Sunday, April 29, 2012

Timbuk3 -- "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" (1986)

I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades
Timbuk3 -- the name is a little play on Timbuktu, the city in the Sahara Desert that is the modern epitome of in-the-middle-of-nowhereness -- was a husband-and-wife duo formed in 1984 in Madison, Wisconsin.  

Timbuk3 (Barbara and Pat MacDonald)
"The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades," which appeared on their first album (Greetings from Timbuk3), was by far their most famous song.  The couple released five more albums before they got divorced in 1995.  

"I Gotta Wear Shades" is not the happy-go-lucky college-student ditty that it initially appears to be.  The song is actually about a young nuclear scientist who is about to help unleash some sort of nuclear disaster on an unsuspecting world.  (The future's bright, but those shades better be radiation-proof -- and you better wear a lead-lined suit, too.)

"Greetings from Timbuk3" cover
No matter -- college-themed songs don't exactly grow on trees, so we're going to pretend that this is just the song to accompany an account of an optimistic high-school student's trip to visit some prospective colleges.

If you've read the previous 2 or 3 lines -- click here if you haven't (or just scroll down to the next post) -- you'll know that we visited Allegheny and Hiram Colleges on the same day, and spent the night on the Hiram campus.

We were up early the next morning, with 65 miles to cover before the next stop on our four-college tour, the College of Wooster (1850 students) in Wooster, Ohio (population 26,000).

Here's Kauke Hall, which dominates the center of the Wooster campus.

Wooster was founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1866, and is notable for its requirement that every senior work one-on-one with a professor to complete a thesis or other significant project.  (Only Princeton has a similar requirement for undergraduates.)

Each spring, after the seniors turn in their independent study projects, Wooster's Scottish bagpipe band leads them through the Kauke Hall archway:

There's one other interesting Kauke Hall tradition.  When there's a lot of snow, Wooster students attempt to fill the entirety of the Kauke archway with the white stuff.  If sufficient snow has fallen to enable them to do that, they believe that classes will be cancelled the next day:

After joining about a dozen other parents and their sons and daughters for a presentation by an admissions officer, students escorted each family to the dining hall for a free lunch.  (We were close enough to Cincinnati that I went for the chili-and-spaghetti daily special.)  Later, and another student took us for a campus tour.  

After our tour guide mentioned in passing that Wooster had a special "gender-neutral" dormitory suite, my wife couldn't resist questioning her closely about exactly what that meant -- I'm surprised my son didn't kick her in the shins when she asked the first question, but he merely glared fiercely at her, willing her to shut up and not embarrass him.

After we returned home, I found an explanation in a 2010 article in the college newspaper, The Wooster Voice:

Beginning next fall semester, gender-neutral housing will be available to students on campus. This student-initiated accommodation's main goal is to give students a secure living environment in which they have no obligation to identify with the preconceived, culturally-formed gender identities of our society.  
"Students will be able to express themselves as people as opposed to as a specific gender, and will be able to live without a gender label,” said Professor Karen Taylor, a faculty member in support of this housing alternative. . . .

Our society attempts to separate people distinctly into two specific groups, male or female, with no variation, when for some, gender is not a one-sided issue.  "All institutions want us to choose a side as either one identity or the other, so it's nice to have the opportunity to have a space where we aren't required to identify either way,” commented Taylor.
(As I understand it, this has nothing to do with sexual orientation -- straight, gay, bisexual, or whatever.  It has to do with whether you are a man or a woman.  I always thought that was a matter of biology -- not a matter of social or cultural factors -- but I guess I was wrong.)

One of our stops during the tour was the Wooster art museum, where one of the exhibitions included a photograph of one of Banksy's satirical London street art works:

(Ain't that the truth, boys and girls . . .)

After a brief meeting with Wooster's basketball coach and a quick stop back at the admissions office to snarf up some chocolate-chip cookies for the road, we were in the minivan by 3:30.

Our next (and final) stop was Granville, Ohio, the home of Denison University (2100 undergraduates).  Granville is a picture-perfect little New England village of 3200 souls that is situated about half an hour east of Columbus, Ohio.  It was founded by a group of neighbors from Granville, Massachusetts, who all moved west in 1804.

Our destination was the Orchard House B&B, which was built in 1850: 

You have a lot of four-legged company at the Orchard House -- including llamas, goats, pigs, dogs, and rabbits. 

After checking in and helping myself to more chocolate-chip cookies and a cold drink, I headed off to get a little exercise on a hiking trail just a few blocks from Granville's main street.

The Licking River
Some Bob Dylan fan must have gotten a couple of cans of spray-paint for his or her birthday:

(Close enough for government work.)

That night, we had dinner at a brewpub on Granville's main street, which is exceptionally charming:

We had a very comfortable bedroom at the Orchard House:

After an extravagant breakfast the next morning -- French toast made with apple-cinnamon bread, strawberries, and the most delicious bacon I've ever tasted -- we headed to Denison for a 9:30 AM visit.  

Our first stop was the admissions office:

Denison was founded by Baptists in 1831.  The Denison campus is quite hilly and heavily wooded.  It looks like the Platonic ideal (or perhaps the Hollywood ideal) of a liberal-arts college campus.

I couldn't talk my wife and son into sitting in on a class after the tour -- they were eager to hit the road and get back home.  So we left shortly after 11 AM and completed the 375-mile return drive home by 6 PM.  That's four colleges and about 900 miles of driving in a little over 72 hours.

The highlight of the drive back was sighting the headquarters building of the Longaberger Company, just east of Granville.  Guess what Longaberger sells?

Here's "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades":

Use this link to buy the song from Amazon:

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