Gabriel Spitzer | KNKX

Gabriel Spitzer

Sound Effect Host and Senior Producer

Gabriel Spitzer is the Host and Senior Producer of Sound Effect, KNKX's "weekly tour of ideas inspired by the place we live." Gabriel was previously KNKX's Science and Health Reporter. He joined KNKX after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KNKX moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

Ways to Connect

Courtesy of Elliot Cossum

 

Elliot Cossum struggles, like many of us, with work-life balance. The difference is he works in an unusual profession.

 

It started for Cossum in Iraq, in one of Saddam Hussein’s captured palaces, where Cossum was serving in the U.S. Army. His job was to man the phone lines there (including the line that reached directly to the Oval Office). He would frequently hear explosions and artillery blasts outside, and once in a while the palace itself would come under attack.

 

Xiao Zhou

Queen Mae Butters has worked side by side with death for about 30 years. She’s a hospice nurse, meaning she cares for people at the end of their lives and helps them transition from life to death. That may sound like sad work -- and it is, says Butters. But it’s so much more than that.

 

“At the beginning of my career I really felt like death was the thing we were against, and we were all trying to keep death from happening. And now … I don’t see death as the enemy at all. I see it as one of our longest friends,” she says.

 

Zemekiss Photography / Courtesy of the Geekenders

 

The performance artform of burlesque has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years. Ranging from the basic “parade and peel” to elaborately themed shows, burlesque is a big tent with plenty of room for creative subgenres.

 

This past September, Steve Fournier expected to go out with his friends to see one of his favorite Rock bands, Loverboy, in concert. What he didn’t expect is for lead singer, Mike Reno, to get the flu and only be able to perform a couple songs. Reno’s wife started talking to the crowd to find someone in the audience to take his place.

Fournier’s friends started pointing at him telling her to pull him up on stage.

Credit Kevin Kniestedt

Lauren “Big Lo” Sandretzky has rarely missed a professional sports game in Seattle in 30 years, and has been called Seattle’s biggest sports fan. He even has his own super fan action figure. But his passion for sports and the players goes beyond just wins and loses. It’s gotten him through some pretty difficult times in his life.

He lost his grandfather and mother, two very special people to him, when he was very young.

 

Woodland Park Zoo

Prior to the summer of 1940, Woodland Park Zoo’s monkeys lived isolated in cages in the Monkey House. Then the zoo decided to do something progressive: relocate the monkeys to a more “natural” setting, on a human-made island in the middle of a shallow moat. What followed was a war for dominance that captivated Seattle for weeks.

 

The daily newspapers, keen for some comic relief amid the grim news out of war-torn Europe, offered breathless coverage of the Monkey War.

 

Joe McNally

George Divoky is a scientist in Seattle, at least most of the year. But don’t expect to find him around here during the summertime.

He’ll be on a small, flat little island in the Arctic Ocean, off the Alaska coast, called Cooper Island. Back in 1975, Divoky was doing survey work there, when he came across a colony of arctic birds called Mandt’s Black Guillemots. They’re little pigeon-sized birds with bright red legs, and they’re one of the few seabird species that depend year-round on sea ice.

Tom Paulson

  Ollie was a gray and white tomcat, a bit of a tough guy, but with a soft side. He’d often curl up on Tom Paulson’s chest at night. Tom is more of a dog person, but he and Ollie bonded -- maybe because Ollie was “not weird and scary like a lot of cats. [He] had more of a dog personality.”

 

But pets are mortal, and one day Tom got a call at work from his wife with the news: Ollie was dead. Please come home and deal with him. So Tom headed home, and collected the cat.

 

Todd Huffman / Flickr/Creative Commons

What may be most remarkable about Turina James' story is not that she got hooked on heroin as a teenager, but the fact that she managed to get off of it. She did so with little support from family, and after a traumatic childhood that included sexual violence, homelessness and unplanned pregnancy. 

James grew up in Yakima, where she says she was kicked out of her house and on the streets by age 12. By 15 she was pregnant, and soon moved in with an older man who was not her child's father. He had children of his own, and, she would soon learn, a drug habit.

University of Washington

To understand why opioids exert such a powerful pull on human beings, you want to look first to our brains’ natural “happy juice”: endorphins.

 

So says Charles Chavkin, a professor in the University of Washington’s Pharmacology Department.

 

Chavkin explains that there is a whole series of neural receptors designed specifically to detect endorphins.

 

Gabriel Spitzer

You could make a pretty good case that the epicenter of the opioid crisis in all of North America is British Columbia.

 

Just five years ago overdose deaths there had been holding steady at under 300 a year -- about the same as car crashes. Then it spiked -- last year 1,422 people in British Columbia died of a drug overdose.

 

Courtesy Daniel Brown

This story originally aired on September 2, 2017.

For many in the Seattle area, Royal Brougham might be little more than a regal sounding street near Safeco Field. But Royal Brougham was actually one of the longest tenured reporters in U.S. newspaper history, working 68 years, primarily as a sports columnist and editor, for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

This story originally aired on September 2, 2017.

In the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle, tucked among the bungalows sits an ornate yellow and red building. On one side flies the American flag, and on the other flies what’s called the Dharma Flag.

How a Homeless Man Helped this Writer Overcome His Fear of the Woods

Jan 20, 2018
Bryant Carlin

Olympic National Park, with its temperate rainforests and stunning views, exerts a natural pull on many Pacific Northwesterners. But it repelled Seattle writer Rosette Royale. To Royale, the park seemed like a damp, mucky, inhospitable place. "I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to haul a 50-pound pack into the wilderness and camp there for days," he said. "It didn't make sense."

Then he met Bryant Carlin.

Courtesy of Christina Hayes

 

Thanksgiving dinner at the house where Christina Hayes grew up, in the Tri Cities in Eastern Washington, has all the normal things.

Her parents, who met in bible college, are there, along with extended family. There’s turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie: By all appearances they are a completely typical American family holiday.

“We’re playing, we’re laughing, we’re joking, we’re prepping food. We are like the Hallmark family,” Hayes said.

Courtesy of Nick Morrison

Back in the 1970s, before Nick Morrison was a KNKX staffer, some friends asked him if he would help them smuggle a few bricks of marijuana across the border from Mexico. He said, sure.

What came next? In the beginning, normal drug smuggling stuff. A rambler with secret compartments, a jungle, a mango orchard, an operation that seemed to be going great. But in the end? A single terrifying moment that made Morrison regret his decision - and change his ways.

Courtesy of the FBI

On August 7th, 2006, at 5:13 pm, a group of four men wearing ski masks, body armor, sweatshirts, and carrying assault rifles and pistols burst into a Bank of America branch in Tacoma, Washington. Waiting outside the bank, in the getaway car, was Alex Blum, a "good kid" who had just achieved his lifelong dream of becoming an Army Ranger.

Why did Alex throw away his dream? And how did he end up a bank robber? Alex Blum's cousin, Ben Blum, tackles those questions in his recent book "Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family, and an Inexplicable Crime."

Hacker/Flickr

In the late 90s and early 2000s, a lot of people were still figuring out this whole internet business.

As is often the case, way out ahead of the learning curve were the cyber-criminals, and law enforcement had some catching up to do.

The FBI often relied on the knowledge of private security professionals. So in 2000, they contacted a Seattle expert named Ray Pompon, and recruited him to go undercover as part of a sting operation. Pompon shared his story with host Gabriel Spitzer.

Courtesy of Tony Bamonte

 

Murder is a crime where, by its nature, it’s impossible for a victim to get justice.

 

That’s what was on Tony Bamonte’s mind as he worked to solve those crimes as the sheriff of Pend Oreille County.

 

“The police, we’re the voice of the dead,” Bamonte said. “We’re there to defend them and stick up for them and try find out who killed them. That’s who we are. They have nobody else speaking for them.”

 

Everybody loves a good mystery ... some of us more than others. So when Tom DesLongchamp discovered an unusual looking cassette tape in a bargain bin, and discovered a collection of unidentifiable disco songs on one side of it, his curiosity was aroused. That curiosity soon transformed into a fixation, or maybe even an obsession. 

Schuyler Bogue

 

It wasn’t so long ago that, in order to buy groceries, most people would walk into a market, hand their list over to a man behind a counter, who would then go back into the store room and get everything for them. There were generally no prices listed -- it cost what it cost. You rarely got much say over what brand you got. That was the way it was, and it was hard to imagine it working any differently.

pee vee / Flickr

This story originally aired on July 30, 2016. 

When Jena Lopez’s child started showing signs of having a non-traditional gender identity during the preschool years, she wasn’t sure what to do. Can a 3- or 4-year-old really know that she’s a different gender from her biological sex? And Jena knew the outlook for transgender kids was grim: Research has shown they tend to have high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

Courteosy of Tom Rogers

This story originally aired on April 30, 2016.

Naval base Kitsap-Bangor, located on the Kitsap Peninsula is one of only two military bases in the United States that houses strategic nuclear weapon facilities. It's home to several Trident submarines, which are armed with nuclear weapons. The nuclear capabilities of these submarines have long made the naval base a focus of controversy and protest.

(Credit Anders Beer Wilse/Public Domain)

This story originally aired on April 30, 2016.

During World War II, in a frozen wilderness in southern Norway, on the edge of an icy cliff sat a hydroelectric plant called Vemork. This winter fortress was the center of some of the most important sabotage efforts of the war.

Courtesy Faried Alani

This story originally aired on April 30, 2016.

As an orthopedic surgeon in Iraq, Dr. Faried Alani had a highly successful career working at a hospital and a prosperous, happy life with his wife and two daughters. Many of the people he operated on were victims of bombs and bullets, but he forced himself to keep the violence at a distance emotionally, in order to do his job more effectively. 

But that changed one evening, as Alani was leaving work. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

At first glance it may seem like the students at St. Francis of Assisi school in Burien are dressed pretty much alike: white collar shirts, red plaid skirts for the girls, navy blue pants or shorts for the boys.

But look closer, and you’ll see that many of them have brought a little something special to their outfits.

“I wear a gold watch,” says Gino Morella.

“I have white Adidas superstars that I’ve worn all year,” says Gabriel Hamilton.

“I tend to wear a leather jacket,” says Rachel Fry.

Creative Commons

Christopher Poulos is the head of the Washington Statewide Reentry Council, dedicated to helping those who have been through the criminal justice system.

It’s the kind of job that he is uniquely qualified for.

As a teenager, Poulos struggled with severe substance abuse, leading him into homelessness and then incarceration. He saw the problems of the justice system firsthand, especially how it disenfranchised the poor and people of color.

Gabriel Spitzer

Any parent of more than one child will tell you that they have no favorites. They will tell you that the well from which love is drawn has no bottom. 

This is what Donald Vass would say about books.

"I sense a type of universal voice coming from all of these books. And often when I open a book and my eyes will land upon a set of words or a sentence, a passage that will speak to me. And sometimes, that will speak to me at a moment when I very much need it," says Vass.

Vass finds this to be true of all kinds of books. 

WIkipedia Commons

To say that Washington State University Cougars have school spirit is a wild understatement, and if you have any in your life, you know they don't hesitate to remind you.

Now, Cameron McCoy and many other members of Coug nation have reached a significant milestone in letting their flags fly. 

Actual flags. 

Megan Smith / Flickr

Tuesday evening marks the first night of Hanukkah. And if you know one piece of Hanukkah culture, it’s very likely a certain song about a little dreidel made of clay. What you may not know is how that song connects directly to Seattle.

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