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 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.

Credit Gabriel Spitzer

Lois Langrebe has taught Lushootseed for over two decades, a dying language of the Tulalip tribes that she’s struggling to keep from going extinct.

It’s an important role that she never expected to fill while growing up.

A child of adoption, Lois was raised by a white family, knowing little about her origins or the culture of Native Americans. For years she struggled with her identity and finding a place that truly felt like home.

Master Sgt. Kimberly A. Yearyean-Siers / U.S. Air Force

Jeffrey Heckman, from Snohomish, WA, will be the first to tell you life is unpredictable.

In the summer of 2015, while vacationing on San Juan Island with friends and family, Jeff was studying his Bible when, all of a sudden, an intense and unfamiliar pain struck him.  The culprit was an aortic dissection - a tear in the large vein branching off from the heart.  He was airlifted to Providence Medical Center, where renowned surgeon, Dr. James Brevig, prepared to conduct what would be a meticulous 10-hour surgery.  

Courtesy Simone Alicea

Meet a mother and a daughter working through how blood and language have shaped their relationship.

Simone Alicea is a reporter and editor here at KNKX. Her mom Veronica Alicea-Galvan is a King County Superior Court judge. They came together in a Storycorps booth in Chicago to talk about something specific: the bilingual court that Judge Alicea-Galvan used to run in Des Moines, Washington.

But the conversation strayed pretty quickly into this intimate space, where both women learned things about the other they hadn’t known before.

 

Credit Kevin Kniestedt

There are still certain parts of our youth that we identify with and often don’t want to let go of. And the number of subcultures out there that people have come to identify with is expansive. For Jillian Venters, there is little question in her mind as to the subculture she identifies with.

“I’m kind of a romantic goth with Victorian goth tinges. I get more Victorian goth as the weather gets cooler. It is really hard to wear velvet frock coats and top hats during high summer.”

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.

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.

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.

Andrea Morales / S-Town


It all started with an email with the subject line, “John B. McLemore lives in (expletive) Town Alabama.” For reporter Brian Reed, it was a gateway into the long and twisting saga that would become S-Town.

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.

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.

 

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.

Pages