Our New Year’s Resolution was to write about something that actually matters for once. Yet here we are, less than a week in, back to writing about everything important on the Internet. Which, as you surely know by now, is absolutely nothing.
Chad & El Prof
(Price changes reflect past 7 days as of 1.4.22 @ 4:20 PM EST.)
- Crypto winter is coming.
- (Except for Tezos, lfgo.)
The 2021est News.
We feel contractually obliged to put a bow on the year we’ve spent the past half of heralding as the end times. So we’ve dedicated this first Spotlight column of 2022 to the story we think best sums up the shitshow we just miraculously lived through. We could talk about the Metaverse IRL, the Biblical fuckstorms, the unconstitutional laws, the international turmoil, the millions we lost on Shiba Inu, et al. Instead, the single 2021est story is one that almost no one is talking about.
Last month, a Tumblr post went viral. (A sentence I never thought I’d write again.) The post simply read: ‘kind of obsessed with these ai generated wojaks they express a level of anguish that i don’t think the normal ones are capable of conveying’. It was accompanied by the images pictured above and below.
On the off chance the entire premise of our recent sn0bs launch r/whooshed over you Internet kids’ heads, Wojak is the memetic embodiment of our generational and existential dread. The origins of the original meme (a surprisingly expressive MS Paint illustration dating back to at least 2009) are unknown. The origins of these (as expressive as a Lovecraft protagonist staring down an eldritch horror) are not. Here is our future through the eyes of AI.
AI art bots are hardly news. Our spiritual predecessor, the newsletter Garbage Day, recently ran an exhaustive thinkpiece on how algorithms influenced the trends of content creation today and will dominate them once the algorithms are the ones creating the content. Which may seem like the plot of some spec fic. But then again.
This year, AI reached the point where it can reasonably replicate styles of illustration, music, and human interaction, even if the results are missing a recognizable sense of humanity. (Look closer at the far left ‘mon in the middle column if you don’t believe me.) The Elon-Musk-popularized discourse around AI is that it will provide a breather for the working class. All the boring jobs will be automated, so we can spend all our time on creativity! But the truth is, the AI creations with the most visibility thus far have predominantly been ‘creative’. Look no further than the other 2021 story of the year, the unescapable vulgarity of NFT profile picture projects. They’ve been hailed by many — us included — as the future of the art market. They’re also made by robots. There’s already a market for these abominations. It’s not hard to believe they’ll soon be the market.
(To be fair, I’d frame the little faceless fetish statue ‘mon, bottom center. It looks like my late cat on a bad trip. Really encapsulates our radiant, empty existence, I’d say.)
But back to the 2021est story of the year: AI Wojak. Will those anguished souls go down as The Scream of our time, as they so desperately deserve? No. They’ll be lost to the void as soon as the social media cycle wheels out another sad, shocking, funny little thing for us to project our angst and insecurities over. But there’s something so revealing to me about AI’s take on a meme, specifically. I believe memes, in a strange way, represent the mystery and intangibility of humanity in the Information Age. Even in an obsessively recorded world — where the ‘technology of the future’, blockchain, is basically one long transaction log — no one knows where the OG Wojak came from. Hell, no one even knows why he’s funny. Wojak just is. Like anonymous philosophers and epic poets etching ancient wisdom into stone tablets, he’ll likely live on long after we’re gone, no individual identity, rather, one projected onto our collective lives, the 4chan generation’s personified empathy, or lack thereof. Despite just being a jumble of pixels, Wojak is human. He knows that feel bro.
In a strange way, then, the AI Wojaks are human, too. With memes we made to represent our feelings, we trained a technology we created, for no other reason than because we could. In response, it held up a mirror and showed us how we looked. The result is soulful terror. With all the words in the English language, I couldn’t sum up 2021 better.
In case you missed our incessant self-plugging, we recently opened the doors to our own CAO and accompanying NFT collection, sn0bs. And the reviews are in!
The response has been, in a word, universal. And if you too believe the hype and want to entrust the same guys who spent a month generating ugly, virginal traced art in MS Paint with the future of your creative career, we’re also opening our door to artists in need of free marketing services for their social media accounts. What do you think? Do you want the type of exposure only web3 degens can provide?
The 2021est Art.
El Prof here. 2021 has been a splatter painting, of the possible murder scene variety. My gloomy palette is populated with the same macro shades as everyone else’s — inflation, pandemic spikes, politicians treating historical institutions like middle school food fights — with some micro notes of instability and sheer terror, probably due to the nosedive of a trust fall I took when I left my job at Google to start this business. In the spirit of the year, I’ll leave it to an AI algorithm to describe succinctly, which Spotify’s did quite well, my music consumption habits: ‘hopeful angst’. That, indeed, seemed to be the mood of 2021, and certainly of these three paintings, drawings, and Internet doodles that, for me, best sum it up.
I could shout out the obvious contenders: the Bored Apes, the shredded Banksy, the $69m Beeple. Instead, I’m plugging an unsung piece by an artist I am all sorts of interested in (financially, emotionally, you name it) which, in the year of the hustle bro, feels especially fitting. It depicts 5 disembodied white male heads, all shedding golden tears, which is like a Russian nesting doll of metaphors, but all around a 2021 vibe. Here’s hoping we are heading into our own Renaissance Age in the coming years, beheaded czars and all.
An NFT art mainstay whose comic book scenes have generated a lot of awareness for web3 in general, Sabet’s blend of styles embodies a year of cultural diffusion. East and West, digital and physical, homage and original, you name it — Sabet encompasses it all, and never better than in this plagiarized Bored Ape, which couldn’t be more gilded if it tried. Welcome to the raging crypto ’20s.
This piece drew me into an IRL conversation with the artist regarding the struggles promoting artwork without devaluing it, which was one of the first sparks to light the fire I’ve been stoking with cultr_h0r, sn0bs, 3mrgnt, and the rest of my content and ventures ever since. And, while this whimsical work, apparently designed to raise awareness of the deadly repercussions of the shark fin trade, would surely make a killer animated NFT, I’m including it here for the opposite reason.
I never could sell Ms. Fisk on the concept of NFTs, and I’m not sure we H0Rs are entirely sold ourselves. At the same time, they present an attractive alternative to the current state of things. Fisk’s imaginative artwork is a far cry from the utilitarian cash grabs, PFPs, and algo trash I’ve been forced to cover all season in this column. And yet, as I found out at the art fair where we first connected, she’s losing countless earned royalties to a Russian company using her artwork without permission and with impunity. Would blockchain-secured ownership rights change this? She wasn’t sure, and I’m not either. But it’s easy to see why so many creatives this year have adopted it nonetheless.
The 2021est Sounds.
These are not the most popular songs of 2021, nor the greatest, nor even, in some cases, songs. And I can all but guarantee you haven’t heard the bulk of them. But, for better or worse, these five sounds capture the oracular clusterfuck that was this year.
‘Red Dress‘ — Sarah Brand
An apparently authentic attempt at making a sweeping statement on love, life, and God, executed with all the talent, bombast, and excruciating cringe of a kindergarten production of The Wiz. It’s no wonder the 2021 pop charts were dominated by hits so mind numbingly cookie cutter they could’ve been AI generated. These days, this is where swinging for the fences gets you.
JAMAIS VU — GARÇON
A project by way of a single track, ASMR ambience has never sounded so essential. With nothing but banal found sounds, airy synths, and paper-thin percs, the DMV producer paints a vivid portrait of what David Foster Wallace called our ‘default settings’ — the routine mundanities and cyclical insanity of day-to-day life. But as these discordant and beautiful melodies almost imperceptibly evolve, he rings out some profundity from it all, too, blurring the lines between songs and sounds, the simple and the divine, nostalgia and the future.
‘Fairy God / Paranormal Rat Race‘ — Dick Bros
I’m mostly convinced I’m the only person to hear this bizarre project all the way through. I’m definitely convinced it should stay that way. But for the curious soul, here’s a taste of the irreplicable blend of inconstant identity, inherent absurdity, sexual frustration, and psychonautics pervading our modern culture at its full, borderline unlistenable glory.
You Had To Be There — Lost Gen
Dropped at midnight on the last day of 2021, the new EP from this Internet-addicted alt pop collective would hardly qualify, were it not so blatantly of its time. Equal parts slapper factory, inside joke, and pandemic era party album (an oxymoron if there ever was one) it wraps the year in 7 simple words: ‘this party is kind of a letdown.’
Enigma — Eulerbeats
For better or worse, this algorithmically generated jumble of bleeps and bloops, listed by OpenSea as the highest selling music NFT of all time, is the sound of the year. Despite lacking the human touch, they sold for an astronomical base price and, more importantly, brought in millions in royalties for their holders in the first week alone, proving out a business model we’ve been trumpeting since we launched. God willing, Eulerbeats won’t influence a single artist stylistically. But as far as the future of the industry, you can’t put the analog back in the tube.
The 2021est Other Shit.
The ‘no context succession‘ Twitter account — @nocontextroyco
Succession may be the undisputed show of 2021, but the real MVP of the show’s Sunday night Twitter monopoly wasn’t HBO, the writer room, or even its admirably psychotic lead. It is perhaps the first prestige show to be seemingly designed entirely for social media, with infinitely quotable scenes making even less sense in context than without. If you don’t believe me, please turn to page ‘I’ve Got A Dick The Size Of A Red Sequoia, And I Fuck Like A Bullet Train.’
Zola — A24
Speaking of well-received media properties irrevocably linked to infinite scroll feeds, the simulation jumped the shark with this Oscar-bait dramedy. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a good movie, although sitting with my college buddies staring at a screen displaying a mosaic of flaccid penises did make for a strangely memorable bonding experience. But in the annals of history, what are we more likely to remember? The latest Leonardo DiCaprio movie? Or the one adapted from a literal Twitter thread?
The $600 Bored Ape Yacht Club Hoodie — Yuga Labs
The longstanding question of the year was, ‘what will the Metaverse actually look like?’ And, despite a slew of slapdash op-eds and ill-advised Facebook press conferences, it was answered unceremoniously in a pop up shop at NFT.NYC. The Metaverse will look like overpriced JPEGs screen printed on overpriced hoodies. Next question (and year) please.