Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments (6) Posted 06.30.08 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Paul Maliszewski

Taking Things Seriously XI


things_paulmaliszewski.jpg

Whatever needed doing at the mortgage company, I did, particularly if nobody else wanted to be bothered. Since I didn't have my own desk, I floated around, occupying whatever space was handy and empty. This was in the early 1990s, in Pittsburgh. The mad dash to refinance home mortgages had begun to cool. Whole suites were deserted, reminders of a time in the not-too-distant past when the company enjoyed more bullish days.

I searched every desk I sat at not only to fill the periodic lulls but also out of curiosity, to find pieces of other lives, workers before my time. One slow day, while pawing through an abandoned desk, I discovered this rubber stamp and knew immediately that I had to make it mine. Certified True Copy. How strange, I thought, and funny. How could a copy of something ever really be true?

My discovery was luck made manifest. I had recently started writing a story about Copy Copy, a fictional copy shop where a clerk named Tom Again worked the nightshift. Tom dreamed up grand-sounding theories like the Law of Copies, which holds, not originally, that life is but one long and steady decline. An original loses something when copied, Tom posited. A copy of that copy loses a bit more. The law of copies, Tom argued, was the dark twin of the myth of progress. He had ideas, as I had ideas then. And he was stuck, much as I was stuck. I took the stamp, thinking, I'll incorporate this into my work. I'll use it. In a moment of misplaced optimism, I even thought it might help me finish the story, like some magic talisman.

It didn't work. At least not as I hoped. I quit the job, left the story unfinished, and went on to other things.

This short essay is excerpted from Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Significance, a book by Joshua Glenn and Carol Hayes in which they and other writers discuss the importance of objects in their lives. This is the eleventh essay in a series to appear on Design Observer.



Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


The Impossibility of an Island


Bohumil Stepan's Family Album of Oddities


Lean Logic: A Dictionary For The Future and How To Survive It


The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic


Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color



RSS Subscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (6)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Please finish your story, I would like to read it!
Pete Gilbert
06.14.08 at 05:29

Please take the stamp also seriously...
Jo
06.14.08 at 04:49

The story on the Copy, Copy reminds me of the sound piece "I Am Sitting in a Room" from composer Alvin Lucier's. Lucier recorded himself narrating a text, and then he played the recording in a room and recorded that. He kept playing and recording systematically until the copy of the copy of the copy becomes unintelligible, replaced with tones and resonances, creating something new. In that case the copy of the copies was true to itself and true to the process, but not true to the original.

Renata Graw
06.15.08 at 01:15

Love the Taking Things Seriously series. Nice item, nice post.
Were this not Father's Day, I am not sure whether or not this
would have been the first thing to spring to mind regarding the
diminishing returns of copies, but in the mid 1960s my father was
a cop mid-sized Northeastern city and he would occasionally bring
home photocopies of gag cartoons. Invariably these were awful
jokes, filled with every conceivable strata of bigotry. My young
mind never found them funny, only “forbidden”. I am not judging
the old man, nor should you, he was a product of his time, his job
and the resistance to the changing era of the 1960s.

I only bring this up because putting aside the subject matter,
ethnic jokes, racism, sexism, and homophobia, the main
characteristic of these cartoons was that they had been
photocopied over and over and over again, to the point that the
drawings, the captions and the ideas were almost beyond
recognition. The art was scratchy, the words were unclear, the
concepts were fuzzy at best. I would like to think that American
society like my father has slowly moved on from those offensive
cartoons, that the power of those vile ideas has been diminished
every time a gag was copied, that when word and image are
beyond recognition that we have moved on as well. I hope so.

Like I said it's Father’s Day, and like most of you I am merely a
pale imitation of my father. Warts and all.

Mark Kaufman
06.15.08 at 04:35

Ceci n'est pas une copy.

Great stamp!
Jeff
06.15.08 at 05:27

Should Tom return to work on his story, he might find Walter
Benjamin's essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Technological
Reproducibility
invaluable. Tom's idea is an important one and
one that has been knocked around quite a bit. Benjamin's notion of
the copy and its complementary withering of the original, led rather
quickly to Baurdrillard's notion of Simulacra and off course
to hyperreality. Some might say that all have left, (and to the right,
too) are copies, and that even those things we pass off as original
are only objects or ideas that refer, consciously or unconsciously to
other existing phenomena. Hence the inability to please us for very
long.
Robert Sawyer
07.06.08 at 04:13



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




|
Share This Story



Paul Maliszewski's stories have been published in The Paris Review, Harper's, and the Pushcart Prize anthologies, among other places. He lives in Washington, D.C., and is at work on a collection of stories.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS