The Pencil Effect

There follows a brief, shouty prologue:

It’s a bit of a crappy day all round for everybody. I thought I’d try and distract myself from inaccurate ABC “docudramas” by posting something. Do we really need a docudrama when a third of the country still doesn’t have the facts sorted out in all these five years and still thinks Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11? When Mr. Bush said today that he “will never forget the lessons of 9/11”, does anyone know, did anyone ask him if he knows what these lessons are?


Today I have no use for punctuation although it may use me like a, poor; ragged! wre(:)tche’d, th”ing? what with it being a definite set of accepted rules and me being just a housewife. Life is hardly fair though.

I’ve cannibalized today’s post from a comment I left over at my friend Latigo Flint’s (see sidebar for a link to his excellent site) place. It’s a bit lazy, I’ll admit but today’s allotted blog time was spent mostly in catching up with my ever-growing number of blog reads (most, but not all of whom are also on the sidebar – will fix that soon) and trying to locate an old Hilda Boswell book for the girls on Alibris. That, and I’m a distracted, lazy moo at a low ebb.

If I could link to the post that begat this without WordPress underlining my whole site, I would, but apparantly I’m too stupid. As ever though, see my sidebar for the link there. Latigo told a tale of a lonesome Starbucks patron who was “simulating the entire upcoming professional football season with these team pencils and a quarter.”

I considered this irresponsible for the following reason:

– So read now then gentles, the most poorly punctuated and magnificently indifferent run-on sentence you are likely to read today unless you go to –

One man flipping a pencil in an LA Starbucks might well effectuate a series of tiny air gusts that could eventually tip the balance of probabilities and provide just enough puff to cause a ball to sail over a bar somewhere in Denver field while the crowd goes wild and a daddy, let’s call him Olaf, forgets to pick up the children in his glee and the victorious camaraderie all around him, and the two children instead are picked up by a pervert, lets call him Edward and one child being so sensitive to the horrors of this world will lose his mind in the car on their way to the pervert’s house because of two or three strong black hairs he can see curling from the pervert’s nose which repels him such that he cannot breathe and so doesn’t and dies, and his sister in her rage and grief stabs the pervert with a unicorn from Target and goes on to lead a succesful yet haunted life in, spookily, the pencil business; the pervert with the sticky, drippy unicorn in his neck turning out to be the children’s real father after all, sent by their mother to collect them so they could escape the arsehole tyrant Olaf and go to live in Vermont where the schools are better and the light has a strange quality; the same man and Edward who, in a sickeningly ironic twist, was the top man in unicorns at Mattel and a person of gentleness and pleasant manners and not a pervert at all, apart from the unicorn thing.

Who can say?

It’s called the Pencil Effect* and little understood, save for the tragedy it almost always causes. It’s why I use pens.

(*This is an utterly real, actual Effect, mind you, similar to it’s more famous Butterfly cousin but no less portentious and awesome. And awful. It’s in books and everything.)

30 thoughts on “The Pencil Effect”

  1. PCB…just for clarification sake…does this also include mechanical pencils…you know, the kind where you push a button and the lead appears only to break repeatedly so as to render said “pencil” useless?

  2. Joel, no because they are so rubbish I’ve decided to refuse to believe such “mechanical pencils” exist. Phfoo! And it’s to do with the energy in the wood of pencils from trees cut down before their time. Much like rotating a magnet in an electric field, if you rotate such a pencil-born-of-the-very-living-earth in an area rich in coffee aromas, mysterious pulses of wenergy (wood energy) go pulsing off to mess with people’s garage door openers and alter the course of football games. And lives. And always with devastating effect.

  3. Amandarama, welcome! I didn’t realize I had a comment in moderation ’til a minute ago. An excellent question. Latigo covered something similar a while back about all the unicorns being drowned in a lake. I think he’s full of it. All the evidence points to giant European settlers killing them all and inventing the first North American fair-food-on-a-stick. Of course the settlers have shrunk since then but that doesn’t bring the unicorns back, does it? Who’s crying now, eh? The children, that’s who! Appalled at the brutality of their barbarian forefathers. Latigo’s a great guy and all but I don’t think he’s going to get very far peddling these snake-oil ideas that it was ponds and a lack of qualified life-guards that did for the unicorns. He’ll be saying it was a meteor which hit Earth millions of years ago, darkening out the sun, and causing mass extinctions next. He’s a loon.

  4. Hi PCB,

    Was it a talking Unicorn? (I like them too.)

    There is some scientific basis to this “Pencil Effect!” Did you know graphite pencils may be the clue that finally leads to complete understanding and utilisation of Quantum Physics?

    Here’s a little quote from one such site

    “Albert Einstein, Paul Dirac and other founding physicists may have used pencils to work out the details of relativity and quantum mechanics. Now their modern successors are employing pencil lead in a new way to prove those theories–and potentially point the way toward a whole new form of electronics.”

    More here –

    Scary isn’t it. Amazing what can be done just with a pencil!

    At least if the guy was using pencils with built in rubbers we might not have to worry about the buggers breeding and getting out of control!

    Mind you if they team up with Dominoes the combined effect could spell the end! :)

    One sentence or a life sentence? Deep philosophical questions again!

  5. PS.

    I’m 53, currently being treated for depression (Prozac – love it/hate it) , based near Perth, Scotland although my ISP is based in South of England.
    Sorry, don’t have a blog. Will think about it.

    In the meantime if you are curious to know a bit more about me just email and I’ll answer, it would take too long a comment to fill in the details and might divert people from a brilliant post.

  6. the lesson of 9/11 is that americans write the date the wrong way round. the shortest time period conventially comes first. as in 20mins past seven in the morning of the 15th of october 1923 Ad. You can’t switch them, it doesn’t sound good. October morning AD twenty minutes past 1923 the 15th.

  7. My favourite story related to this is:

    During the space race back in the 1960’s, NASA was faced with a major problem. The astronaut needed a pen that would write in the vacuum of space. NASA went to work. At a cost of $1.5 million they developed the “Astronaut Pen”. Some of you may remember. It enjoyed minor success on the commercial market.

    The Russians were faced with the same dilemma.

    They used a pencil.

  8. I was just scan reading, and it sounded like the plot for a mobile phone ad.
    But then I don’t get ads these days, they lost me after they did away with the Oxo Mum.

    Where in the Outer Hebrides? My piano teacher is from Stornoway. BTW McGowan’s Toffee is going bust, along with Airfix. It’s life over here, but not as we knew it.

  9. Tattieheid, the unicorn was talking, yes, it was. It (they are bisexual (?) No dually sexed. Or something. No boys and girls is what I mean) sang “I love to skip on the moonbeams! With a hey and a hi and a bleuuurgle!” as it pierced Edwards honest neck. I’ll have to have a look through my admin. moderation stuff for your email address but I shall certainly be in touch as soon as I have time to formulate a decent letter to you. Of course, I could send you an indecent letter from my immoderation stuff but I might terrify you away from Blogland forever and I don’t want to do that. This maybe the wild wild internet but we bloggers are not always banging on about sex, you know. Usually. Sorry to hear about your troubles with the old noggin. Very, very crappy. Hope you’re doing all right these days :)

    Crankmama, welcome! Thanks for visiting. Not “gifted, gifted” at all, i’m afraid. More “presented, presented” as in “She presented with a severe case of verbal diarrhea and it looks bad. Vital signs are there but her body is rejecting all the medication we’ve given her and her eyebrows appear to be rotating of their own accord. For some truly gifted writers check out some of the people on my sidebar – every voice impossibly unique. You’ll be absorbed for days. But come back and visit me too! I’ll give you free stuff!

    Helga, I hadn’t thought of it that way. You’re right, of course. No schoolchild would ever remember important dates for tests like 1066 or 1776 or 1789 if they had to first absorb things like “Just after tea on a Wednesday” or “PreIceAgeVIII” or “Modern Age of Man, 16:20hours, Christmas Day.

    Kim, did they take a rubber too? That’s an eraser to you Americans. Sheesh! Filthy minds the lot of you!

    Ah, the notorious Kendal Pencil Factory. I remember it well on account of its Massacre of the same name. It was sun-up, ten past three, in the year of our Lord a-while-back (see Helga’s right!), wasn’t it? terrible business. However, I hear the town rallied with a rather popular mint-cake, didn’t it?

    Apprentice, thanks for stopping by, you are most welcome here. I’m from Stornoway too! Grand Metropolis of the North and West a bit! The McGowan’s Toffee news is a shock. I think I ate as much of the wee Highland cow wrapper as I ever did the toffee when I was wee, trying to sook it out of its wrapping, melted as it usually was to the sweetie after being in my hot little hand all the way from the shop to home. Heaven for 10p were these toffees. That’s sad. I can’t remember Airfix though. I ws really sad when they stopped making Montego biscuits and Cabana chocolate bars with the coconut and the toffe and the cherry in the middle. Bah! Progress! I shake my fist at it. As should we all when the sweeties of our youth succumb to its faceless onward march.

  10. Do know something? I can barely write anymore, either using a pen or pencil. The other day I had to write some notes by hand and I swear I gripped the pen like it was a thistle covered paintbrush. All ths typing has made my already appalling handwriting even worse…and that’s saying something. Chemists and GPs could study it and shiver at how legible theirs is in comparison.

  11. So PCB…sorry to be the maroon here but back to the pencils for a moment if you don’t mind…are we to fear all pencils then? For example: Are no. 2 pencils as evil as the no. 4s? And what of the colored pencils used for drawing? Perhaps it’s not the pencil at all but the flipping motion employed by the man in Starbucks? Enquiring minds want to know…also need to know if it continues to be necessary to quarentine all pencil-like writing instruments in the locked drawer they now reside…I’m sensing they’re growing cranky and restless and are wanting to be placed back in the pencil cup atop my desk. Please advise.

  12. Past the “crappy sad” stage, coming through the “now what” stage (who am I, what do I want, where am I going, do I have to?) and slowly starting to deal with the practicalities of day to day living. Welcome to the realities of life I suppose. :)

    I’m ok actually and that’s a nice thought. Your letter will be worth the wait. :)

  13. Joel has a very good question.

    Just to add to it slightly, is a sharp pencil more dangerous than a blunt one? Will it alter the dimensions of the “air gusts” and therefore the final outcome?

    Deep questions! :)

  14. Just to add to it slightly, is a sharp pencil more dangerous than a blunt one? Will it alter the dimensions of the ?air gusts? and therefore the final outcome?

    And what if said gusts of air carry splinters of pencil shavings? Surely then, the end is ultimately nigh?

  15. Fmc, I have shocking handwriting too. It looks like a drunken midge bit a squid and attempted a sobriety-test walk over a piece of paper, having been pulled over for erratic flying and not using his indicators. The main trouble is though is that it is tiny and nobody can read it. I swear the only reason I did well in exams because the examiners just couldn’t take the squinting at the reams of dense little paragraphs stretching before them and besisdes they were out of aspirin. Far simpler just to give me a good mark in case I had actually written something of value, or indeed correctness. But I think it’s ‘cos I’m Scottish – we’re a thrifty race, after all. With my tiny letters I might just be subliminally preserving ink and paper in obeyance of a deeper hoarding instinct evolved to protect against lean times.

    Joel, no, but I commend you on your questioning mind. It matters little what darkness the lead is. I is all in the wood, the wood. Heartwood taken from an ancient stand of trees who once whispered the secrets of the fairy folk, but were cruelly cut down to provide we wretched species of mistake-makers with the conveniently erasable means to do crosswords and Sudokus, is the most potent of all, especially when combined with the aroma of a Columbian dark roast. Compasses in the vicinity of such a tossed pencil have been know to reel wildly around and become unreliable indicators of true North; passing crones have become suddenly pregnant; nearby tables have flung themselves clear across rooms; and ,most telling of all, the Starbucks coffee machine has gone inexplicably on the blink.

    Tattieheid, m’darlin’, I’m glad the worst is over. Putting all the stuff back in place and figuring out a new way of life needn’t be a chore necessarily; it could be a great adventure! If that doesn’t sound like too much of a presumptious thing to say. I don’t know your circumstances, obviously, so feel free to tell me to buggroff with my preposteous suggestions if you like. But it could mark the start of a whole new chapter you hadn’t expected and a chance to rearrange things in a more comfortable way. Stop me when I start sounding like an episode of Changing Rooms, won’t you? Your question about sharpness is a good one. People of poor to moderate educational opportunities will be disproportionally affected by a blunt pencil, I believe. And people like Paris Hilton. Sharp pencils will affect busy and cruel executives more. And, you’re absolutely right – people come to problemchildbride for the deeper truths that the mainstream media just aren’t doing a good job of covering. They come to seek answers to life’s nagging questions (the deep ones). In fact, many identify themselves as Seekers Of A New Way. I do the best I can.

    Claire, the end is always nigh, it’s just a question of how close you think nigh is. Some people talk about it in terms of the great Eras and Ages (Triassic, Stone and so forth) and some people recko it’s next Thursday after the game. Pencil shavings though…hmm. Interesting point – the fragmenting of the wenergy… It would be interesting to see the figures on spontaneously combusting waste-paper baskets. I don’t have those in front of me right now.

  16. A sharp pencil is avowedly more dangerous. We had a child ( in hospital ) with tetanus from one.
    Sam I sympathise with any hand /finger problem. It is the one blight on my physical well-being and at present have to get MTL to do up my bra. Rage, rage away!

  17. I think the world is divided into two, those who have an interest or understanding of science (you are part of this group) and those who think science is impenetrable and totally boring (me). Maybe I was simply deeply scarred as a teenager, after my chemistry teacher Mr Bowman, expelled me from O level chemistry after giving me a D in my report with the one liner, “Emma shows a total disinterest in chemistry.” I don’t know where he got that idea from. So okay I did like to spin those things with the test tubes in round and round until the test tubes flew off, but, heck I was just experimenting. He felt deeply insulted by my lack of interest in chemistry because he had risen from a blue collar background, had worked in a bread factory for years and gone to night school to become a chemistry teacher. Sorry, but can you imagine a more paltry ambition??

    What I’m trying to say is, I don’t worry about the pencil effect because I don’t understand it. And you, too egg headed for your own good, do and therefore have reason to worry. Too much knowledge is dangerous, I reckon.

  18. Wax trails everywhere. Total meltdown if the world overheats. Potential colour prejudice. And what about all the bees melted down to make beeswax?

  19. Sam, I was going to launch into a dissertation on the evocative smells of pencil shavings when I couldn?t help but notice what a scene stealer Pat is turning into.

    ?I?d like to tell you about the pencil factory in Kendal but it?s rather boring? and she gets her bra fastened for her. I thought all women did. I live and learn.

    Re your love affair with my neurons, you better hurry because I?m killing them as fast as I can, It?s the West Coast way. I love your neurons too.

    Isn?t it funny that all your american readers will be putting a totally different meaning to the West Coast way, but ending up with basically the same answer.

    Luv ya,

    AHK Maroon.

  20. Filthy two timing wretch. I’m definitely going to turn my saucy attentions to someone else now. Perhaps some right wing blogger with a perchant for violence and partial nudity and MDF…yes, that’s right, MDF.

  21. Mentions of pencils in pop songs:

    You walk into the room/With your pencil in your hand

    – Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man

    Hot legs, keep my pencil sharp

    – Rod Stewart, Hot Legs

    Can’t think of any more.

  22. FMC!
    I can explain.
    I thought you were out celebrating Arsenal’s win with Paramour.
    I was drugged.
    Hello hello thees ees chineese laundry, no speakie eenglish here.
    There were rats. Big huge bastard rats! And LOBSTERS!
    MDF as in that wood stuff?
    I’m good with that. Can rattle up a bookshelf or two for you if you want.
    Email a picture of what you want and I’ll get right on it.
    Anything for you. You know that.

  23. Pat, ouchee!

    Randall, never worry hun. Hope it’s interesting work!

    Oh Emma, we must worry. But who will worry about the worriers? The fretters. And the lamenters will fret for them and so on until you find some wee old lady from the Western Isles with the weight of the whole world’s worry on her. Her name’s Murdina and she lives in Tolsta on a small pension and with a large cat.

    Fluffag, you’re a mother – you know what havoc crayons can wreak

    Tattieheid, instant runny honey. Tempting although that is I will go to my grave insinting that melting bees is barbarism and what’s more the wrong sort of barbarism.

    SafeT, it is your right as a free-thinking (very!) man of the early 21st century right to abhor punctuation punctiliousness.

    Doccie, AHK? Am I being especially thick? As it happens, today I think I am.

    Fmc, I only want an earlobe now and again. Once weekly perhaps. And besides, I’m no fool; I know I’m no match for your pretty ankles but we could sort out some sort of a Maroon-share programme. I’m busy on Tuesdays and, well that’s it. Tuesdays. Hmmph – will have to do something about that.

    Foots, I cower in the face of your pencil-as-metaphor-in-modern-pop-culture expertise. You are the master. Have you got anything with sharpeners? That astonishingly frank Rod Stewart line has just about ruined my evening. Blee!

    Doccie, my granny always used to tell me that no good can ever come of a phrase containing the words Chinese laundry, bastard rats and LOBSTERS! Especially when uttered by a fella, she added. Never mind the shelving though, the way to fmc’s heart is through her Manolos.

    Rob, bonfire night: “Remember, remember the 9th of November” No, there’s something wrong there. By the way I saw V for Vendetta the other night. Best film I’ve seen in ages. I think you’d like it.

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