Wednesday, January 24, 2007

We Can't all be Rob Thomas

A webcomic I read recently 'died', its creator quitting it and moving on to other endeavors. His name is Michael Zole and his thoughts on the demise of Death to the Extremist really got me thinking about the nature of success and what it is to have accomplished something. I consider myself an expert on quitting, obscurity and failure, having made no mark or difference in the world and affecting nothing throughout my lifetime. So when I find people writing about giving up dreams and stuff, I'm all up in that.

It is a given that life is essentially pointless, senseless, and devoid of meaning but that doesn't mean you can't go to furry conventions. I consider any self expressive endeavor, no matter how small, a big F.U. in the face of the Scooby Doo costume of hopelessness that is human existence. Sure there's no point to waking up on any given day because we will all die eventually, but in the meantime if you want to go to furry conventions or wear Optimus Prime costumes or make webcomics then I salute you. And if your webcomic is about your adventures at the furry conventions where you cosplayed as Optimus Prime then holy crap send me the link.

To be honest, I wasn't a regular reader of Death to the Extremist. I only went there infrequently but there was one DTE comic called Coin Toss that I thought was pretty profound. So much so that "and I've got a good feeling about tomorrow" is something that floats around in my head and automatically pops up in random thought situations to this day. So when I read that Death to the Extremist ended I thought, fuck, the crushing despair of life claims another victim. I was kind of hoping Mike would have gone on to webcomic fame and fortune with DTE. Heck, I thought he was already there. Actually, I may have a distorted perspective because I just assumed anyone who did more than 100 of anything was succesful.

But what is success really? I thought success was influencing the lives of countless people. At his blog Michael wrote something to effect that if his work touched even some degree of people that he didn't know personally, that was his success. I thought success was being prolific and having an unending supply of boundless creative energies. The great Bruce Dickinson said that some bands only have four good albums in them. I'm just kind of confused right now about what exactly words like 'success' or 'good' mean. Also, 'albums'. I thought being good at something guarenteed success. Michael quitting DTE shocked me because I thought he was meeting all the criteria. He had everything I wish I could have with a webcomic-good layout, lots of good ideas, and actual readers. I just thought DTE was already doing good by my definitions. In in the end I realize I'm not the best judge of what 'good' is. Hell, you know that if you've ever tried reading anything I write.

Michael's definition of success in regards to webcomic readership totally had me reevaluating how I define my own idea of accomplishment. By his definition, I am his success. He got through to me with that one line that haunts my thoughts. But isn't this a lowering of standards by at least some measures? Sure influencing one person is great and all, but who wants to stop at just one or 10 or 500, especially when the more people that 'get' you the more positive encouragement you get? I am assuming things like thousands of vocal supportive fans would have kept DTE alive. But what happens when nobody lets you know you're getting through? I know from experience that a lack of positive support from one's intended audience tends to kill my enthusiasm for my own projects. I guess I am complicit in his decision to give up if that's the case because I never let him know how even that one Coin Toss comic affected me. It is also possible that I am overanalyzing things and the truth is that he just got tired of doing it. But I always prefer the perspective where I am a little bit closer to the center of the universe and my action or inaction influences people and events in several dimensions.

I think I am guilty of romanticizing failure and negativity. I think I am more interested in reading the creative fruit of tormented, conflicted people in depressed or downtrodden states. That's probably why I love the Declarative Sparrows and Porn Addict blogs and The Fart Party webcomic. Judging by how many people leave comments on those sites I know I'm not alone in that. Failure is sexy. I think these interesting blog writers and webcomic artists accept their personal melancholy, define themselves by it and the resulting creative work is so real to me I wish I could express myself like that. DTE never really concentrated on themes of angst and depression, though, so I don't know where the hell I was going with this paragraph.

I was surprised the day that I found out that Rob Thomas, Jeffrey Rowland and I are only about a year apart in age. I consider them huge successes and people I wish I was instead. I see them and I think-hey, they made it by now so why did my life end up being a more colossal disaster than when that meteorite devastated South Atalia Island? So I draw all these parallels between myself and other guys in the same age bracket. But aside from being male and sexy and in our early 30's, we really have nothing else in common career wise because Rob Thomas and Jeffrey Rowland didn't a) join Air Force, b) end up in Antarctica or c) waste their potential making all the wrong decisions in life like I did. MESSAGE TO ROB THOMAS AND JEFFREY ROWLAND: You were smart dudes who got it right! Good job!

So while the loss of Death to the Extremist makes my bulb somewhat dimmer, here's congratulations to Micheal Zole for achieving his personal definition of success. Also, thanks for making me think twice about what my own ideas of success are. Maybe I can find some measure of self worth in knowing that I am part of the internet validation process that makes other people feel successful. That admittedly is a somewhat low standard to measure one's sense of accomplishment by. But it's the only thing I've come up with so far today. And I've got a good feeling about tomorrow.


Smurfwreck said...

I think success is like the anthesis of one's one fart. Okay follow me here.

No matter what most people do in their life they feel unsucessful or at least not exactly where they want to be (except those smarmy bastards that love everything about themselves or people who have managed to attain some sort of inner peace which I truly think is rare), and said people are almost always either looking towards a goal they feel is unattainable or comparing themselves to others who have either already gotten to that place or somewhere similar.

But then you take that same dissatisfied (success-wise) person and watch their reaction when they cut an astounding fart and you'll be amazed by the self gratification. Fart well done. Smells like roses (stinky roses.)

Now if you look at both of these occurances from a different perspective and you'll see the opposite. That person's friends probably see them as more successful than they see themselves, and those same friends think that, that fart stinks.

It's all a matter of perspective, and farts. Fartspective if you will.

What the hell was the point I was trying to make? Success smells funny? I don't know. I swear I had a point when I started writing...

Evil King Macrocranios said...

I think you're making the case that there is an innate success measuring instinct in some people that skews more towards dissapointment as they look at the larger view of what they've accomplished. And the more dissapointed one is in their overall state of being, the more they appreciate the small things they do right. It's a good thing we don't live forever because I couldn't stand all the failure I could cram into infinity. On the other hand, I can't wait for them to start handing out the immortality pills because the suicide rate is going to skyrocket.


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