John O'Brien

Producer, Speakers Forum

John O’Brien produces Speakers Forum at KUOW. He learned to love radio as a child waking up one summer morning to the harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel.

As a teenager, he would drive the back roads of Indiana and Michigan late at night listening to vintage radio theater. The question of whether or not he had the legal right to drive then remains a mystery. Only The Shadow knows.

Inspired by a chance meeting with Noah Adams, he learned to make radio as an intern on KUOW’s The Conversation with Ross Reynolds.

John has been recording talks for Speakers Forum since 2007. Early on he learned Seattle is a Mecca for any touring speaker because Seattleites read so much, support a wide variety of venues and ask smart questions. He says that makes his job easy and always interesting.

John is a graduate of St. Johns College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Guns
8:11 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Talking About Gun Violence In King County

A gun violence prevention meeting took place at Seattle City Hall on Wednesday. The event had been planned long in advance, but the recent shooting deaths at Marysville-Pilchuck High School highlight its significance. KUOW’s John O’Brien reports.

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Nuclear Energy
4:25 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

Activist: 'Don't Believe Anything The Nuclear Industry Says'

Two IAEA experts examine recovery work on top of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in April 2013.
Flickr Photo/IAEA Imagebank (CC-BY-NC-ND)

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Physician and anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott calls into question reporting about that event and its aftermath. Her frank assessment of the people who control nuclear power: “Don’t believe anything the nuclear industry says, because they lie.”

What are the effects of the Fukushima meltdowns? In 2013, in response to concerns that media and policy makers were ignoring the impacts, a panel of scientists, engineers and policy experts met in New York to review the aftermath of the disaster. 

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American History
5:13 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr's 'Martyrdom Has Marred His Message'

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his seminal "I Have a Dream" speech.
Credit Public Domain

Americans honor the memory of Reverend Martin Luther King with street, school and place names, a national holiday, and a national monument.

Tavis Smiley appreciates that, but he also knows that many, if not most, Americans can’t quote more than King’s most famous line from his “I Have a Dream” speech. 

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Poetry
4:46 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

A Lyrical Night Of Seattle's Favorite Poems

Robert Pinsky hosted this year's Seattle's Favorite Poems event.
Seattle Town Hall's Facebook page

Today on Speakers Forum: poetic inspiration from your friends, neighbors and other notables.

When Town Hall Seattle opened its doors in March of 1999 ,the first gathering was a celebration of Seattle’s Favorite Poems. The event was part of a national project created and hosted by then-U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. 

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Author Interview
9:47 am
Fri October 3, 2014

Art Helps Heal A Soldier's Combat Trauma

Credit Sean Davis' book "The Wax Bullet War."

When Sean Davis graduated from Oregon’s Sweet Home High School in 1991 he wanted to see the world. He considered joining the Peace Corps, but with no plans for college he wasn't eligible. Unhappy with his grocery store job, Davis finally did what he’d determined not to do: He joined the Army.

For eight years Davis served as an infantryman and military policeman. He traveled the world relatively unscathed and left the Army in 1999. Back home he pursued an interest in painting and tried art school for a year before dropping out. 

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Technology And Culture
10:46 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Peering Into The Future Of Artificial Intelligence

Kismet, the artificial intelligence robot at the MIT museum, can interact and smile at people.
Flickr Photo/Chris Devers (CC-BY-NC-ND)

On the road to a future which promises steady advances in artificial intelligence, what should we expect? What should we be wary of, or hopeful about?

Our guide this week for those questions is Blaise Agüera y Arcas, a software designer currently working on machine intelligence for Google. In his previous work as an engineer at Microsoft his focus included augmented reality, Bing Maps and Bing Mobile, wearable computing and natural user interfaces. As you’ll hear, Agüera y Arcas is insightful and philosophical about the cross sections of science and human culture in our past and future. 

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Author Talk
9:54 am
Fri September 12, 2014

The U.S. Controls More Ocean Than Any Other Nation, So Why Do We Import 91 Percent Of Our Seafood?

Flickr Photo/girl_onthe_les (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Here in the Northwest we take pride in our regional seafood industry, but details about the big picture of seafood distribution may surprise or appall you. Our guest this week on Speakers Forum is Paul Greenberg, author of the book “American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood.”

The U.S., which controls more ocean than any other nation, imports 91 percent of its seafood.

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Author Talk
9:49 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Can The Soil Really Save Us From Climate Change?

Credit Kristin Ohlson's book "The Soil Will Save Us."

This week on Speakers Forum we’ll hear from author Kristin Ohlson. Her new book is "The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet."

In it she sheds light on our understanding of soil and its crucial role in capturing and storing carbon emissions. Ohlson details how changes in how we farm may hold the key to countering global warming.

Ohlson is a freelance journalist and author based in Portland, Ore. She’s written for the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Utne and Salon. Her books include "Stalking the Divine" and "Kabul Beauty School."

Ohlson spoke at The Elliott Bay Book Company on July 28. Thanks to Anna Tatistcheff for this recording. 

Life Story
9:47 am
Fri August 29, 2014

Counterculture Icon Tom Robbins Tells Us Mostly True Stories

Credit Tom Robbins' book "Tibetan Peach Pie"

Today on Speakers Forum best-selling author Tom Robbins returns home to tell some mostly true stories from his new memoir, "Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life."

It starts with 5-year-old “Tommy Rotten” forcing his mother to take dictation, and leads to a very good Tom Clancy impersonation.

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Scary Reads
9:44 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Gone Girl's Gillian Flynn On Becoming A Novelist (And Scaring The Heck Out Of People)

Credit Gillian Flynn's novel, "Gone Girl."

Welcome to the scary summer reading edition of Speakers Forum. This week you’ll be encouraged by our guest Gillian Flynn to read her best-selling novel, "Gone Girl," before the movie comes out in October.

You’ll hear her read the duly infamous “cool girl” passage, and learn the gritty details of her unusual writing technique. And as an added bonus, you’ll get Seattle writer Maria Semple’s take on the Flynn phenomenon.

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Health Care
12:33 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Senator Murray Focused On Countering Hobby Lobby Ruling

Senator Patty Murray.
Credit Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Free contraceptive coverage is mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

But in the landmark Hobby Lobby decision last June, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations are exempt from the law if the owners object on religious grounds.

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Author Interview
10:30 am
Fri August 8, 2014

The History Behind One Of The Most Contentious Amendments

Credit Michael Waldman's book "The Second Amendment: A Biography"

Most Americans don’t question an individual’s right to own a gun, with certain exceptions. But in an age when senseless public shootings make frequent headlines, many question the limits of gun ownership. 

And though a large majority of Americans say they support expanded background checks for gun ownership, Congress can’t come to any agreement on possible legislation.

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Science And History
10:53 am
Fri August 1, 2014

The Amazing Human Stories That Made Modern Neuroscience Possible

Credit Flickr Photo/Giulia Forsythe

Human beings have wondered how our brains work for millennia. And we haven’t been afraid to knock about in there to find out. There is evidence that trepanation, the surgical practice of drilling a hole into the skull in order to cure headaches or mental disorders, was performed in Neolithic times, just at the tail end of the Stone Age. Ouch!

According to author Sam Kean, the stories of people who survived terrible brain disease and injury are at the heart of how modern neuroscience advanced. Kean spoke at Town Hall Seattle on May 20.

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Ignite Seattle
11:19 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Passionate Topic, Packed Auditorium, Five Minutes - Go!

At Ignite Seattle 24 Seijen Takamura asks, "Can bicycles be lonely?"
Flickr Photo/Randy Stewart (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Since 2006, Ignite Seattle has given Puget Sounders the opportunity to share their insights into a topic they’re passionate about. It’s the prototype for what has become an international event.

The concept is simple. Have a great idea? Share it. The only catch? You have to do it in front of a packed auditorium, in five minutes.

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Storytelling
10:46 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Rebecca Solnit On The Power Of A Story

Author Rebecca Solnit.
Flickr Photo/Shawn Calhoun (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Human beings have been drawn to stories for thousands of years. They captivate us. We yearn for them — “tell the one about … ” — ad infinitum. Sometimes we get the story right. Sometimes not. Stories break. Stories change. And sometimes it helps to turn a story upside down.

Our guest is writer and historian Rebecca Solnit. Her books explore ecology, landscape, community, art and politics.

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