For this pair of videos, the basic idea is that each of them made me gasp the first time I saw them, and think “What a wonderful time to be alive.” The first is “Like Sugar” by Chaka Khan, which undeniably calls back to Soul Train dance lines, but probably wouldn’t exist without modern editing suites. It’s a marvel every time I see it, just a pure celebration of music and dance and polyester.
Second is “Because I’m Me” by The Avalanches, which could’ve been overlooked as just a sample-heavy stab at nostalgia if it weren’t for the cinematic video about a boy and his crush. The way it keeps building still manages to make me gasp.
The other thing that both these songs have in common is that they could only exist in the time they were made. Not just because of video editing software, or a music industry and streaming platform structured to make cinematic videos possible, but because they call back to the past.
When I left Telltale Games the first time,1Yes, I was foolish enough to go back for more. it was part way through production of the season of Sam & Max games that I’d put the most of myself into. I’d thought of the season as pulling together many of the things from entertainment that I loved: Night Gallery,2For me, all of the Lovecraftian stuff came from a single episode of Night Gallery, since I was never a big fan of the original material. Battle of the Planets, Space: 1999, Zardoz, The Beast Must Die!, the Richard Donner Superman movies, Portal, film noir, Murder on the Orient Express and The Last Express, Hammer horror movies, the Haunted Mansion, and of course, the Sam & Max and Toybox comics by Steve Purcell. When I was talking about the season outline with the director of one of the episodes, he pushed back on that idea, saying he didn’t want his episode to be just a pastiche of references.
It was a little jarring at the time, and obviously it’s stuck with me, because it’s such an alien concept to me. Obviously, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way, and there’s not much value in simply regurgitating stuff that everyone’s seen before. That doesn’t result in “Like Sugar,” but “I Love the 70s.” But taking disparate sources and making something new means that you’re taking all your enthusiasm about a new idea, and combining it with your love for the source material. I believe that that much excitement inevitably comes through in the final result.
And by that measure, right now is always the best time to be alive, because it’s the time when we have the most to draw from.
This post is scheduled to go up on Election Day, but I’m writing it a couple weeks ahead, before the thought flies out of my mind. I don’t even know what things are going to look like two weeks from now, but I want to stay optimistic and hopeful. We’re always drawing from the past, building on what we have, always improving, and appreciating everything that we have right now.