Constituting the Harpoon

Constituting the Harpoon
Constituting the Harpoon

So, when a bunch of students at the U want to get together and do something, I mean really do something.  Together.  In a bunch, like.  And not be arrested for being a mob or something, I mean.  When they want to do that, become a bunch, not become a mob, they become a Registered Student Organization.  This gives them access to all sorts of resources of the U.

Stationary.  Office Space.  Student Life Fee Funding.

All these things and more, o! so much more.

And all you have to do is fill in the paperwork.  And ask.  And ask.  And ask.

Even a cusrory reading the constitution of the Harpoon will make the reader with experience running organizations shudder.  Were a serious attempt made to actually operate an organization with this document, things would fall apart pretty quickly.  Certainly within one year.  Possibly much, much sooner if someone with an Agenda got involved.  Or even just someone with a Trickster mentality.  As difficult as that is to imagine.

Office space for the Harpoon

Late in the first year of the Harpoon, some time in the second half, anyway, and certainly after the War Issue was published, the Harpoon got itself some designated office space from Student Life.  At that time in the history of things, these offices were located on the main floor of the Kirkhoff Center, with a wide bank of windows overlooking the pond, and the book bunker beyond.

The office space was just a six-foot-wide length of desk space, set in the middle of a cubicle garden, sandwiched between the assigned desks of two organizations who, if they had ever come in to use them, seemed to have stopped when the Harpoon was installed in their midst; it was nothing more than  a few drawers, a phone, as many rolling chairs as we could commandeer, and an overhead bin.  The only things the Harpoon had, in the way of office equipment, was a phone book.  The records, the ones the U cared about, were stored at the other end of the building, safe from staffers.  The documents which were important stayed in the publisher’s apartment.

About all the office was good for was for certain high-level members to make a lot of noise, and to spy on the Greek Round Table.  There was one member who fit under the desk, or in the overhead bin, depending.  It was always best to enter the office space at the safe end of a yardstick, while probing–not so gently–with the other end into cravasses.  Where the pumas live.

Once a co-founder told a blonde lies about the Beatles, a band about which she was kind enough to pretend for twenty minutes to not know anything.  Another co-founder created and strategized a political campaign from the office.  And one day several members got bad news about their respective love lives in the office.

Something about the original logo

Down there, way, way, way down there at the bottom of the page, the entire contents of the very first post, is the original logo.

Here are some lies and a little bit of truth about it.  It’s a pun.  One of the very few puns published in the Harpoon which the co-founders understood.  The only reason they understood it is because they originated it.  “Hey,” one of them said.  “We need a snappy visual element for the masthead, right?  How about a baboon playing a harp!”

Monkeys are funny, right?  Harps are unusual, and so distinctive.  That’s good for a logo.  And, best of all, it’s a harp-boon!

Get it?

It was widely alleged to have been drawn, black on white, in the blue style of a certain anatomical caracture of a widely-beloved cartoon race of little, blue, woodland creatures.  This is a style popularized by, and mainly popular with, a down-the-way neighbor of one of the co-founders.  With cross eyes.  The baboon had cross eyes, not the blue creatures, and not the neighbor.  Not the neighbor most of the time, anyway.

The art director inverted the colors and replaced the cross-eyes with sunglasses.  This led to a knock-down roll-about on the publisher’s living room floor between the art director who liked the sunglasses and the editor who did not.  The sunglasses were replaced with the more-or-less well-focused eyes we all came to love.  More or less.

The baboon’s name is thought to be Ed.  This may or may not be strictly accurate.  The baboon has never talked about that.  Indeed, it is unknown if, in fact, and despite the obscene allegations of what the blue caricture style intended to imply about harp playing, the baboon is, as depcted, actually male.

Funding Revocation

Funding Revoked
Funding Revoked

The kerfuffle rolled along with only constant prodding by the Harpoon staff, associates, and acquaintances–and such prodding as was done by agents of the Other Side.  Unexpected allies emerged; of whom not the least was one of the ‘no’ voters, a person initially strongly opposed to the Harpoon, but who had the integrity to visit with the founders for a bit, and came to understand what was going on.  Looking back, this is one of the best parts of that phase of things.

Although the original funders withdrew their stake, all was not lost.  Nearly $35.00 was raised by an impassioned campaign across campus, supplemented by an unforeseen donation from an out-of-town lawyer and a grant from the Kellogg Foundation.  Publication continued apace.  And other plans were set in motion.

Volume 1 Number 6

the Harpoon Volume 1, Number 6
Volume 1, Number 6

This was possibly the most successful number of the first year of publication.  Fueled by spite, cold sodas, and an angry mob, the organization set out to Show Them.  Topics were farmed out at a bull session held in the back room of a bar in the back of a bowling alley.

Pieces were written up, layout was accomplished, and a friend of the editor volunteered a midnight print run at a place better known for funeral programs.  One dealer discount, and several hours with teaspoons and staplers later, the issue hit the streets.  The actual content may not be much to write home about, but all involved look back fondly on the production and focus of the theme.  Even if it’s not all that apparent now.

Post-war recession

Post-war Recession
Post-war Recession

This was not the first run-in the Harpoon had with other students.  Nor was it the most surprising, in retrospect.  It was, however, not the most intense, either.  What it was, though, was the one which shocked the organization into form.

What had previously been an organization only on paper, notionally led by a couple of loons with beards became, overnight (as it seems, in the temporal compression of memory) a Movement.  Volunteer writers who hung around the publisher’s apartment eating his food became Staffers who Did Things.  The co-founders started stalking around campus with The Walk, going from office to office, Cleaning Up.

Not that it did much good, as least with respect to the question at hand.

Volume 1 Number 5

the Harpoon Volume 1, Number 4
Volume 1, Number 5

A noted number.  The first theme issue.  It seemed like a good idea, and draft layout and most of the content was written on Christmas Eve, 1993.  It was a snowy day, and extended into the early evening.  One of the founders drove from Allendale to Grand Haven for a family function after the most striking element of the issue was composed.  Neither of the authors slept well for several days after, and final layout–and posting–took place during the week between Christmas and New Year.  It is widely rumored that the University now locks, bars, and puts chains around the door handles of the computer labs each year during that week.

Volume 1 Number 4

Volume 1, Number 4
Volume 1, Number 4

The end of an era… makes me go all teary just thinking of our lost youth.  We believed so, so much in the purity of our ideals, and the primacy of humor, and our ability to just get along with everybody we met on campus.  Unity, you know.

This number was the final issue without a theme.  The founders ran on at the mouth.  As usual.  And they didn’t get the puns in their contributor’s pen names.  As usual.  And the best part was the cartoon.  As usual.