Sound Effect

Saturdays at 10 a.m.

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

Sound Effect is on iTunes. Subscribe to our podcast.

Got a story idea? Email us!

Ways to Connect

Barry Sweet / AP Photo

If you're in your 20s, it might be difficult to imagine, but there was a time when there was no web to browse, no Internet to access, and when few people outside of an academic setting had an email address.

This was in the early 1990s.

By the mid-90s, the internet was becoming available to the general public. There was a lot of buzz about it. On late night TV in 1995, David Letterman famously asked Microsoft founder Bill Gates about "this internet thing."

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Children who have been victimized often have to tell their stories to strangers – detectives or advocates working on their behalf, as well as attorneys working for their alleged abuser. And giving testimony in a criminal trial is stressful in the best of cases. But imagine that child could reach down and put her hand on a warm, gentle dog at her feet, to feel comforted and secure and, hopefully, composed enough to provide the facts necessary for getting justice. That’s what a foundation in Bellevue is working to provide.

Centrum Foundation

When Stuart Dempster learned about the empty two-million gallon water tank on the Olympic Peninsula, he had one thought: he had to make music there. Dempster is a well-known composer and trombonist, an emeritus professor at the University of Washington with a longstanding interest in recording music out in unusual spaces.

Photo provided by Rhianon England

Rhianon England has NF2, a disease that causes non-cancerous tumors to grow throughout the nervous system. Recently, a tumor returned on her auditory nerve and she wants it out. If doctors remove this tumor she will lose the rest of her hearing, but if they don't she could suffer from facial paralysis.

Kenneth Piekarski

A lot of kids grow up wanting to make it in show business and Seattle filmmaker Claire Buss was no different. Buss says she was practically raised by TV and she loved every second of it. She especially loved those morning game shows. As a kid, Buss even made up elaborate games for her sisters to play inspired by shows like "The Price is Right" and "Figure It Out."

Arthur Mola / InvisionAP

This week on Sound Effect, it's earworms. We share some recent stories that we just can't get out of our head.

Homeless Internet Helpers

mf821-03188616a / Flickr

This week on Sound Effect, you are what you eat. We bring stories of food, and how it intersects with identity.

We Eat War

ElmerGuevara / Wikimedia Commons

For Claudia Castro Luna, nothing transports her back to her native El Salvador more quickly, and more vividly, than then pupusa. It’s the unofficial national dish of El Salvador, consisting of a think corn tortilla wrapped around a rich filling.

But for Castro Luna, Seattle’s first civic poet, the pupusa contains more than pork, cheese and beans. It contains the history of the country of her birth, and of her journey away from it.

Courtosey of Hachette Book Group

 

Seattle-based writer Lindy West writes a lot about culture and feminism. She’s called out comedians for telling rape jokes. She’s shouted her abortion and she’s faced down many, many internet trolls. She’s written and thought a lot about her body. She went from feeling ashamed of being heavy – she usually uses the term fat – to accepting who she is, without hesitation.

Courtesy of Hsaio-Ching Chou

For many immigrant families, food is a way to both stay connected to their culture, and a way to survive. For the Chou family, opening a restaurant seemed like the only way to make ends meet in small town Columbia, Missouri.

When they opened Chinese Delicacies in 1980, Hsiao-Ching Chou was only 8 years old. The restaurant defined her childhood, even inspiring her career later as a food writer in Seattle.

For the family, it defined their American experience. They developed a menu that appealed to American tastes and later bowed to customer demand and installed a buffet. 

(courtesy Nancy Leson)

Nancy Leson, half of KPLU's  Food for Thought duo, has been in the food industry for a long time. But some of her earliest memories of food come from bars -- not as an employee, but as a patron — a six-year-old patron. 

Leson grew up in Philadelphia, in a time and place where children were allowed to belly up to bars and eat Slim Jims and pickled eggs, or order a Coke with loads of  Maraschino cherries. 

The reason Leson wound up in those bars was that that was where she would find her mother. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Everyone’s got a favorite food. But how about a favorite crop? 

Dr. Stephen Jones, director of Washington State University's Bread Lab in Mt. Vernon, loves wheat. A lot.

"The sheer beauty of the crop in a field like this ... you can almost hear the voices in it — the voices of the tradition, the voices of the people that came before us into this crop," said Jones. "I don't get that when I walk into a lettuce field, but I do in wheat."

Ariel Van Cleave / KPLU

The town of Lynden, Washington sits just to the south of the U.S.-Canadian border.  It's a small town of about 13,000 people.  

Lynden is also home to the Lynden Dutch Bakery (which makes a tasty short cake), Darigold (maker of cream, both ice and whipped), and of course, acres of berry farms.

Lynden just turned 125 years old recently, and to celebrate, folks there decided they needed a birthday cake — but not just any cake cake would do for such a celebration.  They wanted a really big birthday cake — one that would highlight all that Lynden had to offer.

Courtesy of Harley Lever

This week on Sound Effect, we have stories of how neighborhoods in the Puget Sound region coexist with homelessness and indigence.

Gabriel Spitzer

Harley Lever is from Boston, but he fell in love with Seattle while working at as a fisherman in Puget Sound. So nearly 10 years ago, he moved into a little condo in the Interbay neighborhood with his girlfriend.

When they bought their home in 2007, they thought the neighborhood was on the rise. However, Lever says things started to change in 2013. He saw more and more people living in old school buses and RVs parked along neighborhood streets. Then came the heroin needles.

"It was common to come across 100 needles walking to the Ballard Locks," says Lever.

Jennifer Wing

 

If you’re lucky, you know who lives next door, and you like them. Hopefully, the feeling is mutual. In an ideal world, neighbors look out for each other. But, of course, not everyone is so fortunate.

What if you live next door to a nightmare? The place where drug deals go down? Where there always seems to be a party going on at three in the morning? The house where domestic violence happens and fights break out? The home that police visit — a lot?

philosophygeek/Flickr

Public inebriation is not limited to Tacoma. It happens everywhere. But in 2001, Tacoma was the first city in the state to develop what they called an Alcohol Impact Area. Nowadays, there are many of these Alcohol Impact Areas in Washington state. They exist in Olympia, Spokane, and Pioneer Square, but the first in the state started in an area that makes up Tacoma’s Downtown and Hilltop neighborhoods.

Seattle King County Health Department Photograph Files / King County Archives

Tensions have long existed between housed and homeless neighbors in the Northwest.

At the turn of the century, the region was home to many transient workers employed by the lumber, mining or fishing industries. Many of these early Seattleites lived in unstable conditions or in single-room-occupancy hotels. When the Great Depression hit the Northwest, they were forced out on to the streets.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

To some residents in the Seattle neighborhood of Magnolia, things seem to be going downhill. They point to a rise in the number of homeless people living in RVs parked on their streets, and along with it, increases in property crime, blight and disorder. So earlier this year, a group of neighbors pitched in to hire a private security service to patrol the neighborhood.

(Wikipedia Commons/Vinodtiwari2608)

This week Sound Effect brings us stories of the pursuit.

You're It

Tag Brothers

There are lots of games we all played in the schoolyard when we were kids — foursquare, tetherball, maybe some capture the flag if there was  enough time before the bell rang. Some of us just can’t let go.

 

There’s a group of middle-aged men, here in the Northwest,  who play an intense game of tag for the entire month of February, every year. They’ve been playing the game for decades.

 

courtesy Ted Griffin and Jason Colby

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.

Courtesy of David Liston

David Liston finds people who don't want to be found. That's part of the job -- Liston is principal at David Liston Investigations, a private investigation firm based in University Heights. But this case was different. Liston was looking for a man believed to be homeless in the Seattle area in order to give him a message: You stand to inherit millions of dollars. 

Warren Langford

The recent public conversations about gender identity and transgender people have tended to focus on bodies: biological sex versus gender identity, the clothes people wear, what bathrooms they use. But one issue that has gotten less attention is the intersection of gender and voice. Even as trans people work to look like the person they are inside, some find that they still sound like someone else.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A warning that this interview deals with some very difficult subject matter: the exploitation of children. It is not suitable for children and some adults may find it difficult to hear. 

It's heroic to dedicate your life to chasing bad guys and putting them behind bars. However, that pursuit of criminal activity can come with a lot of traumatic experiences and deep psychological wounds.

Alexander Synaptic / Flickr

This week Sound Effect brings us stories of coming out of the darkness.

‘Bathed In Light’

Imagine being in a cramped, sunless space for three whole months and then emerging into the light. That’s exactly what Petty Officer Steve Watkins experiences at the end of a submarine patrol at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. To kick off our show, he tells us about climbing the 20-foot ladder toward the pinprick of light at the top, and bursting out into fresh air. “It’s just the most amazing experiences,” he said, “just to be bathed in light.”

Courtesy of The Blind Cafe

This week on Sound Effect our theme is “Out of the Darkness,” but KPLU’s Ed Ronco and Ariel Van Cleave found that going into the darkness can shed a lot of light on the world around you, and even your own personality.

The Blind Café is a pop-up event that travels the country, offering guests the chance to have dinner in the dark. Not candlelight. Not a dimly lit room. We’re talking total, 100 percent, pitch black.

Courtesy of Jenny Heddin

Mental illness has long carried a stigma in society. In 2015, Olympia resident Jenny Heddin found herself face to face with the consequences of that.

The year started off great for Jenny. She had just gotten married to the love of her life. Matt Heddin was a wetlands biologist, a nature lover, and a caring partner. In early 2015, Matt and Jenny had a baby on the way.

Courtesy of Jason Schmidt

Jason Schmidt was three years old when police barged into his house and arrested his father for selling cocaine. “That was a very confusing evening for me,” said Schmidt, a Seattle author. It turned out to be just one episode in a chaotic childhood, where love and warmth mingled with drugs, violence and crime.

(Credit Gabriel Spitzer)

Kristi Hamilton had hit rock bottom. After the passing of her mother, repossession of her house, and a long stretch of severe drug and alcohol abuse, she found herself homeless. She found herself sleeping anywhere she could — a friend's house, her car, shelters, or behind a grocery store. But between a renewed faith and winning what is the equivalent of a lottery ticket if you are homeless, Hamilton pulled herself out of the darkness, and returned to a life filled with sobriety and a roof over her head.

Pages