Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories

Despite my love of technology, you just can’t beat a pencil for writing. I have tried every stylus-like device in the last two decades, from Palm Pilots to Newtons to Motion Computing tablets to Wacom tablets to the Apple Pencil (which is the best of all of them.)

They still don’t beat the feel and ease of use of a good old-fashioned pencil. The sound it makes as it moves across the page. The feel of the graphite against paper is very satisfying. There is a reason modern pencils have been around for over 200 years.

I switched to mechanical pencils years ago (my current favorite is this one) and still write with one in a Moleskine notebook for taking notes in meetings, gathering my thoughts or making lists.

Until I read this great piece in the New York Times magazine, looking inside one of the last pencil factories in America, I had no idea how they were made. There is some gorgeous photography of the manufacturing process as well. Ultimately I am sure the end of the pencil will come, but not just yet it seems.

How Star Wars Was Saved in The Edit

One of my favorite screenwriters to follow is Ken Levine. He has had an amazing career in television and features writing for MASH and Cheers among many others, as well as directing.

He has great comedy chops and I always learn something from his posts. (He is also a professional sports announcer, so his talent apparently know no bounds. Sickening.)

He came across a fascinating 18 minute YouTube video on how poor the pacing and story telling were in the original rough cut of Star Wars and how much impact Lucas’ editors had in getting us to the final cut we know and love. (At least the final original theatrical cut. Lucas likes to tinker.)

If you are interested in story-telling and getting a better appreciation for the importance of editing, it’s well worth the time.

Scripto, The App That Stephen Colbert Helped To Build

I’ve been a Final Draft user for more than a decade and am pretty familiar with the writing tools available for screenwriting but I had never heard of Scripto until I saw this New Yorker article.

Stephen Colbert and one of his writers, Rob Dubbin, (who likes to code on the side) spent a year tinkering with a new collaborative writing tool suitable for late night comedy news shows like their own. After a year it was in production use on their show and today it’s being used by a host of other shows too.

It’s not designed to be a competitor to something like Final Draft as it is geared not just for collaborative environments but also live (or live to tape) television production (feeding TelePrompTers etc.)

I had also never heard of what sounds like an antiquated piece of software from the AP called ENPS which is apparently used by hundreds of newsrooms. (To be fair given that it was designed around more traditional newsrooms it may work well in that use case and just be ill-suited to the different environment of late night news comedy. On the other hand, while the AP is a fine news organization, it isn’t exactly where I would think to go for cutting edge software or UX, so there’s that.)

There is not a lot of information in this short article but I did find what appears to be the Scripto web site. Clearly going for the minimalist approach there. I am fascinated by this product now and want to know more about how it’s built (it appears to be browser-based), what its features are and how much it costs.

Of course I am not a late night comedy news show. I don’t even play one on television. So I am not in the target market. But the whole project sounds cool.