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Find A Mentor, Be A Mentor

KPLU News - 5 hours 29 min ago
Today I pay tribute to my mentors. You know, those rare people in life who take the time to help you, quite often redefining the path ahead. Mentors are people who selflessly give away two of their most precious commodities: wisdom and time.

Who hasn't been confused, unsure of which way to go, stuck between choices that would lead to very different futures?

We often want to go a certain way but can't, due to a variety of circumstances. Life demands commitment and sometimes these commitments are more like obstacles than opportunities.

The New SAT: Less Vocabulary, More Linear Equations

KPLU News - 6 hours 49 min ago
The standardized test that's been giving America's college-bound teenagers nightmares since the 1920s is getting a makeover.

On Wednesday, the College Board offered new details on changes to its SAT. Among the biggest shifts: Gone are the days of memorizing obscure vocabulary words. Though if you're in high school and set to take the SAT next year, don't burn those vocabulary flashcards just yet.

Seattle Council Member Licata Calls For New Department To Enforce Labor Laws

KPLU News - 6 hours 56 min ago

This may be the year that Seattle adopts one of the highest minimum wages in the country. But labor advocates and Seattle City Council member Nick Licata say without tough enforcement, a new wage law will be toothless. 

Legal Moves Might Mean Fiscal Relief, And More PR Troubles, For GM

KPLU News - 7 hours 14 min ago
General Motors is signaling its plans to ask a bankruptcy judge for protection from lawsuits related to a defective switch recall. As Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports, the action could further complicate its current public relations crisis. Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Free Drug Samples Prompt Skin Doctors To Prescribe Costlier Meds

KPLU News - 7 hours 21 min ago
Every "free" sample comes with a price.

Dermatologists who accept free tubes and bottles of brand-name drugs are likelier to prescribe expensive medications for acne than doctors who are prohibited from taking samples, a study reports Wednesday.

The difference isn't chump change. When patients see a dermatologist who gets and gives free samples, the average cost of medicines prescribed is $465 per office visit.

Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Put Faith In Unorthodox Dating Service

KPLU News - 8 hours 24 min ago
Yael Mizrachi, a 33-year-old Israeli woman, has been to many matchmakers.

"Too many," she says, rolling her wide dark eyes and tossing her shoulder-length hair.

Matchmakers are the traditional way to find a mate in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to which Mizrachi belongs. But she is not entirely traditional.

"I identify myself as a modern ultra-Orthodox," Mizrachi says.

Mizrachi is part of a growing number of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel who are seeking job skills, getting higher education or joining the military.

Bloomberg Seeks To Alter Gun Debate With $50 Million, And Moms

KPLU News - 8 hours 24 min ago
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg's plan to invest $50 million in what he describes as a mom-driven grass-roots effort to support pro-gun-safety candidates grabbed headlines Wednesday, and energized gun control activists.

The commitment, the former New York City mayor says, aims to beat back the profound political influence of the National Rifle Association in 15 targeted states — to "make them afraid of us," he told NBC's Today show.

"This is what the American public wants," Bloomberg said, referring to his group's intended focus on gun-purchase background checks.

Polls show that B

Song Of The Day: Joe Henderson's 'Ishfahan'

KPLU News - 9 hours 35 sec ago

Joe Henderson is one of those musicians that didn't gain huge recognition from the casual jazz lover, but every jazz musician and fanatic will sing his praises for days. He had awesome command of the tenor saxophone, a unique sound and harmonic conception, and composed some classics of the jazz idiom, including "Recorda Me" (which he wrote at 14 years old!), "Inner Urge" and "The Kicker." He was equally at home playing hard bop and more avant garde music, and had a real way with a ballad.

Edward Snowden: From 'Geeky' Dropout To NSA Leaker

KPLU News - 9 hours 29 min ago
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has revealed some of the group's most carefully guarded secrets.

The reporting on the documents he leaked won a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post and The Guardian, announced on Monday.

But there's still a lot we don't know about Snowden himself — and his motivation.

In a new article in Vanity Fair, Bryan Burrough, Suzanna Andrews and Sarah Ellison take a closer look at Snowden in an effort to explain how a high school dropout, a "seemingly aimless geeky kid from the Maryland suburbs," came to posses

Ex-City Manager Caught In Calif. Salary Scandal Gets 12 Years

KPLU News - 9 hours 31 min ago
Robert Rizzo, the former city manager of Bell, Calif., who pleaded no contest to conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds and falsification of public records, has been ordered to serve 12 years in state prison and repay nearly $9 million.

Rizzo, who was city manager of Bell until 2010, apologized during sentencing, telling Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy that he "[breached] the public trust" and that "I am so sorry for that.

Man Reaches For The Sun For A Solution To Pakistan's Gas Crisis

KPLU News - 9 hours 31 min ago
Spring has crept up to the foothills of the Himalayas and, in Islamabad, Pakistan's purpose-built capital, the air is full of the scent of roses and the yelling of birds.

Yet, even in this most stately of South Asian cities, it is impossible to escape the realities of an unstable nation that has yet to figure out how to meet some of the basic needs of its 200 million or so citizens.

Islamabad long ago adjusted to attacks by Islamist militants by setting up roadblocks and turning its government buildings, five-star hotels, villas and diplomatic enclaves into modern-day fortresses, wrapped i

When Parents Are The Ones Too Distracted By Devices

KPLU News - 9 hours 32 min ago
Having a teenager lost in his or her cellphone — texting friends and communicating with parents in monosyllabic grunts — has become a trope of the Internet age. But teens are not the only ones distracted by their devices.

Many parents have the same problem. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm one of them.

A couple weeks ago, my 12-year-daughter, Ella, staged an intervention. She and my wife basically threatened to take my phone and break it.

"Sometimes at night you'll just stand around and ...

New Fossil Takes A Bite Out Of Theory That Sharks Barely Evolved

KPLU News - 9 hours 33 min ago
Sharks have looked more or less the same for hundreds of millions of years. But a newly discovered fossil suggests that under the hood, a modern shark is very different from its ancient ancestors.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, strongly implies that sharks are not the "living fossils" many paleontologists once thought they were.

Under The Streets Of Naples, A Way Out For Local Kids

KPLU News - 9 hours 33 min ago
For decades, the streets of Naples have been menaced by the Camorra mafia — stroll the streets of Sanità, an inner-city neighborhood, and you'll overhear pop songs like O Panar e Drog, featuring a singer boasting about buying and using "a breadbasket full" of drugs off Sanità's streets.

But underneath those cobblestones lies a gem of early Christian art: The Catacombs of San Gennaro.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow: A Guide To Speedy Vegetables

KPLU News - 9 hours 44 min ago
Yes, it is true that gardening requires patience.

But face it, we live in an impatient world. And gardeners everywhere were depressed by the brutal and endless winter. (True story: The polar vortex killed my fall kale crop!)

So we are understandably eager to get sowing. And to see results by ... well, if not next Thursday, then maybe mid-May?

There are two ways to make this happen. Some garden varieties naturally have a short germinate-to-harvest cycle. Then there are the hybrids developed at universities and seed companies.

In Toughest Job Market Since WWII, An Uphill Climb For Teens And Young Adults

KPLU News - 10 hours 20 min ago

High school junior Marcus Hollman wants a job — "something to get me into the job market," he says. But he keeps running into the same words like a brick wall: "professional experience required."

"There are very few employers ready to accept someone with no previous experience," said Hollman, a student at Harrison Preparatory Academy, after attending a youth-oriented job fair in Tacoma on Tuesday.

Judge Overturns North Dakota's Strict Abortion Law

KPLU News - 11 hours 58 min ago
A federal judge has struck down a North Dakota law banning abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, calling the law "invalid and unconstitutional."

The law, passed by lawmakers in the state just over a year ago, bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy and is considered the most restrictive in the country.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who is based in Bismarck, cited the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S.

Holy Bible Could Become Louisiana's Official Book

KPLU News - 11 hours 59 min ago
The "Good Book" could become the official book of Louisiana if a bill sent to the state's Legislature passes in a vote that could come as early as this week.

The Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 8-5 last week to forward a measure that would make the Holy Bible the state's official book.

Boston Bombing Defendant Can See Victims' Autopsy Photos, Judge Says

KPLU News - 12 hours 48 min ago
A federal judge said Wednesday that Boston Marathon bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may see autopsy photos of the three people who died after the explosions near the finish line of last year's race.

District Court Judge George O'Toole "rejected a claim by the government that Tsarnaev should not see the photos because it would disturb the families of the victims,"

Meet the buskers and merchants who live and work in Pike Place Market

Quirksee - 13 hours 5 sec ago

(Neil Giardino/KPLU)

Farrel Thomas sits on a wooden stool, occasionally stealing away a quick spoonful of pudding before another child approaches, wide-eyed and slightly terrified.

This one wants a panda.

“You’re gonna make me work, huh?” Thomas barks.

His lumbering figure betrays impeccable technique. Claw-like hands work nimbly, bringing balloons to life. In seconds, rainbow-colored kittens, crowns, swords and flowers blossom from his weathered hands.

In Thomas’ line of work, you need a stage name that, well, pops. Mister Twister was taken, which is how he came to be known to many as the Balloon Man, which suits his own economy of words. Officially, though, he’s called Twister Thomas, and he’s twisted a decade’s worth of balloons directly under the giant neon clock at Pike Place Market.

Dressed as part swamp thing and part clown, Thomas wears a ketchup-red wig that clashes with his blond horseshoe mustache. He’s part of a pantheon of eccentrics, wanderers and troubadours that calls the market home.

Calling Pike Place Market home

Thomas lives just a stone’s throw away from his work station, at a HUD-subsidized redbrick apartment complex called the Stewart House. The rooms are small, to say the least, not much larger than a walk-in closet. But they’re cheap. Most of the single occupancy rooms rent for as little as $350 a month. Most residents who qualify for subsidies pay around 30 percent of their total income to live here. For a few lucky tenants on the fourth floor, sprawling views of downtown and Puget Sound are also included.

With more than 350 apartments here, Pike Place Market functions much like a small town within the city. And like any town, Pike Place Market has a newspaper — two, in fact. It also has a medical clinic, a food bank, a small governing body, and, of course, a great many produce stalls, butchers, bakeries, cafes, bars and restaurants. Unlike most small towns, though, about 10 million tourists pass through its nine acres each year.

Road to life in the market filled with twists and turns

Thomas, who spent decades working odd jobs in construction, came to the market in the ‘90s. After a leg injury shattered his dream of living a vagabond’s life on the road, he was turned on to the idea of balloon-twisting by a nameless clown in Portland.

Broke and living on street, Thomas moved back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle. He taught himself twisting techniques on the bus, using photocopied pictures out of library books as guides, spending many afternoons at Izzy’s Buffet.  

(Justin Steyer/KPLU)

“They kicked me out of the library for making too much noise. So, a fair trade was to blow balloons for an hour at the buffet restaurants and get a meal out of it. That’s where I learned the meaning of being a busker, barter or trader,” recalls Thomas.

Now, back to the little boy with the tall order of a panda-shaped balloon.

Thomas begins to twist, almost begrudgingly at first. His pace quickens, and soon enough he has rendered a few slack balloons into something that more or less resembles a panda. He curtly hands it off to the child.

Therein lies the magic of Twister Thomas’s work: like any performance artist, the charm is in watching him create. Thomas is one of many performers that live and work here. Each has a story.

‘It’s almost like being able to travel without moving’

(Justin Steyer/KPLU)

Emery Carl is a lean and tall Kansas native in a long, rust-colored beard and, on brisk days, a Carhartt work jacket. In between drags from a hand-rolled cigarette, he speaks about his place in the world with a contained sense of wonder. Carl has lived and performed in the market since 2002.

“I really wanted to experience a wide variety of people and places in my life,” says Carl. “Being in Pike Place Market, it’s almost like being able to travel without moving.”

Like many market characters, he’s led a life of contrasts; it’s what anchors him here. He was once a worship director and youth pastor at a Seattle church. True to his former profession, he speaks with decided zeal for life and all its perplexities. He also served in the Air Force National Guard for a decade. Among other reasons, these experiences are what led him to become a street performer at Pike Place.

“I’ve always had a real heart and desire to serve God and country. It’s about people and humanity. It’s about serving your community and what you recognize as your creator,” he says. “I found an application that fits my heart right. It’s a big part of the inspiration and drive.”

A leap of faith

Carl’s drive is unmistakable. He performs all week long, and he’s hard to miss.

On any given afternoon, he’s usually on the corner of Pike Place and Stewart Street with bells and shells tied to his shoes, two guitars, a harmonica, Rubik’s cubes, and two or three of his signature hula hoops. His show is a literal balancing act — a guitar teeters on his chin while he strums another.

“I play behind my head while spinning in a circle and I’m singing to people. Sometimes I make up lyrics if I’m inspired by what people are wearing,” he says.

But performing on the street, even in a community as obliging as Pike Place Market, isn’t always easy. For Carl, life as a troubadour is a calculated risk, at least financially.

“I traded a faith-based income with the church for a ‘faith-based income’ [as a street performer].” I have no idea how much I’m going to make. Every tip is a miracle, and nobody has to [tip],” he says.

Perhaps for Carl, that’s the draw of life and work in the market: he gets to perform on his home turf every day. Even on a bad day, he’s in a place he loves.

His living arrangement here is more like a dark hideaway than an apartment, but it’s one that accommodates his unconventional lifestyle. For someone as accustomed to the limelight as he is, it’s a quiet refuge after a day’s work, mere steps away from the throngs of market visitors. For Carl, it’s home.

“Home is where the heart is,” he says with a laugh, “and I’ve got a big one.”

(Justin Steyer/KPLU)

‘I’m going to have to be dead for them to get me out’

Beth Wasserman loves the market, she says, because it’s like her family: big, happy and dysfunctional. For about a year and a half, she has lived in the Stewart House and sold jewelry on Craft Row at the north end of Pike Place.

For Wasserman, there is no turning back from this lifestyle.

“I’m going to have to be dead for them to get me out of the market,” she says with a straight face.

But why? What is it about life and work here that is so appealing?

The answer is part financial and part philosophical, says Wasserman. The Stewart House remains one of the most inexpensive places to live in downtown Seattle. More importantly, the market is where she feels inspired, and where she says she has found a community of like-minded artists.

“Maybe we have gypsy blood. Maybe we like wandering. Maybe we don’t want to stay in one place or we’ve had a house for 30 years and decided ‘I don’t want this anymore; I want a freer lifestyle,’” she says.

For a ghost tour guide, a life among the spirits

Like Thomas and Wasserman, James Pallata lives in the Stewart House, in an haunted apartment. It’s only fitting for Pallata, the lead tour guide of Market Ghost Tours.

(Neil Giardino/KPLU)

“Things will just randomly shift at night. I’ve heard grunting. I’ve heard groaning. I’m the only one there, and it’s not me,” says Pallata.

It’s said that pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work, and for Pallata, a longtime horror fan, being paid to share some of the hair-raising accounts of this historic market is a dream job.

“I get to tell people about ghostly and sometimes horrific things. What more could I ask for?” he says.

‘It’s close to utopia’

Like any tour guide, Pallata is a good talker. When he’s not elaborating on the market’s paranormal underbelly, he speaks of Pike Place and his life here with endearment. For him, being a small part of the market’s 107-year history is an honor. He loves what he does, which brings him joy.

“As a representative of the market and as a tour guide, I like to share that joy,” he says.

Pallata is a self-described Army brat who has bounced around the world. At long last, it seems, he’s found a home, even if it is one he shares with spirits. For Pallata, that’s perhaps just part of its charm.

“Every morning I wake up and realize that I’m in Seattle, I’m doing backflips. It’s close to utopia,” he says. “Living in the market is just icing on the cake.”