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Courtesy of Jake Strang/AP

May 1, 2017

STANTON | Last Call

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Imagine, for a moment, that you have somewhere between $1,000 and $4,000 to spend on a weekend getaway. Naturally, Instagram posts of your sort-of-friend’s Coachella experience inspire you to invest it all in tickets to the 21st century’s definitive live music event: Fyre Festival. Organized, in part, by Ashanti backup singer Ja Rule, the event promises a “luxurious” take on festival culture, complete with fine dining and the presence of at least one Hadid sister.

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Courtesy of Buzzfeed News

Instead of fine cuisine, Fyre attendats were given the food pictured above. Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed.

In anticipation, you spend the subsequent months bragging to coworkers about your sure-to-be-great weekend of moshing to blink-182 in the Bahamas. You tell them to check out “this guy called Skepta,” who might rap with a funny accent but can put together a great song. Maybe a few of these newfound grime fans even decide to tag along with you, calculating that a few months’ rent should hardly prevent them from bearing witness to history.

Finally, the day has come. You wake up early to hop on a chartered jet from Miami International Airport to the island of Great Exuma, duffel bag full of Hawaiian shirts in tow. You look for Diplo on your flight and, not seeing him, assume that he must have arrived days ago. Upon landing, though, something immediately seems off. The festival grounds sit in ruins. The advertised “rustic, tented spaces” resemble disaster relief tents. “Fine cuisine” appears in the form of untoasted bread and prepackaged Kraft singles. The U.S. Embassy soon intervenes to organize return flights for attendees of the botched festival. And still, no Diplo.

Yes, all of this actually happened, and has proven so ripe for comedy that Seth Rogen claims to have pitched a similar movie idea months before the whole fiasco. Music festival culture has spiraled for years and Fyre Fest presents a poignant indictment of late stage capitalism, of good advertising’s comic ability to woo starry-eyed consumers. At the very least, the debacle invites criticism against “Super Rich Kids” who trash entire islands for the sake of a few Instagram posts (if you truly love an artist, go see them on tour, kids). In my attempts to empathize with these would-be festival goers, their experience of deflated expectations called to mind another upcoming phenomenon: graduation.

This is, regrettably, my final broadcast as an Arts writer for The Sun. As the pageantry of graduation approaches, undergraduate life has devolved into a series of “lasts”: last French presentation, last in-class essay, last Zeus sandwich, last Slope Day, last chance to talk to someone you’ve admired from afar. Over the generations of Sun writers, the institution of the “last column” has come to mandate a certain amount of self-awareness and reflection, of publicly trying to justify why we spent four years posing as film, music and literature critics. This entire concept, though, seems much less ridiculous when contrasted with the petty showiness of graduation itself.

In anticipation of the big day, seniors have spent months ritualistically checking things off the Bucket List (or, for some, the 161 List). For the flaky among us, this has included finally getting around to Ezra’s big, bad swim test — one of the more arbitrary graduation requirements. It has also involved the steady collection of tassels and pins with which to decorate our gowns; and here enters the showiness. Those among us who insist on involving themselves in every campus activity, bless their hearts, will feign embarrassment at their MTV, Pimp My Robe-style graduation attire. Those in secret societies will coyly brandish their gold-plated pins — or whatever “subtle” reveal they decide upon for Commencement. In the meantime, those of us in less elite regalia will surely fight to repress a petty envy.

Of course, graduation should serve as an opportunity to celebrate these last four years, and to take a moment of pause before beginning the marathon of “real life.” That feeling of accomplishment is not lost on me, and I have full faith in my old friend Joe’s ability to motivate us young world-shakers during his speech. The hype surrounding graduation, though, often puts too much weight on the wrong questions. Where are you working next year? What will you “do” with your life? Supposedly, your responses determine whether life is fine cuisine or a pile of sliced bread and Kraft cheese. Try as I might, re-watching The Graduate hasn’t provided many answers.

The last column, then, provides a valuable opportunity to look backward rather than forwards, to ensure that our experiences meant more than a collection of pins on a robe. Sure, I’ll tout my Daily Sun tassel come graduation, but I’ve made a conscious effort not to belittle these four years of working alongside a community of likeminded individuals. In this brave new world of Fyre Festival, what’s so absurd in writing about art?
Most importantly, the last column provides a reasonable enough excuse for a College Dropout-style outro, so here’s the part with the shout-outs. To my editors, Andrei Kozyrev ’20 and Katie Sims ’20 — I have full faith in your ability to hold this thing together next year. To Shay “Cool Teen” Collins ’18 and Troy Sherman ’18, you two are genuine dudes and creative inspirations. Jack Jones ’18, I’ll entrust to you coverage of future stories involving Kanye West, Bob Dylan and all of Jael Goldfine’s ’17 other favorite artists. Jael, you’re the reason I joined this thing, and I’ll always read anything you write. Alright, that’s all I’ve got, folks. Until next time.

Chris Stanton is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at cms459@cornell.edu. Really Terrible, and Such Small Portions! runs alternate Wednesdays this semester.

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