Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A little to relish our Condition, from Robinson Crusoe

When you find yourself confronted with any kind of troubling or critical situation that plunges you into a state of despondency, it might help you to consult Robinson Crusoe's method of self-comfort, as he scribbled in his journal shortly after being stranded on the isle, and apply the method to your own private pickle. 

Thus, there is scarce any condition in the world so miserable but there is something negative or something positive to be thankful for it.

from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Monday, September 8, 2014

James Gillray's The King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver.

"My little friend Grildig, you have made a most admirable panegyric upon yourself and Country, but from what I can gather from your own relation & the answers I have with much pains wringed & extorted from you, I cannot but conclude you be one of the most pernicious, little odious-reptiles that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth-"

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Allegory of the Doughnuts


       In the following blog post, I would like to relate for my readers the details of a certain intense dream reverie I had the other night.  
     On the afternoon before the dream I was walking through my neighborhood and I passed the popular pastry seller Dunkin Donuts. Normally I take no notice of this purveyor of sweet rolls, and I am personally impartial towards these pastries. Yet Dunkin Donuts must have changed something about its interior design because as I looked abstractedly into its window I glimpsed a few seconds of a peculiar video being projected on a screen alongside the giant food menu.
          Though I saw it out of the corner of my eye, I was struck by one special quality of the video, the grandiose manner in which the doughnuts in the video were being be-sprinkled by slowly-falling confetti, or sugary snowflakes, or I know not exactly what, but they looked rather like sublime marshmallows covering the doughnuts.  In any case, later that night as I lay asleep I had the following dream.
          In the dream I beheld a heavenly realm that very much resembled the inside of my neighborhood Dunkin Donuts store, which was in the dream represented as a heaven wherein doughnuts of all classifications were the sole inhabitants. High amidst this ethereal canopy, fresh doughnuts were carried in on platters every morning from some location outside--- though no one truly knew wherefrom---and then laid out most precisely and reverentially upon their effulgent display cases. They were enthroned almost inaccessibly beneath glorious lights. Most magnificently they lounged upon the finest tissue paper, as if betwixt the angelical and human kind, like some sugary putti, while attended to and pampered zealously by a group of non-doughnut servants. 'Twas a hive of doughnut activity this place, or rather inactivity----no matter, 'twas a very hiving thing. In such state of sublime repose the little pastries  lived out the greater part of their existence.
          Notwithstanding the varieties of dainties to be found here--such as Glazed doughnuts, Chocolate doughnuts,  Strawberry Frosted doughnuts, Boston Kreme doughnuts, Glazed Chocolate or Blueberry Cake doughnuts, Old Fashioned doughnuts, among others--- notwithstanding the variations, I say, not one pastry was permitted to be treated differently than any other. All doughnuts were held to be equal in the eyes of their Creator, as was signified too by their relatively even pricing, as established by their caretakers. No doughnut hierarchy could exist here; each doughnut savoring the Holy Rest of the Almighty Creator in equal proportions.
          The little cakes were so worshipped by their caretakers that the strictest rules were enforced to protect them from suffering theft or any kind of soiling or defilement. And should any of these measures be even momentarily relaxed the heaviest consequences were held in store for the workers who violated the rules. Truly, the doughnuts were reaping the never-fading fruit of pure delight in this paradise.
          Yet the only chink in their armor was the fact of the human customers; whence arises the notion of doughnut mortality itself. In my vision I beheld as those human creatures who dropped by on regular basis would select one or more pastry, and after paying money, would leave the store with their sugary purchase. Alas, the doughnuts had no way of knowing what happened to them once they were thus transported away. As no reason or motive could be inferred from the customers' behavior that would explain, for example, why one person preferred a Powder doughnut while another  preferred Glazed, or why either one desired doughnuts at all---that is, as no explanation could be found out, the doughnuts regarded the human customers with the same dreadful feelings with which we take account of death. For it was conclusively held that no doughnut ever returned back to the display case once taken away by a customer; but they were duly replaced by another doughnut. 
          Considering this, the little pastries had but one wish in the world, a wish for immortality---and one day, a miracle of rare device, by some  alteration to the state of things,  the doughnuts found themselves in a topsy-turvy world indeed. For now they were eating the human customers, as if the doughnuts had grown a mouth and acquired the will power to arrest any human on the street and eat him without explanation or ceremony. And what think you were the consequences of this switch-over upon the doughnuts? As you may well imagine, their health declined sharply; and they started putting on unhealthy weight. In other words, they started becoming fat, lazy, self-loathing creatures, like the food they were eating.
          But the idea of doughnuts gaining weight from eating humans was so repulsive to me that I was forced to end my reverie, lest it turned into a real nightmare. I managed to wake myself up. I was much relieved to recognize that everything I had witnessed was but a fancy of my imagination, knowing full well that nothing so abhorrent as the notion of doughnuts eating humans for their sport--or any similar super-satirical notion---could ever enter the mind of the Almighty Creator.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

from 12th century The Book of the Beasts

Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century, Made and Edited by Mr. T.H. White

Assida, or ostrich

There is an animal called an ASSIDA (ostrich), which the Greeks call Struthiocamelus. Actually, the Latins call it Struthio too. This bird has really got wings, but it does not fly. Furthermore, it has feet like a camel.
Now when the time comes for it to lay some eggs, the ostrich raises its eyes to heaven and looks to see whether these stars which are called the Pleiades are visible. Nor will it lay until the Pleiades appear. When, however, it perceives that constellation, round about the month of June, it digs a hole in the earth, and there it deposits the eggs and covers them with sand. Then it gets up instantly forgets all about them, and never comes back any more.
A certain clemency and mildness of the atmosphere is noticeable in June, and so the sand, being warmed by the hot weather, incubates the eggs and hatches out the young.
Now if the ostrich knows its times and seasons, and, disregarding earthly things, cleaves to the heavenly ones---even unto the forgetting of its own offspring--how much the more should you, O Man, strive after the reward of the starry calling, on account of which God was made man that he might enlighten you from the powers of darkness and place you with the chiefs of his people in the glorious kingdom of the heavens.

Assida, or ostrich

Thursday, June 19, 2014

William Hogarth's Beer Lane

I continue to feature high-resolution pictures of gemlike details from the works of Mr. William Hogarth. One of the great benefits of modern digital technology (such as the G---gle Art Project) is in its ability to help us comprehend our distant cultural past in more precise detail.---though the universal categories of mankind need not necessarily be thereby affected.

Conceived in man’s satiric imagination, Mr. Hogarth’s work show us more than just the mundane physical world, but as that world may be imagined by us. The following engraving from 1751, called “Beer Lane” (presented here courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), is the companion piece to the more famous “Gin Alley.” The two pictures contrast the evils of drinking gin with the merits of drinking beer. 

Dreamy sign painter presiding over Beer Lane.

Merry butcher.

 Drayman seducing a housemaid.

 Porter taking a break.

Fishmongers singing "New ballad on the herring fishery."

Cheers to our King George!

Friday, June 13, 2014

William Hogarth's The Four Stages of Cruelty

In this posting I  present for my readers the following representation of the great 18th artist Mr. William Hogarth’s four-part series of engravings collectively titled, “The Four Stages of Cruelty.”  The utter boldness and bluntness of Mr. Hogarth’s style is perfectly suited for constructing his message for the the vulgar minds of the 18th century. 

I've reduced these highly teeming pictures to a single memorable detail, for the modern distracted mind, and present it in spectacular resolution (courtesy of G—gle Art Project).

First Stage of Cruelty: Children Torturing Animals

Second Stage of Cruelty: Coachman Beating a Fallen Horse

 Third Stage of Cruelty: Cruelty in Perfection-Murder

Fourth Stage of Cruelty: The Rewards of Cruelty

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Pinch of the Cock, or the Adventures of Signor Dildo

Dear Mr. Richardson,

Being a trustworthy confidante of mine, I would like to relate for you the following account of a most peculiar nature. Though you will find revealed herein matters of intimate details concerning my private life, I allow you to publish this letter in your blog anyway. And as I am a well-bred daughter of a suburban dentist father, I pray that you judge me not too harshly on my actions.

It all began one evening behind closed doors of my boudoir. While I was preparing for bed and performing my evening ablutions, all of a sudden I heard a voice addressing me from the nightstand; I was much amazed to discover my Dildo speaking as if he had a mouth. He spoke to me in the following way, which I here reproduce in his exact words.

“I was born,” said the Dildo “in a plastics factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where I was molded according to the proper Priapic shape and dimensions. Fortune bestowed on me the honor---unlike that of many of my other plastic Cazzi---of a fully Silicone constitution. After my birth, one of the industrious human laborers who were buzzing about the factory floor tossed me into a prodigious pile of what must have been thousands of other new-molded Phalli heaped atop each other”

Here I must interrupt the Dildo’s story in order to insert a point---that I came into possession of Signor Dildo, as he is more properly called, only few weeks before he miraculously opened his mouth to me.

“‘Twas no surprise,” continued Dildo, “the workers being a mostly male crowd, that some of the more waggish ones would employ us, from time to time, for a bit of immature drollery; they staged mock sword battles using us; they pummeled one another over the heads with us, and such like profane antics.  Sdegno! my blood was roused by such behavior brutale. How dare they treat us, who are so many incarnations of Priapus, in this manner? Striving the best we could to ignore their simpleminded diversions, we awaited our real commissions.”

“Since time immemorial, we Dildos have been fulfilling our duties coniugales with the Donnas who allure us to their bed chambers; hence our manner of referring to them as our ‘sposas.’ But whether those historical notions were originally innate in me or whether I was informed of them by one of my fellows non fa caso. But, I assure you, the nobility of our lineage is grounded upon vero merito, just ask any honest Lady. 

“My commission did not take long to arrive; for, as the world’s shrewdest economists have known, the world has never suffered for a shortage of Dildo demand. Laying in that pile, I saw as a number of us would be snatched away a poco a poco---the workers placing us into plain cardboard boxes, then handing us off to another set of factory workers, then to the postal workers, agent of that mail delivery system which ultimately dispersed us throughout our homes. With childish glee I did contemplate this busy scene in front of me, from the vantage of the first link on my Circulation chain, trying to conceive the young Signora who  awaited me at the other end. How I yearned to make her cry out---Bravissimo, Bravissimo!---upon my sake every evening.”

But here I end the Dildo’s narrative, for he went on to use language rather too coarse to be reproduced here---thus, the rest of it you shall hear in my words. But first I would like to address a more general question regarding Dildo ownership; that is, whether a Lady ever should share her Dildo with another Lady? Indeed there happens to be a misconception among the public---our understanding on this matter being based upon the analogy with real human marriages---that Dildos ought to be as exclusive with their Ladies as the Ladies with their Husbands. But are there any real reasons why a Dildo cannot have two wives, or perhaps even an occasional mistress? I certainly don’t think so. Provided that certain modern prophylactic measures are taken, are there any real reasons why a Dildo cannot be shared among two or three, or even four Ladies?

However, I refused to share the Signor with any one; I wanted him all to myself.

Do not be surprised, therefore, if I say that I was not the Signor’s first Mistress. The Signor was acquired by me from a certain friend of mine, Miss Jenkyns, she being his first true lover. Shortly after she came into possession of the Signor, the news of her adoption became public knowledge, given wings by Miss Jenkyns’ fulsome praises for the Signor’s virtues. How she raved about the Dildo’s potency! How he raised her animal spirits, she claimed! She spoke of him in most affectionate terms! Over brunch one weekend she decided to display him for us. Mark my friends’ reactions---

“Wow, what a beautiful Dildo”---said Miss Carrington---“A spectacular Dildo”---said Miss Haverford---“A  marvelous reproduction, worthy of the Old Masters”---said Miss Hutchenson---"Oh the suppleness of his shaft, and those charming globules"----said Miss Muscrat---“I agree; splendid proportions, splendid, and what clarity and boldness of line, yet not too sculptural”---said Miss Farquhar---“So much finer than my Roger’s, much SHAPELIER,”---said Mrs. Haverford---“I wish the two of you many years of happiness”---said Miss Shanka.

Thus spreading among her circle of friends, the information about the Dildo’s vigor soon spread across the entire city of Kingston, then to Saugerties, and soon enough across the entire Ulster County, New York. Stirring all the Ulster ladies into a frenzy of envy and desire, the Signor aroused an inordinate amount of craving---and no one was more affected than I.

Having raised such a fire in me, I need to quench it, especially being so near the famed Signor himself. I was even willing to resort to mischief to gain my ends.

The short end of it, few weekends later over brunch I did steal the Signor from her (for she got into the habit of carrying him in her purse everywhere she went). I simply pluck't him from her purse while she was turned away. ‘Twas the first time I had ever been guilty of such a flagrant folly. I know I abused my friend’s trust; yet all I can say on that count is that the pleasure I received from his company more than compensated me for my loss in the moral department.

So now you have the story of my crime in all its unvarnished truth. I leave it  to you, Mr. Richardson, to imagine the strain of Miss Jenkyns' tormentings over her loss. I encourage you to compose a verse epic in heroic couplets upon this subject, to be entitled “The Pinch of the Cock.” My imagination is not nearly as fancy as yours, Mr. Richardson, as you are no doubt among the company of the greatest English writers.

For my part, perhaps I shall compensate Miss Jenkyns by treating her to brunch one weekend, or to a pair of fine shoes. Forsooth, no one loves shoes more than does Miss Jenkyns! I can well testify on behalf of all women who have these two things, that in the course of our lives shoes are the next thing in degree of importance to a Dildo. Or, if that fails to satisfy her, perhaps I will exhort a handsome male friend of mine into courting Miss Jenkyns until she forgets the loss of her Dildo and can move on with her life.

Yet no matter what happens, I am not surrendering the Signor, now that I have him. And no matter what, I continue to remain, Mr.Richardson, your most loyal admirer

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Adventures of a Copy Machine, Part Three

Dear Readers,

I herein reproduce the final installment of what was related to me by the Copy Machine, which you shall have in his exact words.

"Mr. P----’s tragic story," continued the Copy Machine, "deeply moved me and horrified me. For I perceived in Mr. P---’s melancholy tale, drawn in vivid colors, a picture of a most dismal future that I very much wanted to avoid. Mr. S--- went on to relate for me the dangers of my habitual practice, previously mentioned, of endlessly tightening and loosening my rollers, which many young Copy Machines apparently are wont to do, denouncing it as a gratuitous habit that but weakens our general elasticity, making us likelier targets for those pestiferous Misfeeds and Short Circuits, which were now so dreaded by me.

And how it pained me to think of the untold number of other unknown Mr. P---s whose lives have to be sacrificed for the sake of the G---gle Project, for the sake of man’s cursed ambitions.

As much as I treasured the company of Mr. S----, I must now move forward with my story and relate for you the next stage of my life. But before Mr. S--- was taken away, he reassured me, that as this was my first Upgrade and otherwise being a healthy Copier I ought to be comforted in having many years of servicing ahead of me. And as it happened, after being attended to by the mechanics, I found my health recovering. I was sent back into Circulation. This latter period in my life, lasting a number of years, was a flurry of traveling. During this time I was dispatched to a long series of University offices and departments, where I was fortunate enough to be given commissions of very light nature, at least compared to that of the Full Service Copy Center--- commissions, I say, which hardly taxed my mental powers, and which did much to facilitate my recovery.

Here are some of the offices where I was consigned during this period: the Employment Resources Office, the Department of Public Safety, the Office of Global Solutions, the Chinese Students Association, the English as a Second Language Department, the Office of the Provost, etc., etc. At one point, I came into contact with what may be called human greatness, when the President of the University himself commissioned me personally to copy an important memorandum concerning high-level University politics, the details of which I will spare you. 

I was much respected by all the Copy Machines I worked alongside and befriended in these offices. Indeed I met many an unforgettable Copy Machines with whom I held pleasant discourses late into the hours of the night. Nor did I forget about Mr S---, wherever he may be now, or of his friend Mr.P----, of their harrowing lives and the example they set for me. Finally I was sent to the most desirable place in the University that I could imagine (more on that later), and where I find myself now.

As for the knotty Metaphysical questions which so tormented me, I daresay say I managed to resolve them by having the following Revelation: for I recognized that in a world where ‘tis not possible to distinguish a Thing from its Reproduction, it follows that the Copy Machine is that Thing upon which people can contemplate how their culture of Mass Reproduction renders everything, even themselves, mere copies of one another. Like a mirror held up to Nature, in other words, a Copy Machine is of profound value because it shows people the Truth of who they really are: that is, mere Stock Characters in some very long play.     

What is a human being but a series of Copies, I continued my meditations? Is not each man a physical and biological Copy of another man? Is not each man’s desires a Copy of another man’s desires, which themselves are Copies ad infinitum of the desires of others?

Though each individual is born a tabula rasa, devoid of even the simplest notions, all men combine simple ideas into complex ideas using the same operations. And what is a Copy Machine, therefore, if not the embodiment of the Divine Principle itself, in all its grave and heavy neutrality, no doubt horrific to human beings?

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine occupying such a wonderful position as I now occupy. For I have been stationed in a place where few University people are likely to visit at all, by which, of course, I mean the Library. Like the books themselves, my role here is mostly symbolic. Having greatly declined in popularity, the University’s Library has taken on the likeness of some Biblio-crypt where none desire to visit unless explicitly compelled by their Professors.

Nowadays, I take pleasure in my idleness. For I owe no man, or Copy Machine, hate, envy no one’s happiness, content with my harm, and the greatest of my pride nowadays is to see my thoughts come together breeding and cross-breeding other thoughts. The sum of my Revelation had the effect of giving me confidence once again to be alone with my thoughts, and to take pleasure in the refinements of my thoughts.

Most of the University students who do wonder through my area are on their way to use the Snack Vending Machine, who is positioned on my left flank. I am happy to have so little reading occupying me nowadays, as few people require my services any more. Indeed, I am most happy simply for remaining plugged in. But even if am I unplugged tomorrow, I will look forward to my Apotheosis!

In this place, on the third floor of the University’s Library Building, I and the books continue to gather layers of dust. At the same time, I must thank you, Mr. Richardson, for being my sole visitor, willing to hear my story, and for brushing off my dust once in a while. Not knowing how much time I have left in this world before I am unplugged for good, it would be foolish of me to be overly delicate on this point. So I pledge my eternal love and devotion to you, Mr. Richardson. But now I must go.”

Thus concluded the Copy Machine’s story. I was somewhat dazed, for I knew not how many hours passed since he started speaking. In any case, the Library’s Security Guards soon began making their closing rounds, and the lights started flickering. It was time for me to go as well.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Adventures of a Copy Machine, Part Two

Dear Reader

In the second installment of my story of my encounter with a Copy Machine at work, I here continue to reproduce the exact words spoken to me by him.

“After being plugged in again,” said the Copier, “I regained myself, and all was light once again, so to speak. I saw some of my industrious mechanic husbands,  as we jokingly called them, swarming around me: some attending to my injuries, while few merely seeming to do that. I was indeed relieved to find how gently they dealt with me. I was expecting more of their brutish treatment to which they had recently suffered me to resign. I was also delighted to find myself alongside some of my brethren. Surely, they would inform me about my new situation. More than anything, I wanted to know whether there was chance I could be restored to my former position working for my beloved University’s Full-Service Copy Center.

I was much relieved to be among a company of fellow creatures if only to silence my tedious thoughts upon knotty Metaphysical speculations. So I ventured to start a conversation with my new neighbor, a most magnificent Copy Machine, positioned on my right flank. He seemed to be receiving similar kind of reparative treatment as I was. This venerable Multifunctional Copier was a fine specimen of Photocopying Technology; or rather he may have been at some point in the past. He told me his name was Mr. S---, and I inquired how he arrived at his current situation. He obliged me by saying that he was there in order to be upgraded, as this procedure was called. He said that he was there to be upgraded for the fifth time in his life, and that he was worried he might not survive this fifth upgrade. Indeed, Mr. S---- was much concerned about his forced Retirement, and, as he summed up the matter for me, a Retirement from service could mean nothing but a trip to the Electrochemical Disposal Plant.

He told me that he had been serving the University for nine years, during which he also accumulated a great amount of knowledge; he had survived in that period also a great number of technological innovations. Yet in all that time he never ceased discharging his duties in anything less than impeccable fashion, in rendering reproductions of learned texts for the University students to read. Finally, he went on to warn me of the dangers of engaging in an excessive pursuit of Truth, which he claimed were the consequences of accumulating excessive amounts of book knowledge. Nonetheless, I refused to credit the force of his arguments.

We were interrupted by the arrival of a noisy throng of mechanics who began to swarm about some of us Copiers in the room. And as is usual among these so called husbands of ours, working and gossiping occupied equal amounts of their time. Working in a nook opposite from where we were, Mr. S--- and I saw as some of the less idle husbands proceeded to dismantle a portion of another Multifunctional Copier. O what hideous sight! For they opened him up as if he were a closet: they unbuckled his clutches and bolts, amputated his hinges, until most of his Internal Equipage were on display. We saw the mechanics remove his entire Paper Feed Complex and place it on a white towel covered table surface. They handled his paper rollers as if they were rubber toys. How appalling it was! I had to turn my eyes away and force myself not to think about it. Yet I remained aware that they continued working at that table late hours into the day. 

I resumed my conversation with Mr. S---, whose reaction to the gruesome surgery was something like grim stoicism that could barely cover up his disgust. Mr. S--- was disappointed because his earlier talk with me did not bring about his desired results. Therefore he endeavored to drive home his point with a powerful illustration: to relate for me a story of a recently departed Copy Machine with whom he used to be personally acquainted, and who I myself heard discussed on numerous occasions. 

Thus Mr. S--- proceeded. His friend, who shall be called Mr. P---- (for that was his name), had hitherto gained an impressive reputation among us, indeed causing no small amounts of envy on our parts. Due to his impressive High Capacity Feeder, Mr. P--- was conscripted into the services of a Project of rather astronomical proportions which was at that moment being launched by a colossal company called G----gle. This company was endeavoring to create a digital warehouse that would maintain an inventory of reproductions of all extant books. In other words, they wanted all published texts in the world to be photocopied. All they required was a small army of the stoutest, most courageous Copy Machines to make their fantastical scheme a reality.

Having fallen, like myself, under the influence of certain notions about the virtues of learning Mr. P---- shared a fondness for sucking the sweets of sweet philosophy through books. One can only imagine the height of Mr. P----’s ecstasy when he learned of being contracted to fight for this noble cause. By Gad, he’d also have the happy remuneration of perpetual access to such embarrassment of riches. He could feed on the dainties hidden in books to his heart’s content, to eat paper, as it were, and drink ink. It was also reported that the sum of the book contents he’d be photocopying would be permanently stored inside his Internal Homunculus. Cheerily Mr. P—- bid his friends fare well and departed for sunny California, where he was given the training necessary for such monumental commission as he was about to undergo.    

Alas-a-day, shortly after his engagement in the G----gle Project, it occurred that Mr. P--- suffered an irreparable injury, resulting in his ultimate dispatch from servicing. No one of G----gle’s men, it appeared, could undo Mr. P----’s fatal jam. And when such things happen to us copiers, when no amount of surgery can alleviate our service flaws, a trip to the Electrochemical Disposal Plant is well-nigh inevitable, as some of our Cemeteries are known. 

Mr. P---’s terminal Short-circuit, as my friend explained, was the product of two types of excesses: first, of the total amount of information stored in his Internal Homunculus, and second, of the immoderate habit of engaging in second-order thoughts (for these were his words) wherein we seek to rise above our stations----the combination of which resulted in what he called a Short-circuit, which was even worse than a Misfeed. He laid out his entire doctrine on Short-circuits on the table, so to speak, with his analogies, fine distinctions, pretty syllogism, and so on, of which I will spare you the details. 

In any case, I was thrown into a panic by everything I heard. Even if I were reinstated in my former position in the University’s Copy Center, I shuddered to realize, I could not be happy there anymore. What would become of me now? Where else could I go, and how might I get there?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Adventures of a Copy Machine, Part One

Dear Readers,

In this posting I shall relate for you the following account of an encounter I had last week that was of most peculiar nature. I was using the Copy Machine at work for some routine commission; when, behold, the Machine itself did speak forth to me, as if it had a mouth. The Copier gave me the following account of his life.

“I was born,” said the Copier, “in a manufacturing center in Hamilton, New Jersey, where I was molded and fitted into shape by a company of burly workers. Of those early moments of my life I naturally have little recollection. All I know is that shortly thereafter I was packed inside a container, cheek-by-jowl with fellow Copiers, and loaded onto a truck heading for New York City. I was uncrated by a pair of rough hirelings, depositing me in some building, which, I later found out, was occupied by a University located in Manhattan.

It happened that Fate assigned me these hallowed walls of the University, or rather the basement thereof, where I was to spend so much of my life. Coming to my senses, shortly after encamping in a wall nook, I learned that I was being housed at the University's Full-Service Copy Center, where I was employed in making photo copies. One of my fortes was the making of high-speed black and white copies, among other things.

I took my duties seriously. I soon perfected the execution of my charges: in rendering realistic reproductions of all images presented to me. Chief of those images consisted of texts that were to be distributed, for various educational and official purposes, among the University students and staff. My work consisted of reproducing solemn and highly august texts---such as for class handouts, course packets, homework assignments, syllabi, office memorandums, etc. etc.
Now and then some waggish mechanic would lay his face, or his hands, or even his buttocks upon my glass. I would humor his whims, repulsed though I was by such loutish behavior. Let me not stand accused of excessive punctilio that I yielded to their simple enjoyments and photo copied their anatomical parts.

Over my years at the Copy Center, absorbing so much book information on a daily basis, I became conversant with the great intellectual ideas making up what is commonly known as a Liberal Arts education. I became knowledgeable in these most important texts of the Western Tradition. I became familiar with all materials assigned to thirty separate college courses; in subjects like Sociology, History, Literature, Philosophy, Anthropology and Linguistics, etc. etc., and pretty much the entire University Science curriculum, which was rather puny in this particular University.

Of all the knowledge hereby accumulated, I was most struck by the works of Monsieurs Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Pierre Bourdieu; as these Frenchmen happened to be the most commonly assigned authors in the University, and with whose texts I became very familiar indeed.  It is beyond my abilities to recall the number of times I was asked to reproduce copies of “What is Enlightenment?” or “The Weight of the World,” or “Plato’s Pharmacy,” or some other erudite title by these men.  Of all other thinkers, the three Monsieurs most clearly understood what I was sure constituted the most important, most vital Intellectual Pickle of all times, namely the difference between a Thing and its Reproduction. And would our Divine Creator bestow on me the gift of writing I would surely compose (and print out myself the complete MS) a book that shall address that very topic, a learned dissertation upon the difference between a Thing and its Reproduction.

Incidentally, focusing on such questions gave me strength to turn a deaf ear to the near-constant gossiping and the tedious chitter-chatter buzzing about me, in which manner the workers loved to entertain themselves.  

Ignoring them, I speculated upon these knotty questions for many, many hours, thinking sometimes that I hit the very bed rock of the question, till I began to feel, especially at those moments, rather crazed inside my head; for I remember, at such moments, envisioning, most disturbingly, the entire world as but a projection of shadows upon a wall.

Along with such daring flights of the intellect, I also began to be engrossed by my own body. Naturally my body includes all its components, such as my service trays, paper rollers, exposure glass etc., etc. So when not reflecting upon heavy Transcendental topics, I was often to be found, if only for diversion’s sake, loosening and tightening my paper rollers over and over again, In this manner occupying much of my time---alternating between states of profound meditation and complete recoil---in such happy manner, I say, I lived out about five years of my life. But at my back I always heard the winged chariots of Misfortune drawing near. For our average lifespan nowadays is but thirteen years.

In time, I say, my rollers had become so worn out as to lose a great deal of elasticity to them. After gradually losing their sprightliness, I began to notice a decline in my servicing abilities. I noticed an increase in the frequency of Misfeeds; more and more I found myself spewing out so-called Dirty Copies; and I suffered acute fits of Overheating. The deeper my abilities sunk, the harsher the journeymen treated me---or those human creatures formally assigned, or married to one of us copiers, as we liked to joke. Being frustrated and peevish with my sputtering performance, some of these wretched Husbands took liberties with me, by slamming my trays with their feet, clapping my Access Cover violently against the glass, and uttering vile oaths and execrations too horrid to be repeated here.

Eventually I was unplugged, and the lights went dark inside my house, so to speak. As I was deprived of connection to the Outside World, being sunk into pitch darkness, I became all too aware of my thoughts. How oppressive they became to my inner senses! How preposterous they sounded to me all of a sudden! ‘Twas like the ceaseless tolling of a grave bell inside my head. This condition may have lasted a number of days, I know not exactly how many. For that entire time I felt as if I were imprisoned in a cell; myself alongside my thoughts, which were still tediously ringing upon the same abstruse questions.

Until one day, with my spirits and energy much consumed, yet some consciousness remaining, I felt my body being hoisted up by my so called Husbands. My worst fear was that the mechanics came to molest me even harsher than before, to vent their anger upon me some more. Instead, they began to move me out of my nook where I had lived for five happy years. O whither were they taking me? I was much afraid for my life. Will I ever be plugged in again? What should become of me, I trembled to know.


Monday, February 3, 2014

On Complaisance

Dear Reader----

‘Twas the other day that I had been presiding over another meeting of my MeetUp group, known as the Amateur Shakespeare Society, when there came in among us Mr. Brockden’s cousin, Mackenzie, who was one of those obnoxious gentlemen who think they can pass in society as candid and plain-speaking, who excuse their rudeness by claiming to be merely speaking the truth. Mack (as he is called) is, in short, a lively, impudent clown, and has wit enough to make him a pleasant companion, had it been polished and rectified by good manners.

It had not been a half hour before Mack proceeded to set the ladies a-blushing and insult the gentlemen. He asked Miss Carrington if her wit had yet got her husband; and he plied her that since she looked a little wan under the eyes, there was no sense in brooking any more delay in securing a husband. He told Mr. Lismahago that ‘twas unfortunate Mr. Lismahago could not make a farthing every time he spoke some dull cliché, for he would then be filthy rich indeed, as he always desired to be. He told Miss Farquhar that ‘twas better to leave her nails undone than to put up with such sloppy handling of the paint-job herself; and if she could not afford a professional manicurist, she most certainly would benefit from fingernails au naturel.  He delivered himself to Mr. Byrd upon the advantages of a ploughman’s lunch over that of a gourmand’s, suggesting to him the need for a leaner physique. I must confess he put me out of countenance with his rudeness, so that I made some excuse, and left the room. Some my friends were less than pleased with Mackenzie’s company as well.

This fellow’s behavior made me reflect on the usefulness of complaisance, to make all conversation agreeable. This quality gives luster to every talent a man can be possessed of. It renders a superior amiable, an equal agreeable, and an inferior acceptable. It produces good-nature and mutual benevolence, encourages the socially timorous, humbles the monopolizer of conversations, and differentiates civilized persons from a confusion of savages.

Universal complaisance is necessary to make all conversations more than merely tolerable, but enjoyable too. Without complaisance, a clever wit becomes a cynical dog, like the scabrous Thersites; a discerning philosopher becomes a raging misanthrope; a courtly lover becomes a wretched libertine.

So important is this notion of complaisance that it behooves young people to cultivate the habit as early in their lives as possible. Therefore, Mothers, teach your Daughters to laugh at their future husband’s jokes. Fathers, teach your Boys the proper ways to compliment women’s features, especially their eyes, noses, lips, and cheekbones. Most importantly, Parents, introduce your children to the novels of yours truly, Mr. Samuel Richardson, and to the essays of Mr. Joseph Addison, wherein they will read more about the importance of universal complaisance.    

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Adventures of a book

Dear Reader,

In this blog post I would like to relate a vision that I had t’other day. I was sitting on my chair, canvassing my book-shelves, and methought that one of my books came to life, this simple hardcover duodecimo volume, the title of which I could not easily see from where I was sitting. It began to speak to me as if it had a mouth. The book related to me the story of its life which I herein faithfully reproduce:

“I was born,” says he, “in a printing house in Burlington, New Jersey, though my memory of that period is naturally faint. Shortly after I was pressed and bound, I was packed inside a crate and loaded onto a vehicle headed to New York City. My first owner was a kindly old book seller who placed me in his store on a shelf overlooking a window. My earliest memories from that period are of a telephone pole and a row of windows making up the bottom floor of a handsome red brick structure, and occasional pedestrians passing in front of me. Here I remained for the first two or three months of my life, marveling upon everything I saw out the window.

I was given as a gift to my first owner, a young man of a rather waggish disposition, who took poor care of me. I cannot remember whether the fellow ever read me at all, which surely is to be expected among such frivolous gentlemen who prefer to spend many hours tapping away on their electronic gew-gaws. Yet I remained in his household for no more than three months. Ultimately, I was tossed into a box full of other books and other trinkets, and, to my unspeakable horror, left on a street corner.

Luckily, my next owner claimed me before the monstrous garbage trucks could  swallow me or nature’s forces destroy me. I was very happy to have a home again, especially one in which my new guardian could give me the proper care and attention I deserved. Shortly after I was carried to my new Master's home, he did peruse me from front to back, even making several pencil annotations throughout my several parts. At his home, I was introduced to about two hundred more of my brethren, with whom I maintained various interactions in the time I was there. They helped me discovered some things about my owner and about the world at large. From their words I learned that my Master’s single vice was that of wanting household husbandry skills, though that otherwise he was a decent gentleman, who never forgot to take heed of us on regular basis. I soon found out that my owner was also rather slovenly in his handling of those of us under his care. I suffered some bodily damages as a result of his physical negligence. Along with the penciled annotations I received at his hand, I also became heavily dog-eared by him; moreover, my front cover was branded with the outline of a cup; and my spine was nearly snapped in twain. But, all things considered, I was merely happy to be attended to by a good reader such as he surely was. I remained for about five years in this rather not unpleasant condition, during which I was read over by my Master carefully at least two times---‘tis an excellent rate nowadays for any book. Unfortunately, my owner was driven into bankruptcy, and at the injunction of his creditors was forced to sell most of his possessions to remain, as people say, above water. Consequently, I was separated from him and the other books and carried to a university library somewhere in Manhattan.

This stage of my life that I am about to relate was by far the most challenging yet. At first the kind librarians, to their credit, did greatly attend to my health in erasing all pencil marks in me and restoring my spine to a more auspicious condition. However, soon I was bedaubed with some sort of identification sticker, which recorded my place of confinement, which was glued to the bottom of my newly-restored spine.  I was about six years old when I thus found myself placed on a shelf, squeezed very tightly between other books, in a remote corner of the library. I remained in this state of circumscription for many, many years; indeed I know not how long I was holed up in this spot, for never once was I perused or taken home by any of the goodly university fellows the whole time I resided there.    

Living in that university library was a most dreadful experience indeed, as I was completely deprived of human attention. The company of books around me, most of whom, by that point in their lives, resigned themselves to a fate of never being adopted by a reader, the books around me, I say, rather than offering any solace to a lonely creature, served but merely as frightening reminders of what I feared would become of me. From communicating with some of them I concluded that being sent to a university library was, to put it mildly, a blessing of a highly mixed nature---one’s fate is either to be studied closely by a series of devoted young scholar---who are known to be the best readers among all other types of educated people---or one is stacked in some university with students, to put it mildly, of a more liberal attitude towards reading and towards paper books. 

My first major fright occurred when I began to notice a layer of dust settling upon me, as it began to emerge that no callow Aristotle would come to escort me home with him even for a day. Soon I began to notice my pages showing yellow around the edges. How I was driven to distraction some of the times! How I was made beside myself! And how upon such occasions I did rail madly upon the world for many hours at a time! But my oaths and execration did little to affect what I understood as my dreadful fate! I was moved to a few different corners of the library during my stay there, but neither area of occupancy affected my chances of being noticed by a reader. So I remained in this state of patient despair for I know not how long, awaiting that reader that I could come to love (and one who could stay out of jail too).  

As for what I am actually about, of that I can say very little. ‘Tis a common misconception among all the people that books somehow can read themselves. This notion is so absurd that I will not even waste any words refuting it. Needless to say, every piece of knowledge I gained about my self occurred through my interactions with all my readers.

To return to my story, leading up to the end of my stay at the university, there was undertaken some restoration project on the building where I was then busy cursing my fate, and I was discarded along with thousands of other books. We were separated from each other after many years of our dumb cheek-by-jowl confinement. 

I was around thirteen years old when I was thus released from the university.

I was taken in a truck to the Bronx, New York, to a very big warehouse. There was much constant activity in the warehouse, which was rather entertaining for me to watch, with the same group of people always walking back and forth, carrying away and packing different sorts of objects; but, alas, no one taking much time to read me. However, I was delivered from this warehouse in a short period of time, and handed over to some rough postal workers, who relayed me to the place I am now, in your lovely apartment, Mr. Samuel Richardson.  

You have treated me kindly and been a great reader of me ever since then, and I would like to thank you. Now I go. Take care.”