Mostly without bravery
a case for the catch and release
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 and podcast 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. Learn more at RockPaperRadio.com.
SOMETHINGS TO READ
Keri deals with the car and puts little bamboo things in our drawers to separate the hair products from the hair brushes, but I am the resident catcher and releaser of spiders in our home. I have always done this, although mostly without bravery or dignity as I go AHHHH while I scurry to the nearest open window with the caught creature as far away from my body as possible.
I just think the world is harsh enough and we should live and let live as much as we can. Especially now.
Since I last wrote to all of you last Thursday, there have been multiple mass shootings. At least 14 are dead, 39 wounded. Buffalo. Milwaukee. Laguna Woods. A grocery store. A Friday evening downtown. A church picnic.
This is America, and Vox reporter Fabiola Cineas has one theory why: Where “replacement theory” comes from — and why it refuses to go away.
In a stupor, I came across this tweet by educator Chanea Bond as I tried to make sense of all this violence:
There’s so much I love about both this tweet and this Nikki Giovanni poem, but mostly it’s that it feels like proof: the kids are listening to everything we’re offering them, even if it seems like they’re just looking at their phones, or they think we’re uncool, or they’re not edgy like we thought we were edgy with our Nirvana CDs and Sassy magazines.
The kids are not just alright, they’re going to fix a lot of this mess. I’m sure of it.
And then the end of that poem! Did you feel it?? Did it sink into your guts too??? All that regret and imperfect humanity and resolve to be better next time.
So in the meantime, while we wait for the next generation to be gentler and less afraid than everything that’s come before them, I think poetic reminders like this that hate and violence always comes from fear is one place to start. Spread the word.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
I was hypnotized last week on a long walk as I listened to this recent 24-minute Song Exploder episode featuring Arooj Aftab.
Aftab is a Brooklyn-based musician who made history last year when she became the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy. She grew up in both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
In this episode, Aftab takes us through a deep dive into her song, “Mohabbat,” which won the Best Global Music Performance Grammy. She worked on it for over six years.
The song is so haunting and beautiful, and afterwards I couldn’t tell what stuck with me more—the music, which is like nothing I’ve ever heard before; or the moment around 16 minutes in when Aftab shares how the song became like a companion that’s been with her from Pakistan to New York. It was exactly the reminder I needed that the journey is the point, and the making is what matters. Enjoy.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
Here we are in year three of Covid, and variants are surging and lockdowns are looming (again). If you too can’t tell if the Before Times were just the other day, or one million years ago, the work of Singapore and London-based artist Alvin Ong might be just what you need for a little perspective.
In an effort to find some semblance of structure over the first(!) quarantine year, Ong turned to paint and canvas.
In My Head debuted last September, showcasing 108 of Ong’s self-portraits from 2020, all displayed across a huge and orderly grid. The effect is striking. All these everyday vignettes—eating a bowl of noodles, his hand rubbing his eyes, the uncut hair—taken together feels both like an intimate look into one man’s experience, as well as like a collective portrait of the grief and monotony of this global pandemic that keeps going and going and going.
That’s a wrap on issue 83, friends. Thanks for reading, listening, holding on.
I’m taking a break next week, but I’ll be back after that. Stay safe and make something cool in the meantime, like a song, or a self portrait, or these amazing beet-chickpea cakes from chef Amy Chaplin which I enthusiastically recommend.
See you the Thursday after next.