Monthly Archives: August 2013

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How I learned there might be something to this story telling business afterall

On July 9, 2011 I met Ben Lillie for the first time at a coffee shop in the West Village. I got lost, because the West Village is confusing. But I wasn’t just confused about how West 12th street could possibly intersect with West 4th street. I was also confused about what Story Collider actually was.

In fact, at the time I really had no idea what this whole “storytelling” business was in general. I was in journalism school, doing important journalism things involving FOIAs and stalking people on the Internet. I couldn’t really fathom why people would get on stage to tell an embarrassing, personal story to a room full of strangers. But I was curious, and being curious is how I often get myself into weird situations, like producing a podcast of live stories about science.

The first few stories I worked on for the podcast were fun. I can’t remember what they were about. They were great dinner-party stories, the kind that make everybody laugh and think “that woman is awesome!”  But my journalism-addled brain still didn’t really get it.

Then I produced this podcast.

I think about this story all the time. Probably once a week. I’m sort of obsessed with it. This was the first time I really got what storytelling was supposed to be about. It is funny. It is really funny. And it is intense. Really intense. And in the middle of everything you are totally there, right there with him. I felt all the feels.

Everybody has their own opinions about what kinds of stories are the best. For me, it’s the ones that put me in a totally unfamiliar place, in a situation I’ve never been in and will never be in. A place that I never imagined going, until I was taken there by somebody else. I think that’s why Rosenthal’s story was the first one that really struck me – we are so different, and yet in that moment (a phrase I learned from storytelling shows) I was so there.

Greg Walloch’s story was the same way. Walloch walks with crutches, and his story chronicles one night of absurdity and terror when he gets stuck somewhere, unable to hop a fence.

As a person without a disability, I don’t walk around thinking about being able to physically navigate the world. Walloch does. After hearing his story, I started seeing grates and uneven stairs and fences that I would have never noticed. This is a really obvious example of someone putting you in their very different shoes, but I was new to this and needed obvious examples.

Now, Story Collider has had a million downloads. A million! Probably from people who totally get it, but also probably from people like me who didn’t at first. Slowly but surely, I’m getting it. When I heard Tara Clancy, a bartender from Queens talk about falling in love with theoretical physics, or Christine Gentry telling her story of her Southern father, I got it a little better. They were people so different from me, but whom I could learn something about myself from.

I’m still the annoying one who complains about stories for being “too story like.” I still sometimes don’t get it. But I’m getting there. With help, of course.

Let’s Talk About Money

baby money window


Money. We want it. We need it. But when it comes up in conversation, everybody bows their heads and gets quiet. How much do people make? How do you ask for more? How do you find out who pays what? How little is too little? When do you work for free? Can you even make it as a freelance science journalist?

This is the topic of our upcoming NASW panel, appropriately titled “Show Me the Money” and if you’re anything like me, you desperately want the answers to these questions. But it’s hard to have a good conversation about money because it’s awkward and nobody likes to get into their financial nitty-gritty. So we’re doing a survey! It’s anonymous, relatively quick and completely painless.

We’ll take your answers and analyze them to figure out just how much people are making and how they’re making it. At our panel, we’ll reveal the results, but afterwards we’ll post everything online for the world to see. So, what do you say, are you game?

You made it to the end! As a reward, here’s Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of money.

Donald Duck money pile

Actors in Dune wore costumes made of used body bags


OMG Fact: In the movie Dune, the suits worn by the Guild members were body bags that were found in a disused fire station dating back to the early 1920′s. The bags had actually been used several times, something that was kept from the cast members until after shooting was completed.

Sports Bras Were Once Jock Straps

OMG Fact: Sports bras were invented when women sewed two jock straps together and slung them over their shoulders. 

Bacon Therapy is so so so so Gross

OMG FACT: You think you want bacon therapy. You do not. It involves doctors shoving pieces of raw meat into the breathing hole of worms living under your skin, which both entices the worm towards the bacon and blocks its air supply.