[OPINION] A Rundown on Bitcoin and NFTs (and why you as an artist should stay far, far away from them)

If you’ve been on the internet in the past month or so, you may have heard of the terms NFTs, or maybe even seen your favorite artist selling NFTs (see: Gorillaz, Halsey, the Weeknd, and others) as part of their brand, much to the dismay of their fans. 

Why are people mad about this? Well, let’s learn a bit about NFTs.

When I first heard about NFTs, I assumed it was one of those passing trends that would come and go and ultimately be something I’d never have to worry about. Bitcoin has been a relatively new thing, and the most I’d heard of it before the NFT trend was that it took obscene amounts of energy to complete transactions and nothing more.

But to learn anything about NFT, we need to know what “bitcoin” is in the first place. Simply put, it’s a virtual currency created around 2009 (but in more primitive forms beforehand) that is created by a complex, decentralized process called “mining”. Bitcoin isn’t owned by any country around the world. One of the early incentives for Bitcoin was that they were untraceable, but as expressed by companies in recent times, they are now traceable

Check out this short video for more information:

A short Youtube video on what Bitcoin is.

Now that we know what they are, why have they become so popular recently? Well, different sources have different answers, but many attribute the sudden surge to the recent pandemic. When stock market IPOs suddenly dove in value in March 2020, many found it an opportune time to diversify their portfolio and invest in bitcoin as means of possibly striking it rich in the future. Huge companies such as Tesla also invested in cryptocurrency which pushed the price upwards. The price of bitcoin is extremely volatile in general, but after being recognized by larger companies, the overall price surged from buyer’s support.

So what’s an NFT? NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token: what that means is that it’s a unique piece of information that no one else has that is attached to the token in the transaction. If you were the owner of an NFT, it means that you have a unique key to that image/video/file. You can attach anything: A youtube video? Yes! A picture of the first tweet ever? Yup. But there are some setbacks.

No, it doesn’t mean that only you own the file. No, it doesn’t stop others from saving the exact image you paid $5000 for as their own for the low, low price of free. So what’s the point of taking part in this?

Making money.

As the market surges and the price for any one piece can go for as high as 69 million dollars, the conversation around the environmental impact of cryptocurrency has moved back into the spotlight as the popularity of the new format rises.

Check out this video from Matt Lohstroh(@lohstroh). This physical farm that they’ve created mines bitcoin using fossil fuels:

This type of farm uses fossil fuels in order to run 24/7.

I have no idea if this was common knowledge or not, but it’s simply never occurred to me that we as a society create Co2 emissions when we surf the web. Through the use of the internet, our carbon footprint can literally be calculated into grams of CO2, thanks to the heat and energy required to run internet servers around the world.

After I gathered more information on our carbon footprint via the web, here are some (maybe not so fun) facts about the way we use the internet:

– The average 1-megabyte email creates about 8g of CO2.

– The average Australian uses about 81kg of CO2 every year.

– As of 2019, the average Google user uses about 8 g of CO2 emissions a day: That’s “25 Google Searches, 60 minutes of Youtube, A Gmail account, and other services one might use…”

Let’s compare that to the energy bitcoin uses :

– Bitcoin consumes a similar amount of power to the Netherlands annually.

– Bitcoin uses between 40 and 445 TERAwatt-hours ( or about 1.3 trillion kilowatt-hours) annually. By comparison, the average American household uses about 10,649 kilowatt-hours per year.

Outside of the environmental impact, there is also a problem with what people are doing with them: people are stealing other’s artwork and using bots to farm other people’s work off of popular social media sites such as Twitter.

For someone like me. who constantly posts online in order to get her work seen, this is terrifying. Digital artists are already seen as “less than” traditional artists because we do work on a computer rather than an actual canvas. Now that people are attempting to steal our work and make thousands of dollars off of it, it becomes more and more difficult to make a living for ourselves in the online world.

Some bigger artists embrace this trend and sell their own works in order to make a quick buck. Other artists claim that they’re utilizing the NFT book to help donate to underprivileged communities and “help them”. Of course, this opportunity might help poor and underrepresented communities financially in the immediate future, but as global warming continues to be a larger problem, the very communities that these artists say they want to help are going to be hit the hardest.

If you truly want to help these communities, I suggest giving back directly to charity organizations that have a track record of helping these communities directly, not investing in something like NFTs.

Children’s Cartoons Are Doing More For Mental Health Than They Were Before

In 1969, Fred Rogers testified in front of Congress in order to save the funding for PBS. He believed that if “public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service”. Mr. Rogers attempted to do so with his show in 1968 because the content that children were watching were mostly violent and lacked substance. The cartoons that children were watching didn’t teach kids anything. After the long and very successful run of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, many children’s shows started to become more and more educational. Today, animated children’s shows are catching up and helping children deal with their feelings as well.

Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, is a prime example of a children’s animated tv show that teaches kids how to calm themselves and deal with their emotions.  In an episode called “Mindful Education”, Steven and his best friend, Connie, can’t keep focus and have trouble fusing due to something weighing heavily on Connie’s mind. Upon noticing this, another gem, Garnet, sings a song that encourages them to “Take a moment to ask yourself if this is how we fall apart?” Later in the episode, Connie and Steven must be honest about the way they feel and let those feelings play out. This isn’t the only time Rebecca Sugar has touched on this subject. She has also done it with other characters in the show who learn to overcome abuse and anxiety, and even in the spin off show, Steven Universe Future, where Steven has to overcome his PTSD and depression due to all of the trauma that he experienced in his youth from fighting an intergalactic war left behind by his mother.

The Legend of Korra, a show created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, also touches on this subject. In the fourth season of the show, Avatar Korra struggles with PTSD from all of the trauma she endured in the first three seasons. Even after three years of healing her body physically, Korra still struggles with her spiritual self. She is unable to fight enemies she would have once taken out without a problem due to her mental block. The only way she could help herself was to accept what happened to her. When she was told to “Accept what happened to you. Don’t fear what might’ve been”, she was finally able to connect with her Avatar spirit and become whole again, which is something she didn’t think was possible the entire season.

Another show that does this is Infinity Train. In an episode called “The Cat’s Car”, Tulip Olsen is forced to confront her feelings about her parent’s divorce in order to overcome them. In the episode, a suspicious cat forces Tulip to watch a tape of her memories in order to trap her in them. At first, the memories of her and her parents are good and Tulip thoroughly enjoys them. However, when her body starts to become overrun by tv static, she starts to see how the memories actually played out. The harsh memories of her parents leading up to their divorce were being changed by her own mind. When she finally accepted those memories and let them play out the way that they should, she was freed. Tulip continues on during the rest of the show trying to overcome her issues by accepting what happened to her. 

The 1996 show, Hey Arnold, created by Craig Bartlett, had an episode called “Helga on the Couch where Helga, Arnold’s long-time bully, goes to see a child psychiatrist. After witnessing Helga bully Arnold and many other children countless times, the principal orders Helga to see the psychiatrist every Tuesday and Thursday. Helga thinks it’s a waste of time and her angry father, who barely notices Helga, tells her that the “Pataki’s don’t talk about things. We sweep them under the rug”. Although Helga is determined to keep all of her feelings hidden, she ends up really enjoying getting her feelings off of her chest about Arnold and her parents. Immediately after the session, Helga feels great and refrains from punching a kid in the face. Helga’s friend even tells her that therapy is acceptable and useful, and that there is nothing to be ashamed about. 

Children’s animation has come so far from the cartoons that were shown in the 40’s and 60’s like The Bullwinkle show, Looney Toons, and Tom and Jerry. Now, the characters in children’s animation are doing and talking about much more than silly pranks, chases, and explosions. Many people would say “Well it’s just a cartoon. It doesn’t have to talk about important issues”. Although that may be true, it is important that children are watching things that will have a positive impact on them rather than a negative one. All of the shows mentioned above are still entertaining and action packed while still being able to address important issues. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Shows today are more educational and teach both children and adults how to deal with their emotions and take care of their mental health. 



Will Western Animation Ever Break Free From its Arrested Development?

I, like many other people, grew up watching cartoons. From Blues Clues to Phineas and Ferb, cartoons were there for me no matter how old I was. Cartoons taught me my ABCs and gave me childhood adventures from the comfort of my living room. 

However, once high school hit, I could not help but notice the large gap between what is considered a “children’s cartoon” and an “adult cartoon” and the night and day difference of maturity and storytelling between the two here in the West.

It seemed like the older I got, the less variety there was with the kinds of stories being told. Most adult animation was either a sitcom with dark humor and profane language or an action show with graphic violence and sexual content. Content that would overall be highly inappropriate with children. 

Tuca & Bertie revived by Adult Swim following Netflix's contentious  cancellation - The Verge
Above: The Simpsons meet Family Guy, two of television’s longest running animated adult comedies

Despite being a current 21-year-old college student, I can’t help but prefer children’s animation to those produced for adults. Even though I have long grown out of its targeted age demographic, I can’t help but connect with the stories and characters of children’s programming more, as often times I feel like adult animation lacks (ironically) maturity with their storytelling and craft. 

However, when you look at animation from other parts of the world, this large divide between children and adult programming is not as prominent. In Japanese anime, programming isn’t split between just children and adults. Anime is seen as something that everyone, regardless of their age, can enjoy. That is why in recent years, anime has quickly grown in popularity here in the West, especially with young adults. 

Netflix considers creating original Bollywood and anime shows | TechRadar
Japanese anime has grown increasingly popular among Western audiences

My first exposure to mature storytelling within western animation was with the 2005 Nickelodeon series Avatar the Last Airbender. Inspired by Japanese anime, the show, despite being targeted towards children, tackled a lot of mature themes such as female empowerment, genocide, imperialism, and philosophical questions regarding destiny and free will. The show was ambitious, even by today’s standards. But despite having come out over 15 years ago, Avatar paved the way for more diverse and mature stories to be told in children’s animation.

Within the past decade, we have seen more ambitious forms of storytelling within animated programming. From Adventure Time exploring themes of existentialism to Steven Universe prominently featuring same-sex relationships alongside themes of love, it seems that animated programming has started to grow up alongside its audiences.

Report: 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Was Netflix's Most Popular Kids'  Animated Show In U.S. Last Year
Above: Nickelodeon’s Avatar the Last Airbender

After experiencing all of these wonderful experiences of storytelling within animation, you can only imagine the disappointment I felt when I realized that there was hardly any animated programming like this for adults here in the West. 

I’m not saying that all adult animation is immature and oriented around sex, drugs, and violence. In recent years, there has been an effort by the industry to create more adult animation with sophisticated themes incorporated within them.

The series Love Death and Robots, despite being an anthology series, gives its audiences a sampling of the capabilities of the animation medium when not constrained to its usual family-friendly fare. Each short is free to explore any theme or genre, providing a Twilight Zone of animated shorts. 

Netflix's Love, Death & Robots Episodes Ranked Best to Worst
Above: Screencaps of different episodes from Love Death and Robots. Each short varies from art style and genres.

Other shows like Genndy Tarakovsky’s Samurai Jack and Primal show that not all adult programming has to be full of crude humor, and can actually be forms of art (with its fair share of bloody violence and action). Adult animation can even be experimental as seen with Pendelton Ward’s The Midnight Gospel, a crazy visual podcast come to life.

Even adult animated sitcoms like Bojack Horseman and Tuca and Bertie show that you can have an animated comedy that is more than toilet humor and can handle pressing topics such as substance abuse and depression. 

In recent years, there has been a growing interest to create more “Young-Adult” oriented programming in order to bridge this gap. Streaming services like Netflix has already made efforts by producing series such as Voltron: Legendary Defender and Kipo: the Age of the Wonderbeast. Even newer streaming services like HBO Max have released shows like Infinity Train and Close Enough.

Infinity Train”: Esta es la escena que casi habría sido eliminada de la  serie
Above: Cartoon Network/HBO Max’s Infinity Train

It seems to me animation in the west is finally able to grow up with its audiences and I am excited to see what the future will bring. 

Adult Animation Is Pushing New Boundaries. A Look Inside Its Evolution from The Simpsons to BoJack Horseman

Why is Adult Animation in America All So Same-y?

[OPINION] Is There a New Wave of Mature Animation Coming?

The Modern Dystopia: Low Life, High Tech, and How the ‘Cyberpunk’ Future May Not Be As Farfetched As You Think.

By Bill “Cyberpunk Apologist” Crowe

Above: Cyberpunk 2077 (2020) or CD Projekt Red’s totally subtle Iron Maiden reference.

I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’ve heard of Cyberpunk 2077 – simultaneously the biggest disappointment in gaming history to some… and yet still the best-selling game of all time to all. Simply put, it’s a controversial topic. People love to love it, people hate to love it, people love to hate it, and people hate to hate it. If that last sentence was confusing, then I’m sure you can envision just how much of a migraine this entire ‘debate’ is. 

Interestingly enough, we’re not here to talk about the video game itself. You see, that’s a topic for another time and another not-so-biased writer. While I’d love to write about the shortcomings and the successes of the game, we’re here to look at the world of Cyberpunk (and Cyberpunk-related settings like Blade Runner) and see how it stacks up to ours.  We’re not living in a dystopia, are we?


Well… let’s start with some facts. 

We live in a technocracy. Technology has been improving at an absolutely exponential rate. Tech, for the most part, rules our lives. I’ve spent a year in quarantine and would have fully lost my marbles months ago if I didn’t have a computer. Like it or not, our lives are governed by the Net™. If you tell someone from a century ago that our lives would be built around a machine and an invisible force that connects us all, they wouldn’t believe you for a second. You’d probably be labeled various harmful words like “insane” or “silly”. Trust me.

Anyways, let’s get back to the matter at (cyber)hand. Let’s ask ourselves a question:
What defines a ‘cyberpunk’ setting?

Low life, high tech, a superficial, ad-infested, corporation-run society, and finally, wealth gaps.

Starting off, we have to face the music: a huge number of people on planet Terra (that’s a fancy way of saying Earth) are living at or below the poverty line, barely scraping by and struggling to survive. A bit of a grim turn, but it’s a reality that we have to grapple with. People are suffering. There are still some of us who are going hungry, thirsty, living in war-torn countries, in the middle of revolutions, tumultuous times and just generally harmful situations. Low life? Check.

Next, we have high tech. We’ve covered that. I’m sure 30-year-old David from 1924 would look at our world and call it science fiction (or that time’s equivalent). Now, you may be asking: “Hey, Mr. Cynical Writerman! Cyberpunk is about cybernetics and cyborgs and pretty neon lights! Where’s that in our world?”

Well… we can check that off the list, because we’re pretty damn close. 

Enter Neuralink: a company (that of COURSE Elon Musk is part of) whose mission statement is “designing the first neural implant that will let you control a computer or mobile device anywhere you go”. The first NEURAL IMPLANT. Wanna see a terrifying image that is being used on their website right now?

Above: Screenshot https://neuralink.com/ or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Link.

Yeah. Terrifying. Cybernetic implants? (Eerily close to) check! Of course there are more augmentations such as prosthetics that help the disabled. These are much less unnerving and a whole lot more wholesome – but what’s stopping strides in these fields from eventually allowing Mary to get herself a brand spankin’ new chromed-out arm? Nothing but time and money.


“Pffft. You’re telling me we live in a superficial and ad-ridden society?” 

Yeah. I doubt this needs to be discussed. We as a species and society are (mostly) selfish, self-absorbed, and self-interested. Self, self, self! How can I be better? How can I get richer? How can I get everybody to love and respect and treat me as the GOD amongst PEASANTS that I am?? Ahem. Excuse me, got a little ahead of myself. As for ads, I can’t go an hour without seeing a video, image, or block of text showing me a product or service that I really, really, don’t give a crap about. This also factors into the corpo-run society we just so happen to find ourselves living in. Companies rule the world… and there’s no way around that either. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat OWN your information and we all, pretty easily, let them. I’m sure we’ve all seen bizarrely specific ads tailored to us directly. I can’t be the only one to have seen an “Only REAL Garfield girls are born in March” type shirt, right? …right? 

Wait, what’s that sound? Oh wow! It’s Bill™ Storytime™! This is going to sound like something way outta left field, but bear with me here. This happened about a year and a half ago and is what spurred my absolutely rational and unbridled hatred for ads. So here’s the thing. I’m a surrogate kid. That means my mother is not my biological mother. I have never, EVER told that to anybody over text, on social media, over chat in a videogame, or on a blog post article for an animation class at LMU (…wait a minute). Exposition over. So, one day I was scrolling through Instagram after I had posted a drawing as a humble offering to the almighty Mark “Herald of R’lyeh” Zuckerberg and what did I see? An ad for a mug, but not just any mug.

“I know you’re not ‘technically’ my mom […]” 

Now you get to see this affront to privacy. Orwell would be rolling in his grave.

Above: Instagram or why Skynet exists.

Three cheers for surveillance capitalism! If that’s not dystopian as all hell, I don’t know what is.

Alright, onto heavy wealth gaps.  Elon “TechnoJesus” Musk. Bill “the Despoiler” Gates. Jeff “Literally the Devil” Bezos. What do all of these rich straight white men have in common? Yes. 

See, we live in a world where people have such exorbitant amounts of money that the human brain can’t even comprehend the number (https://futurism.com/what-is-a-billion-2). We also live in a world where denizens of “the greatest country in the world” can’t live with a roof over their heads. How do we deal with this on Earth? Spikes on benches in the UK, hostile architecture pretty much everywhere, and virtually nothing to help them get back on their feet (I’m talking about the majority, I know for a fact that there are people and organizations who selflessly help those who are in need). Also, wanna know a fun fact? In some cities in the United States of America, it is illegal to be homeless (https://www.chn.org/voices/fact-week-u-s-cities-made-illegal-homeless/). Messed up, right?

Oh, you can’t afford overpriced living accomodations, lost your job because of Covid-19 and can’t get by while the government does the equivalent of sit back and watch with a bucket of popcorn? Sorry, that’s illegal! Take a hike, freeloader! 

All of this is starting to sound pretty dystopian, isn’t it? 

Imagine this:

“The year is 2089, and life isn’t free.

We’ve got ads that know unshared private information, overwhelming police brutality, and corporations that run your life and know everything there is to know about you – but hey, kill the pain with mental implants that let you control your phone wherever you go. Whether you like it or not, you’re living in their world. 

All we’re trying to do is survive… and that still costs you a pretty penny.”

Want to know the only difference between that campy word-spew from a young adult dystopian novel and our world? The date. 

Do yourself a solid and think about what our world would look like to an outsider. It’s not a good look, is it? We’re quickly hurtling towards enacting our best impression of the setting for Dystopian Dreams 2: Revelations Reloaded: Fates. Joking and totally fictitious titles for YA novels aside, that’s not somewhere you want to live. It sucks to live in dystopian settings, but that’s the point.

Alright – we’re almost at the finish line here, so I’ll leave you with some words from renowned tabletop RPG legend Mike Pondsmith, one of my favorite creators of all time (who created the Cyberpunk setting as we know it back in the 80s). 

He recently said that “Cyberpunk was a warning, not an aspiration.” I couldn’t agree more. Sure the lights are pretty, the cybernetic upgrades are flashy and something I’d love to have, but the side effects of that drug cause more than it cures. 

Why not take a second and ruminate on some of his more unsettling words. Step back and ponder “what it means to look out your window and see too much of the dystopian future […] become the dystopian present.” I mean, the first iteration of his RPG system was called Cyberpunk 2020.

See you in the future, choom.