As a society, we still maintain many ancient traditions and practices relating to the care of our dead. We invest tremendous resources and energy in maintaining cemeteries and sacred ground for the bodies of our beloved. In the face of death, we dig and scrape through dirt, mixing our emotions in with the earth. We create a grave–a hallowed space carved out for sadness and pain, but also for warmth and joy. We lay down what we carry from the person we’ve lost–the good and the bad. It doesn’t matter what we bury–a body, a feeling, or an object–we expect it to stay buried. We put it aside, and bid it farewell. And yet, when so much has changed, why do we still rely on this physical process? How can digging a hole–metaphorically or literally–help us to make sense of our loss? And what happens when things go awry? We may not like to admit it, but sometimes the grave is not a final resting place. In today’s episode, we’ll be investigating why we bury–and what happens when our attempts fail.

Host: Eileen Williams
Producers: Eileen Williams with help from Noelle Li Syn Chow, Kate Nelson, Yue Li, Jackson Roach, Nicole Bennett-Fite, Cathy Wong, Katie Lan, Reade Levinson, Christy Hartman, Jake Warga, Jenny March, Jonah Willihnganz
Featuring: Naveen Kassamali, Xochitl Raine Rhodes Longstaff, Janet Voight, Barbad Golshiri, Magellan Pfluke, and the staff of Pet’s Rest Cemetery. Thanks also to Sofi Filipa, Charlie Gibson, Ben Cady, Ivy Sanders Schneider, Jackie Langelier, Kim McElwee, Marlon Antunez, Skye Mooney, Tudi Roche, Chris Gerben, Caroline Spears, Stephen Aman, Adnan Khan, Jim Yount, Milan Mosse Phil C’de Baca, Teresa Hernandez, Carlos Yuen, Ganbat Namjilsangarav, Christine Murphy, Tsogbadrakh Banzragch, Tuya Banzragch, and Keith Bildstein
Show music: Podington Bear
Image via Wikimedia

Release Date: 18 January 2017


Intro Story: Unburying

When Bathsheba Smith’s family buried the body of their beloved daughter, they hoped that she would finally find peace. However, when bodysnatchers exhume her corpse, more than just Bathsheba’s body is unearthed. What happens when what was meant to stay buried becomes unburied?

Producers: Noelle Chow and Kate Nelson
Featuring: Magellan Pfluke
Special thanks: Xochitl Raine Rhodes Longstaff
Music: Response Data, Standing Like a Tree – Part II, Doomflaffsonoria (Whale Mix by Eisenlager)

Image via Flickr


Story 1: Vanishing Remains

Braden Grant Recipient Reade Levinson travels to Mongolia in hopes of witnessing a practice known as sky burial, in which the bodies of the dead are prepared for the afterlife. But as Reade learns on her journey, in Mongolia the forces of urbanization, modernization and environmental change may be threatening this sacred ritual. “The scene would be not very nice, when you look at a dog running around with someone’s hand in his mouth.”

Producer: Reade Levinson
Featuring: Ganbat Namjilsangarav, Christine Murphy, Tsogbadrakh and Tuya Banzragch, and Dr. Keith Bildstein
Special Thanks: Christy Hartman, Jake Warga, and Generation Anthropocene
Music: All ambient recorded by Reade Levinson, sound effects downloaded from FreeSound.

Image via Thinkstock


Story 2: Pet Cemetery

The bond between humans and pets run deeper than the eye can see. But what happens when the pets pass away? In this story, take a step into a pet cemetery and listen to stories of people’s heartfelt relationships with their pets.

Producers: Yue Li, with help from Jackson Roach
Featuring: Lackie Langelier, Ben Cady, Skye Mooney, Sofi Filipa, Milan Mosse (voice over for Ben Cady), Phil C’de Baca, Teresa Hernandez, Carlos Yuen
Music: Alex Finch – Seeking Clarity Pt. II, Ketsa – Far From Home, Ketsa – Clear and Present, Podington Bear – Lonesome, Podington Bear – Pink Gradient

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Story 3: The Cryonicist’s Wager

As a young man, Jim Yount was introduced to cryonics, the idea that you can freeze your body in liquid nitrogen, until the day doctors are able to revive you. It seemed so natural to him that he’s devoted the majority of his life to making sure as many people as possible have access to cryonics services. For Jim, acceptance of death is simply cultural conditioning, and he’s not interested in buying into it. He thinks we can do better than an “after”life. As he says, “we’re not going to heaven we’re going to the future.”

Producers: Nicole Bennett-Fite, Jake Warga, and Eileen Williams
Featuring: Jim Yount, Acting President of the American Cryonics Society
Music: Karma Ron

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Story 4: Anger Box

There are some stories that feel too painful – too huge, too impossible to change – to ever be said out loud. We box those stories up, keep them buried down deep. Naveen Kassamali, an art therapist, talks about a group of people who have a lot of practice keeping those kinds of stories inside, and what happened when she tried to dig them up again.

Producers: Cathy Wong, Jenny March, Jake Warga
Featuring: Naveen Kassamali, Adnan Khan
Music: Thread of Clouds – Blue Dot Sessions, Migration

Image via Pixabay


Story 5: Unburying Iran

Imagine Iran’s beautiful history completely erased by oppression. Barbad Golshiri, an artist from Tehran, simply won’t let that happen. His art is surrounded of motifs of cemeteries and burial grounds, but he doesn’t seek to bury the past. Instead, he finds his own creative way of portraying burials as the only way to preserve the past. “Remembrance does not need a corpse. That’s why you have a cenotaph. You don’t need corpses.” With this, Golshiri has set off on a quest to memorialize all who were forgotten after the Iran-Iraq War

Producers: Katie Lan, recorded with the help of Jackson Roach
Featuring: Barbad Golshiri
Music: Dropped Ticket by Podington Bear, Isolate by Moby

Image: Collage by Katie Lan from Wikimedia Commons , Pixabay, and New York


Story 6: Through the Deep

We join Dr. Janet Voight on a journey down to the bottom of the ocean in an effort to discover some of Earth’s buried biological treasures.

Producer: Kate Nelson
Featuring: Dr. Janet Voight
Music: Chris Zabriskie (We Were Never Meant to Live Here, Remember Trees?, The Oceans Continue to Rise), Podington Bear

Image via Wikipedia Commons


Story 7: Time Capsule

For over a century, students at Stanford have been leaving a tiny trinket underneath the tiles of the Main Quad. These items represent significant life events or just silly things. This story explores how leaving even the smallest memories can be so significant.

Producers: Yue Li and Reade Levinson
Featuring: Leslie Winnick and voices of Stanford’s class of 2016
Music: Trellis , Golden Era, Dryness (by Podington Bear)

Image via Wikipedia Commons

The Pilgrim Way: The Contemplative Foundations of a Future Life with David Whyte

David Whyte
The Sea in You

November 10, 2016, 7:00pm
Memorial Church
Free tickets reservable here

Join poet David Whyte for an evening looking at the great questions of human life through the eyes of the pilgrim: someone passing through relatively quickly, someone looking for the biggest context they can find or imagine, and someone subject to the vagaries of wind and weather along the way. David will explore the theme of internal resilience, the necessity for following a certain star not seen or perceived by anyone else, an internal migration, a path running parallel to the outer road keeping any outward journey in the world relevant and true. He will look at the necessity for hardiness, for shelter, for risk, for companionship, for vulnerability; for creating a more beautiful mind and the absolute need to ask for help at transition points combined with an ability to recognize when it is being offered and the humor, humility and open hands necessary to receive it.

David Whyte is the author of eight books of poetry and four books of prose. He is an Associate Fellow at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Neumann College, Pennsylvania. David brings his poetry to large audiences around the world, and is one of the few poets to bring his work into the field of organizational development.

This event is part of the week-long Contemplation by Design series in early November and is co-sponsored Stanford’s BeWell program.  Whyte will give two other talks on the same day: “What to Remember When Waking: The Disciplines of Everyday Life” at 12 noon and “Solace: The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question” at 4pm. See the Contemplation By Design website for more information.

Open Mic Night

Open Mic Night

Thursday, October 27
6 – 8 pm
Hume Center, Stanford University

On Thursday, October 27, from 6-8PM in the Hume Center lounge, The Stanford Storytelling Project and the Spoken Word Collective invite you to join them for an Open Mic on the theme of “navigating.” Whether it’s navigating a trip or adventure, navigating a new place, or even navigating memories, we want to hear your thoughts and stories! Hot chocolate and homemade brownies will be provided.

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deveare Smith

Tuesday, October 27, 2016
Memorial Auditorium, Stanford University
Free and open to the public, but seating is limited
Doors Open at 6:30

For more than three decades Anna Deavere Smith has brought to life the voices of America, in all their complexity, contradiction, and beauty and in doing so she has helped pioneer an art form that has profoundly affected audiences across the country. In this special conversation, Smith will discuss her process, her search for the “other” in the American landscape, and how her work relates to health and the healing process—the way it invites us to begin making things whole. She will also reflect on and answer questions about her three performances for Stanford Live in the month of October: Twilight Los Angeles 1992, Letter from Birmingham Jail, and The Pipeline Project.

Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright, and author, who has created a unique form of social theater, described as “a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.” Looking at controversial events from multiple points of view, Ms. Smith’s plays combine the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through her performance. She typically conducts hundreds of interviews while creating a play, then using verbatim excerpts of the interviews, she performs dozens of voices in the course of an evening. Ms. Smith is University Professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. From 1990 to 2000, she was Ann O’Day Maples Professor of the Arts at Stanford. She has won numerous awards for her work including two TONY nominations and the MacArthur Award. In 2006, she was granted the Fletcher Fellowship for the way her work advances the legacy of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

This program is co-sponsored by The Stanford Storytelling Project and Stanford Continuing Studies and is supported by Stanford Live and the Office of Religious Life.

Making HELLBOY: Mike Mignola in Conversation with Scott Bukatman

Mike Mignola

October 13, 2016
Jordan Hall
*Seating is Limited*. Doors open for Students and Stanford Affiliates at 7:10pm;  General Admission is at 7:20pm

Join us for a special evening with renowned comic artist and writer Mike Mignola who discuss his magnum opus, HELLBOY (Dark Horse Comics) and other works. Mignola has written and illustrated HELLBOY from the series’ beginnings in 1993, and has also collaborated on other comics series set in the same fictional universe — what is called the Mignola-verse. Mignola has challenged the superhero franchises of DC and Marvel comics and helped loosen their control over the comics industry by developing a startlingly rich and coherent creator-owned universe; one that has been adapted to film, animation, and video games. His work has won numerous industry awards, including the Eisner, Harvey, Eagle, Inkpot and Inkwell awards.

The LA Review of Books writes that Mignola’s HELLBOY offers “a blend of raw cartooning, elegant design, pulp revivalism, superhero action, Lovecraftian weirdness, and oddly personal forays into folklore, mythology, and legend.” The LA Times writes that “few creators have the ability to conjure up whole worlds at the mention of their name, but the fantasy world of the Mignola-verse is a very real place with a style and host of characters uniquely its own.”

Mignola will be in conversation with Stanford Professor of Film and Media Studies, Scott Bukatman, who recently published HELLBOY’S WORLD: Comics and Monsters on the Margins (UC Press, 2016) which Junot Diaz calls “a revelation . . . as complex, challenging and ‘monstrous’ as the comics it explores.”

This event is jointly sponsored with  the Graphic Narrative Project, with generous support from Film and Media Studies in the Department of Art and Art History, The Program in Modern Thought and Literature, and the English Department. 

The Art of Storytelling

3 Units
Instructor: Jonah Willihnganz

We live by and through stories: family stories, national stories, stories of personal transformation and spiritual revelation. Stories are the medium of our lives, a vehicle for changing our lives, and thus understanding how they work and how to use them gives us enormous power, as almost any artist, politician, or executive will tell you. In this course we investigate a variety of storytelling forms to build a repertoire of tools for telling the stories that are important to us, whatever form they take—oral, textual, visual, sonic, or some combination thereof.

We will begin with what is arguably still the most common and influential form of narrative, oral storytelling. We listen to segments of Homer’s Odyssey, WPA oral histories from the 1930’s, and public radio’s This American Life, discussing what the fields of rhetoric, linguistics, and neuroscience have revealed about both the nature of narrative and our experience of it in oral form.

We will then look at forms of textual narrative, especially modern fiction and memoir, identifying the principal features that distinguish textual storytelling. Next, we turn to visual storytelling by exploring the “grammar” of forms such as the photo essay, text-less cartoon, and silent film, comparing their strategies to oral and textual forms. In the second part of the course we will turn to forms that combine the oral, textual, and visual—the feature film, the graphic novel, and video games.

Billy Collins and Aimee Mann

Billy Collins and Aimee Mann

Saturday, April 23, 2016
Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University
Doors will open at 7:30PM
Free & open to the public but reservations required, preference to Stanford undergraduates and Stanford ID holders

Former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins and singer-songwriter Aimee Mann met in 2011 at a Poetry Night event at the White House. From that initial encounter grew an idea to create a single evening of poetry, song, and conversation about their respective art forms. In this very special joint appearance, Collins and Mann will trade poems and songs, even try out their work in each other’s form, and discuss their respective forms and creative processes, offering insight into surprising differences and similarities, Join us for a rare evening with this unlikely pair of masters and discover something new about two of the oldest forms of storytelling.

Author of 15 books of poetry, Billy Collins has opened the door to poetry for many modern readers through his conversational, humorous but profound renderings of everyday loves and losses. A former U. S. Poet Laureate, Guggenheim Fellow, and NEA Fellow, he has also received many prizes, including Norman Mailer Prize and the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry.

Indie rocker Aimee Mann leapt to fame in the 1980s as part of the band ‘Til Tuesday and since then has won over audiences with her literate and often and haunting songwriting on 8 solo albums, soundtracks for films like Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia, and recent collaboration with Ted Leo, The Both. She has also appeared in the Coen brothers’ film The Big Lebowski and made cameo appearances on The West Wing and Portlandia.

“[Aimee Mann is] one of the finest songwriters of her generation.”—The New York Times

“Collins shows us the spirit inherent in our daily lives.”—San Francisco Chronicle

This is event is being cosponsored by the Stanford Speakers Bureau. 


The mind’s ability to envision more than what is physically present in the world is an astounding fact of life. We’re always imagining, thinking, and living in our heads. Our thoughts and our imaginations shape how we see the world, they shape our words and our actions. This is nothing new. We’ve been doing this for all our lives. as far as we can remember. But that’s why we take a closer look and ask the question: how do our imagined lives shape our reality? What happens day to day at the frontier between the worlds we imagine and the worlds we inhabit.


Host: Justine Beed

Producers: Justine Beed and Natacha Ruck with help from Louis Lafair, Amabel Stokes, Alec Glassford, Tamu Adumer, Joshua Hoyt, Austin Meyer, Claire Schoen, Christy Hartman, Will Rogers, Albert Gehami, Jonah Willihnganz, and Jake Warga

Featuring: John Rick, Tamu Adumer, Louis Lafair, Terry Root, Louie Psihoyos, WonGi Jung, Austin Meyer, Amabel Stokes, Alec Glassford, Max Whitmeyer, Nina Donaldson, Maria Doerr, Liam Bhajan, Jeffrey Abidor, Emma Fisher, Natacha Ruck, and Jackson Roach

Music and Sounds: Car Door Slam, Car Door Opening, Train Sound, Car Starting, Inside Car Raining, Car Horn, Start Engine, Truck Passing, Country Highway Ambience, Inside Car Ambience, Crossing Tracks, Rain on Pane 1, Jingling Keys, Changing Radio Stations, Turning on Car with Radio, Car Start, Radio DJ Jingle, Pure Imagination, Backing Out, Rain On Car, Light Rain, Waterfall, Radio Off, The Tallest man in Idaho Soundtrack, Snow, Birds in Park, Walking on Pavement, Car Horn, Parking the Car, Walking Alongside Road, Park, A Peaceful Day by The Kyoto Connection, Paris by Johnny Ripper, Paris Street Sounds, Stillness by Blue Dot Sessions, Weathervane by Blue Dot Sessions, Looks and Smiles

Image via Flickr

Release Date: 20 April 2016


Story 1: Birth of Imagination

The Acheulean Handaxe is the first record we have of humans using their minds to invent technology to shape their reality. Three million years ago our ancestors took a rock and imagined it could be something more. And then they made it. In this story, Tamu Adumer takes us on a trip through time with Stanford archaeology professor John Rick. This is as close as we can get to where imagination began.

Producers: Tamu Adumer and Natacha Ruck
Featuring: Professor John Rick

Image via Wikimedia


Story 2: One Quinoa Burger At A Time

We often think of imagination as a way to solve all the big problems. Stanford sophomore Louis Lafair tries to imagine his way through one the biggest problems of our time: climate change.

Producer: Louis Lafair
Featuring: Terry Root and Louie Psihoyos

Image via the Stanford Review


Story 3: My Imaginary Girlfriend

In this story, WonGi Jung travels the roads of Europe with an imaginary girlfriend. Find out what happens when he has to break up with her.

Producer: WonGi Jung with help from Justine Beed
Featuring: WonGi Jung

Image via StoryNight


Story 4: Double Banded Dream

This fiction piece explores one man’s failure to share his dreams. Sharing the products of our imagination, that is our dreams, hopes and fears, with others is one way to cope with our realities. What might happen, though, when we fail to share our dreams, particularly the nightmares?

Producers: Austin Meyer and Joshua Hoyt
Featuring: Austin Meyer
Music: “Nothing Lasts” by Alexandre Desplat and “Gnossienne No. 2: Avec étonnement” and “Gynopédie No. 1”by Erik Satie
Music: Original Scoring by Christina Galisatus

Image via Wikimedia


Story 5: The Periphery

In this fictional radio drama a people-watcher uses her imagination to meddle with reality. We all break down what we see in the world around us so that we can put it back together in our heads. Sometimes it doesn’t fit together easily. Sometimes it’s a puzzle. This last story is about someone trying to put together that puzzle. For better or for worse.

Producers: Amabel Stokes, Justine Beed
Writer: Amabel Stokes
Featuring: Amabel Stokes, Alec Glassford, Max Whitmeyer, Nina Donaldson, Maria Doerr, Justine Beed, Liam Bhajan, Jeffrey Abidor, Emma Fisher, and Jackson Roach
Music and Sounds: Room Tone Empty Classroom, Windy Room Tone, Door opening, Street Sounds, Sipping Coffee, Plates, Squeaky Chair, “Netherland” and “Three Colors” by Podington Bear, Fast steps, Sirens, City Sounds, Twinkle Toes, Chimes, Single Chime, Film Static, Whispers, Plate Sound Effects, People Mumbling 1 & 2, Menu Flip, Page turn, Café Boursalt, Walking Indoors-Waiter, “Wake Up” by Kai Engel, Glasses Clink, Laughter, Coins, Fast Walking, Chair Scrape, Chopping and Frying, Frying, Just Chopping, Sitting Down, Men Laughing, Plates, Chewing, Eating Eggs, Coffee Steamer, Running, Dialing, Hang Up, Car Door Slam, Gravel Walk, Short Police Siren, Coffee Steamer 1 & 2

Image via Unsplash