Working large after a long hiatus. How large? 5×8! Wish me luck, photos to follow.

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Things that may not have seemed surreal at the time

Black cat auditions in Hollywood, 1961, Life Magazine

Black cat auditions in Hollywood, 1961, Life Magazine (via Retronauts)

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Continuous Retconning

As per Wikipedia, which is totally a source:

Retroactive continuity (retcon for short[1]) is the alteration of previously established facts in a fictional work.[2] Retcons are done for many reasons, including the accommodation of sequels or further derivative works in a series, wherein newer authors or creators want to revise the in-story history to allow a course of events that would not have been possible in the story’s original continuity. Other reasons might be the reintroduction of popular characters, resolution of errors in chronology, the updating of a familiar series for modern audiences, or simplification of an excessively complex continuity structure.

It’s the same set of actions and motivations as historical revisionism, but I want to talk about it in a non-historical, non-fiction context. That is to say, I want to discuss personal and interpersonal acts of retcon; the embellishments, inventions, and omissions necessary for the current circumstances to make sense and continue.

It’s only retcon if you don’t get caught. Furthermore, it’s only retcon if you can’t be caught.  I’m not talking about the person who lies on their resume to get a job (besides, that would technically be historical). I’m talking about the diminution of trauma that allows one to move on. I’m talking about telling yourself that your lover was more thoughtful than she was so you can go on trusting her. Aspirational recall. Memory with a motive.

Our experiences shape who we are (or at least some folk think so), and we have a lot of control over how those experiences are perceived by ourselves and others after the fact. A concrete (historical, literary) example: memoirists know this. They seldom lie outright.

John Ashcroft signing a copy of his memoir, "Never Again"

John Ashcroft signing a copy of his memoir, "Never Again"

So is it important? Is it universal? Is it benign?

Is it something to make art about?

If you were to make something about private retconning, what would it look like? I immediately jump to someone painting a flattering portrait of themselves. Straight up, bash you over the head. Bash bash bash. Bashing is fun, but it bores.

A piece of chintz, stretched on canvas, with all the flowers carefully excised and replaced with a fabric that is almost a perfect match to the background color… but only almost.

Or you could just take it to the the most extreme expression possible, hire Jim Carey and Kate Winslet, and you see where I’m going with that.

It must be important and universal, or we wouldn’t have Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Maybe a soundscape, with If You Don’t Know Me By Now but slowed down and only the “you will never never never know me, ooh” repeating. Credit to my friend Matthew Janson for that thought – he once showed in a basement room with “Something tells me I’m into something good” on a loop. Just that line. It took a few minutes to figure out what was wrong.

Or maybe just keep performing it, thoughtlessly, effortlessly, continuously.

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I would be a terrible career counselor.

I don’t want to be a secretary forever, so I’ve been giving some thought to what I want to do next. In 2025 (give or take a year) I will have paid off my student loans, and will be able to make much less money if I choose (and I almost certainly do). So what then?

Three words.

Player piano repairwoman.

I think that player pianos are not actually that hard to repair. They are essentially mechanical, and there’s no combustion to deal with. You’d probably have to fabricate some parts yourself from time to time, but I like doing things like that. Learning to tune pianos would require an apprenticeship, but then I could do plain piano tuning when I find that all the player pianos within a hundred miles are in fine working order.

My business cards would say “Play On, Player”

I would look into the manufacturing process for rolls, and how many different setups I would need in order to cover a slim majority of the players in the US. Two? Five? Fifteen?

Then I would have to look into the laws that govern licensing for player piano rolls. Are they sheet music? Are they records? Would licensing the score suffice? I think it should. And licensing scores can be cheap.

My first release on my new player piano publishing project would be RENT, as I assume most player piano owners are also Broadway fans, and I don’t think there were any roll manufacturers when that musical came out.

Next would be a roll with three songs by Led Zeppelin, because that would be awesome.

Then Les Mis.

Then a ten song Motown revue.

I could start a subscription service for the rolls. Once, of course, I figure out how to manufacture them.

I think that would be an awesome way to spend the rest of my (hopefully long) life.

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In which I remind myself of someone else

After a rather long hiatus, I am updating this thing again. This might turn out to be another Icarus impersonation.

There’s a flash of what seems like insight, and a burst of energy. It’s great! Things are started; wonderful things, things that will change someone’s mind about the world and their place in it. And then I don’t want to get out of bed, much less finish a painting. With no finished paintings, why would I update a website? And so this sat unloved for 22 months. That’s a toddler’s worth of inertia.

In the meantime, I spent an astounding amount of time on some ephemeral communications. I put everything in there and on there and through there and despite there and to spite there, and it suddenly seemed a little silly.

As with anything I so, this may not last. I may run out of steam, I may make grand promises to myself and others. It’s worth it for the times I follow through.

So join me in gazing at navels, eating lotuses, and whatever other terms there are for reading and writing blogs.



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