Monday, July 6, 2009

You Have Perception

How we perceive the world determines the kind of world we occupy. That's pretty heady stuff, and is a lot fancier than the rest of this entry is going to be. But I tend to believe it.

To use a perfectly mundane example, I believed that the TV series THE MASTER was incredibly popular during its run because everyone I knew was always talking about it. As it turns out, THE MASTER (which features Lee Van Cleef as a heroic ninja) ran semi-erratically for 4 months, disappeared for 3, and then was trotted out for two additional episodes before being put out to pasture. It turns out my schoolmates in junior high were not a good sample of the viewing public at large. But if you had asked me for years afterward, I would have sworn up and down that THE MASTER was quite popular and ran at least more regularly than it did.

Of course, that's just a misperception. According to everything I've ever read, however, my memory has a serious fault in chronology regarding a completely different - and completely trivial - thing. It's the kind of thing that shouldn't even BE a memory, and yet it is, and it contradicts the facts as I later learned them.

Are you ready for this? Alright, according to my memory, Wang Chung hit it really big with "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" (are you ready to wang chung yet?) and the less-remembered but still huge "Let's Go". Then, the movie TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. came out and it featured the band performing a song of that same title, along with other music by them.

It makes sense, doesn't it? A band becomes the big hot thing with a monster hit or two and then gets on a movie soundtrack. It's perfectly logical and tidy and orderly and that's how it plays out in my memory. I had no reason to ever wonder about it, because...well, why would I?

Except it's wrong. Despite how I remember it, the movie came out in 1985, and "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" came out in 1986. I've checked in more than one place and it seems like there is no error, except in my brain. I somehow sequenced these things incorrectly and it became fact to me. I could see getting confused about the songs - it's not particularly unusual for an older song to be re-released successfully after an act hits it big. Heck, Aerosmith's "Dream On" became more than a footnote that way. And yet...yet, my memory persists in telling me the MOVIE came after Wang Chung's hits. This is demonstrably not so.

Release Dates:
TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (soundtrack album by Wang Chung) - September 1985
TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (film) - November 1985
MOSAIC (Wang Chung album with "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" & "Let's Go") - September 1986

As it turns out, "Let's Go" did not even receive release as a single until the early days of 1987.

Could this all be a massive cock-up? Could these dates be wrong and it all happened just the way I remembered it? Well, anything's possible. But it certainly looks to me as if my wires got crossed quite significantly about this, even though absolutely nothing in MY life relies on it. I'm not even the biggest Wang Chung fan I know. (That would be this guy, by the way.)

The reason I bring this up is that it makes me wonder how much of my memory is a forgery that I have inflicted upon myself. There are plenty of memories swirling around in my head that are a lot more important than stuff involving Wang Chung. How have I selectively edited and rearranged them into a more satisfying form? Do I build myself up better than I am? Or do I knock myself down lower than I should? That's the part that is potentially interesting to me. I wonder how much of who I am is shaped by these distortions.

The deep questions are probably unanswerable. I'm just content to understand why I think about ninja when I'm watching spaghetti westerns.

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