Pomona Students Bring Their Best Pop Culture Debates to the Blogosphere
What happens when eight opinionated Pomona seniors decide to unleash their perspectives on popular culture into the blogosphere? The result is a compilation of sharp, analytical and eloquent tirades on Robyn, Bon Iver, Modern Family, and everything in between.
Launched early this November, the project, titled “Another Thing That Interests Me,” is a collection of essays on popular music, movies and television. Despite the title of the blog, contributors Samuel Cheney '12, Nick Hurwitz '12, Max Lebo '12, Professor Jonathan Lethem, Ariana Mygatt '13, Luca Rojas '12, Julius Taranto '12 and John Thomason '12 are more than intrigued by their subject matter. They either Love or Hate (Curb Your Enthusiasm—hate; Garth Brooks—love) and whichever they choose, you can be sure their critiques will be thorough and thought-provoking.
The project is an independent study "taught" by Pomona Professor of Creative Writing Jonathan Lethem, though this professor considers himself just another contributor and founding member.
The format of "Another Thing" is inspired by the self-proclaimed “Dean of American Rock Critics,” Robert Christgau. The structure of each entry is modeled after Christgau’s 1972 Newsday article, “Trying to Understand the Eagles,” written about the '70s rock band. The writers, who publish under pseudonyms, refer to themselves collectively as “The Eagles.” These Eagles are committed to fostering a rigorous discussion of popular culture, its achievements and its failures, and the intellectual process behind our instinctive pleasures and disgusts.
“At a certain level, the project of the blog is figuring out, when you have such a visceral reaction, why you have it... what is going on beneath the surface,” Hurwitz said.
The writers admit that they rarely come to agreement amongst one another and, in the spirit of intelligent discourse, they intend for their project to be controversial. “We want to encourage questioning of consensus,” said Lebo. “It’s okay to have individual opinions... it’s a good thing to try to evaluate something on your own criteria.”
The Eagles are not a pop-culture-bashing, contrarian collective; they are thoughtful critics, honing their skills in the art of criticism. Christagau’s format lends to a careful examination from all angles.
“The goal is to stimulate more serious, rigorous and passionate thought about everything.” said Taranto. “Of course we want our essays to be persuasive—we hope people will agree with us, and we want them to see where we’re coming from.”
The blog does not employ the traditional comment structure. Instead the writers receive commentary through emails, which they will excerpt and publish. After all, the blog is, to a large extent, a critique of modern criticism, and the writers plan to hold their reviewers to the same high standard of appraisal to which they hold themselves.
“In a certain way, it’s a small project aimed at reforming the culture of internet vitriol,” said Thomason. “We want to bring the immediacy and intelligence of early pop culture critics, like Christgau, through to the internet age.”
So far, the students have received one long letter response and they are reviewing at least one submission from a source outside of the eight founders. The Eagles are eager for more outside contributions. Christgau himself sent a note, saying that he is flattered by the project.
You can find the cultural critiques of The Eagles at http://another-thing.net/. But be careful—they just might change your mind about something you thought you hated or loved.
This article was originally published by The Student Life on December 1, 2011.