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Interesting news stories from around the Pacific Northwest.

Credit Kevin Kniestedt

As the years go by, it can be harder and harder to find singers and bands that still perform the original charts from the '30s and '40s, which include Ella Fitzgerald's first big hit with the Chick Webb Orchestra, the 1938 recording of “A Tisket, A Tasket.”

In Tacoma, you can find the Swing Reunion Orchestra doing just that. The Swing Reunion Orchestra performs free concerts at the McKinley VFW in Tacoma the last Mondays of the month, and first and foremost, they want their music to sound authentic.

This week on Sound Effect, we tell stories of the lies we hear and the lies we tell. 

Old Time Con Woman

One woman became one of the most infamous liars in the Northwest in the early 1900s. Maude Wagnon, who went under the alias Maude Johnson, swindled railroad companies out of an estimated thousands of dollars.

Student Scam

Courtesy of the Washington State Archives

 

At the turn of the 20th century, trolleys were just beginning to transform cities across the country. At the same, one Oregon woman figured out a way to defraud the companies that operated these interurban railroads.

 

Maud  Wagnon, who went under many aliases but was known by most as Maud Myrtle Johnson, was dubbed the "Queen of Fakers" by newspapers across the Western United States for her history of swindling the trolleys. How did Maud become one of the most infamous liars of the Northwest?

 

David Nogueras / knkx

 

When something seems too good to be true, it probably is. More than 90 Chinese international students at the University of Washington had to find this out the hard way.

 

This past spring, Chinese students were the target of a scam. The alleged ringleader, a fellow Chinese student who goes by FY, possibly walked away with nearly a million dollars.

 

Courtesy of Benjamin Kantner

There are lots occasions when bending the truth is something we want to happen. This is what more than 60,000 people do every summer in the Nevada desert for Burning Man, the iconic week-long festival with art, music and lots of partying. It’s an event that attracts the likes of hippies, Hollywood celebrities and tech billionaires. However, Burning Man is also sometimes described as one, giant, utopian lie.

Before going to Burning Man, where he is known as Konifer, 31-year-old Benjamin Kantner’s life in Seattle looked good on paper. But it felt like he was lying to himself.   

Simone Alicea / knkx

For our show this week, we wanted to talk to someone who hears lies all the time: Tow truck drivers. That’s what Sound Effect Executive Producer Erin Hennessey suggested. She sent 88.5’s Simone Alicea to a towing company in Bellevue to talk to someone who’s heard it all.

But it turns out Erin wasn’t being totally forthcoming, herself, about the role she had cast for these drivers. She and Simone sat down to compare notes about their impound experiences.

Editor's Note: This story contains a quote where a racial slur is used.

Calvin Burns has trouble getting his 15-year-old daughter, Stepheni Bellamy, to talk to him. It's something many parents of teenagers can relate to.

He hoped that doing a StoryCorps interview — and sharing stories from his own teenage years — might help her open up.

Burns tells her when he was growing up, he was usually the only black kid in school and often felt left out.

Tim Wharton bristles at being called a "foodie," with its connotation of lush, sumptuous "food porn." He prefers "gastronaut," a label popularized by late British television chef Keith Floyd, for its evocation of intrepid culinary exploration.

When 18-year-old Nermeen Ileiwat first began college, she could not wait to get into a relationship — maybe even get engaged before graduation. But after one year, the rising sophomore realized she had no idea what she wanted out of life and was in no position to get into a relationship.

That decision didn't last long. Only a few months after, Ileiwat met someone at a party, and their friendship quickly turned into something more.

Unicorn Frappuccino: A Digital Age Drink

Apr 19, 2017

If ever a drink were concocted to quench the thirst of social media, this may be it.

With its whimsical name, bright pink and blue swirl topped with a pillow of whipped cream and a pixie dusting of sprinkles, Starbucks' new Unicorn Frappuccino practically pleads to be posted.

And a glimpse at Twitter shows the frozen confection is indeed gaining attention.

A piece from New York Magazine's Andrew Sullivan over the weekend ended with an old, well-worn trope: Asian-Americans, with their "solid two-parent family structures," are a shining example of how to overcome discrimination. An essay that began by imagining why Democrats feel sorry for Hillary Clinton — and then detoured to President Trump's policies — drifted to this troubling ending:

Generations ago, the American Indian Osage tribe was compelled to move. Not for the first time, white settlers pushed them off their land in the 1800s. They made their new home in a rocky, infertile area in northeast Oklahoma in hopes that settlers would finally leave them alone.

As it turned out, the land they had chosen was rich in oil, and in the early 20th century, members of the tribe became spectacularly wealthy. They bought cars and built mansions; they made so much oil money that the government began appointing white guardians to "help" them spend it.

What will our dinners look like when temperatures and sea levels rise and water floods our coastal towns and cities?

Allie Wist, 29, an associate art director at Saveur magazine, attempts to answer that question in her latest art project, "Flooded." It's a fictional photo essay (based on real scientific data) about a dinner party menu at a time when climate change has significantly altered our diets.

According to Audrey Shafer, there is something profound in the moment a patient wakes up from surgery.

She would know — she's an anesthesiologist. She's responsible for people when they are at their most vulnerable: unconscious, unable to breathe on their own or even blink their eyes.

As a result, Shafer says, a kind of intimate trust forms between her and her patients. It's this closeness that moves her to write poetry about medicine.

Michal Lebl

This week on Sound Effect, stories of time and how it rules our daily lives. 

Every Hour Injures, The Last One Kills

For centuries, sundials have inspired artists and scientists alike as a way to display the passing of time. Retired UW astrobiology professor Woody Sullivan shares how his 25-year love affair with sundials began and how he invented the first working sundial tattoo.

A Brewing War

Dennis Wise / University of Washington Photography

Retired University of Washington astrobiology professor Woody Sullivan is obsessed with the concept of time. It's apparent the instant you walk into what he call’s his “man lodge," the little study behind his North Seattle home.

It’s full of shelves of books with titles like “Empires of Time,” and “Time, The Familiar Stranger.” Plus, there are shelves of small, ornate sundials, some that can fit into the palm of your hand.

Courtesy of Marilyn Roberts

In the spring of 2014, Marilyn Roberts' son, Kevin, was 27 years old and struggling with bipolar disorder. One day, he called his mom to tell her that he was taking a bus to go to downtown Olympia, Wash., not too far from where he lived. 

"He was to a point where wasn't cognizant of what was going on, on a day to day basis," Roberts remembers.

A Kidney Dialysis Patient's Guide To Passing The Time

Apr 15, 2017
Scott Areman / Northwest Kidney Center

All of our lives are ruled by time, but some of us are more aware of it than others. 

At the Northwest Kidney Centers in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, dialysis patients are very aware of the passing hours. They're hooked up to machines that display the elapsing time prominently on a screen. These machines filter and clean their blood, a job normally handled by healthy kidneys. 

Stick the word "bread" behind my last name on a Google search. Go ahead. Do it.

What you'll find is a Czech food tradition rooted in Easter: a Czech Easter bread.

Mazanec is a sweet bread with rum-soaked raisins and dried fruit and topped with slivered almonds. It's round with a cross on top, to represent Christ. And it is eaten throughout the Holy Week.

Just a couple of decades ago, there might have been an ashtray on your restaurant table, while bartenders with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths poured your cocktails. However, the rise of smoke-free bars and restaurants across the U.S. means that most diners no longer have the scent or taste of tobacco mingling with their grilled salmon or crème brûlée — and many would say that's a good thing. Besides being unhealthy, smoking also appears to mess with taste perception.

Be it Easter or Eid, holidays in the Levantine region of the Middle East are incomplete without a shortbread cookie called maamoul. Stuffed with date paste or chopped walnuts or pistachios, and dusted with powdered sugar, these buttery cookies are the perfect reward after a month of fasting during Ramadan or Lent.

The dough is made with wheat flour or semolina (or a combination of the two), then pressed into special molds, traditionally carved in wood. And the fillings are fragrant with rosewater or orange blossom.

Credit Liz West/Flickr

This week on Sound Effect, we share stories of people, places and things that are right in front of us, that we may never notice. 

Courtesy of Carol Edward

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, there are more than 200,000 undocumented people living in Washington State. Seattle-based immigration attorney Carol Edward says these men, women and children come from all walks of life.

Over the course of her career, Edward has had undocumented engineers and nurses as clients. One undocumented man who hired her was a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Courtesy of Edwin Martinez

Edwin Martinez runs Onyx Coffee in Bellingham, Washington. The shop is a bit unusual. Martinez calls it "a mad scientist lab" for studying human behavior with coffee.

He sells just coffee and nothing else, not even cream.  The coffee comes straight from his family’s farm in the mountains of northwest Guatemala.

"So if you love coffee, you are just in seventh heaven." said Martinez. "But if you aren't here for the coffee, this is the most disappointing coffee house in America."

Michael Roberts

Hiding in plain sight can be a matter of course for people dealing with addictions; they tend to be really good at masking the need.

 

That was the case for Michael Roberts. He had beer for the first time when he was 15, and worked for years to keep attention away from his alcoholism. He was eventually able to get sober. His last drink was eight years ago.

 

And all those years Michael spent hiding made him an expert when it came to spotting his daughter Amber’s addiction.

 

Tiny Mazes Reveal Risk-Taking Behavior In Microworms

Apr 8, 2017
Courtesy of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

All around us, there are tiny creatures and simple organisms sharing planet Earth, including a type of worm that finds a home in rotting fruit. These microworms are about 1 millimeter long and transparent, barely visible to the human eye. 

Jihong Bai, a neurobiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, uses these microworms in his lab to study how neurons in the brain talk to each other. However, a chance observation of the worms led him to a new discovery about animal behavior.

Courtesy Jody Kuehner

Dancer Jody Kuehner didn't set out to become a female-bodied drag queen, sometimes called a "bio-queen." While collaborating with fellow dancer Ricki Mason in 2008, the two women created personas to push their work to new places and explore their own gender identities. In exploring her own femininity, Jody created her now beloved and award-winning drag persona, Cherdonna Shinatra.

Why Add A Banana To The Passover Table?

Apr 7, 2017

Next week, between 150 and 200 people will gather for a Passover seder at Temple Beth-El in Richmond, Va. When the traditional Passover question is posed — "Why is this night different from all other nights?" — there's a new answer. Guests at the Seder, co-sponsored by the refugee aid agency ReEstablish Richmond, will include about 50 locally resettled immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The Yiddish word schmaltz and its adverb cousin schmaltzy refer to two very divergent concepts: rendered chicken fat — that hard stuff on top of a cold homemade soup — and something that is overly sentimental. When it comes to the foods we love and cherish, there can be no shortage of either.

Earlier this winter, photographer Michael Furtman was driving along the North Shore of Lake Superior in search of great gray owls. Several of the giant, elusive birds had flown down from Canada looking for food.

He pulled off on a dirt road where he had seen an owl the night before. An owl was there, perched in a spruce tree, but a pair of videographers were filming it.

"I backed off; I was going to just let them have their time with the bird," Furtman says. "And then I saw them run out and put a mouse on the snow."

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