In Between

We all come from somewhere—and then life happens. In college maybe more than anywhere else, you’re stuck between two worlds. This week on our show, the story of the Chi Theta Chi co-op, one of the most unusual houses at Stanford, and its residents’ fight to preserve their independence from the university. Plus a story of animals being trained to act, a near death experience, and other tales of liminality.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Host: Natacha Ruck

Featuring: Sam CC, Abel Allison, Elif Tasar, Gerad Hanono, Adam Pearson, Nathaniel Nelson, Deborah Golder, and Logan Hehn

music by Mississippi John Hurt, Colleen, The Norskadelen Trio, Anaïs Mitchell

Release Date: 19 August 2012

Everything we see, we see from two vantage points: from between our two eyes. This is what gives the world depth. So we at State of the Human wondered what else seeing between two points could do. Today’s show is all about people living in between. You’ll hear the story of a boy who ventures off into the forest with some friends and gets caught between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The experience teaches him something he could only learn in a space just on the other side of life. Then it’s the story of a high school girl who is best friends with a 100 year old woman, her great aunt Mary. The girl learns how to survive high school, but she also learns a bigger lesson, about unfairness, and about moving on. Our third story tells the tale of a Stanford co-op called Chi Theta Chi. For generations the house was a world apart from Stanford, but then Stanford tried to change that, and the students living there got caught between who they were, and who Stanford wanted them to be. Last, it’s a story about yearning to bridge the space between human and animal. It’s about traveling the space between your mind, and a horse’s.



Story 1: Where Sam Went

When Sam went off into the woods with his friends, he had no idea he’d end up paralyzed, on his back. He had no idea he’d have to come to terms with the most important thing in life. He just wanted to smoke a little pot. But instead he got stuck in between.

Producers: Irys Clayter, Sophia Paliza and Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Sam CC




Story 2: Great Aunt Mary

Beth’s parents never stuck around anywhere long. So Beth settled in with her great aunt Mary, who lived alone at 100 years old. Mary helped Beth figure out how to survive high school. But soon Beth faced a new challenge: an out-of-town relative intent on destroying Mary’s life.

Producer: Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: “Beth”



Story 3: Save XOX!

Chi Theta Chi had a special deal with Stanford: they leased the house, so they got to take care of it. They painted the walls, built a bar in the basement, and fixed what needed fixing. This made it the most independent house on campus. But Stanford got nervous about all that independence, and so it tried to take Chi Theta Chi back.

Producers: Austin Meyer, Rachel Hamburg, and Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Abel Allison, Elif Tasar, Gerad Hanono, Adam Pearson, Nathaniel Nelson and Deborah Golder



Story 4: Love of Horse

Many of us seek oneness–with the world, with another person, or just with ourselves. But Logan Hehn is seeking oneness with a horse. He wants to travel along that space between his consciousness and that of the animal beneath him.

Producers: Christy Hartman and Joshua Hoyt

Featuring: Logan Hehn


An Advantage of Awkwardness

To my ears, Love + Radio has one of the freshest sounds of any radio show around. The episode “The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt” (warning: not kid friendly) is a perfect illustration of how to make radio that feels immediate. It’s an interview with a man who runs a strip club from his house, and it’s a lot more.

This piece does a lot right, especially in its use of music, and in the intensive re-shaping of recorded sounds, through editing.

There’s one neat trick in particular I want to focus on: This piece makes excellent use of a difficult/awkward interview, and it does so by keeping the producer in the story.

First, some background. Love + Radio is produced by a guy named Nick van der Kolk, and there’s not much information about him on the internet. He usually inserts his voice into the show in subtle ways, but I’ve never heard him host. The shows tend to consist of one or several stories, carefully and thoroughly soundtracked with music. The biggest dissimilarity it has with a show like This American Life, is Love + Radio never really tries to draw a moral from its stories, the way Ira Glass likes to. Also, the movement of a show is pretty organic. Van der Kolk tends to just connect his stories one to the other, not really announcing where one begins and one ends. In other episodes, short, creative interludes break up longer stories. It’s a form I’m drawn to, but it can be disorienting to a new listener. “The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt” is a single story, but, as with most Love + Radio pieces, it kind of asks you to figure out where you are. So let’s get to that trick.

The piece includes a rendition of van der Kolk’s attempt to get an interview with Thunderbolt. Two actors perform the dialogue, in which Thunderbolt is fairly rude — at least aloof, and asks for money. “You’re trying to date me, not the other way around,” he says. When the interview finally starts, we hear Thunderbolt complain that no money was brought. Van der Kolk tries to explain that his radio station is a non-profit. It’s a somewhat antagonistic conversation, and van der Kolk, sensing this, offers to buy beer. Thunderbolt insists on tequila. We know this will be an interesting conversation, and he loves to talk; we can also hear an antagonistic edge, a resistance to give the interviewer what he wants.

Van der Kolk decides to include their interactions, and, even though he kind of apologizes for it at one point, the inclusion of van der Kolk’s perspective is really important.

Some radio producers, such as the Kitchen Sisters, like to excise themselves completely from what they make. That’s an admirable tack. But a lot can be gained from opening up the hood, and letting the listeners hear how the piece got made. In this story, we start by hearing Jay, the protagonist, relate a story of being shot when he was a child. Van der Kolk’s questions play a prominent role in the tape. This is nothing too deviant by radio standards. Even straight-forward programs like Marketplace will use tape of the reporters asking question in scene.

But next comes something more unusual. We hear a phone ringing. Is it Thunderbolt’s? we wonder. We hear a beep, someone answering the phone. Then van der Kolk’s voice, “So, Noah, can you describe what Thunderbolt’s house looked like after we arrived?” Noah, who presumably is van der Kolk’s co-producer, launches into a description of the place. It’s a cool trick, reminding one of Radiolab’s penchant for embedding narrator within narrator, up to three or four layers deep. The effect is nicely disorientating. It keeps the listener on his/her toes, and it gives the listener a feeling of participating in the creation of the story, rather than the passive receiving of a “made” story.

If you ever have an interview that goes badly, let this episode of Love + Radio to remind you that it’s possible to make something brilliant out of something that initially seems like a bust – because the bust – and how you got yourself out of it – can become a critical part of the story.

The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt
Produced by Brendan Baker, Nick van der Kolk, and Nick Williams for Love + Radio in 2011
28 Minutes