NFT WTF

If you’ve been anywhere on the internet in the last few weeks or months you’ve probably been hearing about NFTs. Like scores of others, you’ve probably been wondering just what an NFT is and if you should bother caring about them or not. Valid questions. I’d argue that you should, especially if you are involved in any kind of arts or creative work.

If you want to get a very detailed in depth understanding of the history, technology and cultural impact there are a number of long winded explainers and think pieces written for just that purpose. That is not the purpose of this article even though it is also long winded – I mostly just want to pass on what I think is most important. That said, if you want to take a half hour and read these few articles you will have a very solid grasp of the landscape:
• Cryptomedia, NFTs and the Next Internet – Bobby Hundreds
• What is an NFT? – Everything You Need to Know about Crypto Media and Tokens – Tim Stodz
• NFTs and a Thousand True Fans – Chris Dixon
NFT Art Goes Viral and Heads to Auction — But What Is It? – Valentina Di Liscia

The Basics: NFT means Non-Fungible Token. Fungibility essentially means interchangeability and in economics that means that all dollars are basically the same. If I take $10 to my bank and deposit it, and then wire transfer it to you and you go to your bank and withdraw $10 you technically have a different $10 in your hand, but because “a dollar” is fungible that doesn’t matter, because $10 is $10. The “value” changed hands, even if the actual physical representation of it didn’t. Now lets say I drew a little sketch of my cat and wanted to give it to you but you live on the other side of the world. I can’t just give that sketch to someone who then tells someone else near you to draw a sketch of a cat and say it’s the same thing, because the sketch is non fungible. You need the actual sketch I drew for it to have value (financial or emotional). Now, if you think of digital items then they are basically all fungible. If I send you an email with a photo attached, you aren’t reading the exact thing I wrote or seeing the exact photo I sent, you are reading a copy of it. But what even is original in terms of digital? That’s where NFTs come in, using the blockchain (which is the technology behind things like Bitcoin) this is a way to ensure that a digital file is the original and not a copy.

One of the hesitations towards and criticisms of digital art has always been that it has no rarity, as anyone can make a copy of it as many times as they want and it’s no different than the original. The same argument is used to denigrate photography and video art, though usually there’s some physical element (a signed and numbered print for example) that specifies the uniqueness. That isn’t typically a concern with a painting or sculpture which is obviously one of a kind. Of course there are forgeries, but they take a lot of effort and experts can usually spot them quite easily. An NFT is a cryptographical way to create that rarity and uniqueness in a digital item and prove that something isn’t a copy.

An artist can “tokenize” a piece of work and then sell it, and the buyer can prove that what they just bought is the original thing sold by the artist. And because the blockchain is public, every time that artwork changes hands it’s recorded in a public ledger and at any point someone can verify the piece is legitimate and trace the chain of custody all the way back to the artist who originally released it. (Or the impersonator, as the case may be) Like an old library check out card, the blockchain records who owned it for how long, and if it was given to them or if they bought it, and if they did how much they paid. Which is a fascinating way to track value fluctuation (hopefully appreciation) over time.

I think this is one of the biggest and most important details – whoever originally creates the NFT is hard coded into the ledger and can specify a royalty that they should receive anytime the work is sold in the future. Traditionally secondary market sales happen like this: Andy makes a painting and asks Larry to sell it for him. Larry has a gallery and sells Andy’s painting to Kirk. Andy typically gets 50% of that sale. So if Kirk bought it for $1000, Andy just made $500. Larry did too, but that’s a different story. Anyway, say 10 years later Andy has become a much more popular artist and Kirk decides to sell that painting and asks Christie to sell it for him, Christie will take a 20% fee for doing that and 80% will go to Kirk. Andy gets nothing. So if Christie sells that painting for $1M, Kirk makes $799,500, Christie makes $200,000, but Andy gets nothing. He’s still only got that original $500 from Larry. However if that painting was an NFT, and Andy is the one who made it Andy could specify that anytime that work is ever sold in the future, he gets a % of that sale.

Artists! This is important. If a gallery or curator or someone has approached you about making NFTs of your work and hasn’t told you about this, chances are they are putting themselves in that royalty seat so they, not you, get paid off every sale.

Think of an NFT like your domain name or your email address. Some of you might know first hand the problems that can come from letting a business partner own or manage your domain or email. Or your bank account. This has the potential to be a million times worse, and it’s one of those problems that you won’t realize is a problem until it’s too late. Take steps to avoid it now by making and publishing your own NFTs. It’s really not that hard, and the effort is worth it.

One final thing: Like iPhones vs Androids, there are two common standards at play here. ERC-721 and ERC-1155. ERC-721 is the older standard used by everyone and is for absolutely positively one of a kind items. ERC-1155 is a newer standard (and thus still gaining adoption) and is more flexible as it allows you to make one of a kind items, or an edition (only 25 ever made) or even open editions. If you want to understand more on that, read this.

With that out of the way, let’s move on.

So how do you make (or “mint” as it’s called) an NFT? Actually how you mint, list, and sell an NFT are closely related. For the purpose of this I’m going to be talking about minting and selling on OpenSea which is the currently the largest marketplace for such things, and is the service I used to easily mint my first NFTs.

There are several sites that will help you make NFTs and also several sites where you can sell NFTs. As long as they are using ERC-721 or ERC-1155 standards the NFTs you create in one place can be transferred or sold in another place. But in the same way you can’t take one painting and sell it to 5 different art galleries at the same time, one of a kind items can only be sold on one marketplace at a time.

Other popular sites/services include: Bitski, Ephimera, Foundation GhostMarket, Nifty Gateway, Rarible, Super Rare, Wax, etc etc etc. Each site has different policies, practices, and fees. Some have strict curation and you have to apply and prove yourself worthy to sell things there, some require buyers use their own in house cryptocurrency rather than something more widely exchangeable and some have pretty high fees for that convenience so caveat emptor. Again, to keep things simple I’m only talking about OpenSea.

OpenSea also offers “free NFT minting” which is a little misleading in that you still have to pay to initiate your account (technical limitation that you have to pay anywhere) but while other sites will charge you a “gas” fee every time you mint a new NFT, OpenSea won’t.

You will also need a wallet to accept all the crypto you will be making from your sales. You might ask why you can’t just use paypal or something? Because paypal deals in FIAT currency not cryptocurrency which is central to this entire thing. On OpenSea most sales are done using Ethereum (which is the second most popular cryptocurrency next to Bitcoin) though you can choose to accept a different type of cryptocurrency if you want. Think of OpenSea like ebay, they handle the transaction but they don’t hold money for you because they aren’t a bank. And neither is OpenSea, which is why you need a wallet. Most people use MetaMask which is simple browser extension, others prefer Coinbase Wallet which is an app you install on your phone. There are other options which you’ll be prompted to choose from when you first go to OpenSea, but you need one to go any further. Any money you make on the site from sales will go directly to that wallet, and if you choose that wallet when you decide where future royalties are sent then will go there too. But keep in mind that isn’t something you can change later, so make sure to write down all your wallet recovery details. If you lose your wallet, you lose your wallet. Literally.

Once you’ve connected your wallet your account on OpenSea exists. Keep in mind the two are linked, so if you go to OpenSea and use a different wallet, you’ll end up with a new (empty) account. The little circle icon in the upper left corer is your avatar, and that dropdown will allow you to set all the basic profile stuff you would set on any site. Next to it is CREATE and you guessed it, this is where you go to create NFTs. Choose “My Collections” on that dropdown and on the next page you’ll be given an option to create a new collection which you have to do first as your NFTs will be part of the collection. You’ll get a popup asking for a name, description and logo.

One thing I didn’t realize, the collection is independent from the user. I guess because you can invite other people to help you manage collections. But point being, the URL will be based on the collection, not the user. For example when I created a collection called “D5Kglitches” I assumed that would be nested under the user “seanbonner” but it’s not, and creating that collection resulted in a URL that looks like this:

https://opensea.io/collection/d5kglitches

And as you can see on this page showing one of the NFTs in the collection, the attribution is to D5Kglitches, not Sean Bonner. In this context that’s not a big deal, but it’s worth noting. I plan to make NFTs of some of my photography and I’ll be making a new collection properly named when I do.

Once you’ve made a collection you can click into it and “Add New Item” which is the option you’ll use to mint an NFT. Before that you should click the “edit” button though and you’ll have a chance fill in more information including any links or credits you want to add, as well as that royalty thing I mentioned earlier. All NFTs in this collection will conform to this, so decide what % of future sales you want and put in your wallet address.

Once you’ve saved that, go back and hit that “Add New Item” button. This is where you choose the digital file you want to tokenize. Files can be a JPG, PNG, GIF, SVG, MP4, WEBM, MP3, WAV, OGG, GLB, or GLTF. Max size is: 100 MB. Add a name, a link to any external information about it (like your website) and a description. You can also add “lockable content” which is basically things that are hidden until it’s bought. I’ve seen people sell a collection of 10 blank white squares, with the actual image being locked content, so people didn’t know what they were buying until after they bought it. I’ve also see people sell a visual object and provide audio as the locked. Of course there’s no requirement to do this, it’s just an option if you want it.

Next is “Supply” and at the moment this is greyed out and limited to 1. However, if you paste “?enable_supply=true” into the URL and reload the page you’ll be able to edit that. BUT, you’ll lose anything you already added on the page, so don’t do that yet. Just go ahead with 1 copy and remember that for next time.

The next step is “create” which is where you’ll need to initiate your account with a transaction if you haven’t already, and then you can set the price/type of sale. Options are for a fixed price, auction, or declining price. Most people will want to just start off with a fixed price. If you have a following who is waiting on baited breath for your NFTs to drop then you could choose auction and see how much they are willing to pay. Declining price took me a minute to understand but this is a tactic to use FOMO as a marketing tool. You set a high price and a time period, and over that time the price gradually decreases until someone buys it or the deadline is hit – the idea being people will watch it and buy it before it gets too cheap and someone else gets it before them. I don’t know how this works in practice, but in theory maybe someone who only wanted to pay $100 might buy it at $120 because they are scared someone else will buy it at $105? Sort of a reverse auction or something.

Click sell, and you are rolling. You can tell people about your NFTs and people can buy them if you send them the link. They won’t be able to find them on their own though because there is one final step where someone at OpenSea has to manually “verify” that the collection is real and works and legal, once they do that then you are in search results on the site too. They say if you sell things you get noticed, but also just tweeting to them and asking for verification seems to work really well too.

If you have any questions let me know and I’ll see if I can help.

If this was helpful and you want to buy one of my NFTs you can see what I have available here.

You Just Lost The Game(stop)

This is an excerpt my most recent newsletter which you should go subscribe to right now. It’s free.

Now let me just preface this next bit by clarifying that I don’t have any idea what I’m talking really. I’m not an investor and I don’t understand the stock market beyond generally that it’s there to make rich people richer and fuck over poor people. Now I must admit that my hands aren’t entirely clean in that – I do own 2 full shares of Disney stock that my mother bought for me when I turned 10 and I think they are worth exactly the same today as they were then and I have no idea how to sell them even if I wanted to cash out and buy a coffee, but that’s my disclosure. Maybe some of you are in the same boat. Besides that noteworthy asset my understanding of stocks comes entirely from watching Billions.

That said I have an ace in the hole that most people don’t have access to. My son Ripley, who turns 11 this year, is a math genius. No really, he won some kind of math contest at his school in Tokyo and everyone was really impressed. Ask anyone. So he and I were talking about what’s going on with GameStop (he’s been actively interested in the Bitcoin news) and when I tried to explain sort of what I thought was happening he corrected me and explained it better, so I thought I’d relay that here for all of your benefit.

A: Buying stock: This is basic 101 stuff that probably everyone already knows. If a stock costs $10 and you buy 10 shares for $100, then the stock goes up to $15 dollars and you sell all 10 shares for $150 bucks, you just made $50 bucks. Similarly if the stock goes down to $8 and you sell all 10 shares for $80 then you just lost $20. Easy math here.

B: Shorting stock: This one always confused the fuck out of me but I think I have a handle on it now. If you think a stock is going to go down relatively quickly buying it would be a bad idea due to the reasons we just discussed in (A). BUT! There’s a way to bet against the stock, which is called shorting it. The way that works is this: Let’s say Jack owns stock in a company called Hills Inc and Jill thinks that Hills Inc is about to fall down and break it’s crown, so to speak. So what Jill does is “borrow” shares from Jack when they cost $10, then she waits some agreed upon time for the stock price to drop, buys them back at a lower price and returns them to Jack keeping the profit. So – using the same math as above, if the stock cost $10 when Jill “borrowed” 10 shares from Jack and sold it at that price she then has $100 in hand, and over the next few days it drops to $5, so she buys 10 shares back for $50 and then returns those 10 shares to Jack, keeping the extra $50 profit for herself. Jill successfully shorted the stock.

Now the trick is, that’s assuming it goes the way Jill wants it to. If instead the price climbs, Jill is in trouble. So, if she borrows 10 shares at $10 and sells them for $100, but over the following days the stock price doesn’t drop but instead rises, Jill still has to return 10 shares to Jack. So if the stock price rose to $12, Jill has to spend $120 to buy those same 10 shares, which ends up causing her to lose $20 in the deal.

Basically shorting a stock is a way to make money off a stock you don’t even own by betting against it. That said, in order to short a stock, you have to have some collateral being held incase things don’t go your way. Which is important for this next part.

Keep reading over on my newsletter archives, or better yet subscribe and have these emailed directly to you in the future!

Monthly Mystery Subscription

It’s been about 10 years now since I started dabbling with photography, getting pretty serious about in a year or two in. In that time I’ve had exhibitions in galleries and published a photobook which continues to sell to this day. I’ve also sold prints to a number of people whose support has meant the world to me. Anyone who has been following me for a while knows I’ve also experimented with several different physical “subscriptions” where I pick things (be they stuff or coffee or music) and mail them out on some regular basis to people who have the blind faith to give me money without having a completely concrete idea of what they are getting in return. There’s a bit of mystery and excitement there which I like, creating that anticipation and surprise.

I spent some time towards the end of 2020 revamping my photography website and and while I was doing that I thought it might be fun to play around again. I quietly announced a Monthly Mystery Subscription at the beginning of December and a few people signed up right away. The idea being, for a relatively small fee I’ll send each subscriber a photo (or 3, depending on subscription level) in the mail. These will be miniprints on instant film and part of a very small limited edition, signed and numbered. I’m sending out the first batch of prints this week and wanted to share a little more about it because it was a lot of fun to put together.

This is a little bit of a give away because the point is that people don’t know what they are getting until they open the package, but I’d leaked images of the prints before anyway so I don’t think it’s too much of a surprise blown. Going forward, the secret will be kept much better. Right now I’m doing editions of 10 photos only, that doesn’t mean that only 10 people can subscribe, it means that if 20 people subscribe half of them get one photo and half get another. This keeps the edition low and the value high, I hope. Speaking of that, I’m leaving the introductory pricing live for a few more days as there are a few spots left to fill out that initial 10 people. For the moment 1 print a month costs $10 and 3 prints a month is $25. Free shipping in Canada, $10 extra for anywhere else in the world. This is basically a brake even price because I think this is a fun thing to do, but realistically I’ll need to up those prices pretty soon, probably double. If you want to get in before I do that the discounted price will maintain as long as you keep subscribing. If the surprise isn’t your thing but you like the idea of the prints, I am making a few available individually in my shop.

As always, thanks for the support!

Step On It – Books About Pedals

Over the years I’ve written about stuff, actual physical stuff that you can hold in your hand and appreciate. I’m guilty of fetishizing all manor of objects. So it should be no surprise that objects that fetishize other objects scratch a very special itch for me which is why my bookshelves are exploding with what I just refer to as art books though I accept that many people wouldn’t consider the subject of many of them to be art at all. An example of that would be guitar pedals. Most people wouldn’t consider them art, even though some people obsessively collect them like art. Musicians are artists, and music is art, so it’s really not much of a stretch to think of the tools artists use in an artistic fashion. I was recently gifted a beautiful book on the subject which made me realize that I now have several books on the subject and though maybe some others might be interested in hearing a little about them.

I bought Level & Attack – The Untold Story of The Tone Bender Fuzz in early 2018 admittedly without knowing much of what it was about. Some friends were very excited about it and I saw a few photos from it and was curious enough to jump through the needed hoops to get one shipped to me in Japan. I was not disappointed. Substantial barely begins to describe this massive book which is too big to fit vertically on my bookshelf. Authors Anthony and Steve Macari dive deep into the history of a single pedal (the Tone Bender) with almost pornographic close up photos of hand wired circuit boards and the most painstaking documentation of variations from one model to the next. This is supplemented by anecdotes by massive name musicians gushing about how much they love it. As an effect, “fuzz” wasn’t something I really paid much attention to before getting this book but there’s no way to take in the passion and love poured into this book and not get infected by curiosity at the very least. I can’t imagine how expensive this book was to make, and they only made 500 copies which sold out right away so getting one these days is no easy task, but if you have the chance to pick one up and flip though it I assure you it will be worth your time. I say that assuming that, like me, you enjoy seeing the most knowledgable people on a super niche subject just spill all of the goods in unrestrained detail.

You can almost smell the solder in Level & Attack

With that groundwork laid and the interest itch piqued, adding 2019’s Pedal Crush to the collection was an absolute no brainer. If you don’t know anything about guitar pedals and want to understand what they are, what they do, how they ended up doing that and who is doing what with them today then Kim Bjørn and Scott Harper (aka Knobs) have published the perfect book to answer all of your questions. While Level & Attack was hyper focused, Pedal Crush zooms out to cover the entire landscape. The history of various effects, what they sound like and how those eventually got squeezed into pedal format, the manufacturers who drove and continue to drive that innovation and generally how one thing led to another, and the who’s who of all corners of the boutique pedal industry.

Tremawhat? Pedal Crush explains it all

Between these two you might think the story has been told, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But any good story has multiple layers and Eilon Paz’s Stompbox really puts the personal stories front and center. That’s not to say the previous books don’t talk about people (they do) or that Stompbox doesn’t cover history (it does) but much more than the others, rather than being about pedals this book is about the people. The subtitle 100 Pedals of the World’s Greatest Guitarists buries the lede because the “greatest guitarists” part is really what makes this book so special. The absolute bulk of this already bulky book is personal stories from musicians you love talking about something that in many cases defines their sound. This is artists talking about the favorite paint on their palette, the brush that they couldn’t have painted a masterpiece without.

J and his Big Muff in Stompbox
Albini on his legendary Percolator

100 musicians, 100 pedals, lifetimes of stories. This isn’t a book you read cover to cover and then put on your shelf to forget, it’s one you can (and will) open to any page at any time and find something wonderful and inspirational. This book is brand new and I haven’t fully read it yet, but that is only due to its size and my need to eat and sleep. However there hasn’t been a page I’ve read in it yet which hasn’t left me wanting to read the next one as well, and I may savor that feeling by limiting myself to reading just one a day. That, as well as a way of self regulating and to prevent myself from blowing a bitcoin on Reverb. Which brings me to a stern word of warning–do not even open these books if you are subject to GAS. They will wreck you and full you with lust. Glorious, beautiful lust.

Death By Audio pedals being spray painted by hand

(Did you enjoy this post? Let me know and stay tuned as I’m considering doing a series or even an ongoing video thing where I explore some of my art books and what I love about them.)

Proof of Life / Station Ident

Apparently I haven’t blogged since May, which might be the longest stretch of non-blogging since I started blogging before blogging was called blogging. In my defense, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I moved around the world from Tokyo to Vancouver. That’s not to say I haven’t been active, I just haven’t been active here. Which I regret. So I thought I’d quickly drop an update for the few of you that still read blogs.

Just after moving to Canada from Japan we at Safecast had to face the cold reality that our funding efforts this year have failed miserably in no small part due to COVID and that was unlikely to change anytime soon. We made the hard decision to shift the entire paid staff to volunteer so that we have reserves to keep the servers online hopefully long enough to get through this. That includes me, and means that for the first time in 20 years or so I find myself without gainful employment. Did I mention that I just moved around the world and we’re in the middle of a pandemic? Right, so that’s fun. The interesting thing about being self employed for most of your adult life is that it makes you essentially unemployable.

To that end I’ve been staying up late working on various side hustles any number of which might, with just the right combination of time and place, grow to at least fill some of these new gaps.

I redid my photography portfolio site seanbonner.photos top to bottom to try and give a better view of what I do, what I’m trying to do, and where I think that might lead and why it’s useful. At shop.seanbonner.photos you can buy prints and books and merch. I’m especially excited about my new subscription offer where I send subscribers a limited edition mystery miniprint each month – a few spots are still remaining if you are interested.

Speaking of photos and merch, streetsheets.tokyo has been updated with some new pacific northwest influenced designs on housewares and clothing.

Tara and I have finished writing The Interest Driven Life book and are in the final production steps before it goes off to the publisher. If you’d like to get more info about that as the release date gets closer, please do sign up for our mailing list on the site.

Speaking of mailing lists, I’m still actively writing my newsletter The Crowd, though like this blog the updates are not as frequent as they once were. This is in part due to the fact that I’m taking a break from Twitter because it’s a garbage fire of depressive bullshit, and that’s where I used to get a lot of the news I’d write about. Perhaps ironically I’m spending more time on Instagram. I would like to explore how best to merge the blog and the mailing list, so that I could write something and it would go to both places.

Perhaps most exciting, I’ve revived my old record label Toybox Records and have begun announcing plans and releasing things. The roadmap at the moment includes a mix of older yet previously unreleased material, reissues of favorites, and new stuff by new bands. As before, genre-wise, expect it to be all over the place. For now music can be found here and brand spanking new merch is over here.

Writing that all out does make it feel like a lot, but I’d be lying if I told you that from the place I’m sitting at the moment it felt like a lot. I think because so much of that is in the “about to happen” or tentative stages it feels like none of them are actually real. But they are, and at this point I’m just trying to get them in front of people who may appreciate them. If you know someone who might be interested in something I’ve mentioned here, I’d be in your debt if you felt like passing the link on to them to check out.

Social Distancing Werewolf

Preface: One of our long standing traditions at Shuttleworth Foundation gatherings is several late nights playing Werewolf – not especially unique but massively fun and wonderful for the camaraderie of the group. With travel and in-person events on hold due to current events we transitioned to online sessions for the event, but struggled with the loss of the social accompaniments. As self appointed God of Werewolf for the group, I took it upon myself to find a way to make this work with players in different physical locations. I found a number of people have also tried this, but their instructions were convoluted and obnoxious, so we hacked them apart and tried something new and it worked great, so I thought I’d share how that worked so that someone else can find these instructions and decide they suck and then write their own.

Caveats: If you are reading this I’m going to assume you already know how to play Werewolf so I’m not going to get into the weeds on that. I will say that when I moderate (aka, play God) I prefer the basic standard roles – werewolves, villagers, a doctor and a seer. I find that keeping it simple allows for maximum enjoyment for players and spectators, if you prefer adding what my friend Harper eloquently refers to as Micky Mouse roles, then this method might not work for you.

Also: This method uses Slack and Zoom, because we already use Slack and Zoom so I can attest this works with Slack and Zoom. If you use some other video conference & team communication platforms this may or may not work for you – you’ll just have to figure it out.

tl;dr

  • Everyone turn OFF cameras and MUTE microphones.
  • Roles will be assigned via SLACK messaging by God.
  • God will set up a group private on SLACK with all werewolves.
  • God will communicate with DOCTOR and SEER individually via Slack
  • Game begins: Everyone turn ON your camera, but remain MUTED.
  • God explains how this shit works… Daytime!
  • Villagers UNMUTE and commence ye old chit chat.
  • Nighttime: Turn OFF cameras and MUTE microphones.
  • God interacts with individual people via Slack, the group via Zoom.
  • Daytime: Turn ON cameras and UNMUTE microphones.
  • If you are killed, turn OFF your camera and MUTE your microphone, leave them off until the round is finished.
  • Wolves: If you are killed DO NOT CHAT in the private group. You can watch the discussion, but you are dead so do not fucking chime in.
  • DEAD people can chat in a #werewolf channel on Slack
  • The round ends when one of the following things happens:
    • Werewolves out number villages – WEREWOLVES WIN!
    • The last werewolf is killed by the villagers – VILLAGERS WIN!

More details: Set up

God (aka the Moderator) needs to be the host on Zoom. This allows absolute control and the ability to mute, kill, remove etc anyone at any time for any reason and that’s an important power to wield over the cowering masses you’ve roped into playing this game for your own amusement.

In Zoom, use GRID view and have all players begin with their cameras turned off and microphones muted. At the start only God should be seen and heard.

God should have a piece of paper handy and write down all the players and assign each one of the roles. Then, via Slack direct messaging tell each player their role. I can not stress this enough: DO NOT use the messaging in Zoom. It’s way too easy to accidentally send a message to the wrong person, way too complicated to switch between people and generally a pain in the ass. Using a separate application that handles that better is the way to go. Also on slack you should have a #werewolf channel where everyone who isn’t playing or who has just been killed can hang out. You should also create Direct Message group with only the werewolves which is where they will discuss who to kill each night.

Let’s go!

Once God has assigned roles and set up the private chat for the wolves, the game can begin. God should remind everyone how the game works and then instruct everyone to turn on their cameras and microphones. Daytime in the village!

I don’t recommend villagers are made to kill anyone on the first day, instead it’s a good time to drum up fear and panic about the horrible death and suffering that people have heard about happening in nearby villages.

Nighttime in the village! All players turn off their cameras and mute microphones. This ensures no meta-gaming resulting from someone peeking or saying they thought they heard someone typing when God asked the wolves who they wanted to kill.

God should keep camera and microphone on, and ask wolves, doctor and seer questions through Zoom – but they should respond on Slack.

Once it’s clear who didn’t survive the night, God can announce who is dead, and instruct everyone EXCEPT that person to turn back on their cameras and microphones. Dead people can keep watching and chatting in Slack, but under no circumstances should they turn back on their camera or microphone for the remainder of that game.

Rounds can last as long as God feels like, with full license to end a day if the village gets too boring. God is free to kill anyone at any time for any reason. If at any point the Werewolves out number villages then the Werewolves will win. Alternatively, if and when the last werewolf is killed by the villagers then the villagers win.

We tried this, it worked wonderfully. Give it a shot, adjust anything you want to, and stay vigilant.

Party Mode

Bradenton, Florida. A shit-hole ghetto town about an hour south of Tampa. I think it was the summer of 1990. I remember it being really, really hot. I was in high school and my friend Chris suggested starting a band. He played guitar already and told me I should get a bass. I took that week’s paycheck from the grocery store I worked at and went to a local used music equipment shop and asked what that could get me, I bought whatever it was they suggested. In my memory it was a sunburst Fender but I honestly can’t remember. I didn’t know I needed an amplifier for it to work, and had trouble figuring out how to play it at home. The following week we got together in another friends garage for “band practice” which was a serious lesson in humility. I showed up without an amp, but luckily (or unluckily) someone there had a guitar amp I could plug into. This was the first time I’d ever heard what the bass even sounded like.

Chris proposed that we start off playing “New Direction.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. Chris pointed out that I was wearing a Gorilla Biscuits t-shirt at the time, New Direction of course was the first song on their recently released album Start Today. I didn’t actually have the album yet, I had a dubbed cassette copy that my neighbor Max had made for me which I listened to all the time – so once Chris started playing it I knew what he was talking about, but Max hadn’t written the names of any of the songs so didn’t know what any of them were called. Max would later sell me his blue and white swirled vinyl copy of that album, which has remained one of my prized possessions even to this day. Anyway, I knew the song but I had no idea how to play it, given that I had no idea how to play bass. I stood there in the garage all afternoon while my friends jammed one song after another that I knew but I had no idea how to play. That was the only band practice I ever went to, and I wasn’t ever invited to be any of their bands ever again, rightly so.

I kept that bass and every once and a while I’d pick it up and hope I’d magically learned how to play something. I never did. When I’d fantasize about being in a band I always pictured myself singing, so just never got motivated enough to try and learn it. Besides, my favorite band in town at the time, Tired From Now On, already had a bass player and a singer and I wasn’t going to even try to start a Tired From Now On copycat band. I think I sold it to my friend from Canada Kyle for $50 when one of his bands was passing through Gainesville a few years later. At least I’d spray painted it black so it looked much cooler than that crappy sunburst. I wonder if he still has it?

A few years later when I was working at Victory Records my co-worker Chuck told me he wanted to start a band and asked if I’d be interested in singing. Of course I said yes, instantly. He said he was getting the rest of the band together and we’d have a proper rehearsal in a few weeks. At that time I was often the last person to leave the office, which was in a 3 story condo in an industrial part of Chicago. My office was on the 3rd floor, and when everyone else would leave I’d often turn up my stereo as loud as it would go and jump around screaming along like an idiot to the loudest, angriest thing I had. It was excellent therapy. I highly recommend everyone try it sometime. My private karaoke included many bands, but vocalist Tim Singer’s bands – No Escape, Deadguy and the recently released (at the time) Kiss It Goodbye were in heavy rotation. I guess I always kind of related to his “I tried, but everything is fucked anyway” lyrical narrative. In my mind, that’s how I’d sing in a band.

Eventually Chuck would rope in the rest of a band and we’d all get together one evening after work in the basement of Bulldog Records, Victory’s record store in Wicker Park where bands like Blood For Blood and Murphy’s Law had recently played some already legendary shows. Drums set up, amps plugged in and blasting. I knew enough lyrics to enough songs that I figured there wouldn’t be a repeat of the New Direction situation and I was ready to go with whatever song they pulled out of the hardcore repertoire. Except the songs they’d written themselves and had already been practicing that I’d never heard before. Chuck handed me the mic and said “let’s go!” and I just stood there. I didn’t know what to sing, or what to say. I’d never written lyrics before, and certainly hadn’t anticipated doing it on the spot. I’d been daydreaming about doing this for years, and now when given the chance I froze. I convinced myself that anything I’d come up with would be so stupid the band would stop playing and I’d be laughed out of the basement. Of course, just standing there like an idiot had a similar effect. 

Decades later I of course recognize how letting my insecurity keep me from doing the thing I was dreaming of doing, when I directly had the opportunity to do it, was just about the stupidest thing I could have ever done. I’m not really big on regret, we all do things that if given another chance we might do differently or applying hindsight realize our errors, but pushing past that fear and doing actually band with my friends sometime in the 90’s when I had countless opportunities is something that I’d totally should have done. If life had do overs, that’s where I’d use mine.

I mention this because totally out of the blue this week there’s a new EP out by Tim’s new band Bitter Branches and it’s incredible. It’s the last thing I was expecting in 2020, and after listening to it on repeat essentially since buying it I can attest it’s exactly what I needed. If anything I’ve mentioned in this sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s what you need as well. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder to take the chances we have, when we have them. They won’t always be there and even trying and failing is way better than not trying at all.

Normal

During the 2016 US Presidential campaign the above ‘This is fine’ meme gained significant popularity as it perfectly captured how many people were feeling about the overall situation. It was not created for that however, and is actually part of a 2013 comic by KC Green, which you political buffs out there will recognize as a date not long into then President Obama’s 2nd term. There’s no question that 2020 is shaping up to be a disaster, and people are understandably asking how long until we get back to normal. But when exactly is this “normal” that everyone is talking about? It certainly wasn’t 2019, nor 2016. If you think back to the George W. Bush years following 9/11 and the resulting ‘war on terror’ there was a lot of hoping for a “return to normal” then too. The response to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign certainly made it clear that for a lot of people, Bill Clinton’s presidency was far from ideal. That takes us back to ’93. Was it normal before then? Under Bush Sr? How about Regan?

Fuck that.

The truth is it’s been a disaster for a long time, we simply forget how much we hated yesterday because of the overwhelming pain of today. So we trick ourselves into reaching for something slightly less terrible, rather than something better. “Normal” sucked. “Normal” was broken. “Normal” was dysfunctional and oppressive.

If “normal” was so great we wouldn’t have needed 4 waves of feminism. If “normal” was so great we wouldn’t have to explain to anyone why black lives matter. If “normal” was so great there would be no debate about who deserves health care, or an education. There would be no argument about what kind of basic lifestyle can or can’t be afforded with a full time minimum wage paycheck. There wouldn’t be countless examples of laws being enforced differently based on someone’s income or race. Teachers, the people we put in charge of educating future generations, wouldn’t be having to pay for school supplies out of their own pockets. Artists and musicians, people who make our world beautiful and enjoyable, wouldn’t be seen as disposable. The oceans wouldn’t be full of garbage. We wouldn’t be talking about how amazingly clear the skies and air are in cities that have imposed shelter in place rules, keeping people out of their cars. We wouldn’t be counting how many people died from the latest pandemic that jumped to humans in the unsanitary conditions from selling wild animal parts in wet markets.

And that’s the moment we are in right now.

It’s not hyperbole to say that everything is going to change. There’s the world we knew before the virus, and the world we make after it. No one will ever think of handshakes or face masks the same again. That’s a given. But what about everything else? I don’t want the world to go back to normal. I don’t want something just not quite as bad. I want us to take the opportunity that we have been presented with and strive for something better.

You can call me an idealist, but that would be a hard sell given how much time I spend talking about how everything sucks. But I’m trying to make tomorrow better, and I believe that’s possible. And I’m not the only one. Here is a very short and very incomplete list of a few people I consider friends. People I know who won’t settle for “not quite as bad” and are actively working for something better. Take a few moments and see what they are up to, and feel free to add more names, projects and links in the comments.

Astra • Christian • Esra’aGunnerGlenIshaJesseKeliPeterRyanShakaShepard • StephanieTarekTiffiniyUgoHelen, Jason & Karien

(this post can be found at arethingsbacktonormalagain.com)