Interview With A Digital Bum

Somewhere in a room there is a svelte man with curly hair illuminated by the glow of a computer monitor as he sifts through endless social media postings and curates his crowd-funding pages. Previously a webmaster that spammed chatrooms for paid clicks, he also ran his own webpage that served as a vehicle for him to obtain donations from anyone who happened upon it. More recently Stephen Jolley has raised precisely two-hundred and twenty-one dollars on his Kickstarter for the, self-described, purpose of naming tracks for an album that he had already completed. He is an interesting man with the kind of neurotic quirks normally possessed by fictitious characters on the page or screen, but I feel he is all the better for having them.

Steve also cultivates what can be unequivocally considered my favorite Facebook™ page. Several seconds of it is all it takes for you to start feeling a little insane. It’s almost as if the website had taken on a malicious virus and begun eating itself. You’re greeted with endless screenshots within screenshots of random status updates, error message, and the all powerful like button. As you scroll, you make your way through posts simply requesting likes, links to the very Facebook™ page you are already viewing, announcements for upcoming status updates, self-critiques of these same posts, and the occasional semi-earnest mention of a musical project he is working on. The profile and banner images frequently involve dozens of screen-shots (often within other screen shots) of his own profile, error messages, the like button, seemingly random statuses, and an image of the man himself falling into a void. It’s not clear whether he has some beef with social media or has embraced it to the point of near madness. His music, which seems to match the tone of his online persona, draws you in a similar manner. It’s brimming with square noises, digital distortion, and oscillates between light fun and serious business.


(image courtesy of Stephen Jolley/Created by Robert Burns)

I interviewed him about his new album, perplexing digital art, and borderline hermit lifestyle. The following is a portion of our discussion:

When I first met you a mutual friend mentioned your old website and said you were essentially a “digital bum.” That was the most futuristic concept to me at the time.

SJ: Yeah that was when I first started panhandling on the web. That was my thing for a while. I guess it still is. 

So do you take any offense to being called a digital bum?

SJ: I don’t take offense because it is what it is. Analog bums or ‘bums in real life’ live on the streets, do hard drugs, drink too much, and smell bad. I only have some of those problems.  Still, when I see people begging for money on the street part of me is envious of their lifestyle. I know it’s a terrible thing to say but we’ve all had that feeling. Rent is due and you have work early in the morning and you can’t sleep because you are worried about money and then the thought enters your head, ‘I could just not go to work tomorrow and be a bum’.

Trust me, I’ve been there. I can hold a job in real life and beg on the internet in my free time. Internet access is so widely available these days that even if my non-virtual world falls apart I could beg on the streets and and on the internet at the same time. Libraries, Starbucks™, and Panera Bread™ are all playgrounds for a bum that wants to go digital. I’d probably be the richest bum on the block while living dual bum existences.   

What made you want to start crowd funding the crowd funding?

SJ: When I started crowd funding for my Kickstarter promotional video it just felt like something was missing. In order for the Kickstarter campaign to successfully raise $200 I figured I would need at least five-hundred from IndieGogo to really give my Kickstarter promo vid some pizazz. I hoped that making a nice crowd funding experience would be more of a journey than what I’m crowd-funding for which is kind of pointless to begin with.  The importance of what I set out to crowd-fund for has been trumped by the crowd-funding itself, meaning that the art of Kickstarting is much greater than the names of my tracks which is what the Kickstarter campaign is truly for. 

Why only set a Kickstarter goal two-hundred dollars?

SJ: $200 was an honest number. I’m totally done with the album. Everything but naming the music. A lot of jerks ask for $20 000 or whatever for their art project. That’s kind of rude. I’ve saved the people $19,800 by doing everything else out of my own two pockets and one good heart.

Well, the IndieGoGo campaign didn’t pan out but you surpassed your Kickstarter goal by twenty-one dollars in just over a month. Tell me a little about the album. Who is it for?

SJ: I made this album (which at the time of this interview remains untitled) mostly to keep myself entertained. When you get on a computer and do something like e-mail, Facebook, Youtube, games, spreadsheets or make tracks it’s really all the same. Staring at a bright screen, clicking and typing. The only difference is what you see, hear and how it changes your life and the lives of others. Making it was something to kill time and avoid all of my real life problems which seem to surround and keeping closing in on me. It’s best to avoid that feeling of being suffocated my the outside world.

The music is mostly for myself and if anyone likes it that is just the luck of others having similar taste in what sounds good to me. There are no real lyrics and it’s ultimately meaningless except for… you know… it’s art which I guess is beautiful and whatnot. It doesn’t have a message, it’s not trying to shape culture. It’s the unused Yankee Candle you find in a trashcan. It’s the plastic toy you bite into when scarfing down a Mexican pastry. A small bonus or a slight annoyance on a boring day.

The most exciting thing to come from this album so far was the excuse to bombard people on social media. Reminding people again and again, ‘HEY! Look at me! I did something in my free time! Yeah I’m no doctor or lawyer and I’m not even eating a fancy fuckin’ brunch but this is still important for you to know about me somehow’. I probably could of got that satisfaction by not actually making an album but lying about it but I didn’t think of that till just now. 

Give me the rundown on your digital history.

SJ: When I was thirteen I created a Southpark fan-site. It had stills from the show and a choose your own adventure game. I had banner ads that paid 10 cents a click. My site was only making about a buck or so a day so I started spamming Geocities chartrooms with links that sent you to my sponsor’s website. My friend gave me the suggestion to have the link’s text say ‘Don’t click here!’ Someone would click and BAM I made a dime! I was a teenager making about $20 or so an hour doing this. In the late 90’s the exploits of the internet were amazing. I saved up enough for a guitar and a Nintendo 64 before my sponsors shut me down.

I didn’t do very much interesting with anything digital in my high school years. I fooled around a bit with Fruity Loops, AIM and Livejournal like everyone else. In 10th grade computer class I made an exact clone of the Hamster Dance Website but renamed it ‘Steve Jol’s Crazy Hamster Dance’. I kept the copyright info but changed it to my name which I thought was really funny.

It is funny.

SJ: In 2007 I first started putting music out on the internet. This is where the ‘digital bum’ thing you mentioned early came into play. I had a locally known website, which, sadly, is not up at the moment. I was going negative from hosting fees which obviously makes the whole purpose of pan-handling pointless. This is where I first started begging for money on the internet instead of tricking sponsors into giving me money. was clear in that It was not giving anything back to the donators or to the public for receiving donations. The future was then and it was time for people to start begging for money for the same reasons crust punks beg for money now in the real world… no reason except for sometimes it’s easier to do the easiest thing imaginable instead of real work.

I’m kind of curious on where you feel you are right now as an artist and as a person. What is your day to day like?

SJ: As a person I’m getting to the point where I am not cool anymore. I’m an acquired taste for people when I’m out on the scene but definitely still gourmet. I spend a lot of time alone on my computer. That’s how I really stay connected with people. Not by some dumb job or coffee shop or something.    

My life as an artist is mostly about me since I’m by myself so much. I try not to let anyone or anything inspire me except for myself so my art really starts to eat itself pretty fast. My music and the pictures I post on the internet really are what I’m experiencing day to day. I’m already letting people look thru my eyes and see what I’m seeing which is a screen be it a laptop, phone or whatever. I guess what I’m like as a dude is probably exactly what you and and everybody else imagines and assumes since I’m on my computer so much. Having said that, everybody reading this interview is staring at a screen so really I’m a reflection of us all.

What Defines your online presence?

SJ: My online presence is becoming more impersonal as time goes on. I love the internet but am kind of introverted and that carries over to my surprisingly outgoing online presence. Personal information about myself appearing online is making me increasingly more uncomfortable. I don’t really want the digital world to know what I’m doing and where I’m going but it’s becoming increasingly more impossible to avoid. It’s not so much paranoia as it is annoyance in that I am aware most of my Facebook people don’t really care about me as a person. However, how you are perceived on the internet carries over into the real world. If you can look good online and carry on the facade out in public then chances are you’ll be given a higher tier social standing in both realms which in turn gives one better opportunities in real life. Better looking significant other, higher paying job and more attention are just a few of the many good things that are brought on by a positive web-presence until it all comes crashing down and you feel like you need to deactivate your social media permanently or, at best, for a few months. I’m playing it safe. By being blatantly insincere on the internet I don’t have much room for growth but also it’s hard to do much damage to an online presence that’s thinner than air. 

If you don’t want people to know who you are in the digital realm it’s best to flood it with false information about yourself. Create a mask because most people don’t care about your life. Providing humor to the internet is really the most positive thing I can think of instead of making people jealous with all of the cool things you are doing. It’s still selfish because I live for likes, upvotes, re-tweets, or whatever, but at the same time it doesn’t do the world much damage.

Sadly, I’m not very popular on the internet these days. Introversion in real life causes lack of likes on the web. If you are getting a lot of attention on the web it’s either because someone is super cool, wants something from you, or both. Popular and successful people gives others the idea that liking their social-media content gives you an in with them. My online presence only exists to interact with people who appreciate my art.

facebookjolsStephen’s new album can be found here.

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The Secret Project

I have not been posting at my normal frequency due to a secret project that has taken up much of extra my time. But it is almost over so you can stop complaining to your friends about how some weird downbeat website, that they would probably hate, isn’t posting quite so often as you would like. They’ll never again have to listen to you drone on about how you had to wait an entire two weeks for a new story or doodle. They no longer need to suffer through you talking endlessly about how missing my works made you feel so insane that you shot your dog and resulting stress caused all of your hair and teeth to fall out. You can relax now and regrow some of those teeth because the secret project is finally wrapping up.

See if you can guess what it is: secret project

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A Great Way To Spend a Saturday


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You Monsters Are People of New York PART TWO (Still Not Copying HONY, Totally Original)

If the internet has taught me anything, it’s that the repetition of a lazy idea is key to its success. Last week’s posting, where I was inspired by (but in no way directly imitating or satirizing) Humans of New York, received a fair amount of attention so I’ve decided to bring it back. It returns not because it’s an easy way to get traffic and reuse old material but because people demand my unique photographic sensibilities and the beautiful humanity they display. However, with the next post we will be returning to business as usual here at the nonexistent offices in my mind.

YMAPoNYexpensiveclothes“We’re really into supporting causes online without doing very much research into the topic. It’s a great way to make yourself seem smart and socially responsible. Sometimes it can backfire though. A few years ago I liked a bunch of articles about ethnic cleansing before I found out what it actually meant.”

An Occupy Wall Street activist is pushed off the street by a New York Police Department officer while demonstrating in the financial district during the one-year anniversary of the movement in New York

“Fran Lebowitz said there is no such thing as inner peace. She said there is nervousness or death and any attempt to prove otherwise is a waste of time, or whatever. I think that’s why I like hitting people and became a cop. That ugly dyke makes a lot of good sense.”

YMAPoNYleavemealone“My wife would not stop talking about that show, Friends, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. It got so bad that she would tell me which character each person we knew reminded her the most of. Then she bought a new dog and named it Chandler. That was pretty much it for me so I just left.”


“Every day I come to the park and hope the birds will eat me. They’ve come close a couple of times.” 

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You Monsters Are People of New York (Not Copying HONY)

Considering the nearly unfathomable popularity of things like Humans Of New York, I wanted to try my hand at capturing the essence of big city pedestrians myself (because I was inspired NOT because I was copying him or because the HONY hype finally died down a little). Getting a glimpse into one person’s soul is an incredible tool when dealing with every other wonderful person you’ll encounter later in life. It is only through understanding each other as individuals that we can grow as a species. Follow me on a multi-part photographic journey into the heart of New York City and let’s take a bite out of The Big Apple™ together!

YMAPoNYmeantopeoplebutnobodywasevertome“You know, despite how good things have gone for me, I’m incredibly cruel to most people. I’m financially stable and have a great family but I treat people like absolute garbage. Pretty much everyone compliments me on my outfits and the people at work are always really kind, a lot of them actually have done numerous favors for me. But I usually tune people out in conversation and I tend to my teeth a lot. There is also this part of me that can’t stop talking about people behind their backs and I routinely complain about having to wait in lines. Since moving to Manhattan six months ago, I have regularly been sharing online articles about what it’s like to be a real New Yorker and getting tons of likes. I had a wonderful childhood and a caring family and I would just make the other kids miserable despite how hard they tried to make me like them. You’d think that after all this good fortune that I would be a lot nicer but, nope, I’m not. My relationship with my father and my pug are the most important things in the world to me.”

YMAPoNYthesegreatguns“Every day we’re on the job, I think about how cool it is that we get these awesome guns to play with. I mean, you could probably kill twenty to thirty people with this gun without breaking a sweat. Totally badass. And it’s not a cheap rifle either! I think it’s like two-grand or something and then the vest and the helmet are pretty expensive. Totally fucking awesome. We’re like soldiers!”  

YMAPoNYwhatif“We actually passed my stop a few minutes ago. I just like to keep riding the subway after work because I really hate going home to my family. My wife gained a lot of weight recently and I sort of blame the birth of my son for the death of our sex life. I have also given up on my music career so I could take a good paying job which is necessary for supporting a family. So whenever I see either of them I literally cannot stop thinking about punching them both in the face. Those extra few minutes on the train prepare me for that feeling, affords me time to cry, and gives me the strength I need to suppress my anger and violent urges for another day.” 

YMAPoNYhopingtogetrobbed“We’re visiting from Indiana and are used to crossing the street whenever we see a black person walking toward us. But there are so many out here that it’s been really difficult so we eventually just gave up and that was cathartic for both of us as guilty white people. We are actually toying with the idea of getting a black friend when we go back home. It’s kind of funny because our friend Mike knows a guy who has one that lives near us and we were actually just texting him about it!”

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International Women’s Day Was Yesterday

Yesterday was International Women’s Day so, if you are an abusive husband, hopefully you took it easy on old gal… unless hitting them is actually more equal. Not sure. Equal pay and maternity stuff seem like no brainers but things like who buys the dinner, doesn’t have to go into combat zones, or has extra safety nets to keep then from becoming homeless are much harder to suss out. There is also a buffet of sex crime issues, domestic abuse, and a lot of weird laws governing the vagina. But we usually end up just talking about how often white women aren’t important enough in video games. That always seems to trump everything else for some reason. Anyway I hope you had an okay Women’s Day, women. Sorry nobody seems to be able to get their shit together about what is going on with you.


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This Is What School Lunches Look Like In America [100% Real]

A friend of mine shared an article with me that showcased how much better the rest of the world’s kids have it than the ones in America when it comes to food. It’s a well known fact that the school lunches in the United States are abysmal but actually seeing them posted in an article without citations really hit the point home for me. Farmers probably feed the pigs we slaughter for food better than most schools feed our country’s greatest national resource—children. We cannot sit idle as the best and brightest are forced to eat unhealthy gobs of processed GMO garbage while France is feeding its youngsters aged brie and the finest seasonal wines available. Did you know that Spain is giving out garlic prawns and paella with truffles to every student who chooses a hot lunch? Greek children are treated to a morning yogurt and are then serviced with thin slices of smoked lamb throughout the the day while teachers play the harp until everyone doses off. Upon waking, white-robed beauties are available to feed the kids grapes and usher them onto buses. Meanwhile, American lunches would be difficult to distinguish from dog food in a blind taste test.

While research seems to indicate that the United States is slipping academically in nearly every major category, sometimes even falling below the global average, we should definitely focus on the presentation of the food that comes out in cafeterias first. China, South Korea, and Japan must have some delicious and beautiful school lunches because their academic test scores continue to be through the roof. But even some countries that aren’t known for having exceptionally tasty foods, like Poland and Ireland, are edging out the United States. My guess is that they are probably importing French cuisine via cargo helicopter on a weekly basis.

Wanting to contribute toward a solution for this problem, I went out across America to investigate the kinds of lunches that schoolchildren were actually being fed. My findings were deeply unsettling. The lunches being provided by most schools were absolutely not enough for children to feel like they’d had an artisanal food experience. These meals would not satisfy the cultured palate of any eight-year-old who was a fan of the Food Network. I spoke to numerous frail looking children that told me that hadn’t even bothered to eat breakfast and could not afford to eat the school lunches. My heart swelled with pride as I told them, “Good. Don’t settle for less. If you can’t get an Eggs Benedict with bacon, then you might as well pass until you can get a kale salad with vegan cookies. Skip as many meals as you have to in order to make your point.”

Meanwhile there were a plethora of heavy children that seemed content to eat whatever was placed in front of them. Had this food been attractive and locally grown, I have no doubts that their unhealthy overweight bodies (which are beautiful and normal) would never have developed. It is with great shame I bring you some example photos of the ACTUAL meals being served to the children of this country. Viewer discretion is advised as some of these 100% real images might be NSFW.

11042282_10102134884880684_1772000657_nCoffee and a single piece of toast.

11014700_10102134885264914_534679446_nA “fresh” banana, an extra sour dill lemon, and one whole white onion.

11023110_10102134885140164_1662405417_nA slice of swissed cheese, two sauce packets, and three GMO strawberries.

11039548_10102134885200044_694190633_nDry rainbow pasta, green sauce, and a tea bag.

10956394_10102134884835774_1659769197_nA single fortune cookie.

11023110_10102134885085274_1145149112_nA handful of old radishes and various pills.

11039399_10102134884905634_1867775954_nWhite powder.

11020435_10102134884950544_1484876350_nPencil shavings, an empty plastic bag, paper scraps, a twist tie, one rubber band, and a pack of Big Red gum.

See the absolutely incredible article that inspired this one here.

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Asking For A Friend

Does anyone know any prostitutes that look like my mom? I am asking for a friend.

Not my mom

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The Future Of Art In America

Is your book not selling? Make it about Batman. Having a hard time getting people to go and see your band? Make every song about Scooby-Doo. Need extra cash for painting supplies? Paint something where you have Mario and Luigi driving KITT, from Knight Rider, off a cliff as an homage to Thelma and Louise. The more popular references you have the better your art becomes! Art often reflects the society in which it was created and what better reflects our society than an endless mash-up of popular culture? Nothing.

The best way to make it as an artist is to combine two popular characters into one thoughtless and lazy abomination that the public will go wild over. As we are now a nation of perpetual children, you can literally convince other adults that your nerd core rap about DuckTales is high art worth paying for. Art that appeals to the artist or offers some sort of introspection is a financial non-starter, but inject some nostalgia and you’ve got yourself a sale. If you’re asking yourself why, it’s because every lonely thirty-two year old with a soul-crushing job will shell out twenty bucks for something that reminds them of a time when they still had an imagination.

awfulmashups 2

awfulmashups 3awfulmashups 1

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Inspirational Inspiration On Perseverance


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