Rolled in Jewels
an armor made of fish bones is not enough
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.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
I grew up with a skate crew of misfit boys (shout out to OBS), so this year’s winning 4-minute story for KCRW’s Radio Race spoke right to my rebellious teenage heart.
Buzzy, from producer Jude Brewer, is everything I love in an audio feature: great writing, slick sound design, a story about outsiders mixed with nostalgia and unanswered questions. Oh, and there’s a single mom in there too. I love it so much.
Congrats to Brewer, and more power to all the skaters who should absolutely hear their stories told on public radio far more often. Reach out if you’re with me on making this happen.
SOMETHING TO READ
I have recently emerged from the 814 page world of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. I plowed though it over the course of three increasingly dark days and was utterly gutted and relieved when I turned the last page.
But this week’s SOMETHING TO READ isn’t A Little Life, which I strongly but cautiously recommend you do read when you’re in a good place to be ripped in half by a novel. It’s this interview with its author by Alexis Cheung for The Believer: An Interview with Hanya Yanagihara.
Somewhere around page 600 of A Little Life, I found myself enraged. Who could write this? Who could imagine such vile specifics of the abuse the main character experiences as a child? WHY would anyone put this into the world when there is already so much horror that real children experience??? So I paused my reading/crying to find interviews with Yanagihara and was fascinated to get glimpse into a very private yet “sharply intelligent and casually mordant” author who also happens to be the deputy editor of T, the New York Times’ style magazine.
Because Cheung is savvy and nuanced as always in her conversation with Yanagihara, it was an excellent bonus to read two very sharp Asian women explore together the complicated darkness of this book, and what it means to have the privilege of making art that’s not for everybody.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
I knew this before I took leave from my day job (still going strong), but I get it now more than ever: Who and what we surround ourselves with attaches to us, becomes part of who we are.
Thousands of species of caddisfly larvae get this too, and so does artist Hubert Duprat. Caddisflies are tiny, river-dwelling creatures that excrete a sticky silk around their bodies and then roll themselves in whatever’s around them like twigs and fish bones to create a protective armor.
For decades, starting in the 1980’s, Duprat partnered with these insects for a spectacularly beautiful but very small scale collaboration. For his project Trichoptères, (the French scientific name of the caddisfly), Duprat gave his caddisflies something a bit more glamorous to work with than their usual cocoon materials—gold flake, rubies, turquoise. The bugs did not disappoint.
See the glittering little artists and be inspired to surround yourself with excellence too. From Colossal: Artist Hubert Duprat Collaborates with Caddisfly Larvae as They Build Aquatic Cocoons from Gold and Pearls.
WAIT, THERE’S HOMEWORK
That’s a wrap on issue 61, friends. Thanks for reading, listening, holding on.
Here’s your homework for this week: Nod to a skateboarder, read something unsettling, take note of at least one person or thing that you keep close by that makes you feel sparkly.
I’d love to know what you’re exploring and how you’re making sure what’s around you is helping you power through as we head into year three(!) of the pandemonium while women’s healthcare rights are being steadily chipped away. If you’re a RPR subscriber, feel free to hit reply on this email and let me know.
See you next Thursday.