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||Letter from the
Pomona and Hollywood. On the face of it, you have to admit they make a
pretty unlikely couple—a bit like Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe.
Substance and surface. Pocket-protectors and prima donnas. Ivory tower
But as with any perceived odd couple, there’s more to the relationship
than meets the eye.
First of all, there’s history.
The first movie ever filmed on Pomona’s campus was shot way back in the
era of the silent flick, in 1920. Ever since that time, Pomona people
have been finding their way to Hollywood in every role imaginable, from
actor to producer, from screenwriter to cinematographer, and in return,
Hollywood has been finding its way onto the Pomona campus to incorporate
Pomona’s image into its creations. Over the years, there have been so
many intriguing stories of Pomona-Hollywood connections that it’s
impossible to incorporate them all into a single issue. Even the
timeline beginning on page 20 is, for space reasons, far from complete.
So what’s the basis for this rather strange symbiotic relationship?
From Hollywood’s perspective, Pomona is two things. First, it’s a place
like no other in Southern California—a campus that looks exactly the way
most people think a distinguished Eastern liberal arts college should
look—and therefore a tempting location for filming. And second, it’s a
source of talented and creative people who have been drawn to the nearby
movie capital by their interest in telling stories through film and
video. A few—like Joel McCrea ’28, Robert Taylor ’33, Richard
Chamberlain ’56 and Kris Kristofferson ’58—are now household names.
Others have won Academy Awards and Golden Globes and other coveted
prizes for their work—the most recent example being the Oscar garnered
by screenwriter Jim Taylor ’84 in February for the surprise hit movie
Sideways. Still other Sagehens toil behind the scenes in full or partial
From Pomona’s point of view, Hollywood is also two things. First, it’s a
nearby source of amazing opportunities for those of the College’s
students and graduates who are attracted to the motion picture arts. And
second, it’s an overbearing neighbor that must at times be kept at arm’s
length in order to prevent it from simply moving in and taking over,
transforming one of America’s great college campuses into Studio P, a
sort of convenient academic backlot.
As the person now responsible for fielding the frequent calls from
location scouts searching for just the right setting for a scene in some
upcoming film or television show, I have to decide whether scripts are
potentially embarrassing for the College, whether there is some
compelling reason to open our doors to a particular project, whether the
benefits outweigh the inconveniences for our students, faculty and
The answer is usually no, but the reason we do sometimes say yes isn’t
for the money or for the glory. It’s because Pomona alumni get a kick
from that moment of recognition when some fictional scene on the big
screen suddenly takes on the shape of familiar ground.
Letters to the Editor
I was very disappointed in the edited death notice you ran for my
husband Eric Piel ’89 (PCM Winter 2004). By only listing his academic
and career achievements, you left out his greatest accomplishment of
all: despite battling a cancerous brain tumor, he remained a loving
husband, son, friend and father to two little boys and continued to work
almost full time the entire three years. Sometimes it is not just what
you do but how you do it, and Eric touched more people in his short 37
years than most do in 87. THAT is what you should have printed.
—Robbie Baird ’89
El Paso, Texas
I was looking through the Fall 2004 PCM and was elated to read that of
the 47 things to do while at Pomona, amongst them was visiting the
murals in East L.A. (#36—Experience the Murals of East L.A.) The mural
depicted in the magazine is one of the many murals from the community
where I grew up (Boyle Heights)—and one of my favorites. It’s actually
two blocks from the apartment where I grew up. (My parents still live
there.) It was great that a quote was used by a Pomona student, but you
should’ve used one from a student or alum from that community … like me,
At any rate, keep up the good work.
—Hector Javier Preciado ’01
Kristofferson’s Social Theory
One of Kris Kristofferson’s most poignant lyrics—“Freedom’s just another
word for nothing left to lose” —from the song “Me and Bobby McGee” has
actually been paraphrased and used widely by academics.
In the interdisciplinary field of rational choice theory—which covers
economics, politics, policy, psychology, philosophy, artificial
intelligence, neurophysiology, sociobiology, zoology, anthropology and
other fields—a key issue of inquiry is satisficing behavior: deciding at
a certain point amid too many options to stop searching for the most
perfect choice—or optimizing choice—among an overload of them and to
settle—to be satisfied or satisficed—with that option which is good
enough in order to avoid continued and burdensome search costs.
The continuation of a search for the perfect option among many in any
given choice situation prevents one from doing other things. In
extremis—and when placed into a larger perspective—exhaustive,
optimizing choice search behavior can be deemed pathological: a form of
obsessive-compulsive and/or avoidance behavior of consciously or
unconsciously avoiding other activities and searches for choices that
life-affirming and maximizing of one’s potential.
As Yogi Berra would say, “You have to know not how much search is
sufficient, but how much search is sufficient enough.”
After all, in a world of many—and cascadingly growing choices—we
increasingly live by the mottos, “Seek and ye shall incur search costs”
and “You can’t have your cacophony
and edit too.”
Satisficing is performed not only by humans, but by computer search
engines and certain species in natural environments.
The term satisficing was first coined by Vilfredo Pareto.
The official slogan for satisficing vs. optimizing behavior that
paraphrases Kristofferson’s immortal line is “Freedom’s just another
word for something left to choose.”
Once a satisficing choice is made, one is free to do other things.
Another wry paraphrase of Kristofferson’s line appeared when
Kristofferson’s frequent collaborator, Willie Nelson, was in debt to the
IRS. In a satirical song about Nelson’s woes—and about the seizure of
his property and artworks—published in Advertising Age in 1992, I
quipped, in the final line, “Seizedom’s just another word for no Latrec
—Philip Frankenfeld ’79
I received the Annual Report of the President 2003–04 as well as the
Winter 2004 PCM and have decided it is time for me to express some deep
concerns I have about the College. While I share with many of the alumni
of my generation concerns about the direction of the school’s policies
on drinking, drugs and coed dorms, my primary concern is the lack of
political diversity that I am sensing through campus visits and the
school’s publications. My use of the term political diversity does not
mean the lack of right-wing propaganda on campus. It is the response of
President David Oxtoby to PCM’s question regarding diversity in terms of
political opinion among faculty. He states that “across the country, the
political leaning of the average faculty member is somewhat to the left
of the American public.” Somewhat? Findings about professors as reported
by George F. Will show:
Cornell: 166 liberals, 6 conservatives
Stanford: 151 liberals, 17 conservatives
Colorado: 116 liberals, 5 conservatives
UCLA: 141 liberals, 9 conservatives
Will further reports that a study of voter registration records finds
Democrats outnumber Republicans at least 7-to-1 in a sampling of 1,000
professors, and that there are nine Democrats for every Republican at UC
Berkeley and Stanford. These numbers show more than a somewhat variance
with the American public. I would expect that the numbers for Pomona
faculty would not be significantly different than the above.
Where is the political diversity when in the annual report there is
listed among the noteworthy speakers on campus: Walter Cronkite (hardly
an impartial mind), Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Senator John Edwards and
Where are the conservative voices on our beloved campus? How can the
College consider a prevaricator who deliberately misstates facts like
Moore a noteworthy speaker? My dictionary uses terms like notable and
remarkable when defining noteworthy. This was the final straw for me,
and I am at a loss to adequately express my deep disappointment in
learning that this man was invited to speak at my college.
I realize that the current administration is not solely responsible for
the above. However, most American campuses, and I fear Pomona to be
among them, have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to
diversity as they become more and more intellectually monochromatic.
They do indeed cultivate diversity in race, skin color, ethnicity,
sexual preferences, in everything but thought.
I am saddened and sorry to see the drift of Pomona College to the left.
—Richard Strong ’54
I graduated in 1959, and this is the only negative comment I have ever
sent to Pomona. But the 2004 commencement address by Walter Cronkite was
truly a disaster. I just finished rereading it again, and his gloom and
pessimism dominates a supposedly happy occasion; even though the second
half of the speech begins to provide some uplifting and positive advice
to the graduates for the future.
Cronkite’s tone, coupled with the mishandling of the Kerri Dunn matter
(and the resulting waste of time in futile demonstration), launched the
Class of 2004 into the wide-wide world on an unwarranted sour note. I
was embarrassed for the class and embarrassed for Pomona.
—Don Lamb ’59
San Juan Capistrano, CA
A big pat on the back for the Winter 2004 PCM. Quite frankly, I’ve
always found the magazine a bit boring in the past and less interesting
than the publications of my other alma maters, Thacher School and Johns
I found every special feature article in the current issue well written,
even captivating, and worth sharing with my wife and children.
—Chris Henze ’63
I really enjoyed the recent cover story on Kris Kristofferson ’58.
Kris was already a talented writer in his undergraduate days, and part
of the amazing group of student writers that flourished in his era—a
group that included Ved Mehta ’56, Bob Towne ’56, Kate and Dick Barnes
’54 and Charley Stivers ’55, perhaps the most talented of us all, but
destined never to fulfill his promise. Leaving Pomona I headed for Beat
Generation San Francisco, failed at fiction, but went on to become a
playwright and drama professor at UC Santa Barbara. We all studied with
Ray Frazer ’47 and Edward Weismiller, two utterly different teachers
with equally high standards, who taught us to compete against perfection
instead of each other.
—Bob Potter ’56
Santa Barbara, CA
We welcome letters from alumni and friends. Letters may be edited for
length, style and clarity. For a full list of magazine policies
concerning letters to the editor, see PCM Online at www.pomona.edu/magazine.