An art project I've worked on for years...
Hello! Everybody. Over the past year, we’ve covered a lot of difficult and challenging topics on this newsletter.
So today we are going to take a little break and do something different. I want to share with you an art project I’ve been developing over the past few years. If you follow me online, you are probably aware of its various faces, but you probably are not aware of its entirety… so far.
Today we are gonna talk about that frog NFT meme I made in 2016 or so before the word NFT even existed, and all the collaborations and art enhancements I’ve made to it over the years. Sit back, relax, and let’s look at some pictures of frogs. :)
Here’s a quick table of contents for this essay:
Supply and Issuance
Wear Your Statement with LENA Kicks Auction
7KB Pepe Thug Life by Viva_La_Vandal
The First Liquid Pepe
Augmented Reality Pepe
ShadilayThug And Time Travel
AlienTreeHouse VrChat Virtual Reality Art Gallery (Will be added soon…)
The Frogs That Live Inside Bitcoin
So, in 2016 the first NFTs created by users for users, the first meme NFTs ever, were invented. We didn’t have the world NFT but we knew that the idea of mixing art with low-supply crypto tokens was a great divergence from the status quo of crypto land.
Altcoins and ICOs with “change the world ideas”, shiny websites, and vapourware in the back end, that was the norm. Most a fork of a fork of a fork. A norm that in many ways continues. So this was a direct rebellion of sorts against that wave of ‘crypto’.
This community was different… it was a bunch of Bitcoin OGs and artists making Pepe memes, for the pure and fun of it and yes, minting them on the time chain. All I remember from that era was that there was that feeling of being somewhere special. That I had found a unique community that shared my appreciation for this strange internet frog, and that these guys were also my tribe, in a way. They were Bitcoin nerds.
This felt like the genesis of something fascinating. Something that intrigued me, and if there’s anything I’ve followed throughout my life, it is my curiosity and fascination. So far it has never let me down.
The Bitcoin fork war was still hot, and not unlike today, the Bitcoin fees were high, and altcoin peddlers praised the great innovations of making the blocks bigger as if that was the be-all and end-all of blockchain scaling solutions... But I digress. Trump too was being elected, and the internet was ablaze with a meme war which turns out had great consequences.
And so, memes were made.
I’ve talked about my true thoughts on NFTs in a blog post long ago and addressed the main critiques, so I won’t go into that today. Instead, I’ll share with you my love of the artistic exploration that took root here, through the lens of the one NFT I minted in that era.
Forged out of the meme wars of the late twenty-teens. This frog has a variety of symbols intertwined with the era.
Snoop Dog’s Thug Life song played regularly on viral political videos as some random activist or political commentator “rekt” their opposition with some witty comment or a devastating truth that most knew but dared not speak.
The word YOLO had entered the internet lexicon no long before as the young z crowd found their irreverence and did the stupid things that the young do, too often in defiance of death itself. Who cares right? You only live once, after all!
Halloween was just around the corner and the Bitcoin price was at nearly 700 dollars, rising to challenge its previous all-time high of 1180 USD. It had been a long bear market and we felt that bullish energy. Despite the drama, despite the fork war actively raging. We knew that new heights were coming.
Perhaps soon the Bitcoin price would be over 9000…
The next 14 months would mark a steady climb towards that great number, with the meme lords sharpening their Vegetta memes as that lusted-for price line came within reach. Needless to say, we blew past that price so hard we touched 20 thousand dollars a Bitcoin. Epic times indeed!
But the top was not in yet, for there is no final top. Not in the vastness of time. Just as there is no end to the amount of fiat that can be printed, so is there no end to how high in price Bitcoin can go. Infinity when time is not a question, is its destiny.
Finally, this whole rare pepe collection meme whirl was supposed to be a game, a game of life, a game of cards. And what better card in a deck, than the Trump card, so to speak which while playable only once, is powerful enough to get you REKT? Well so be it, and so it was.
Supply and Issuance
The asset was minted on October 28th 2016, just three days short of the date when 7 years earlier, Satoshi Nakamoto had published the Bitcoin white paper for the first time, on the cyberpunk forums. I do not remember this being intentional, more likely a curious coincidence, but it is likely that at this time 7 years before, Satoshi had been scrambling to finish that now historical document, which like many declarations before it, would leave its stamp in history and inarguably change it’s course.
265 units of PEPETHUGLIFE were minted that day. Why 265? I was looking for a number that was significant in cyberpunk terms. So I thought of a multiple of 2, the essential binary which was idk, cool and big enough to be fun. However, I made a now obvious mistake, a typo. That multiple was 256, not 265. But by the time I realized that it was too late. The frog had been stamped on the eternal time chain and the asset specs submitted to the Rare Pepe scientists. A multiple of 4 and 64 plus 9 it is, I guess. xD
Years later I would destroy another 101 units of PEPETHUGLIFE. I had traded over 50 of them for other cards and I didn’t like how much of the supply I still controlled. 164 is a multiple of 4 and 41? Sure, why not.
PEPETHUGLIFE Xchain.io asset page.
The supply shrunk more over time, but those destructions were part of new creations and done with burn cryptographic rituals. Magic that we will talk about in a little bit.
But first, let’s fast forward to this month and this year, and what’s around the corner in May of 2023.
Wear Your Statement with LENA
While you all were putting jpegs on the time chain, we decided to put jegs on your kicks instead.
This first-of-a-kind and unique pair of PEPETHUGLIFE-themed kicks were hand painted by the talented and beautiful Lena, a Bitcoin running shoe artists who has been making some wonderful work creating Bitcoin fashion.
These kicks will be auctioned at Bitcoin Miami this May 18th via the Bitcoin Magazine/Scarce.city auction. This is a bundle with more than one unique piece, however. It includes:
One original PEPETHUGLIFE Rare Pepe NFT minted on the Bitcoin chain via counterparty in 2016.
One unique pair of kicks made by Lena, custom fitted to the buyer, in the Pepe Thug Life style.
A one-of-a-kind ordinal inscription of the original PEPETHUGLIFE NFT GIF file, to immortalize it on the Bitcoin time chain (ok maybe I put ONE jpeg on the time chain too :D )
And two 7KB Pepe Thug Life Stamp made by Viva_La_Vandal a very cool Bitcoin stamps art NFT made in the inspiration of PEPETHUGLIFE. We’ll talk about this awesome piece in a moment.
Stay tuned to this newsletter and my Twitter feed and we will send you the auction link when it is time.
7KB Pepe Thug Life by Viva_La_Vandal
Turns out the full-sized PEPETHUGLIFE was too fat in kilobytes to put into a Bitcoin stamp, a technology that uses the address space in Bitcoin transactions to encode art into the time chain. 100kb of PEPETHUGLIFE is just too much awesome! Lol.
Nevertheless, the amazing artist Viva_La_Vandal found a way to simplify PEPETHUGLIFE making a beautifully smug version for the Stampchain.io world. I’m now going to go ahead and stamp my interpretation on this stamp.
Let’s start with the name 7KB STAMP THUG LIFE, a clear revival of the memetics of the 2016 irreverence, adapted to today’s 2023 mempool wars in Bitcoin. Stamps assert that as long as you pay your fair share into the time chain, there’s no problem with filling it up with jpegs. They are contributing to the security budget of Bitcoin after all!
Thug life indeed.
You’ll notice too that this is a gif, with basically two frames, which is just fantastic. It distills the essence of PEPETHUGLIFE while pixelating it to fit the style and medium.
<3 = YOLO makes a comeback, because no matter what era it is, that youthful energy of life despite risk remains, like the constant that it is in the human experience. You Only Live Once!
Of course, because this is a 7KB image, then making it just over 7000 is what the meme demands. A further echo to the Bitcoin Veggetta memes. Wen 7KB Vegetta?
Next up, the mempool, absolutely REKT as the blocks get so full Bitcoin sets new records of transaction fee rewards being paid out to miners, doubling the block rewards subsidy. The mempool si REKT indeed LOL.
The only issue I take with this is the misspelling of mempool, it’s actually called the memepool guys, come on. Get with the times.
Last but not least, infinity is its element. Because let’s face it, we are nothing but the finite element within the infinite cosmos. Since for infinity to truly be infinite, it must include the finite world. ;)
Now, it is hard to talk about infinity and not think about immortality. They kind of go hand and hand, despite our limited ability to reach it. Nevertheless, we should try and besides stamping PEPETHUGLIFE in stone and burying it in an ancient tomb -a project for another time?- there are few other technologies today that offer us the possibility of vast longevity as that of the Bitcoin time chain.
One such technology, before the age of Ordinals and Bitcoin stamps, was IPFS. A distributed file-sharing protocol that was shitcoin agnostic and allowed anyone to host, share and retrieve files without a central server, more or less.
While the primordial archive of Rare Pepes is of course, the rarepepedirectory. For a while there, we didn’t know what the future of this site would be. After the great John Villar’s passing (RIP my fren), the archive’s future was even more uncertain.
It was clear that the link between the jpegs and the tokens associated was very weak, in most NFT instances it is straight-up non-existent. This gap became increasingly laughable and so I decided to try and bridge it for PEPETHUGLIFE.
IPFS is cool in that it creates a unique ID for the file you upload based on a hash of the file. This ID is deterministically generated from the file itself. So if the file changes the ID changes and the file location changes as well, in turn guaranteeing that the integrity of the file is never compromised as long as you have the right link. This IPFS link was integrated into the Xchain.io record of PEPETHUGLIFE via a counterparty transaction, leaving a record on the time chain.
You can compare the file from IPFS to that of the rarepepedirectory by comparing say sha256 hashes of both and you’ll see it is the same file. Bridge built.
However, the gap remained, somewhat stretched since there are far more paths to the file being lost in a scenario where all computers hosting PEPETHUGLIFE via IPFS went down, a much more likely scenario than that of Bitcoin nodes going down…
Enter Ordinals, the annoying jpeg time chain protocol that has been all kinds of controversial on BT of late. Ordinal devs figured out a way to use Taproot upgrades to include a lot more data than previously feasible on the Bitcoin chain. The result has been a boom of new BTC transactions that carry graphical assets.
While I’m not particularly interested in Ordinals, nor do I find them to be any kind of great innovation or revolution. I never the less see the path they provide for the immortality of content, thus I did the thing. I pushed the button. I added PEPETHUGLIFE.gif to the time chain.
You can see the PEPETHUGLIFE inscription record here and compare it to the source files as well if you’d like. The asset created via the inscription will be auctioned in the PEPETHUGLIFE kicks auction coming up in Bitcoin Miami, a one-of-a-kind, the first and probably the last Ordinal I’ll ever make.
The First Liquid Pepe
Speaking of weird cryptographic art things and Bitcoin scaling, I also managed to move the first rare pepe OG NFT from the Counterparty protocol to the liquid protocol, both sidechains of sorts of Bitcoin. This project I’m particularly proud of, though it is somewhat esoteric. You can read the original manifest on this piece I wrote at the time.
The issue was of course a matter of the scalability of NFTs, as well as technology advancing with better protocols. At the time Counterparty had been kind of dead for a while in development terms, while the Liquid network was gaining traction as a platform for alternative crypto assets. However, as a native XCP asset, it was not trivial if at all possible to move an NFT to a different blockchain record system of sorts. To do this, I had to employ arcane but never the less powerful burn magic.
Burn magic is simple in its essence, it involves destroying an asset in one chain and minting an equivalent asset on another chain. The upside is that it is cool and trustless. The downside is that there’s no way to revert it. Nevertheless, I felt it was an artistic opportunity and so, I went ahead with it, or rather a brave Pepe dared dive into the black hole of burn magic in a one-way trip into the unknown.
The danger? That it would not be accepted by the market as a true rare pepe NFT.
First I created the burn magic wormhole. A burn address custom-made for this piece at 1stLiquidPepexxxxxxxxxxxxxxumd9b8.
I then created a Bitcoin time stamp of PEPETHUGLIFE using Peter Todd’s Bitcoin Timestamps protocol which you can recreate by dropping the PEPETHUGLIFE.gif into this site.
Then I sent a transaction from the Bitcoin address that created PEPETHUGLIFE to the burn address with the hash created by Opentimestaps included in the transaction data using the special Bitcoin feature “OP_RETURN”:
Next, I created a destination for the wormhole, for what is a teleportation spell without a place you want to go? This is the re-mint side of the magic ritual, which created a 1 of 1 PEPETHUFLIFE NFT on the Liquid network.
To further strengthened the link, I sent another transaction from the creator address to the burn address with the ID of this Liquid Network mint contract:
Finally, we needed to bind the gif asset to the ritual to leave no doubt of the link between worlds. To that end I sent a third and final Bitcoin transaction from the author address to the burn address with a hash of the PEPETHUGLIFE file as created by IPFS.
Then I opened the NFT for auction on Raretoshi, the NFT platform on top of the Liquid network that best enabled this at the time. The moment of truth was here, would the market accept it?
*queue drum roll* ……
This brave Pepe found a new home, with a rare pepe collector who saw value in this weird ritual. It did not sell as well as other native PEPETHUGLIFE assets on counterparty but still, at least half of what it was trading for at the time, enough for me to consider this art experiment a success.
Augmented Reality Pepe
By now we’ve broken the barriers of time by granting this daring frog the chance of immortality.
We have transported it across dimensions, teleporting it through distances previously considered impossible. The digital and abstract realms were one by one being conquered by PEPETHUGLIFE. The next frontier is augmented reality.
What are you talking about Juan Galt? Have you lost your mind Juan Galt? Why yes, I have indeed lost a marble or three. And you are about to do the same, I hope. Rather than describe the indescribable. Let’s play a little game. Download this arcane and little-known app, it is called Artivive and it will do you no harm. (Android, iOS)
Now do me a solid, open the app and point the camera at this image below, and let the magic do it’s work. If you are on mobile, just ask someone near you to open this article on this image and let you point your phone at it with Artivive. You can also print this image if you like, that works too. :)
That’s right. Mind blown.
ShadilayThug And Time Travel
Having conquered most of the digital world at this point, it makes sense to pause, reflect and think of our ancestors. And who better than the mystical frog which strangely prophesized the rise of Pepe, thirty-something years before?
In a collaboration with the unstoppable Mikeinspace and his vintage Rare Shadilay collection, PEPETHUGELIFE decided to embark on a journey across time. To go back, and visit the singing frog Shadilay.
This too however was a one-way trip, and a sacrifice had to be made. Using burn magic now familiar to us, this brave frog once again smoked a fat joint and jumped into the abyss, for the sake of adventure and of course, meme science.
Now take out your trusted Artivive app and point it at Mr. ShadilayThug’s resting frame.
Looks like it worked!
You’ll notice the burn address this Pepe jumped into at the bottom of this ShadilayThug. This time travel magic was so powerful that it bifurcated history, now creating a version of Shadilay that sings and smokes in the augmented realm.
ShadilayThug is thus also a stand-alone NFT asset, born of the sacrifice of this one PEPETHUGLIFE, it has a max supply of 36, one for each year PEPETHUGLIFE had to travel back in time. You can learn more about ShadilayThug at the announcement scroll.
Last but not least, there’s the meatspace. Or in this case, silicon and museum-grade acrylic with archival ink.
In collaboration with the legendary and very trippy artist Johnny Dollar we created a physical version of PEPETHUGLIFE! This piece is one-of-a-kind and comes engraved with a Coldcard-created Opendime.
In case you are not familiar with these magical little devices, the USB like hardware wallet can create a fresh non-custodial private and public key pair for Bitcoin. Letting you send assets to it that can only be withdrawn from the open dime by breaking the device and thus rendering it visibly tampered with. In other words, it is a physical bitcoin, tamper-proof wallet.
We sent a PEPETHUGLIFE subasset signed by me to this open dime and added this frog to a collector’s address, as he, of course, preferred the bragging rights of having PEPETHUGLIFE on his leaderboard page. :)
This too has an announcement scroll of course, so check that out if you are curious, and check out Johnny Dollar’s other work. He is amazing.
One last thing, we also made a block explorer for rare pepes. While this is not explicitly a PEPETHUGLIFE project, it never the less serves the artistic experience of rare pepes and hopefully lets collectors enjoy their priced possessions.
We also decided to open-source it. So if you want to do anything with it, or contribute to its codebase, go for it!
It’s got all kinds of awesome features and tons of potential. I wrote an announcement scroll that goes into depth as well. :)
Anyway… I think that is all for now folks. Stay tuned for more articles at JuanGalt.com and check out PEPETHUGLIFE.LOL which will redirect to this blog post and will be updated with the future adventures of this wild Pepe the frog.
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