Jøhnny Fävòrítê (johnnyfavorite) wrote,
Jøhnny Fävòrítê

i heard you on the wireless back in ’52

Steph got a NetFlix account recently, which is how I ended up watching The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Very well done, but I think it would be difficult to screw up. Johnston and his family have been documenting his life since the day he was born. All the principals are still alive and willing to talk. There is an embarrassingly large amount of source material to draw from. And there’s no need to embellish or exaggerate: Johnston’s life is already so weird as to be nearly unbelievable.

Johnston lives in a different world than the rest of us. They overlap in some ways: both have love and trees and Captain America, but his world is nonetheless a very distinct place. His music is not so good, technically, but that’s not what makes him great. Johnston’s skill is showing us what it’s like, over in his world. He is painfully honest and unselfconscious to a degree that few people can match.

You might not be able to appreciate Johnston, yourself. He’s not for everybody. But I’d be willing to bet that he’s part of an ecosystem that includes you, whether you know it or not.

Artists tend to be a little more “out there” than the rest of us. They’re willing to make do with fewer connections, and take more risks, and more drugs, and then report what life is like when you live like that. It’s not much fun being a bundle of raw exposed nerves, but it can be instructive to consume the work of artists who are. They live on an emotional frontier, so we don’t have to.

If you’re already more “out there” than most people, who do you turn to for inspiration? People like Daniel Johnston will do nicely. He is more “out there” than almost anybody, by virtue of being mentally ill. It’s no surprise that Kurt Cobain was a big fan of his.

I admire Johnston’s work, but I can’t listen to it very often. It’s tiring. The more I get on his wavelength, the more it hurts.

Johnston is an anomaly that is good for the world, on the whole. His illness is an anomaly that’s not so good for him personally, though. Who in their right minds would trade places with him? Certainly not me. The degree to which he has self-sabotaged his “career” is heartbreaking. Nobody ever gets very mad at him, because they’re willing to account for the fact that he’s mentally ill, but that doesn’t make his story any easier to watch.

So, hi livejournal, how are you. I quit working on the startup. I came to feel that my cofounders’ eyes were bigger than their stomachs, so to speak. Now I’m working on some different ideas that I hope will prevent me from having to take a “real” job again. There is a subculture of the tech world filled with people who get to call their own shots, for the most part. I’m trying to reverse-engineer the formula, to see if I can get my foot in the door and join them.
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