📞 Secret World №. 10: Neighbourhood deepfake

Around this time last year, when the weather started to warm and working from home still felt liminal, I became better acquainted with the neighbourhood birds. They had always been there, of course. But with nowhere else to go, I was noticing them more — the way the pigeons would not stop trying to roost in my plants, and how the windows were covered in poop I was powerless to clean, but also our majestic neighbourhood hawk. The hawk I loved. Sometimes when my mind wandered, I could see the hawk outside — ducking and twisting between the apartment buildings before floating out over the park towards the lake. If I was lucky, I would see it dive into the trees, some unlucky prey locked in its sights. Mostly, though, I heard it; the hawk had a piercing cry that filled the sky, day after day. Time did not stand still for the hawk. Life went on, outside.

My partner also noticed the hawk — but she noticed something off. Its cry sounded too perfect, too real. I shrugged the observation off. I had seen the hawk! I had watched the pigeons scatter as it took to the air, seen its wings stretched taut and wide. Still, I wondered: could the hawk I saw and the hawk I heard be two different things? I didn’t want to believe it. I was comforted by the familiar cry, a reminder the hawk was present, nearby but out of sight. But one day my partner called me over. Her voice was solemn. She didn’t think the hawk we heard was real, and finally she had proof. Together, we watched the clock. And sure enough, every twenty minutes — precisely, without fail — we heard the hawk cry. The sound was the same, every time.


  • My friend Scaachi Koul wrote a really good profile of Dr. Phil, a person I’ve always been vaguely familar with, but never quite realized the extent to which his show exploits its guests under the guise of providing mental health advice.

  • WiFi, but make it art.

  • I’m working on a story that led me to this perfect artefact: a business case study for the MP3, back when there were still "MP3 entrepreneurs.” It’s remarkable, though, how the cost of an album or song is more or less the same today as it was then. (It’s an imperfect measure, but the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator says an $8.99 album should cost $13.58 today.)

  • The inevitable convergence of fashion, Fortnite skins, and RPG character creators.

  • The second issue of this newsletter was about my long-running love of breakfast sandwiches — and one particular sandwich, made with hoisin. I feel a kinship with Drew on this.

  • I assume the fake hawk is a pigeon deterrent, a simple recording that one of the nearby buildings plays from its roof. But I don’t know how effective it is.

  • This one’s for the birds.

Secret World is a newsletter from writer Matthew Braga. If you’re not familiar with me or my work, be sure to check out my website, and consider following me on Twitter.

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