It’s easy to look around and see signs of social fragmentation, so today’s show takes a different approach and examines a few instances of people coming together: community. We explore an off-campus house that aimed to be an intentional community devoted to sustainability and find out where they failed and succeeded. We meet a community of Burning Man devotees who came together for a floating party on the Sacramento River Delta. Also we hear music made by a community of people who’d never met each other. Plus, the solution to the dirty dish dilemma.


Host: Charlie Mintz

Producers: Charlie Mintz, Rachel Hamburg, Matt Harnack

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock, Philip Narodick, Zuzanna Drozdz

Music: Noah Burbank

Links: Compostmodernist; inbflat

Release Date: 17 November 2009

image via wikimedia

Listen to the Full Show:


Story 1: Dirty Dish Dilemma Part 1

Community is essentially a group of people trying to live together. Daniel Steinbock has always viewed groups of people as complex systems. So what does he do with a complex system that’s stacking dirty dishes in his sink?

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock

image via flickr


Dirty Dish Dilemma Part 2

The solution to the dirty dish dilemma might just be a simple formula called U + 1. This formula can even be proven with a computer simulation of a sink. Yes, somewhere out there is a computer simulation of a sink, filled with dirty dishes, and it might just solve the biggest problem facing communities.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock

image via flickr

Story 2: Lessons from a Community that Didn’t Happen

Matt Harnack lived in the same house as Daniel Steinbock, of U + 1 fame. He had high hopes for the house as a place of community spirit and abundance. But what happens when not everyone shares your vision of community? What do you do then?

Featuring: Zuzanna Drozdz, Philip Narodick

Producer: Matt Harnack


Story 3: At Ephermisle

Part Burning Man, part Waterworld, Ephemerisle is a yearly event that welcomes artists, architects, college kids, weirdos, geniuses and hundreds of other people who just want to hang out and be creative on the water.

Producer: Rachel Hamburg

image via flickr


Story 4: Community in the Key of B Flat

Most communities share a physical space. Our last community exists only on the internet. It’s a website where people submit videos of themselves playing some instrument delicately and slowly in the key of b flat. But does it sound good? How can a community function with only one rule?

URL: Inbflat

Producer: Charlie Mintz


Genetics promised us the book of life laid open. But even after the sequencing of the human genome, there’s still a lot we don’t know. How do people make choices based on the imperfect knowledge that genetic science provides? Today we look at a few examples of that. We hear a story about sperm donation and the perils of choosing your child’s father out of a book. We hear a story about using genetics to make a decision about surgery. We walk into an MRI to investigate the genetic basis of personality. And a short story about cannibalistic vultures. Prepare for a show that will leave you doubled up in a helix of joy.


Host: Charlie Mintz

Producers: Charlie Mintz, Matt Larson, Laura Chao, Angela Castellanos, Leah Bakst

Featuring: Max McClure

Music: Cults, Boomsnake, Mothlight

Release Date: 23 November 2009

image via flickr


Story 1: Two Women, a Frenchman, and Seth Rogen All Walk Into a Bank

Producer: Matt Larson

Imagine the chance to choose half your child’s genetic material from a book. How would you pick? The best looking? The smartest? The least Seth-Rogen-like? This is the choice one coupled faced when one half decided to become pregnant through a sperm donation.


Story 2: Uncertain Information

What would you do if you knew you were predisposed to get a certain disease? What if that disease was breast cancer? How far would you go to prevent yourself from getting sick?

Producer: Laura Chao

image via U. of Minnesota


Story 3: Is Your Personality in Your Genes?

Why do we end up like our parents? Is it because we model ourselves after them (despite vowing never to become them)? Or is there something in our DNA that codes for hating sports, or talking to strangers, or just being plain stubborn?

Producer: Angela Castellanos and Leah Bakst

image via flickr


Story 4: It Was Suggested the Vultures of the Region Refused to Eat Their Own Dead

Author: Max McClure

After the collapse of society, a scientist attempts to figure out why vultures refuse to eat their own dead. A story about science at the end of civilization–an odd, unsettling piece we think goes best with a plate of gado-gado.

image via wikimedia

Hidden Roots of Rock

In a very special show, the Storytelling Project interviews the founders of the legendary Composition Blues Band, the group that has taught us just how much of Rock ‘n Roll has descended from the powerful and often traumatic experience of the writing process. We get the story behind their recovery of the true lyrics of classics by Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and many more, and to hear them perform some of their biggest hits. Tune in to hear the amazing stories behind the writing and rewriting of rock ‘n roll and classics—how “Johnny Be Good” started as “Rhetor be Good” and how Dylan’s anthemic chorus in “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35” was originally “Everybody Must Use Modes”—and learn about their new, international project, a re-examination of the Old Testament that reveals just how much its writers, and indeed the entire culture of the period, wrestled with the writing process.


Host: Jonah Willihnganz

Producer: Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Marvin Diogenes, Clyde Moneyhun

Music: Composition Blues Band

Release Date: 9 March 2010


Interview, Part 1: “Painful Laughter”

The Composition Blues Band discusses how they formed, and how they came to learn about the traumatic composition background that inspired such greats as Elvis Costello and George Thorogood.

image via flickr


Story 1: The Delaware Destroyer

Blues musician George Thorogood didn’t like his writing teacher, and this is a song he wrote about it.

image via flickr


Story 2: “Rhetor B. Goode”

Chuck Berry’s early experiences with rhetoric, and how the blues legend came to write his most famous song.

image via wikimedia


Story 3: “Ever Since my Plato Left Me”

If Chuck Berry is Plato, then Elvis Presley is Aristotle, wrestling with the duality of rhetoric. Is it good? Is it evil? This is a song about that place of confusion.

image via wikimedia


Story 4: “Three to Five Sources”

Sure the Rolling Stones could write songs about girls, but could they write songs about writing? Their hit “Wild Horses,” as the Composition Blues Band tells us, isn’t about love. It’s about writing a research essay.

image via wikimedia


Interview, Part Two “Rhet and Roll”

Many rock ‘n roll songs have a spooky prescience. Mick and Keith could reference the internet before it was even invented. The Composition Blues Band talks about what they call the Cosa Nostradamus effect.

image via wikimedia


Story 5: “Everybody Must Use Modes”

Bob Dylan, while he was writing the folk songs that made him famous, was at the same time earning his degree in Rhetoric and Composition at NYU. When he was first asked to direct a writing program, he was still a formalist, obsessed with the rhetorical modes. This is a song about that.

image via wikimedia


Story 6: “¿Cuantas Palabras?”

The Composition Blues Band takes their exploration of the hidden roots of rock outside the English canon. Because when it comes to the universal experience of rhetoric and composition, language is no barrier, as this song shows.

image via wikimedia


Interview, Part Three: The Future of the Composition Blues Band

The forms of composition are found in the great creations of mankind. For example: the pyramids. But is the essay more like a proper pyramid, or an inverted pyramid? The general to the specific, or the specific to the general? It’s an argument that has roiled civilizations from the beginning of time. The Composition Blues Band takes on this and other controversies in the last part of their interview.

image via wikimedia


Story 7: “Comma, Comma”

Rock legend Ritchie Valens had a monograph about commas in progress at the time of his unfortunate death. Born out of trauma, but rising above it, this last song is a testament to the power of music, and the deep role that composition plays in all our lives.

image via wikimedia

Medium Food

We’re all talking about our relationship to food lately, thanks to everyone from Michael Pollan to Oprah (even Michael Pollan on Oprah). Fast food, slow food, smart food, food miles, food pyramids, food security. Yes, we’re joining the fray, but turning the tables a bit to look at how food and food movements are a medium for forms of change—personal, social and otherwise—especially in the big city, where we so often rely on others for our food. We take the show to San Francisco, visiting the foggy gardens of the Sunset and the sunny fruit stands of the Mission, and even the rooftops in the Tenderloin. We talk to a new breed of urban farmer and we meet an earth scientist, a chef, a Salvadorian emigrant, a city rat, a country mouse, and a whole class of third graders. In our last segment we return to Stanford to find out how students are changing their own relationship to the their environment through our new favorite medium, food.

Host: Natacha Ruck

Producers: Natacha Ruck, Charlie Mintz

Music: Bibio, Alessandro Ricciarelli, Gerd Baumann, Ken Grobe

Featuring: Page Chamberlain, Susannah Poland, Caitlin Brown, Maya Donelson, Rebecca Alonzi, Tree, Suzi Palladino

Links: Garden for the Environment, Graze the Roof, The Free Farm Stand, Stanford Gleaning Project, Glean Map

Release Date: 2 March 2010


Story 1: It’s not Just about Food

The physical experience of farming took host Natacha Ruck back to a memory of her childhood. It also triggered an epiphany about what food and food movements mean today.

image via flickr


Story 2: The Garden on the Rooftop

In one of San Francisco’s toughest neighborhoods, tender shoots are growing on the rooftops of the Tenderloin. By tender shoots we mean fifth graders, who are learning to grow and prepare their own food.

Featuring: Maya Donelson, Rebecca Alonzi


Story 3: The Rhythms of Nature and the Beat of the City

We visit the Garden for the Environment to experience how the rhythms of the natural world can jive the beat of an urban landscape.

Featuring: Suzi Palladino


Story 4: The Free Farm Stand

Urban farmers in the Mission District in San Francisco are trying to create a new kind of exchange with their neighbors using brussels sprouts, salsa and seedlings.

Featuring: Tree


Story 5: The Savvy Gleaner

In which we visit a farm, or rather, the Farm. It’s easy to forget that Stanford actually produces its own bounty of edible fruits and vegetables. You just have to know where to look.

Featuring: Susannah Poland, Caitlin Brown


Story 6: A Society of Abundance

We return to the man who started this hour, Page Chamberlain, a professor in the School of Earth Sciences, at Stanford. He tells us what the food movement is really about.

Featuring: Professor Page Chamberlain