December 19th, 2016 / 2:21 pm

Print test


The IT field service agent handed me a sheet of paper covered in black. He had just installed a new printer and was showing me the test print. I asked him why not just print out a standard document instead of wasting all that ink. He said that was the standard printing test: an exhaustive print that employed the maximum breadth of the printing area. It was still warm. I came close to thanking him, but that seemed sentimental. The nuances were sensual. It looked like a reproduction of a minimalist black painting. Or a painting itself. I could smell a blog post.

Maybe I’m near the end of my writing career and struggling for content.


Or maybe somewhere deep in the middle, at the rim of a black hole funneling towards some inevitable vortex. Imagine a toilet flushing, or a deft analingus swirl, in this case metaphorical and presumably auto. I looked at the black sheet of paper, this stark bureaucratic black hole, this utterly neutral presentation of all a thing could be, and couldn’t turn away. I was beautiful to me.

Why is the unnecessary, by its very staunch vision, imbued with modernist profundity?

Toner scammers call pretending to have an account with us, nonchalantly reciting information about us farmed through suspect means. They say their records show we will soon be low on toner, and did I want to restock? A reasonable administrator with a resilient faith in humanity will take this person at their word and say okay; a few days later a man wearing a brown uniform will deliver a nondescript cardboard box inside which a some new toners arrive; a few weeks after that, an astounding invoice.

It’s a hairy bureaucracy so I simply route the invoice to Finance, where it’s folded into various folders repeatedly until it disappears. Imagine folding an omelette over and over until it’s scrambled eggs. Deceit plus entropy equals harmony. As for the toners, they are the “compatible” ones of inferior quality which eventually damage the printer. A few months later, a sad man arrives to service the printer. We exchange a few words, then he gets on his knees. I stand over him looking into his posterior crevice, a perverse thrill which gives me a much needed zap of afternoon adrenaline, as he fumbles with black fingers at the crevices of the printer.

Black has roots in bhleg, which meant burn, which is what cannot be done to carbon, and what remains is black. The word for black, therefore, is the evidence of its transpiration. Graphite is crystalline carbon, from graphein, to write. The entire enterprise of writing, of putting down words, an intellectual form of territorial pissing, owes itself to the smearing of carbon on pulp, eventually industrialized into fusing carbon powder onto paper. Imagine every page of every novel ever written printed on the same page until it’s an incoherent mass of black.

The Infinite Monkey theorem states that a monkey seated at a typewriter for an infinite amount of time would eventually produce any finite text, in most cases referenced, the complete works of Shakespeare. The problem with this theorem is we don’t have an infinite amount of time, and also the monkey would probably just get up and leave. Nothing smart will type for that long.

Earlier this year a toner supplier company run by monks, Monks Ink, went out of business. One assumes they were too honest. It remains unclear if Ink, besides being literal, was a pun for Inc. As for the toner scammers, now known as “toner phoners,” may the public remain vigilant.

The IT field service agent has a lazy eye, and is able to not look me in the eyes two ways simultaneously. The etiquette of corporate countenance is one of evasion, so I too evade his eyes in their respective directions. “Thank you,” I manage to say, looking at the piece of paper. That it is impolite, or threatening, to look someone directly in the eyes marks a general sadness of our species. Maybe that’s why it feels so cathartic to look at art, to bestow necessity unto the unnecessary, permission to finally rest one’s eyes on something meaningful. A chimpanzee looked away from me at the zoo once, and not without a touch of disdain. I should go now. You can learn a lot from a monkey.


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