The Human Voice

The human voice was once considered sacred. Priests and shamans would speak into ceremonial vessels made to preserve its magic. But now every Tom, Dick and Sally vibrates air like they’re scratching their elbow. In this show, we try to make the voice weird again. We hear how one voice transforms its owner when he starts speaking a new language. We also hear about a parakeet who speaks like a deceased grandmother, a young man who makes a sound that baffles his neighbors, and the future of synthesized speech. Plus a story about lipreading that’s guaranteed to make you pay a lot more attention, from here on out, to mouths.

Host: Charlie Mintz

Producer: Charlie Mintz, Will Rogers, Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Claire Woodard, Rob Ryan, Rachel Kolb, Bronwyn Reed, Clifford Nass

Release Date: 19 October 2011



Story 1: Charlie’s Radio Voice

Charlie got to be on NPR one summer. Problem was that he didn’t know how to sound. He decided to imitate an inimitable voice and wound up with a radio debut he’d rather forget.

Featuring: Charlie Mintz



Story 2: Spanish Rob

When you study abroad at Stanford, you sign this agreement called a Language Pledge. What that means is you swear to only speak German, or Russian, or whatever language they speak in the city you’re visiting. As you can probably imagine, no one actually adheres to the Language Pledge. Well, no one but this guy.

Producers: Charlie Mintz and Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Rob Ryan



Story 3: I Like Hearing Me!

Clifford Nass is a professor at Stanford University. One of his areas of interest is artificial voices. Voices made by robots. He talks about what it will mean when you aren’t the only thing that sounds like you.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Clifford Nass



Story 4: For Esbert, With Love and Squalor

Creepy as it might be to think of robots replicating our voices, we can find examples right in the here and now of non-human entities stealing our speech. Birds, imitating our speech and rendering it meaningless. But what do you do when that speech is the words of your grandmother, who you loved, and who is dead?

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Claire Woodard

image via flickr



Story 5: Like a Weird, Snarling Alligator

The human voice does so much more than speak words. It can makes all kinds of sounds in its effort to communicate. Most of those are voluntary–grunts, hums, growls, ticks, sighs. But some are involuntary, and that can create problems. Next up you get to eavesdrop on a conversation with Will Rogers. He was worried about a certain anti-social sound he made with his voice.

Producers: Charlie Mintz and Will Rogers



Story 6: Lipreading: Or What to Do When the Speed of Sound Exceeds the Speed of Light

What happens when you subtract sound from the human voice? What is left? Fast, ephemeral, hard-to-discern movements of the lips. It’s not much, but if you’re deaf, it’s just about all you have to go on. Sound tough? Our next story tells you what it’s like.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Rachel Kolb

image via flickr



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

Off the Pedestal

What happens when we put people on pedestals? And what happens when we take them off? Host Killeen Hanson interviews her father about his estranged father. Andrew Altschul exposes the ordinariness of rock-stars in an excerpt from his novel Lady Lazarus. Lee Konstantinou interviews Arnold Rampersad about his biography of Ralph Ellison; his question is not “What kept Ellison from publishing anything after Invisible Man?” but rather, “How did this author climb onto that pedestal in the first place?”



Host: Killeen Hanson

Producers: Killeen Hanson, Noah Burbank, Lee Konstantinou

Featuring: Brent Hanson, Andrew Altschul, Arnold Rampersad

Music: Noah Burbank

Release Date: 16 February 2010

image via wikimedia


Story 1: Dad meets Dad

Killeen Hanson interviews her father about reuniting with his father, who disappeared fifty years earlier.
Featuring: Brent Hanson
image via flickr



Story 2: Excerpt from Lady Lazarus

Andrew Altschul reads from his book, Lady Lazarus, which follows the life of Calliope, the daughter of two devastatingly famous rock musicians.



Story 3: Invisible Man’s Human-ness

We talk to a professor of American Literature about his latest book, a biography of Ralph Ellison, and the challenging task of writing about the life of a literary legend.
Featuring: Arnold Rampersad


Childhood is a funny thing, especially since that window we call adolescence keeps getting longer and longer. When do we stop being children, and when do we become adults? We bring you an hour of radio built from a creative writing Stanford class–stories of growing up, not growing up and the moments that stick with us the most.


Host: Hannah Krakauer

Producer: Hannah Krakauer

Featuring: Michelle Goldring, Lexie Spiranac, Sarah Grossman, Jeff Bauman, Chrystal Lee

Music: Nataly Dawn

Release Date: 23 February 2010

image via flickr


Story 1: The Fuzziness

It’s easy enough to look at a person and decide for them whether he or she is a child or an adult, but is it always so easy to tell with ourselves? What does it even mean to be a grown-up? First, a story about the blurry, perhaps undesirable transitions between childhood and adulthood.

Author: Michelle Goldring

image via wikimedia


Story 2: Kick the Other Person as Hard as You Can

Some growing pains happen when your bones get bigger. Some growing pains happen when your opponent kicks you as hard as she can. Our next story is about growing pains of the second kind. It’s also about corruption, Tae Kwon Do, and yelps.

Author: Lexie Spiranac

image via flickr


Story 3: My Family Held a Meeting on My Ability to Think

After giving up sports, Sarah began playing music with her brothers every night. Beatles’ songs, everyone on a different instrument, and Sarah on vocals. It was the start of a bonding between the siblings. But it was a bonding that went too far, and it started to worry her family.

Author: Sarah Grossman

image via flickr


Story 4: The Order is Invariable

If there’s one thing we have control over growing up, it’s our bedrooms. We decorate, arrange, rearrange, and sometimes even try to paint. But there is another approach to making your room–and your life–your own. Some call it OCD, Jeff Bauman calls it peace.

Author: Jeff Bauman


Story 5: Leave the Bears Alone

Admit it. You had stuffed animals when you were a kid. When did you give them up? Was it too late? Embarrassingly late? Well, no matter when it was, chances are you didn’t have a relationship with your stuffed animals the way the narrator of our next story did.

Author: Chrystal Lee

image via flickr


Story 6: What Sundresses Say

Our next story is about what it’s like to be fixated on style. How do you live a life devoted to following fashion trends? What does it do to you, and is it worth it?

Author: Emily Vogel

image via flickr


Story 7: If My Dog Finds Out He’ll Kill My Wife

Our last story is comic piece about studying abroad, growing up, and trying to find an identity at college. For reasons we appreciate, but can’t quite fathom, it’s told in the voice of a 30s private eye.

Author: Billy Kemper

image via wikimedia


We throw all kinds of things away without really thinking about it. These five stories take a look at where our trash goes, the creative things that people do with it, and even question what it means to throw something away. First, a story about small-scale composting and the worms who do it. Next, a story about what to do with all your old scraps of fabric lying around. Third, how what’s left in a city dump can provide inspiration for an art movement. Fourth, behind the scenes at an estate sale. And last, a short story about bringing a box of forgotten photographs back to life.



Host: Hannah Krakauer

Producers: Hannah Krakauer, Lydia Santos, Killeen Hanson, Laura Chao, Rebecca Pfiffner, Matt Larson, Kasiana Mclenaghan

Music: Noah Burbank, Japandi, Nimbleweed, Kissing Johnny

Links: FabMo, Recology

Release Date: 1 December 2009

image: Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Dirty White Trash (With Gulls), 1998

Listen to the Full Show:


Story 1: The Original Composters

When you toss a banana peel into a compost bin, it goes to a huge industrial composting complex. This is a step in the right direction, but some Stanford students say that big-scale composting is overrated. They’d rather watch worms do it themselves.


Producer: Lydia Santos

image via wikimedia



Story 2: FabMo

What to do with all those leftover scraps of fabric? Thousands are left behind from fashion shows, and, without intervention, headed for the landfill. One group decided to rescue these scraps and do something better with them.

Producers: Killeen Hanson and Laura Chao

image via flickr


Story 3: At the Dump

It’s all well and good to intervene before something gets thrown away. But what happens to the stuff you don’t save from the dump? It turns out that even then there’s a chance for re-use. Our next story explores the art of the San Francisco Dump.

Producers: Rebecca Pfiffner, Matt Larson

image via flickr


Story 4: The Person Behind the Stuff

We tend to think of throwing away as a voluntary act. But this isn’t always the case. Estate sales–the garage sales for property that belonged to people who have died–are a perfect example. Our next story looks at the stuff people who have moved on have left behind.

Producer: Kasiana Mclenagham

image via flickr

Note to Self

The theme of this week’s show is self-preservation — that is, the preserving of whatever it is that makes you you, be it letters, journal entries, or a digital measurement of your heart rate and blood sugar for every hour of the day. We bring you stories of cybernetic “lifeloggers,” a crafty, image-tweaking Founding Father, and the most astoundingly comprehensive diary ever to find its way into Stanford’s Special Collections. We also have poems from one of Stanford’s poets in residence, Kirsten Andersen.

Host: Charlie Mintz
Producer: Charlie Mintz
Featured: Kirsten Anderson, Liz Bradfield, Hsiao-Yun Chu, and Judith Richardson
Music: Boomsnake, Howard Hello, George Pritzker

Release Date: 13 May 2008

Listen to the Full Show:

Story 1: Guinea Pig B

There are scrapbooks, and then there is the legendary Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Chronofile. Fuller was a designer, futurist, speaker, and prolific life-logger. Stanford has his diary, if that word even applies to the massive collection of documents, notes, letters, and much more. Host Charlie Mintz interviews the curator who made sense of the Chronofile, and learns about the wisdom of self-preservation.

Producer: Charlie Mintz
Featuring: Hsiao-Yun Chu

Story 2: Guinea Pig F

Long before Fuller glued his first newspaper clipping, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was pondering how best to preserve his life. The answer? Turn himself into a literary figure. Of course, this raises an interesting question: who is the real Ben Franklin?

Producer: Dan Hirsch
Featuring: Judith Richardson

Story 3: Life-Logging in Blank Verse

“Lifelogging” is usually about data. Numbers, figures, statistics. But to capture the most important parts of a life, maybe poetry is the best medium. We hear from a Stanford Stegner poet, who imagines a life into poetry.

Featuring: Kirsten Andersen and Liz Andersen

Story 4: Note to Self: Look Back at This and Laugh

Journals can be funny. Not at the time. Often they’re very serious at the time they’re being written. But later, very funny. At least when they’re filled with the kind of teen angst that you thought was buried forever when you went to college. Producer Dan Hirsch visits a live reading of old poems, songs, and of course, diary entries.

Producer: Dan Hirsch