Artists & Scholars

Summer 2019

Books

Drawing on research from a variety of psychological perspectives, from cognitive and biological to social and developmental, Janet Gibson, professor of psychology, explores factors that affect our detection, comprehension, liking, and use of humor. Throughout An Introduction to the Psychology of Humor (Routledge, 2019), Gibson explores theories and paradigms of humor, with each chapter dedicated to a distinct field of psychological research. Covering topics including humor development in children and older adults, humor’s effectiveness in advertisements, cross-cultural psychology, and humor’s functions in the workplace, Gibson addresses the challenges psychologists face in defining and studying humor despite it being a universal and often daily experience.

Gary Giddins ’70 released the second volume of a multipart biography, Bing Crosby — Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940–1946 (Little, Brown, 2018). In this follow-up to Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams — The Early Years, 1903–1940 (Little, Brown, 2001), Giddins focuses on Crosby’s most memorable period, the war years and the origin story of “White Christmas.” Set against the backdrop of a Europe on the brink of collapse, this work traces Crosby’s skyrocketing career. While he would go on to reshape both popular music and cinema more comprehensively than any other artist, Crosby’s legacy would be forever intertwined with his impact on the home front, a unifying voice for a nation at war.

Why does everyone from tech experts to business moguls to philanthropists believe blockchain is a paradigm-shifting technology, bound to revolutionize society as significantly as the internet? In Blockchain: The Next Everything (Scribner, 2019), a deft, easy-to-digest introduction to blockchain, Stephen P. Williams ’79 reveals how cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are just one example among dozens of transformative applications that this relatively new technology makes possible. He interprets the complexity into digestible anecdotes, metaphors, and straightforward descriptions for readers who don’t know tech and explains all of blockchain’s most important aspects, including why this so-called digital ledger is unhackable and unchangeable and what its widespread use will mean for society as a whole.

Joe Rosenfield ’25 was a classic out-of-the-box thinker. From his days as a Grinnell student in the early 1920s to serving as the chairman at Younkers to becoming an instrumental figure in Grinnell College history, Rosenfield’s thinking and warm personality made a positive impact on almost everyone he met. 

In Mentor: Life and Legacy of Joe Rosenfield (Business Publications Corporation, 2019), George Drake ’56 chronicles Rosenfield’s life, wit, and steadfast love for Grinnell College. Rosenfield served on the College’s Board of Trustees from 1941 until his death in 2000. His favorite sport, even counting his 5% stake in the Chicago Cubs, was making money for Grinnell. His own smarts and close friendship with famous investor Warren Buffett helped grow Grinnell College’s endowment from $78,000 at the beginning of Rosenfield’s board service to just over $1 billion more than a half-century later. Mentor is available for sale at bookstore.grinnell.edu.

Cornelius Conover ’95 follows the life and afterlife of an accidental martyr, San Felipe de Jésus, to track the global aspirations of imperial Spain. In Pious Imperialism: Spanish Rule and the Cult of Saints in Mexico City (University of New Mexico Press, 2019), Conover analyzes Spanish rule and Catholic practice from the consolidation of Spanish control in the Americas in the 16th century to the loss of these colonies in the 19th century.

The moment she discovers the existence of Richard, a long-lost relative, at Israel’s Holocaust Museum, Margaret McMullan ’82 begins an unexpected journey of revelation and connectivity as she tirelessly researches the history of her ancestors, the Engel de Jánosis. Propelled by a Fulbright cultural exchange that sends her to teach at a Hungarian university, McMullan, her husband, and teenage son all eagerly travel to Pécs, the land of her mother’s Jewish lineage. After reaching Pécs, a Hungarian town both small and primarily Christian, McMullan realizes how difficult her mission is going to be. Where the Angels Lived (Calypso Editions, 2019) documents the relentless determination of a woman picking up the pieces of her family’s fragmented history throughout the Hungarian Holocaust.

Art

At Grinnell, Ron Stanford ’71 produced many concerts of roots music while Fay Hazelcorn Stanford ’72 made the publicity posters. In a dorm room on South Campus, a Cajun musician named Dewey Balfa convinced the Stanfords to move to Louisiana one day to study Cajun music. The couple moved to Louisiana in 1972 and spent two years researching, photographing, and writing about French music. In September and October, Ron Stanford is presenting an exhibition of his photographs, Big French Dance: Cajun and Zydeco Music 1972–1974, at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, Louisiana. He’s also publishing a book of his Louisiana photographs.

Merry Alpern ’77 had a photography exhibition, Dirty Windows, at the Galerie Miranda in Paris this spring. The series was originally made in the 1990s and features black-and-white images captured through a bathroom window at an illegal lap-dance club in New York City.

Shown at film festivals in 2018, this film by Noga Ashkenazi ’09, which is set in Grinnell, is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. 

In the fall of 2017, Jon Richardson ’10 left Boston, his home of seven years, and moved to Cape Cod; now he has released his second album, When I Left. That winter, some terrible storms hit the Cape, and it was during this turbulent first winter that he wrote most of the songs that became this album: jonrichardson.bandcamp.com/releases.