Jim Bartlett's Blog

Posts from July 2013

More Internet Time-Wasters

Instead of a new blog post containing actual meaningful content, here's some weird stuff I have found in my recent travels around the Internet. (I have no other hobbies, although as you'll see, I should probably get some.)

  • In 1977, a disco version of the Star Wars theme became a #1 single in the States and a worldwide hit. A Dutch TV show created a dance number with the song, and you have to see it to believe it. I don't want to unjustly accuse anyone of smoking funny cigarettes, but . . . .
  • Remember when long distance companies competed for your business, and you could choose the one you wanted? Companies spent millions on TV advertising, and nobody did it better than MCI, whose star-packed 1990 TV commercial is a forgotten classic.
  • Some genius got the idea of mashing up the Lumineers' hit "Ho Hey," which you've been hearing on Magic for several months now, and Will Ferrell's impersonation of legendary Cubs baseball broadcaster Harry Caray. The result is weirdly hilarious.
  • On the subject of mashups, here's what happens when you mix John Lennon's "Imagine" with Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run." The result is weirdly awesome.
That's all I've got. I promise to do better with next week's blog post--although you gotta admit that MCI commercial is pretty good.
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On Being a Kid at the Fair

The Dane County Fair happens this week. Many of southern Wisconsin's county fairs were first held in the 1850s. Through nearly 160 years of constant change, from the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Age, Wisconsin's rural folk have gathered every summer to celebrate who and what they are.

One of my favorite things to do at the fair is to wander through the cattle barns, which was where I spent my fairs as a kid (at the Green County Fair in Monroe). How many of today’s kids, now so deeply involved in agriculture, a field that was likely to break your heart 40 years ago and is many more times likely to do so today, will pursue city careers after high school or college and never look back? Nevertheless, there’s something charming about the decorated barns, the carefully named animals, and the kids lounging in the hay beside their animals, secure in the feeling that this is where they’ll always want to be. To walk through the exhibition halls and to look at the various photography, gardening, and woodworking projects is to remember my own attempts at such projects, and to remember how, after the fair was over, those projects seemed like fallen leaves that had outlived their useful purpose. I wonder how many of these projects lead today’s kids to lifelong hobbies, and how many become junk in the back of the closet, just another “thing I was into for a while when I was a kid”?

Kids, of course, don't know what they don't know. They don't know how their lives are going to unfold, and they live in the moments as they experience them. They don't walk around in present moments looking back at other moments, as some of us are so likely to do now that we're older. And so, for the kids you'll see at the fairs this week, this is life right now, and that's the only thing that matters, right now.

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The Most Colorful Decade

I have already discovered this week's Greatest Thing Ever: a website called Super Seventies, which collects pictures of people, fashions, products, and other stuff from the 1970s. There are lots of 70s culture sites online, but I've never seen one as fascinating as this one. I spent hours over the weekend paging through it, and I'm not done yet. Here are some samples.

  • Bonne Bell Lip Smackers. When I first met my wife back in 1979, she used to wear this stuff, peppermint and some other flavor I can't remember. Whenever I'd kiss her I'd want a snack.
  • Chips Goes Roller Disco. At some point, maybe 34 years from now, some of the stuff on TV today is going to look even more insane than it does now. Maybe as insane as this.
  • Office decor. I am going to redecorate my office at home exactly like this.

Super Seventies is loaded with old magazine ads, publicity shots, newspaper photos, movie stills, and the occasional audio clip from the time when cultural icons still on the scene today--singers, actors, TV personalities--were not old and gray but young and almost impossibly beautiful. If you're old enough to remember the 1970s, you'll love it. If you're not, it'll open a window into the way it was like nothing else could.

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Measuring Summer on the Fourth
When I was a kid, we used to watch the Monroe fireworks from the grounds of the teacher's college my mother had attended. (It's the Senior Center now.) My brother and I would spread out blankets and wait, wrestling and rough-housing with each other, or with kids we knew who'd come to watch in the same place. One year, there were new trees planted near our prime viewing spot. I can still hear my mother's voice from that first year: "Be careful of those little trees! Don't knock them down!" We must not have hurt them, because they're upwards of 30 feet high now, so there'll be no watching the fireworks from our old spot this year.

The Fourth has always been a favorite holiday of mine, although it occurs to me that it's more evidence that I can't do math very well. I always think of it as the halfway point of summer, and I don't think I'm alone in this. But Memorial Day was only five weeks ago, and there are nearly two full months before Labor Day weekend, the Badger football opener, and the beginning of school. But we don't always measure time with a calendar. We measure it through fragments of memory, snippets of songs, snapshots we've held onto--all the stuff that reminds us who we are and how far we've come. They're the things we often like to take out and flip through on holidays such as this.

Enjoy the holiday. Be careful with those firecrackers.
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Jim Bartlett
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