Burned out in Carbondale

Tongue-in-cheek polemic against a 1979 Chicago Magazine article about the failures and debaucheries of Southern Illinois University--Carbondale ("Burned Out in Carbondale"). The video takes the form of a 60 Minutes-esque investigation. It has several humorous segments and parodies, including rounds in a dilapidated library, an academic adviser who is actually a magician/diviner, and a woman who passes through a neighborhood bar (PK's) selling test answers.

0:26Copy video clip URL Color bars.

1:13Copy video clip URL “60 Minutes” clock countdown

1:18Copy video clip URL Journalist, Norman Sweeney: “SIU is the biggest party school in the state…” He details the “squalid” nature of SIU as per a Chicago Magazine article from April, 1979. Sweeney maintains, however, that no one has accurately captured the “decadent heart of Carbondale itself.”  Sweeney and his crew will take cameras to expose this heart.

2:39Copy video clip URL Three brothers sitting at a table. Close up of two of the brothers. One is picking his nose. They discuss trying the new drug their mother sent them. They decide that Mikey, the third brother, should test the drug. It has an immediate energetic effect: “Hey, Mikey! He likes it!” The brothers fight over the new drug. The segment is a parody of the early Life Cereal commercial.

3:41Copy video clip URL End of a news program. A news anchor and weather woman talk about going to a party. The anchor expresses reservations about going to the party, because she has forgotten to take her contraceptive pill two days in a row. They discuss different kinds of birth control. The weather woman advocates her brand: “Besides hormones it’s got a 100 micrograms of mescaline!” The pills come in a variety of flavors. Weather woman begins to trip out.

4:47Copy video clip URL Sweeney, in front of the camera, documents the garb he uses to look like an actual student. He and a woman go over each article of clothing in an infomercial fashion. Next, he talks about the various objects that will populate his dorm room. These objects accumulate around him in a series of smash cuts as he lists them off. Finally, a roommate, wearing just white briefs, comes over to him and tackles him.

6:44Copy video clip URL Cut to Washington and Jackson streets in Carbondale. Sweeney is standing on the corner and interviews Wayne Johnson and Tom Steel, two non-students of Carbondale. It’s unclear whether these two men are aware of the tone/aim of the film. A police officer walks over and tells Johnson and Steel to stop loitering. Audio is unclear.

9:13Copy video clip URL Sweeney interviews the police officer on the corner. The officer talks about a large drug bust that turned out to be a bible-selling ring. Officer leads in to the next segment.

10:22Copy video clip URL Cut to a “deviant” locked in a cell: “…These dorms have been converted to a police station.” Officer and Sweeney pull up and enter the newly-turned station.

10:56Copy video clip URL Student murmurs to himself in his cell: “…I have seen the moment of my greatness!” Officer and Sweeney watch the prisoner-student soliloquize. Student demands a typewriter. Officer reveals that the prisoner is Alfie Newman, Sweeney’s old roommate.

12:36Copy video clip URL Sweeney meets with his academic adviser. The adviser is sitting on a couch in the woods and resembles a magician/diviner. Adviser reads Sweeney poetry and answers an incessantly-ringing phone.

14:00Copy video clip URL Cut to an actual class, “General Accounting.” Sweeney lauds the reciprocal nature of higher education instantiated in the classroom. But, in reality, “What seems harmless is indeed not.” Sweeney reveals, through a series of subtle gestures, a student being co-opted into “deviant sexual acts.”

14:30Copy video clip URL Sweeney in Morris Libarary. The library is in disarray: “Students of SIU don’t come here, they don’t take advantage of the facilities.” Sweeney stumbles across a man being gratified in the stacks.

16:35Copy video clip URL Cut to PK’s, “The toughest bar in town.” Sweeney is playing pool and pinball with his cape-clad adviser. Another student plays pinball as if he’s gambling. A woman with a paper bag over her head comes over to him and tries to sell him answers to tests. The student lifts the bag from her head to reveal a neckless woman with a bright white painted face. They barter for tests.

19:33Copy video clip URL “Burnout” song over montage of the various kinds of dilapidation and debauchery in the bar.

20:18Copy video clip URL Sweeney, ending the segment: “How can you and I pass judgment on a culture fathered by the three martini lunch?” Woman sits next to him. Extremely drunk, she rails against her boyfriend, Allen, who left her at the bar. She hands Sweeney her car keys. Sweeney takes one last shot. They leave the bar together.

23:06Copy video clip URL 60-Minutes clock. Credits roll in the form of a series of mugshot Polaroids.

24:14Copy video clip URL “One in a Million Advertisement.”

24:50Copy video clip URL CBS advertisement for “All in the Family,” “Alice and the Gang,” and KAZ.

25:16Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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