State of the Human, the radio show of the Stanford Storytelling Project, shares stories that deepen our understanding of single, common human experiences—belonging, giving, lying, forgiveness—all drawn from the experiences and research of the Stanford community.
What ideas exist behind material objects? In this episode, we’re going to look at stuff—things we can see or hear or touch—to try to understand the intangible, like memory, history, and bias.
Our Immortal Stuff
While moving out of her dorm, faced with putting everything she had in boxes, producer Yue Li began to feel uncomfortable about her own buying habits. So she took a trip to Berkeley to meet some people who think really differently about…stuff.
Featuring: Max, Jimmy, Sarah (Urban Ore employees and shoppers)
Producer: Yue Li
Brains and Bronze: How Octavius Catto Came Back to Life
Octavius Catto, a 19th century activist, stands in bronze as the first statue of a black man on Philadelphia public property. And he’s coming back to life in other ways–on a giant mural, and in the art and social justice scenes of the city. What would this statue of an activist from history say to the activists surrounding it now…why is he back, and what’s he trying to tell us?
Featuring: Keir Johnston, Shakirah, Eddy, Kim McCleary
Producer: Melina Walling
Uncle Sam Wants YOU to Eat Processed Food
We’re surrounded by processed food. But how did it get here? A story about what we can learn from the food we eat every day.
Featuring: Hannah LeBlanc
Producers: Isabella Tilley, Yue Li, Melina Walling, Christine Delianne
As a kid, Esther wanted to change something fundamental about herself. Her solution? Put on a fake British accent. A story about what we can learn from a six-year-old pretend Londoner.
Featuring: Esther Omole
Producer: Adesuwa Agbonile
In this episode, we’re going to think about death. All things must come to an end, but that does not mean death is all ending. We ask — what can death teach us about life?
The actual name of Stanford University is Leland Stanford, Jr. University after a boy who died of typhoid at 15. After Leland Jr. died, his parents, Jane and Leland Sr., built this university to honor him. Lecturer Jake Warga gives campus tours – ghost tours – to remind us that even if Leland Jr. is dead, Stanford’s history isn’t.
Featuring: Jake Warga
Producers: Nikhil Raghuraman, Mike Mahowald, and Warren Christopher
Michelle Chang drives around the country hosting “death cafes,” gatherings where strangers come together and talk openly about death. At death cafes, people confront the reality of dying and in doing so, make meaning of their lives.
Producer: Will Shan
Claudia Biçen, a San Francisco artist, interviewed nine hospice patients about their experiences of dying. She then created larger than life-size portraits of each patient, and on each person’s clothing, wrote out the test of their interview. At exhibitions, Biçen played audio clips of the interviews, so you can actually hear the voice of the person you’re seeing. She called her project “Thoughts in Passing.”
Featuring: Claudia Biçen
Producer: Aparna Verma
Dia De Los Muertos
We go to San Francisco for the annual Day fo the Dead parade, a tradition that can be traced back to the Aztecs. It’s a time when families come together to celebrate ancestors and loved ones who have passed away, prompting us to ask what we can learn about life through death.
Producers: Regina Kong, Lena Lee, and Isabella Tilley
In this episode, we search for myths in the modern world. We ask . — where are monsters hiding, and who created them? What do the myths we circulate say about ourselves?
Story 1: Miscreants, Wretches, Witches, And Hags
Professor Elaine Treharne talks about Beowulf and the women who are called monsters.
Producer: Sophie McNulty
Story 2: Myth Of the Golden Hands
In the desert, sitting in a broken down car, a graduate student faces off against a powerful myth.
Featuring: Ahinoam Pollack, a PhD student in the Energy Resources Engineering Department
Producers: Christy Hartman, Morgan Canaan
Story 3: A Comical Escape
Is your favorite superhero just a mislabeled monster? Are you? Professor Scott Bukatman discusses the creation of monstrous superheroes and the peculiar power of comics.
Featuring: Scott Bukatman
Producers: Ben Schwartz, Jett Hayward
Story 4: Iceland’s Concealed Conservationists
Iceland’s Concealed Conservationists is about the elf population in Iceland and how Icelanders’ tradition of hidden creatures living in the landscape encourages a deep respect for nature and a sense of responsibility to preserve the wilderness which is an essential part of Iceland’s culture and identity. But over the past few years the numbers of tourists travelling to Iceland has increased drastically as people from other countries seek these rare and dramatic locations and so Iceland’s untouched wilderness is at risk of losing its essential character. This story is about the landscape of Iceland and the magic of life that it holds, and the Icelanders’ efforts to ensure that it is not lost.
Supported by the Stanford Storytelling Braden Grant.
Producer: Michaela Elias
What happens when we find ourselves in solitude, whether on purpose or accidentally? In this episode, people navigate aloneness and explore what it means to be secluded from everyone and everything else.
Release date: 26 April 2019
Story 1: Ryan Petterson
Geology researcher Ryan Petterson goes out into Death Valley for research. Even though there’s no one around for miles, he finds connection with others.
Producer: Sofia Sanchez-Luege
Story 2: Charlotte Brown
Charlotte Brown takes a deep dive into a form of solitude that more and more people are trying out — meditation. This solitude takes her places she never imagined.
Producer: Stephanie Niu
Story 3: Soundtracker
Gordon Hempton goes to the most remote places of the world and records the soundscape before it disappears.
Producer: Leslie Chang with help from Jett Hayward
Story 4: Sienna
While working in Alaska, Sienna White grapples with solitude, and the loneliness that it can produce.
Producer: Sienna White
Story 5: The Bridge
Adesuwa talks to the staff at the Bridge, an on-campus peer-counseling center about what it’s like to take calls from people alone in the night. Featuring: Hannah Nguyen, Albert Gehami, Rebecca Bromley
Producer: Adesuwa Agbonile
We name people, places, and things out of necessity, but the labels we choose take on the weight of history, culture, and identity. In this episode, we talk about the names we use, and why they matter.
Release date:12 June 2018
Story 1: Choi Jeong Min
“My korean name is the star my mother cooks into the jjigae to follow home when i am lost.” // a spoken word poem
Story 2: Sweet Potato Love
In an isolated fishing village in Papua New Guinea, a linguist sets out to write the first dictionary of the Ende language. Not long after she begins, she finds that one word was more difficult to translate: mokwang, Ende’s word for love, which also means survival.
In this story, we’ll hear how Ende women define what it means to love in Limol, Papua New Guinea.
Producer: Kate L. Lindsey, with help from Claire Schoen
Story 3: Fursonas
VOX at the San Jose Furry Convention 2017
Producers: Cameron Tenner, Adesuwa Agbonile, Hannah Nguyen, Claudia Heymach
Story 4: NumberTwo
An old house in Bangalore is the sun at the center of a family’s solar system. Or is it?
Featuring: Shantha Rao, Smitha Walling, Melina Walling
Producers: Melina Walling, Jett Hayward, Cathy Wong, Alec Glassford
Story 5: Make the Mascot Indian Again
Dahkota Brown campaigns to become the Stanford Tree, and making the mascot Indian again.
Producer: Erin Woo
Story 6: Daisy, meet Finn.
A Stanford senior decides to change their gender…and their name.
Featuring: Finn Sonder
Producer(s): Erin Woo, Jett Hayward
Sometimes you have to keep your head down to stay alive.
This is a show about playing the cello in the darkest hour, and returning to the site of the fire, and keeping your head down to stay alive. This is a show about what happens when the sun goes down, and when you get lost in the mall, and when you pick up the phone because you have nowhere left to turn.
This is a show about the terrible and the beautiful. This is a show about survival.
Producers: Jett Hayward, Bella Lazzareschi, Elisabeth Dee, Stephanie Niu, Cathy Wong, Dylan Cunningham, Hannah Nguyen, Jackson Roach, Melina Walling, Alec Glassford, Christy Hartman, Jake Warga, Sam Greenspan, and Jonah Willinghanz.
Release date: 25 April 2018
Story 1: Santa Rosa
After the Santa Rosa fires, Bella revisits her childhood home.
Producer: Bella Lazzareschi
Music: As Fast As You Can Happen, junior85
Story 2: The Brink
What is it like to be LGBTQ+ in a Mormon community?
Producer: Elisabeth Dee
Featuring: Kimberly Anderson, Dean Stonehocker
Music: Ambient Pad by Karma-Ron, Melancholic Haze by FoolBoyMedia, I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus by Emily Brown, Love One Another by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Dark Water by Podington Bear, Fathomless – Ambient by Podington Bear, Calm Synthesizer, B by InspectorJ
Story 3: The Blue Time
A psychologist searches for the secret to survival in a town where the sun doesn’t rise for 50 days.
Producers: Stephanie Niu, Jett Hayward
Featuring: Kari Liebowitz and Jonas Björklund
Music: Sombra by Zé Trigueiros, Soft Euphoria by Lee Rosevere, Playmate by Podington Bear, Everybody Wants Gold and a Mermaid by Tony Higgins, Cylinder Three by Chris Zabriskie, Cylinder Nine by Chris Zabriskie, gaël by johnny_ripper
Story 4: The Misinformation Effect
Chris Coan remembers being lost in the mall, but we all have our stories.
Producer(s): Dylan Cunningham, Jett Hayward, Cathy Wong
Featuring: Dr. James Coan, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Chris Coan
Music: bj.b (re:construction)_ remix by ono by -ono-, An opener by Bitbasic, Stealth Elk by Bitbasic, Pattern 4 (Version 10) by Cyan341, Datalinks (Line remix) by Posthuman, c by Gallery Six, m by Gallery Six, k by Gallery Six, Upward by junior85, Action Discovery by Komiku, may by SHOMOMOSE
Archival Sound: Rewriting History, Out in the Open, CBC Radio; Archival interview with Chris Coan provided by Jim Coan
Story 5: The Jane Collective
In an era when abortion was illegal, a group of women took matters into their own hands.
Producer: Hannah Nguyen
Featuring: Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Martha Scott, Judith Arcana
Music: Universe in the Bath by Letmeknowyouanatole, Illumination I by Letmeknowyouanatole, Choose Another Way by Letmeknowyouanatole, Weightlessness by Daniel Birch, Absolutely Sweet Marie by Bob Dylan
Archival Sound: Roe v. Wade, Oyez, 1973 CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite (1/22/73), CBS, Third Presidential Debate Highlights | Trump, Clinton on Abortion, ABC News, Speaker Ryan’s Remarks at the March for Life, Speaker Paul Ryan, House’s 20-week abortion ban heads to the Senate, Fox News
SURVIVAL BONUS: Archival Tape Compilation
The Survival episode contains a collection of found archival sounds. These pieces of tape, on the theme of survival, have themselves survived the passage of time. Preserved fragments of another time, they remind us that human beings have always been survivors. This is a standalone collection of those fragments of tape.
What can we know about the future? And where do we look? We plan ahead by speculating. We can’t imagine not imagining the next hour, the next day, the next email. In this show we look at the nature of guessing, of predicting, and what that can tell us about the future. And the past.
Host: Yue Li
Producers: Chris Leboa, Cameron Tenner, Yue Li, Claudia Heymach, Noelle Chow, Sam Kargilis, Risa Cromer, Sam Greenspan
Release date: 11 April 2018
Story 1: Miner Threat
Meet the last Bitcoin miners of Stanford.
Producer: Sam Kargilis
Music (from Free Music Archive): Curves, Jhhhzzr
Story 2: Vanishing Vaccines
During the 2017-2018 flu season over 60 million Americans were infected with influenza and an estimated 50,000 died. Why has there been so much sickness when a vaccine does exist? Producer Chris LeBoa investigates the process and guesswork that goes into creating the flu shot each year and what is being done to take guesswork out of future vaccines.
Producer: Chris LeBoa
Featuring: Corrie Dekkar, Julie Parsonnet, Julie Fogarty
Story 3: The Coming Storm
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Houstonians Yue and Claudia wonder how future storms can be predicted. And if they can be predicted, whose responsibility is it to protect Houston?
Producers: Yue Li, Claudia Heymach, Noelle Chow
Featuring: Jeff Lindner, Jim Blackburn
Music (from freesound.org): vision- ambient gamelan by that jeff carter, Ambient Drone Solfeggio by Headphaze, Cosmos by pointpark cinema, cyclone hurricane hugo by solostud
Story 4: My Dear Melville
Herman Melville’s “great American novel,” Moby Dick, has fascinated, entertained, bored, and horrified audiences for the past 150 years, but … is Moby Dick gay? Was Herman Melville caught up in a same-sex-love affair? Producer Cameron Tenner searches for answers and learns about exploring queerness in the past.
Producer: Cameron Tenner
Featuring: Mark Beauregard, Kyla Schuller
Music: Cylinder Five by Chris Zabriskie, Gentle Chase by Podington Bear, Skeptic by Podington Bear, Vanagon by Podington Bear, Little Black Cloud by Podington Bear, Waltz for an Imaginary Piano by Johnny Ripper, Lonesome by Podington Bear, Lucky Stars by Podington Bear, In My Head by Podington Bear, Sensitive by Podington Bear, Whaling Song by Paul Clayton
How do we take care of the past after it turns to ash? We visit with families digging through the rubble of their homes in Sonoma after the fires as they sift for memories. This episode asks how we care for people, and what to do if there’s no obvious path to healing. Along the way, we meet a midwife, some worms, and a daughter caring for her mother and herself.
Host: Claudia Heymach
Producers: Claudia Heymach, Crystal Escolero, Emma Heath, Bella Lazzareschi, Helvia Taina, Sarah Jiang, Eileen Williams, Jackson Roach, Jake Warga
Featuring: Ronnie Falcoa, Claire Mollard, Josh Weil, Roshni Thachill
Show music: “The Flight of the Lulu” by Possimiste
Release date: 7 February 2018
Story 1: Midwife Crisis
We don’t always think of caretaking in a professional terms, but for a homebirth midwife, the emotional and physical wellbeing of others is the whole job.
Producer: Emma Heath
Featuring: Ronnie Falcoa
Story 2: From the Ashes
We went to Sonoma County after the fires to help residents dig through the rubble of their homes. Along the way, we asked about what they took with them, what they wanted to take, and what they’re looking for now.
Producers: Crystal Escolero, Helvia Taina, and Claudia Heymach
Featuring: Claire Mollard and Josh Weil
Image courtesy of Jake Warga
Story 3: Depression 1, 2, 3 …
Living with mental illness means living with the mysterious and mundane. Caretakers of loved ones with depression, anxiety or psychosis must come to grips with both sides, and resist the tug of their own demons in the process. This is an ongoing story about a mom, her daughter and the everyday work of love.
Producers: Sarah Jiang and Eileen Williams
Music: “Undersea Garden” and “Love Sprouts” by Podington Bear, “Tennessee Waltz” by Patti Page
Image: “San Valentin 14” by Milan Rubio