1) I have an early memory of standing in the yard of my grandmother’s house in Bolinas, trying to learn to whistle. There was a hummingbird flying around the yard and it suddenly swooped down and skimmed through the top of my hair. At that moment, I whistled.
2) In high school, I spent an inordinate amount of time designing and drawing plans for a perversely large mansion of the 80s neo-romantic artist/rock aristocrat variety. These plans were drawn by hand, with pencils, rulers, and ink. There was no handy CAD machine in sight. It was quite a labor of love, or at least adolescent daydream fantasy. There was a two-story entry room with a marble chessboard for a floor and a balcony around the room so you could look down to better judge your next move. There was an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool in a two-story room with skylights and roman columns. There were cypress trees out front because that was very ‘classical.’ There was a room just for statues. There were hot tubs and fireplaces, a darkroom, and even a urinal (just to have one). My classmates nicknamed the house “The Chainsaw,” because it kind of looked like a Husqvarna from the aerial view. Perhaps those fantasies were in part fueled by a bottle of everclear that was secretly stashed away in the back room for years. These days I much prefer the aesthetics of shack architecture.
3) I find myself strangely addicted to television shows that I never would have imagined watching regularly four years ago. These days it’s House, The Most Dangerous Catch, and just about every game that Arsenal plays. I also find myself watching a lot Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns. I find Sponge Bob Squarepants to be the most deeply absurdist homage to surrealist tendencies imaginable, and if you don’t also find it to be as deeply perverse as I do then you’re really not looking very hard (often it reminds me of the kind of horrifying erotics of Dali’s The Great Masturbator). Plus it has great comic timing.
4) My first memories of television are of watching The Making of Star Wars on PBS while desperately futzing with the antenna to get better reception. Then I moved to San Francisco and watched a ton of Ultraman on Channel 2, as well as Godzilla movies, anything on Creature Features, and, strangely, I also remember watching Gone With the Wind. That was all in glorious black and white. I didn’t live in a house with a television after that for about 20 years. The TV I own now is the first one I’ve ever bought — it’s 3.5 years old.
5) I’m sure that far too many of my libidinal desires were shaped by early exposure to Elfquest and The X-Men. The very first comic I ever bought was an X-Men comic.
6) Jacques Cousteau was my childhood hero, and I still count him as one of the major influences in my life. And not just because on that one episode they drank some of the unopened wine that they had discovered on the wreck of a Roman ship. The Silent World is an incredibly beautiful book, and The Cousteau Almanac was deeply influential on the formation of my environmental consciousness (and way ahead of its time —seriously discussing wind power, alternatives to fossil fuels, and solar power, all back in 1981). I spent a huge part of my childhood wanting to become a marine biologist and reading volume after volume about undersea life. Nudibranchs are perhaps the most beautiful creatures that live on this planet.
7) I tend to ramble when I write prose. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not. At least I don’t write like someone who thinks they’re going to be the new Hemingway.
8) For someone who really has no background in electrical engineering I know way too much about 12AX7s, ECC82s, EL-34s, 6L7s, KT88s, and, of course, the 300B.
9) Things I usually have in my bag when I go out: iPod, loaded up with music, Football Weekly, Democracy Now, and Against the Grain; a copy of The London Review of Books, Harper’s, or The Wire (soon this list will also include Radical Philosophy); a pair of chopsticks — I don’t like to use disposables; a camera (always, always carry a camera!); ibuprofen; tissue papers; a pencil case, full; a notepad, full; a spare pair of batteries for my Voigtlander Bessa R2A, in case it goes dead. Sometimes I carry my electronic dictionary with me as well (Japanese/English).
10) I often get all weepy at weddings, but I have absolutely no desire to get married myself. Similarly, I love other peoples’ pets, but I haven’t wanted to own a pet of my own for decades now. When I did want to own a pet, it was an otter. More recently, I was thinking about a hedgehog, but then I found out that they can’t be housebroken. That puts them right out.
11) I absolutely love the handmade eyeglasses that come out of Japan.
12) As the old joke among Marxists goes, “I’ve predicted seven of the last two economic crises!”
13) I was once asked, “Have you started collecting anything since you’ve moved to Japan?” Here are the collections that are forming: Kokeshi dolls (look it up! —I like the older, more traditional and alien-looking style); vinyl toys, especially representations of Ultraman’s enemies; and goshuin stamps — stamps from temples and shrines that you use to round out pilgrimage books. I’ve always been something of a collector, and luckily I mostly am not a completist about my collections (except when it comes to comic books). Here are some other collections that I’ve started in my time: stamp collection (including a large selection of Soviet stamps, as well as stamps chronicling the rise of Nazi Germany — and yes, I had that Tonga Banana stamp too); a rock collection; a shell collection; a collection of local fungus samples (my mycology phase, not quite over yet); a coin collection (only a lame one); a collection of old telephone-pole glass insulators; a vintage necktie collection; a collection of broken lighters; a pipe collection (I did use them for awhile, but ended up giving them away); of course I have a record/CD collection; a comic collection is de rigeur; a camera collection (not very big, as far as collections go); a fountain pen collection; and a collection of small and rare 1970s poetry magazines from the Bay Area.
14) I want to be on the raft with Jim. Or Huck. Or Huck and Jim. Really, I just want to be on the raft. And I want to run like the spotted camelopard.
15) According to my father, the first of the American DeVores (it would have been “de Vore,” of course) came over from France during the French and Indian War and promptly surrendered to the English. Even though it’s probably an apocryphal story, this is definitely a family history I would take pride in. More likely the DeVore side of my family were originally French fur trappers, plying their trade up and down the Mississippi.
16) I once caught an alligator lizard that had two tails. And blue-belly lizards (I believe that “Western Fence Swift” is the official non-scientific designation) really do fall into a sleep-like trance when you turn them on their backs and rub their bellies.
17) I think that film photography is one of the most spectral, beautiful, haunting technologies ever invented. When you snap the shutter on a film camera, photons of light generated by the physical moment itself make their way onto the film strip and burn an image into it that functions as a representational record of the moment while at the same time containing an actual physical trace of the moment itself. Digital cameras take this trace and convert it into data, but the film trace is always also a physical part of the moment when the shutter snapped open. The film images of dead friends contain the actual physical trace of photons of light that were reflected from their living bodies. Every film negative contains the actual physical trace of a moment in time, like an artifact from an archaeological dig.
18) At a zoo in Zurich, I once had my hand held by an elephant. This was not arranged in any way, but happened spontaneously on the edge of the elephant holding area. The elephant had walked to the wall that surrounded the holding area and it held it’s trunk out in my direction. I held my hand up to the end of its trunk, and it sniffed my hand for a moment and then folded the very tip of its trunk around my hand. This kind of contact was totally exhilarating, but also quite terrifying since I had never imagined the incredible strength that an elephant has in its trunk muscles (all 48,000 of them) until then. The elephant was so strong that it could easily have broken my hand, but it seemed to know that just giving a light grip was the thing to do. This lasted for under a minute, and then something startled the elephant a bit and caused it to back off.
19) My “25 random things” entry is already way too long.
20) The first album I ever owned was Kiss, Destroyer. I left it in the sun and it got a slight warp in it. I used to go over to the house of the girl next door and we would listen to it together on her tiny toy record player. She was totally awesome and she had a silver tooth.
21) I have a deep and abiding memory of the moment when I looked at the word “t-h-e-r-e” and it coalesced in my brain as the word “there.” It’s the first memory I have of being able to read spontaneously without having to sound out the letters, bit by bit. It was like magic, or even possession.
22) My parents took me along to a Stan Brakhage film when I was just a baby and I ended up getting written up in the San Francisco Chronicle review of the film. “Soundtrack provided by Trane DeVore,” or something of the sort. The reviewer wasn’t very impressed by Brakhage’s work. My parents also took me along to A Clockwork Orange, but apparently I cried so much that they had to leave the theater halfway through the movie. In hindsight, I suppose that was probably a pretty predictable outcome.
23) New things since moving to Japan: I bought my very first television set; I bought my very first mobile phone; I learned to snowboard; I can speak Japanese now (but my reading skills are pretty much nonexistent); I experienced my first typhoon (but it was pretty underwhelming); I made friends with people I had only met on the internet; I’ve decided that cooked, soy-marinated grasshoppers really are one of the world’s great beer snacks; I have a research budget.
24) I once had shoulder-length hair. I cut it off when I woke up one night panicking because I thought that there were spiderwebs all over my face.
25) Did you know, Dear Reader, that I think that you are the most beautiful, intelligent, creative, wonderful and amazing person in the world?
Filed under: architecture, cinema, comics, culture, daily life, film, Japan, literature, music, personal, photography, scraps and bones, television, writing | 10 Comments
Tags: 25 random things, 25 things, collecting, collections, comics, creaturely contact, Devores, elephant, film, film photography, first album, first record, girl with the silver tooth, hauntology of film, Jacques Cousteau, learning to read, lizards, memories, narcissistic architecture, personal recollections, photography, Stan Brakhage, television addiction, things I carry in my bag, Trane DeVore, trunk muscles, tubes