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No one wants to watch your ape show
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Fandom Will Not Be Tokenized
Thanks to a screenshot I saw on Twitter the other night, I, unfortunately, decided to check out the recent Verge interview with a16z crypto lead investor and Web3 booster Chris Dixon. This put me in a pretty bad state of mind (understatement).
Dixon says, “The Hollywood media world is very excited about Web3 for a variety of reasons. They just understand NFTs — selling emotion and stories — in a way that a lot of traditional tech people did not.” I will buy that Hollywood people are in the business of selling emotion and stories. That sounds about right. But what I don’t buy is the bizarre leap he’s making here of characterizing NFTs as the equivalent of beloved franchises that the culture industry can expertly pump out. They are not. They are JPGs (but not even really that). If Hollywood media says they understand them better than tech people they are lying.
Based on the recent Jack Dorsey incident, in which an auction for the NFT of his first-ever tweet began at $48 million and ended at a fraction of that, NFTs for NFTs’ sake seems like a bubble that has already burst. DAO communities, record labels, and other applications for crypto tokens are perhaps a little more sustainable, but those are centered on other interesting things that people might actually want, like “cool” “parties” or being able to directly support musicians outside the bounds of streaming platforms.
With Dixon’s investment of choice, Bored Ape Yacht Club, there’s no there there. In his interview, he makes passing references to the “architecture” of fan communities, which are typically a rich ecosystem of art, fanfic, zines, conventions, and emergent and iterative behaviors that need some kind of intellectual property or “canon” that people want to engage with. And you can’t generate that out of typical NFT lines, no matter how much money you throw at broke screenwriters to make your ape cartoons or whatever. It’s too soulless from the start. The center cannot hold.
“I think the idea that you could have fans that truly have participation and ownership in communities and storytelling is really exciting,” Dixon says. What? What??? Yeah, it’s an exciting idea, it was exciting when it began happening in the Edwardian era with Sherlock Holmes fans who exchanged their own original fan fiction via the postal service. The public sphere of the imagination is over a century old!
Crypto relies on a concept of the “trustless” blockchain, which emphasizes financial non-dependence on institutions like banks. But there’s a semantic parallel, or perhaps a contagion, to the situation that crypto boosters find themselves in when they seek to turn to, and take advantage of, the immense economic engine that is intellectual property.
Because yeah, it’s trustless, alright. Which is simply to say there is a massive population of young people who do not and will not ever trust crypto. In fact, they fucking hate it. It is anathema to them. It is not “empowering” or “fan-driven,” but precisely the opposite. It represents every soul-deadening, world-destroying, hellscape-enacting tentacle of late capitalism working to encroach on the shared pop culture worlds they hold so dear, which are, of course, always-already in a protracted state of suffering at the hands of constantly-merging corporations and executive meddling. Crypto, to them, is pure alienation and empty exchange value. They boycotted Discord, they forced game company Team17 to give up on a crypto project, and they flood the mentions on Twitter of any celebrity that so much as dares mention an interest in pursuing NFTs.
And the fans that feel this way about projects like Dixon’s are the same fans that could, and in fact have been for the last decade doing exactly the kind of from-the-ground-up collaborative storytelling that Dixon imagines the NFT space is perfect for, as Ryan so correctly pointed out.
Lighthouse Raiders’ “S&D Tier” series, for example, is one of the most creative canons currently running on social media — and it’s co-created via community improvisation, fic writing, fanart, as well as canon and non-canon input from the series creator, whose “episodes” are delivered as $0-budget front-facing-camera voice-acting TikTok videos. No tokens necessary.
Like yeah, okay, maybe the Midwestern dads who are devoted to Yellowstone and its spinoffs might not exactly take up arms against a campaign to expand that franchise’s story-world via some kind of token-based interactive project. But that’s not the group of people who are going to get Chris Dixon and his Hollywood cash-piranha ilk their proof-of-concept in the form of billion-dollar original NFT IP. The ones that can do it, won’t. At least not in the way the boosters want them to.
“The next Disney or Marvel would not come top-down from a company. It would come from an internet community
who comes together using NFTs, tokens, and other kinds of Web3 concepts to create stories and characters, and would actually own parts of those characters and have control over them.” There. That’s better.
There’s a Garbage Day meetup next week! It’s at Logan’s Run in Brooklyn on April 21 (the day after 420). There will be drinks, earnest irl conversations about internet content, maybe pizza, and some new Garbage Day merch! It’s free, but if you want to RSVP, there’s an Eventbrite for that here.
Sigh… Let’s Talk About Musk
Yesterday, Elon Musk made an official offer to buy Twitter. The New York Times reports that Twitter plans to fight off Musk’s attempts at a takeover. And, according to a new SEC filing, an investment management firm called Vanguard Group is now a bigger shareholder than Musk, with a 10.3% stake in the company. Oh, this is getting juicy! Real “Let them fight” Godzilla vs. King Kong energy.
I wrote a piece in Fast Company yesterday about Musk’s desires to own Twitter (I’ll be doing a Twitter Spaces about it later today). In it, I argue that Musk wants to completely merge himself with his dank meme-based “I fucking love science”-style internet persona and have complete control over the pipeline with which he delivers that propaganda.
At a rambling and confusing TED Talk interview that Musk appeared at yesterday, he told the audience, “My strong, intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization.” It was the big quote of the interview, which really didn’t offer much other than a chance for Musk to call the SEC “bastards” and give him a chance to vaguely threaten a “plan B” if Twitter doesn’t accept his offer. And I actually think the civilization talk is genuine because I think Musk knows that he needs powerful narratives that can inspire people to inevitably die horribly in the vacuum of space trying to help him colonize Mars. And the internet, and currently Twitter, is the easiest and cheapest and least regulated way of creating those narratives.
Now we all have to wait to see what happens next. Fun! I imagine this is how feudal serfs felt when they inevitably learned their unelected syphilitic monarch had decided to go to war against Portugal or forcibly make the whole country Catholic. As for whether or not it’s even possible that Musk could pull this off, I thought Platformer’s Casey Newton had the best take, writing, “On Thursday afternoon, most people in the worlds of journalism and finance believed the answer to be no. Under the trickster-god theory of Elon Musk, this is reason for us to assume the answer may be yes.”
And if you’re wondering we, the common internet user, can do in the meantime, Twitter user @verysmallriver had this suggestion:
The “Send Titty Pics” Biker Does A Reverse Milkshake Duck
If you understand that headline, congrats, you’re reading the right newsletter! A biker was spotted in Texas with a “send titty pics” vest that had a phone number on it that people were meant to text them to. At first, Twitter users were concerned that the phone number, which ends in “1488” was a Nazi thing. “1488” is a popular code for white nationalists and neo-Nazis. But, thanks to the dogged reporting from Texas Monthly senior editor Christopher Hooks, it’s actually just a random phone number the biker ended up with.
You can read Hooks’ short, but very sweet interview with the “Send Titty Pics” biker here. It’s great.
North Korean Hackers May Have Been Behind The Axie Infinity Hack
Axie Infinity, the prohibitively expensive Pokémon knock-off that became popular enough to support an actual economy (and virtual debt slavery) in countries like the Philippines, suffered a catastrophic hack last month. It’s possible it’s the largest single hack in the history of DeFi, or decentralized finance, totaling over $600 million. Coindesk reported this week that the hack may have been carried out by the Lazarus Group, a cybercrime syndicate with ties to North Korea.
This is all patently ridiculous and there is literally no amount of dystopian science fiction that could have prepared me for the intense future-weirdness of North Korean thieves stealing millions of dollars from the players of a cute collectible monster video game.
Channel 5 Goes To Ukraine
Andrew Callaghan, who got his start with a web series called All Gas No Brakes, is probably best known for his bizarre and hilarious man-on-the-street interviews, many of which are filmed in some part of Florida lol. Callaghan has a new project called Channel 5 that traffics in a lot of the breezy and bizarre content that his previous one was known for — they’ve made a lot of videos with Chet Haze — but it seems like Callaghan and his team are beginning to stretch themselves into new and definitely more serious areas. They recently published a video from Ukraine.
Their video, titled, “War In Ukraine,” also features Jake Hanrahan, who runs another independent media project called Popular Front. The video is definitely jarring amid Channel Five’s other content, but it’s also some really good journalism and I think Callaghan’s deeply humanist reporting style really works for more serious topics like this. Definitely excited to see what Channel 5 decides to do next.
A Tweet About England
Some Incredible Internet Archeology
I watch a lot of YouTube videos about “scene” music from the mid-00s lol. It’s my lunch break decompression routine. And I recently came across a smaller channel that I actually think could be really interesting for Garbage Day readers. It’s called Cozy Representative and his videos are basically big deep dives on MySpace/Warped Tour bands. The one embedded above is wild because it actually has fairly hard to come by screenshots of what MySpace pages actually looked like at the time. I also think his video about the band Atilla serves as a really interesting microcosm of basically all of culture from the last 20 years.
One More Good Tweet
This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by a user named odoyleyules.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s what it’s like to be inside a bag of corn flakes.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***