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.
SOMETHING TO READ
As the country returns to lockdown in the midst of another Covid wave and an attempted coup by exactly the people who are responsible for this second (or are we on our third?) surge in virus cases, you may be asking yourself: Is my job secure? Am I physically safe from a literal pandemic while I’m at this job that may not be secure? Am I one of George Clooney’s top 14 friends?
In this interview for GQ, George Clooney When We Need Him Most, we learn exactly how wrong we all were not to help out the emerging ER star back before Covid or Netflix or that terrible Batman movie. At first he’s shy (and also charming and rugged)—he couldn’t possibly tell the story of surprising his top 14 bros with Tumi bags full of one million dollars each—but reporter Zach Baron presses forward, and lucky for us, the generous movie star cracks. The best part? He snuck all that cash out of “a place you can go” in downtown LA with a florist van, because George Clooney’s life is absolutely the IRL Ocean’s Eleven like we all secretly hope it is.
The moneybags story isn’t even the best part of this interview. Clooney keeps veering off from Baron’s questions to beam about his wife, barrister Amal Clooney, who, while George is on Zoom with GQ, is taking the British government to task for breaking international law from the other room in their three-bedroom house. There’s a quick masterclass in acting. There’s the four-year-old son bounding into frame with chocolate on his face and a bit of Italian to show off. There’s George ending the story by asking who amongst us wouldn’t give our friends piles of cash if we too were rich and famous and not counting down the days until January 20 hoping to survive.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
Transom just completed their first virtual audio storytelling workshop and, as usual, the features from the class are wonderful and surprising. I was especially struck by Time to Transition by producer Edwina Stott, who introduces us to classical musician and radio host Ed Ayres.
Ayres grew up female-bodied. In this 12-minute story, Stott takes us on a journey through Ayres’ life, from their adolescence as a tomboy named Emma, to their 10,000 mile bike ride through the Middle East in a hijab, to his current life of peace and relief as Ed—a tattooed trans man, music teacher, and beloved radio host.
Grounding LGBTQ stories in the moment of coming out is a tried-and-true structure, but what sets this story apart is that there is no denouncing of Ed’s former self. We hear Emma coming of age—their struggle, their denial, their literal and figurative journey that took them across the world and eventually to their authentic self, to Ed. There’s an embrace of Emma that we can hear in Ed’s voice and the way he tells his story, and also in the way that Stott narrates it.
If it’s been challenging to wrap your brain around they/them as a singular pronoun, this story just might be the one to show you how natural it can sound and feel to meet people where they are.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
I don’t know how to lead you into this extraordinary article except to say that it involves a couch that is a pig, Craigslist, and a New York City snail that attempted to sublet its old shell. That’s it. That’s the lead in. Here it is: That Pig Couch on Craigslist? Not for Sale. (Also, Not a Couch.) Bless Kate Conger and the New York Times for journalism like this in these uncertain times.
HIGH FIVES TO ALL OF YOU
That’s a wrap for issue 17. Thanks for reading, listening, and holding on, friends. And thanks for spreading the word about our misfit fam. I see those ROCK PAPER RADIO subscriptions rolling in like little high fives. You all are the best and I’m so glad next week is Thanksgiving so I have an excuse to tell you again.
See you next Thursday.