In Mother Russia, you don’t own the Internet. The Internet owns you.
Chad & El Prof
(Price changes reflect past 7 days as of 3.8.22 @ 4:20 PM EST.)
- Wow, all double-digit decreases! Burns my wallet, but soothes my OCD.
As thankful as I am to make a living copy-pasting insults from one BAYC-adjacent NFT project review to the next, it’s not every day I get to live out my high-school-era dream of watching TV all day and getting paid to loudly voice my opinion on it.
Imagine my excitement, then, when I learned of Shibuya, a ‘decentralized film distribution platform’ — aka the long awaited ‘Netflix but NFTs’ elevator pitch of every a16z exec worth their Diem’s wet dream. Founded, as these things often are, by a genuinely cool NFT artist and a handful of developers made Twitter famous by their mini-yacht-priced profile pictures, Shibuya seemed to me to have a solid shot at the vacant throne of web3 streaming.
Currently, the web3 video content space — as depressing and empty as every house party I’ve ever thrown — has been dominated by Stoner Cats, an adult animated series starring Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis requiring purchase of a 0.3eth NFT ($700+ currently) to even view. The OpenSea collection is sold out with over 5,000 owners, so presumably someone is watching it. But with IRL gas fees over $4 now, I can tell you it won’t be me anytime soon.
The episode descriptions don’t inspire a ton of confidence either: ‘Ms. Stoner unwittingly receives a mysterious strain of medical marijuana. The cosmic kush causes her to hotbox herself and her five house cats. Thus begins the cat-astrophe.’ Sounds like an Adult Swim reject rushed to series after a few celebrities showed (self) interest, which, let’s be real, is exactly what it is. But on all the world wide web, I can’t find a single review or bootleg to gauge the quality for myself. Perhaps Stoner Cats really is Peak TV’s best kept secret. But the pessimist in me assumes the hodlers simply run a tight ship to keep the value of their NFTs from greening out.
Compared to Stoner Cats, Shibuya is the embodiment of one of those Eastern vs. Western Animations memes. The landing page is a slick GIF in the house style favored by most DAO designers and/or lofi hip hop playlist curators: neon lit anime scenes designed to get high and stare at for hours before you realize it’s just the same ten frames on repeat. Plus, Pplpleasr, the artist behind the project, is, if anything, overqualified for such a venture, with visual effects credits on a bunch of blockbuster films, and crypto animations cool enough I won’t even hold the climax of Batman v. Superman against her.
What’s more, on the day I discovered the project, they’d just launched the pilot of their first series, White Rabbit. And you don’t even need to pay out the ass to watch it! The requisite Ponzi-esque element instead comes in the form of a ‘Producer Pass’ you can hodl to vote on the ending of each new episode. The pay-per-view ‘Bandersnatch’ of it all doesn’t really appeal to me, but at least I could now justify spending half an hour on the clock watching a cartoon. I knew it was meant to be.
Imagine my lack of excitement, then, upon discovering ‘Chapter One‘ runs for all of 45 seconds. Nevertheless, I’m living a young Chad’s dream today, so bear with me as I proceed with my recap/review.
The plot is introduced in an expositional title card — on screen for 5 seconds, or 1/9th of the episode’s run time — announcing every degen’s darkest fear has come true. AI is now uncontrollable and ‘the blockchain is no longer secure.’ A huge fuck you to good writing’s Golden Rule — ‘show, don’t tell’ — but hey. They know how to pander to an audience at least. Character introductions are then dispensed of J.J. Abrams style, as we cut to a close-up of a young woman’s face as she sleeps, which is surely proving out Rule 34 across countless dark corners of the Internet as I type.
A deer, made of dust or stars or something, then appears in the sky (the ‘sci-fi but also fantasy’ trope desperately needs to be euthanized) and the woman wakes. She sits up and sees the shape in the sky, too, but, plot twist, it’s a dog now. She runs through a meadow and her eyes grow wide as she arrives at… drum roll… two doors. I had ‘fork in the road’ on my Choose Your Own Adventure bingo card, but I’mma say, close enough.
So, there you have it. Peak TV. Or, rather, Valley. If you’ve got 0.08eth to spare on a Producer Pass, you can vote on whether the nameless protagonist we’ve been gifted a few dozen seconds to get to know goes through the door with the spirit dog or the spirit hand poking out. But considering the only stakes established in this exquisite minute of television came in the form of a block of text completely unrelated to everything else we saw on screen, I don’t know why you would. Besides, both doors surely lead to the same place — another thousand or so frames of contextless beauty that are decidedly not ppl pleasing.
(P.S. Panning shitty TV turns out to be exactly as fun as it looks. Thanks A.A. Dowd.)
TFW your state currency is also a shitcoin
The invasion of Ukraine continues to moonlight as the crash course in Internet anthropology no one asked for.
There’s now a subreddit for foreign citizens to volunteer to fight in Ukraine. Of course, almost as soon as it emerged, it turned into a Spiderman-finger-pointing meme of anonymous white suburban teenagers with no combat experience cosplaying as the type of person who would volunteer to defend democracy while accusing other members of a presumably similar demographic of being Russian chaos agents. For every Arab Spring, there’s a dozen 2012 Baltimore reddit meetups waiting in the wings.
Meanwhile, the Ruble is worth less than Roblox’s in-game currency. So, Russia has turned its propaganda machine’s sights on hypebeast fascism with their answer to MAGA or QAnon — the military symbol / Putin Youth approved streetwear logo ‘Z’. Also, the sovereign nation state of Ukraine is being accused of rugpulling after cancelling their planned token airdrop and announcing a pivot to NFTs. Whoever said ‘war is hell’ is lucky they didn’t live to see war in 2022.
Good time for a biweekly reminder of the actually useful ways you can help Ukraine.
IP theft for a good cause
The claim that NFTs will revolutionize ownership rights is currently being tested in the most depressing way imaginable. Andy Parker, the father of late journalist Alison Parker, murdered on air by a former colleague, has minted the viral video as a ‘Hail Mary’ to force big tech companies to remove it from their platforms. The latest in a long series of Parker’s efforts — including organizing a flagging campaign, filing federal complaints, and literally running for congress — shines a light on the weaknesses of web2 platforms and the web3 tech supposedly addressing them.
The logic behind the move is that platforms like Facebook and YouTube are far more likely to limit harmful content when it violates copyright law (read: invokes the threat of being sued). Ironically, one of the few pros to centralized content providers — the capability to deplatform genuinely hurtful content — is rarely exercised except under legal duress. So, while the copyright of the original video is still owned by the CBS affiliate that initially aired it, Parker has turned to the decentralized web for help.
Parker minted a download of the video as an NFT in hopes it could provide the same legal foundation for a lawsuit as a traditional copyright claim. It’s a hope shared by many crypto evangelists who believe permanent ownership records in on-chain ledgers — represented by NFTs — could serve as legal protection for intellectual property without having to go through government-controlled channels. And, given the profile of the case and the lack of legal precedent, there’s a chance Parker could win and set a new one in the process.
It’s the desired outcome in this specific case, obviously, as I personally believe a father should never be at risk of stumbling upon a video of his daughter’s death with hundreds of thousands of Zuckerberg-approved views. It’s less clear if it’d be a desirable outcome in terms of the emerging legal landscape on the blockchain. Unchecked IP theft abounds in NFT marketplaces, with many top selling projects being allegedly and/or openly plagiaristic. A court determining an NFT of a provably copyrighted video to be a viable IP claim would surely only exacerbate this.
Then again, it’s not clear if IP theft in the traditional sense is even something web3 is capable of curbing. A fully decentralized web3 would leave no overseers in place to remove plagiarized content. The gatekeepers of the current space, like OpenSea, tend to favor the web2 playbook anyway — hands off, unless the content is explicitly fascist, or at least, fascist enough to generate significant press and impact their bottom line. And a self-policed blockchain-based Internet would look about the same as the one we have now, where dangerous content is ostracized from the mainstream, but widely circulated in fringe channels.
So, it’s more worthwhile, in my opinion, to excise ‘ownership’ from the conversation entirely. It’s the Internet, after all, where every creation/thought/meme seems to spring out fully formed from the cultural cesspool, without a single creator to assign credit to. Which, in reality, is probably the way it’s always been. (Don’t believe me, ask Shakespeare. Or Jesus.) NFTs — like bone clubs, electricity, or cryptocurrency — are nothing more than a new tool for creative minds to use to shape the world their way, whether it be into a memetic free-for-all, a drug money laundromat, or, in the rare case of Andy Parker, a slightly less depressing place.