Take Your Bad Reputation and Get Out

What would Joan Jett do?

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.
I’m not sure why I find this so funny, but I laughed out loud when I found this photo. Is it the little blond ponytail pulled though the snapback? Her earnest arms? The metallic backpack-purse falling to the side? I don’t know, but I’m rooting for her. Credit: Ri_Ya, Pixabay.


In honor of the upcoming 62nd birthday of rock & roll’s original Bad Bitch this Tuesday, here’s a unexpectedly heartwarming interview from The New Yorker Radio Hour: Joan Jett’s Reputation. (Tip: scroll to the bottom of the page to find the 13-minute segment.)

New Yorker staff writer Sarah Larson is an unabashed fan in her interview with Jett, but this isn’t some teen squealing for the Watermelon Sugar guy. There’s so much mutual wonder and respect in this conversation. It feels like privilege to be able to listen in.

What we hear are two successful women—one a groundbreaking musician, the other a veteran journalist—explore how the world has changed since the 80’s when Jett was told “girls don’t play rock and roll,” and how much farther we still have to go.

There’s a incredible moment around 9.24 when Jett—JOAN FREAKING JETT—describes being “petrified” while preparing to perform Smells Like Teen Spirit in 2014 when Nirvana was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

We’re so lucky that this interview is in Larson’s expert hands. Jett describes how her nerves gave way to calm just before her historic performance. She says, “like I knew I wouldn't mess it up.”

Here’s where a rookie (i.e. me) would have jumped in with a useless affirmation or moved on to the next question, because that right there was some excellent tape. But Larson leaves a pause in the air instead of jumping in, just long enough for Jett to tell us in the most beautiful and humble way that there must have been a spirit with her that night, because she wasn’t the one doing it.

I could have fallen on the floor. Enjoy.


In case the current burning down of American democracy and its entire west coast is making you feel a bit suffocated, perhaps you should consider relocating to someplace that isn’t literally on fire.

That’s exactly what Ali Wunderman did when she abandoned her 9-to-5 to spend two weeks alone in Belize to save birds.

In My Wild Escape Into the Parrot Protection Program, Wunderman takes us from her tomboy childhood, to her unsuccessful attempt to play the role of the comfortable wife, to her shower under a rainforest waterfall that reminded her not just to be grateful for indoor plumbing, but to keep her wild side close too.

If you’re packing your bags now, don’t forget to tag @RockPaperRadio in your tropical escape pics so we can follow your adventure.


Speaking of independent ladies, a 62-year-old python in St. Louis has recently laid seven eggs. The miraculous part? For once, the most buzz-worthy part of this procreation situation isn’t about the old lady’s age. It’s about her partner. Or, lack thereof actually.

This single-mom-to-be has not had any contact with a male snake for fifteen years.

And is that the end of this baffling/inspiring story? No, it is not. According to the New York Times, apparently snakes sometimes “store sperm from an earlier encounter for delayed fertilization.” The longest documented sperm hoarding by a family-planning female snake? Seven years.

If anyone would like to gather (remotely, of course) to process this story, or to form a fan club for feminist reptiles, please reply to this email or tweet at me with the meeting time and I’ll be there.


That’s a wrap for issue 8 of ROCK PAPER RADIO. Shout out to anyone who noticed that Joan Jett is turning the exact same age as our egg-layer. Thanks to all of you who’ve been subscribing, sharing, and sending me funny notes about this newsletter adventure. You all are my misfit crew. If you have other unlikely optimists in your circle, please invite them in too. All the curious awkward people will be warmly welcomed.

See you next Thursday.


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