Bird Mail 040

I have been thinking a lot about this excellent article…thing by Robin Rendle about the unusual position writers on the internet are in when trying to share their work, and how newsletters fit into that space. Robin mentions the fact that newsletters, unlike blogs, let readers know that there is something new to be read. I feel so fortunate that you have given me this small space in your inbox each Tuesday.

Question for you readers: if there were to be a blog component, something updated more frequently, but that wouldn’t tell you that there was new writing for you, would you seek that out to read it?

Oh, hi. I’m Bruce and this is Bird Mail, a collection of delightful links from around the internet delivered to you sometime on Tuesday, just in case you were wondering why this email landed this week.

I’m not sure if any of you have ever wondered how I make Bird Mail each week, but as you might have expected, it is inspired and populated by many things that I find from other newsletters. I love newsletters. My favorites are those that give me a peek into the thoughts and interests of someone far different from me, but with some overlap to my own thoughts or interests, no matter how small that overlap.

This fortieth(!) issue, I wanted to do something a bit different. Inspired by this issue of Snakes and Ladders by the writer Alan Jacobs, I too have made “a newsletter of newsletters.”

Snakes and Ladders is a great place to start actually. Like so many of the newsletters that land in my inbox, I can no longer remember where I found it, and on the surface it does not immediately seem like a newsletter that I would be interested in. Jacobs often writes about religion and prayer, two subjects I know virtually nothing about, but his writing about the history of books and reading and all the other various topics keeps me reading each week.

Another roughly weekly, but more like whenever-he-has-something-to-share newsletter that I have loved of late, is photographer Noah Kalina’s newsletter (you might remember that name from a few issues back when I highlighted his wonderful book of chicken portraits Tiny Flock). Noah takes a creative approach to ranking car washes or bagels, or new points of view. With no exact schedule, his newsletter is always a surprise I enjoy reading.

Newsletters that arrive out of the blue are some of my favorites. They are a reminder that someone neat is still making and sharing something, and today, this moment, they have something to share with you. One of the missives I most look forward to reading each time I see it in my inbox is Edith Zimmerman’s Drawing Links. With her loose sketching style Zimmerman chronicles her journeys into running, sobriety, nature, and so many other topics. She’s a writer with fantastic voice, yet her drawings capture something different: a glance, the shape of a flower, the colors of the sky.

Some of my other newsletters are more structured in both their content and/or their delivery schedule.

The Prepared is a beautifully structured newsletter with content that is so far from any of the activities of my daily life, and yet, I always find at least three interesting links to click in it. The authors rotate for the issues, but the content is always ostensibly about the machinations of manufacturing. “Manufacturing what?” you might ask me. To that I would say, “well, anything.” If this sounds remotely interesting I recommend poking around their archives as you will likely find something that intrigues you.

Bird is often surprised and will ask me how I know about some weird meme or pop culture reference, given we watch the same quarantine steaming material and spend the workdays on the opposite ends of a too-small dining table pecking away at our keyboards. I’m going to reveal a key source here. The Public Announcement newsletter, a condensed version of their early-web-styled-website linked above, is one of the main reasons I am able to keep up with what is going on in the “cool” parts of the internet. A Monday through Friday newsletter that is made up mostly of politics, pop culture, and other plights of millennials on the internet is broken up by “Wednesday Stills” which are a lightly curated set of images from a different person each week. I spend time each week roaming about the internet looking for links and things that interest me, and yet, I cannot begin to imagine where the weekly curator finds the strange and wonderful combinations of images that make up “Wednesday Stills”.

Okay, we’ve covered writing, photographs, drawings, pop culture :checking things off list here: ah, yes, music! I have always been one to work, or even read, with a soundtrack. I still remember putting CDs or even individual songs on repeat while in the back seat of our Honda Odyssey to drown out the road noise (and the geology lectures, sorry Dad) so I could plow through whatever book I was reading—likely something by Rowling, Cussler, or Clancy. Now, as I sit down to work, I pop my IEMs in and often fire up something ambient and free of lyrics. The Flow State newsletter has kept me from wearing out Brian Eno’s Music for Airports and the Monument Valley soundtrack. Each weekday they deliver roughly two hours of ambient listening by a new artist I have never heard of. Lately I have been enjoying Grandbrothers and Domenique Dumont. I recommend subscribing, but also going back through the archives because there is so much wonderful music to be found for working, cooking dinner, or just lounging about on a Sunday morning.

I hope there is a newsletter here that strikes your fancy, but if not, please let me know. I subscribe to a likely-ridiculous number of newsletters and probably have something I can pass along that will interest you.

If you, dear friend, have a newsletter you enjoy and would like to pass on to the Bird Mail Club, send it my way. I would love to have a section at the bottom of the next issue dedicated to all the reader submissions.

Until next time, I hope you find some joy in your inbox, and spread that out into the real world.

Your friend,

If you enjoyed this issue and aren’t already getting Bird Mail every-ish Tuesday, you can join the small, but growing, group of birders here to get more—but not too many—emails about design, bicycles, art, technology, and anything else on the internet I find worth adding to my collection. If you want to share Bird Mail with someone you know, simply forward this email to them.