Dorkestry, Events, Reviews

What is ‘The Moth’?

One of the most beautiful things about living in New York is the close proximity of diverse strangers… for any the people-watchers among us, it’s always fun to imagine someone’s “story” as they pass by you in the street. The Moth, I found, was a poignant reminder and perfect exhibition of these people-stories.

On Tuesday night I attended a Moth “slam” at HousingWorks Bookstore and Cafe in SoHo, NYC. In recruiting friends to attend my first ‘slam,’ I found that most either friends either a) got super excited/defensive “You’ve never been before?! How is this possible? I love the Moth!” to b) very confused “Is it a movie? Is it comedy? Is it real?” The best five-second-summary I can give you is to say that it is a series of 5 minute “improv stories” from members of the audience/people like us.

Here’s how it works:

-Each “slam” has a theme (Tuesday’s was “chemistry”) and when you arrive, if you have a story you’d like to tell, you are welcome to drop your name in a hat.

-Doors opened at 7pm (which was really more like 7:30) and the line was already down the block by the time I arrived at 6pm. It sold out, and many people were standing, So get there early.

-A host (ours was the funny/spunky Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR’s ” Ask Me Another”) warms up the crowd and introduces each of the 10 storytellers (whose names are pulled from a hat).

-After each speaker, 3 panels of judges vote (scores are on a generous 7-10 scale) to ultimately decide the winner and “best story” of the evening.


-Between speakers, the host (in this case, Ophira, pictured above) makes jokes and reads from little q&a notecards the audience filled out while waiting for the slam to begin. Our notecard question read: Like oil and water, what two things in your life just don’t mix?” Funny responses included things like “Man Sandals” and “My husband and my boyfriend.” …Eep.

All in all, the moth is kind of a fun club of (I’m just gonna say it though I love you guys) nerdy curious people. In line and in the audience I met a slew of really interesting and diverse people who were either avid listeners or at their first event, from doctors to marketers to college students.

The speakers themselves ran the gamut:

-An articulately endearing prep schooler (who immediately alienated his hipster-y audience by declaring his allegiance to his prep school, Choate Rosemary Hall, expecting a warm reception/meeting crickets… I feel you bro) but eventually won them over with his tale of excruciating wrestling injury and anesthetic resistance (did you know about redheads and the MC1R gene? Me either.)

-A charming hipster who recalled re-introducing herself to people over and over, without being able to remember faces (haven’t we all been there?) only realizing after years of embarrassment, and listening to an episode of radiolab, that she had formal prosopagnosia, or “faceblindness.”

-An actual (immensely charming) staff member of the Moth who told his story about working as a weld inspector amidst oil spills in the gulf, whose life and professional awakening was eventually prompted by a silent brotherly understanding with a lost shark.

The moral of the moth, for me, is that people are fascinating, and fascinating people go to the moth. If you’ve found yourself doing a bit too much introverted ipod walking on the subway lately, for only $8, you too can be re-enchanted by humankind. Peep the schedule here. And let me know if you go, ’cause I’ll be there too.


“Our Little Nerd Circus” – Radiolab LIVE!

Radiolab’s Live show “In The Dark” makes. me. so. happy. At the end of last night’s show, I declared that if Jad (Abumrad) and Robert (Krulwich) just sat down and taught me a show about everything important about science, I’d be a genius. They are the Bill Nye the Science Guy for curious adults. After all, Radiolab is “a show about curiosity.”

First things first, let’s start here: Radiolab is “a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” The boys performed their live show “In The Dark” at BAM last night, co-hosted by Demitri Martin, with whom I was previously unfamiliar, because I (apparently) live in a cave. He was hilarious, as (apparently) is to be expected, and was actually far funnier when he was improvising/making fun of the audience than when he took us through his scripted bits/slide shows. One of my favorite parts was a quick round of Good/Bad/Interesting, which (apparently) he’s played before.

EDITORS NOTE: It’s really tough for me to tell you about these things, because I really want you to experience them. This is why I don’t just show you pictures of our weekend at the beach. I don’t want to show you pictures. I want you to come. I want those hair curls you repress to swell with ocean salt and your hands to be all sticky clammy from cracking lobsters and sand to fall out of your pockets when you return to Manhattan and drop them on your parquet floor. So keep that in mind, lobster hands, and, just this once, mainly because the two New York shows are sold out, I’ll tell you a bit about what we saw. But you have to promise to listen to the podcast when it’s posted (and I’ll post it for you).

And hence, our 3 part show “In The Dark”:


Part 1: Jad and Robert began by taking us through the evolution of the eye, a controversial subject of Darwinian debate, and for this they summoned (one of my faves) Carl Zimmer, who took us through eyes as light detecting blobs to the modern day ones we know and love, that are embedded in our skulls (really neat, I didn’t know either, check it out). At this point in the show, the evolution of the eyeball is being beautifully exhibited by choreographed by modern dance troupe Pilobolus (brooklyn natives!) — who pretty consistently, fluidly, entertainingly accompanied (without distracting from) the show whether dressed as giant glow in the dark eyeballs or stripped down to their skivvies.

Part II: Next, we met two blind men from opposite ends of the world, one of whom tries to wipe his memory of all images so as not to skew his ability to live in the moment, and to live “truthfully” (as opposed to thinking of his wife the way she looked in her youth, he prefers to have no visual, mental picture at all) and the other, who strives to remember and envision as much as humanly possible, to the point where he intimately knows the cheek creases of his wife’s laughter and is comfortable crawling around on his roof to fix a leak. This dichotomy, and difference in perspectives was poignant and thought provoking. The gents provoked the audience to think of whether our full impressions of people are rooted in visual expressions, in images… whether our emotional attachments are cemented by seeing/understanding each others’ “isms,” reactions… I’m still thinking about it now.

Part III: SPACE! Of course I wasn’t at all excited to be introduced by phone to NASA astronaut Dave Wolf (did you know NASA’s hold music is actually sci-fi-ish space sounds? me neither. *SWOON*) who told us about the last 30 seconds of his life (or so he thought) when he was “locked out” of an airlock, for hours, in deep space, and had to disconnect his “umbilical cord” (co2 filter/cooling system) in a last ditch effort/affording a 4 minute window to break back into the pod and save his life.


Here’s where my heart breaks because you weren’t in the theater. They also gave us all these little light-conductory contraptions, so at the end of the show we were able to sort of “give a present” back to Jad and Robert by making the audience look like a glittery night sky, with a giant sun projected on the stage (pictured above). Of note that Jad and Robert sang the praises of stage band Thao Nguyen (who also boasted an earlier solo performance) thanked the audience, took a bow, Demitri Martin came back out in a dorky red backpack, and all was right in the world.

My final plea is twofold:

1) If you don’t already listen to Radiolab, start. They even have an iphone app now to make it super easy.

2) If you don’t already (listen and) donate to NPR, start. It is one of the most enriching, important private institutions we have.

Fitness, Reviews

Nike Run Club Part Deux… Brasil!

Last night’s Nike Run Club held a pleasant surprise (which hopefully we’ll continue to see from time to time…) Perks!

When we arrived at the store, all runners (it was a big turnout, despite the ominous clouds) were given Brasil shirts, flags, whistles, facepaint, and a raffle ticket to win two tickets to Saturday’s game. We were already psyched up by the gear and excited by the pack of blue shirts as we stretched together, punctuated by cheers and exclamations as (nike) cameras and videographers snapped shorts of the runners.



(Above: the blue mob stretching, no idea what we’re in for)

This was my first “speed workout” with the club– 1/2 mile repeats with an option to run 4, 5, or 6 miles. We split into our respective groups, and the pacers encouraged us to run one group faster than normal, given that the “repeats” were only 1/2 mile, and then we would have another 1/2 mile to jog/recover before sprinting again. My usual pace is around 8:30 so I ran with the 8s, which turned out to be a zealous 7:45… and well… i’ll just tell you.

It was awesome! You can’t do an Indian run (when you run in a single file line, with the last person sprinting to the front) without a team, you probably wouldn’t keep your base pace at 7:45 without a front pacer, and you certainly wouldn’t have as much fun without all the Brasil hype and a(n extraordinarily talented) videographer skateboarding alongside you the entire way. I eeked out out 3 repeats which turned out to be about 5 miles (we ran to and from our “repeat” spot on the UES) and could practically feel myself adjusting to the faster base pace.

Sold! I’m into it.

*I’ll post the video footage if I can figure out where they’re using it…


World Science Festival

I’ve been a huge fan of Lawrence Krauss since seeing him earlier this year at AMNH, where he was promoting his newest book, “A Universe from Nothing.” In it, Krauss, a theoretical phyisicist (which is what I decided I’d love to be, if I could do math) essentially assuaged my emerging-athiest philosophical doubts about how the universe could have possibly come into existence without the help of a capital H-i-m.


(Above, Krauss on stage at Brooklyn Bridge Park)

Needless to say, I was psyched to learn about the World Science Festival this week and bummed that most of the lectures were sold out, but relieved that there would still be a chance to hear Krauss speak at Brooklyn Bridge Park at sunset on Saturday (see above). Not to mention live music and stargazing through telescopes pointed at the Moon and Saturn (which looks just like cartoon Saturn through a telescope, by the way). The basis of his brief chat this time was the upcoming transit of Venus and its importance for astronomy, and mankind— specifically the search for prospective life on other planets. Kind of important.

I’ll be watching the transit of Venus at AMNH on Tuesday. It’s not happening again for 105 years. Will you watch?

Also, find out how you can still catch more of the World Science Festival on 6/3.

Fitness, Reviews

Believe the Hype – Nike Run Club

I’ve heard mixed reviews of New York’s infamous Nike Run Club, and as someone who (especially when it comes to athletics) will try anything once, I jumped at the chance to join a friend who wanted to give it a shot.

We showed up to our first run ten minutes late (Tuesdays and Thursdays they meet at the nike store at 6:30 pm… it’s called work, people?!) and I wasn’t sure what to expect after reading the Yelp reviews about it being “cultish” which is exactly what I’d heard through friends. In fact, I experienced the opposite. There seemed to be a good mix of regulars and first timers, everyone was super friendly— before the run even started I’d struck up a conversation with a stranger.


(Above: The view from atop the Queensboro Bridge.)

The running benefits have been measurable as well. My first run with the club was paced faster than I’ve been running in months— and since then the varied weekend routes (routes in the past few weeks have included up and around Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem and back and forth across the Queensboro Bridge— a snap from today’s run is pictured above) have progressively spurred my long-run mileage from 5k to 10k at race pace in just 2 weeks.

Not to mention, one of the pacers introduced me to the *FREE* Nike+GPS app for iphone and android, an incredible tool that maps your pace and time and will be a game changer for any runner with a competitive spirit (read: EVERYONE).

Overall, the club is a great drop-in motivator for those of us who like group running and are looking for a challenge but don’t want the commitment or expense of a full time club.