Sound Effect | KNKX

Sound Effect

When it comes to mental illness, which reality is real?

Apr 27, 2019

I’ve been on and off drugs for decades — the pharmaceutical kind, for my brain. When I was 13 or 14 years old, and before my doctors looked too closely, the diagnosis was garden-variety depression and generalized anxiety disorder, aka “you have a lot of panic attacks and we’re not entirely sure why.”

Doctoral student David Caldwell
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX



The science of prosthetics has come a long way from the crude wood-and-metal devices of earlier generations. Bioengineers have even developed artificial limbs that can be operated by the user’s mind.

Now, a team at the University of Washington’s Center for Neurotechnology is working to take that one step further: engineering a device — say, a prosthetic arm — that can actually deliver the sensation of touch.

South Sound reporter Will James (left) and Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer earned Edward R. Murrow awards in two categories: Feature Reporting and News Documentary, respectively.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

KNKX Public Radio has earned two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for coverage in 2018. The awards, announced Tuesday morning, were received in News Documentary and Feature Reporting categories from the Radio Television Digital News Association.

Michael Stravato / Associated Press

Back in the early 1980s, many people in El Salvador wanted an escape from poverty. They were trying to get the government to adopt policies that would redistribute that country’s wealth.

To the United States, these policies looked like communism.

Public Domain



In spite of the cranes on the skyline, there are still a few visible markers of Seattle as it was — old houses, old alleyways, a pergola that’s been knocked down but always gets put back up. The people who live here or visit always seem to be reaching out to grasp it, that oldness. I felt like that too, when I moved to Seattle a decade ago. I wanted to know what it was like then. Whenever then was.

I began gobbling up materials, skulking through digital archives. But I found that there are not enough books or stories or grainy photos of Seattle to really scratch that itch. A person who wants to know how Seattle used to be will always be left wanting more. When I asked around about how I could get my hit of history, I heard the same advice, over and over: the Underground Tour.

Credit Hanna Brooks Olsen

When you revise history, it can go either way: You can nudge the story a little further away from the truth, or you can correct the mistakes in and omissions from the historical record. On today's show, we have a bit of both. 

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum



What if history cast someone you admire as the villain?

If you’re Edward Nixon, longtime resident of Lynnwood, Washington, you spend your life telling the parts of the story that don’t wind up in the textbooks.

Sup Pop CEO Megan Jasper having fun in the 1990s.
Courtesy of Sub Pop Records



Back in the early 1990s, all eyes were on Seattle. The local music scene was exploding. The young, flannel-wearing creatives of the Northwest had given birth to a new genre of music called grunge.


This week on Sound Effect, we share stories some of areas that can be unclear from time to time. We start by talking to a former Seattle resident who moved to a sister city in Ireland where the weather is also gray. Next, we talk to a reporter and a retired judge about an article that was written about the judge’s ruling that let a sex offender go.

Jennifer Wing


This story originally aired on March 10, 2018.

Sometimes, our legal system can be a confusing mash up of laws and paperwork. The people whose job it is to sort through all of this to find some clarity are judges. Sometimes, they make decisions that aren’t very popular. One of these cases happened in Seattle, back in March, 2013.


UW Center for Philosophy for Children

This story originally aired on March 10, 2018.

There are times in life when the answers aren't black and white. 

Your friend is getting married, and asks you to be best man--but you don't approve of his fiancee. Should you speak up about your reservations? Should you be quiet and agree to be best man? 

You suspect that wearing makeup might help your advancement at work, but you also suspect that sexism is at play. Should you put on that lipstick?

Some employers reject job applicants because they smoke. Is that right?

Xiao Zhou

This story originally aired on March 10, 2018.   

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.


Courtesy of Elliot Cossum


This story originally aired on March 10, 2018.  

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


Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

This story originally aired on March 10, 2018.   

Gray hair is one of the inevitable timestamps of life, and Ashley Gross has noticed a few springing up on her head lately. Or rather, her kids have noticed, and enjoy pointing them out. This didn't seem like such a big deal, until she noticed that there tend to be relatively few prominent women who let their gray show.

Hair colorants are a multi-billion dollar industry that seems to target women's insecurities about aging. They also reinforce a strain in our culture that diminishes older women.

Courtesy of Jennie Heideman

One evening in July 2017 in Spokane, Jennie Heideman was scrolling through Facebook when a post jumped out at her. It said a family with two little kids needed shelter for the night.

The family that needed help was a couple with an infant and young child. They were living in a broken down car. The weather was very hot. Daytime temperatures were well into the 90s. This family had moved to Spokane to start a new life. They had jobs, but they also had debts they were trying to pay down. They couldn’t get any traction.

two sons of Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

We start by hearing from host Gabriel Spitzer's sons, who talk about the challenges and empathy that come with being older and younger brothers. Then, a woman shares experiences and lessons learned from her older brother, who has bipolar disorder. Next, a woman makes a career out of helping kids who have Down syndrome. Finally, a young man finds a journal his brother kept in middle school, and writes a poem for him.  

Dr. Rebecca Partidge (left) talks with Michelle Peterson (right) and her son, Jack, during a recent checkup.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Kids travel from as far as Spokane to see Dr. Rebecca Partridge at her clinic in Issaquah. Caring for people with Down syndrome, and their families, is her mission.

Six years ago, she started the clinic with Virginia Mason Hospital. It’s the only one of its kind in the Northwest, focusing on the unique medical needs of children with Down syndrome, a chromosomal disorder.

Israel Joyner
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX



Israel Joyner grew up in a family of five boys, which he describes as basically like a herd of crazed cats.

“Imagine they zoom down the hallway clawing every single wall, with colored pencil, holes, whatever they can do. That was my house,” Israel says.


Courtesy of Jennie Heideman



One evening in July 2017 in Spokane, Jennie Heideman was scrolling through Facebook when a post jumped out at her. It said a family with two little kids needed shelter for the night.



Xolie Morra Cogley is a musician in Seattle, and leader of the band Xolie Morra and the Strange Kind.

“I’ve always been into music since I was very little," Cogley says. "And so music, I think, really helped to move me in a more social direction, because I didn’t really do a lot of talking when I was little. But I developed a communication skill using music that helped me fit into certain groups. So I didn’t have to have conversations. I was just playing music.”

Wikipedia Commons/Loozrboy

We start with a man translating traditional blues into Yiddish. Next, we join "the Jane Goodall of the whales," as she eavesdrops on orcas. Then, an effort is made to rethink how an endangered native language should look on the page.

Courtesy of Ilan Speizer


The American Blues is a genre born of suffering — of oppression, heartbreak and hard work. It originated in African-American communities of the Deep South, but it all sounds very familiar to Jewish Seattleite Ilan Speizer.

Tulalip Lushootseed Department



About a decade ago, Juliet Shen took on dream project. Shen, a typeface designer and artist, was commissioned by the Tulalip Tribes to create a new font specifically for Lushootseed, the now endangered language used by most of the coast Salish tribes. Shen isn’t Native American, but she often thought about the disconnect between Western typeface design and indigenous cultures.

Protesters, including Bryce Green, 12, center, make the raised-fist "Black Power" sign as they take part in a Black Lives Matter protest march, Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

We start with a man who is fighting for better access to sidewalks for people with mobility issues. Next, the story of a man who started the first Black Panther chapter outside of California when he was 17. Then, a couple of activists take on a dictator, and pay the ultimate price.

Despite Seattle’s reputation as a progressive place, it has a complicated history to reckon with. One chapter of the city’s story is branded with a racist caricature — which pervaded the region beyond the restaurant the image represented: the Coon Chicken Inn.

Sister Judy Byron (in blue, at left) having a dialogue with board members of Merck Pharmeceuticals in New York at the Interfaith Center.
courtesy of Judy Byron

When Judy Byron became a nun, she thought she'd spend her life wearing a habit and teaching school. And she did do that, for a while. But then an opportunity came along to make an impact in a different way.

Sister Judy became a shareholder. A shareholder in pursuit of justice.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Conrad Reynoldson isn’t looking to go far. Specifically, he’d like to cross the residential stretch of NE 44th Street right next to his office. It’s about 15 feet.

Reynoldson lives with Muscular Dystrophy and navigates the world in a power chair, which makes that quick crossing a lot more complicated.


Courtesy of Elmer Dixon

When Elmer Dixon was growing up in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood in the early 1960s, the neighborhood was incredibly diverse. In the playground across the street from his house you could find every kind of kid.

“Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, black, white, Latino,” Elmer recalled.



This episode orignally aired on February 24, 2018.  


This story originally aired on June 30, 2018.