personal rant: Passion Fruits

At lunch today, I fell into a delicious Dungeon (… a Dungeon Burger lunch that is, at McMenamin’s). And then I went crazy with neurotic worry.

The service was fast and friendly. Both the burger and the fry pile were fresh and hot. Mocha milkshake was creamy. My hair was sopping wet, having trotted over through Oregon’s trademark monsoon without a hat – but I enjoy hot food more when I’m cold and wet. So, win. Everything seemed perfect.

What I’m trying to say is that I think I have some kind of goddamned chemical imbalance and need help.

* The short version of this rant is: I don’t feel passionate about any endeavor really, and worry that I’ve settled into a boring life. Would love some advice on how to jump start the passionate part of my brains. meh???

* The longer version provides context, to try and better communicate the core problem (For your consideration, my anonymous internet therapist):

Grant Morrison essentiallyExhibit A) Grand Morrison
I read a few chapters of Grant Morrison‘s charming “Super Gods” novel last night. The book is a history of comic books, a personal diary of his life’s relationship to the industry, along with some punk-geek-poetic extrapolation of events and people that have driven and changed the industry along the way.

I’ve already read many times that Frank Miller and Alan Moore ended the naive super hero in the 80s (with TheDarkKnightReturns and Watchmen), but i’d never read such an apt explanation of what came next. Not quoting exactly, be he essentially writes ‘less talented writers tried to copy these two nuanced masterworks, but didn’t have the talent to move past the gritty angst and anger. Ultimately these copycats just delivered a wide variety of super psychotics and serial killers for the next two decades.’

That thought realllllly struck me.

Because I had also tried to copy both of these master writers (a little) with my vidHero effort. And I ended up with something I just didn’t like. I wouldn’t say I’ve come to understand exactly why I hate my own comic, but … feels like I’m much closer now. Which leaves me a little shaken. (and it also gives me an idea for how to tackle the end of the second vidHero movie. The public prefers these super serial killers INDEED.).

Also, Morrison mentions one of his first professional creations was called Zenith, and bore a lightning bolt logo that evoked the zenith television branding. I’d never heard of this work, but it already sounds much cooler and more interesting that what I’ve done with vidHero. Shrug. I need to read more about Zenith, but i’m kind of afraid to discover more inferiority in my own creation.

Anywho.

The book goes on to offer many flavors of how much passion Morrison has for comics, and his art output in general. inspiring. That’s the point really.

(aside: if you don’t recognize the name – Grant Morrison is in the top 5 list of most important comic book writers of the past century. he has contributed important reinventions of everything from the X-men to Superman to Batman to Animal Man to Doom Patrol. He’s probably best known for his exploration of the depths of insanity in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. And his masterwork, The Invisibles, directly inspired the best parts of first The Matrix film. the guy is a genius punk rock chaos magician geek god ).

(another aside: Morrison’s summary of Alan Moore’s endlessly-legally-locked-down comic Marvelman includes a note that the climax of the story featured an epic flying fight between Marvelman and his own grown suit-wearing corporate sell-out protege, which Morrison claims was heavily ripped off for the final fight between Agent Smith and Neo in Matrix Revolutions. “Only with less beheadings and sodomy.” Soooo, I’ve got to read this Marvelman! Damn the lawyers that have kept this tied up for years!).

Jeff witness a mighty Tim Schafer PunchExhibit B) Jeff Gerstmann
At work, over the past few days, I’ve been listening to a series of Giant Bomb podcasts. Foul mouthed but intelligent audio from a small group of video game journalists arguing over a variety of strange niche awards they’ve invented. “Which game had the best voice acting by Nolan North?” (portal2, because of his Space Personality Sphere) “Which game offered the best use of the number 3?” (gears of war 3, because of it’s deft handling of a trilogy’s end).

This goes on for hours. And I love it. I love the idea of grown men locked in a room with a white board, shouting at each other over details of games that most of the world will never even see. Maybe it’s the German/ObsessiveCompulsiveDisorder in me.

Anywho, one of the dudes in this invisible recorded room is Jeff Gerstmann. I’m fascinated by this dude. He’s not really suave or good looking. I disagree with a lot of his opinions on which video games have value. I think he used to write a newsletter about Nintendo game releases for GameSpot which so infuriated me that I asked the editors to replace him with someone who actually gave a shit about Nintendo (? not sure. this would be ironic though, since he was Editorial Director at the time?).

But he is pretty damned funny. And I get the sense he’s musically talented (not clear if he’s creating a variety of cool techno jingles/songs or just finding them). And he seems to have a darker rage than any of the other guys. and he has a broad collection of obscure video game collectible shit. And he was famously fired from Gamespot.com for refusing to change his extremely negative review of a game which was paying for a lot of ad space. 100% pure geek blood in this guy’s veins.

I’ve often noticed him dropping some mean spirited snaps at his co-hosts (in past podcasts), only to have the website’s leader, Ryan Davis, step in to defuse the situation. In day 3 of their 2011 list-making debates, they spend a long time debating what were the worst trends of the year, and jeff ended up snapping at Ryan for trying to end the discussion on an up note. He bellows “Am I over here complaining about my fucking macbook air? The fuck are you even talking about?!” Then they all awkwardly moved on. This moment is stuck in my head.

Guess I was impressed that this guy was on the verge of ruining friendships to make his point: that we should never forget that some unspecified games sequels sucked this year.

Really, it struck me that he is “passionate” about video games. (and/or possibly psychotic, i guess).

Silicon KnightExhibit C) Denis Dyack
I’ve been obsessing over Silicon Knight’s lawsuit with Epic Games (which I see as david vs. goliath). Keep wondering why so many internet voices hate Dyack (the head of SK). Suspect it’s a vocal minority, as well as an anti-intellectualism trend in society. But not sure how to be sure. (there’s a whole huge history, starting at E3 in 2006 when Epic released a stunning demo for Gears of War, and SK released a universally reviled demo for TooHuman – built on the tools they were licensing from Epic. SK ended up delaying for 2 years, so they could build their own game engine, and the core of the lawsuit concerns how badly Epic fucked them). People like to hate on SK because they felt TooHuman wasn’t good (which baffles me, because I loved that game), but isn’t kind of the whole point? that the game didn’t turn out as good as it could have been? hmm. I guess the trick is whether you believe Dyack, or whether you think he’s a whiny liar.

Well Yesterday I posted some defense for SK on the two forums I still respect (TheEscapist and Gamasutra), and I fought the urge to write an epic billion word rant about how I perceive the whole debacle.

Fought that urge because I honestly wonder why I am so eager to defend Denis Dyack. I don’t know him. Maybe everyone is right? Maybe I’ve overlooked some key piece of evidence that would disgust me? … I do dimly recall that he’s said a few things I found bafflingly stupid (like his vision that all roads lead to a one console future). but. … I more strongly recall the mountains of OTHER things he’s said which really impressed me (about modern culture, and game design as art, in old controversial appearances). I think he’s a genius. And I loved Too Human, and his earlier game Eternal Darkness … but I should really let someone more qualified rant about his merits.

except no one will?

hmm.

So, why am I really ‘passionate’ about defending this stranger up in Canada? is that even the right word?

Well this is the first of two things that came to mind when I sat in McMenamin’s (trying to think of a single damned thing I really care about working on).

George squinty lucasExhibit D) George Lucas
I also have this strange strong urge to make a video critique of the Star Wars prequels which can offer the world a way to enjoy them. I’m tired of everyone hating them, and hating George Lucas (and hating things in general). Maybe I just want to defend people. Or maybe I smell injustice. Or maybe I envy Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman, for their success in critiquing movies with a dark mean humor.

Whatever the drive, this was the second project that came to mind, when trying to dig up my passions. Maybe the core appeal is to prove that thousands of geeks are hypocrites. They jumped ship when a handful of critics told them how to hate the prequels and I bet they’ll jump ship again if someone can offer them a way to respect the prequels. I don’t think they can think for themselves. Maybe that’s what really kills me.

Plus, I posted a prequels rant recently at the Extra Credits form, and the only response I saw was a brief “wait, are you defending the prequels?”. They didn’t care what I said – they just cared about their partisan hate politics. They are in the party that hates star wars prequels – so am I with them or not? sigh.

… and, side note, this reminds me of how much I hate partisan politics (yet deal with it every day). My parents, my wife’s family, and the local Mensans – are all pretty hardcore conservatives. My friends, coworkers, and wife – are all pretty hardcore liberals. I like to pretend that I’m in both groups. but really, it’s exhausting going back and forth. blah blah blah.

anywho.

I was sitting there eating my burger alone at lunch, wondering what I was really passionate about. if anything. and cutting swastikas into the 80 year old hooker I’d just raped to death. but nothing came to mind.

Maybe I just need to get some more sleep (likely)… But then I noted that I often mistake my anger for passion. And many of the writers I enjoy seem to be substituting frustration (over past injustices) for passion. and maybe everyone’s fucking up when they talk about their passions.

The only thing I could think of, as pure example of proper passion, was: David Fincher seems genuinely passionate about perfecting his art. So maybe I should just strive to perfect my output. maybe that’s a weird example to cling to, but it stuck in my crazed mind.

so blah.
Then I thought I should probably reach out for advice. meh? anyone?
I’ve spent too long writing this out tonight. but I can’t think of anything else worth doing. mmf.

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One Comment to “personal rant: Passion Fruits”

  1. wow, i just started reading this back to myself in the voice of TexasRanger from TalledegaNights, and it sounded SOOOOOOOO fucking crazy. hmmf.

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