Tagged: pomona

UMag Inbox

cover_2 copyDigging through the tottering stack, your intrepid umagazinologist liked this cover very much, from Wellesley. So you know, that’s a red knot. (Go ahead and click the bird. You know you want to.)

Auburn Magazine had my favorite bio-in-the-deck, for profile subject Cynthia Hill: Walmart pharmacist and Peabody Award–winning filmmaker. Well, of course. One runs into those every day around here.

TCNJ Magazine from the College of New Jersey does a cool thing with their inside front cover and first page, a recurring bit called Up Front. A recent one reported the answers to the question, “What was your favorite campus concert?” and I will never understand Vanilla Ice outpolling Bruce Springsteen. That’s incomprehensible.


Nice piece from Pomona College Magazine about playwright George C. Wolfe’s contribution to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. Writer Mark Wood opens this way:

Grab a stool at the old-fashioned lunch counter. Slip on a pair of earphones and press your palms to the hand outlines on the countertop. Close your eyes if you dare. A soothing Southern voice murmurs in your ear, “This your first time, right? So far, so good. You’ll be all right.” But then you hear the mob coming, surrounding you, jeering at you. “Git up!” A vicious jolt as if a ghost has kicked your stool. “If you don’t git up, boy, I’m gonna kill you.” The voice moves around you, so close you can almost feel the breath on your ear. Dishes shatter. Silverware jangles off walls. Sirens rise in the distance. Your stool is jostled again and again as the shouting engulfs you. “Kill him!” “Stomp his face!”

After 90 seconds, the chaos subsides, replaced by a woman’s voice: “What you’ve just experienced was created to honor the brave men and women who participated in the American civil rights sit-in movement.”

Playing on nostalgia for campus does not mapwork for everyone. For example, it is the rare Johns Hopkins University alumnus who looks back at his or her undergraduate years with a warm feeling of “those were the best four years of my life.” Hopkins just isn’t that sort of place. When Johns Hopkins Magazine tried to do a feature story on campus traditions in 2006, we had to scour every division and every campus and still came up so short we made up a few just to fill out the spread. All of which is a long intro to something clever in the Spring ’15 Oregon Quarterly, in which the magazine staff discovers campus plaques they’d never noticed until they starting looking for them, and explains the story behind them. They even lobby for a plaque that doesn’t exist, but ought to.

Groupies, happy happy happy, Zapped, and freezer magnets

Window, from Western Washington University (edited by Mary Lane Gallagher), has my favorite cover headline of the last several months, for a collection of images of moths:

Thoroughly enjoyed the cover story on the lastest issue of Pomona College Magazine (Mark Kendall, editor) about an epic prank that had remained a mystery for 40 years. In 1975, two math majors at Pomona crafted a large frieze of Frank Zappa out of styrofoam and managed to scale the wall of Bridges Auditorium and hang it alongside the building’s existing friezes of great composers. They did it by climbing to the roof of an adjacent gymnasium and crossing to the auditorium roof on a ladder. I know, I know, their mothers would have killed them. They built the 70-pound, 15 x 5 faux frieze, which included a portrait of Zappa and a marijuana leaf (ah, I’m flashing back . . . ), and hung it over Chopin’s image and name. And until Kendall’s story, they’d never gotten due credit for their work.

Tina Owen and Iowa Alumni Magazine got happy with a happiness theme issue, well illustrated by Serge Bloch. The issue includes a four-page spread of photographs of favorite things around the Iowa campus, which the magazine ran as vertical spreads—that is, you have to turn the magazine on end to view them.

I’m a long-standing fan of e&s out of Caltech (editor is Lori Oliwenstein), in part because of their cleverness with graphic design. The magazine’s current issue has one good spread after another, and I love the issue’s freezer-magnet cover, especially the witty bit in the upper right corner. (Click the image for a better look.)

Eight questions for Mark Kendall

Mark Kendall edits the estimable and eponymous Pomona College Magazine, when he isn’t answering questions from UMagazinology.

How long have you been in your job?

Four years (eight at the college). I should note, though, that the magazine comes together through a partnership with my boss and mentor Mark Wood, who is executive editor and is responsible for the snazzy design, creating a culture of respect for the creative process and many other important elements.

What has proven to be the most significant thing you had to learn to do that job?

I’ve become a big fan of using themes, but it’s an organizational method that I inherited and I’ve needed time to get the knack of it. Early on, I had the mindset of wanting to gather up every good story I could around the particular topic. It was too much, and it often felt like we were cramming in at least one feature too many. Now I’m more willing to ditch ideas. One benefit is we have more space to go longer with our strongest stories. Also, I don’t rush into picking themes and it’s not unusual for them to change along the way. I know there’s always concern among editors about choosing one that is too narrow and might turn off some readers. There’s also a point at which overly-nebulous themes aren’t really themes at all. I try to aim for the middle. Looking a few issues back, I thought “Islands” worked well for a theme. Our soon-to-mail spring magazine is “The Racing Issue.”

What has been your best experience at the magazine?

That would have to be getting to write a cover story about Richard Nixon and his fateful 1948 run for Congress against our alumnus Steve Zetterberg. Under California’s quirky ballot rules of the time, Nixon was able to run in both the Republican and Democratic primaries. Nixon’s campaign even sent out mailers to “Fellow Democrats,” and he knocked our guy out before the general election. It was fun to do some old-school, non-Internet research, poring over spools of microfilm at local libraries. After all these years, Nixon still stirs emotions. I got letters.

What has proven to be your biggest frustration?

I was the college’s web editor before taking this role, so it’s not like I’m completely flummoxed by the Internets. But as we’ve recently re-launched our magazine web and added blogs, I need to try to quickly toggle back and forth between print and web. And yet my mindset when blogging is very different then when I’m conceptualizing the content for the slow-moving print magazine. There’s always a time tradeoff: Should I being tending to the immediate needs and wants of the web or doing more trench work for the next issue?

What part of your magazine never quite satisfies you, despite everybody’s best effort?

We have an “Alumni Voices” section for first-person pieces, but I’ve found it tough to establish a steady flow of essays from sources beyond our alumni who are “known” writers. I’ve been moving away from running as many profiles as we once did and I’d like to print more pieces from people in their own voices. I’d like to see more humor and surprising topics. But I need more submissions or pitches from a wider range of alumni.

What story are you proudest to have published?

Sally Ann Flecker wrote a gripping and moving 4,000-word piece for us last summer about an accomplished young alumna whose life takes a devastating turn as she makes her way up Machu Picchu. I thought it was worth every word. I’m still high on long-form journalism. We’ve run pieces in that length range in each of our last three issues. In a different vein, I was proud of another piece that morphed into a manga. Pomona has a special affinity for the No. 47 – long story – and for years our alumni in Hollywood have been sneaking the number into various movies and TV shows. We started off planning a story but wound up with a six-page manga from our illustrator alumnus Andy Mitchell. It was a fun departure for an alumni mag.

If you could commission a story from any writer in the world, who would it be?

I can’t say I have a single dream big-name writer in mind. I am partial to writers who really dig in and do the reporting, so maybe I’d go with Sonia Nazario, who won a Pulitzer for her Los Angeles Times series delving into the world of Central American children who travel across Mexico to reach the United States and try to find their parents. She even rode on top of a train. The author Richard Preston, a Pomona alumnus, is another writer I admire for the sheer depth—and height—of his reporting. He learned to climb giant redwood trees as research for one of his books. Pie-in-the-sky aside, there are a slew of strong writers in our own little world of college mags. It might be beneficial to have an informal exchange program in which college editors or staff writers take on assignments for different schools’ magazines. Heck, that Brian Doyle guy wrote a piece for us once.

If you weren’t an editor, what would your dream job be?

I would want to help tell the stories of people who have disabilities that prevent them from communicating in any sort of readily understood system. I have a daughter who is in just that predicament, unable to speak, sign or write. Having rights is great, but having a voice, a way to be known by some other group of people, is just as important.

Doyle’s dream

When I opened an envelope that contained the Winter 2011 issue of Portland, I found a little note from editor Brian Doyle clipped to the cover, a note noting that this issue was something he’d long dreamed of publishing—an issue devoted to music, one that included a bound-in CD. So I slipped the CD into my iMac and started reading.

On the cover is a gorgeous photograph of a mandolin. I don’t like the mandolin, I never want to play the mandolin, but this image is scrumptious enough to make me at least want to own a mandolin. Once past the front-of-the-book campus stuff, you come upon seven pieces on music—Connor Doe’s sweet meditation on being a guitar player and a new dad at the same time; a Trappist monk’s counting of the myriad sounds that make up the music of his day; the music latent in the Indian names for Oregon rivers; singer and songwriter Jennifer Crow speaking through Doyle about creating music; Kirsten Rian’s startling remembrance that starts out recalling when guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn died and then becomes something wholly unexpected; an essay on the music of sandhill cranes; a story by Pico Iyer—and the CD with 20 pieces of music.

I asked Doyle for how long had we wanted to do such a thing. “Oh dear, years,” he replied. “Credit where due: Mark Wood at Pomona [Pomona College Magazine] bound a CD into his magazine years ago, but his was all music from the campus, as I recall, and the thought niggled at me that o sweet mother of the baby Jesus wouldn’t it be cool to do a record of all sorts of wild music from all corners of the vast university community, alumni, and students and guests and friends and faculty and staff and everyone and anyone. Man, that would be way cool.”

What made the issue happen now was the capital campaign. Yes, the capital campaign. Said Doyle, “We are conducting that rare and lovely music, a campaign where everyone’s creative ideas for drawing people toward the university are not only allowed (holy moly!) but encouraged (what planet are we on?!), and paid for (what galaxy is this?!). The poobah running our campaign gets it that interesting ways to get people to lay ears and eyes on the university are actually fundraising efforts, yes? On the theory that people who attend to you will soon enough get absorbed by your drive and need, and help out.” Read the captions that accompany the many photographs of musicians and instruments and sheet music and you realize that this is the slyest campaign issue of an alumni magazine ever. Each one gently suggests that Portland could use help in remaining a place that fosters the making of music and fine prose and quality thought, and directs the reader to the campaign’s website. The CD is glued to a an insert that briefly explains the campaign.

Regarding that CD, which cost about $10,000 to produce, Doyle said, “Steve Forbert gave me a song. Steve Forbert!!!!!! who had been a visiting writer—we were intrigued by how songwriters are writers and don’t get the credit for writing stories. Neil Murray gave me a song, and he’s one of the greatest Australian songwriters there is. He’d written a piece for our magazine. An alumnus gave us a song and died two weeks later, 88 years old, lovely gentle wonderful man; his daughter told me the last grin she saw on his face was the news that every reader of the magazine would hear his lovely jazz tune. A wild young hip band named the Dimes gave me a song because they had had so much fun playing a show on campus. An alumna gave me a song from her country rock band and told me so many funny stories about singing in roaring bars at night and singing at church early in the morning that we ended up doing a whole feature on her. A student walked into my office and said she had recorded songs with her friends on a university program in Kenya, would I listen, and my heart sank, because the phrase recorded with friends usually means shrieking cursing howling awful vulgar sniggering rap, and her songs made me want to caper because they were so lively and happy and laughing. It was a total ball, this issue. Also I note with amazement that no one [among the musicians] asked for a penny.”

The only flaw in this whole exercise derives from Portland being perfect bound, which messed up a few of the photos that Doyle ran full across, full bleed. I asked him is this might the one time he wished his magazine were saddle-stitched. “Sigh. Yup.”

Let’s end with a medley, which feels appropriate, a medley of prose highlights. First, Connor Doe:

At one point during our rehearsal, my son, who was pretty new to being a son then, kept perfect time while banging the stick on the floor and grinning jubilantly. I’m not kidding. It didn’t last for more than a few beats, and probably it was a complete accident, but it was absolutely perfect. Maybe the best thing about being a dad is that perfect time is always possible.

Robin Cody:

By my count, some 68 percent of our native rivernames are three-syllable words. Most of the others are four-beat words. Walla Walla, Tualatin, Skomakawa, and Metolius survived the pioneers’ naming of things. The newcomers selected, from the home folks, the most melodious phonemes they heard for this new-to-them place. They adoped rollicking names for lively rivers, so different from the flat Platte and the languid Snake along the Oregon Trail. Imagine their relief, their joy. Even Methodists could hear the three-note riff here that goes bu-DEE-bu.

Kirsten Rian:

Sound rings off forever. There is no reconciliation point, even when it moves past our ability to hear. It’s out there somewhere still, echoing. It’s something to believe in, to know, even though it can’t be touched or seen. Like faith. Music plays itself in how it’s felt, in how the notes reverberate through the tiny bones in our ears, yes, but also throughout all the rest of us, a secular love rooted in the infinity of belief.

And, finally, Pico Iyer:

Once, high up in the nosebleed seats of Osaka Castle Hall in Japan, I closed my eyes and heard Eric Clapton take off on long silvery riffs on his guitar. He stood alone, completely motionless at the back of the state. His head lifted up, his eyes clearly shut. The music was playing him, more than the other way round. In fact it seemed to be streaming through him—he and his instrument just vessels—and enveloping us all in something beyond the reach of explanations. I didn’t have the words for it—I was embarrassed to hear myself saying it—but I didn’t care what his religion was or wasn’t (or mine, either): this was what the world sounded like when it was unbroken.

UMag inbox

Amherst weighs in with a 140-page winter edition—80 pages of which is devoted to class notes. This staggers me. Were Johns Hopkins Magazine to start paying 10 bucks per note, we still couldn’t get 20 pages. In some of its leftover space, Amherst has an interesting piece by Rand Richards Cooper about Robert Morgenthau, the former Manhattan district attorney who was involved in some of the most celebrated criminal cases of the 20th century. Cooper’s story begins spryly:

Every now and then, an interview subject presents an almost surreal smorgasbord of topics. For instance: how many Americans would you be able to ask, “What happened when mob chief Joe Bonanno walked into your office and surrendered?” and “Tell me about the debutante cotillion you attened at the White House in 1938 for Eleanor Roosevelt’s niece”?

Emily Gold Boutilier is editor.

Nice cover from Marriott Alumni Magazine, published by Brigham Young’s business school (Emily Smurthwaite, editor). Illustration by John Kachic. Inside, there’s a simple selection of conversations overheard at the school’s Tanner building (“Overheard in the Tanner“) that includes a few gems, like, “Something that causes the gag reflex is an allergic reaction.” Or, “I had a dream last night that we were kidnapped by Tina Fey.” Or, “The chemistry between my boyfriend and me is greater than yours.” I think a lot of guys have had that Tina Fey dream.

Readers of contemporary fiction will enjoy the profile of Jonathan Lethem in the winter issue of Pomona College Magazine. Writer Scott Martell does a nice job with “Life & Times of Jonathan Lethem,” noting that his subject is tenured professor at Pomona and a MacArthur fellow and holds an honorary doctorate from the Pratt Institute, but is not a college graduate—he dropped out of Bennington partway through his sophomore year. He calls himself “a tenured-full-professor-with-a-doctor-of-letters sophomore on leave.” Mark Kendall is editor.

Finally, St. Thomas, from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota (Brian C. Brown edits), has a hilarious feature on a three-times-a-week, mostly faculty-and-staff recreational basketball game, the Noontime Basketball Association. “Showtime” was written by one of the teacher-athletes, Stephen J. Laumakis, professor of philosophy. The text is witty, the pictures by Mike Ekern are great, and there is a set of six lists called “The Lessons.” Lessons include

The best defense is to let the offense self-destruct.

Student players tend to be faster, stronger, and able to jump higher than faculty and staff players. Faculty and staff players are smarter and better looking.

The NBA is just like the real NBA—except for the money, talent, endorsements, and criminals.

Darwin was wrong. Sometimes the slowest and least-talented survive.