Social networks have amplified this desire, at the same time they simplified the execution. Now you can waste time and dignity instead of money. Who can you tear down? How much time can you waste? What’s it worth to you to have more followers than the others?

It’s a lousy game, because if you lose, you lose, and if you win, you also lose.

The only way to do well is to refuse to play.

Earning trust outperforms earning envy.

— Seth Godin - The never-ending rachet of conspicuous consumption

Emphasis on the last line is my own, and it is what has me thinking the most. Where do you earn trust on the internet? Social media seems like the defacto place to do it, but the benefits seem less and less as time goes on.

With all the noise on the internet, how can you be found, or heard, so that people can start trusting you?

Bird Mail: 003

  • I’m on day two of a month-long diet and I’m hoping by the end I feel increbidle.
  • Last year I devoured the Neapolitan Novels of Elena Ferrante and in her New York Times op-ed likens the power of storytelling to political power. I think she’s absolutely right, the world needs more women, with more power, telling more stories.

    A completely new outlook is required. The challenge for now and the foreseeable future is to extract ourselves from what men have engineered: a planet long on the edge of catastrophe.

    But how? Maybe now is the moment to bet on a female vision of power — one constructed and imposed with the force of our achievements in every field. For now our exceptionalism is the exceptionalism of minorities.

  • Living in Oklahoma it was virtually impossible not to know the name Joe Exotic. The bleached mullet, flamboyant outfits, and big cats were hard to miss on the local news or billboards between OKC and Dallas. There were girls in my high school who had birthday parties at the animal park so they could get photos with big cat cubs. He was an Oklahoma fixture that I chalked up to Oklahoma being a strange place, but I never expected to read a story quite this bonkers.

  • It’s been a few years since I owned a video game console, and almost fifteen years since my last handheld console—unless you count my iPhone, which does have some of my favorite games ever on it (Alto’s Odyssey, Threes, and Monument Valley if you’re wondering). The upcoming Playdate from Panic definitely has my attention. If they have game designers like Zach Gage (maker of great puzzle games like Flipflop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess, and Typeshift) making games for it, it’s going to be a fun little device.

  • I know Danny MacAskill was in a recent Bird Mail, but he keeps doing cool things with a bike…and a kid in a trailer.

Bird Mail: 002

  • ”I decided to try to pull the birds from the sky”

    Stephen Gill’s photographs—they’re his in that he set up the scene, though he never once clicked the shutter himself—and Karl One Knausgaard’s words brought birds down to Earth. In 1502, Leonardo da Vinci figured out how to draw what the birds see.

  • I first learned about Christo and Jeanne-Claude in a college aesthetics class where we discussed the ways their work took familiar structures—trees, bridges, famous buildings—and forced the viewer to look at the form of the thing and nothing more. Next year, Christo is wrapping the Arc de Triomphe, a dream he and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, had almost 60 years ago. Christo and Jeanne-Claude were on my mind after stumbling upon a small installation built into a ten inch wide wall at The Menil Collection in Houston.

  • The song from Wintergatan’s original marble machine gets stuck in my head more often than I’d like to admit so I was a little sad to hear that they dismantled it ten months after this video came out. I’m thrilled to see it’s still turning and the progress they’ve made turning it into an incredible hand-crank drum machine.

  • When I was a kid, there was nothing I loved more than building with LEGO. It’s been a long time since I’ve played with them, but this new Stranger Things LEGO set definitely has my attention. I particularly enjoyed this period-appropriate interview with the set designer.

  • Reader Mike sent @boschbot my way and reminded me how much I enjoy the bonkers art of Hieronymus Bosch. Each hour there’s a new snippet of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Many of the characters wouldn’t look too out of place in the world of Stranger Things, despite being separated by more than 500 years.

If you have something you think I should add to my collection of internet ephemera, write me by replying to this email.

You friend,
Bruce

Bird Mail: 001

  • I’m sorry if this gets to you a little later than last week’s but I'm working from work today.

  • I traveled to Cleveland for work last week and could not stop thinking about these videos that are ten years old, but sadly, still relevant. I was hoping to find a lively city, but even the people I met that lived there didn’t seem to like Cleveland much.

    “No MBA graduate wants to come work in Cleveland out of school. I want some sexy technology, like a VR office called ‘The Engine Room’ that will make them want to work here.”

    — Customer explaining his vision for a Minority Report-style market research software that's never going to be built.

    I don’t know what will pull Cleveland from its slump, but maybe a visual refresh like the city of Oslo could help. From the letterhead to the logo, the typography to trash trucks, Oslo has a gorgeous new visual identity that honors its past and looks to a more inclusive future. New colors and signage won’t fix Cleveland, but they certainly can’t hurt.

  • The first time I confronted Michael Wolf’s Architecture of Density I struggled to make sense of the wide cityscapes without a single sliver of sky. The images are dense—in living quarters and in message. The viewer is left feeling both anonymous and voyeuristic, staring into the tightly packed windows with thousands of lives hidden behind them. Wolf took art photography into large and small spaces and showed the world the humanity that live there. The Guardian has an excellent obituary for the late artist who died last week at the age of 64.

  • If you have to do any public speaking or presentations any time soon, you might want to take some notes from this thought leader.

  • Reader Chelsea sent me Judgments from The Cut and I read through all of them in one sitting—there aren’t that many of them, don’t worry. It also got me thinking about the costumes we wear every day.

I would love to hear from you if you enjoyed any of these links, or if you have something you think I should add to my collection, feel free to reply to this email!

You friend,
Bruce

Costumes and Judgments

I grew up in West Texas in the 90s and early 2000s where, depending on the day of the week, the most popular things were church, George Bush, and high school football. My mom didn’t really dress like the other women of Midland on a day-to-day basis. She’s always been more of a practical dresser. Overalls, hiking boots, this one flannel shirt I swear is in every vacation photo album since I was born. Function almost always wins out over form—though that’s not to say she doesn’t look adorable. In a small town, my mom’s style showed me how much people judge you based on your clothes at a young age.

We would go to the mall, to Dillard’s or JC Penny’s, and the staff in dresses, shoes, or cosmetics wouldn’t speak to us. My mom wasn’t dressed shabbily, she was in her usual jeans or overalls (bibs, we called them), hiking boots or sneakers, and a small backpack as a purse instead of the typical Coach bag I saw my friends mom’s carrying. I watched employees turn and walk away from my mom, assuming she couldn’t afford whatever we were looking at. They were wrong. But what my mom was wearing shouldn’t have mattered. I remember realizing as it happened, and feeling so hurt for her. No customer, no person, should have been treated that way, least of all my mom.

It stuck with me. Every day, we are judged based on the clothes we wear, even when we don’t want it, even when people are wrong. At some time or another, it’s easier to wear a costume. Sometimes we have to, other times it's a choice.

I spent the last two years of high school in a private school I didn’t fit into wearing polo shirts and button-fronts from EXPRESS—the nicest clothes I’d ever owned save my three-piece debate tournament suits— and still feeling out of place next to kids in Burberry and Brooks Brothers. My early twenties were filled with blazers and dress shoes so I could go into any restaurant or bar and not get too much side-eye for drinking gin and tonics with a book and a notebook (I’ve always been weird 🤷‍♂️). Knowing that if I dressed a certain way I’d be given better service or not looked at with suspicion, I wore costumes so I would be treated the same as the people around me. It was frustrating, and sometimes, exhausting.

Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to wear a costume—a suit and tie on New Year’s, seersucker and suede wingtips for a Derby Party, fake blood and lots of eye makeup on Halloween—and be judged on the quality of its execution. It’s also easy to forget that our everyday clothes tell the world something about us too. What we are trying to say and what people read aren’t always the same. Judgments by The Cut (which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places online) brings together assumptions and truths about the costumes we wear and the people beneath them. For a while they were spoiling the surprise in the headline, but now, I think they’ve got it right.