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The best…

I think it was this article about the best mechanical pencil that sent me over the edge.

The best pencil. The best. Pencil.

WHAT?

It’s a PENCIL. IT IS A PENCIL. I suppose this is the part where I say, “We’ve been using pencils for zillions of years, and they were just fine.” And really, it’s true. I do feel that way. A yellow six-sided pencil can do virtually any writing task. Need something pointier? A mechanical pencil is great. Click, click, click.

But why am I railing against pencils? Because in all this bloviating about what’s a “better” pencil/car/coffee/lightbulb/framework/messenger bag/cell phone/whatever, we’re losing sight of why we have these things in the first place. The goalposts have moved. Instead of being a good writer or artist or drafter, we just get the best pencil.

“But this pencil really helps me do my work better!”

Bullshit. Well, ok, maybe not bullshit. Maybe it does. But if you need a different brand of pencil to make your work better, your work probably sucks. If you can’t do what you do with a cheap mechanical pencil, I’m going to go right out on this limb and say that you’re not good enough at what you do. Most of the world’s best writing, art, and design was done by tools we now consider primitive. That’s right, as little as thirty years ago, if we were lucky enough to have a typewriter at home, it was probably not electric. Did the ancient Greeks need a particular mechanical pencil to design the Temple of Concordia? There were only 100 million people on the WHOLE PLANET at that time, and most of them couldn’t read, much less design these feats of engineering.

And you need to compare pencils?

Buy yarn and fabric, and make things. Buy mason jars, and put things in them. When new, truly new innovations emerge (I’m talking about home 3D printers, not new pencils), try them! But this unnecessary commercialization and incremental hoo hah development that make things “better” is simply pathetic. It’s a trick, to get you to argue about pencils (whoo hoo! More page views!), and to separate you from your resources.

That doesn’t mean we should ignore aesthetic improvements to our world. But remember, that new computer you just bought, it was designed with an old computer.