• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Friday Fragments

Milestones.

 

May 11, 2018
 
 

The Culinary program had its graduation Wednesday night. About 40ish students were there, along with over a hundred family, friends, and faculty.  

Each student was introduced to the crowd by name.  When one particular student was introduced, a little boy -- I’m guessing six or seven -- stood up and yelled loudly “That’s my brother! That’s my brother!”

Graduations never get old.

--

Albums do, though.  I saw somewhere that Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville” is 25 years old.  Yes, technically, 2018-1993=25, but that can’t possibly be right. Simply not possible.

Creatively, Phair was pretty much a one-album wonder, but she made it count.  (Yes, she had a pop crossover hit in the early 00’s, but the album was forgettable.)  “Exile” managed both to come out of nowhere and to capture its moment. Admittedly, I was at a moment in my life where lines like these from “Divorce Song” were a gut punch:

It’s harder to be friends than lovers

And you shouldn’t try to mix the two

“Cause if you do it and you’re still unhappy

Then you know that the problem is you

She attracted attention for being frank about sex, but really, she was frank about everything.  Her vocals were flat, but that came off as frankess. She could barely play, but in that context, minimalism passed for honesty.  She told it like it was. Subsequent albums were more competent, but less interesting; she had one story to tell, and by the second album, she had told it. 

For whatever reason, that era lent itself to one-album wonders.  Bettie Serveert’s “Palomine,” released at about the same time, set expectations that their subsequent work didn’t meet.  Ditto for The Breeders with “Last Splash.” (Another refugee from that era, Belly, just came out with a reunion album that’s pretty “meh.”)  Kristin Hersh managed to continue to produce good work, but the rest of that cohort really didn’t.

Still, “Exile” was strongly present at a distinct point in my life.  It cut through the noise in a way that few albums ever have. If that point was 25 years ago, well, the math can’t possibly be correct.  It just can’t.

--

Time is relentless.  On Thursday, Dean Carl Calendar experienced his last Brookdale graduation.  He was at the first graduation, in 1970, and every graduation since then. After 48 years, he’s moving on to other things.

Congratulations, Carl.  It won’t be the same without you.

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