I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"The Devil and Daniel Johnston"

Katie and I found this aptly-titled documentary a few months ago in Tatsuya (which more or less translates into Blockbuster, with the same blue and yellow flags and mantras). I've never heard of Daniel Johnston, or haven't I??? It turns out that his music has been sampled and worshipped by some of my favorite musicians: Nirvana, Guster, Beck. They all covered his work because they realized that Daniel Johnston's musical genius is not hindered by his workbench organ (literally constructed in his brother's basement) or god-awful guitar strumming. The lung-melting honesty and bloody fists of victory that Daniel Johnston holds up to his imaginary spectators (all demons) in every single one of his songs leaps into a timeless orbit artistic masterpieces. He sits with Michaelangelo and Baudelaire on a throne of uncompromising heroism against mortality. And the most inspiring aspect of Johnston is that he walks among us cloaked in mediocrity, showing us that the trails to eternity surround us on all sides.
Sure he spent a decade or two in and out of asylums and maybe he was guilty of insanity––name one interesting person who isn't? But after studying the human mind as much as I have, I've realized that the true cause of mental abberation usually lies in the inability to express oneself in conventional terms. Please hear me out: Most people do not like to hear strange things. Most people do not like to listen to death, to fear, to the questions of "what comes next?" knocking at internal doors, to the incomprehensible reason that the earth turns at the speed it does yet we still hang on without trying even though the cells within our own body are technically only maintaining their current structure through repulsion, and hence, our nose is not actually connected to our face and we are breathing through perforated bags of fluid, hence we are perpetually drowning and disconnected. We like to hear words we cannot see like "oxygen" and "GUT" and believe that we are not contributing to human demoralization with our billion dollar pornography and sex industries and killing 50 people a day so that we can drive to a job we don't want or need.
Listening to Daniel Johnston puts things in perspective, because despite his lack of standard self-expression, I see more truth in his words and his unmuffled crying voice that 99% of what I see around me. What that says about the agreed reality that nations and moneymakers believe in...it's a myth, if not worse, an intended deception.
Maybe this is a brash overstatement, but it's a hell of an introduction. Please just try it for yourself. The website is below. Rent the movie, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston." It should be at Vision Video for those in Athens, Atlantans may have to order in unless you know a good indie rental place.

  • "Hi How Are You--the official Daniel Johnston website where you can buy albums, comic sketches, and more!!!"

    I just read on the
  • official Daniel Johnston website
  • that he is scheduled to make an appearance at the Athens Popfest this August 11th. Based on what I've heard from him, I think his singing voice of late is a bit on the decline due to heavy medications and putting on a lot of weight, but his performance ability is unmatchable. Please go see old Danny Boy belt out a few of his classic originals like "Casper the Friendly Ghost" and "Funeral Girl". I guarantee shivers.


    Blogger Patti said...

    We got Daniel Johnston from Netflix - very interesting story and I do like his music. He's going to be in Athens August 11 at Popfest.

    How's Sami?

    Becca sent you guys a package of Africa treasures and pix - also some mail and the disk you requested of stock images for school - look for it soon!

    Love- mom

    9:08 AM


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