Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
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Editor: Mark Wood
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Letter from the editor

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 and Tinseltown.

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 obscurity.

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 staff.

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.
—Mark Wood

Letters to the Editor

True Character
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

Hometown Murals
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, for example.
At any rate, keep up the good work.
—Hector Javier Preciado ’01
Berkeley, CA

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 may be
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 to lose.”
—Philip Frankenfeld ’79
Washington, D.C.

Political Diversity
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 Michael Moore.

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
Salem, OR

Cronkite Fiasco
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

Passionate Issue
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 Hopkins U.

I found every special feature article in the current issue well written, even captivating, and worth sharing with my wife and children.
Bravo!
—Chris Henze ’63
Neuilly, France

Talented Writers
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.

 
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