The Anatomy of a False Memory

For years, I have been repeating a false memory. Now I have got to the bottom of it.

I have been repeating that I got a cartoon from the New Yorker magazine cratoonist Jack Ziegler of his dead body (corpse) being either dumped from a New York City sanitation truck onto the steps of St. Patricks Cathedral, or picked up from therer as part of trash collection. Not so! What I do have is a letter from him, dated 13 January 1979:

Dear Mr. McCormick,
I suspect that if the characters in my drawings were somehow miraculously to come to life, they would either
A.) have me drawn and quartered in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Easter morning, or
B.) be totally unaware that I exist.
I suspect ths latter to be the case.
In any case, thank you for the letter and her have another TV set for you to put your own progtamming on.

[Here there is a drawing of an unplugged television set.]

Best wishes,

Clearly, for a number of years, I was harboring a false memory, or more presicely: a reconstruction of a memory I never had. But so what? the letter contains the substance of the false memory: "drawn and quartered in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral". The spirit is the same.

It's like the psychoanalyst [Prince] M. Masud R. Khan might say he had The Queen over for dinner last night when in fact he had thrown a lavish dinner party at which The Queen was not in attendance and he never knew or otherwise met her.

Such harmless fabrications galled the psychoanalyst dwarfs who could never afford to throw any lavish dinner party or even be invited to one. They motivated the dwarfs destroy Khan, which they were able to do because he did not have a credential. Like in the book "McTeague" by Frank Norris (Film: "Greed" by Erich von Stroheim).

So I have been guilty of spreading a false memory, and I now correct myself. But I remain more or less content with the past in this situation. It was what it was, and dwarfs should get over themselves (to borrow a couple lines from Donald Trump and his sometime Acting Press Sec'y Robert MuldoonMick Mulveney.

Concerning other dubious memories

A mystery
38 yeas ago I thought my father had been an Engineer on a B-29 that firebombed Tokyo, 9/10 March 1945. I even wrote this in the guest book at the Hiroshima Atom Bomb Memorial. This was false. Was it a false memory or a fabrication? I don't know. Years later I got what supposedly is his military service record and it showed he was a gunner on a B-29, and his only service outside the continental 48 states was one month in Puerto Rico. (Prof. Forsdale told me that being a crewmwn on a B-29 was an eite service, even if you were just a gunner.)

But the story does not end here. Why as a child would I ever have known the word "white phosphorous"? What was my mother doing travelling by train to Alamogordo New Mexico to see my father in the service? Is it possible my father had some low-level position in connection with the Army Air Corps support of the atomic bomb? Not that he necessarily did anything important but still, maybe something I do not know about and which might not be on his official record? He died (1983) before I took an interest in this matter.

A memory verified
There was almost nothing in my childhood surround that appealed to me (starting with my parents). When I was in the 7th or 8th grade, one evening, my father's brother came to visit us (we had almost no visitors; I think my mother was ashamed because she and my father had come from nothing, as opposed to feeling proud about them having risen above it). The brother came in a low-end Porsche automobile. I instantly recognized it as something good. What a beautiful little car! I seemed to recall he told me that the door seams were perfectly uniform width due to a worer having sealed the gap between the car's body and the car door with lead and then a tool used to cut a univiform slit between the body and the door. An automobile mechanic who specializes in repairing Porsches recently confirmed this is true.

Professor Elizabeth Eisenstein
This is a consequential memory which if false, will not be good. I seem to recall that in personal corresponsence (snail mail), in a long letter, Professor Eisenstein wrote to me that she wanted to title her magisterial study of the impact of the coming of printed books in early modern europe, "The Printing Pressas an Agent of Change", instead: "The Master Printer as an Agent of Change". But, she added, the publisher did not like this idea. If my memory is correct, it helps interpret her book better than the existing title. If not, I think it still is illuminating, just, lamentably, not also a fact. I believe I found the relevant letter a few months ago as of this writing but at the time did not read it carefully for fear of being disappointed that my memory is wrong. But now I am ready to face facts but cannot find the letter.

+2022.10.09. I found the letter I received From Prof. Eisenstein (also the letter I originally sent to her). It is thoughtful and encouraging about my interpretation of her work, but it does not mention the book title issue. So that must be a false memory and maybe I will be able to investigate it further? Alas, she died in 2016, so no hope in that direction.


Concentration chair

My two earliest memories (no later than age 4 years, maybe earlier). One of them still seems to me like a memory; the other is closer to just a thought that something had happened. The latter is that I was traumatized by being haircutted. I did not like it. Of course people will say that it was no big deal but my rejoinder to that is they are no big deal either. All my life until finally around 1984 in IBM Research I could get that monkey off my back, I hated and resented having to passum sub iugum – literally: to go under the lintel of the door of a barber shop to have done to me something I did not want but had to do: Or else!. I will never know what it would be like to enjoy my natural hair as my secure posession from early childhood; they cut the foreskin off my penis before I existed as a person and kept cutting the hair off my head after I would have stopped them if I could; to borrow Alice Miller's words: for my own good and that I should not be aware.

What still seems more a real memory is me sitting on my potty and not being allowed to play with my toys until a produced fecal matter for my mother. Probably the only 3-syllable word in her vocabulary, I had to: "con-cen-trate".

And sonmething i seem to recall from 2nd grade. I have documented this experinece on a page of its own here: "Stigmata", a title I mean technically precisely. I deserved better social surround. As my sometime computer programming manager, Doug Schaff, said of himself, which I apply also to myself:

"They put me off at the wrong stop when I was born."
+2024.01.18 v041
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Unfortunate for themself, the person who lacks one; unfortunate for others, the person that is one. Don't be an a**hole!
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