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Web3 is the friends you made along the way

Read to the end for a video of a haunted clown statue at Waffle House

Headless Brands

We’re at a weird place with the world of crypto at the moment. It seems clear that NFTs are not an endpoint as much as they are a transition into something else. Most recently, NFTs have led to the creation of decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs. The very simple way to explain what any of that means is: You buy digital a trading card (NFT) which acts as a share of a stock in a small crowdfunded company that operates, usually, on Discord (DAO). Got it?

So that’s all pretty interesting, but DAOs have not had a totally smooth time. Many of the high-profile ones — ConstitutionDAO, Cryptoland, Spice DAO — all imploded for one reason or another. Though, interesting data point here, according to Alex Atallah, the co-founder of NFT platform OpenSea, there are now more NFTs than there were websites in 2010.

This month, Yuga Labs, the company behind the mega-popular NFT line Bored Ape Yacht Club, started to make some pretty big moves. It should also be noted that Yuga Labs is not a DAO, but they have now started one, launching their own ApeCoin. They also bought another hugely popular NFT line, CryptoPunks.

One of the interesting things about Bored Ape Yacht Club, which is actually different from a lot of other NFT lines, is that it gives holders an almost-creative-commons-level of copyright license. Bored Ape Yacht Club is represented by a talent agency, but it grants commercial rights to those who own an ape. Though, you do have to ask Yuga Labs for permission to use your ape commercially. Well, one ape holder did just that and now a Bored Ape fast food pop-up will soon be a reality.

Andy Nguyen, a Los Angeles restauranteur and Bored Ape holder, is launching “Bored & Hungry,” which will be a Bored Ape-themed restaurant pop up. According to Nation’s Restaurant News and the Instagram that Nguyen has started, the pop up will be in Long Beach, California. “The intention of this project is to give to the Web3 community, as well as a place to educate those skeptical about this new world. Our goal and purpose is to bridge the digital world with real life experience. Doing something that's familiar, and at the same time different,” he wrote on Instagram.

Now, this is obviously an eye-rollingly cringe idea, but it has interesting ramifications. Zoe Scaman, a London-based brand strategist who writes a lot about Web3, described this as a “headless brand” and linked to this research paper from 2019 that delves into the concept. The paper, which coined the term, outlines how blockchain technology can give a financial structure to an internet phenomenon that has, up until this point, run counter to how copyright and ownership work online. Let me explain.

Think about Pepe the Frog. He was created by an artist named Matt Furie in 2005. His original version was a chill stoner frog that sometimes liked to pee with his pants pulled all the way down to his ankles because it “feels good, man.” Pepe was then posted on 4chan in 2008, and his smile was photoshopped into a frown, creating the “feels bad, man” meme. This would be the moment that Pepe became a meme, or, a “headless brand”. Pepe’s lifecycle since 2008 has been a disastrous nightmare for the formally chill frog, and Furie has done everything he can to try and regain ownership of the Pepe brand, but the damage has essentially already been done.

The “headless brand” concept is basically an attempt at monetizing this process. But, like all blockchain concepts, all of this is, also, wildly naive and absolutely does not line up with how the internet actually works in practice. If Pepe’s original form was an NFT, I don’t think that would have stopped people from turning him into a hate symbol, nor would it have made it easier for Furie to make money off the meme. Just as there’s nothing stopping a community of neo-Nazis from taking a Bored Ape, without Yuga Labs’ permission, and making it a racist meme. That said, I do think the concept of a headless brand is a useful one.

The Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask is a good example of this, as are Rage Comics, and, in a sense, so are a lot of viral TikTok sounds. Culturally, we’ve already moved into a space where consumers are comfortable with the inherent chaos of headless brands, but, for the most part, copyright and intellectual property laws, have not caught up. And this is really one of the few things that Web3, as a whole, seems to excel at — naming, codifying, and brainstorming financial structures that, at the very least, acknowledge this chaos. And I do feel like all of this is a step in the right direction, somewhat. Kinda. We’re going to hit an event horizon soon, where more pop culture will come from the copyright-blurry gray space of the internet than doesn’t, and we still don’t have particularly great ways to translate that into older, slower financial structures.

But it’s worth repeating: Bored Ape NFTs aren’t creative commons. Nor is there an automated blockchain-based way of getting the permission from Yuga Labs required to use them commercially. So, once again, this is really just another example of a “decentralized” Web3 idea being not so decentralized after all. The headless brand, at least in this case, does have a head. Which really makes me think that, behind all the white papers and theory and blockchain mumbo jumbo, Web3 is really just a fancy-sounding way of describing extremely old-fashioned business deals, the only difference is you can now easily make them with random people you meet on Twitter.

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The Z Movement: Propaganda Vs. Reality

It’s, obviously, hard to parse exactly how “real” Russia’s Z movement is. There are still reports of Z-themed flashmobs, but also near-constant coverage of anti-war protesters being arrested. If you want a good example of what Z propaganda looks like, Reddit’s r/Damnthatsinteresting shared a recent pro-Z video. I liked the top commenter, who wrote, “Wow this is cringe af.” lol, sorry Putin, Reddit thinks your pro-invasion campaign is cringe.

So what kind of people are showing up to the Z demonstrations? Well, Belarusian news agency, NEXTA, grabbed an interview with a Z flashmob participant who said, “They pushed us into a bus and brought here.” And Meduza, an excellent Russian-language news outlet based in Latvia, interviewed anonymous Z protesters who said the same thing. “Students! We’re meeting up for the flash mob at 5 p.m. in the college lobby. Attendance is mandatory! There will be major consequences for not showing up,” the dean of the Kazan State Institute of Culture reportedly told students recently.

Russian propaganda outside of Russia appears to be just as inauthentic. Carl Miller, the research director for the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media in the UK, recently published a great graphic giving a bit more insight into where pro-Russian invasion content is coming from. Basically, a lot of it isn’t being posted from within Russia. “Highly suspect what's happening here is that Russia is abusing 'paid to engage',” Miller wrote. “These are openly offered services that let you buy followers/Retweets/replies. What this map is partly showing are the networks that were essentially rented to pump the pro-invasion hashtags.”

But just because the movement is inauthentic doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. As any American Republican operative can tell you, it’s not hard to force something into reality by drowning out anything that opposes it. And shutting out any kind of opposition to the pro-invasion narrative has become a lot easier now that most major western social platforms are inaccessible in the country.

As of this morning, Meta has been declared an extremist organization in Russia, meaning Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are not just inaccessible in the country, but illegal. And this gives a lot more room for Kremlin propaganda. There’s already been some great research on the effect that western platform closures have had in Russia. tracking.exposed, a research group that investigates algorithmic platforms, recently released a huge report on TikTok’s self-censorship in Russia. “We found that a network of coordinated accounts is using a loophole to post new content promoting Russian pro-war propaganda in Russia, despite the ban on new content uploads previously announced in response to the Russian ‘fake news law’,” tracking.exposed wrote.

More Like Babylon Banned lol

Awful, unfunny, “Christian” “satire” site, The Babylon Bee was suspended for tweeting an awful and unfunny transphobic “joke” , this morning about Rachel Levine, the United States assistant secretary for health. The way most Twitter suspensions work is that Twitter will allow you to come back after 12 hours, but you first have to delete the tweet that triggered the suspension. And the clock doesn’t start ticking until the tweet is deleted.

The Babylon Bee’s CEO Seth Dillon said this morning that they would not be deleting the tweet that triggered the suspension and are now going to leave the platform. Dillon said that this was about standing up for what you believe in and not censoring yourself, but, like all right-wing content, it’s pretty clear this is just a cash-grab and something they can raise money off of.

As for The Bablyon Bee’s “joke,” I’m not going to repeat it, but it’s basically the same anti-trans “joke” that every conservative posts constantly. Instead, though, you should go read Parker Molloy’s excellent post about “the only joke”.

The Missing Link Between VTubers And Web3

This was sent to me by a reader named Cassidy. This video is so weird and awful, but, also, I’ve, honestly, been waiting for this exact thing.

The whole push for “the metaverse” has kind of been a confusing mess. This is largely Mark Zuckerberg’s fault for trying to singularly define it, but, also, the internet’s confusing and no one’s really in charge and everyone has a different idea of what a thing is. But here are the biggest camps within the metaverse movement, if you can call it that. There are the platforms like Facebook, Fortnite, and Roblox that see the metaverse as a virtual reality platform/shopping mall. Then there are the Web3 evangelists who see the metaverse as an online/offline hybrid experience where you turn Discords into boardrooms and use QR codes to get into nightclubs. And there are less-rigidly defined subcultural spaces beyond, who have kind of been blurring the online and offline together since forever. Anime fans, furries, Twitch streamers, Tumblr fandoms, Minecraft YouTube — all of these communities are already living in the metaverse for the most part and are basically the groups the platform people and the Web3 people need to recruit to really make the metaverse happen.

And in this last bucket, VTubers are a pretty big deal. If you’ve never heard of them before, they’re people who use motion capture technology to livestream as anime characters. There are VTuber agencies in Japan and Korea and it’s a pretty huge industry. I think virtual influencers like Miquela are probably never going to ever be a thing, but I do think the idea of motion-capture avatars for streaming is a game-changer. So, I’ve been waiting to see when or how the platform people or the Web3 people would try to connect with this whole world.

The video above is an extension that links an NFT line called Anata to a motion capture program and le’s you use the NFT as an avatar. Based on the demo, it’s not great, but it’s definitely serviceable. Now, before I wrap this up, I want to be very clear: I find the idea of a NFT-based VR anime avatar super cringe, but it’s still interesting nonetheless!

The Weird Water Guy Takes On Whole Foods

I first wrote about Martin Riese earlier this month. He’s a a German “water sommelier” and when I first covered him, I described his videos as a weird mix of wildly fascinating and, also, kind of a bummer. If only because the idea of a “water sommelier” just felt so bleak and grim. Well, I have come around on this and I think I’ve been totally hydro-pilled by this guy.

His account is great and his explanations of the water industry are, honestly, really well done. It’s a whole world I knew nothing about and it seems like Riese is advocating for the right things. He debunks a lot of misinformation about different water brands and seems to be focused on making sure consumers know where the water they’re drinking comes from.

Reise most recently started pushing for Whole Foods to retire their 365 “alkaline water,” which he claimed was just “highly processed filtered tap water.” Well, according to a new video that Riese published, it looks like Whole Foods is phasing out the alkaline water for spring water.

Anyways, I still do think Riese should collab with Jeremy Fragrance.

A Mindblowing The Batman Fan Theory

This was sent to me by a reader named Guy. It’s an incredible fan theory about The Batman originally posted by the Tumblr user eileennatural. It has gone super viral and I’ve decided I believe it 100%. Here’s what eileennatural wrote:

in batman 2022 bruce wayne’s parents were killed in 2001 he would have been like 10? i think. the black parade was released in 2006 when he would have been ambiguously high school aged and obviously very emo and unpopular. what i’m saying here is that i think battinson heard the lyrics “when i was a young boy my father took me into the city to see a marching band he said son when you grow up will you be the savior of the broken, the beaten, and the damned” and decided to become batman then and there.

You can head here to check out the notes, which are all very funny.

Brazilians Really Want Rihanna To Give Birth In Brazil

My girlfriend flagged this up for me last night. There is a growing movement in Brazil to try and convince Rihanna to give birth while the singer is in the country for Brazilian Lollapalooza this weekend. A$AP Rocky is performing. Rihanna is reported to be in her third trimester.

The “Rihanna give birth in Brazil” campaign started when an alleged list of the Brazilian pregnancy foods that Rihanna was craving went viral on Twitter. The couple had reportedly asked for a bunch of different local foods at the hotel they’re staying at. The list includes things like feijoada, açai, and buttered couscous. This led to one Brazilian Twitter user named @tatyanavaleria to tweet, “Rihanna put buttered couscous on her bucket list. It is up to [Paraíba Governor João Azevêdo] to make her have this baby here in Paraíba. This child has to be born in Paraíba. We need the next generation of Paraibanos.”

For clarity’s sake, @tatyanavaleria actually used the expression, “cacto da futura geração,” or “next generation cactus,” which is a reference to a Big Brother Brasil contestant named Juliette who is from Paraíba. Her fandom calls themselves cactuses. This will be important in a second.

Governor Azevêdo responded to @tatyanavaleria’s tweet, writing, “If it depends on us, another cactus is coming. Rihanna or any other woman who wants to have a baby in Paraíba will find the maternal-infant network completely modernized, with new equipment and state-of-the-art technology.”

In many ways, this is the ultimate “come to Brazil” moment and also the perfect Brazilian meme, combining Brazil’s love of escalating and chaotic Twitter chatter, American pop stars, and a pandemic-era pride in the country’s public healthcare system, SUS. And now Brazil waits to see if Rihanna will give birth to a cactus this weekend. Good luck, guys.

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