ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to, something to read, and something to listen to. Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
Even dessert is social distancing. I took this pic in the early days of Covid-19 when grocery stores were out of toilet paper and flour, but still stocked up with mochi ice cream—only now each treat had its own little protective house instead of being piled together with its friends. For more lonely but colorful scenes from pandemic life, find me on Instagram @leongstagram. March 2020.
SOMETHING TO READ
In honor of the collective table-flipping that could be heard across the country after The New York Times revealed* that the president pays less in taxes than undocumented immigrants**, here’s an essay to remind you that in addition to slapping his name on bottles of water and calling the brand—this is incredible—Trump Ice, our Tax Evader In Chief also owns a restaurant.
This timeless Vanity Fair review by Tina Nguyen, Trump Grill Could be the Worst Restaurant in America, brings the petty but pulverizing energy that Biden didn’t quite nail during Tuesday night’s debate.
An excerpt on the restaurant’s gold toilet-style offerings:
The allure of Trump’s restaurant, like the candidate, is that it seems like a cheap version of rich. The inconsistent menus—literally, my menu was missing dishes that I found on my dining partners’—were chock-full of steakhouse classics doused with unnecessarily high-end ingredients. The dumplings, for instance, come with soy sauce topped with truffle oil, and the crostini is served with both hummus and ricotta, two exotic ingredients that should still never be combined. The menu itself would like to impress diners with how important it is, randomly capitalizing fancy words like “Prosciutto” and “Julienned” (and, strangely, “House Salad”).
It was too bad that this excellent piece of journalism was published a month after the 2016 election. Here’s to hoping everyone’s breaking out all the stops before this November 3rd.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
I can think of few things more American than an eating contest, especially one that involves a mass quantity of a dish stolen from another culture and made extra cheesy.
In this 11-minute story, Nacho Challenge, Omar Qureshi takes to The Moth stage to share about what it’s like to win such a contest as a Pakistani Muslim in rural Missouri in the wake of 9/11.
By telling us this story from the vantage point of 2018, Qureshi offers us a picture of a midwestern American town evolving. There’s a failed haircut. There’s a mosque that’s burned down during the holy month of Ramadan. There’s an 8-pound plate of nachos.
Spoiler: this story isn’t really about a nacho eating contest.
As we barrel towards election day while the president calls on white supremacists to stand by, this story is an unexpectedly funny and moving reminder to hold on to some sense of unlikely optimism—and also to vote.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
When Hannah Spiegelman was commissioned to create an ice cream flavor inspired by wealth hoarder John D. Rockefeller for her project A Sweet History, she didn’t exactly decline. What she did instead though was mix walnut oil and “coffee election cake” into a bourbon base and dedicated her sweet (and strong) concoction to Ida Tarbell.
At 45-years-old in 1902, Tarbell took on the oil tycoon in a 19-part magnum opus of investigative journalism. Her reporting was ultimately the downfall of the Rockfeller monopoly.
According to Spiegelman’s sweet history of the groundbreaking muckraker, after her exposé took down the most powerful man in the country, Tarbell moved to Connecticut to run a 40-acre farm while occasionally chiming in on civic life. Although she never claimed to be a Nasty Woman, she did allude to the possibility of a female president, and in response to Rockefeller calling her a mocking nickname, Tarbell said (with a shimmy), “Of course that makes no difference to me.”
HAPPY STRESS EATING
That’s it for issue 10! If you’re eating something weird this week or making resistance ice cream, we’d love to see it. Tag @RockPaperRadio on Instagram or Twitter and we’ll hungrily like and share. Thanks as always for reading/listening/holding on, misfit fam. Stay the course. Check your voter registration. We’ve got this.
See you next Thursday.
*According to The New York Times, Donald Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and paid $0 in income taxes in 10 of the previous 15 years.
**Accocording to the Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact, undocumented immigrants in America pay $12 billion in taxes every year.