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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.


As confidence in democracy slides into the sea to shining sea, Americans from all over the country may be asking themselves the same question right about now: What should we order to eat?

Business for food delivery companies has been thriving since the first lockdown orders were issued. If you have also been soothing your impeachment anxiety by getting pho and firecracker chicken delivered every time Josh Hawley’s smug little fist pops up on your timeline, I recommend taking listen to this feature from KUOW’s RadioActive youth producer Luis Hernandez Vargas: 'Gracias por todo.' Delivering food during the pandemic was worth it to hear my mom say these words.

When schools went online last spring in response to the Covid outbreak, Vargas, a high school senior in Seattle, went to work for DoorDash to make sure he and his mom could make ends meet.

In 6 crushing minutes, Vargas takes us though the last year on his food delivery route. We see exhausted medics with their heads in their hands. We see Vargas’ mom go back to work even though she is immunocompromised. We see Vargas himself crying in his car on his way home on Mother’s Day after delivering a $160 steak.



If you’re feeling nostalgic for the Before Times, or even just for a few months ago when the internet’s favorite skateboarder drifted down the highway with cranberry juice in his hand and Stevie Nicks in his heart, then this glorious meditation by Kiese Laymon for Vanity Fair is for you: Now Here We Go Again, We See the Crystal Visions.

“Like so many of my friends, my past eight months have been spent dodging death, mourning the dead, creating art, and loving Black people. I’ve lingered in socially distant conversations with strangers. I’ve cried and laughed at what made me cry and laugh. I’ve made recipeless meals that were so nasty, all I could do was giggle in the middle of every bite. I’ve tenderly touched parts of my body I’d forgotten. I’ve found that pulling the hairs out of my corona beard is actually soothing. I’ve reread, rewritten, revised. I’ve done all of this not simply in the hopes of feeling good, but because I long to feel less like we are going to die tomorrow.”

Come for the familiar weariness. Stay for the love letter to the young people who are going to make sure none of this ever happens again.


In the early days of the pandemic, the New York Times launched a photo essay series to transport the restless and locked-down to places far from our living rooms.

I was especially fascinated by this feature by photojournalist Juan Pablo Ramirez, Playing the ‘Green Lottery’: Life Inside Colombia’s Emerald Mines, in which we get glimpse into the lives of the workers who spend their days underground looking for gems with the hopes of surviving this crashing economy.

There’s stories of vast riches and quick losses. There’s scandalous deals and murder. And of course, there’s Pablo Ramirez’s staggering photos—the mountains swimming in fog, the camps strung with laundry, the miners looking right at us in their green hardhats.


That’s a wrap for issue 24, friends. Thanks for listening/reading/holding on. And welcome to all of our new subscribers and shout out to TED-Ed for spreading the word about our misfit crew! We’re thrilled to have all of you. If you liked this issue, consider sharing it with your friends and letting them know that all the curious awkward people will be warmly welcomed here.

See you next Thursday.


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