Welcome, dear reader, to the fifth installment of the Nifty Newsletter, a community-run bulletin that highlights Blitmap-derivative projects and some of the recent happenings in the Blit universe. This issue highlights a derivative project called Everything is Everything by none other than Blitmap OG composition artist Varley, known in real life as Mike Varley. But before we dive into his tasty project that launches this Sunday, let’s discuss a couple of developments in the Blitverse.
Leading off is the recent announcement from Nifty Island that the Blitmap universe will be integrating with their open metaverse. In the tweet, Nifty Island praised Blitmap as the “OGs of on-chain pixel art and pioneers in web3 community building.” What sort of integration comes about (3D Blitnaut avatars? 3D Rivals?) is yet to be seen, but I’m sure it will be stupendous! And already a number of Blitmap holders are beginning to build out there virtual islands.
The other big story was a demo of Paper, a game engine Sup developed to enable the rapid prototyping of browser-based games. You may remember the first Blitmap community call where Dom Hofmann announced that he and Bigpapap formed a company called Sup to help steward and build fictional universes in the web3 space. With Paper, Sup hopes to create a cheap pipeline to rapidly scale out games and narratives. In two (since deleted!) tweets, Dom teased out an idea of what Paper would look like. So be sure to give @dhof a follow on Twitter and try to catch the next preview before it vanishes!
It’s hard to believe all this news went down in the week since the last newsletter! Maybe this is a harbinger of what’s to come this spring. Regardless, it’s time to dive in and learn more about the Everything is Everything project by Varley!
If you’ve spent any time in the Blitmap Discord server, as either a guest or a Blitmap holder, you’ve undoubtedly interacted with Varley. He is a major burst of positive energy for the holders community, a chronicler of Blitmap history, a cheerleader and supporter of derivative artists and a host of a metaverse parties in his 3D Cryptovoxel gallery. He is the original Blitmap artist of the Everything, Hot Damn, Soft Boy and Pizza Time, compositions he dubs the “four major food groups of New York,” something the Long Island native knows a thing or two about.
Everything is Everything, at its core, is the first-of-its-kind NFT collection of restaurant reviews—in this case, Varley’s reviews of the everything bagel for which the city is renowned. You may wonder, how can Varley have such comprehensive knowledge of the bagel scene across the five boroughs? How did he discover these gems? The answer is that Varley and Jessi Highet, his wife, embarked on a one-of-a-kind piece of performance art: the pair literally walked a marathon each weekday, that’s five marathons a week for a year, across all five boroughs of New York City, for a project called “2020: Total Clarity.”
“For three years prior to 2020: Total Clarity, every summer Jessi and I took a vacation to a different part of America and planned an extended walking route,” Varley says. “After the third trip, we started formulating our 260-marathon journey. I put in my two weeks’ notice at Avalanche Studios on March 1st, 2020. By my last day, March 13th, the entire office was packing up their computers and no one has returned since. Our intended start date for the project was March 21st.”
At that time, the pandemic was sweeping the United States, hitting New York City particularly hard. Lockdowns and curfews became commonplace as the city grappled with the impacts of the virus. While it was frustrating for Varley to see years of planning halted, he said he felt incredibly lucky that he, Jessi and their families had remained healthy. And as businesses began opening in the summer of 2020, the project was back on track.
“We started the project properly on June 20th, 2020. Businesses and public facilities were just starting to open up, and more of our broader understandings for how the virus spread were coming into shape,” offers Varley. “To have one simple yet challenging physical task we could take on every day kept us focused and centered. Knowing that we were witnessing and capturing an indelible moment in New York's history kept us constantly enthralled.”
During this year-long performance-art piece, Varley documented everything. This was nothing new for the artist who has created across a wide variety of mediums, including film, spoken word and writing. Varley appreciates that NFTs provide him a way to create, and have an immutable record of his creations, without having to physically store or maintain the documents. They enable him to not just display his work in the immediate moment but also to call up a digital archive of his pieces to show the “through lines” that connect all his pieces, independent of medium.
Blockchain technology turned out to be the ideal medium for his and Jessi’s 2020: Total Clarity project, of which Everything is Everything is the first of five installations. The mint opens this Sunday, March 13th, at a price of 0.1 ETH at http://everythingiseverything.nyc/ and features a collection of 203 NFTs that highlight the best bagels across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. Each NFT contains a photo of the bagel and a total score that comprises points doled out for the store, bagel and cream cheese.
While Varley certainly understands the importance of on-chain NFTs, it was impractical for him to store a photo of each bagel completely on-chain. Instead, the photos of the savory treats are stored on IPFS, while the metadata for the reviews and scores are stored completely on-chain. “In this world of NFTs, you never know what somebody's going to be inspired to do with the information you provide,” he says, addressing the composable nature of on-chain data. “So I thought it would be cool to have as much information and data stored on-chain as possible.”
Varley notes that in addition to the 202 bagel review NFTs, one special piece in the collection will be stored entirely on-chain to pay homage to Blitmap’s roots.
“There will be a 1/1 piece to honor the on-chain nature of Blitmaps. It will be a version of the Everything composition, which has a Highley Varlet gold-and-blue background and a description of the rating criteria for each bagel store, cream cheese and bagel,” Varley says, referencing the color scheme that is a hallmark of his projects with Highet. “That is a through line that we intend to put in play across all five projects. One of the future projects for 2020: Total Clarity will be completely on-chain, but each of the five projects will have a small token dedicated to the on-chain ideal.”
Everything is Everything is especially interesting because it bridges the world of web2 and web3—the web2 experience is chock-full of information, photos, reviews, stats and charts and complements the collection of NFTs on web3. Varley notes that the beauty of CC0 licensing is that the asset can be anywhere—it doesn’t just have to live as a web3 NFT derivative. He applies this concept by using the different palettes of his Everything composition as icons on his website’s map to identify the relative quality of 202 bagel shops across the five boroughs, including:
So after trekking 7,000 miles across New York City and eating countless bagels, which was the one that was, to quote Sinatra, number one, top of the list, head of the heap, king of the hill? Varley found bagel nirvana at P&C Bagels in Queens. But like many reviews of favorite culinary things, the review went beyond taste and smell and into the metaphysical.
“I only reviewed one bagel out of 202 places that achieved a score of five. And yes, the bagel was objectively good, but the review process of bagels is also very much a subjective experience,” Varley recalls. “I was sitting down on the railing and eating the bagel immediately outside of this store that was a block away from the cemetery where my dad is buried. Two blocks away from where my mom grew up. And I began thinking about the future. How I would come back with my family someday to see my dad’s grave and that we’d probably stop for bagels here. This moment transcended the physical experience of eating an exquisite bagel and brought it to a level that was truly a five in my experience.”
With Everything is Everything being one of the early review projects on web3—if not the first of its kind—Varley sees the potential for folks who blog or write reviews to seize some of the power back from web2 behemoths like Yelp.
“When you go on Yelp or on Google and give your review labor, those companies are profiting off your work and, at most, give you an increased user score,” he says. “Web3 gives the creator the ability to turn that review labor into an NFT. Even if it doesn't sell immediately, the person retains ownership for their work that they could potentially convert into monetary value.”
Varley is unsure of how exactly this might play out in the future; however, he is convinced that a model will emerge for online reviewers akin to what has happened for artists.
One final note about the Everything is Everything mint: when the project mints out, Varley plans to give away pieces from his favorite Blitmap derivative artists as post-mint holder prizes. The first to be revealed was the Everything Dripmap by Blitmap holder and Polys.art artist Ticklish and the second gift is a Stitchmap by Quetzalcoatlia! This offer speaks to the level of support that this OG composition artist has given to the Blitmap derivative community.
As one of the original 17 Blitmap composition artists, Varley was among the people who made the key decision to place Blitmap in the public domain under the CC0 license. And he didn’t hesitate to vote to put his original work for the project in the public domain: in fact, for him, CC0 is one of the most exciting ideas in the web3 space.
“Web3 and NFTs are in this explosion phase, with tons of ideas and creativity coming on the scene like magma and lava. But later, in a few years’ time, there'll be a cooling period where the new normal will be defined,” he predicts. “Some of our ideas will die off and some will succeed. And I really hope the idea of art in the public domain and the CC0 license succeeds.”
Varley points out that IP that can be renewed in perpetuity is problematic because over time the general population who loves a cartoon character, story or work of art puts as much energy into it as the original creator. He feels that the CC0 license is a way to “alleviate the anxiety” of would-be creators and artists so they can take those assets and ideas and add back to the canon with their own creations. After all, Varley points out that rarely is a creation completely novel: we are all influenced by what has preceded us.
“Anything I have ever made has been informed by something, someone else in this world,” he says. “I really hope that the idea of CC0 succeeds in this new world.”
Everything is Everything is notable not just for its comprehensive review of New York’s bagel scene, but for how it demonstrates that web3 can be extended beyond the artistic and gaming worlds. With the proliferation of review aggregators and the general shift towards “free” online digital content, many writers have struggled in a similar vein as musicians and artists. I’m hopeful that the opportunity web3 presents for people to monetize their writing can open new avenues for authors and journalists to fund their endeavors. Everything is Everything is one such channel, and another is Mirror, the platform on which this newsletter is written, which allows people to “mint” editions of NFTs to sell to their fans and readers.
Additionally, Everything is Everything bridges the gap of web3 to web2 in a very subtle way by using Blitmap NFTs as the icons on the map. Currently, the web3 ecosystem is small—it can often feel like an echo chamber on crypto Twitter or inside our favorite Discord haunts. It has become a trope, but we are, indeed, early. The beautiful thing about CC0 projects is that we can imbue popular culture with imagery and icons that are part of the NFT ecosystem. At the highest-level, we saw Bud Light do this with the Nouns glasses during their Super Bowl ad and with media and sports personalities changing their social media avatars to NFT PFPs. Everything is Everything continues this trend, one you will likely begin to see more of both offline and in web2.