. . . Daniel Johnston

. . .

It's nice to see that Poor Daniel Johnston is still picking up new fans. Besides many hours of singalong pleasure, Johnston has also provided the Hotsy Totsy Club with the title of one of its most popular topics.

So I reckon I'll be supportive and pick up the new album, but it won't be with particularly high hopes. Johnston is a great pop songwriter, but his songwriting peaked in 1983's Hi, How Are You? and Yip/Jump Music, with every track a gem or at least a fruity pebble. 1990 had two or three good tunes; Continued Story had only one; and Jad Fair..., Artistic Vice, and Fun had none at all.

Kind of a Brian Wilson career arc, except that Johnston never made any money and he likes to draw cartoons.

. . .

Special Anniversary Narcissism Week! (cont.): Secret Origins of the Hotsy Totsy Club

In an email interview for The Industry Standard (which I never saw, since it wasn't put on their website), Mark Frauenfelder asked, "Why do you keep a weblog?"
Like most of the writers I know, I want to be rewarded for being self-indulgent. This is the latest attempt.

The structural assumptions built into formal essays and short stories don't match what gives me the most pleasure in writing. House styles drive me nuts, and even when reviewers achieve a measure of stylistic and structural freedom, they're restricted topically. I offered to write a column called "You Kids Get Out of My Yard!" for GettingIt, but that, uh, didn't pan out. (More precisely, the editor laughed at me but still stood a drink.)

Finally, a couple of friends (Juliet Clark and Christina La Sala) suggested that I just start my own online magazine. I knew pretty much right away that it would take the weblog form, though I hadn't yet heard the term: I wanted frequent additions of mostly short pieces; I'd be providing most of the material, but I'd want other voices; there would be lots of linking, since a fair amount of what interests me is on the web and since I always begin research on the web.

Email to Fred Pyen:
All of which semi-coordinates with a decade's worth of wondering what this thing I'm doing is all about and wanting an excuse to drag more of those thoughts into print ("and out of my mind," as Daniel Johnston says). The Hotsy Totsy Club being just another attempt at doing "this thing I'm doing" more directly, after having published criticism and feeling sickish and having published fiction and feeling sickish.

Your "Is this the way I used to fall off this log?" is a pretty beautiful summing up of my "official publication" history.... But, yeah, inasmuch as I can come up with a no pressure form right now, the weblog is it. No economic pressures, therefore no care about numbers, therefore we can push offputting when we feel like putting off and push offshowing when we feel more like showing off and mostly we can just point offstage and say "No, over there!"

From the Generosity discussion group:
I specifically started the Hotsy Totsy Club (complete with dopey name) to escape questions of "responsibility to an audience," "working with the editor," "academic protocol," and so on, having previously run myself several fathoms into the ground on them. Not that I dislike audiences or editors or academics, some of my best friends etc., but for whatever reasons of personal neurosis such considerations were starting to keep my inchoate yearnings permanently inchoate. I like self-indulgence (when it's truly self-indulgence rather than a sleazy attempt at group flattery) and ephemera and overweening pretentiousness, but can't seem to handle long forms at present. In short, I'm trying for a self-indulgent ephemeral overweening pretentious bite-sized unprofessional mess, and, thanks to the web publishing model of low cost and wide distribution, I think I can get away with it for a while longer.

Kinda perverse, kinda oblique, but it's the one thing right now that I like doing-as-consumer that I can also do-as-producer....

. . .

Two's Negation, Three's a Cloud
  or, Three Pints Defy a Plane

Open Letter (H) to the Happy Tutor

Ironist Nails Ran In

I may not agree with what I say, but I'll defend to my death my right to say it.

Open Letter (V) to Turbulent Velvet

Good reason for the popularity of communicable disease

A very amusing and well tailored and well crafted piece of writing becomes widely distributed? People derive pleasure from something and share it with their friends or with all and sundry, whichever they have easier access to? And you're creeped out by that? Maybe your creepometer's adjusted too sensitive. Or you can play it like that old guy what pretended horror at language period, there's always folks who'll pay for that show: "Gawldurn, I hate articulation too! This faggot's all right!"

I showed your rejection letter to everyone I seen since I seen it, and if I'm so viral, why ain't I rich?

Open Letter (C) to the Campus Community

To live outside the law you must be harmless

In the square, I've heard Replacements imitators and Platters and Piaf and Daniel Johnston imitators. In the subway, I've heard Howlin Wolf imitators and Joni Mitchell and Eddie Hazel imitators. Why is it in every campus everywhere I ever been all I hear are Bob Dylan imitators? Why never Elvis Presley imitators? Or James Brown imitators? I'm not requesting exactly. I just want to know why Bob Dylan and why won't they fuck off like he did?

Also, that girl who was yelling "We will not allow this war to happen!"? I'm not sure she really intends to keep her promise.

. . .

Record review

I like the new Lucinda Williams album. She sounds like Daniel Johnston.

. . .

"He's sincere." "Well, that's the main thing."

Theoretically speaking, I agree: Good works count more than good faith. After all, dead men don't speak sincerely in fact, judging from what mediums tell us, they're terrible liers and authors, by definition, are dead.

Practically speaking, I agree, too. Anyone who can be amusing or thought-provoking or typo-correcting is jake (or johnemerson) by me.

But. (And this is a very skinny but.) I do (and will continue to) take an active interlocutor's lack of good faith, or an active interlocutor's obvious assumption of bad faith in myself, as freeing me from any ethical obligation to respond to the S.O.B.

First, so long as they're active, they're not dead. Therefore they're not authors. Therefore a critic has nothing to say about them.

Second, a devil's advocate serves no purpose unless we're in a debate club or trial. What I do participate in conversation or its simulation only comes to an end when we're willing to shut up and think about things for a while. Someone who arbitrarily chops and shuffles words in pursuit of the sneerable can extend his "Now your turn" game long after my "Seeking mutual understanding" game's played out.

Third, people drastically overestimate their ability to maintain detachment or insincerity. Rationalists are (to quote Lee Marvin rather than myself) really quite... emotional. Most self-pronounced tricksters turn out to be a bellicose drunk under a lampshade droning about alimony. This is the sort of job that should be done whole-assed or not at all.

Fourth, humanity is fallen, and so there's a limit to how good our good works get. Even Heidegger didn't always write perfectly clearly. Past a certain point as instanced when I have my Valve Face on trying to block all possibility of misunderstanding or misstatement reduces us to incoherent trivia. (Or: Why I Am Not an Analytic Philosopher, Again.) This doesn't mean you have to listen respectfully to a neo-Nazi; just it's nice not to have to waste time wondering why what the guy is saying happens to make him sound so much like a neo-Nazi. If you're an overbearing bore, I'd certainly appreciate your letting me know that before we strike up a conversation, and I'm sure you appreciate the same from me.

Fifth, didn't I liberate myself from all this "ethical obligation" crap once we decided to devote ourselves to the pure play of signifiers what don't signify? OK, then, my chosen signifiers are "Oh dear, look at the time, I really must be going."

Finally, what do I hear in Daniel Johnston's best songs? Conviction. The kitty's fed and something's at stake. "What say let's make this game interesting?"

By the way, this shouldn't need saying, but you never know, so I better gotta say Joseph Kugelmass, despite not wanting extra credit for it, seems like someone speaking in good faith. As the poet sang, "Keep punching Joe."


Happy Valventine's Day to you too!

Kugelmass wins this hand.

. . .

52 Pickup

Yesterday was my fifty-second birthday, my forty-second having occured ten years ago. Today is Daniel Johnston's fiftieth birthday. Tomorrow is Louis Zukofsky's hundred-sixth birthday. What better way to mark these occasions than with the latest melancholy seepage from Anselm Dovetonsils, as scraped by the indefatigable Renfrew Q. Hobblewort?

Don't get me started.

Footnotes from the Modern Russian Reader for Intermediate Classes:
Chapter Three Re-translated From English Because I Could Not Find the Original Text

Misha. Under everyone's feet. Mother, father. Used almost exclusively when addressing one's own parents. In his study. A very common diminutive of book. But there is nothing pretty about him. Interfered with their work. Suppose you take.

You will keep a diary. How could I know? I never thought anything out myself. Was he. Papa had. Let me. Leaned on the back of his chair. Is spelled with. Leave me alone. What else should I write?

Whose. No one's. As poets do. What he could write. What a day! But he is not allowed to go there. A quarter after nine. Clock. Used only in the plural. He was so happy about. Nevertheless. But what shall I do?

About what? He thought of what...Couldn't think of anything else. Ink. Used only in the plural. Was terribly bored. As soon as. He became very cheerful. An exclamation of fatigue or relief. What a sly man! My compliments. Misha felt deeply hurt.

Even more than mamma. He should talk! The one that sings. He became so sad that he was ready to cry. He felt sorry (for). How to treat him. Looked like. Diminutive of feet, legs. But this too. You only have to. Must not brag.

And in rhymes, too. and the like. If you are not interested. Why do you look so sad? She should still. What is wrong with you? Diminutive of cheeks. Diminutive of hands. I must not say.

About that. Let her leave me alone. I don't care. At night. I don't care at all. What a child! This must be shown...

You told on me. About everything. Popular for come. Affectionately and familiarly for brother. In his eyes. Diminutive of pillow, cushion. As though from. For no reason. You pay no attention to me.

Let us. Came out silly. Is no good. Oneself. Let's forget.

Holding each other's hand. No matter how it looks. For life. Little face. Affectionate form. Unless so used, the word is vulgar.


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.