An Interview with Phil Chodrow, the Man Behind NinjaGrams 2012

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of NinjaGrams?

NinjaGrams is an organization that precedes me and was founded by James Mendez ’08. My sophomore year a friend of mine, who had heard of NinjaGrams, suggested that I revive the organization and that’s exactly what I did. In my time with NinjaGrams I’ve sort of shifted the paradigm a little bit, we’re still delivering cards and raising money for charity but I’ve tried to make it better run a little more formal to have better organizational structure. As a result last year we sold 500 cards and raised about $1500 dollars. So you know we’ve really gotten a lot bigger and maybe a little more organized. Unfortunately there is currently no one who I know that I willing to pick up NinjaGrams for the year after I graduate so it’s unclear whether there will be NinjaGrams next year…So we’ll see if any of your readers want to lead NinjaGrams… We’ll see I don’t mind, I’d love to see it continued but on the other hand if my story is any indication that it will probably continue in some way even if not next year.

What organization does the money raised go to?

This year we are donating to is Independent Thought & Social Action International in India. Last year we delivered for Global Neighbors and the CADES program that sent to Haiti relief. ITSA is a really cool organization, in part because it was [co-] Founded [and co-Directed] by Riana Shah, a sophomore at Swarthmore, with Jwalin Patel. What they do is they fund and mentor Indian youth from urban areas to do really cool global action projects and from what Riana tells me because money just goes such a long way in India actually the sales from three NinjaGrams can fund an entire student project. Students will take things under their own inititative or with guidance and they’ll pull the resources… it’s really cool stuff. We’re really really pleased to be working with them because it’s an organization that didn’t start at Swarthmore but was started by a Swattie.

Why introduce the concept of Ninsurance and why Pirates?

Ninsurance was actually a concept that pre-dated me, that was in the original NinjaGrams. On the one hand we are a money raising organization and on the other hand we are a card delivery organization. On the next level I think of us as more of an improv comedy group than anything else. Who doesn’t want to see Ninja’s fighting each other in the middle of class, that’s just funny. Ninsurance is a way to a) do something really funny and b) raise more money for our charity funds.

In previous years we’ve had policies that all professors automatically get Nin-surance. This year we are going to be Ninja fighting for professors that we think might enjoy it. We’re being a little more cautious because we got a little burned by the administration last year because some professors complained. We’re being a little more cautious but the spirit is still there.

Pirates. Pirates was a whimsical suggestion from someone who had never heard of NinjaGrams before. I was like “Hey, wanna do NinjaGrams?” and she was like, “What about pirates?” and I’m like “Hmm, what about pirates?” And so I thought that we could start delivering PirateGrams and see how that went. It’s an innovation for this year. PirateGrams have a little different artwork than NinjaGrams, they have a patch over one eye and are delivered in much in the same way as NinjaGrams by people who are dressed in all black (for some reason) and have hooks and eye patches. The speech is a little different so instead of “NINJAAAA Graaaammaaaaaa” is “PIRATAAAA Graaaammaaaaaa!” with what I think Pirates sounds like. The PirateGrams have been mildly popular and we have more than a few Ninja – Pirate fights scheduled which was the intention all along.

How many professors requested NinjaGrams not be delivered during their classes?

Two. We sent the professors an email in which we gave them three days to respond if they wanted to opt out. In fact, we only got two responses. One of the was unfortunately Rachel Merz in Bio 002, which is traditionally one of our biggest targets so I was sad to miss out on that. The other one I couldn’t remember off the top of my head. I take that to be really nice in its way, we did lose two professors but on the other hand I think that shows that on the whole NinjaGrams is well accepted by on the campus and happily.

Do Ninjas (or Pirates) have superpowers?

My Ninjas are super clairvoyant and psychic and know exactly where they can find you the day off. They read minds and infiltrate organizations. Also, they can fly. And they’re really good at arts and crafts, supernaturally good. We have a really exciting surprise for NinjaGram day that involves arts and crafts that was created by our superpower Ninjas. Eric Verhasselt ‘13 is the Arts and Craft Coordinator.

Have you are been Ninja-ed?

Yes, both years. Being the one who runs the crafty database for the cards, I can tell you that I’m going to be Ninja-ed again this year. My first year was the sneakiest; I decided to skip all my classes on NinjaGram day so I wasn’t the easiest target in the world. Nevertheless, one of the Ninjas brought me over and said “Hey Phil, help me with this delivery. We were in Kohlberg and I was under the impression that we were going to deliver to one of the classes there but she turned on me and Ninja-ed me. This is the tactic I took to using with I would Ninja other Ninjas. laughs.

If you could Ninja anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

Anyone in the world? Wow. Just about any famous figure that would be awesome. Are there any Ninja related famous figures? I guess it’s hard to be a movie star in a Ninja movie because of the mask… I think if I could I would talk to some of my friends and see if we could do some kind of politically motivated NinjaGram-ing of the major Republican Presidential Candidates. With some kind of fun skit about, oh I don’t know, marriage equality or global violence. On Swarthmore though our biggest NinjaGram hit was Rebecca Chopp and Liz Braun.

What is love?

…(sings) baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.

Well being an expert on these things I can tell you that love comes in all forms but true love comes dressed in black and with a foam sword.

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