DISCLAIMER: This is long. It’s thorough but not exhaustive in detailing BASED history. It is targeted to a non-existent demographic: people interested in the history of based.money who have no prior experience with cryptocurrency. Originally written in November 2021 and discarded, now revised for the summer of 2022 after the launch of Based Ghouls to help make sense of our rich memetic history. It will probably make me seem less savvy than I already did, and I hope by being a little vulnerable and long-winded some people can feel more comfortable entering this world.
This is a story about what it was like to be an outsider and insider all at once - what it was like to get based before I knew what that meant and stay based while witnessing the project go off the rails and yet still be the center and gateway for me into all things crypto-currency and decentralized finance. I’m going to explain my own dive into the deep end and try to use my experience to help crypto culture make sense to outsiders and to help insiders articulate their own world. More and more people seem to be entering NFTs without really grasping what crypto currency in general is about. At times it may seem plodding if you’re a crypto veteran, but this is meant to illustrate what it’s like to get into crypto from the outside, and to realize what places there are where you are still an outsider.
There is a section of Nicholas Talib’s book Black Swan that tells an interesting story about the author Umberto Eco. Eco apparently has a giant library, and when guests visit they will often ask “have you really read all these?” Eco would tell them that he definitely hasn’t read all of them, but the huge collection of books serves to remind him of all the things he doesn’t know - an anti-library. Cryptocurrency and crypto culture is a giant spiraling library of knowledge that would surprise me if any person knew every detail of. There is so much to know, and once known so much to do, and once done so many things done that haven’t been recorded or collected - the best that someone like me can even begin to do is see the broad silhouetted outlines of what I do not know. I interact with cryptocurrency regularly now - sometimes in relatively complicated ways compared to my very first experiences - but all of the time I am very aware of the huge body of things going on that I’m not privy to, the complex interactions I don’t understand, and I came to have some kind of relationship with all the things I needed to know I didn’t know by becoming BASED.
The Ride Never Ends
I never meant to get into crypto currency at all. I had a few friends who dabbled in it, and one friend who mentioned something about doing artwork there (how?) but I had considered it a pretty arcane technical niche of people who were trading code and probably some illicit substances somewhere. I was more or less minding my own business and exploring being a digital artist as the pandemic really set in. I had just moved to a new state and had a new job, and when I had free time there was no one to spend it with - so I just kept making art and building a body of work on Instagram. I had gotten connected with The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets through there that summer, so I was feeling pretty puffed up at the time about the quality of my own work and fielding a few DM’s a week about this project or that - and I had one slide in that stuck out by being both more sketchy and less elaborate than most.
The person DM’ing me was just Mr. Bones - a reference to a popular meme. For those who don’t remember the game or the meme, in Rollercoaster Tycoon you could design a ride and decorate it elaborately and then delete the exit, effectively making the ride last forever. Someone made an image thread about that with their custom car ride “Mr. Bones Wild Ride” that never ended - and understandably some of the riders eventually lost their enthusiasm and in their little thought dialogue box it would say things like “I want off Mr. Bones’ Wild Ride.” Now - if you’re an internet person you’re going to recognize this reference, but at the same time someone who goes by this name is very difficult to google. The noise-to-signal ratio is going to be insane: you will get so many results related to the meme it will be difficult to find anything authentically tied to whoever this person is. Essentially, a name like “Mr. Bones” helps establish someone in a particular space and instance with an identity, but also leaves their identity difficult to trace across sites and platforms. So I saw the name and the offer to get into NFTs (whatever those were) and thought to myself “red flag.”
Mr. Bones said he was helping build an art collective associated with Based Protocol. Against my better judgment and partially because I was poor (more on that later) I accepted their offer to float me a little bit of Ether and post my art on Rarible.com for sale. Bear in mind, I did not know what Ethereum was before this, I had no Metamask or any other wallet, I barely understood what Bitcoin was, and what exactly I was doing with my art when I posted it there was beyond me. Even just a thing like figuring out what my wallet address was and where I could link it to Mr. Bones - say that out loud - “I need to send my wallet address to a stranger” - it was intimidating even for someone who was relatively computer competent. This is one of the first things that is confusing but amazing about getting into cryptocurrency. If your previous experience was reading articles about Silk Road or dark cabals of cryptids discussing anarchy on Tor - your idea of what cryptocurrency is remains very dark. These are secret places for shadowy people who know how to do things that you and I do not - a technocrat class that most people will only interact with if they’ve had their credit card stolen or used the same password on too many recipe websites and banking apps.
The first thing I had to get used to was the idea that my wallet - my bank account - could have a public account number and that knowing that number didn’t mean you could just do what you want with it. What it did mean, though, was that any stranger, even a meme skeleton, can send you money in different forms without having to write a check, without having anyone call a bank, without any meaningful delay. Money from a total stranger could enter my account without me doing anything but sharing with them where to put it. So I had some Ether now, and without grasping why it had to be this way yet, I had to spend some of it to post my art. Again, bear in mind I’m poor at this point and I have a family that runs on a very tight budget. I didn’t want to try to explain why I’m using any money that I have to put some art on a website when we had handwritten accounts of all the money going in and out of our household at the time. This is another thing people getting into crypto are going to find difficult: expenses that they don’t understand that are significant when your income doesn’t have much surplus.
I minted some art that Mr. Bones and I agreed was worthwhile, and I minted a number of editions of it (think multiple prints of the same piece of art) and within seconds it had sold. Wait, it sold? Blue Kirby, something of a notorious trader and collector and influencer type, had bought all the editions of my artwork almost instantly. That previous June I had spent almost a thousand dollars I really didn’t have printing large high quality prints of my artwork to put in a gallery showing that I had been on a waiting list for over a year to present. It was a pandemic and people weren’t really going to galleries much that June, but all the same - not one of those works sold in the gallery. Now my experience with these NFTs was that I made hundreds of dollars worth of Ether after spending only $30 or so. All because I got in touch with some person who was involved with Based Protocol. What is that?
I spent several nights feverishly reading articles on my phone when I should have been sleeping. What is a Non-Fungible Token, what is an ERC-721 or 1155, how is that different from an ERC-20, what is Ethereum and how is it different from Bitcoin? Here is another place that the outside world has to make a giant leap to catch up. When Bitcoin first started being talked about - I read a little bit and understood that it was basically a store of value: by analogy it was like digital gold. Something you could keep and was worth something, and if you could find some place (like a shady “WE BUY GOLD” store) that took it, you could exchange it for real money. Okay, fair enough. What I had missed while I went back to my day job for years and spent time getting an education about other things and having a family and so forth - I had missed Ethereum. In short: I had missed the fact that cryptocurrency now had programming built into it - that the various tokens that Ethereum made possible could actually do things - and the thing being done was to make a mirror of the traditional world of finance, only using anonymous actors and hard-coded mechanisms in place of the real world systems that use laws, known entities, signatures and government bodies to function. What I had missed was that you could use a computer system that was simply hosted across people’s computers and decentralized instead of in one place (unless you’re CZ) that functioned as a world ledger and computer to both process and track all these financial interactions.
Feels Good Man
What people are doing with this new capability is what we call decentralized finance, or defi. Now I was learning that not only had I missed the birth of this during 2020’s so-called “DeFi Summer,” but that people were already mocking their own systems and their own structures and actually playing games with all this money flying around. So after my initial experience with NFTs, I kept researching this group I had been dropped into. I found the group chat for the art collective unreadable - I didn’t know any of the vocabulary or what it was in reference to. The based.money website itself was insane - vaporwave aesthetics, a smoking skull icon cribbed from Warren Zevon, a system of currency using elastic supply mechanisms and a comical “rebase” button that set the value of the currency to $1 USD. I didn’t know the terms yet, but it was an algorithmic stablecoin that actually required a button-press to implement the algorithm, and could trade at any value people sold for while it was de-pegged. There was an article about Ampleforth (who?) and some explanation that this is a financial “game of chicken” meant to shake out the “weak hands.” I read the page over and over and just mumbled “what?” to myself - I didn’t have any money to play chicken with, and I was pretty sure I didn’t understand the game well enough to play even if I wanted to. What was even more shocking was that there were people who had money and just didn’t take their money all that seriously - that they were willing to play with it. All of it was a part of the culture, though. The anonymous developers, the “scene” aesthetics of supposedly god-like coders who had hacked together a crazy irreverent system for playing fast and loose with money - this is all a part of the cultural moment mid-transition from something shady like Silk Road and software piracy teams to a respectable financial world. The counter-culture both does and does not want to be associated with the world of finance.
Another thing about the new and growing space: there are no official chronicles of a lot of what is going on. I didn’t know at the time that I had already pretty well missed the major events: the first and second pools, the rebases. This is still culture happening with immediacy, often in semi-private or at least obscure channels. If you are an outsider - you don’t really see a lot of the discussion and you may not even know where to find it. There is a reason almost every website involved with DeFi or NFT things has a link at the very bottom to Telegram or Discord: these are the places people are having conversations about what we’re up to. I’m sure there’s still onion servers or imageboards or whatever that are also doing this in more encrypted and private ways, but these semi-public channels are a significant chunk of where the culture is growing and where we are connecting and tracking and asking questions. To an outsider that only bothers with newsfeeds or the odd reddit thread or god forbid - tiktok, none of it is going to make any sense or start making any sense.
So I started asking around in the Telegram channels and Discords to find out what I had gotten myself into. I met personalities that were larger than life - some who disappeared and some I still see around today. Familiar avatars that would tell me stories: $Based had built a game where people could trade currency at increasingly inflated prices and then pay a transaction fee to press a button (within the one hour window it was possible each day) and rebase the value - making some degenerate gamblers (basically where the slang DeFi “degen” comes from) very rich and some others suddenly very poor. The Telegram channel was flooded with memes of dancing skeletons, vaporwave/retrowave/chillwave tropes, pink and blue B - and when there was a rebase imminent the channel would be spammed with so many messages and memes the pace was too fast for anyone to keep up with. It sounded electric. This is where some of the foundational myths of BASED began: such as Dustin Rall. Dustin dropped into the Telegram channel asking questions after having spent a whopping 50 ETH only to acquire something like 2 $BASED (which, you’ll recall, is designed to be reset to $1 per $BASED). He apparently used the wrong link or something and spent most of that on gas. Dustin became a savior figure for BASED - someone who had sacrificed himself donating that much Ethereum and whose vision for the project became a thing of legend. We need to make this thing worth it for his considerable investment. Why were we all hanging around this Telegram channel? For Dustin. If you weren’t there for him - please leave.
The point where I had joined was after this initial frenzy. The story as I’ve reconstructed it is that following the release of $BASED the developers - the Ghouls - intended to build a token swap platform (for myself new to crypto: a currency exchange) and to fund the project they listed some NFTs for outrageous amounts, something like $50,000. The idea was that the investors who believed in BasedSwap were building the treasury anonymously so that the team could work. Yet another thing I didn’t understand when I was being initiated was just how fast everything moves in crypto. Between the time of the sale of those NFTs and any reasonable development time being completed, all the tech that had been started for BasedSwap was redundant. Taking someone else’s completed project and copying it, and modifying it (“forking” for the non-coder) is simply not exciting, and often not profitable or useful either. The Ghouls dropped that idea and instead decided to build something called Moonbased.
A part of the thrill and wildness of $BASED was that the developers had built a protocol and then publicly burned the admin keys that let them change how it functioned. On the one hand this is just a fun publicity stunt because it means it is a finished product that’s been set loose into the world. On the other, it’s part of what it means to explore these new spaces where anonymity means that trust is in short supply. If no one can change the code of a project, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s secure but it means if you can read it as well as anyone else (just like wallets, the code for these tokens exists in a public way that anyone can view it) we’re all playing the same game, a fair game in a sense. Unfortunately, a token that cannot be developed any further and that functions crazily as the supply goes in and out of people’s wallets is hard to build upon. There even had to be some jumping from one token to another as things broke - and so was created Based Classic, the dustins.vision euphoric trippy meme potpourri. Even the dead and forked tokens became a way to come up with arbitrary inner circles and holding for the sake of a zany cultural moment.
Even as more and more tools make plugging one project into another possible - something strange and unique may be exciting, but isn’t meant to be compatible with everything. After gradually understanding I had missed the rush of $BASED, I wanted to know what the Moonbase was and how it worked before it launched, so I figured I should go find the persons to ask.
So I wanted to know just who the developers, the GHOULS were - not their real identities - but who the anonymous developers of all things BASED were. I knew there was a team, and I thought I knew how many there were, but I had only really seen the ghouls I knew as BasedMoneyGod and Run The Ghouls or rarely G H O U L . b a s e d around any of the places people hung out. Another thing outsiders may not understand right away: there are good non-nefarious reasons to be anonymous in crypto (or online in general). The $BASED.money game was public, how it worked was viewable by all, the keys to the currency code were demonstrably burned - but how all these transactions and games and interactions between platforms and anonymous people are considered legally has not been ironed out in a lot of places. Even now they are talking about passing laws that make it a legal requirement to know who every person is that you transact money with in sums over $10,000. Now imagine a thing like based.money with hundreds of anonymous (at least, to the developers) wallets interacting with sums that change value wildly in days or hours and doing that for weeks. That means a public record of hundreds and hundreds of transactions for amounts that may one day be considered illegal but are now untraceable. Not only that, but building a project like $BASED for fun may not be something you want to show up on your LinkedIn page. Code projects where people role-play as hacker pioneers of the digital finance wild west are not places you want your Tax ID or professional resume to be items of interest - even if you are playing the game in earnest.
There’s two other important things to remember here: so much of the old way of doing security online meant that you had to give lots of personal information to a platform which they could then regurgitate to you if you locked yourself out of your own account. That’s kind of a clunky way of securing things, but it kind of works for a while. What we’re seeing is that the internet has a long memory, and websites and services are sometimes short-lived, and the average person has a 10-20 year history on the internet now of giving that information to god-knows-how-many businesses. How many of those businesses kept all their databases perfectly secure? Moreover, how much of yourself do you willingly share online? Outsiders in many places will say things like “I’ve got nothing to hide” - and that can be totally true - but if your identity is only verifiable by an aggregate of all the facts of your life, and more and more of those facts get catalogued for the purposes of social media or for your library card or for the place you bought socks once - eventually your entire online identity including bank accounts becomes a very shaky enterprise. It didn’t necessarily seem like that big of a problem at first because the internet wasn’t that old, there were not decades of information about you to be sifted through by social engineers bent on getting your data. Having an anonymous identity isn’t just a signal (remember the red flag?) that you don’t want to be searched - it’s also a way of separating the sorts of personal details and misty future legal liabilities from your ability to act in the present. All of these new crypto websites are operating in something we now call “web3” - which is difficult to define, but one of the basic concepts is that your identity isn’t handled by the sites you visit who are responsible for taking notes on your life story, but instead handled by a secure wallet that you have the keys to. Essentially, you interact with these sites as a peer rather than instantly becoming a customer and liability with an account they create and manage for you. I find it more than a little frustrating that even now in 2022 outsiders will complain about having to use web3 versions of things as an unnecessary analog for web2 things, but then you find yourself sitting through commercials, your content being leveraged for Google Ad Words, your work only being profitable if it sells 400 t-shirts, the best videos and artwork being screened behind Patreon paywalls.
So I picked at random one of the GHOULS that I knew of - Run The Ghouls - and I used a mnemonic strategy that had worked well for me as a designer: I created an image and visual identity to match what they had posted as their avatars. I like Run The Jewels too, so I hacked together their signature font and a Skeletor illustration from an action figure and copied in some quotes I found around Twitter or Discord from Run The Ghouls (here on: RTG) and hacked together some VHS elements and motion graphics and made what was essentially an animated GIF of a VHS advertisement for the person of Run the Ghouls as a fictional movie that was somehow promoting based.money the currency. Bear in mind, this was all because I was trying to understand what based money was, so copying the text from their website seemed obvious. Putting in quotes and jokes from RTG that helped illuminate what it was all about helped me understand it. Wrapping the whole thing in a retrowave VHS advertisement was just a fun design exercise. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I decided to make the VHS tape an NFT. I didn’t really understand the nature of collectibles vs. art in the crypto space yet, but I had some idea that I was making something that was a bit of a goof and a bit of a collectible and in general was just the first step of me trying to piece together what I was doing.
I made 10 of the VHS tape, and pretty quickly all 10 of them sold once the people floating around $BASED caught wind. This was the rush of the first art sale again - I’d had a few sales since then, but nothing that had taken off like this.
RTG seemed into it, and that was fun for me. It’s a little bit like an older brother telling you whatever you’re into is cool - these were the secretive coder types I knew were doing things far over my head. I kept going after that initial experience, trying to understand what everyone’s role was. It’s still not clear to me - but broadly you can categorize things like community relations, design, operational security, front end and back end programming and blockchain and contract interactions. I should mention that “contracts” are the language we use for how tokens and programs interact with the blockchain - the decentralized ledger/computer. Contracts better communicate the same principle of web3 - that what we are establishing when we use tokens are relationships between code, objects, and people, not a thing that works somewhere else without us that is only connected to us by dealers or salesmen or brokers.
I gathered that BasedMoneyGod did something with the contracts, and hung out and “shitposted” with us. What does that mean? This is yet another reason that anonymity is valuable without being criminal: the way we have tried to use either legal measures or social pressure to police what people say has worked in some ways and not others. In some ways - it has helped create office cultures where hopefully no one is forced to hear awful things or be treated in malicious ways, where we have a certain way that we behave professionally with the understanding that it is obligatory to be there if we want to keep getting paid, and being subjected things we find offensive is unfair if we can’t choose to leave. I think as a culture we’ve extended that concept in some ways to our social media channels, and want to use social pressure the same way we used to use harassment complaints to create behavioral norms that everyone is comfortable with. Again, as an intent that isn’t so bad. What it has meant though, is that people are often anxious to loosen their tie, they don’t want to visit happy hour after work with people, they don’t really want to be themselves at work or in the office very much on the off chance that they - even accidentally - might cross the norms of the lowest common denominator of social acceptance. In a lot of places in crypto culture, people are relishing the freedom from that kind of office environment, that kind of stilted behavior that ensures it stays squeaky clean. Lots of developers and even now public figures are a bit more freewheeling online than you might be used to in the corporate world of 1978-2016. We may not want to hurt other people’s feelings, but given how much of our life is spent at least somewhat “at work” - it’s an awful lot of life to take seriously. “Shitposting” is just what we call the kind of goofing and posting and sharing dumb stuff that people do when they’re "off” - when they’re off the clock or not turning on their publicly palatable persona. I think this is yet another problem that is only revealing itself as the internet gets older: an archive of every thought and joke and offhand comment you’ve made for the last two decades - is there any of it that someone could pick apart if they were looking for a fight? If they were looking for a reason to try to hurt your reputation? That doesn’t mean you’re cruel or awful or gross or evil, but having your guard up at all times is exhausting.
I stumbled my way through learning about ghoul.SOL - who seemed by all accounts to be one of the galaxybrains of the operation - and kept going with xghoul0x (aka Ras al Ghoul) and started on one for G H O U L . b a s e d. I stopped when I got to Sir Pepe Ghoul. This is as good of a place as any to discuss another aspect of crypto culture that is confusing and intimidating from the outside. Pepe the frog is one of those memes that means very different things to different people. For that matter, “BASED” itself, as lingo, came from an old 4chan meme. You can read the knowyourmemes page yourself, but basically it came from a stray joke from rapper Lil B - “based god.” To call something “based” then became something like calling it “cool.” From there though, there’s been a sizable chunk of internet history that helped give birth to the alt-right, and Pepe and BASED were both associated with it, but not owned by it. One thing people can tend to forget when it comes to memetics, symbols and language is that context is crucial. Sometimes context can’t be removed: Charlie Chaplin was hilarious, but you still can’t wear that little mustache and a red armband and do a Charlie Chaplin impression because you can’t get rid of that other context for those things. Calling something “based” though, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with rightwing pundits or have been “basedpilled” into that world. Pepe, likewise, is used by tons of crypto and digital natives to symbolize an entire culture that feels itself distinct from “normie” culture. It doesn’t mean that you’re a part of radical or fringe or frankly xenophobic subcultures, it means you identify with people who feel that mainstream culture has become a place for unreflective, shallowly well-adjusted, just plain shallow, or dull people. There is always a certain stream of resentful and bitter and cruel types who really do mean “normie” in the most sneering way. There’s also a lot of people who live portions of their life online and in books and find the news misleading or boring and conventional life goals like a nuclear family and a 5 bedroom house stupid and consumerist and the critique is much more like this: “the unexamined life is not worth living” (I don’t know what crypto weirdo came up with that but it seems like wisdom).
So there is a whole subculture of people who see the frog as a symbol of the examined life, but who also recognize that maybe they really are just maladjusted, and maybe the outside world is right and they’re dumb or weird. Who knows. It’s more about establishing the contrast than resolving it - in fact, people not getting it and insulting the pepe or asking “based on what” kind of vindicates the feeling that we are not the same. I wouldn’t say that’s healthy, necessarily, but feeling at once superior and inferior to other people is a strange complex, and having other people to share the complex with makes it less strange. There’s a lot of people shitposting now: the Pepe identifiers are playing with money online because it feels good man.
Anyways, Sir Pepe Ghoul was one of the dev team. A famously reclusive member who managed internal comms (rumor had it) and used an aristocrat Pepe as his avatar. Now, the Pepe meme was also, coincidentally, one of the founding memes that built NFT technology. There was a running joke on imageboards that you could post whatever goofy edit of Pepe you had made into a collectible card and say it was a “rare” Pepe and insist no one copy it. Ask robness about it if you really want to know more. The Rare Pepe card was, of course, just an image file though - and anyone can copy and save a file they can see one way or another. It begged the question, though, of how could someone make an image file that couldn’t just be copied? The answer was to use blockchain ledgers to have an official ownership token (like a house deed or notarized collectible baseball card or something). The ownership token couldn’t be stolen by viewing the image associated with it, and so finally the rare Pepe enthusiasts had something that couldn’t be heisted. This is kind of something that outsiders to all NFTs still haven’t grasped: the image isn’t the token and we’re okay with that. You can view and save the image (of course) without owning the token.
I knew about this little portion of the subculture by the time I arrived at making this VHS tape, and so I decided to go all-out: if this was going to be the Rare Pepe of Based VHS, the tape should be all gold. The advertisement should have gold sparkles cascading on a glimmering field - the box should be lined with gold foil, the Sir Pepe image should be a finely crafted portrait: and I listed a mere 3 NFTs (not 10) for 1 ETH each. In the description I think I said something like “this is ridiculous - if you buy one of these I’ll send you some art” because I still didn’t understand fully the willful silliness of collectibles and the dubious and potential and illiquid value of art. All three sold in minutes - and again I was shocked - and this time I tried to take up the collectors on my offer, and one proud Texan was at least kind enough to accept some real art in the form of a Makersplace token to soothe my guilty conscience for having profited off of a joke. Mr. Bones was even surprised - if I recall correctly, “3 ETH, just like that.” Bear in mind, though, 3 ETH was a fraction of what it is today back then.
If You Know You Know
I did not coincide my NFT offerings with the Moonbase launch - because whenever I asked when that was exactly the answer was “few days” and eventually I twigged that no one knew until it was all but done. By the time the Moonbase actually launched, I was spread over a few art platforms experimenting with NFTs. I found one called Block Chain Art Exchange where the developer hung out a lot in his telegram, and even seemed to be taking feature requests. So I asked if I could sell things for $BASED. Why not? I had only started to make a little money here and there, and the idea of messing around with any of it still seemed insane to me. Sascha from BAE was pretty helpful, and pretty soon I made some artwork that was themed in BASED memetic colors and listed for $BASED. It was bought by a couple members of the community (my gratitude) and at this point I had to figure out what to do with the stuff. The moonbased.money website was insane - a long prologue of dialogue about the project between avatars - a forthcoming NFT card game - all resolving to a spaceship console hurtling towards the stars that told me I could “stake” my $BASED for $Moonbased and showed me the token balances of several projects I knew practically nothing about on a screen that was about where the radio display would be on an old car.
I stared at the thing forever. I asked someone “is that all I do?” and when I got the affirmative I clicked the button that told me I had staked my $BASED. Reading the definition provided:
What is staking? Staking is the process of actively participating in transaction validation (similar to mining) on a proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain. On these blockchains, anyone with a minimum-required balance of a specific cryptocurrency can validate transactions and earn Staking rewards.
This verb is used everywhere - “stake” - and what it does in each case will seem to the end user at least a little different. The end experience: you are investing your money by lending it in exchange for some sort of reward or ability to do something. Once the verb “staking” doesn’t frighten you, the world of DeFi begins to open up. I found out that Sushiswap, the second most popular currency exchange in Ethereum at the time, was doing a liquidity pool for $Moonbased/$Sushi. I didn’t know what that meant. Again, I turned to the usual places and asked people I had some relationship with how it worked - and a community leader that went by BasedRod walked me through the process of creating an LP token and staking it. I watched several youtube videos about what I had just done, I looked at viral video explanations of what I had just done, I read blog articles about what I had just done. It barely made sense. A big part of the reason it barely makes sense is this: I had been poor. I had been poor and frankly not even interested in understanding the mechanisms of higher finance that did things like market-making, liquidity in real world markets - and that was just a part of the larger economic world I know that I don’t understand.
I have some vague grasp of how loans work, but how exactly interest rates are determined by people and who benefits from things like tranches, how futures or options work on a large scale, how to use leverage and margins - how any of it worked was the most irrelevant information for someone like me who was a realist about my skillset and the salary it commanded and had accepted one kind of life in the face of the alternatives. I was gradually exposed to more and more things being done that mirrored traditional finance: one BASED personality was involved with $HEGIC options trading, another was carefully following derivatives and leverage dapps (decentralized applications for web3 people), another is involved with Reflexer and knew worlds of information about “stablecoins” (crypto tied to less volatile mechanisms) and their “pegging” mechanisms (setting of value according to algorithms or independent things like US Dollar value). I had one friend in BASED who translated a lengthy whitepaper (read: technical explanation & documentation of a project) into Spanish and was singing the praises of confusing tokens that worked with collateral and stablecoin swapping that ended up multiplying little piles of money into great stacks over a couple months.
If all of this feels a little overwhelming, I think it should: there is a staggering amount of information and moving parts that govern how the real world of finance and higher finance works, and mirroring all of that world with programs and mechanisms and anonymous wallets that don’t require human interaction is a colossal undertaking. Any person who is just dipping their toe into crypto ought to be overwhelmed by the sudden access anyone with a wallet and a few bucks has to all these mechanisms that have traditionally been handled by investment teams, accountants, advisors, brokers. Day trader hobbyists maybe found it a little less intimidating after having grown accustomed to managing their own finances directly, but widespread adoption is going to be daunting to anyone aware of their own limitations. Knowing that there are people playing this game on much higher levels shouldn’t be novel: unless you were in a pretty small minority, you were probably also aware that there were people in the regular traditional financial world playing complex “games” with their money that were over your head and required teams of accountants and tax attorneys.
A very important meme to understanding crypto for outsiders: the midwit meme. People who have had this realization that there is so much that they do not understand going on - they may identify as the “smolbrain” or low IQ person while people on the other side of the bell curve are the “galaxybrain” 200+ IQ types - people who are actually building these things and know how they work and what they’re meant to do. Because the smolbrain can’t understand, they decide to just give up and enjoy the memes. Because the galaxybrain is really here for fun at the same time they’re here for profit: they decide to just enjoy the memes. Only the midwits - the people who are frustrated that they haven’t mastered the thing and see that it’s madness to invest your money based on a good meme, those are the only people not having fun. By that same measure, though, this is what makes a good meme so valuable: it makes something popular and fun that is very difficult to understand thoroughly on the most technical level in every way all up and down the development chain and across dependencies and shared libraries. Memes are the bridge between the people who have no idea how it works and the people who know, but couldn’t explain even if they wanted to. A part of realizing this is on some level how it works is maybe the first step away from being a “normie” - the first step is the humility of recognizing the world is complicated, and you probably aren’t on the far side of the bell curve (yet).
So thanks to the community and the memes I eventually came to have some understanding of what the Moonbase was. In my own words (and probably slightly inaccurately) it was a way to crowdsource funding for crypto projects by buying their tokens with “rovers” - puppet accounts that would own those tokens on behalf of the holders of Moonbased. There were (again) buttons that could be pressed - only this time you called a function called “rugpull” (more on that later) that would sell the tokens accumulated thus far in the project and distribute the equivalent value in $Moonbased to those of us holed up in the cockpit with our $BASED staked there. The idea was that the whole gang would help build the projects that we sent rovers to - that the incentive to help their project succeed would mean we helped promote them and build their identities and generally make friends.
I was beginning to get a handle on this system in the abstract when I started making posters for the various projects that the Moonbase was partnering with. I made a poster for WAR - some kind of game-ified staking contest series that based people were playing around with. I started to make another one for $ROPE - an NFT staking game and 4chan adjacent community - when everything went nuts. This is one of those places where there’s a lot of differing accounts of what happened, and who you believe or what facts you consider important is going to change your outlook on what happened.
In sum, as far as I can gather, xGhoul0x had privately brokered a deal with the developers of $ROPE to work on their NFTs that could be staked. Meaning you could take their card tokens and “invest” them to earn rewards - you could stake your $ROPE cards to earn $HOPE and spend that $HOPE on other things (and eventually exchange $HOPE for other tokens). I explored their site a little and a BASED compatriot sent me some of their cards to see how it worked, and all things considered it was a fun and playful system they came up with for using NFTs for something and building the ubiquitous “staking” mechanics into something more tangible like a card that I could insert into a slot. It was obvious the potential that had for building a game out of the Moonbase dialogue characters and mythos.
What instead happened was that the exact details of the deal were not revealed to the rest of the GHOULS until very late in the game, and some of the meetings were unexpectedly recorded to ensure that deals being made were honored. By that same token, however, the very principle of the value of anonymity in the space - both to crypto anarchist ideals and in general just to sensible dealings with experimental projects - that principle had been violated. How else do you ensure an anonymous entity fulfills obligations you can prove they made, though? Here we are at an impasse. We have not built enough tools to ensure semi-anonymous reputations can be trusted yet. The teams did not agree that the deal worked out was mutually beneficial, and there was a lot of pettiness and bitterness and insults hurled back and forth. The communities, from my vantage point, were both put out a bit. Lots of members liked to dabble in both worlds and without having any details suddenly understood that the deal had gone sour. What could have been a really high visibility collaboration with multiple card games (there was a Moonbase Card Game in the works), stake-able NFTs, and general crypto solidarity had fallen apart - and to put it nicely, xGhoul0x had burned some bridges with the team after disagreeing about how and what kind of license any member could take with making deals on behalf of the team.
At this point, I recognized the tokens on my Moonbased console display, and I could gradually watch the $ROPE rover value deplete as the project failed. The Moonbase, I think, is still a good idea in theory. It was early in a few ways: there was no specific individual incentive system to encourage particular people to promote particular projects (there are things like bounty systems that attempt to solve this problem now). It also suffered from the reality that lots of crypto projects move fast and burn out equally fast. A team collects around an idea, builds the thing, it turns out we didn’t think of something or didn’t code something quite right or maybe they just have dayjobs or whatever and the team moves on. Something like that happened with $WAR, but now the Moonbased crew had spent a lot of effort and enthusiasm supporting a project that didn’t add significant value to the Moonbase. It’s hard being a decentralized venture capitalist substitute. The good thing about the broadness of the financial world being mirrored, though, means that there is an endless pool of applications to be built: and the GHOULS were already moving onto their next project: Based Loans.
It was around this time that there was an increasing amount of personalities floating around BASED that were all affiliated with Ray. “Who the hell is Ray?” you might ask? Honestly, I didn’t think Ray was real for a long time. It’s just this guy. Ray was from rural Szechuan. The legend goes that Ray worked at a hydroelectric plant and funneled sweet clean energy into Bitcoin reserves and now day-trades crypto from his quiet office at the dam. There was even an interview where RTG asked him questions like why Ray was compelled to start a telegram meticulously collecting all the $BASED memes he saw. Why Ray took the time to publish the Szechuan Few-Daysly newspaper about BASED events. I thought it was all hilarious - and either Ray or someone pretending to be Ray (usernames like “imfromruralszechuan” had bought the Pepe tapes) in the Telegram 24/7 it seemed. I started making tapes for the various community members as I got to know them, usually after a personal interaction or two. Cameron Lee had helped me get my footing in Rarible after the initial sales and we had made a t-shirt design together. Blazed Bison explained all sorts of inner workings of the Moonbase to me (probably several times - I can be dense). Mr. Bones and his rebase.radio are still a fixture in the BASED community. Elegy and Amplice and NoFluffles all deserved tapes as a way of commemorating our anonymous identities (sorry Elegy and other frens - I owe you one) - in short, there was a cast of people I knew that all thought a Ray tape was a great idea. So I made it, and it sold much more quickly than I thought it would, which felt a little bad since I wanted everyone who wanted one to get one. We were joking about making some counterfeit tapes, and Cameron said something about making bootleg “Roy” tapes - and it took off into a new bootleg Betamax tape at the same time that Elegy and the crew started manufacturing Ray “forks” at an astonishing rate. Versions of Ray were everywhere, and it became impossible to tell who was whom from the early days of BASED because everyone it seemed had passed through the crucible of being one Ray or another at some point.
This became something of a pastime for the community while Based Loans was being built: we had no idea how long it would take, and the team’s own confession was that it was way more complicated than they realized it would be, and so we just sat around making Rays and being Rays and generally having fun staying in rural Szechuan in our imaginations. Some of us made pretty significant gains flipping NFTs, some of us started building our own projects. I was working on my NFT art career which BASED love-able lunatic cryptostacey helped jumpstart and trying out some generative programs I had worked on years ago. I designed some business cards as a running gag about American Psycho and the joke 90’s respectability of the Based Loans aesthetic.
Those GIFs sat in my “to be minted” folder for months - the early insane rate of things that happened when I first joined had slowed a bit. I still made VHS Tape NFTs for community members here and there when the mood struck me - one of my only regrets is not making more of those. I didn’t want to seem greedy at the time, but I think the fun would have outweighed the expense. Overall, it was a time where we spent a ridiculous amount of time coming up with Based vaporware and memes - projects we had no intention of actually making or even pitching to the team, ideas and random thoughts that we would photoshop into reality and let dissolve again as soon as we had come up with them.
There was some kind of understanding that it was taking an awfully long time to get based.loans figured out, but Amplice was running BasedTV and there was rebase.radio that had some wild updates to it, and whenever we would see a familiar Ghoul drop into chat the sentiment was usually the same: yeah, this is taking way longer than we thought it would and we’re frustrated too. I kind of followed the Moonbase, but it didn’t seem to me that it was raking in crazy returns. While we were goofing around, one of those memes we made up was about buying a house together. You know - like how communes and cults do it - we would buy some strange real estate listing and all move in and live eccentric and very based lives. We even shared funny listings sometimes just to see the weird choices people made (“why is there a toilet in the kitchen?”). At some point in this interim, BasedMoneyGod (from here on BMG) announced that BasedHouse was live and in testing. There was an actual virtual chat space screened by requiring that you hold some $BASED token that was built where everyone who entered was assigned a random Ray fork with chat instances separated by BASED mythos places. An extensive and surreal guide to the place was provided by a strung-out parody of Clippy.
When I say I can’t really portray to you how strange it was without pictures or actually being there - even the pictures fail to establish the weirdness. There were some audio issues, and we all came and went for a little bit - but fundamentally this was not the sort of thing you built if you were engineering something to make maximum money for least effort that you would dump. BasedHouse, as far as I know, never really got polished - and as of writing this article it’s still live.
My father has more or less always been a believer in the random walk hypothesis. I never read the book myself, but he convinced me at a young age that the stock market is efficient: meaning that stock prices are pretty well immediately set at the price that all knowledge of the company or commodity or whatever should indicate. This means that you (no matter who you are) do not know better than the rest of the market. This means that investing in the stock market is more or less more like gambling - because any attempt to take on significant risk would put you on the same level as everyone else also guessing what stocks would pay off. I actually had a distant relative I met once who apparently worked with a large team of people who did very fine-tuned work spreading market information in spaces where it required that whole team just to make sure they amount of info they were sharing was legal: in other words, walking the line of what qualified as insider trading. In my estimation, the “real” world isn’t interested in playing by the rules so much as they are interested in not being sued over doing their best to play by their own rules.
As we finally got closer to Based Loans going live - Ghouls shared with a few frequent telegram personalities the beta link to test based.loans - which ended up being a hilarious Encarta-themed late 90’s computers for squares kind of experience. This is $BASED re-imagined as something other than scene hackers, something more like a parody of 1996-2000 seriousness that has since seen some similar implementations (it brings to mind heaven.computer and the new poolsuite.net). It looked legit to me: somehow and for some reason you could loan out assets: especially “shitcoins” - meaning Ethereum based tokens that were decidedly not Bitcoin and probably wrapped up in memes or dubious mechanisms. The Ghouls explained somewhere that it’d be a good system for shorting coins - which makes sense if you spend a lot of time developing tokens and get annoyed that some definitely seem over-valued and driven by speculation. That said though, for the millionth time, I had been poor before this. I have never shorted anything in my life - and even though I had The Big Short on my watch list and had some idea of what was going on with GME stock (more on that in a second) - shorting something as a financial strategy was not even on my radar. What I did know, though, was that this thing was finally launching. This thing we had all waited for what seemed like the better part of a year to see built. I had never felt before like I was really on the inside of anything like this - I had sort of passively watched the Moonbase launch, and I had missed $BASED when it was new. Here we were launching this other thing, and BMG himself was in the Discord voicechat discussing with us how to sort out rewards and token distribution for staking our Moonbased. We were as a group writing an outrageous PDF eBook (what could be more square?) to go with it and explain the platform. People in crypto seem to be generally laughing at the efficient market hypothesis - our world seems like it’s utterly reactionary, driven by knowledge asymmetry and speculation.
We had new avatars created by Quincredible including Bobby Fleshner - the $BASED world version of Robert Leshner - someone I realized was kind of a big deal over at Compound.Finance which is what I found out Based Loans was a fork of (maybe everyone else knew already, but again - I know where I sit on the bell curve). I tried to remember my dad’s belief in the random walk, and at the same time I could see all the excitement in front of me and felt like “this is it, right? I know something that maybe other people don’t?”
This is one of the places where cryptocurrencies are still finding their footing. The SEC supposedly prevents insider trading in real world markets - but it has got to be difficult to prevent insider trading among vast numbers of anonymous investors in projects where the developers are also anonymous - they don’t publish quarterly budgets, they don’t register as securities (as financial assets, that is). This is a part of why we are still on the frontier: regulators don’t know how to regulate it, whether they should or can regulate it, and what that would even mean for the immense amount of wealth flowing in and out of all these various projects. One nod of warning, like the SEC singling out $XRP can tank a token’s price without it being immediately clear why they would pick that one over any number of other tokens that are probably also liable to be warned in the same way. At the same time - who can know what crypto assets anyone involved in the SEC has - or even anyone who maybe makes a phone call to the SEC at a convenient time - and if they wield that kind of power, isn’t that market manipulation?
This is just a peek into the dark side of crypto that is much more complicated than the ordinary pirate-style stealing of an asset here or hacking a wallet there or even using monies for illicit goods. Those are more sensational stories, and so people are going to talk about those events more. More and more of these thefts and embezzlements and hacks have shaken my confidence a little, but I’m still arguing that the real dark side of crypto is projects being built in the space that are fraudulent, projects that represent nothing more than market manipulation by the super rich (“whales”), projects that funnel money in quiet ways to other accounts, projects that are basically ponzi schemes, or projects with fundamentals that simply can’t hold up in the face of a bank run. People are concerned about whether their wallet is secure or they might get scammed by a bad connection and they really might - but the in-joke you’ll hear over and over again in crypto is that someone got “rug-pulled” - meaning either the project failed and now their money is worthless, someone emptied the project treasury into their own wallets, somehow they ruined the price-point of their token through botched code or mechanisms that it turns out don’t work (see: Titan / Iron Finance, and since I first wrote this article the $LUNA catastrophe). Hence the Moonbase joke: “rugpull” - we sell that project’s tokens out from under them (kind of). Rugpull is a blanket term for basically anytime your investment gets tanked either through corruption or failure or accident or just because it turned out to be a bad idea. The corruption can be rampant too - I myself, with tiny amounts, experimented with someone who was supposedly building a new standard for creating NFTs with copyright checks. The team disappeared one night and deleted all their discord and telegram channels and their token suddenly couldn’t be traded anymore (there were no matching assets to swap it - no liquidity). Another team that asked me to make some artwork for them seemed sketchy from the start: the admin had to manually “aidrop” (send to all the wallets involved automatically) their reward tokens for being invested in the project. Anything and everything that has to be done manually and relies on trusting someone to do it is a recipe for disaster in this place.
They decided to run a “flash farm” - meaning that unlike the usual staking maneuver I had learned by letting my little combination of $moonbase and $sushi generate a little more $sushi over the course of a couple months - my $moonbased would generate a bunch of $BLO all at once and then be done. The flash farm for based.loans was wild - I had almost never at this point seen money sort of materialize out of almost thin air like that. Sure, it was all $BLO - Based Loans Ownership, but it wouldn’t be the first crypto asset I’d had for a minute that I could theoretically trade into cash but didn’t really want to. The platform was initially built, as far as I could tell, to facilitate people shorting $SHIB while that token was on a rise. Just a couple of weeks before Based Loans launched, Vitalik Buterin rugpulled all the $SHIB holders. This means not only that tons of people had panic sold, but also that the value of $SHIB was really hard to predict - and most of the people buying it had no idea what it did or why they were buying it.
This is where we get to another dark side of crypto - or, at least a nonsensical side of it. There are tokens that do nothing, some that do nothing on purpose. They are built for speculation markets, “memecoins.” Some of these are a joke - it’s not meant to do anything (see DOGE and why Elon Musk is kind of insufferable). Some of these are a little more deceptive - @mgnr_io on Twitter explained that they were building a memecoin as a sort of social experiment. If I had arrived here with the opinion that investing in tokens that did things was difficult because real world markets are efficient, how and why do you invest in tokens that you know don’t do anything and only have worth because people arbitrarily decide to buy them or don’t understand what they’re buying? You see even now people hearing that cryptocurrencies are taking off, looking for something that sounds interesting and just dropping money in. This is bound to build some resentment from the developers who are making these complex DeFi mechanisms work, and wanting to short these ridiculous assets seems like just the sort of thing I would want to build if I harbored that kind of resentment.
The other dark side is how predatory some of these projects really are: they are literally waiting for you to buy their token so that they can slowly sell their own tokens back to the crowds of newcomers. People who jump in and think “oh, well maybe it’s not all about buying drugs anymore” and get a Coinbase account don’t understand that this coin they know nothing about has been waiting for just such a person like them to jump in and allow the initial investors to dump those heavy bags on them. A lot of people getting in now, like myself, weren’t there for the 2017 crash, weren’t there for the Initial Coin Offerings. “Up Only” may be a fun joke and meme for us people watching the crypto charts: how can you not be excited about an asset like Ethereum that is up (as of right now) over 690% in the last year? That means money must just flow into the pockets of anyone who gets involved, right?
The knowledge that this is the real dark side of crypto as it currently stands - that the sort of schemes and predatory postures that are illegal in real world finance just haven’t been (or maybe can’t be) regulated into crypto yet - that knowledge creates a certain kind of paranoia among the people participating who know. A reputation is a valuable thing, and tracking what a person does and doesn’t do with wallets that are known to be in their control is how the insiders have cultivated a culture of honor. I don’t do that. I don’t have the time or wherewithal to pay attention to the doings of various wallets (even though you can do so relatively easily on etherscan.io) - and so in a sense I understand that I’m operating in the dark. The paranoia that seeps in, though, is more complicated than that. It suggests teams explaining what they’re doing is not motivated by the reasons they give, it suggests that if they drop something in a new and novel way or get busy for a while - maybe this was a mechanism to build “exit liquidity” - a financial escape route for them - or maybe they aren’t really busy or sick or whatever but they’ve abandoned the project and quietly sold or transferred their controlling interests. Knowing that you have your semi-public channels but that there are also probably much more heavily invested wallets discussing and planning in more private and encrypted channels means you can always imagine that the whales are the ones doing big moves, making the actual decisions, puppeteering the project from the shadows. It’s difficult to tell.
In the aftermath of $SHIB becoming a wild series of spikes and dips and the value of it being really hard to determine - people like me wanted nothing to do with it (I felt like a midwit here: memecoins seem like a recipe for disaster). People who had no idea what they were doing certainly wouldn’t know enough to use a loan platform to lend out their newly minted $SHIB, people who knew enough about how it worked may not want to own $SHIB at all, and the people who did know how it worked and did want to short their shitcoins had all gotten bored and moved on to the next project that felt fast and crazy and could possibly make them rich. This is my take on what became of based.loans - it was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the GHOULS had a series of real-world things come up that kept them away from their fun hobbyist project that had spiraled into a complex web of contractors, dependencies, and crazy market conditions. Getting new markets built into based loans was not apparently as easy as it should have been, and behind the scenes the developers disagreed over who-knows-what. Ghoul.sol’s statement, at some point, was that working on $BASED projects is the most fun they’ve ever had, but no amount of money would get them to try to untangle Based Loans. In my mind - if you were trying to milk or scam someone - you would ask for the money up front and then disappear instead of refusing to even take money to fix something you were fed up with.
There were some awkward movements with hiring a growth hacker ghoul that joined up and was tonedeaf to the memes and community sentiment generally irked a lot of us. Trying to really pivot the brand to be based.loans facing was the right move for it to succeed - but the tech just wasn’t following suit and growing along with our focus on it. As one of the anon devs put it - “Based Loans was like the Beatles all going their separate ways while trying to write one last album together.” We tried to build some other projects and leverage what was left of $BLO to make them happen, but just couldn’t quite get either the code finished or enough votes to shift $BLO to projects only tangentially related. What we instead saw was that $BLO just sort of fizzled into nothing as the community saw a diaspora. This has itself been interesting for me. To name just a few examples: for a while when the Ethereum chain was getting too expensive to play with art on, lots of artists were jumping ship to play on another chain called Tezos. A minimalist platform there called Hic Et Nunc (latin for “here and now”) took off, and the top collector from the first few months of the platform’s growth in popularity collected some of my work there. We talked for a bit and they revealed they were in $BASED from pool 0 - from the very beginning. An article came out about Sushiswap where Joseph Delong of Sushi fame and general platinum-tier shitposter mentioned that he came from the BASED community and I was his favorite artist (!). In short: I often meet people who were involved with BASED in one capacity or another - the network of enthusiasts extends to almost every corner of the crypto world and goes from the floor of idiots and smolbrains and newbies like myself all the way to the shadowy super coders and galaxybrains and lead developers for major platforms.
In an effort to make one last pivot, Mr. Bones got in touch with a lot of us to help build and release Mojimonsters collectible NFTs as a Based Collective effort. In my experience, it had sort of come full circle. We had a wild DeFi experiment that transitioned into artists collaborating to make fun things together. Some of the remaining regulars put together a shared wallet (a gnosis multisig called theskeletonkey.eth) that we have slowly filled with some of the proceeds from projects like Mojimon or from ENS drops or leftover $BASED tokens - Mr. Bones and The Spaniard and BasedRod have donated a lot. You can almost tell who put the tokens in there just from what kind they are. What are we going to do with that treasury? I don’t think any of us knows exactly - but whatever we try to make of it we want it to be $BASED - which means fun. Losing sight of that is I think one of the things that really left some people put out by the whole experience. When a team builds something that by their own account is for fun - if no one gets rich we shouldn’t be surprised. I think they really were building for that reason but I could be wrong, I’m still something of an outsider to what I imagine are quieter velvet-lined and encrypted channels where the movers and shakers of this new world meet and plan.
We’re All Gonna Make It
So I’m hopeful. If I got nothing else out of it - BASED has an extensive library of community-created meme content that is more fun than anything else I’ve seen in crypto. So many projects are trying to emulate their success in this department by sponsoring meme contests or making fun identities - but the reality of it is that people can generally see through memes that are meant to hype a project with no substance. Smart people can tell when your meme isn’t a bridge from low IQ to high IQ but just a glitzy con - whether it works or not.
The reality is that BASED still exists as a loose community spread across this space. BMG and Ray brought me up to speed on the value of alternative networks compatible with Ethereum like Polygon. Some of my current BASED friends showed me what Fantom (another Ethereum compatible - “EVM-Compatible” network) is about (or was before Andre ghosted) and bought my first attempts at putting art on that chain. The creator of smolbrains NFTs has some of my art on his wall. Some Ghouls were involved with testing Sushi’s MISO with Jay Pegs Auto Mart, which was another hilarious Telegram channel and NFT collection. We look out for eachother and offer tips and our condolences when our stupid projects crash, we send BASED gifs when someone finally picks a good product and it heads to the moon over a few weeks. One of the cool things about how tokens work is that their utility can be decided upon or changed or created independent of the original creators.
That is - if one day someone decides to build a totally unrelated project, they can still offer rewards or uses for $BASED tokens if they want - your tokens may be impossible to swap for money for a while, but it’s not like when a Chuck-E-Cheese’s closes down and they smelt all the tokens or whatever. This is where we eventually went when theskeletonkey.eth and Quincredible built Based Ghouls. You’ll recall Quincredible built some avatars right around when Based Loans was launching - started developing a style and skillset as a pixel artist.
The initial whitelists for Based Ghouls were built from holders of $BASED currencies - from all the people who had purchased art or crypto associated with Based that eventually tanked and kept holding it for the culture - $BASED, $MBBASED, $BLO, $MOJI, etc. etc. This was our attempt to give something back - even if it was a roadmap-less PFP. This is a part of what is still developing with regards to how NFTs and tokens in general work: decentralized ownership means anyone can do things with a token even if the project is dead - or in our case, especially if the project is dead. What Quincredible and the ghouls did over the past 6 months was take all these crazy Based memes, all the streams of memetic energy (Sci-Fi Moonbase, Encarta 95, occult stuff, vaporwave, synthwave) and we mixed them all into one potent cocktail of a PFP.
We built the thing and launched it for the whitelisted extended based family. We tested it an awful lot - but it turns out we screwed up one detail. We ran out of Eth for gas during the initial deploying, and apparently that meant that the proxy (read: our tool for not in fact burning the keys and being able to upgrade and expand the whitelist or change settings) wasn’t included. We had to fork the project (which you should have expected by now) from v1 to v2. The old v1 ghouls are dead tokens where we swapped the metadata to link to a game over meme, made it so that holders of those tokens got 3 ghouls for the one they bought before if they minted to the new contract. On 6/9/22 we removed all the whitelist requirements and just released the horde - let any old person mint them for free. Some people didn’t look very carefully and bought one of the old v1 tokens and tried (now, too late) to mint 3 because they were holding one. All in all, the collection is rife with references to based history, based memetics, ghoulish things of all sorts. I think it’s fun as hell - which is the earmark of any truly Based product.
What makes us think Based Ghouls is worthwhile for the average person? The fact that it’s inextricable from the birth of defi, the culture of the community building some of the most notorious and powerful defi platforms - the fact that it’s the memetic home of some of the smartest people in crypto when they want to act dumb. Learning based history, doing “based memetic archaeology” actually teaches you some of the basics and concepts of cryptocurrency, acquaints you with the genesis of defi parallel with NFTs. In a word: we vibe - rebase.radio is as listenable as ever, Based Ghouls has a soul - and whether or not it makes money for anyone the ghouls will still be here.
Epilogue of Rambling on Crypto - Are We All Gonna Make It?
Once we understand the real pitfalls of the new crypto world, we can also understand a bit of why cryptocurrency is picking up steam. Ponzi schemes work because people buy into them and the early adopters get paid by the later ones - there’s no business being done. Those absolutely exist in crypto. The current generation is also being told over and over again in the “real world” that Social Security will probably run out by 2035 or so. This means that our real world money has been taxed into a system that pays out to the early investors but will have nothing left for us by the time we need it. In the news we’re seeing lots of people discuss things like the GME short squeeze where the fundamental complaint is that the elite are not playing by the same rules that we are - that maybe they can make platforms like Robinhood shut down trading (unfairly) to preserve the interests of the institutions. In a sense: we have seen the shaking of institutions the last decade, and one of the institutions that has shaken and dropped a lot of rotten fruit is our financial institution. There’s a sentiment that they are on very fundamental levels unfair, that they radically favor the wealthy and privileged in allowing them to do things with their money that the rest of us simply can’t. The most conspicuous example of this was the crypto community’s response to the head of the SEC, Gary Gensler doing this little monologue for college students who he says should be saving that cup of coffee worth of money every week. If you’re not paying attention (like I really wasn’t before I got into crypto) you might not notice that even a high savings account interest is .25% to .5% Now keep that news in mind while seeing that the SEC is also trying to prevent platforms like Coinbase (decidedly not decentralized, but still) from offering a mere 4% to investors. This all contributes to the feeling that the powers that be aren’t just acting in the interests of the upper class, but are actively trying to deceive and take advantage of the rest of us. Not just in the US, either, this includes the global economy that has multitudes of people who are disenfranchised - people in third world countries who don’t get fair wages and certainly have no banking equivalent available to them.
The world of cryptocurrency as it currently stands, in my estimation, is a combination of both the worst and most predatory practices that can only be gotten away with in an unregulated space and the best and most ideal motivations that can only be built free from the regulatory practices of a corrupt and inequitable institution. One of the craziest things about getting BASED was having people buy my art when I was brand new to the entire world, and they said something like “we’re moving into a post-scarcity mindset here.” These are the kinds of things you say in a bull market. I could afford car repairs, holiday gifts, new clothes - all those things I genuinely needed for a few months because there is a general spirit in the space that we are not just playing with money but creating wealth: that we are all gonna make it. This is the last thing that may or may not be true but has profound implications. I’m not an economist at all, but if I’m reading it right when Adam Smith talked about the wealth of nations - he was not talking about spreading wealth around so much as creating it through market efficiencies and trade. That is - if we can handle our money ourselves, eliminate middlemen and only produce or do with money what makes sense where we are - perhaps there really is more to go around. It sounds idealistic and first-year-econ-student, but if we can truly do new things with crypto technology that eliminate overwhelming overhead created by their real world financial counterparts and extend these capabilities to anyone who can create a wallet - could we actually be moving into less scarcity for some kinds of money? Are we capable of scaling the walls of old finance institutions and making money work for poor people the same way it works for the wealthy? That’s the dream, but that’s also a good line to drop someone if you want them to buy your token. I don’t really know which one is true, but at least now I know that I don’t know.