Sound Effect

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Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KNKX's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme.

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Kyle Norris / KNKX

 

This story originally aired on May 27, 2017.

 

Michael McAndrews has had a lifelong love affair with birds.

 

It all started with an article he read as a kid in National Geographic. It profiled homing pigeons used in wartime to communicate messages between troops. Michael was captivated by the story of a bird named Cher Ami that saved almost 200 American soldiers in France during World War I.

Courtesy of Vanessa Davids

This story originally aired on April 30, 2016.

Vanessa Davids did most of her military service “inside the wire,” as an Arabic translator on a base in Iraq. Her job called on her to translate audio and video recordings, in hopes of gathering intelligence, foiling attacks and probing enemy action. She translated bomb plots, beheadings, even in some cases child pornography. As a result, she got an intimate, and dark, perspective on human nature.

photolibrarian / Flickr

This story originally aired on February 7, 2015.

In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a state-of-the-art engineering achievement, a dramatic suspension design spanning a strait of Puget Sound. Sure, it had a bit of a "bounce," but the engineers all assured the public that was normal. Only a handful of bridge workers seemed truly alarmed. 

Rosemary Thielman

In April of 1977, five nuns took a week-long vacation to Grayland Beach State Park. Just south of Westport on the Washington coast, this park is known for its rolling sand dunes and expansive beaches where drift logs often wash onto the shores. 

 After spending the week cooped up in a camping trailer, the sisters took one last walk when the sun finally came out. That’s where this story begins. In a matter of seconds, water flooded the coastline and with little time to react, two sisters were overtaken by the ocean’s strong currents and flung into the air.

TK

Jason Detwiler is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Washington, and he’s on the hunt for a natural phenomenon that is insanely rare.

It's a specific reaction called neutrinoless double-beta decay -- a term so egg-headed that when he sat down to explain it to Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer, Gabriel made him give it a nickname: the “jelly doughnut.” (Perhaps Gabriel was hungry.)

There’s a good payoff for this hunt -- if Detwiler does find a "jelly doughnut," it may explain why the universe exists.

This week on Sound Effect, our theme is "What Are the Odds?" We'll meet the grandson of Holocaust survivors who calculated the very low probability that he would even be born. Then a typo may have saved Bob Hofferber's life, by keeping him off of a military plane bound for Tacoma in 1952. In another story of the twists of fate, group of nuns walking along a Washington beach are overtaken by a rogue wave, changing their lives and their relationship with God forever.

Courtesy of Arik Cohen

Arik Cohen’s grandparents survived the Holocaust, all four of them.

The likelihood of that happening is astronomical -- and he has the calculations to prove it.

A self-professed geek, Cohen began looking at the history of his family to figure out the statistical odds of each person surviving and contributing to a grandson: himself.

Cohen’s crunching of the numbers also allowed him to look closer at four individual tales of survival against the odds.

U.S. Air Force, via Wikimedia Commons

On 28th November 1952, a chance occurrence – a clerical error – resulted in Bob Hofferber not catching his scheduled flight from Fort Ladd, Alaska to McChord Field in south Tacoma. It was an error that likely saved his life. The U.S. Air Force C-54G Skymaster crashed on its approach, resulting in the deaths of all but two of the people on board.

Credit Gabriel Spitzer

The population of Concrete, Washington in 1938 was about 1,000 people. But one October evening that year, while a famous radio broadcast was frightening a good portion of the population across the country, things in Concrete got even stranger.

Courtesy of Dick Stein.

 

As part of Sound Effect’s "What Are the Odds?" episode, Dick Stein, 88.5’s man of chance and mystery, shares a few stories from his time spent at poker tables.

 

“Poker players hate to get up from the table, God forbid they should miss that hand that will make them a huge score,” said Stein. “So, we do two things: one, cultivate super human bladder control, and two, when we’re hungry we’ll just order something and eat it at the table.”

 

Credit Matt Callow/Flickr

This week on Sound Effect, our theme is "ghosts." We open with host Gabriel Spitzer having his son taste-test a ghost pepper. Gabriel then heads out to learn about a forest of dead trees, and how that came to be. We then meet a woman who lost her husband to cancer, but contemplates his lingering presence.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Near the coast of Washington state, on the banks of the Copalis River, lies a ghost forest -- a stand of gray, dead trees in the middle of a healthy forest.

How did it get there?

Could the key lie in another mystery, a mysterious tsunami recorded by samurai in 18th-century Japan? 

Linking these seemingly unconnected phenomena became a goal for ambitious scientists using everything at their disposal, from computer models to chainsaws.

Greg Beckelhymer

 

In the Fall of 2016, Greg Beckelhymer died after a year-long struggle with metastatic kidney cancer. He was 47 years old.

 

In this story, his widow, Seattle-based writer Michelle Goodman and her sister, Naomi Goodman, talk about how acute grief is often accompanied by strong denial.

 

Courtesy of Rachel Kessler

Seattle Writer Rachel Kessler started this discussion by reading a passage from an essay she wrote  that was recently anthologized in a book Ghosts of Seattle Past.

Jennifer Wing / KNKX

What if something was thought to be gone forever? Would you still go looking for it? There is a man named David Benscoter, who does just this.

Benscoter spends a lot if his time exploring an area of Eastern Washington known as the Palouse. He searches abandoned homesteads, looking for varieties of apples that are believed to be extinct.  

“These trees, they’re just going to go away someday. And if I don’t do it there’s no one who’s going to search for them,” says Benscoter.

Lydia Ramsey in the KNKX studios.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

To say that Seattle musician Lydia Ramsey was raised in a musical family would be kind of an understatement.

“Me and my brothers joke that, like, in order to sit down in our living room, you had to pick up an instrument because it was taking up the chair. And then you’d be like oh, well I’m holding this so I might as well play something on it,” said Ramsey.

Eventually, Lydia would decide to dig a little deeper into her family history. What she found out is that music has been woven through her ancestry for generations.

Courtesy Draze

This week on Sound Effect, our theme is "the beat goes on." We open with Karen Sakata, who has been running karaoke at Bush Garden for decades. Hip-hop artist Draze talks about about how his Seattle and Zimbabwean roots influence his music. Jennifer Wing heads to Bellingham to hear a band made up of musicians with developmental disabilities.

Courtesy Draze

In some parts of the world, music isn’t a hobby or even just a form of art -- it’s the stuff that connects the culture. And that’s the environment musician Dumisani Maraire Jr. was raised in.

“I like to say in our family, it’s not like ‘are you going to perform?’ You just are going to perform. Literally, it’s just a part of who we are and what we do,” said Maraire.

Credit Melissa Bird

 

Andre Sanabria discovered at 21 he had a deadly disease, and the only cure was a double-lung transplant.

But that did not stop him from making music. In fact, he says music is what was keeping him alive.

Fearing the risks of an operation, and facing his declining health, he instead focused his time and energy on composing, performing and touring even when he could barely hold a guitar. And this was not quiet music, but metal-tinged hardcore punk. And Sanabria would sometimes sing (or scream) vocals.

Jennifer Wing / KNKX

There is a Northwest band that’s been around for 17 years, called Out Of The Ashes. There are about 30 members. They play covers of The Beatles, Elvis, Tom Petty, and other popular artists.

One of the things that sets this band apart is that to be a member, you have to have a developmental disability such as Autism or Down Syndrome.

Andy Piacsek

Central Washington University recently installed an anechoic chamber in its new science building. These chambers are used to study sound without any outside noise or distractions. The chamber itself is filled with 596 foam wedges that essentially trap the sound. 

Normally when we hear a sound, we're also hearing the sound waves bounce off of the surfaces in the room, interfering with each other in complex ways. That's how our brains are used to listening.

The Helix

In 1968, in the town of Duvall, Washington, a piano was dropped from a helicopter in front of about 3,000 people.

One of the few people who can explain how and, more importantly, why something like this happened is Paul Dorpat.

The founder and editor of the Seattle counter-culture magazine Helix, Dorpat was one of the people that helped pull off an event that even he calls absurd.

Jennifer Wing / KNKX

 

It’s hard to imagine a time when karaoke did not exist in the Northwest. Today, any night of the week, you can go out with friends and find some place where you can belt out your favorite tunes in front of a crowd.

 

But, everything has a beginning. Things have to start somewhere, right? For American style karaoke in the Northwest, it was at Bush Garden in Seattle’s International District.

 

COURTESY TED GRIFFIN AND JASON COLBY

This week on Sound Effect, stories from sea level. We open the show by talking to Petty Officer Steve Watkins about what he experiences at the end of a submarine patrol at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Next, Bellamy Pailthorp speaks with Ted Griffin, who was the first person to ever swim publicly with an orca.

courtesy Ted Griffin and Jason Colby

This story originally aired on October 8, 2016.

These days, the prospect of seeing the Pacific Northwest’s iconic orca whales in the wild attracts thousands of tourists annually to whale-watching boats or shore-side excursions.  But it wasn’t that long ago that these majestic endangered creatures were seen as a menace.

This story originally aired on October 10, 2015. 

Author Nicole Hardy told a lot of people she was a 35-year-old virgin. When her essay “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone” was published in 2011 in a New York Times Modern Love column, it sparked a lot of attention.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

This story originally aired on April 2, 2016. 

It’s a reality of life on the Pacific Coast — occasionally, dead whales wash up on the beach. So when a deceased gray whale appeared in the surf in Long Beach, Wash., the city fathers took steps to bury it in the sand.

Hannah Burn

 

This story originally aired on June 17, 2017.

The San Juans' last homesteaders first discovered the islands on a map. June and Farrar Burn were newlyweds. They met in 1919 at a party June threw in her log cabin in Virginia. June quickly fell for Farrar’s ruddy-cheeked smile, curly red hair, and his ability to make himself useful immediately:  gathering firewood, serving drinks, hosting as if it were his own home. Farrar was drawn to June’s lively eyes and her unmistakable, fierce spirit. In a month, the two were married.

Courtesy of Colin McDaniel

This story originally aired on December 10, 2016. 

Colin McDaniel grew up on the water. He was raised on Bainbridge Island. In the summer, Colin and his best friend Adam loved exploring the island’s coast. Adam’s father had a fleet of unloved dinghies.

“They all had those drain holes under the water line and no drain hole plugs to be found anywhere," says McDaniel. "But that didn't stop us from shoving green fir cones into the drain holes and pushing our boats into the gray water and going out for adventures anyway.”

Ashley Gross

This week on Sound Effect, stories of better late than never. We open the show by meeting a man who started teaching Pilates in his late seventies. Next, we talk to a woman who has decided to freeze her eggs in an effort to be able to have kids down the road. Then 88-5’s Ashley Gross introduces us to a woman who overcame her fear of the water later in life.

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