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 (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
Hello my misfit fam. I’m so happy to be back in your inbox again. There have been six silent Thursdays between us. (If you missed my pre-pause goodbye dispatch, you can find it here.) In that time I have rested and not rested. I rode my bike through many sunny and drizzly Seattle afternoons (simultaneous rain + sun is my favorite magic thing the weather does). I discovered that oil pastels and watercolors make a great couple. I baked a bunch of questionable savory pies including one inspired by the mac and cheese dreams of my teenage roommate. All that’s the resting part.
The not resting part? That’s been pretty great too. With the support of the generosity of Substack, I have joined a global cohort of 20 determined makers through CUNY’s Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program. This community has been stretching and lighting up my brain for the past five weeks while I get closer to—wait for it—launching a ROCK PAPER RADIO podcast! I’m psyched to share more with all of you about this in the coming weeks. But for now, let’s get back at it.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
Sorry in advance for boldly rolling in after my absence with a audio adventure about butts and intestinal parasites, but stay with me here, because this 4-minute true story by filmmaker Matt Livadary is amazing.
The Tell-Tale Arse deservedly won the Nocturne Award at KCRW’s Radio Race contest in 2019. The Radio Race* is a rally call of a challenge for audio makers to produce an under-four minute story within 24 hours of receiving the contest’s theme. For 2019, the theme was “Where the Sun Don’t Shine.”
Yes, the story is about Livadary’s harrowing journey with pinworms. But it’s also about desperation, past lives, exorcising shame, and the power of laughing at the grossest parts of ourselves. Also, the sound design is spectacular. Enjoy.
SOMETHING TO READ
Single moms and women fueled by vengeance are two kinds of people who should never be messed with, and cocaine crime boss Cottón Vásquez is both. Indeed, behold this description by Deborah Bonello of an unbothered Vásquez as she testified against the kingpin trafficker who stole $3 million dollars from her. Her testimony helped send him to prison for life.
But that smile was anything but reassuring. A photo of Cottón Vásquez from a moment in court shows a woman far more complex, with a smile that was menacing, mocking, and confident rather than joyful. It had a hint of violence. Cottón Vásquez’s smile suggested that she was not to be messed with.”
Vice’s How a Single Mom Became the Boss of Guatemala’s Drug Lords is an epic tale. No spoilers, but here’s a teaser: After an abusive childhood in poverty in Guatemala, followed by an abusive marriage to man who abducted her at 18, Vásquez found she had a knack for terrifying men and moving large quantities of drugs across borders. The work helped feed her five kids. May this story be a lesson to all about the capabilities of a woman who’s finally had enough.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
We are taught that while we sleep Gwyneth Paltrow is killing it, making moves, inventing best-selling candles in scents nobody asked for. But that’s wrong. Rest is radical and hustle culture is a scam. The Great Resignation that is currently underway might be proof that people (perhaps Americans especially) are finally saying no to the grind.
In September, when I announced that I was taking leave from my day job, many of you reached out with love and a fist in the air. My creative comrade Erik Molano sent me off with exactly the hashtag encouragement I needed: #restradically. And indeed, the last couple of months has felt like a radical reset.
Without pause, for 11 hours, Camacho used red yarn to crochet herself into a cocoon until she was fully concealed by her cozy creation. Isolation, security, and fragility are regular themes in Camacho’s work, even before a pandemic swooped in and everybody started quitting their jobs.
NOW WE KEEP GOING, IN MODERATION
That’s a wrap for issue 59, friends. Thanks for listening, reading, holding on. And thank you for hanging in there with me through this pause. All of you loyal email openers and kind note senders are the real ones. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
See you next Thursday.
*KCRW’s 2021 Radio Race is this Saturday, 11/13, and I’m joining in for the first time! It’s $12 to be part of the friendly competition. No audio expertise or fancy equipment required.