Speakers Forum | KUOW News and Information

Speakers Forum

Thursday, 11:00 p.m. - midnight on KUOW

Sarah Vowell, Gloria Steinem, Michael Pollan: you can't make it to every lecture in town but you can hear plenty here. We record talks all over the Puget Sound region, from uber–famous intellectuals to lesser–knowns. From soldiers to urban farmers to humorists; we tape it, then air it on Speakers Forum.

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Islamic scholar David Fenner, Zaki Abdelhamid of Humanities Washington and editorial cartoonist Milt Priggee at a Think & Drink discussion concerning the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.
Courtesy of David Haldeman

Just over a month ago, on the morning of Jan. 7, two men stormed the offices of the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people.

In quick response, much of the world condemned the attack as a senseless act of terrorism. Within a day the slogan "Je Suis Charlie" became a widespread symbol of freedom of expression against radical extremism.

A panel discussion on regional sex trafficking featuring (left to right): Zan Brookshire, Peter Qualliotine, Dan Satterberg, Robert Beiser, David Arkless, Mar Brettman, Pete Holmes, Noel Gomez and Valiant Richey.
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

King County and Seattle are looked to as leaders in the effort to prevent sex trafficking. But according to Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg the county has over 100 websites facilitating the sale of sex.

A recent Seattle research survey conducted over a 24-hour period counted 8,700 online postings and responses concerning men seeking commercial sex. 

Author Wes Moore takes questions at an event with the American Library Association in January 2014.
Flickr Photo/ALA (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Troubled youth to Rhodes Scholar.

U.S. Army paratrooper to White House fellow.

Wall Street banker to author and television host.

That’s a brief synopsis of the life path of Wes Moore, so far. He came to fame in 2010 when his first book “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” became a New York Times best seller. 

In the post-WWII period, 40 percent of Americans were private sector union members. That number is now below 7 percent.

The reasons behind this drastic decline are hotly disputed. Union supporters say greedy corporations, helped by politicians, have worked systematically to bust the movement. Detractors say leadership corruption, improved labor laws and global competition served to make unions less relevant over time.  

American soldiers in presence of gas, 42nd division. Essey, France. September 20, 1918.
Flickr Photo/Otis Historical Archives (CC-BY-NC-ND)

To mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, University of Washington professor Robin McCabe planned a series she calls “Music from the War to End All Wars.”

The debut event includes professor Robert Stacey’s talk ,“A Gathering Storm? Artistic Crisis and the Coming of the First World War.” 

Musician and author James McBride.
Flickr Photo/American Library Association (CC-BY-NC-ND)

As you listen to this episode of Speakers Forum, keep in mind that author James McBride gave this talk without any notes. In it he riffs on his family, career, books and life in America with thoughtful, humorous and inspiring improvisation.

Walter Benjamin in 1928.
Wikimedia Commons

Walter Benjamin was a radical German philosopher and critic. In the 1920s and 30s his fascination with new technology lead him to create a series of radio broadcasts. No recordings of those broadcasts remain. We don’t even know what Benjamin sounded like, though it has been said he was a talented performer. Benjamin, who was Jewish, committed suicide in 1940 when he became trapped in his attempt to escape the Nazis.

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

Did you know E.B. White was fired by the Seattle Times in 1923? You’ll learn about that and other curiosities in this Yuletide episode of Speakers Forum.

It features stories by White, John Updike, Ken Kesey, Vladimir Nabokov and a spoof on Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

Our faithful rogues included Paul Dorpat, Jean Sherrard, Randy Hoffmeyer, Marianne Owen, David Skovar and Seattle indie American band Pineola.

In a 48-hour period this past October the number of states that allow same-sex marriage nearly doubled. As of this writing, thirty-five states allow same-sex couples to marry legally. Courts made that decision in twenty-four states. Legislatures made the call in another eight. And in three states, including Washington, the decision went to voters.

Marc Solomon has an extensive background in advocacy and public policy, but he wasn’t a natural pick to help lead the campaign to make same-sex marriage a reality. In his book, “Winning Marriage,” he tells the story of how a seemingly impossible goal — to win the freedom to marry for all Americans — came near reality in such a short period of time.

Protestors rally Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 to protest the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by police in Ferguson, Mo.Protestors rally Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 to protest the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by police in Ferguson, Mo.
AP Photo/Sid Hastings

Seattle attorney Jeff Robinson recently addressed a gathering at the University Of Washington School Of Law. It had been just over a week since a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.

Robinson titled his talk "You Can Observe a Lot Just by Watching: The Killing of Michael Brown and the Transparent Grand Jury Investigation." 

In June, KUOW Speakers Forum featured an event titled, “Exposing the Truth of U.S. Torture,” during which Brigadier General David R. Irvine lambasted U.S. torture practices abroad.

“If these kinds of practices were used by another nation on American serviceman, who were captives, who were prisoners of war, we as a nation would not tolerate it,” he said.

Author Ruth Ozeki.
Flickr Photo/Kris Krug (CC-BY-NC-ND)

If you’re driving a car or operating other heavy machinery when you listen to this Speakers Forum podcast, we hope you’ll pull over for the guided meditation portion. But don’t be alarmed. This talk is more likely to invigorate and inspire you than put you under a spell. And it may change forever how you react when your smart phone vibrates with some bit of news.

Thomas Jefferson memorial in Washington, D.C.
Flickr Photo/Wally Gobetz (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Time travel is a perennial fascination. Where would you go? Who would you meet? The website Ranker places Thomas Jefferson in the top ten of popular figures, just behind Winston Churchill and ahead of John Kennedy. 

Our guest in this episode of Speakers Forum is adept at a kind of time travel. Clay Jenkinson inhabited the role of President Thomas Jefferson at Town Hall Seattle on November 22. He was joined by the Saint Michael Trio for a performance of chamber music popular during Jefferson’s lifetime, including works by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, who were Jefferson’s contemporaries.

Dr. Cornel West.
Flickr Photo/J&R Music World (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Are you caught in an egocentric predicament? You’ll be asked to consider such a question in this episode of Speakers Forum.

Dr. Cornel West speaks forcefully on a wide range of subjects including the struggle for truth and justice; political discourse and dysfunction; African American religious, cultural and music history; and the impact of the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

Flickr Photo/Pedro Moura Pinheiro

A literary festival and a pub crawl combined? We have the audio to prove it. We bolted from space to space during this year’s Lit Crawl Seattle to gather as many readings as we could. 

Facebook Photo/Lit Crawl Seattle

So a poet walks into a noisy bar, starts reading her poems, and everyone falls silent and listens.

Lit Crawl Seattle was inspired by Litquake, San Francisco’s Literary Festival. The now yearly event is a one night mash-up of a literary festival and a pub crawl. Over 60 authors do their best to silence you, or rile you up, as you make your way from space to space.

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. 

Robert Reich at the University of Iowa, Sep. 7, 2011
Wikipedia Photo

Former Clinton-era Labor Secretary Robert Reich visited Seattle recently to encourage supporters of the 15Now campaign and to try to win over skeptics.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

robot, machine, artificial intelligence, technology
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. 

Seattle's Pike Place Market.
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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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