Dean Clough

January 26, 2022

Portico Darwin: Robert Conrad and Me

It's been interesting to participate, albeit in a tiny, tiny way, in a Gold Rush in the Wild West.  It is 1849 all over again here in early 2022 in the NFT world.  Based on what I've observed thus far, it's the same, but different.


It's not decentralized.
At the core of the blockchain concept is a decentralized, permission-less ledger (database) that holds the public keys to encrypted digital assets.  That implies that no one entity, private or public, controls things like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the various NFT marketplaces. And that's true.

But only kind of. Here is a deep dive that opened my eyes.

If you read the essay, you'll learn, as I did, that the whole thing is centralized upon companies you've never heard of funded by huge VC's and hedge funds.  Today's Wyre and Opensea could easily be tomorrow's PayPal and Amazon - and all of the same players are involved.

It's speculative currency trading.
There are few subjects in which I am more ignorant than finance, let alone the specifics of currency trading or hedge funds.  But let me summarize what I've seen in a short period.

  • I minted each of our NFTs (which include both a JPEG and an original, signed 8" x 10" painting) at .25 ETH, which at the time was approximately $800.
  • Today, a week later, the NFTs are still listed at .25 ETH each, the painting and JPEG are the same, but the $ equivalent is approximately $600.
  • But if you bought one of our NFTs, and ETH went to zero or almost, wouldn't one still have the physical painting, which itself could be sold for $?  Is that called a "hedge"?

It's everywhere and it looks like Egypt.
God, I typically hate hyped things.  Be it Pokémon Go or a Marvel movie, I like to steer clear.  And yes, NFTs are easily the most hyped thing to hit my own personal radar screen in a long while, maybe ever.  It's a snake-oil pit full of used car dealers selling nutritional supplements to each other.  And if you look at the NFT racket for even a few minutes, its pyramidal shape and the whiff of multi-level marketing is hard to miss.

But I don't care.  There is an opportunity - a valid, real opportunity - for creators like Charlie Clough to bypass the highly-dysfunctional and corrupt art market.  He can also participate in the resale of his works, something never before possible. 

And:  when one understands the artistic journey of Charles Clough, the symmetry of his media over time with the ethereal nature of NFTs is powerful.  Sound silly?  He's been photographing his art and using it as a basis for new works for decades.  He envisioned digital media before it existed.  That's not hype - it's just cool.


There are no established IP rules.
If only I had connections in law and specifically intellectual property!  I do, but a close friend in the field, the IP barrister Foster Shula, can't help due to a conflict of interest - he's in the NFT game already.  Julie's firm?  To date, she hasn't signed off on me doing an outreach to a partner there - I can't imagine why.

Many raise the energy issue.
Two of my best friends have specifically hit me over the head with this issue.  I agree that the energy usage inherent (for now) to the leading cryptocurrencies is a major problem, and I don't have an answer.  

Funding my crypto wallet has been difficult.
Citibank rejected my first attempt, and my Ally Bank ACH was in limbo for days, although it finally came through.  See my note on "decentralized", above.  It isn't and is it so wrong to wish American Express were involved somewhere?  Or the Federal Reserve of the United States Government? 

I completely understand that is the antithesis of the DAO/NFT/Blockchain/yada yada yada world, but it's still pretty clunky and as above, apart from the blockchain itself, the whole thing is not decentralized now at all in the first place.

There are great takes out there if you look.
Even better than mine, as others know a lot more about both art and NFTs.  Like this guy - this is a must read if you're into this stuff and it is also pretty hilarious.

Kenny Schachter 10 NFT & Crypto 2022 Predictions.pdf
Kenny Schachter 10 NFT & Crypto 2022 Predictions.pdf 442 KB

The magic is in ERC-721, A.K.A. the "Smart Contract".
NFTs are exploding because of the ability to embed terms into the tokenized asset.  For our MVP, we went with and that meant the options we had were limited to setting the resale royalty percentage.  It maxes out at 10% and that's that.

But the ERC-721 standard is what underpins the whole thing.  It defines an inheritable contract and provides the core methods that allow the tracking of the owner of an asset via the blockchain, as well as a permissioned way for the owner to transfer the asset to others, with royalties.

The problem is that writing an actual ERC-721 contract today requires programming skills, at least as I presently understand it.  That's next on our to-do list.

The big players are coming in, and strong.
Some pretty smart people and companies are falling all over themselves to get in.  Go check out, which is owned by Mark Cuban.  Look at what Disney, Nike, and others are doing.  I've shared before that The Economist minted (and made $400 K selling) a JPEG of its magazine cover from a September 2021 issue.

And given what I know about one of our next NFTs - due to drop in April or May - I would really like to sidle up to these guys or something very similar.

Introducing Pace Verso | Pace Gallery

The cool part?  Charlie has an in with this gallery, via a big-deal artist chum.  We'll see, and the sad thing is that it puts us right back in the corrupt old art world.  But wow do they still have a lot of say-so about who gets noticed and who doesn't - rightly or wrongly.

Does content still count?
And that's a good way to wrap.  What's getting noticed in the NFT game of today seems really fucking stupid to me. 

Because what has gotten traction to date are mostly cartoons of dumb things and Faux worlds.  Bored Apes on Fake Yachts.  Crypto Kitties.  Brain Vomit Gardens.  Cactus Worlds.  For every NFT from Disney Studios offering an original animation cel and JPEG from "Snow White", there are thousands upon thousands of NFTs consisting of pure schlock.   

I want to believe the quality of the underlying content still matters.  Charles Clough has that in spades, and his prolific career means we've got a lot of content from which to draw.

But they're real works of art, not glorified GIFs.  If twenty-somethings in general will pay big money for novelties, won't twenty-somethings at the best art schools and liberal arts colleges enjoy an alternative?

These are 2" x 2" original, signed paintings.  Charles has produced something like a 1,000 of these, with a JPEG of each.  Wait until you see the pricing on the first 100 we offer as NFTs . . . each will include the signed, original painting, and its matching high-res JPEG.

So does content still count?  We're going to find out.


First-time respondent and clearly in a fit of Valley Girl-ness, Bruce Rosenberg was effusive in his praise:

"Just want to say I'm totally (like uh totally) enjoying your posts.  Listening to your pool party mix now."

Bruce is one of the smartest and coolest guys I know, although we don't party enough together.  Maybe the superhost Byron Browne IV will come through with a Championship Sunday bash and we can hang out then?

And perfect for today's topic, Hunter Deuce, always the movie quoter, pilfered this from George Lucas.  But it does capture the swampy nature of the NFT and blockchain worlds:

"'You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.'"

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.

If people want to buy NFTs, who am I to stop them?  In fact, can't I assist in providing them what they desire?  I say "yes". 

In that spirit, here are The Kinks with their woefully underappreciated, yet Killer, album, Give the People What They Want.


About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.