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Another Oscar connection for Pomona

Alexandra Blaney ’09 was an associate productor for Inocente, which last night won the Academy Award  for best short documentary. The film tells the moving story of a homeless 15-year-old undocumented immigrant in San Diego “who refuses to let her dream of becoming an artist be caged by her life.”

Blaney watched the awards show and cheered from afar in New York, where today she was back at the office of Shine Global (where she has worked for two and one-half years), happily working amid the post-Oscar buzz. “We’re getting a lot of phone calls asking about showing it all around the world,” said Blaney in a quick phone interview with PCM, mentioning a new call from South Korea. Though the film might seem very specific to the U.S., Blaney notes it’s really “a universal story about immigrants and refugees in every country.” 

 In an online interview for the PRIZM Project, Blaney explained how she made her way into the documentary film world:

I never thought about film as a career option until my last year of college. I double majored in international relations and history with a focus on Latin America and always found myself drawn to the cultural aspect of politics especially as manifested in social movements. I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina where there is actually a pretty vibrant independent film community … When I returned to the US for my last year of college I took a Latin American documentary film class where I was introduced to political documentaries and the Tercer Cine (Third Cinema) film movement of the 1960s-70s which decried the Hollywood model of film as mere entertainment and business. Over the course of that class, as we watched and studied documentaries by Lourdes Portillo, Fernando Pino Solanas, Fernando Birre, and Patricio Guzman, I became more and more convinced that I should work in film and documentaries. Specifically, I wanted to work with a non-profit documentary film production company and was determined that if one did not exist I would found one. Luckily I found Shine Global, which was doing the exact type of work I wanted to do.

 Read more on Hollywood and Pomona:
Jim Taylor ’84 wins Oscar for Sideways
Chinatown at 30 (with Robert Towne ’56)
Pomona’s Hollywood Timeline
The Duke on the Quad

Good reviews for Kris Kristofferson’s new album

The new album, “Feeling Mortal,”  from Kris Kristofferson ’58 is garnering good reviews:

— A “stripped-down, emotionally raw exploration of some of life’s biggest questions … leavened by Kristofferson’s sense of humor.” Los Angeles Times

— “.. these 10 original songs are measured and wise, somewhat remorseful, sometimes unapologetic and feisty.” USA Today

— “This is the sound of a legend aging gracefully.” — Washington Times

Finally, you’ll also good quotes and anecdotes from Kristofferson in this piece on the Nashville Tennessean’s blog.

Nat Dunn ’93 offers up new word game that will test your brain, not your luck

Editor’s note: To play the game with fellow Sagehens, follow these instructions provided by Nat Dunn.

With Nat Dunn’s new game, true word buffs will no longer have to rely on luck.  His twist on Scrabble, Words with Friends and the other word games eliminates some of the chance by having everyone play the same letters in every round.

Instead of hoping for better letters than your opponent, you’ll have to rely on all that knowledge bouncing around in your liberal-arts-trained brain. Thus the name: Word Skill.

Dunn, Pomona College Class of ’93, also seeks to speed up play with time limits, and to keep players from getting stuck with loser letters, there are fresh ones for each turn. And there’s a “winner” for each round since fair comparisons can be made with everyone playing the same letters.

“What we’re trying to do is make every move an exciting move,” says Dunn, who grew up playing games such as Scrabble and came up with the Word Skill app with his brother, Dave. (Someone else did the technical development.) Until starting their new venture, Acuity Apps, most of the Dunn’s work has been in educational games through their firm, Webucator, based in New York State.

Why try to break into the market for word games, where, Nat Dunn says, 14 million people already play Words with Friends each month? The answer: because 14 million people already play Words with Friends each month. “It’s a lot of people playing these games,” he says, later adding: “People are hungry for new stuff.”

Word Skill is already in the iTunes app store, and is coming this week to Facebook and Android. While Dunn says beta-testers have liked the game, he concedes the real test is just beginning. We think it’s a great game,” he says. “But we won’t know that the world thinks it’s a great game until the world starts playing.”

Read more on Nat’s blog.

A Radio Renaissance?

Earlier this month, KSPC (88.7 FM) hosted the University of California Radio Conference and, via Jennifer Waits at radiosurvivor.com, we learn that media theorist and keynote speaker Douglas Rushkoff believes that “radio is in a renaissance.”

Rushkoff argued that radio is “emotional” and that it contains a ‘tremendous physical intimacy.’ He contrasted radio with television, saying that “radio is still human,” whereas television is ‘flat,’ and creates a more emotionally distanced viewing experience, making it more aligned with ‘irony’ and ‘snark.’

Read more reporting here from Waits, who worked for a time at KSPC.

Also: The mysterious Leo arrives at KSPC.


Only weeks after his death, painter Karl Benjamin is honored with arts colony mural

Just weeks after the influential painter’s passing, Karl Benjamin’s image can be found painted on a wall in the downtown Pomona Arts Colony. Renowned for his colorful abstract painting, Benjamin taught at Pomona College from 1979 to 1994, and his work is found in collections from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The new mural by David Flores was planned well before Benjamin’s death in July at age 86, and Flores completed it earlier this month. This news comes from an IE Weekly cover story written by Pomona’s very own Chris Michno (of the Financial Aid Office), who calls Benjamin an “artist’s artist.” Writes Michno:

Ironically, Karl Benjamin wasn’t concerned with celebrity; he was simply and resolutely committed to painting. He was engaged in a continuous structural arrangement of shape, color, pattern, space and rotation; he cared more for exploration than notoriety. Yet, his likeness appears on a wall in the Arts Colony. Pedestrians traversing the distance between venues will have ample time to consider the image before them as they pass through the west-end fringe of the Pomona Arts Walk along the row of businesses, studios and galleries. Perhaps some will stop to read the inscription painted on the corner of the mural. Those who know of Karl Benjamin will understand that his final admonishment would be for each one to sit quietly and start coloring.

More about Benjamin today in The Nation, and last month in The Huffington Post.

Finding a John Cage moment on the subway

With this year marking the centenary of composer John Cage’s birth, the New York Times runs a piece about “Cage moments” that “occur when happenstance kicks in, and surprising musical experiences take form, seemingly out of nowhere. They can happen anywhere at any time.” Writer Allan Kozinn found his during a New York City subway ride that evoked the composer’s 4’33”:

Typically, most of the noise you hear comes from the subway itself: its din drowns out conversations, and people tend to stare at their feet, or at whatever they are reading, and listen to their portable music players. But this Tuesday evening just about all the people were talking, and working hard to drown out both the subway and the chats taking place around them …

I would normally have tuned all this out, but instead I sat back, closed my eyes and did what Cage so often recommended: I listened. I made no effort to separate the strands of conversation or to focus on what people were saying. I was simply grabbed by the sheer mass of sound, human and mechanical. It sounded intensely musical to me, noisy as it was, and once I began hearing it that way, I couldn’t stop.

This fall, Pomona College is celebrating Cage, who attended the College from 1928 to 1930, in a slightly less ethereal fashion. The Music Department has organized a series of events that include a 100th birthday party, organ, keyboard, percussion and orchestra performances, and a special Cage-O-Rama performance. The Pomona College Museum of Art, meanwhile, will be showing some of Cage’s watercolors.

Restauranteur Garrett Harker ’89 makes sure his team knows culture as well as cuisine

The Boston Globe recently featured Eastern Standard, the Kenmore Square restaurant owned by Garrett Harker ’89, for his unusual educational program that has staff members take field trips, hold discussions and sometimes even write reports to learn more about topics ranging from Revolutionary War history to neuroeconomics to Major League Baseball. The purpose is to allow for a more interesting rapport with diners:

Writes Globe culture writer James H. Burnett III:

Training for employees of Eastern Standard is not just about how to pronouce “moules Provençales” and the right way to pour wine. It includes a unique repertoire that seeks to make employees fully versed in the culture and politics of our times. How? Think book reports about historical figures and their neighborhood, as well as field trips to other cities to study culture and ambience, and group discussions about the meanings of life. … The idea is for restaurant staffers to be able to be as urbane and well-informed as the customers they serve. …

Read more.

That summer of ’77: His mind spins with memories of Rhino Records

At laobserved, Claremont native Joel Bellman waxes nostalgic about his long-ago summer dream job working behind the counter at the legendary Rhino Records in the Claremont Village just a few blocks from the Pomona College campus. Writes Bellman:

One Saturday morning, I’d just opened and the store was still empty when a kid wandered in with an old Beatle album he wanted to trade in: “Yesterday and Today” – the first pressing, with the notorious pasted over “butcher cover” I’d only heard about but never before seen. Another Saturday morning, the singer Iggy Pop unexpectedly walked through the door, joined by one of his former bandmates in the Stooges who’d become a friend of one of my co-workers.

Read more.

More Rhino Records news from The Student Life.

Light and space artist James Turrell ’65 is definitely in the spotlight

The work of light and space artist James Turrell, Pomona College Class of 1965, is under a very bright spotlight at the moment. Turrell, whose on-campus Skyspace draws visitors from a wide area, was featured in this past school year’s “It Happened at Pomona” exhibitions. Now his latest Skyspace, the pyramid-like “Twilight Epiphany,” has just opened at Rice University in Houston. Also in Houston, his “Six Holograms” exhibition opens in July at the Hiram Butler Gallery. Plus Turrell has an ongoing exhibition, “The Light Inside,” near Stockholm, Sweden.

And, in a new Q&A with Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan in Interview Magazine, we learn that Turrell (pictured here on the left at the 2007 dedication of Pomona’s Skyspace) will be the subject of a retrospective exhibition to be shown next year at LACMA, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Govan interviewed Turrell at an Arizona Route 66 truck stop near the artist’s famous Roden Crater project.


Adam Conner-Simons ’08 on the controversy over culinary copyright.

In an interesting new piece for Slate, Adam Conner-Simons ’08, a frequent contributor to PCM,  looks at attempts to patent edible innovations ranging from new cuts of beef to no-crust sandwiches.

The recent influx of culinary copyright and plagiarism cases—cookbook authors bickering about recipes, New York chefs suing each other over lobster rolls—reflects rising financial stakes in the industry. … The only way to figure out which inventions can be patented and which ones can’t is through trial and error. McDonald’s’ ‘toasting of a bread component?’ No, thanks. ‘Edible cardboard?’ Welcome to the club.”

Conner-Simons concludes:

… nothing about intellectual property is cut and dried—not even massive slabs of cow carcass. We can’t determine if a food innovation should be patented by looking at its surface: It’s about the context, not the concept. Provided an invention is creative and original enough, it deserves legal protection, whether it’s a hunk of beef or double-sided sheets of inkjet sushi.