Like chubby people who always call themselves fat, we local Kent State students always rapped our school in order to cut others off at the pass.
"If you can't go to college, go to Kent," we said, and we called it, "Can't-Stand-It University."
I was surprised when I moved away and learned that people had respect for the school—especially the Baby Boomers who were hiring us. Because of the May 4, 1970 shootings, they equated Kent with the antiwar movement and the antiwar movement with places like Berkley and so Kent with Berkley. So I stopped running down my alma mater with ironic references to "the Harvard of the Midwest," and started sticking my chest out a little. "Yep, Kent State."
The truth is that Kent was a good enough school for me. I always had at least one interesting professor per semester, including an early writing mentor, Dr. Jack Null. And the classes that weren't fascinating weren't terribly taxing, either. So I always had time to look out the window and think up poems, and wonder at the purpose of it all. And along the way, I met Tom Gillespie, who would become my best friend, and Cristie Bosch, who would become my wife. What wasn't to like?
So I don't know exactly how I feel to see this commercial, where the guy from Devo vaguely credits Kent with his success. "So while you may not know my name, you probably know my music. And if my music moved you, thank the place that moved me."
While I liked "Whip It," I wouldn't describe it as a composition that "moved me," exactly. And I'm not encouraged when I think of all the alumni lists they mined before turning up Mr. Mothersbaugh as the shining gem.
Keeping it middlebrow: Using Mothersbaugh for this ad puts me in mind of the exchange in Caddyshack when Ted Knight's character Judge Smails says, "And I'm no slouch myself." And Chevy Chase's Ty Web replies, "Don't sell yourself short, Judge. You're a tremendous slouch."
[For alerting me to this ad, hat tip to Kent State PR associate prof Bill Sledzik; he no doubt would have been one of those one-per-semester intellects whose lessons I still fondly remember.]