"Sophie couldn't sleep"*

by Francis Parrilli

All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated..." - John Donne*.1

In a time of chimpanzees I was an infinite typing theorem...

Start facsimile: from the early Gutenberg quartos where Shakespeare was audibly copied and pasted by rival dramatists like Quentin Rowan handling oft-forgotten Baroness Orczy in the back of the bookstore, to South Korea’s unchecked cloning of man’s proverbial best friend as if all futurist-Schwarzenegger-cinematic-notions were inevitably bound to transpire, the most inherent need of man, both artist and thief, office drone and auteur, is that of reproduction.

But beware the hand that feeds your document. With all those who try to recreate themselves within the cardboard cutout houses of the modern living regime (or your smug mustached neighbor’s carport stacked with decaying back issues of Flipside and Cometbus), the endless need for “more” has procured a rampant fetish of impersonation, and the touting colossal mechanism of our mimicry is that of the copy machine.

Regardless of its many incarnations one could argue that what we seemed to be left with was only dictation’s losing toner, slowly eradicating personality like an endless game of Chinese Whispers: “Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit of Property,” turns into “Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit of Happiness,” which becomes “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” and so on. He said, she said.

200 A.D. Woodblock Printing—The Duplicators: “You think we need one more?”*.2

It was a beautiful service: dye-impregnated, mirror imaged, aniline, stencils by Gestetner, the electric pen, doctor’s blade, the cylinder rotogravure, pad baths, and saturated gelatin.

1876 A.D. The Hectograph—The final days of the 18th Century brought about the end of the Dutch East India Company, and for a scribe: the end of the hand cramp. Everyone’s favorite, “the Industrial Revolution” delivered upon us the factory system and nothing may better exemplify the era than the development of the duplicator. The letter copying press by James Watt (amongst others)—who by all accounts was an industrious baller—really got us started. While previously having duplicated the power of the pony, he got down with moistened solvents, cumbersome slides, and chasing pastiche to generate metallic forgers that would pave the way for Edison’s electric pen (Thomas had a few credits to his name as well), the Mimeograph v. Ditto debate (an epic battle as flaunted as Moveable Type v Lithograph), and now the Blue Process before what was the dawning of the Electrostatic.

1923 A.D. The Spirit Duplicator—These are the de- vices to blame the next time you have to go to Etsy to purchase another one of your annoying friend’s (you know who you are) bi-weekly fanzine. In the end they were all mostly bulky metallic beasts hammering away much like an old Royal or Olivetti, but imagine at the time, “Copies!”

The Digital Metonymy—“Alright, we’ll get one more.”

It was a big business solution: original, feeding tray, thermal laminates, aniline dyes, apazines, new master, ink flow, high resolution, ghostwriter in laser-jet distribution.

1986 A.D. The RISO Kagaku Digital—May god bless you Chester Carlson, creator of the photocopy, a pioneering accountant type who didn’t want to grind gears any longer. Take Wikipedia’s word for it, that is if you can afford the laser toner cartridge. Xerox soon became a household name. The duplication revolution would bring us touchscreens and USB cables, all elements in the parodist sheets of misidentification—“It sure looks like my signature...” We now have bestowed on ourselves the titles of “mas- ters” over these meta-properties just by pressing a button: You only have to pass Foucault’s Pendulum through the thingamabobber so many times before it becomes The Da Vinci Code.

1996 A.D. The Bootleg DVD—Further advancements brought us AutoCAD and the synthesization of three-dimensional objects. While all this challenges the boundaries of “intellectual” property rights, the global market implications appear to be limitless. “Print your own assault weapon!” Ultimately, this has led to a place where something comprehensively immortal has been transmitted once we got around to cloning sheep or your daughter’s puppy, and while the notions of making copies of ourselves is science fiction fodder, the technology won’t be doubted.

The auditoria of a poorly lit “copy room” where the machine constantly pulsates away with a systemic cryptomnesia: here we stand slack-jawed and impatient with the frequencies of modification cutting off a letter here, an important number there, spilling the spoils of our want onto bad carpeting. Lather, rinse, and repeat—our erroneous corrections lie amongst the long sweeping glow of laser recognition.

Who was that first intern dropping his khaki-plastered drawers while whistling “My Sweet Lord” as he plopped his pasty white ass onto the dashboard of problematic constructions, pleated Dockers and obsolete corrections in the cracks of misattributed thought experiments? Or, what of the female secretary suddenly in heels and too much rum punch at the office holiday party unbuttoning her designer blouse and digitizing her identical set of soon-to-be-squared accessories? “I’ll have what she’s having.” How many overripe body parts have been ripped-off in black and white leaflets of poor taste or cheap humor? And we deal with the repercussions of offsetting as rainforests collapse to create endless reams of Hammermill bright A4 & 11x13 500-sheet bundles (stacked like blank tablets waiting for Mo- ses to start all over again), and Office Space comedic parodies of grown men annihilating the very man-made contrivances of a twice-over technological umbrage. Blessed be, we now have the capacity to pump out up to 100 pages per minute—replicate that Albert Blake Dick!

* Wood, D., & Dahl, R. (1991). The BFG (Big Friendly Giant). London: S. French.

*.1 Lethem, J. “The Ecstasy of Influence,” Harper’s Bazaar, February 2007.

*.2 Soderbergh, S. (Director). (2001). Ocean’s Eleven [Motion picture]. Warner Brothers Pictures.