[syndicated profile] contrapuntalism_feed

Posted by Sean

On the second page of the new Graf von Faber-Castell catalog there is an interesting image: a black version of the Perfect Pencil along with a black pocket pencil.


What’s more, considering the size of the lead this appears to be the magnum version of the Perfect Pencil:


This is the “anthracite” version, and according to the catalog it will be available this autumn. It has a PVD coating (physical vapor deposition) of titanium.

Along with the excitement and interest that accompanies the announcement of a new product, there is a sense of poignancy found in the first few pages of this catalog as well. All of the Graf von Faber-Castell catalogs, issued yearly from 1993, featured a photograph and a personal note from Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell—eighth in an unbroken line of Fabers and Faber-Castells, going back to 1761. With the Count’s passing in 2016, his son Charles assumed the mantle of the Graf von Faber-Castell line. This catalog, then, is the first without the familiar photograph of Count Anton.

The two-page message addresses the notion of change by alluding to the time when Baron Lothar von Faber took over the family firm in 1839. And rather than that time being one of instability, Lothar would go on to transform the company by producing much higher-quality products than his predecessor.

So in our own way and in our own time we are witnessing a change of era within writing culture, one whose kind hasn’t occurred since 1978, and worth pausing to consider.

Count-Faber-Castell-1Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell (1941-2016)

Filed under: Pencils Tagged: Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell, Graf von Faber-Castell, Perfect Pencil, Perfect Pencil Magnum
[syndicated profile] thegaygamer_feed

Posted by Bryan Ochalla

Sorry it's been so long (over a week!) since I last published a post. I can't even give you an explanation--or at least I can't give you a good one.

Of course, I was on the road for three days early in the week (my husband, cat and I made our way from Austin, Texas, to Madison, Wisconsin), but I've hardly run myself ragged in the last four or five.

Something I've managed to fit into my currently far-from-busy schedule: a bit of quality time with my trusty 3DS. Specifically, I've put a good number of minutes, if not hours, into the following demos and games:

Ever Oasis demo (3DS)--Of the four 3DS demos and games I'll discuss here, this is the one I've enjoyed the least. Which is a shame, as every aspect of the Ever Oasis demo is at least "nice."

I especially like the art style, although the character-switching gameplay is pretty appealing, too. The thing is, I didn't find the latter to be as appealing as I expected it to be before I started my way through the (disappointingly short) demo.

If I were forced to describe Ever Oasis' gameplay with a single word or phrase, I'd probably go with "by the numbers" as far as Secret of Mana-ish titles are concerned. Which is too bad, as I thought that component of the game would help set it apart from other action RPGs that've been released for the 3DS.

On a more positive note, I've read that after a slow start, Ever Oasis eventually hits its stride in impressive fashion, so my current plan is to find a way to pick up a copy of it by the end of the year.

Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (GameBoy)--Although I've been a fan of the original Kid Icarus since it was first released in North America back in 1987 (I even included it in my "10 Most Influential Games" series of blog posts), I've long avoided this 1991 sequel.

Why? The main reason is that it never looked very appealing to me. Playing a Kid Icarus game in black and white just seemed wrong to me after basking in the beautifully colorful--and weird--landscapes of the NES title. Plus, Pit's sprite here has always looked a little off to me.

After a Twitter friend recently heaped praise on Of Myths and Monsters, though, I decided to finally give it a go. And you know what? I've had a blast with it so far. I can't say I prefer this GameBoy game's sprawling stages to the comparably straightforward ones found in the NES offering, but I'm enjoying them all the same. A similar comment could be made about Of Myths and Monsters' soundtrack, which is acceptable but never approaches the brilliance of the Hirokazu Tanaka tracks that fill the original.

Still, I'm loving this handheld Kid Icarus overall--to the point where I'm now hitting myself for giving it the cold shoulder for so long.

Metroid II (GameBoy)--Here's another portable sequel to a console classic I'm only now playing for the first time. Again, that fact boggles my mind as much as it probably does yours. After all, I was obsessed with both the original Metroid and Super Metroid for the SNES as a youngster (beating both multiple times, I should add).

Unlike Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, I can't say I've avoided Metroid II because of what I considered to be below-par graphics. In fact, I've always thought Metroid II looked pretty awesome. Regardless, I dragged my feet on playing it until late last week.

So far, I think it's a better game than Of Myths and Monsters. Although Metroid II is a black-and-white affair, it still feels like a visual upgrade to its NES-based predecessor--something that can't be said of Kid Icarus' GameBoy follow-up. Also, I love the way Metroid II twists the gameplay of the first Metroid and Super Metroid just enough to make it feel unique. (I'm talking about this game's "track down and kill X number of Metroids" focus, of course.)

Despite the above, I'm not entirely convinced I'll stick with Metroid II until its end credits, but I'll certainly do my best to finish it.

Miitopia demo (3DS)--After reading a few impressions of the Japanese version of Miitopia, I fully expected to dislike this Tomodachi Life-esque RPG--to the point that I canceled my pre-order for the North American release. After putting nearly three hours into the demo that just hit my region's eShop, though, I'm back aboard the Miitopia hype train.

Chiefly responsible for that change of heart: the aspects I thought I'd hate--no real overworld to explore, battles that are mostly hands-off--don't bother me at all. Hell, I actually find these tweaks refreshing after playing a number of overly traditional RPGs in the last year or so. On top of that, Miitopia sports a surprisingly bold art style, a soundtrack that's more charming than it has any right to be and a gloriously subtle sense of humor. I've heard the full game isn't overly long, but that's OK with me--especially if it ends up being a short-but-sweet experience.

Have you played any of these games or demos? If so, share your thoughts on them in the comments section below.

See also: previous 'Shall We Do It?' posts

The Alpheus Music Writer

Jun. 17th, 2017 03:42 am
[syndicated profile] contrapuntalism_feed

Posted by Sean


For Percival it was the Holy Grail; Dr. Kimble, the one-armed man. For Ponce de Leon? To find the Fountain of Youth; for Cantor, to map the Continuum.

Me? The Alpheus Music Writer.


Alpheus Music of Hollywood, California, was in part a supply store for music copyists. Prior to the desktop-publishing revolution, composers and arrangers of every sort could buy manuscript paper, ink, dip pens, straight edges, templates, and everything else a musician might need for their parts, charts, and scores. There was also a store-branded pencil called the Music Writer, reputedly a favorite among many composers and arrangers, including Leonard Bernstein.

Bernstein with Alpheus Pencils©BBC 1984

In the following photo of Bernstein’s pencils (or “little soldiers” as he called them) you can see mixed in with the Eberhard Faber Blackwing stubs several Music Writers as well:

LBPencilsPhoto: Bernstein Estate

Alpheus Music would eventually close its doors, and so too the silver Music Writer slipped slowly beneath the waves. I haven’t any idea how many there might still be tucked away in boxes and desk drawers, so I feel very fortunate to have these three:


As you can see, the finish isn’t very smooth and the ends of the pencils seem roughly cut. In fact the color and feel of the pencils reminds me a little of the Musgrave 100 Test Scoring Pencil, which leads me to admit that I don’t (yet) know who manufactured these pencils for Alpheus Music. But there’s a coda to this story.

A music copyist who worked for Cameo Music, Judy Green, eventually became one of the owners of Alpheus Music. By 1980 she started her own music copying company, called Judy Green Music, and offered a pencil called the Judy Green Music Writer.


Judy Green passed away in 2007, but Judy Green Music still provides music copying supplies under the aegis of All-Print U.S.A. This successor to the Alpheus pencil is a very smooth writer and has a thick lead which, again, is similar to the Musgrave 100 Test Scorer. Are they the same? I don’t know. But until Faber-Castell relents and gives my proposal for a new music pencil a try¹ (or at least lets me order a bunch for myself²) …

SonataMockUp1(This isn’t an actual product)

… pencils like the Alpheus Music Writer and the Aztec Scoremaster 101 will remain reminders of a bygone era.

Thanks to George for the Music Writers!

¹ Kidding.

² Not kidding so much.

Filed under: Pencils Tagged: Alpheus Music Writer, Blackwing 602, Eberhard Faber Blackwing, Judy Green, Judy Green Music, Leonard Bernstein

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