Sunday, March 30, 2014

Noticing and Noting

They say news should be tailored to the consumer. To a certain extent, that has been going on for a while. People are reading about the Kardashians while I have to look up how to spell their name. Confession time: I'm not really sure how many sisters are in that family. From the supermarket tabloids I see at the checkout, I can guess there are at least two. For a while I thought perhaps they were mother/daughter, like Naomi and Wynonna Judd. Now I don't know why the Kardashians are famous. I'd be more impressed if they did/made/invented/wrote something. Perhaps if they teamed up with their brothers Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, Grumpy, Doc and Dopey. Other than that...
A while back I touched base on people who were geniuses not being recognized as truly talented. The math whiz who worked at Subway, or the guy who bags groceries at my store and tutors calculus in his spare time.
Are they a taco short of a combo platter? Maybe.
Fame is not only fleeting, there are different definitions of success.
There was a bar here in town by the name of Taco land. Graffiti covered walls, a dark stage and the filthiest bathrooms. It was a dive in the truest sense of the word, but it was considered the pinnacle of the underground music scene. Playing Taco land was a benchmark for a struggling band. The owner, Ram Ayala, was killed years ago along with the doorman in a robbery. The place was boarded up, the music moved elsewhere. People I talk to recall the place with fondness. It was said that it wouldn't be Taco land without Ram, but time marches on. New owners have cleaned it up and made it more family friendly.
Last year I got an autograph from someone I consider famous. He's well know in the nerd set, but you wouldn't know his name or his artwork. Upon getting it, I showed it to all my nerdy friends and they all gave heartfelt congratulations. If I walked down the street and did the same thing to a complete stranger, the result would be different.
Two days ago, an artist that I considered very talented passed away. He barely made the obituaries in his hometown paper.
From what I read in the articles about David Trampier, he left a budding illustration career to become a cabbie in Carbondale, Illinois. Seriously, WTF??
Sources say he had creative differences with publishers. Checks made out to him for his work went uncashed. Tramp literally dropped off the face of the earth and was presumed dead. It was the geek version of an Abe Vigoda joke, people think he's dead until he makes another appearance in TV or movies.
Now some of you are going to look at the pictures in the link and think; 'so what?' A few people will say; 'Hey, he did that?' or, 'I never knew.'
Tramp's art was narrow in focus to the nerd set, but his work graced book covers the world over. Think of the nerd subset but internationally. It is possible he didn't know how far his reach was, or how many people his art touched. It is also possible that he felt shy and awkward about his success.
In thinking about this for the last day or two, I've reached a conclusion: Fame does not equal universal popularity. But what separates the merely successful to the moderately famous?
Steven King puts in 8 to 12 hour days writing. Some of his books are better than others, but he keeps cranking them out. I admire him for that.
Phil Foglio and Howard Taylor have drawn webcomics for years and are considered rock stars of the nerd set. Their track record can be measured in decades.
Karma may be instant, but success is slowly built up layer upon layer.

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