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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

February 8th, 2006

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05:56 pm - Reality, truth, and memory
For those not up on the "James Frey Controversy", The Smoking Gun's story is really the kicker for the whole thing.

For those who just want a quick run-down, there's this guy (named, coincidentally, "James Frey") who happened to write a memoir. This memoir was published, and the catapulted to the top of the NYT Bestseller list by Oprah, when she added it to her Book Club's reading list. It was later discovered to be full of false information, which displeased Oprah and made a lot of people feel betrayed.

I have never made a secret about the way my memory works. It sometimes occurs that things did not happen the way that I remember them happening. I touched on it in a journal entry on Nov. 29 (which can be found in an LJ entry). I've thought about it a lot, actually.

For instance, if someone told me that I didn't meet a bunch of Time-Traveling Magicians, I'd call them a fucking liar and I might even have the urge to punch them. The way I write and the way I think are inseperable. As I write, I visualize. I see, feel, and taste. I hear. I smell. Everything takes on a reality beyond the reality of my fingers typing these words right now. The everyday things I experience are entirely lacking in the same reality that I write in.

I imagine that for Frey, it was the same.

I have no doubt that he firmly believed the things he wrote about, that they happened. I have no doubt that his work was honest and possibly had more integrity than my own. Of course, his reality was brought down by overwhelming evidence, as anyone's can be. He probably stepped a bit over the boundary when he placed himself into an accident that took the lives of two girls.

But I don't believe he wrote a word that wasn't true.

So I started telling stories that were true, myself. Let me assure you that the most true of the stories with polls attached is the one about Washburn. The least true is the one about my car going into the shop. And the funny thing is, I have a receipt to prove that my car was, indeed, in the shop until 12:30 on Tuesday. It's three pages long, if you really want to see it.

Every word I wrote is true. Sure, you might disbelieve it, but I know that every one of those incidents happened. I didn't mention that there were 143 Bud Light cans near that cave, but there were. There were also some bottles, but I didn't think I needed to mention that. The other 96 cans were of various makes, with ten being Coors cans. Of course, this was before I knew tesinth well, so the Coors didn't make much of an impression on me, other than that they were a nice round number.

Ask me to describe that cave sometime. I'll close my eyes and tell you exactly how the cave looked. I could tell you what the voice in the cave said, but you probably wouldn't believe that, either. . . but I know it. I can't tell you the temperature, but I can tell you what it felt like (it was a bit chilly when the sun went down, honestly), and I can tell you that the road out of the mining area is rather frightening to drive when the shift ends after dark. And I should let you know that the only thing that the mop couldn't do for us was buy liquor: it had no state-issued ID.

Here's one, too that might catch your attention: I can tell you exactly what healing_coyote was wearing when I met her. It's one of those detail sets that I will forever remember.

Of course, she's indicated in the past that she doesn't own one of the items I mentioned she wore, but I know for a fact that she was wearing it. Her reality may not match mine, but neither is more correct than the other's.

I fully believe that the sun was not a giant ball of burning gasses until we noticed it was. Sorry. What good does it do us to correct that perception? Why does it have to be a giant ball of gas for our ancestors? Why can't it be a chariot? Why not a god?

For that matter, would you argue that in the Aztec world, Venus was actually a planet, similar to our own? What an idiot they would think you! And they'd be right. That's Quetzalcoatl, stupid! Venus was Quetzalcoatl. Maybe it isn't today, but who knows what it will be tomorrow?

The polls, of course, were because I was curious how the entries would be seen. I think a whole lot about perception and how people see my entries. It intrigues me that the perceptions affect how I write. I love how the girl at the library was easy to believe, but the mop that fetched ice was not. I laughed when I saw that the time spent at the arboretum was more real through the interaction others had with it, but the "smackle" of entries was the straw that broke the camel's back and pissed people off. What really amused me, though, was the indication that I had messed up my polls, that there were answers missing, or the wording of the poll title was bad, or I was doing something else wrong. And, I admit, those just fueled my desire to continue with those entries. Sorry, but that's how I work.

I admit, it's really, really funny to me about how people sometimes complain about how I keep my journal. Thanks for the laughs, folks. You make it all worth it. Or something :)

My life is full of magic primarily as a result of how I see reality. There's nothing more real, nothing more true than what I believe happened.

Some entries where I mused on memory and/or honesty and/or reality:


"I could give you a star,
you could give me one too
and that way we'd be even."
    -The Refreshments, "Down Together"
Now, to finish architectural priority II-A: Divinity, as it regards Xochicalco. Then work out Teotihuacan, and then do it all over again for priority II-B: Sacred History.

Workin' hard, gettin' stuff done, thinking about all sorts of things, people, and stars that need collecting and distributing in the near future.

I owe four gold stars, I understand. I'm sure I can come up with what's needed, no problem.
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "Please Come to Boston", -JB

(38 comments Leave a comment)


Date:February 9th, 2006 12:12 am (UTC)
How dare you write things in your journal that I do not want you to! I declare you a figment of my imagination and from now on you will write about twinkly stars, fluffy unicorns, and giant man-eating roaches.

(Did you finish your papers yet? Huh, huh, huh?)
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 12:14 am (UTC)
Figment is a dragon.

But you know me: I only know how to write what people like to read. Or so it seems I'm supposed to :)

And of course not. You know what happens when I start writing an LJ entry. That's why I don't write them at work. :)
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 01:24 am (UTC)


If this kinda thing interests you, then you should definitely go pick up some Philip K. Dick. Most of his writings deal with the nature of perception and reality, in one sense or another. I'd start with the stuff written before, say, 1975 -- since most of his writings after that stem from his attempt to make some sense out of a series of religious "epiphanies" he had. Those writings, rather, delve extensively into Esoteric Christianity and Gnosticism.

For example, "The Penultimate Truth" explores consensus reality (and the institutional lies we are told/believe) in a social context. "Eye in the Sky" is a tour of reality/realities as seen by several individuals -- kind of like Kurosawa's "Rashomon" as a group activity from which you can't escape. And "Time Out of Joint", I swear, has to be the source of the idea on which "The Truman Show" was based.

"Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said" is not quite as directly related, but is another fun concept to play with: In most cases, someone takes a psychedelic drug and it plays with the perceptions of their own personal reality. What would happen, though, if you took the drug but it instead messed with everybody else's reality.

PKD is great for an occasional mind-fuck. Completely whacked in the head, he was himself; but still entertaining.

[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)

Re: PKD...

*nods* I know his writing very well, actually. The most recent thing I read was The Man in the High Castle, which was quite the good mindfuck, I thought.

His stories are the source for so many movies, from Blade Runner (though I prefer the title "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep") to Minority Report to Total Recall. It's amazing how big-budget he can be.

I'll look into re-reading some of those, as I think I read a few of them. . . They've sometimes flowed together in my mind, I've read so many. :)
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 02:59 am (UTC)
i really don't see why it's that big of a deal. if writing touches you, it shouldn't matter if it's factual or not.
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 04:30 am (UTC)
That is pretty much my feeling on it. I cannot, at all, fathom why it bothers people that Frey didn't actually experience that. I mean, yeah: he said he did, but really, people say they do things or believe in things all the time and don't really. Politicians are a prime example.

And sometimes, the message simply cannot be conveyed in any way except the first-person. It could be construed as a limitation that the writer faces, or perhaps he/she is less of a writer because he or she cannot write from a third-person perspective and fully express themselves.

I have no concept of the scandal that this has caused. Mostly because I cannot see why it should be a scandal.

I like your icon.

*whistfully thinks, "Someday, maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll find myself in a stripclub."*
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 05:15 am (UTC)
Well, it is kinda shitty that it lied about it not being true. He could have easily said it was a fictionalized account of his life. However, I have to say for him, it probably makes his writing more powerful if people are believeing it. Because thought it shouldn't matter, and really it doesn't, would Oprah have praised it so much if she knew it was all fake? Maybe, yeah.
Anyway I can totally see both sides of it, I just don't think the guy should be crucified or that this should be a scandal.
Sometimes, when you've told a lie, or an exaggeration, so much...you start to believe it. This guy has formed these ideas about his life in order to write them down, who knows how long he meditated on it, took him to write it, re-write it. And writing it in first person constantly jamming the stuff into his head. I can imagine it'd be very easy to come to believe something you know is fiction is either entirely or mostly true. Especially if it's based on his feelings, which are totally real. He might not have been the victim of that train wreck or whatever it was, but if his feelings were so connected to it, and he wrote like he was, it wouldn't take much for him to actually believe it was true, as you say. And it shouldn't matter to us either.

I'm rambling now. I like my icon too. Maybe someday, if you're REALLY lucky, you won't just find yourself in a strip club, you'll find yourself in MY stripclub. But I can tell you, it's not you thats the lucky one...its any girl who gets to dance for you. Because honestly I can't really imagine a better customer than what I think you'd be. Unless you were a millionare, perhaps. :)
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 04:00 am (UTC)
As far as the "smackle" of entries being the straw that broke the camel's back, I blame the fact that you don't work weekends. It was your first entry of the new week, and thus dashed the natural closing point for your polling that the weekend might have become.

I do find it interesting that you are intrigued by others telling you how to write your journal, yet the "smackle" contained that contraversial section in which you tell others how to think. Or least how they should (and should not) be directing their mental energies. :)
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 04:24 am (UTC)
It could seem that way, I suppose. But it was very, very amusing that a number of people mentioned it in that entry, though a couple of people had made the odd comment here and there before.

Re: how people ought to do X or Y:

Well, yeah; I imagine there's a reason it never got posted until just then. Gods only know when I wrote that. Then again, I'd say the message was, "anywhere but here, please. . . Try these suggestions if you can't find another place to put them." And I wonder if it's different to say that to my readers, rather than have my readers say it to me. . . After all, it's my journal, take or leave, right? But, of course, that's not really the case, especially with my LJ, which is generally set up as a conversation. Ah, so many strange ideas. But I need some sleep :)
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 06:41 am (UTC)
Well, it wouldn't be Monday if your LJ wasn't the focal point for some sort of contraversy. I think my first post to it was in the midst of some sort of fiery political debate. But either way, mission accomplished if a collection of ones and zeroes transmitted over high speed phones lines can evoke an emotional response from the reader?
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 06:20 am (UTC)
Frey did not "remember differently". It's a fact that he first tried to publish the book as fiction; when this failed, he changed the label to non-fiction and sold it as a memoir. So he was aware that what he had written was far more whole cloth creation than even altered memories.
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC)
"A fact"

I like that phrase. It's cute. :) You've brightened my morning. :)
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I think that the way you perceive that WE perceive you is odd. Or... something. :P

I more or less knew where you were going with the polls all along, but this only served to disincline me actually answering them like the sleepy girl i am. I may have indulged you now and then, but I think it was pretty random. I guess I just didn't like doing them because they were not really indicative of ANYTHING, particularly when we did not get a chance to explain things either way. For example, I figured you'd want the Washburn one to be polled as true and you'd likely write about something mundane but false so you could grin about people's expected believing reactions... so yeah. I was kinda disinclined to give an 'honest' answer either way knowing that you were probably gonna use our reactions to prove some sort of point. :P

It was a good point, of course, and one you've never been shy about making, but I guess I just get grumpy when I feel like I am being tested. *evil look... nah, too tired* I can forgive your rascally ass, however, if you do not attempt to judge how well people know/don't know/understand/don't understand you based on what they voted to be true or not true. For example, I think I voted true for the girl story... or maybe I didn't. I don't know. All I know is that my immediate reaction was that it damn well didn't matter either way, and seeing as you wanted it to have happened I didn't see any good reason why should it not have. So what did I answer? Who the fuck knows. "True" would have been misleading because I didn't think it was TRUE, I just thought it was what you had perceived happening. Not true would have been a lie, too, because it would have implied I believed it never happened in your eyes in the first place. I had the same issue with Washburn -- I did not believe a damn word of it, but at the same time I didn't see why your story wasn't TRUE. As in... true to you. Or something. Maybe I just didn't know how to use your poll to capture the general gyst of what yer saying now?

Anyway, it was a neat idea either way, but still a little disgruntling. It is difficult to judge when elaborating on/inventing the truth is justifiable or not, or whether it needs to be. For example, it's harmless, I think, for you to tell a 'true story' about Washburn, but what if you told a 'true story' about PSA having an orgy or somebody beloved hurting you/getting hurt? Then it becomes a question of ethics... it's like, how important is it to you to embellish/invent a past versus to respect/be honest with others?

Can't say as I have a clear answer to that, myself... very tricky business.

Now, time to nap on the library couch like a bum. XD
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 04:02 pm (UTC)
Like my professor being interested in the study of the study of things, I'm interested in the perceptions of perceptions.

I'm not entirely sure that there's an ethical question about making up stuff. But then, I wouldn't know that, either.

And I had no real "want" about what the polls would do. I was just interested to see how they'd turn out.

My fList going on strike against them was probably the best reaction, though. I really found that hilarious. The response of, "I don't like the answers so I won't answer at all," perhaps, was most amusing to me.
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC)
Did you not expect that? You should know better! We take every chance we can to refuse things, jump on things, and otherwise cause you no end to trouble. I especially like the term 'boycott'... it's so political.

Maybe someday when people look back and describe the days when I wrote obnoxious comments in your journals, they'll sing, "And things were very historical." :D

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