert craftsmanship behind it while we still can.

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