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  • 🧇 Sunday Bunch #8: Dispatches from Cybertruck Country

🧇 Sunday Bunch #8: Dispatches from Cybertruck Country

The Quest for Jerry Seinfeld's Leather Daddy

Welcome to Sunday Bunch. I’m grateful to all of you who keep coming back and those of you here for the first time.

This week, I’ve got a lot on my mind, including:

  • Birthdays and AI slop

  • Cybertrucks in the wild

  • Ancient Greeks tripping balls

  • And what’s the deal with “dominant masculinity”?

All that plus all-you-can-eat waffles and more. LFG.

The Impersonal Age

Remember birthdays before Facebook?

You’d get some calls and voicemails, spend at least a few minutes talking to people who self-selected as real friends by remembering and reaching out.

When Facebook’s birthday mechanic came along it was fun at first, people from all of your different worlds joining in unison to celebrate you in semi-public. It was equal parts dopamine rush and status flex, showing off all the people who turned out.

Over time, those well wishes slowed down (and in a hilarious turn, migrated to LinkedIn) while becoming increasingly generic.

In retrospect, we probably should have predicted that replacing hearing a friend or colleague say “Happy birthday” with 2 clicks and a cake emoji would come to feel transactional at best, depressingly hollow at worst.

To make matters worse, now many of us have bailed on Facebook. And Meta certainly doesn’t make it easy to get those birthdays into your non-Facebook calendar.

Considering that Meta is invoking every possible dark pattern to keep you from opting out of your data being used to train its AI models, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a path to get those connections and their birthdays out of the Menlo Park apocalypse bunker.

We can’t change what was done. But we can be smarter with this next wave of innovation driven by AI.

We know better than to immediately be seduced by the next Silicon Valley sirens dropping tracks about enriching human connection with more layers of (their) technology. We don’t have to rush in to porting our lives into new platforms simply in the name of progress a fear of missing out.

Take the word of those who are already experiencing the next level of impersonality: AI emails from friends.

This is a good preview of what lies ahead, if we don’t draw some hard lines around what should and shouldn’t be passed off to future AI agents, assistants, bots, or whatever they may one day be called.

It felt like getting a birthday card with only the prewritten message inside, and no added well-wishes from the wisher’s own pen. An item off the shelf, paid for and handed over, transaction complete.

It felt like a family fridge decorated with printed stock art of children’s drawings.

It felt like opening the front door at my birthday party to welcome in a group of iPads on wheels instead of people I like.

Remember the birthdays we sacrificed along the way. Come together and honor them by keeping it real.

The call is coming from inside the building

🏢 When the Financial Times is asking “what went wrong with capitalism?” then it feels increasingly likely we have lost the plot. It’s a long read but worth it if you have the time (and stomach).

Something has been changing in the culture. Just as the American “revolution in pain management”, which insisted on treating even moderate injuries with powerful opiates, was hooking the nation on OxyContin, its approach to economic pain management was addicting the system to a drip feed of government support.

Your data, their bullshit

🎟️ Ticketmaster: come for the service charges, stay for the data breach. Maybe this is part of their defense strategy? You can’t hold a consumer monopoly if you just give away your customer data, right?

Reiterating last week’s position: DOJ, do your worst. Maybe even work in a perp walk for Rapino?

Unintentionally noblesse oblige

Ok, I’ve spent a lot of time on misuses and abuses of power, but what about those who are using their resources for the greater good? Let’s make sure they get their flowers:

🦑 Let’s hear it for the brave explorers who keep volunteering to feed sea life at the ocean’s floor. I hope this guy’s kid at least gets a shout-out from Blink-182.

🤡 And of course, the ones driving (or trying to drive) $100,000 memes around town for our amusement.

I had read about the Cybertruck for some time, and watched numerous videos of Cybertrucks doing rudimentary four-wheel-drive shit with the sort of dexterity and confidence generally associated with concepts like "George C. Scott's first capoeira class" or "Robocop doing burpees."

Cybertrucks are actually made here in Austin, so I have the pleasure of seeing them on the road daily.

It helps offset the embarrassment I feel about the fact that Cybertrucks are made here in Austin.

Seen here in Austin. I think it’s a Banksy.

Cybertrucks and You

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💪 Comedy legend and toaster pastry filmmaker Jerry Seinfeld asked where have all the cowboys gone?

I’m not sure which was funnier: the resulting memes and shitposts, or the fact his living “real man” example was…Hugh Grant?

🧇 Hampton Inn has built a cult following by feeding 30 million free waffles per year to traveling lacrosse teams and road warrior salespeople.

💀 Meanwhile, Liquid Death wants you to sell your soul to join their cult loyalty program “country club”.

🌀 Plato and Marcus Aurelius would have been right at home seeing Dead & Co at the Sphere, and not just because both are big Mayer fans.

This week, the lovely people at Canva hosted a major public event featuring a (presumably) unintentionally hilarious musical number that seamlessly blended yo-yo show at a school assembly and Windows ‘95 launch energy.

One more reason why I’m a believer in just springing for name talent and letting them do their thing.

I’ll never forget these two at Davos in ‘82.

Bill Walton’s death hit a lot of people hard this week, myself included.

It’s not that it was a huge shock. Though he was only 71, he battled colon cancer for several years before his passing.

The memories and tributes made it abundantly clear why it hurts to lose Bill: in a sports world filled with self-importance and manufactured drama, Bill was a giant ball of positivity, overflowing with gratitude for every waking moment.

Whether he was playing in a game, calling a game (where he overcame a stutter to become one of the best color guys to ever do it), being interviewed about the game, singing the national anthem before a game, talking about sneakers, attending thousands of Grateful Dead shows, every day felt like the best day of Bill’s life.

I spent a lot of my 20s watching Bill Walton call NBA games, first with the Clippers and then nationwide on ESPN. I don’t remember most of those games, but I can close my eyes and still hear him shout “THROW IT DOWN, BIG MAN” like it was yesterday.

Growing up and going to college in California, his presence was felt from San Diego where he grew up and called home through his passing, to LA where he was a legend in Westwood, up to the Bay where he never missed a Dead show. If you lived there long enough, chances are you had your own great Bill Walton story.

Condolences to his family and the legion of friends he leaves behind. Thank you for sharing Bill with the rest of us.

Rest in Peace, Big Man.

That’s it for the first Sunday Bunch of June 2024.

🙌 to Team Scrambled Greggs (Jess, Tom, Chapin) as well as Colin, Fielding, Jason, and Steve for their contributions and feedback this week.

🎉 to the lovely Janie and Lucas, who got married this weekend.

🎂 to Rafa Nadal, Paul Giamatti, Björn Borg, and the late Barbara Bush, who all celebrate birthdays this week (don’t worry, I also posted on their wall).

☔️ Most of all, here’s to the eternal Prince, who would have been 66 this week. For those of you who celebrate, the Super Bowl XLI halftime show is never a bad place to start.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a great rest of the weekend.

Cheers,
BUNCH

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