Gabriel Spitzer | KNKX

Gabriel Spitzer

Sound Effect Host and 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

Bonnie and Gerry Gibson named their nonprofit after their son, Greg "Gibby" Gibson.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Bonnie Gibson says her son Greg’s musical talent emerged very early on. 

“I could just see from a young age that he had unusual rhythm. Which, now, I go, did I really want those drums in my basement?” she said. “But it was cute and fun to see a little kid kind of find himself.”

Greg did find himself in music. By high school, he was already involved in the business side, booking bands.  

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Ivanonva Smith spent the first chunk of her life in an institutional orphanage in Soviet-controlled Latvia. She doesn’t remember having any friends or toys, or anything to do. 

“I would just stare at a light and watch the little floaters, those little floaters you get in your eyes, and that was my entertainment,” she said. 

Ivanova was born with intellectual and developmental disabilities. By the time she was adopted at age 5, she still didn’t speak. She says she had no understanding of concepts like “family,” and had to be taught how to play with toys. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Our latest episode of Sound Effect revolves around the theme, "It's Only Money." We'll meet a couple who tried to get rich flipping houses, decades before it was cool. We'll find out how a teenage blunder left Mike Lewis with a debt he could never repay, and how he reapid it anyway. A small town prints its own money, on pieces of wood. A Seattle writer considers a complicated inheritance: what she learned about money from her parents. And a group of friends order a round of drinks ... and fiasco ensues. 

Leila Marie Ali

 

Leila Marie Ali was always the thriftiest one in her family. 

Her dad is generous to a fault, always quick to dispense bills to a person on the street or send a chunk of his taxi driver earnings to relatives back in Somalia and Yemen. 

“I remember thinking, this man is taking care of what felt to me like an entire village in two countries, and not taking care of us as well as he could be,” Leila says.  

Courtesy Kacie Rahm

This story originally aired on Janary 5, 2019.

When someone eats something that gives them food poisoning, they probably know it when it hits them. It usually comes with stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. The lingering effects can result in a short-term lack of appetite, and perhaps the desire to avoid eating the type of food that made them sick in the first place.

Typically, everything returns to normal after a while. But for Kacie Rahm, her bout with food poisoning had some long-term consequences. In fact, for the better part of a year when she was 11 and 12, she ate hardly anything at all.

Jack Gunter

 

This story originally aired on Janary 5, 2019.

Northwest artist Jack Gunter uses an ancient painting technique called egg tempera — a mixture of dry pigment and egg yolk. The paint can last for centuries, but it does have one downside. “Six or seven different species of animals will eat my paintings,” he says.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 

This story originally aired on Janary 5, 2019.  

Eating an egg and a banana at the same time can kill you. Some lady found a fried rat in her bucket of chicken. That scone contains the anal secretions of beavers.

Wait — did you “Snopes” that?

Personal Collection of Sidney Rittenberg, via Stourwater Pictures

 

 

Sidney Rittenberg was a singular figure — an American who was a close associate of Mao Zedong, who held high-ranking positions in the Chinese Communist Party, who was on the inside during some of the most important events of the 20th century. 

 

And Gregory Youtz was meeting him for lunch. 

 

The nucleus is blue.
Courtesy of Dr. J. Lee Nelson and Coline Gentil

Not all of the cells in your body actually belong to you. Some cells might be from your mother, passed to you from when you were in utero. If you had children, their cells passed into your body the same way.

Researchers say that this can sometimes even be true for women who have a miscarriage in the second trimester or later, or who decided to terminate a pregnancy. 

This phenomenon is called microchimerism. So, what are these cells doing in our bodies? Scientists are just scratching the surface of this and what they are finding is incredibly fascinating.

Jack Archibald

 

 

The Rev. Chumleigh wasn’t exactly a regular at meetings of the Camano Island Chamber of Commerce. 

He’s a vaudeville entertainer who, at various times, has been known to walk tightropes, eat fire and get shot out of cannons. He’s also an irascible political lefty — in short, an odd fit for the business group. 

Bill Bernat

 

 

Bill Bernat jokes that he used to be secretly arrogant — so secretly, that he didn’t even know it himself. 

 

“I didn't realize how crazy my behavior was at the time,” he said. 

 

That included things like starting meetings at work with angry outbursts at people who didn’t deserve it. 

 

Jennifer Wing / KNKX

 

Getting out of prison is a chance to make a fresh start. But people who’ve paid their debt to society often find there’s another debt hanging over their heads. And that can be a huge hindrance to getting life back on track.

 

It’s called a legal financial obligation, or LFO. These are fees imposed on criminal defendants. Some help pay for running the court. Some are for restitution to the victim. Some are simply for punishment.

 

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 

David Trainer was helping out at an encampment for homeless people when he first met Ivan Dempsey. Ivan had a dog. David had a dog. It was cold: David offered gloves, and Ivan accepted hand warmers. They had a friendly interaction, though nothing out of the ordinary. 

 

On the way back home, out of nowhere, David had a thought: “What would it be like to have Ivan move in with me?” he said. “I know that’s crazy talk. I don’t know the guy, he’s a stranger.” 

 

If you know someone who lives in Tacoma, it’s likely they have made one thing clear to you: they love Tacoma, and are very territorial about it.

And make no mistake, Marguerite Martin loves, and probably always will love, Tacoma.

Bremerton Housing Authority

 


Seattle was the nation’s fastest-growing big city over the past decade, having swelled by over 20 percent. But that pales — proportionately, at least — in comparison with Bremerton in the 1940s. 

 

Bremerton’s population was 15,134, according to the 1940 census. Five years later it had more than quintupled, to more than 82,000. 

 

Courtesy of Yeung family

 


By the time they were 10 and 12, the Yeung sisters had been on national TV, gotten a personal tour of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and had a face-to-face meeting with President Barack Obama. 

 

This early notoriety followed their forays into space exploration — or at least, space-adjacent. Rebecca, now 14, and Kimberly, now 12, had visited the stratosphere three times with their Loki Lego Launcher, a homemade weather-balloon-borne science probe. 

Gabriel Spitzer

This story originally aired on October 27, 2018.   

When Caroline Garry first noticed she had a problem with perfection, she was in her bedroom closet scrubbing down a pair of white leather Nikes. Caroline was in seventh grade, and like a lot of kids she had gotten attached to a new pair of school shoes. But unlike a lot of kids, Caroline would come home from school every single day and clean them. In hiding. Whether they were dirty or not.

"I just felt this compulsion. I needed to."

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

This story originally aired on October 27, 2018. 

The expectations for Elise Ray Statz were enormous.

These days she is the head coach of the University of Washington women's gymnastics team. But back in 2000, she was captain of the USA Olympic team, and that team’s job was to win gold in Sydney, Australia.

Courtesy of Kate Noble

 

This story originally aired on October 20, 2018.

Kate Noble says she knew at a young age that her family was dysfunctional.

 

“Many layers of conflict. Maternal, psychiatric dysfunction, absentee father,” Noble recalled.

 

Help came to Noble in the form of a dream. She was three and a half years old.

 

This story originally aired on October 20, 2018.

Growing up in Taiwan, Dean Huang always knew he wanted to study abroad, especially after visiting cousins that had immigrated to Boston. “It’s just that Taiwan is really small, and I feel like I can maximize my potential and challenge myself to receive a different education.”

 

This story originally aired on October 20, 2018.

This Danish tooth-maker became a dream therapist, at the urging of his Jewish Unitarian minister wife. As one does.

OK, better back up. For Flemming Behrend, his career as a dental technician was something that he loved. He hand-made artificial and prosthetic teeth, shaping porcelin and pigments into lifelike choppers. He appreciated the art of it, and the satisfaction that came from delighting his patients. 

Matt Kaeberlein, Ph.D., with his silver Keeshond Chloe, 14, and his German Shepherd Dobby, 8. Betty, a black mixed-breed around 13-15 years of age, is unpictured.
Courtesy of Kaeberlein

Researcher Matt Kaeberlein runs the Kaeberlein Lab at the University of Washington, where he and his team studies the biology of aging. Their goal is ambitious: to learn the biological mechanisms behind what makes people get "old," and then to find interventions that would actually slow the rate of aging.

They'd like to increase the human healthspan, or the period of life spent free from disease. And, for that matter, they'd like to extend the canine healthspan, too.

Courtesy of Obie Pressman

 

The ad read, “Help wanted with chores around the house, heavy lifting and going for walks.” 

 

It was the late 1990s, and Obie Pressman needed the work, even if the ad wasn’t especially illuminating. 

 

“It struck me as a little odd," he said. "I knew I wasn’t getting the whole story.” 

 

Courtesy of Laureen Nussbaum

 

On a dark and rainy afternoon, Sound Effect producer Jennifer Wing and I meet Laureen Nussbaum in the lobby of a retirement home in North Seattle. Laureen is a petite woman. She is 92 years old, and insists on helping us with our gear. 

 

Laureen opens her arms to receive one of our bags, “Can I carry something?” she asks.

 

Jennifer hands over her coat and with that, Laureen glides up an enormous spiral staircase as we speed up a bit to keep up with her.

 

Courtesy of Katie Morgan


It started out like any other underwater volunteer shift — scattering food for the salmon and perch, then diving down deeper to hand feed the rockfish, sturgeon and other species who make their home in the 400,000-gallon tank. 

 

Craig Egan

 

This story originally aired on Oct. 14, 2018.  

Craig Egan, who lives in Tacoma, stumbled into an obsession kind of by accident. It happened on FaceBook.

 

“A friend of mine posted some graph that had an anti-vax slant to it. At that point I had no idea that this was a thing,” Craig remembers.

 

To say Joe Petosa Jr. and his family are into accordions would not be doing them justice. The Petosa Accordion company goes back almost 100 years, when Carlo Petosa started hand crafting accordions in his Seattle basement. That tradition was passed down to Carlos’s son, Joe Petosa, then to his grandson, Joe Jr., and now onto his great grandson, Joe the third. The custom instruments they make are sought after all over the world.

Agnes Bodor

 

As a kid, Agnes Bodor had a few unusual interests.

“I was really crazy about books about illnesses, you know, images of skin rashes and things like that,” Agnes said.

One day she spotted a small microscope in a store window, and longed to have it. That was unrealistic, considering that her family was poor and living under the Communist government in Hungary. But one day, a family friend with no children of his own stopped by Agnes’s house, and presented her with a small box.

Almin Zrno

 

This story originally aired Oct. 13, 2018.  

In the early 1990s, Gino Jevdjevic was living the typical life of a Yugoslavian popstar.

He signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans. He wore his hair in a ponytail and crooned schmaltzy melodies.

These days, Gino has a shaved head, a multitude of tattoos and a long, grey-streaked beard. He lives in Seattle, and his music is closer to metal or “Gypsy Punk” than it is to pop.

View through one of the look out towers at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

 

In the late 1800s, the U.S. government constructed three state-of-the-art defense systems: Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island and Fort Worden in nearby Port Townsend. They were built to thwart possible intruders from entering Puget Sound.

 

“The three of them in combination form this triangle, which has come to be called the triangle of fire,” said Sam Wotipka, who works for Washington State Parks.

 

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