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RPR 111: Three stories for three years of misfits & unlikely optimists
my favorite things and a love letter
Hi, misfit fam. Next week is a big one—it’s my birthday and also RPR’s THIRD ANNIVERSARY. Shout out our loyal crew of original misfits and unlikely optimists who have been there since that first issue bravely carried us our of our pandemic isolation and into the Substack universe.
Our RPR community has spread across the planet since that fateful launch, but somethings never change. Like our trusty format. (I’ve always been a superfan of the rule of thirds.)
Join me today in taking a look back at some of our most-clicked things to listen to, read, and hold on to. Thanks for being part of this ride, friends. All of your opening, clicking, and sharing over the last three years has been the best reminder that us oddballs and outsiders are everywhere and we’re always looking for each other.
ROCK PAPER RADIO is a reader-supported misfit dispatch. To receive new posts and support my work, consider forwarding this post to a curious friend or becoming a paid subscriber. 🧡
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
(from RPR issue 5)
If you live in a city, chances are you have at least one window in your home that faces directly into the window of your neighbor’s home. Lucky for you, this intimate setup provides the perfect opportunity you never asked for to acquire an awkward new friend in lockdown.
That’s exactly what the storyteller in The Living Room did, although “friend” might be a little generous. The obsessive relationship that unfolds over the course of this 22-minute journey is a little one-sided to say the least.
This story rightfully won the Director’s Choice Award at the Third Coast International Audio Festival in 2015 and—fair warning—it will make you cry.
Although it's five years old, this story could be 2020’s soundtrack. It’s enraging. It’s sad. It reminds you that you’re a human person inside a human body that’s alive and vulnerable and nosy to its core.
At first you are disgusted by the storyteller. You are sure you would never do what she’s doing. You are grateful you definitely don’t live next door to such a psychopath, especially during a pandemic.
But then, like so many imperfect heroes in stories that break you in half, she grows on you. And so do the people she’s spying on. And then the next thing you know you find yourself running into your neighbors while weeping on your walk around the block with your headphones on and it’s the exactly the perfect scene for this Uncertain Time.
SOMETHING TO READ
(from RPR issue 95)
Do you think swans are charming and chill, like the Sarah Lawrence dance majors of the animal kingdom? Think again. Apparently these creatures are actually the “assholes of the bird world,” according to writer Susan Orlean in this romp of an essay from The New Yorker: Blanche the unusually friendly swan.
Blanche (RIP, 1994—2023) was perhaps the most famous resident of the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Her mom was a swan called Friday, and her dad was a gender nonconforming individual who came to be known as—you are not ready for this—“Stella the Fella.” Stella and Friday were originally thought to be just lady swan friends. Roommates. But then the eggs. And more eggs. And, well, you know.
But here’s the thing—Blanche’s parents are not even close to the most Shakespearian thing about this story. There’s swan murder. A kidnapping. A Game of Thrones-style bird entanglement that I was absolutely not prepared for. A poisoning. A fake egg scandal. A truly terrible scene involving the long graceful neck of one bird named Monday II that I hope I will soon forget. Enjoy!
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
(from RPR issue 61)
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.
THAT’S A WRAP ON ISSUE 111
Thanks for taking a walk down memory lane and listening, reading, and holding on with me this week, friends.
And just FYI—I’ve been deep in summertime parenting, Odd One In production, and The Family Court Report planning lately. Get ready for the fall. It’s going to be a big one for podcast nerds and Family Court transformers.
I’ll see you in your inbox the week after next. I’m taking a break next week to contemplate the relentless passing of time while asking Keri to keep reminding me how old I’m turning. 🎂