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.