Channels I Love: Van Neistat, The Spirited Man

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Anyone who has ever been around YouTube will probably know the name “Neistat.” There is more than one family member who has done well by YouTube. I first stumbled upon Casey, someone who might be the single most influential YouTuber of all time. Anyone as successful as Casey will surely have their detractors but I feel he is entirely deserving of the success because not only was he a pioneer he also has actual talent.

Casey has a variety of skills, knows how to tell a story, can run and oversee a production and knows how to sit in a variety of meetings. Think security guard to CEO. Anyone who can mix on those levels typically has something to say. He also started a technology company. And he’s athletic. This might not be important to you but it to me. In an age of the “screen body,” it’s nice to see someone who can do more than push a mouse.

But there is another Neistat. Van to be exact. I don’t know what Van does. I don’t know his “thing.” But I don’t really care. When I watch a Van Neistat film it never feels like I’m wasting time, and if anyone has invented a better way to waste time than YouTube I’ve not seen it. Van is intelligent, humorous, curious and inspiring. He’s had an interesting career and seems to be talented in a variety of ways that accumulatively don’t seem to spell anything specific, and yet there he is doing his thing. And I watch. Not all but some.

I’m fifty-three now and what that means is I can’t handle small talk. I can’t pretend anymore. Dinner parties and gallery openings are nails on a chalkboard. “Hey, who are you?” “What do you do?” “Me?” “Oh, I specialize in escaping small talk.” Like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. “We first need to get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city and country. Are you with me?” Ah, yes Bill, I am.

Much of what Van does is analog based. Typewriters, pens, paper, building materials and hands on craftsmanship. The further we go down the digital rabbit hole the more it feels significant to keep one foot in the Stone Age, something he does well. I guess what this channel does for me, perhaps more than anything else, is make me think. I’m not talking about analytical psychology. I’m just talking about perception, pace and quality of life. Oh, and TW 200s.