2020 is like if Miley's 'We Can't Stop' was a year

Are we living through a dystopian Cormac McCarthy novel? Yes we are.

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 will include but will not be limited to: lesbian birds, driveway flowers, revolution. Tell all your friends and enemies and subscribe so you never miss an issue.
I bought this lip balm just so I could create this tribute to the Queen of Subtle Product Placement. To see more photos like this homage to Dolly Parton’s goddaughter, find me on Instagram @leongstagram. August 2020.


Over the course of one sleepless winter week in 2019, I laughed, cried, and heard the unsettling but electrifying sound of my own voice sounding like something I didn’t know I had been trying to find since, well, forever.

I was part of a public radio workshop* where I learned to produce my first audio feature while eating mostly Sour Patch Kids and cereal over the course of six transformative days. At the end of that week, I crashed for twelve hours straight—sleeping the deep and grateful sleep of an introvert exposed.

The final product was my 7 minute story The Rebel Violinist: On hip hop, lullabies, and the American Dream. It’s a feature about Korean American storyteller and creative shapeshifter Joe Kye. At 1.50 Joe shares a story about being told during an interview for a Board position that he—wait for it—speaks really good English.

Joe’s response to that observation is an excellent reminder that there are very satisfying perks to being someone the world doesn’t expect you to be.

Missed the last RPR? Click here.


Seven summers ago, the world was blessed with the sexy and bewildering hellscape that was Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop. The freshly-undercut, lip balm-endorsing, randomly-tattooed goddaughter of Dolly Parton was no longer a Disney princess and she was letting us know.

We all watched over and over again until even the taxidermy thing seemed normal.

And then, just when we thought we couldn’t be any more enthusiastically on Team Rebranded Miley, Cormac McCarthy (yes, Pulitzer Prize-winning Cormac McCarthy who wrote the only post-apocalyptic book that would have seemed totally natural on set between a French fry skull and dancing bear backpacks) wrote a summary of We Can’t Stop that almost—ALMOST—makes Miley’s video irrelevant.

From The Hairpin: No Country For Old Miley: Cormac McCarthy Describes the Video For “We Can’t Stop.” Enjoy and be mystified.


So many of the short films from Musicbed’s Reopen Challenge are incredible, but Black.Matters, the winning entry from Kyndra Kennedy, will hit you like a truck.

Kennedy calls her five-minute masterpiece a “visual protest.” I call it the opposite of We Can’t Stop. (Don’t get me wrong, I love them both.)

Black.Matters is inspiring and enraging in the most gorgeous way, and it might be just the thing to share on your Facebook page to prompt a productive conversation with your cousin who keeps reminding the internet that Blue lives matter too.


That’s it for ROCK PAPER RADIO issue #2, friends. Thanks for listening/reading/holding on. And thanks too for subscribing and sharing. ROCK PAPER RADIO’s launch last week was received with so much love and enthusiasm. Thank you, thank you, thank you. If you liked this issue, please forward it to a friend or re-tweet this tweet. My appreciation for all of you signing up and spreading the word is tremendous. 

See you next Thursday. 


*Interested in learning about audio production too? The Transom Traveling Workshop led by public radio whisperer Rob Rosenthal is the best. Five hundred stars. Would recommend. I was not hashtag sponsored to say this.