Bird Mail: 000

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a collector. Rocks, stamps, squished pennies, Field Notes, and fountain pens all nicely curated. But my biggest collection of all doesn’t exist in the real world. It’s made of internet ephemera.

ephemera: noun

  1. anything short-lived or ephemeral; transitory
  2. items designed to be useful or important for only a short time.

Much of what you find in Bird Mail may be of fleeting interest to you; something you glance at, skim, or even skip. That’s okay. Some links you may read and absorb and come back to again and again. Each missive will include one of my “comebacks”, something important I revisit often. You may or may not have to guess which link is a comeback.

Each issue will be on my website, along with more of my findings , so you don’t have to dig through your email if you do want to find something again.

With that little explanation out of the way, welcome to Bird Mail: 000.

  • Women’s bike races in the 1890s sound like a blast. I had no idea there was so much fanfare and excitement, or that an amateur seamstress became the pride of American cycling. I’m looking forward to reading the bigger book about Tillie and other pioneers of women’s cycling. If any cycling kit maker can create a “Thistle Team” long-sleeve turtleneck jersey, I’m buying it in a heartbeat.

  • 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Bauhaus movement that continues to influence design today. 99Designs had a bunch of designers use Bauhaus principles to redesign modern logos and the results are fantastic. I never expected to like the Walmart logo, and yet… If you want just a little more Bauhaus, check out the Google Doodle.

  • Eighteen years ago I joined in as “the wave” went around Safeco Field in Seattle three, four, five times. Ichiro was at the plate. This 27 year old ‘Rookie’ had been playing professional baseball in Japan for almost as many years as I had been alive, but this was his first year in the US. Everyone in that stadium knew we were watching someone special. I dutifully kept score the whole game and saved that scorebook, along with the baseball cards I bought that day. I’m not sure they’ll ever be worth much, but they mean a lot to me. Every time I pack and unpack them I am reminded of the feeling of watching someone so gifted at their craft. Ichiro played his whole career with a finesse unlike any other. Now, at 45, Ichiro has retired from professional baseball.

  • It’s hard to believe I’ve been watching this video of Danny MacAskill for ten years. It is definitely showing its age in terms of video quality—and just how far action cameras have come since—but I watch it a few times a year, almost always following it with this.

  • I have a confession. I didn’t own my first pair of Joran 1s until I was 27. I still don’t have any Air Max. But I’m kind of a sneaker head. I will never wait in line for hours, or buy sneakers to flip them. I don’t even really have a collection. Sneaker culture, however, fascinates me. Being late to the game I was surprised to learn, many think that it is dying. I’m not entirely convinced that it is dying so much as changing with the times, though the trend of PreachersNSneakers doesn’t really help the cause.

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!

Thank you for giving me a small space of your email inbox, it is an honor to be here.

You friend,
Bruce

Walking and publishing a book, asynchronously

One of my favorite writers on the internet, Craig Mod, has a new project that I’m following. In short, over the course of a month, Craig is walking across Japan and distilling each day’s walk into a single image that he’s sending out via SMS to anyone who signs up. You may reply to the images, but he won’t see them until the end when the responses will be collected, paired with the day's image, and made into a book. The longer explanation is here, I’ll wait.

The missives began arriving Monday morning and they’re delightful. Though the communication is one-way I feel an odd sense of connection to everyone else getting each snippet of Craig’s journey. Not one of us—and it does feel like an us—know who is reading, where anyone else is, or how many we number. We are all part of this little publishing experiment in a tiny corner of the internet, and I couldn’t be more excited.

If you’re interested in Japan, walking, or publishing on the internet, you’re welcome to walk along with us by texting “walk” to the following number: +1-424-543-0510. I’ll include Craig’s disclaimer that “Your number will be used for this experiment and this experiment only. You can opt-out at any time by texting “stop” to the system.”

Thoughts about Books: Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me is an incredible book. It is hard to say I loved it, because it is hard to come to terms with the content—the Dream, the America I am part of—that is not flattering or picturesque. But I feel that Between the World and Me is a book that must not just be read, but one that must be talked about. Looking back at what I’ve read this year I have no doubt this is the most important, and affecting, book. 

Between the World and Me is hard—in the uncomfortable way—to talk about. In 152 poignant pages I was faced repeatedly with an American reality I either chose to believe did not exist or had no knowledge of. I’m not sure which is worse. I relish being exposed to writers, genres, and histories I know nothing about, but this stung with the feeling that while Black history is not my history, American history is. The two are so intertwined, as Coates lays out. I barely know the half of it. Fortunately, through his retelling of his own learnings he provides more source material to a history told by black voices. It is a history I look forward to exploring. 

The most crushing lesson Coates is passing on to his son is the need to protect the black body from so many pieces of The Dream that can take it away. From the home to the street to the school to the police to a justice system that feels—or is—biased against the black body, Coates has learned the hard way to always be vigilant to protect his body. Violence, or threat of violence, is a way of life. At any moment his body could be taken by force. As hard as he has worked to protect his son from these truths, he knows they are lessons his son must learn to stay safe in this world. 

I cannot fathom the position Coates is in. The fear—for his body, the bodies of his loved ones, the bodies of his people—is almost all consuming. He has spent years asking questions, researching theories as to why, and still he has no real answer. For his son to grow up knowing less of the fear is wonderful, but as Coates points out, The Dream and the American justice system that protect it are not interested in the elevation of the black body. 

Between the World and Me brought me face to face with an American reality that, though I did not know it existed, I feel somehow complicit in. I have been presented with an American history and identity that I know so little of, with thinkers and writers that tell a different history—and more painful history—than the one I learned in school. To not share this book feels irresponsible. The subject is tender and charged with emotion, but it must be talked about. I fear that until more people who call themselves white come to face the reality Coates presents, there will always be a divide. 

Amazon: Between the World and Me