Seeing us through to the end of the year we’ve reached out to a number of our favourite artists and cultural creatives to join us in celebrating good things. A bunch of five things that make their world go around, inspire them or just need celebrating for what they are. There’s no theme here. It’s no kind of “best of year” round-up. These are just five things of the many things identified as making the world a better place to be. We’re all about positivity. Almost all of the time. We promise…
Songe Riddle is an artist and animator based in Los Angeles. He’s worked on the hit US comedy series “Sherman's Showcase” and his paintings, influenced by comic books and pop culture, blow us away every time we see them. Here’s Songe’s guide to five things that make him tick.
The father of the movie poster illustration. There was a time before every design studio had a dozen photoshoppers on staff, when movie posters were actually painted by illustrators. Peak was one a group of people that came out of the “Mad Men” era of American Lifestyle illustrators. Agency guys that struck out on their own as freelancers, that defined illustration as a trade. He was incredibly prolific. He did illustration for Sport's Illustrated, a ton of TV guide covers. But he is probably best known for his movie poster illustrations.
As a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, it was impossible not to have come across his work. The poster for Superman the Movie, Apocalypse Now, Any Which Way But Loose, and all of the Star Trek movie posters up until his passing in 1991. There were a few guys that blew my young artist mind during the era of the illustrated movie poster. Richard Amsel. Bob McGinnis. David Grove. Bernie Fuchs. And dear god, Drew Struzan. But Bob Peak was the king. I still look at his work now and I'm totally fascinated, trying to figure out how he did what he did. From what I understand, he had a method of curing pastels that he took with him to his grave. About six years ago his son Thomas Peak, a great illustrator in his own right - check out the poster for the original A Nightmare on Elm Street - put out a giant hard cover art book collecting all of Bob Peak's work. It is the most beautiful object that I own.
The first computer game company, and in my mind still the greatest. Marc Blank and Dave Lebling, working in MIT's computer science labs in 1977, created what was originally called “The Colossal Cave Adventure”, a text based adventure game that was eventually crystallized as a game called ZORK. ZORK was the beginning of an entire line of games written in the same style, some with special features like minor inventories or customizable spell books. All of them were published by Lebling and Blank's company Infocom, which the founded with fellow programmers Tim Anderson, Joel Berez, Marc Blank, Mike Broos, Scott Cutler, Stu Galley, Dave Lebling, J. C. R. Licklider, Chris Reeve, and Al Vezza.
The first one I ever played was “Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz”. And boy did I play it. The games were cosmically obtuse, limited by the power of the computers of the day. But it was amazing what they were able to accomplish. An entire universe on a floppy disk, that read like a book but allowed me to do pretty much anything I could ask it to. Pick up sword. Hit troll with sword. Dance with troll. Kiss lizard. Kill lizard. Kick bucket. Kicking the bucket...
In Zork II there's a room that you enter that is occupied by a 7 foot tall bucket. What you're supposed to do, is pick up the teapot at the Gazebo, go to the stream and fill the teapot with water, go back to the bucket room and enter the bucket, and then pour the water from the teapot into the bucket. The bucket, with you in it, then rises up to the top of the well (Who knew you were at the bottom of a well?!) and you exit the bucket into a world in which everything is giant. Ten year old me, in my frustration decided to type in “Kick bucket”. The game responded “OK. You have died”. Who writes that kind of irritating humor into a game?
Infocom informed so much of my sense of humor and inspired so much of my creativity, as a writer and an artist. I have finished most of their games now. Even their notoriously obtuse adaptation of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I was well into adulthood before I was able to say that. And I am quite proud that I can. If only they could have survived into the graphics-based gaming era.
Fucking Terrorizer!!! How can I even put it into words. Life changing music that has been continually slaying me for over 30 years. One album. Anyone that enjoys or plays modern grindcore has to acknowledge “World Downfall”. There is nothing in the history of recorded music that I despise more than Steely Dan. I have an immediate, visceral, physical reaction to it. It's very similar to seasickness. Like I'm on a small boat, that's being rocked back and forth by waves, and I'm looking through the porthole in the cabin, watching the water at mid-level rocking back and forth, and there's someone in the room that's running a vacuum cleaner over a sheet of aluminium foil, telling me how smart they are for having figured out how to aggravate me in this very specific way. “World Downfall” is the remedy for this. Unpretentious, honest, brutality.
The moon is my anchor. Whenever I feel like the world is too much for me to deal with I can go look at the moon and it reminds me that none of it means a goddamned thing. I'm a temporary coalescence of particulate matter on its way to becoming something else that nothing will even remember happened. That I'm just a small occurrence in a massive phenomenon that neither I nor anyone else understands.
I don't watch his stuff over and over like I do with some things. His work is a once a year revisitation, but it stays with me for the duration. How can you watch something like Stalker over and over again? It's like 3 hours long. And you have to look at it. And you have to think about it. He really changed what I thought cinema's purpose was. Like discovering Magical Realism for the first time. I'm a lifelong Science Fiction fan. In my early 20s, having watched every Star Wars and Dune and Alien or whatever a thousand times, finding Solaris was an absolute revelation. Even thinking about it while I write this is crushing.