In Animal Crossing, a game that progress in real time, players who wake up before noon on any given Sunday have the option of buying turnips. Turnips function like stocks. You can buy low, and sell high, assuming their fluctuating price spikes high enough over the next week (you can't hold on to them indefinitely, they'll spoil the following Sunday). If the prices on your island’s Stalk Market aren't any good, other players can invite you to theirs.
The result is an unregulated economy of trades and favors as players try to get access to favorable turnip prices. These visits are often negotiated outside of the game itself, on social media platforms and chat servers. It’s high-risk, high-reward.
Earlier this week, my friend Emma Roller fell victim to a vicious scam perpetrated by a Britney Spears stan. The stan promised access to sky-high turnip prices as long as people listened to the Spears song "If U Seek Amy."
But it was all a ruse.
Roller walked me through what happened, and how players can protect themselves from these criminals.
First, can you walk me through your turnip investment strategy for the week?
Alright, so last Sunday I decided to liquidate my savings from the Bank of Nook. I talked to the wretched Daisy Mae (can somebody get her a tissue?) and bought probably too many turnips from her. I ended up buying 10,000 turnips at 103 bells each. I also built out a cliff on top of one of my island's waterfalls to store my turnips in a 10x10 grid, surrounded by a Zen fence I crafted. Turnip vault.
And what drove you to seek out turnip spikes on Twitter? Were you getting antsy as Sunday approached?
I wouldn't say I sought them out. I was scrolling through Twitter on Tuesday or Wednesday, and saw one of the people I follow respond to a tweet from someone claiming they had turnips selling for 620 bells on their island. The only entry fee, according to this person's tweet, was to respond to the tweet with a screenshot of me listening to Britney Spears' (iconic) 2009 song "If U Seek Amy."
Did you actually listen to the song?
I pulled up Spotify and searched for the song. In the interest of transparency, I did not listen to the song, but scrubbed forward to the middle of the track to make it look like I'd listened to the song. Then I took a screenshot.
How confident were you that this stan's offer was genuine?
I mean, I had some inkling that it could be fake. I believe turnips can sell for up to 660 bells, but I don't think I've ever seen that price point in my month-plus of playing the game. Still, in my mind, I guess I figured it was relatively low-risk -- if it turned out to be a scam, then the most I had forfeited was a somewhat embarrassing tweet showing that I listened to this Britney Spears song on Spotify.
Did you feel used when it turned out the offer was not real?
Absolutely -- I immediately blocked him. Here's where my lack of knowledge about "stan culture" should come to light. After waiting about 30 minutes to get this person's Dodo code [the alphanumeric code that allows access to a user's island], I sent them a DM. An hour later, they responded that it was a scam, and that they were trying to get more streams for Queen Brit. Here's where I have a question for you: why would someone do this?
I can't say with certainty, but I assume it has to do with charts. Buying songs on iTunes, streaming relentlessly on Spotify -- these are all attempt to boost the stats and manipulate the rankings. A success for stans is if their artist "outsold." Has this experience scared you off of seeking turnip prices from strangers?
I definitely plan on sticking to friends and verified sellers in the future. Shoutout to my friend Lindsey Weber for telling me about the site turnip.exchange, where ACNH players can post their turnip prices and host people trying to sell their turnips, usually in exchange for a $99k-bell tip or Nook Miles tickets.
The happy ending to this story is that I found strangers' islands where I was able to sell my turnips for roughly 500 bells each, made a good profit and paid off my home loan to the enemy of the proletariat, Tom Nook.
Incredible! I'm so happy for you. Last question: Is there anything you'd like to say to your scammer?
[A link to a YouTube video of a man saying this:]
why the AI Meme Generator works
Note: All of the macros in this section were produced by artificial intelligence.
Earlier this month, the memegen site Imgflip released an AI generator, a tool that will instantly make an image macro on command, no thinking required. It blew up this week (at least, it did in my NY media-centric corner of the net) and much of the reaction has been one of muffled amazement. "I can't believe the AI memes are so good!" The act of posting an online joke, once the work of humans, is now the work of the machines.
To explain why this tool seems to work so well, I'm just gonna lay out my overall broad views on memes and the internet, but I'll try to keep this relatively brief. (And for clarity's sake, a reminder: "meme = trend" and "macro = individual instance of a meme.")
Rule #1: Memes are value-neutral.
Memes do not endorse any specific stances. They serve as templates for users to apply their own standards to. When Drake (seen in the macro below) says no to one thing and yes to something else, it is up to the user to decide what goes in each of those boxes. It could say "voting Republican" in the no box and "voting Democrat" in the yes box. Those two captions could also just as easily be flipped, and the macro would still be a valid expression of someone's worldview. Memes are highly fungible.
Rules #2: Meme audiences are large, macro audiences are small.
A lot of people will experience the same meme. They'll see the same image, though probably with different captions. The number of people will see the same macro is much smaller. Memes function as a shorthand so that small groups (a chat server with a dozen people, a subreddit devoted to a TV show) can talk about their interests and ideas in funny, inventive ways. Instead of saying "X is better than Y," post a Drake meme. Browse any memegen site -- Meme Generator, Imgflip, Imgur, and so on -- and you'll find millions of extremely specific macros (here's a really good, now-dormant Tumblr to that effect). Tech companies have internal memegen tools for talking about highly niche issues. By surveying this landscape, users come to understand that not every macro is for everyone.
Rule #3: Macros within a meme are linked by emotions and opinions, not facts.
The thing that links all macros made within a specific meme is a shared emotional state. For the Distracted Boyfriend meme or the Car Swerving Onto the Exit meme, that emotion is "what I should focus on versus what I want to focus on." For the meme of Fry from Futurama, it's "mistaking one thing as another thing." For Foul Bachelor Frog, it's "being a foul bachelor." For f7u12 Rage Comics, it's "things that piss you off." For Success Kid, it's "achieving a small victory." Whatever example fits into that emotional component, that's your macro. Even if someone can't fully relate to the specific content of a macro, they can grok it.
Rule #4: the Kuleshov Effect
The Kuleshov Effect, named after Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov, is a concept in film editing that basically states that preceding shots inform subsequent shots. I'll let Wikipedia explain briefly:
Kuleshov edited a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mosjoukine was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl in a coffin, a woman on a divan). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mosjoukine's face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was "looking at" the plate of soup, the girl in the coffin, or the woman on the divan, showing an expression of hunger, grief, or desire, respectively. The footage of Mosjoukine was actually the same shot each time.
A similar effect applies to memes. The visual component of a macro informs how the maker feels about what is described in the caption. Imagine the caption "When I eat McDonald's five days in a row" applied to Success Kid pumping his fist, and to Pepe the pathetic frog meme. Same concept, different emotions.
Back to the AI
Once you internalize the above rules (or "rules," I'm not a cop) then you can understand how the AI meme generator has such a high hit rate. Using a corpus of millions of macros to train the predictive text algorithm, Imglfip developer Dylan Wenzlau has managed to land on a sort of universal average of what a meme might be. For more technical info on how he pulled it off, check out his blog post.
Through rules #1 and #2, you remain aware that the contents of every single macro are not necessarily for you, the individual. Through rules #3 and #4, however, you are still able to parse these macros and get to the underlying, universally shared emotional component anyway. In other words, you don't have know what a macro is saying in order to know what it's saying. And that why the AI Meme Generat has been successful (I think).
This week in the Zoom chat, the boys and I got into an extremely animated debate over whether or not baby carrots are better than normal carrots (I think they are). We put it to a poll on Instagram where my friend asked “Are baby carrots good?” The anti-BC lobby said this phrasing was unfair and a leading question, so we were forced to redo the poll, asking “Which is better?” Baby carrots claimed victory by a 2-to-1 margin.
Addressing rumors of a 9/11-style event in Animal Crossing
The assumption that many people have made is that this is a canister of liquid. Its ban from Dodo Airlines plans raises questions, given that the liquids ban in our world was only put in place after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (for more information on that event, check out Google). That a similar ban appears in Animal Crossing has led fans to speculate that these cute creatures also suffered a similar type of attack.
However, fans appear to have misunderstood the iconography here. The icon does not just resemble a container of liquid, it depicts a pressurized aerosol can — something that spray paint or shaving cream might come in. These types of containers are allowed on large aircraft with pressurized cabins. In unpressurized cabins, however, changes in altitude may cause aerosols to leak or explode, and pose a signficiant risk.
The easiest way to tell if a plane is pressurized? According to Tumblr user lazuli43, an unpressurized plane will have square windows. Pressurized cabins have round windows for, I dunno, physics purposes. Square windows mean that the cabin is unpressurized and it’s not safe for aerosols to be onboard.
And Dodo Airlines in Animal Crossing? They’ve got square windows.
An Animal Crossing 9/11 has not happened. Yet. If you see Slider, say something.
The pandemic-themed pop culture revival I really want to see is the Budweiser “Wassup” guys calling each other on Zoom. This is an extremely powerful idea.
a tarot deck made of The Far Side cartoons
a good Rube Goldberg machine video
an even better Rube Goldberg machine video
the guys over at Russian TikTok are doing some fun stuff
Someone posted “Idk who needs to hear this but some characters just hate eachother. No hidden love. Yeah sometimes people just do not like eachother” on Tumblr and people started fighting viciously about Tom & Jerry in the comments. This is a normal thing on Tumblr.
Question for British people: is this TikTok accurate?
oops I found a third Rube Goldberg machine video that’s even better than those other two
I went on Ryan Broderick’s podcast this week to talk about the absolutely dreadful image seen above for like 20 minutes. I think I found it on Tumblr but I can’t be certain. I cannot recommend you listen to my appearance but Ryan did call it “the most obnoxious segment” his show has had thus far.