Many of us are Homo Sapiens Bureaucraticus. We spend nearly a third of our days influenced by nearby office rectangles: desks, clipboards, typing stands. I am driven to think that these forms drive our bodies into unnatural shapes, bend us into the creeping Morlocks that HG Wells prophesized. Then again, perhaps I need a dose of Cultural Relativism....perhaps a nerd scrunched over a keyboard is as noble a sight as a hunter-gatherer scrunched near the fire telling a buddy, "Yeah, that was a big mammoth, but you should've seen the one that I..." In any event, I am convinced that the office rectangle will bear further scrutiny and variation. Let us look again at the desk, typing stand, clipboard, and satchel.
Step 1: The Horror of the Desk, Oh the Horror!
It is the thing invested with all that is bad and powerful in our video art. In films people can be seen sweeping the detritus away from the conveniently large rectangle to lustify a desireable member of one's sexual preference. Or people enter the room and are faced with a meglomaniac across a Gobi Desert of mahogony expanse, and he says (usually it is a he) "Now, that James Bond is in bonds [bruauh-ha-ha-ha!] shall we discuss how to aim our orbital laser to control the destiny of Earth?" or the more fearsome, "I'll expect that report on Wednesday." If your own desk cultivates no similar allusions, then I cannot help you. But surely your desk has gone a bit out of control from time to time. That's good, all is well, no worries! Whose clean desk ever said that the owner was very useful?
As our job descriptions grow ever more inclusive, the desk must be ever more accomodating. Chaos must be reared higher than before, as measured by inches of potential energy. Use the space above. A new idea? No, you know that, I know that. But design it yourself. You know your own needs, your ergonomics, exactly how far you stretch and yawn, how far you cant over in a faint, how many inches you push back paper to make elbow room, what things you need at hand. In this wooden shelf, I accomdated two realities: my life as a teacher demands two shelves, cognitized vertically -- daily class gear on top, supporting materials below on the lower shelf -- all done up in glowing wood to remind me that these office rectangles once began as flowing organic shapes in a world with no straight lines excepting the flights of subatomic particles of low mass.
In the open space below the shelf, you see a semi-vertical rectangluar surface, canted perfectly to take things demanding doing, and frequently used heavy books. When I am bored, I just randomly open the dictionary and read a word and its derivation, and associatively follow chains of meaning until I'm bored again. When students walk in and see the open dictionary, they know I am serious when I tell them to "look up the goddamned word if you don't understand it." The semi-vertical-leaning-stuff-shelf (the hyphen is your best friend) is free in horizontal space to better adjust to momentary ergonomic needs.
Yes, a yet third semi-vertical surface is present, another book-stand from my ancient days. I can't bear to get rid of it despite that it hasn't yet a well-defined function except to collect official memos from which I will be enacting nothing. Perhaps that's the answer?
Step 2: Typing Stand: Different Yet Not Utterly Distracting
Long ago when I was a career technical writer I learned to keep my chin up -- both to endure the the daily indignity of a thankless profession and to reduce neck pain. For me, keeping the computer monitor near my eye level, and keeping my typing stand near that same level, was a great help -- the increased efficiency of the side-to-side glancing has made me at least 0.001 percent more productive than was experienced with lesser ergonomic arrangements.
This typing stand dates itself -- the little lip glued on at the bottom allowed just enough room to keep some 3.5 floppy disks, back when they were pretty cool. I never use these anymore, so now the strange elephantine creatures I carved quickly on a whim can be meditated upon. But I do use the lip to keep two stones: one a precious piece of feldspar from my former driveway that my then-3-year-old boy gave me as a gift, and the other a piece of obsidian that I from time to time try to flake into a projectile point.
"Wade, are you a hypocrite?" you rightly ask. You've noticed the stand is a bit lower than the screen. That's because years later I raised the screen higher on yet another custom wooden 3D rectangle thingie. I'll make a new one soon, with better carvings. What should I carve?
Step 3: Satchel/man-bag/writing Surface/office Survivalist General-purpose Tool
This LL Bean hand-satchel thingie was given to me one Christmas probably to get rid of (a "re-gift" in the jargon of Seinfeld) since it was in addition to a very nice but entirely unrelated gift that was perfectly sufficient in itself. But how could the person know that study of anthropology had instilled in me a fascination with carrying technology? Far more important than the stone projectile point was the bag to carry your rotten carrion meat, nuts, berries, and raw materials. What is the most sophisticated space suit but a very complex carry-all? -- a bag, in other words.
This satchel proved very useful because my daily book bag inflates over the week into a bloated evil toad whose maw disgorges a steady stream of reponsibility. Even so, the daily book bag always has room for this mini-bag, which I use as a weekend overnighter briefcase, or a more manageable book bag fit to bring into a coffee shop for an hour or two of pleasant coffe ingestment, reading, and writing....or, in a word, a more psychically manageable carrier. I added this very week (Nov. 15, 2006) two grommets through which is attached a shoulder strap salvaged from an earlier book bag that now holds the anchor for my outrigger. More importantly, I added the incredibly useful clipboard with custom lip. Having stripped the clipboard of its steel spring clip, I riveted board to stachel, and with the lip I now have a comfortable platform for editing pages or resting a heavy book.
If you made the writing surface out of a kevlar and resin material, it could double as a targe or flak protection. Ever since some poor fellow was filled with 15 rounds at the friendly corner store 100 feet from my house, I have pondered that modification. But, no-- you almost never have your book bag handy at the moment of being shot.
When I am accused of being sissy-like with my small satchel, I tell the accuser I use it to carry my bowie knife, chest-hair comb, testosterone test kit, girly magazine, and whiskey. Yet I cannot help but think that the satchel wins the admiration of the occasional metrosexual, and if so, why wouldn't I accept such admiration in a world too often lacking good feeling? --wt