A guide to crypto, NFTs and the metaverse for those hiding in a hole

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As humans try to get by in 2022, we must be conversant in global affairs, the former Soviet Union, mRNA vaccines, climate change, “culture wars,” giant invasive spiders, baseball lockouts, Euphoria, governors gone wild and whatever is going on with Kanye West.

When the inevitable topics of cryptocurrency, NFTs or the metaverse come up, it is too much! My instinct is to retreat, the way a catfish burrows into a mud hole. But refusing to engage is becoming impossible. When a Gulfport NFT house sold at auction for $654,000, the urgency crystallized. We, as citizens, apparently need knowledge of this Byzantine taxonomy just to consume local news.

To study up, I went to Crypto Street Cafe, a restaurant that opened on Clearwater Beach in December. Menu items include the “Blockchain Club,” the “Dogedog,” and… um, the “Cheeseburger.” I ordered a “Nutty Protocol Salad,” blessed with a heroic amount of cheese. The cheese bodes well for crypto! Surrounded by meme dogs, day trading “candle patterns” and Jeff Bezos quotes, I read everything I could as tourists slumped past with beach chairs. A very Florida scene.

Related: Clearwater Beach has a new crypto-themed restaurant with ‘Dogedog’ hot dogs
The interior of Crypto Street Restaurant in Clearwater Beach seen on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021.
The interior of Crypto Street Restaurant in Clearwater Beach seen on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021.

[ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

If you are into crypto, the following will merely annoy you. If you are like me, this beginner’s guide will not even perforate the surface of ignorance. Every crypto definition requires three more definitions and a dictionary. Learning the language of the future internet is a full-time hobby, like writing Twilight fan fiction or gently playing oboe out a city window.

What is cryptocurrency?

It is currency that exists solely on the internet. Varieties include Bitcoin, Ethereum and two (!) featuring a Shiba Inu. People can exchange old-fashioned dollars for cryptocurrency on trading platforms. Opinions on this range from “this is the future” to “this is basically Beanie Babies.”

Is it unregulated?

Mostly, though regulation efforts are ramping up, like when summer camp had to station an extra counselor in Cabin Six. All transactions happen on the decentralized blockchain.

What is the $&#% blockchain?

You’re in luck, because this definition was on a poster below the purse hook in the ladies’ room. In translation, the blockchain is a digital ledger where no one authority has control. Much like my emotional landscape.

Is this… real?

What is real? Is money real, or does it just become real when enough people agree it’s real? Furthermore, are we living in a simulation? I will now repeatedly stroke the side of my face and grapple with existence. We are five questions in and nothing makes sense. This is going aces!

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Speaking of simulations, what is the metaverse?

The metaverse is a 3D version of the internet where avatar people can meet up and hang out.

Isn’t that just The Sims?

I am 90 percent sure.

OK, anyway, what is an NFT?

“Non-fungible tokens” turn digital objects like art, memes, tweets and, oh Mylanta, newspaper columns, into assets. Proponents say NFTs give artists control of their work. On the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton compared their NFT cartoon apes, while the audience laughed nervously and transformed into catfish.

Leslie Alessandra checks her phone before the start of the auction of her five-bedroom, 3.5-bath Gulfport property being actioned off as the first NFT house to be sold in the U.S with a starting bid of about $650,000.
Leslie Alessandra checks her phone before the start of the auction of her five-bedroom, 3.5-bath Gulfport property being actioned off as the first NFT house to be sold in the U.S with a starting bid of about $650,000. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Celebrities, eh?

Stars love crypto. Kim Kardashian, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow. Basically all celebrities. Reese Witherspoon tweeted: “In the (near) future, every person will have a parallel digital identity. Avatars, crypto wallets, digital goods will be the norm. Are you planning for this?” This filled me with an abiding apocalyptic dread, the opposite of Reese’s usual iced tea vibe!

Dare anyone naysay?

Ben McKenzie, whom millennials know as troubled hunk Ryan Atwood on The O.C., hates crypto. As he once held a dying Marissa Cooper in his arms, he now cradles a new mission: telling everyone crypto is a scam. In the most interesting career change since Vanilla Ice became a house flipper, McKenzie is writing a book with journalist Jacob Silverman. He says celebrities have no clue what they’re promoting. He told The Cut, “All I really care about is that people who can’t afford to lose the money don’t lose it.”

Did you pay for your salad in crypto?

I used American Express. But the restaurant does accept crypto, if you are sitting on a pile of Doge and hankering for a “To The MOOOONNN!” brownie sundae.

Do you understand crypto now?

No.

Did you know a catfish can survive buried in mud for a year?

Inspiring!

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