Tuesday, January 18, 2011


As Shakespeare noted in Twelfth Night, "some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them." Still others--well, one, anyway--have their greatness writ large with an even greater writing instrument, a pen of epic proportion, and that's Jim Woodring. Don't get me wrong; Jim is well-known for his visionary cartoons, but something about this mighty pen--a gorgeous, perfectly balanced seven foot dip pen with an ornate brass-plated nib that Jim painstakingly designed--has fired imaginations far and wide. Its initial unveiling at the Gage Academy of Art was attended by hundreds of eager fans and curious gawkers, shifty artists and pantaloons and cutpurses who jockeyed for position as if this were a piece of the true cross--and some were even so lucky as to hoist the pen themselves and attempt to make their mark. It wasn't easy. At first, even Jim had a hard time wielding the implement and he cursed the fluid dynamics calculations provided by the scientists, grumbling that this was a failure, that all was lost, but then he took another tack and the viscosity was adjusted and the pen performed admirably. The crowd hushed and then cheered. Outside, horses stamped and whinnied. As if on cue, it started to snow. Since that Sunday afternoon, the pen has been written up in all the local fishwraps and venerable blogs, and everywhere from Boing! Boing! to The Economist. Yes, The Economist. To my knowledge, this is the first time the arcane art of pen and ink--not to mention a giant pen--has graced the pages of that austere publication. I imagine a good portion of their readership squinted and harrumphed at the audacity of such whimsy sandwiched between their serious articles on geo-politics and high finance, but who knows? Maybe it tightened up their wigs. (To read their version of events, click here) In any event, the Nibbus Maximus has captured the hearts and minds of all good people, and it will undoubtedly prevail against the doubters just as it would against all giants and windmills that might be giants. Calamus Gladio Fortior.

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