IVP - Strangely Dim - Summer--It Turns Me Upside Down

June 29, 2009

Summer--It Turns Me Upside Down

Whenever I finally escape, I'm pretty sure it will be to the 80s. 

Last summer I attended my high school reunion; this summer I've scheduled two playdates with childhood friends and commandeered my brother-in-law's Rock Band game for Beastie Boy and Duran Duran jams.

I'm not alone in doing the time warp again this summer. We've seen reboots of retro classic film franchises such as Star Trek and The Terminator. Captain America, one of the industry's oldest comic book superheroes, who successfully leaped generations from the 1940s to the 1960s for an impressive 45-year run but died earlier this millennium as a martyr for an ideological conflict, is once again alive and kicking. Zac Efron played Matthew Perry's midlife crisis in 17 Again, and Chace Crawford is gonna cut loose as middle-age darling Kevin Bacon in the remake of Footloose. The Beatles are changing the game of Rock Band with their special edition release later this year, and Barack Obama is the most energizing president since John F. Kennedy--if you ask Kennedy's family. And speaking of John F. Kennedy and the Beatles, even the generation gap--the perceived worldview difference between older and young Americans--is reaching levels not seen since the 1960s.

The past always beckons, it's fair to say. We doctor our wrinkles and nurse our grudges. We archive photographs and unearth old relationships online. We collect kitzch and commendables from our formative years, and we complain about the present as a pale imitation of the past. Summer kindles this longing, I think, in each sideways glance out any window. We're reminded that in days of old we used to run freely through the sprinklers, roam freely through the woods, laze freely throughout the day. When I was a kid I would ride my bike from one end of Des Moines to the other on the off chance that I might find a comic book to add to my collection for a good price. I'm reminded of John Mayer's wistful nostalgia: "These days I wish I was six again . . . if only my life were more like 1983."

In 1983, of course, I was worried about the end of the world as we know it, that intercontinental ballistic missles (ICBMs for short, which is pretty funny to say out loud, now that I think about it) would be launched either by accident (a la War Games) or on purpose (a la The Day After). And in 1983, of course, I was dreaming of being an adult--fully autonomous, dream girl at my side, conquering this world and others. Even my post-apocalyptic scenarios were hopeful, with me sprouting angelic wings and rescuing people from danger.

There's something euphoric about imagining ourselves from one time period to another. It's the ultimate escape: once you indulge your mind in the impossible, anything becomes possible. Anything, of course, except fully engaging the present. To the degree that we imagine ourselves into other eras, to the degree that we indulge the notion that some time other than these times are the best of times, to the degree that we're living in dreamtime--to that degree we are living only half-awake.

Meanwhile, wildly interesting--exciting and even daunting--things are happening in our midst. My toddler nephew is singing a song by the Ramones ("Hey! Ho! Let's Go!") while putting together floor puzzles of the universe. The earth is heating up. People are losing their jobs and their homes. People are writing new books and making new art. These and other things are happening not in dream time but in real time, and they alternately demand and reward our attention. Elvis Costello put it nicely in his song The Other Side of Summer: "There's malice and there's magic in every season." In other words, every season merits our full attention.


I count ten veiled references to old songs in this post. I invite/challenge you to sniff them out. I'll send a free copy of my book the first person to get them all.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at June 29, 2009 8:25 AM Bookmark and Share


Dave's post on looking back and living in the here and now might have something to do with the fact that today is his birthday!! Happy birthday, Dave!

Comment by: Lisa at June 29, 2009 3:37 PM

I will post 5 that I think I've found:

1. The Time Warp - Rocky Horror Picture Show
2. Alive and Kicking - Simple Minds
3. It's the End of the World - REM
4. Best of Times - Styx
5. To Everything there is a Season - The Byrds

Then you have 3 direct songs mentioned (Footloose, Hey Ho Let's Go, and The Other Side of Summer) Not sure if those count or not.

Comment by: Patrick at June 29, 2009 5:54 PM

Another one might be
Pure Imagination - Willy Wonka

Comment by: Patrick at June 29, 2009 6:42 PM

Ok--here are my guesses.

1. Summer--The Cars
2. I'm Not Alone--No Mercy
3. The Time Warp--Rocky Horror
4. Alive and Kicking--Simple Minds
5. It's Fair To Say--Calico System
6. Days of Old--BB King
7. The End of The World--REM
8. The Ultimate Escape--Tsunami Bomb
9. The Best of Times--Styx

10. Dreamtime--Daryl Hall
8. Dreamtime--Daryl Hall

Comment by: Jeannine at June 29, 2009 7:21 PM

So far I count six correct and, as the joke goes, six solid leads. Looks like I'm going to have to award it to the most right by next Monday--July 6. Here's something to keep in mind: I was a band geek in Des Moines; consequently, I wasn't terribly hip to underground music back in the day. Also, these aren't necessarily 80s songs, but they're all at least a decade old, I'd guess.

Comment by: dave at June 30, 2009 7:36 AM

OK now I am thinking there's got to be a Little Queenie reference somewhere in here.

Comment by: Patrick at June 30, 2009 8:08 AM

The title comes from Magic by the Cars

Comment by: Patrick at June 30, 2009 11:28 AM

Another song that keeps popping into my head is
Nightswimming by REM

Comment by: Patrick at June 30, 2009 11:32 AM

Young American by David Bowie?

Comment by: Dan at July 2, 2009 4:06 PM

Comments are closed for this entry.

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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