Returning Home

What is it like to be a student who has fought in a war? In this episode, six Stanford students and recent alumni, all veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tell their stories. With thoughtfulness, humor, and stone cold honesty, they share with us their decision to join, their experiences in boot camp, living and fighting in Iraq, and their eventual return home to civilian and student life. This is your chance to listen.

Producers: Xandra Clark and Natacha Ruck

Hosts: Natacha Ruck and Xandra Clark

Featuring: Dustin Barfield, Chris Clark, Josh Francis, Annie Hsieh, Heidi Toll, Russ Toll, and William Treseder

Music and scoring by Eoin Callery

Release Date: 16 December 2012


Awards: The General Oliver P. Smith Award from The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

Special Thanks: Lee Konstantinou, Rachel Hamburg, Christy Hartman, Charlie Mintz, Jonah Willinghanz, Heidi Thorsen, Will Rogers, Victoria Hurst, and Cathy Yuan.

Warning: This episode contains strong language, and may not be suitable for all audiences


October is full of ghosts, but in our show we will not be talking about little kids who wear white sheets. We’re embracing the unseen, and talking about haunting: how things we can’t see nonetheless press upon us, affect our choices, our actions, and sometimes even our beliefs. We’ll be talking about the ghosts that inhabit California’s highways, about a spirit who is very hungry, about the ghosts of our past selves that persist inside each of us, and finally, we’ll bring you “What Can Be Named,” the story of a young man haunted by a country.

Producers: Rachel Hamburg and Christy Hartman

Host: Christy Hartman

Featuring: Dr. Nicholas Jenkins, Dong-Nghi Huynh, Dr. Joshua Landy, Nina Foushee

Release Date: 31 October 2012

Music: California Ramblers, Neuroleptic Trio, Coda, Sunhiilow, Dan Friel, Broken Gadget, Zoë Lidstrom, Carnivorous Snowflake, Gist, Jason Marey,Owen Callery and Silvio Rodriguez.

Note: The Proust passages from In Search of Lost Time were translated by Enright, Kilmartin, Mayor, and Moncrieff.



Story 1: Shadows in Gold

When he first came to America, Professor Nicholas Jenkins rented a Chrysler Park Avenue and set out on a leisurely drive through the hills of California, the Golden State. Then, he slammed his car into a bridge, and began a very different kind of journey – into the shadowy reality of California’s highways.

Producers: Will Rogers and Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Dr Nicholas Jenkins

Music: California Ramblers, Neuroleptic Trio, Coda (courtesy of elementperspective), Dan Friel, Sunhiilow



Story 2: The Possession of Chi

In the summer of 2009, Stanford student Dong-Nghi Huyhn returned to Vietnam to mourn the death of her aunt. Her family observed a hundred day funeral ritual, which was interrupted when her aunt suddenly returned in the form of their housekeeper.

Producers: Rachel Hamburg and Andrew Todhunter

Featuring: Dong-Nghi Huyhn

Photo by C. Frank Starmer



Story 3: Yanked by their Noses

Marcel Proust had a theory about the past – that our former selves don’t die, but live like ghosts inside of us, and can be reawakened suddenly. Re-awakening these ghosts is the best thing that could ever happen to you, because for a moment you live outside of time, and you discover your true self – the one that lives in both the past and the present. Dr. Joshua Landy reads passages from Proust and explains that this frequently happens through smell. Producers Rachel Hamburg and Christy Hartman take this a little too literally, and decide to perform an experiment with unsuspecting pedestrians.

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Charlie Mintz, Christy Hartman

Featuring: Dr. Joshua Landy

Photo: Jacques Emile-Blanche – Portrait de Marcel Proust




Story 4: What can be Named

Nina Foushee shares her fiction story “What Can Be Named”, about a couple – Ellen and Thomas – on their first trip to Arizona, and what happens when the ghosts inside them unexpectedly come to the surface.

Photo by Robin Stevens

Producers: Rachel Hamburg and Christy Hartman


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


Learning to Lie

When asked what trait they want to instill in their children, most parents answer “honesty.” But in truth, learning to lie is a crucial part of childhood. This week, we take a deep look at how and why we learn to lie, and what lying does to you. Our first story investigates the most common lie of the western world and how it ushers us into the world of lies. Our second story is about the irrepressible urge to tell the truth, and our third and final story is about lying as a form of love.

Producer: Natacha Ruck

Featuring: Joshua Hoyt, Victoria Hurst, Poncie Rutsch, Christy Hartman, Dana Kletter, Dr. Gail Heyman, Dr. Karl Rosengren, Anish Mitra, Ian Girard, Rebekah Morreale, and Ashley Artmann.

Release Date: 1 August 2012

show image via flickr




Joshua Hoyt Interviews psychologists to find out when and how children learn to lie.

Featuring: Austin Meyer, Dr. Gail Heyman, Dr. Karl Rosengren.



Story 1: The Santa Game

Victoria Hurst tackle the big one: Santa Claus. He’s the biggest, Jolliest lie in the western world. For his sake we’ve cleaned our rooms and smiled when our great aunts pinched our cheeks. Because of him, we believed wholeheartedly in the fairness of the world and in bearded old men from the North. But What has he really taught us?

Producer: Victoria Hurst

Featuring: Anish Mitra, Ian Girard, Rebekah Morreale, and Ashley Artmann.

Image Courtesy of Ken Grobe



Story 2: The Lying Lesson

Dana Kletter was only seven years old when she found herself in a situation where she needed to learn how to lie–and to lie well. It was a matter of survival. But like any little girl, she also felt a big pressure to tell the truth, no matter how dangerous that may be.

Producer: Poncie Rutsch

Featuring: Dana Kletter

Image Courtesy of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales



Story 3: Lie to Me

What happens when lying takes over your home, and comes between you and the ones you love? In this story, Christy Hartman explores how hard it can be to face the truth about your family, and how learning to lie can be a gift of love.

Producer: Christy Hartman

Image Courtesy of Christy Hartman



This week on our show, four stories of giving. First, it’s a story about a charity fundraiser, and the woman who comes to question why fundraisers even exist. Then it’s the story of a t-shirt entrepreneur’s attempt to send one million shirts to Africa. Third, it’s two interviews with people who had to decide if they were willing to donate bone marrow. Last, the story of Odyssey Works, a group of artists that create works of art for a single person.

 Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Rachel Hamburg, Will Rogers, Jason Sadler, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, TMS Ruge, Nick Hartley, Mandeep Gill, Kristina Kulin, Abraham Burickson, and Jen Harmon

Release Date: 18 April 2012



Story 1: Me and the 49ers Cheerleaders

State of the Human producer Rachel Hamburg had the chance to cater a charity fundraiser. She got to see what enticements were used to get people to give. She started to wonder, what was the point of it all?


Featuring: Rachel Hamburg



Story 2: How Not To Give

It was an epic project: send one million shirts to Africa. But before it even got off the ground, it hit a snag. Is sending a million used shirts across the Atlantic ocean even a good idea?


Producer: Will Rogers and Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Jason Sadler, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, TMS Ruge

Links: Good Intents; Project Diaspora; I Wear Your Shirt



Story 3: A Tale of Two Donors

No one said donating bone marrow was a trip to the water park. But if it’s a choice between avoiding pain, and saving a life, how do you decide what to do? 


Featuring: Nick Hartley, Mandeep Gill

Links: Stanford BLood Center


Story 4: Odyssey Works

What would it be like to have a play made just for you? One that incorporated your dreams, and your wishes, and brought you into its world to participate?


Featuring: Kristina Kulin, Abraham Burickson, and Jen Harmon

Links: Odyssey Works

Seeing Ourselves

Since the days of Narcissus and the looking pool, we’ve known there’s a danger in seeing ourselves. There’s a possibility of caring too much, or seeing something we don’t want to see. But that hasn’t stopped humans from trying to see more and more. Today we have more ways to see ourselves than ever before. So it’s time to take a look at looking. What do we want to see, and what do we do with that information? Today on our show, four stories of people who tried to see themselves clearly. A woman views her genetic profile, and learns why her tendency towards depression might be an asset. A true mirror–one that doesn’t reverse your image–is deployed on Stanford students. A personality test called the Meyers Briggs profile is taken to the max. And a girl explains her point system that lets her keep track of exactly how people feel about her.

Producer: Jonah Willihnganz

Host: Xandra Clark

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock, Lone Frank, Colleen Caleshu, Hank Greely, John Nantz, Rachel Hamburg, Xandra Clark, Iris Clayter, Christy Hartman, and Alexzandra Scully

Release Date: 11 April 2012



Story 1: The True Mirror

Every day we look in the mirror to see what we look like. But that reflection is a lie. It’s flipped. The face you see in a mirror is a face only you know. Maybe that’s fine, but if you want to see how you look to other people–and not just frozen in a photograph–you need a “true mirror”. State of the Human brought one to Stanford’s White Plaza, in the heart of campus, to see how students reacted to seeing themselves, truly.

Producers: Xandra Clark and Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock


Story 2: The Human Map

For seeing one’s self, there’s no portrait more fundamental than the genetic code. But the genome is a frustrating way to see ourselves because there’s still so much we don’t know. Hear how three individuals deal with this incomplete information to see themselves, others, and the future of genetics.

Producers: Raj Bhandari and Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Lone Frank, Colleen Caleshu and Hank Greely

Image via flickr


Story 3: I Have Enough T For 1000 People

Personality tests are ubiquitous today. You could spend a life time answering multiple choice questions, figuring out which brand of sports drink you are, what animal you most resemble, and which pop star is your psychological twin. But how helpful are any of these? And which just feed our desire about ourselves? In our next story, you’ll hear about one test known as the Myers-Briggs. It’s about someone who was exposed to the test at 14, and hasn’t stopped pondering it since.

Producers: Rachel Hamburg and Xandra Clark

Featuring: John Nantz


Story 4: Keeping Score

The most powerful mirror we use may be other people. We all know the cliche, true self-worth comes from within. But what if that’s wrong? Like it or not, we see ourselves how other people see us. We like to know what other people think. But not too many of us, probably, have developed a point system for keeping track, like in our next story.

Producers: Christy Hartman and Alexzandra Scully

Featuring: Iris Clayter



Almost 100 years ago, a rogue geologist named Alfred Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift. It didn’t matter that he was right. He was laughed off the stage. And even though he spent the rest of his career proving his theory, he died unknown. But eventually the theory of continental drift was accepted. Talk about resilience. That’s our theme this week and we have five stories of people discovering resilience and how to become resilient. In Wegenerʼs day, people thought character was like the continents, fixed. Either you were a resilient person or you werenʼt. Today we know we can cultivate resilience. We can all become Wegeners.

Producer: Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Jessica Talbert, Jordan Raymond, Michelle Powers, Adina Glickman, Michael Zeligs, Jane Reynolds

Release Date: 4 April 2012



Story 1: When I Put On This Suit I Don My True Nature

The narrator of this story of resilience says the country club pool was a place to look hot in your bathing suit. But if you weren’t a 16 year old girl’s definition of hot you had some problems. So what do you do? You don your swimsuit and dive in.

(Note: this story and Story 4 both came to us from True Story, a storytelling event series and podcast)




Story 2: Just a Yes Waiting to Take Shape


It’s rare to seek out rejection. But that’s what happens every day at the Stanford Call Center. It’s a trial by fire if you hate hearing the word no. Who makes it? And who drops out? And just what are you supposed to do when someone answers the phone and tells you they’re having sex?

Featuring: Jessica Talbert, Jordan Raymond, Michelle Powers




Story 3: What Will You Want to Have Gotten From This?

Resilience is in fact getting a lot of attention in academic circles. This is because we’re discovering that it might be one of the most important things to learn. But how do you teach this to students? Especially Stanford students, for whom rejection is about the most alien experience imaginable.

Featuring: Adina Glickman



Story 4: The Storm Rolling Through Me

Sometimes when life is hard, the only thing to do is visit Burning Man. After losing one friend to violence, and with another friend hospitalized with cancer, Michael Zeligs took a trip with his girlfriend to Burning Man. There he found the crying temple.

Featuring: Michael Zeligs



Story 5: A No Every Day

Resilience is often defined by psychologists as the ability to adapt to adversity. In this story, Jane Reynolds, decides that’s a skill she’s lacking. She tries to fix it by experimenting with “rejection therapy”, which requires her to seek out a rejection every single day.

Featuring: Jane Reynolds