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My Computer Outweighs Me

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Two years ago when I was getting ready to head off to college, my parents told me I could have a laptop. Stoked beyond all reckoning, I surfed Dell’s website to decide what model I wanted (I wasn’t even going to touch those Apples. I’m a Windows junkie through and through).

Decision: a 17-inch screen with lots of multimedia features.

Consensus: biggest mistake of my life.

The thing weighs a ton — it crushes my lap! Well, not really, but it’s extremely difficult to tote around. This is a problem, because when you’re a college student, it’s usually best to study in places that are not your room. See, your room has your bed, and naps are very, very appealing in the middle of an afternoon of homework. I have so many different places I like to study: the classrooms in ARH (you can draw on the chalkboards!), outside watching the ultimate Frisbee team on Mac Field, and in the really cool jungle gyms in the library. But I can’t take my computer to any of those places — it’s just too big.

Recently, I’ve come to terms with my computer. It’s great for watching movies, but it’s not going to write papers for me on the other side of campus. But that’s OK, because Grinnell dorms often have great little study lounges that are simply calling for some poor soul with a large computer who doesn’t want to walk far. You don’t even have to leave your building! No shoes required!

Even so, I still have to contend with comments about how my computer can be used as a lethal weapon. For instance, if I dropped it on the floor in my room on the third floor, it would fall all the way down to the basement, taking out every computer within a 10-foot radius of its trajectory. Or if I was fighting an Iowa corn-monster, I could knock it out with one swing of my laptop. If I could lift it, that is.

Ha ha, very funny guys.

In addition to friends teasing me about my mammoth computer, I’ve also been given a lot of guff about not having a cell phone. Yes, I heard your gasp, all the way from Grinnell. Yup, you heard me right. I don’t have one. I think I’m the only one of my friends who doesn’t, but really, I don’t feel any need to. Sure, it’s sometimes hard to get in touch with my friends, but really, the campus is only a few blocks long. It doesn’t take that much energy to walk around and find people. And chances are I’ll be with someone who has a phone anyway, so I just borrow theirs. Grinnell also has this sweet system where you can make as many calls as you want from any campus phone to any other. Just give your friend’s room a ring!

I know you might be horrified by the possibility of life without a cell, but I really enjoy it. If I’m off studying in the library and don’t want to be bothered, I don’t have to be — no one can call me! You know how in movies (like say, Love Actually) when there’s a really great scene going on and the girl’s just about to get the guy, or a secret is just about to be revealed, but then someone’s phone goes off …? Nope, doesn’t happen to me. It’s a type of freedom I really love.

Grinnell is great in this way — you really can live without technology if you want to. There are enough computer labs that you don’t need your own laptop, and I’ve just proven to you that you don’t need a phone. Computer labs are also a great way to meet other people on campus who live in your general vicinity. When you’re in a room together for three hours, both desperately trying to understand an assignment or finish a paper on time, you learn a lot about each other. Like personal stress relievers. My personal favorite is YouTube surfing while eating vanilla pudding. Or making hats out of the printer paper.

One last word of advice: if you do choose to buy a laptop, don’t make the same mistake I did. Buy one that’s actually portable and isn’t heavy enough to crush your vitals if you rest it on your stomach to watch a movie while you’re sick.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English major from Madison, Wisconsin.

Take Back the Night

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Take Back the Night is an event focused on collectively speaking out against — amongst many other social problems — rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, violence against children, and violence against women. Across the country, Take Back the Night rallies are made up of candlelight vigils, empowerment marches, and sexual assault survivor testimonials, as well as other forms of solidarity and protest.

The event’s diverse political origins are reflected in the coalition of Grinnell College organizations that help sponsor it. This year, they included the Feminist Action Coalition, the Stonewall Coalition, and the gender and women’s studies concentration. The organizers planned a week of activities to inform the student body and Grinnell community at large about the realities of sexual assault and violence on and off college campuses. “Take Back the Night Week” was composed of various presentations, such as one sponsored by Domestic Violence Alternatives/ Sexual Assault Center (DVA/ SAC) about intimate partner violence, a talk by sociology professor Betsy Erbaugh on domestic partner violence in the queer community, and a multimedia performance by the nonprofit organization The Long Walk Home, titled “SOARS: Stories Of A Rape Survivor.”

Grinnell students also decorated the Rosenfield Center with life-size human cutouts telling anonymous stories of rape and sexual assault. We also participated in the Clothesline Project, in which white T-shirts were used to write statistics and stories of assault, and then hung from a clothesline for all to see. The Clothesline Project also served as a symbolic gesture to the roots of Take Back the Night in the early feminist movement.

The week culminated with a testimonial circle of students sharing stories of sexual assault and rape with others, followed by a passionate march around campus with chants such as, “Two, four, six, eight: we won’t be raped, we won’t be beat,” and “Mother, daughter, sister, friend, help make the night safe again,” filling the air. The goal of Take Back the Night is to raise awareness about the realities of sexual assault and rape in the world around us, and to let the community know that there are venues and opportunities to be informed and supported when necessary. The energy of Take Back the Night week will hopefully resonate on our campus until next year, when we will again rally and march against fear in hopes of making the night truly safe once again.

Timothy Hederman '10 is a Philosophy major from Staten Island, New York.

Blue Iowa

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


With more than 100 students crowded around the television, mouths dropping open, eyes fixated on the single small screen, one would imagine we were watching the Super Bowl or the season finale of House or Lost, not two men vying to be the next president of the United States.

I realized that although I had graduated from a high school where my peers were largely apathetic about politics, at Grinnell students truly cared. It was clear, from the immense amount of time students spent to get out the vote to the popularity of debate-watching parties. Not only did they care, but also they were ready to make a tangible change. Not all students agree about political issues, of course, and while my story has a definite blue tinge, the high level of commitment holds true for Grinnellians of all stripes.

The change started with each individual vote. With more than 900 Grinnell students registered to vote in Iowa, we had the power to literally make the difference in the local representative race between incumbent Eric Palmer and Danny Carroll. Grinnell immersed itself in Iowa politics; a fellow student managed Palmer’s campaign and another recent alum headed up the local democratic chapter for Obama.

Under the leadership of both these campaign managers as well as the heads of the Campus Democrats, dozens of us went dorm-to-dorm and door-to-door getting out the vote. Even Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore showed up on campus to help. Getting out the vote, I met not only celebrities, but also a significant portion of the student body and several townspeople.

Being from a big city, I found it enlightening to get to know the small community of Grinnell. I was able to learn about the issues that were important to the townspeople and even meet several local politicians, including the governor of Iowa. From this experience, I started to see not only the College, but also the town as my home too.

Nov. 4, 2008, had seemed forever a part of the distant future, yet all of a sudden, it was here. One word would describe election night: crazy. Most of the student body was gathered around television sets, with as many as could fit jammed into the student center watching the results on a large screen.

With the announcement of Obama’s win came an eruption of emotion. Cheers echoed around campus as we ran around hugging our friends and set off fireworks, simply giddy with happiness.

The emotions deepened as the true implication of what had just happened began to sink in. As we crowded around the televisions again to watch Obama’s acceptance speech, I looked around to see tears running down my friends’ faces. We clutched each other, hardly comprehending our new reality.

For those of us who had been working on the campaigns, the night brought specific rewards. The two local counties we had been working in (Poweshiek and Jasper) went blue for Obama, and our local representative, Eric Palmer, won by more than 1,400 votes. Our work truly had paid off.

Whether through politics, or through social justice, or campus government, students at Grinnell truly care about the world around them and they take significant steps to try and change it for the better.

Erica Seltzer-Schultz ’12 is undeclared and from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Floored by Read Second

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Sometimes in college residence halls, there are floors so great their inhabitants are designated by floor name. My first year, there were “those kids from Loose Second.” The next year, it was “those kids from D First.” I was always sort of mystified. How could people who had seemingly nothing but geography in common become so close?

Then, in my senior year, I moved to Read Second.

Read Second is a magical place. Representing all four classes (although heavy on the seniors), the floor includes people from all over the country (and out of it), with majors ranging from chemistry to studio art. It is without a doubt my favorite place on campus. All the inhabitants are so relaxed and amusing, and we can get pretty silly at times. I’ve seen people chased up and down the hallway by someone waving a stinky air freshener. Other times, people leave leftover food from their dining hall sack lunches on the table down the hall so hungry floormates can enjoy it. On any given day, there are usually cookies or apples or mini carrots waiting to pick up the spirits of some poor ravenous paper-writer in the middle of a late night of homework.

One night, we had a huge floor get-together and ate pizza while making collages on the walls. Someone had salvaged a stack of 40-year-old Smithsonian Magazines about to be thrown away. We had incredible photos to choose from. The walls look amazing now. Everyone who comes on the floor now gets the collage gallery tour. My favorite is the wall of fictional Read Second alumni, which includes Albert Einstein, Lord Byron, Ashton Kutcher, a baby howler monkey, and a man wearing a squid on his head.

Of course, Read Second can foster seriousness as well. I’ve always had trouble studying in my room, because I tend to distract myself too well (just five minutes to check my e-mail turns into an hour on the Internet). But now, we have homework parties. Throughout the night people drift into one room or another and settle down to study. Whether it’s my room or someone else’s, it isn’t unusual to walk onto the floor and see eight people crammed into one room, hunched over their books and physics problem sets. I wouldn’t exactly say it makes homework fun, but it does make the experience less painful. Periodically, someone will ask the definition of a word or point out something cool in his or her reading, and we get distracted and start chatting. It usually doesn’t last too long, and we all settle in again. These study parties create a nice atmosphere. and we’ve started attracting people from other floors because of it. I have friends who will trek across campus — sometimes even from off-campus — just to do homework with us. And who can blame them? Sometimes there are snacks!

I love living on a floor where I know everyone and I love being surrounded by my friends. It makes the entire dorm feel like home, instead of just my room. Having a single is nice, and I certainly don’t want to go back to sharing the mirror with a roommate every morning, but it can get lonely. With a floor like this, it’s the perfect balance of friendly faces and personal space. Want to procrastinate? Wander down to a friend’s room. Want to focus? Close the door and write that paper. It’s the best of both worlds. Which is why Read is the best dorm on campus, and no one will convince me otherwise.

Elizabeth Bologna '08 is an English and History major from Fairfield, Connecticut.

Furry Little Friends

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


While most colleges have some sort of mascot, a select few have unofficial ones that are even more popular amongst the student body. Here at Grinnell College, our unofficial mascot is unmistakably the squirrel.

Hang on. A squirrel?

It seems a bit odd at first. Why would we adopt a common, medium-sized rodent as an unofficial icon at a top-notch liberal arts institution? I admit I was a bit puzzled myself when I learned about the importance of squirrels to Grinnell College student life.

However, over time, I learned that the answer was pretty simple: it’s because we love them.

Believe it or not, our squirrels are incredibly smart and, I believe, different from other squirrels. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a subspecies of Grinnell squirrels, Sciurus grinnelli. Perhaps they’re the result of a secret Noyce science lab experiment gone wrong … or right.

Squirrels have become an integral part of the Grinnell College culture, providing us with constant entertainment. They’re always around, foraging for food on the lawn or chasing each other about to an endless arrangement of squeaks and squawks. You’ll hear them gnawing on nuts in the tree and you’ll see them standing on their hind legs as you walk by. They probably think you possess something for them to eat. It’s not uncommon to see human-squirrel interaction on campus, especially if food is involved. Sometimes it’s student-initiated, but other times it’s squirrel-initiated. Sometimes, it’s a friendly meeting. Other times, it can get pretty aggressive.

I’ve encountered squirrels foraging around in the garbage cans several times, each with its own end result. The first squirrel popped its little head out of the trash and just sniffed in my general direction as I walked by. The second squirrel jumped out to run away. The third squirrel, however, was so hungry, it decided to launch itself toward my face. I couldn’t blame the poor creature — after all, it was in the middle of a freezing winter. However, I was slightly offended that a squirrel would confuse me for a piece of bread.

Apart from my mix of casual and frightening experiences, I’ve also heard others speak of amusing squirrel moments. Last spring, one of my friends gave a squirrel a sugar cookie from his Outtakes (a sort of cafeteria-made sack lunch). The squirrel went crazy, almost like a cat on catnip. Barely able to control itself, it became very jumpy and knocked its head against the tree several times in an apparent sugar high. While it was hilarious, I wouldn’t suggest giving our squirrels any more sugar. Some of them have acquired a ridiculous weight and size; I’m sure they could take down a chihuahua.

Our squirrels help enhance the Grinnell College experience (they’re like members of our student body, only with a bushy tail). It’s another one of those small elements that help characterize the Grinnell environment. Without them, a piece of the puzzle would be missing. Our furry little friends are here to add some amusement into our lives, whether it’s a meeting while walking across campus or outside the window while you’re studying.

That, and they’re always there to share half of your sandwich.

People Watching and Study Buddies

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


I’m a person who is very set in my habits. I get out of bed at the same time every single morning and try to go to bed at the same time every night. I go to the library pretty much every night at pretty much the same time. I have sat at the same desk in the library since the beginning of my first year. That means this relationship has lasted a full five semesters, going on a sixth — a period of time substantially longer than any relationship I’ve ever had with a boy.

When it comes to doing homework, I will never get anything done unless I follow this same routine. However, on the rare occasion that I get to the library at 8:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., somebody may have already taken my seat. Tonight is one of those nights. That’s why I’m writing this article instead of running the Markov Chain simulation I’m supposed to be doing (don’t worry, I don’t really know what that means either).

I guess I can’t really blame anybody for taking my seat — it has a great view! I can see most of the second floor, and since it’s right in front of the huge windows above the entrance, I can watch everyone walking in. I would guess that throughout my time here I have witnessed the majority of Grinnell’s students enter the library. I like to watch them. And note the time of their entrance and exit … and their clothing … current level of apparent stress. And other interesting things like that.

At nighttime, it’s a little harder to see through the windows, but that’s OK, because thanks to their glorious reflections, I can see everything behind me without allowing my creepiness to be obvious. I have secretly witnessed a countless number of quick kisses sneaked in between the stacks. Peoplewatching is a crucial aspect of my study routine, and while it might seem counterproductive, I would never finish my work if I didn’t have interesting things to watch while pondering the next step of that algorithm I’m trying to figure out. But I assure you, not every student’s study habits involve stalker-like tendencies. It seems that every Grinnellian has his or her own study quirk to help manage the demanding workload.

Lots of people are very peculiar about the noise levels around them. Music may be necessary to focus, or it might be a source of great distraction. Others need a constant background drone — I’ve heard that Bob’s Underground is the only location on campus where the white noise is absolutely perfect. Some people have weird eating habits. A large percentage of the school population sucks down their caffeinated drink of choice before every study session, while others claim to stay away from coffee at all costs. Some need a very specific snack before they begin studying and become irritated when The Spencer Grill is out of stock, much in the same way I’m annoyed when I lose my favorite study seat.

I have some friends whose routine is not having a routine. If they’re not being productive enough, it must be due to their current locale, and so it’s time to find a new spot. A long paper may result in five or more of these location switches. There are both the social studiers, who complete every assignment with their best study buddy from class, and those who can’t think with someone else in their ear. They try to tolerate these sessions until they can steal away with a clear mind.

And so it seems that perhaps the study habits of Grinnellians are about as diverse as the people I see walk into the library every day. While coming to Grinnell may seem daunting as a new student, I guarantee you will soon find your niche, whether it be for socializing, studying, or in my case, innocent stalking.

Cassie Sims '08 is a Computer Science major from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


My armpits dripped with the stinkiest of all sweats: that of the “I’m-really-stressedout” variety. My heart raced, and I struggled in vain to fight back tears. Here I was, the day before Thanksgiving break during first year, intent on finishing a paper due the next day. My pink and purple folder containing all the meticulously edited drafts of said paper had gone missing.

I cried. I swore. I threw my lobster-shaped pillow across the room. Finally, as it dawned on me that taking my frustration out on my bedfellows was not very productive, I called my friends Calvin and Boyer for help. They came over, dried my tears, and searched all around campus with me until we finally located the folder, tossed lazily on the floor outside the dining hall, below the coat hooks.

Looking back three years later, I’m reminded of what a strong support network I have at Grinnell. During every rough patch, big or small, I’ve always had a swarm of Grinnellians to provide a sympathetic ear, a kind heart, and a limitless supply of hugs. However, I didn’t realize just how remarkable of a community Grinnell was until something tragic actually did happen, something whose seriousness greatly surpassed that of a misplaced folder.

On Thursday, December 13, 2007, around 8 p.m., like many Grinnellians the week before finals, I was sitting on a couch, laptop situated firmly on my lap, feverishly typing away at one of the many papers I had due over the course of the coming week. Then I received The Call from my mom. She had been walking laps with my dad at the Orland Park Sportsplex when he went down. And that was that. My dad had died.

I do not wish to describe the immense shock that swam over me, or the grief that still clouds my thoughts and daily activities. Rather, I would like to focus on how much my fellow Grinnellians have reached out and supported me in so many ways, making these difficult times infinitely better.

Within 20 minutes of the ill-fated phone call, my good friend Charlie was at my side. Soon after, my friends Meredith, Liz, and Henry joined us on the couch for an evening of handholding, hair-stroking, and everything-will-be-all-righting. I fell asleep in the arms of Mer and Liz.

When I awoke the next morning, two other friends, Ben and Sarah, were waiting for me downstairs, bearing organic chocolate bars from the bookstore and giant hugs. Later, Colette showed up with a delicious veggie wrap from Comeback Café for lunch. As the hours passed, more and more people kept dropping in: running buddies, neighbors, classmates, my cross country coach. Although the mood was somber, being surrounded by all these caring people made it feel almost like a house party in the middle of a Friday afternoon. I was the guest of honor, blubbering in my bathrobe, but letting myself be distracted and entertained by the amazing group of people gathered in my living room.

And although the wake and funeral services took place the weekend before finals, two friends (and one alum) made the four-hour trek from Grinnell to my Chicago suburb to attend. Not only did they bring their loving presences, but they also brought an enormous care package of cards, letters, cookies, and even a jar of a homemade tomato-based substance from Grinnellians back at school. The tomato-y jar actually brought some much needed humor to the afternoon as it allowed me to sit around for quite some time with my aunts and cousins debating whether the jar contained salsa or soup. (I found out later it was salsa. And it was delicious.)

The loving gestures continued to reach me even from afar. My housemates and I had been planning a holiday party to hold as a finals week study break, but due to my extenuating circumstances, I was unable to attend. In my absence, Meredith lit a candle at the party in memory of my father. She also provided all the guests with scraps of paper for them to write me notes of love, encouragement, and strength. When I returned to campus a few days later in order to retrieve the rest of my belongings for winter break, I was greeted with all these wonderful messages.

It’s been a rough couple of months, to say the least, but I am grateful I have so many amazing people in my life to remind me of all the good in the world. My dad once told me, “Erin, we only get so many moments like this.” Now I understand more than ever how right he was.

Erin Sindewald '08 is an English major from Orland Park, Illinois.


Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Hall: Norris. Floor: fourth. Side: east. The most basic way to summarize my location on campus is Nor4East. Norris Hall may be at the far end of campus, but it has its advantages: A/C and spacious rooms. Although you might feel isolated up on the far end of North Campus, you soon realize you’re not the only person living there. Most of my floor-bonding experiences include the first-year girls on my floor. We get together and engage in rituals with some of our friends in which we learn new things about each other and do random fun activities.

Floor bonding experience #1. Time: 10 p.m. A circle of college girls can be spotted on the east side of Norris fourth floor. Our conversations cover our lives and differing interests, which include playing the violin and writing. A common interest for the Gossip Girl TV show leads to the wild decision to watch episodes and then go on a late-night bakery run. With determination to eat fresh baked goods in the middle of the night, we stay up. Some of us take a nap that extends into a nightlong sleep. Others resist the temptation of sleep by munching on junk food.

At 2 a.m., we confront the morning breeze and walk downtown. The synchronized stoplights serve as a guide to Main Street and finally to the Danish Maid Bakery. A sketchy alley leads to the backdoor of the bakery, where Bill the baker greets us and shows us a selection of delicious calorie-stuffed pieces of dough that will contribute to our Freshman 15.

Floor Bonding Experience #2. Time: 7:30 p.m. My roommate and I raid a whole bunch of hall whiteboards with Expo-marker invitations to a floor-wide Sunday Movie Night. The movie is I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, a comedy to make us laugh and forget about our homework. With a great turnout and my roommate’s dorm-baked cookies, we indulge in a great time of laughter and leisure. It’s nice to have a tray full of cookies and a movie to distract us from our homework-addled minds.

Floor Bonding Experience #3 and others. Time: 6 p.m. With future plans to continue bonding, our floor’s student adviser (SA) comes up with the idea of having a floor dinner each week. Meeting in the fourth floor lounge each Friday, we walk over to the dining hall. One Sunday night, a trip to Tropical Sno (a snow cone stand in town) ends prematurely with an unexpected “Business Closed Due to Illness” sign. Our SA suggests several other options, but finding an open business at 7 p.m. on a Sunday night is difficult. After going from one closed store to another we end up eating Dairy Queen desserts that fit the cold windy weather.

Our floor bonding sometimes leads us all the way to the dance floor at Harris parties. There you can usually spot the Nor4 girls dancing to the rhythms of hiphop or ’80s tunes. My floor is the perfect combination of fun and community. It is simply great to belong to Nor4East.

Coming Out as a Republican

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Prior to my arrival at Grinnell, I was brought up on the basic principles of conservatism — I’m from a “Republican” family. For those of you who can (secretly) relate, Grinnell College can seem quite intimidating, right? After all, it is the college where more than 80 percent of students voted against Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, a candidate who repeatedly wins elections with at least 70 percent of the vote. Grinnell is a liberal bubble in the middle of the moderate political landscape of Iowa.

That’s why when I came here, I decided to keep my political affiliations to myself. I figured there was no sense in starting an argument where I would end up being completely outnumbered. The last thing I wanted to do was make enemies for myself. And I wasn’t really sure what I believed. Sure, my dad listened to Rush Limbaugh and watched Fox News, but what did I know about world politics and how much my beliefs were tied to those of my father and mother?

Less than five minutes after I unpacked my last box on move-in day of my first year here, another first-year from down the hall “outed” me as a Republican. We were introducing ourselves and saying where we were from when she, from out of nowhere, looks at me and says, “You — Bush or Kerry?” I just stood there. I had no intention of lying to anyone about my political affiliations, but I wasn’t expecting them to come up so soon. I went ahead and answered, “Bush?” and then subconsciously expected everyone to attack me and rip out my insides. But as you can see, I am still here, and many of the people who first heard me say “Bush” are still some of my closest friends today.

My initial plan to be discreet about my politics had been shot out the window. The result, however, has been anything but disastrous. After taking an active role in the Campus Republicans group, I’ve realized there are many others at this college who share some of my ideologies (including my roommate), but they thought they were the only ones as well. Grinnell prides itself on being an open-minded and accepting campus, and it is, for the most part. However, I do believe at times people forget that diversity of thought should also fit in here. Sometimes it is still a bit intimidating to speak your mind about politics when students and professors alike make it the norm to speak out against Republicanism.

However, I have found a haven in the Campus Republicans. Our members don’t really focus on endorsing candidates in local, state, and national elections. In reality, it would probably do the candidates more harm than good if we did, seeing as how Kerry carried more than 90 percent of the vote on campus. Instead, our primary goal is to create an environment where non-liberals can discuss politics and not feel threatened or silenced by the majority.

Looking back, I’m glad I have been open about my values and beliefs, since it has forced me to challenge them and make sure they are what I truly believe. And for the most part, Grinnell has been open to me and other conservatives on campus — except for the occasional liberal spy at our meetings and that shoe mark on my car where my Bush-Cheney bumper sticker once was.

Derek Bates '08 is an English major from Montezuma, Iowa.

A Film Festival Spectacle

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Let me tell you a little about Titular Head, Grinnell’s own homegrown film festival. Now don’t get the wrong impression. We’re not sophisticated filmmakers. We don’t watch in silence and clap politely at the end. And we definitely don’t submit the movies on time.

To give you an idea, some recent successful Titular Head movies have been about a fearsome rivalry between two racquetball players, dancing dining hall staff, a campaign to elect our student government president as the new U.S. president, and a tale about a student’s epic struggle to become the best streaker on campus. Raucous cheering and catcalls accompanied the screenings, making the event even more fun. For the past 32 years, students and a few brave faculty and staff have squeezed into the limited seating to watch not so much a film “festival,” but rather a rare spectacle that celebrates this unique campus community we all know and love.

It’s important to note that Titular Head wasn’t always a film festival. It actually got its start in 1976 as a short skit show in conjunction with Grinnell Relays, another fine Grinnell tradition still happening each year. Who knows if the founders had any idea of what exactly they were creating? Even the origins of the name have been lost to the mists of time.

During the 1980s, camcorders hit the scene and folks started submitting videos instead of practicing skits. Gradually the tradition began to move away from the Grinnell Relays, eventually evolving into a short film show traditionally held on the same day but later in the evening. With improvements in technology, film quality also got better and archiving became a possibility. A new era of shorts began in the late ’90s with the creation of consumer digital editing software, and since then we’ve seen the iMovie pushed to its limits.

This spring, the student body celebrated the 32nd Titular Head. We handed out nearly all of our tickets within the first hour they were available. Eager fans filled the lobby of Harris Concert Hall and crammed into the bleacher seating for the opportunity to scream, cheer, and boo 23 films over the course of two and a half hours. All that enthusiasm — from the audience, judges, and filmmakers — contributed to another successful chapter in Titular Head history.

Titular Head is a great show, but there’s more to it than good laughs and big crowds. I’ve had the privilege of helping out for two years now, and I’ve discovered that the films allow you to really note the incredible community and quirks of Grinnell. Regardless of some of the bad films and bad hair in the ’90s archives, this event has consistently documented our excitement and senses of humor, and really illustrates the unique vibe of Grinnell.

But honestly, I can’t give you that a good idea of what Titular Head is all about. Ask other people around on campus, search YouTube, and get a ticket for next year. Even better, grab a camcorder and make some local history. Come be a part of just one of the many spectacles that makes Grinnell spectacular.

Dan Neely '09 is a Psychology major from Chicago, Illinois.