Story of the Week with Joel Stein
Story of the Week with Joel Stein
About Story of the Week with Joel Stein
On Story of the Week, “journalist” Joel Stein chooses an article that fascinates him, convinces the writer to tell him about it, and then interrupts a good conversation by talking about himself. Sometimes the story will be the one everyone is talking about, like the New Yorker article on smoking hallucinogenic toads. Other times we’ll find a story you might have missed, like the one in the Verge about the rock groupie turned hacker who had huge corporations at her mercy. These are stories you’ll tell your friends about. Stories that stick with you long after you forget whatever headline you just doom-scrolled through. iHeartMedia is the exclusive podcast partner of Pushkin Industries.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian man nicknamed “Putin’s Chef” went from being a street criminal to a hot dog seller to owning a catering company that provides services to the Russian government. Oh yeah– and he’s also the head of a private military company that’s sending soldiers all over the world. How did Prigozhin turn global conflict into a lucrative business? And what could happen if he decides he’s had enough of Vladimir Putin’s rule? Julia Ioffe wrote about Prigozhin for her publication, Puck. You can read the full story here: https://puck.news/putins-chef-the-man-behind-russias-shadow-army/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
In 2013, two women started a Facebook group called “Buy Nothing” for their local community on Bainbridge Island to swap unwanted items for free. But their small group quickly grew, becoming a national movement with millions of users. A coup within Buy Nothing raised questions about if it’s possible to create a utopian project within a broken society. Vauhini Vara reported on the saga of Buy Nothing for Wired Magazine. You can read the full story here: https://www.wired.com/story/the-battle-for-buy-nothing/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
UPDATE: Since we recorded this episode on 03/09, Guo Wengui was arrested in New York City on charges of financial conspiracy. For years, rapper Pras Michél has allegedly been doing the bidding of wanted Malaysian billionaire, Jho Low. Pras’s baffling, Icarian story involves one of the greatest financial scandals in history, an international hostage negotiation, and the possibility of a decadeslong prison sentence. Matthew Campbell co-wrote this story for Business Week. You can read it here: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2023-us-china-tensions-scandal-fugees-1mdb/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
The Oscars seems to be cursed with a series of chaotic live television gaffes. But one moment in Academy Award history takes the cake. In 1974, a scrawny white man named Robert Opel ran across the stage butt naked, right as the Best Picture category was being announced. New Yorker magazine writer and Oscars aficionado Michael Schulman recounts the queer, wonderful, and historic life of the 1974 Oscars streaker. You can read the full story here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/02/06/what-became-of-the-oscar-streaker You can find Michael Schulman’s new book Oscar Wars here. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Tipping. Dinner parties. Canceling plans. We could all use an etiquette guide that teaches us to live without pissing people off. Luckily, New York Magazine has one – and it went viral. We (politely) asked Choire Sicha, who edited that guide, to come on our show. You can read the full list from New York Magazine here: https://www.thecut.com/article/tipping-rules-etiquette-rules.html See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
What happens when extinct animal skeletons meet the “Joe Rogan Experience”? The answer is murky, freezing, and may contain submerged cars. This week, we bring on Michael Wilson from the New York Times, who wrote about how a fossil-excavating reality TV star came on Joe Rogan’s podcast to make a bombshell claim: that there are mammoth tusks at the bottom of the East River. What ensues is a no-holds-barred bone rush. You can read the full story here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/27/nyregion/joe-rogan-mammoth-tusks-east-river.html See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
What happens when you pretend you’re a medical miracle? Lots of things, as TV writer Elisabeth Finch found out – including gaining a job writing for Grey’s Anatomy. For a decade, Finch lied about having a rare and deadly form of cancer and fooled everybody in Hollywood. On this week’s episode, we bring on Peter Kiefer, the reporter who broke the story about Finch’s lies, then interviewed her again seven months later to find out why she told them. You can read the full story here: https://theankler.com/p/the-greys-anatomy-liar-confesses See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Suspicious art dealers, fraudulent documents, and huge egos--the only thing worse than the uppity art world is how much it relies on laundered art from other countries. On this week’s episode, we bring on Sam Tabachnik to unpack his sprawling three-part series for The Denver Post all about one duo’s international operation to smuggle and sell South East Asian art. You can read the full story here: https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/01/colorado-denver-art-museum-stolen-art-cambodia-thailand-emma-bunker/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Robbi Jade Lew broke the world of poker with an incredibly unlikely win against Garrett Adelstein. Her win went viral and the internet exploded with dueling accusations of sexism and cheating. Andrea Chang reported on the scandal for the Los Angeles Times and recounts all the suspicious details. You can read the full story here: https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-12-14/poker-cheating-investigation-ends See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Inside the flourishing world of online plant fanclubs lies a deep, dark obsession: people who dedicate their entire lives to caring for Nepenthes, or carnivorous pitcher plants. On this week’s episode, Brian Howey, a former “Nephead” tells us about the carnivorous plant subculture that nearly ate him (and many others) alive. You can read the full story here: https://www.wired.com/story/nightmare-houseplant-obsession-nepenthes/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Hawaii’s Kauai island is overrun by half a million feral cats, many of which are infected with toxoplasmosis. These infected cats pose an existential threat to the native habitat, including Kauai’s endangered monk seals. The island's animal-loving community has fallen into chaos; It's zombie-cat people versus everyone else. Paul Kvinta covered the story for Outside Magazine. You can read the full story here: https://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/environment/hawaiis-crazy-war-over-zombie-cats See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Magnus Carlsen, the greatest chess player in the world, accused 19-year-old Hans Niemann of cheating. Why? Because Niemann beat him twice. Carlsen and the chess world can't prove Niemann is cheating, but they're convinced he is. The accusations are tearing apart the chess world and raising questions about maintaining fair play in a high-tech world. David Segal covered the story (and yes, the anal beads theory) for The New York Times. You can read the whole article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/04/business/chess-cheating-scandal-magnus-carlsen-hans-niemann.html See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
One of the first computer hackers was a woman. She pulled some of the most elaborate computer hacks of the 80's and yet no one knows her name. Host Joel Stein speaks to Claire L. Evans about her article in the Verge, “Searching for Susy Thunder.” You can read the full story here: https://www.theverge.com/c/22889425/susy-thunder-headley-hackers-phone-phreakers-claire-evans See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
New York’s curbside Christmas tree business is run by a small group of ruthless, shadowy men. Owen Long, a tree salesman in Brooklyn, takes us into his world and reveals the characters, crimes, and even murders of the New York City “tree men.” You can read the full story here: https://www.curbed.com/article/christmas-tree-trade-secrets-gregs-trees-nyc.html See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
A group of DEA agents from Fresno, California figures out the real name of a Dark Web drug kingpin. But before they can make the arrest, they have to follow him to Thailand and into the on-line world of pick-up artists. Andy Greenberg's sprawling Wired article is so intense it made host Joel Stein want to take drugs. You can read the whole 6-part series here: https://www.wired.com/story/alphabay-series-part-1-the-shadow/ The Wired series is excerpted from Andy's book which you can find here: https://www.amazon.com/Tracers-Dark-Global-Crime-Cryptocurrency/dp/0385548095/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Iranian-American scholar Reza Aslan talks about his article for The Atlantic, "How to Avoid the White Savior Industrial Complex," which tells the story of his childhood hero, missionary Howard Baskerville. Reza argues that the world needs more good, white saviors like Baskerville. Joel wants nothing to do with trying to be a good, white anything in today's political climate. Reza tries to convince him anyway. You can read the full story here: https://www.theatlantic.com/books/archive/2022/10/howard-baskerville-persian-constitutional-revolution/671787/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
A crime in Park Slope, Brooklyn – the heart of gentrified Brooklyn – leads residents to form a neighborhood watch group. Esther Wang, who writes for Hell Gate, attended the group's tiny first meeting, which somehow managed to showcase all the divisions roiling liberal politics. Host Joel Stein does his best to keep up. He doesn't do a great job. You can read the full story here: https://hellgatenyc.com/saturday-morning-with-the-prospect-park-panthers See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Michele McPhee traces a wild scam to bilk the U.S. Government out of $500 million. The plan was hatched by a young man from a polygamist Mormon sect in Utah and it soon involves the Armenian mob and the President of Turkey. McPhee lays out all the twists and turns in her article in Los Angeles Magazine. Host Joel Stein tries to keep up while still making as many polygamy jokes as possible. Read the full article here: https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/bleeding-the-beast-crooked-cops-an-armenian-mob-boss-a-500m-scam-and-an-unlikely-love-story/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
A.J. Jacobs spent a month following the most conservative interpretation of the Constitution possible. One not far from how the current Supreme Court has been ruling. Host Joel Stein, talks to him about his article for the Guardian, "Party Like It's 1789! My Weird, Enlightening Month Living Strictly by the U.S. Constitution." Does A.J. wind up pointing his musket at Joel? Tune in to find out. You can read the full story here: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2022/oct/01/supreme-court-roe-v-wade-abortion-gun-rights-us-constitution See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
In this week's episode, we're LARPing, live-action roleplaying that gets you to step out of your own shoes and into a character's. Writer and first-time LARP-er Jason Anthony decides to go to Denmark to roleplay at a fake gay-conversion camp, which all seems like fun – until his queer American brain snaps. Also, host Joel Stein talks about his own experience crossing a fake Mexican-U.S. border. All of the above is handled in a culturally sensitive manner. You can read the full story here: https://www.wired.com/story/my-4-days-in-fake-gay-conversion-therapy-nordic-larp/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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