New at Haven Heavy Industries

I’ve gone all retro-geek! Well, some would say I’ve always been a bit like that, but I take that as a compliment. Only the other day I had a thoroughly enjoyable conversation about the song of the 56K modem, the joys of Usenet and UUencoding, and Netscape Navigator… And if the previous sentence is seeing you bathed in waves of dreamy geeky nostalgia, then welcome aboard!

So, for those of us who fondly remember the good old days, when computer gaming wasn’t live-screened on Facebook and you could count the pixels in 8-bit colour, I’ve put together some retro-themed neon decor to adorn the walls of your basement hidey-holes.

You can pick them up from the Marketplace from today, and you’ll also find a range of new designs not available on Marketplace at the new HHI inworld store, as well as a large variety of neon signage at Neon Dreamz.

Spoilt for choice!

s. x

Geek and gamer girls man
I really wish they all could be
Geek and gamer girls

Team Unicorn – G33K & G4M3R Girls

Posted in HHI, Neon Dreamz, SL | Leave a comment

Not actual game footage

Linden Lab are notorious for ill-advised marketing campaigns, in which vampires tend to feature heavily, along with videos portraying an unrealistic depiction of SL, where business people can shake hands and the romantically attached can walk off, hand-in-hand into the sunset; AOs and animations perfectly synchronised and co-ordinated. Whilst marketing is all about glitz and glamour, this is the sort of advertising that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m sure that many of those who have signed up to SL are often more than a little disappointed to find that the reality frequently fails to live up to the hype.

I’ve always been an advocate for truthful advertising – why can’t campaigns be more like those advocated in the movie ‘Crazy People’? After all, we’re all reasonable people, with reasonable expectations, and most of us are heartily sick of knowingly being lied to in advertisements. What on earth is wrong with being honest about SL and saying, for example: “Second Life – As confusing as real life, but the clothes are cheaper!”

However, Linden Lab, seem to favour marketing that is increasingly manipulative, unrealistic and has apparently no idea what its target audience might be; and it’s getting ever-more bizarre…

Back in December last year, the Lab debuted a slick and classy marketing video for SL which I’ve seen pop up a number of times, in various places over the subsequent months, and every time I’ve seen it, it’s left me ever-more bemused. Just what are the Lab trying to say here, because whatever it is, I have absolutely no idea:

There… You’ve seen it now, but what on earth does it mean?

It leaves me with far more questions than answers, and rather than questions about SL, which would be a good thing, the questions I have are pretty much entirely centred around the ad itself.

Why would an advertisement with the specific intent of promoting a virtual world not even give us the slightest glimpse of the platform in question, nor devote even the tiniest segment to any of the activities for which people log into SL to spend their time participating in?

Why would an advertisement, expressly aimed at building interest in – and you’ll have to forgive me for saying this – what is, in many regards, a glorified multi-player video game, elect to do so by showcasing a bunch of real life actors prancing about some sort of Hollywood blockbuster movie set?

Why spend what appears to be a significant amount of money on a glossy ‘behind-the-scenes’ promo for something that is firstly, not anything like what actually happens behind the scenes in SL, and secondly is apparently a teaser trailer for something that has never actually seen the light of day… ie. Whatever finished production this is supposed to be a behind-the-scenes capture of?

If Linden Lab wanted to do an honest, and frankly thrilling, behind-the-scenes of Second Life promotion, then they could have quite easily have trained a camera on me sat at my keyboard, glass of Pinot to hand, and crisp sandwiches at my side. I’d have charged them a hell of a lot less too that the cost of that glossy crap!

So, Labbies, what is all this about, and what on earth were your marketing gurus smoking when they came up with this idea? Do you really think that this will attract people in their hordes to SL? And, if this really is your intention, don’t you think that all these noobs are going to be just a teeny bit disappointed when they log in expecting some sort of James Cameron Avatar style adventure, with hi-def graphics and slick gameplay, only to find their avatar waddles like a duck and has no private parts? Do you really think they’re going to be impressed when they find out that there’s absolutely no way they are ever going to look even remotely as good as the fake avatars your ad portrays, and that any attempt they make to emulate those flying sequences you’re promoting, will actually be executed with all the grace and skill of a cow with canvas wings, just before they go crashing, head-first, into an inconveniently situated maze of ban lines?

I have to hand it to them though, it’s a great video. I just haven’t the slightest idea what it’s trying to say about SL, or why? It certainly has the wow factor, but – let’s face it – if anyone thinks that’s what they’ll be getting when they log in, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

Nice to know that our linden dollars are being well spent though.

s. x

Do adverts for TV
Household soap and brands of tea
Labels all around the cans
Who would be a Painter Man

The Creation – Painter Man

Posted in Linden Love, Rants, RL, SL | 1 Comment

Reboot

There are any number of strategies for achieving success, or progressing, in life; some are born of necessity, others form part of a long-term plan, whilst some are the result of spur of the moment decisions. There are those who are risk-takers, those who plan and map their path in detail, and then we have the type who stick to tried and tested stratagems, and the type who constantly re-invent themselves and their lives in order to stay fresh and move with the times.

Perversely, of course I don’t really fit into any specific pigeonhole – in both the real world and the virtual, I can switch between a number of different approaches, although I veer toward established and well-rehearsed practice in SL… But, sometimes you just have to make a change, in order to survive and succeed.

This particular time in SL seems to be one of change for me and those I associate with. I’ve seen friends completely ‘rebrand’ themselves, ditching a path they’ve embraced for years in favour of a new approach; one which they now find themselves relating more strongly to, and brings them back in touch with what feels right to them. Then again, I’ve seen others who – some might say are ‘stuck in their ways’ – more resistant to change and the shifting landscape of the virtual environment, who appear to be struggling to adapt to new scenarios and situations and are actively waging an internal war to reconcile themselves with their feelings.

As for me, I long ago learned to be pragmatic. SL is by its very nature impermanent: Locations, styles, environments, people and relationships change and, if you’re going to let that phase you too much, there will come a time that you’ll eventually find yourself struggling to either let go of, or embrace what is happening around you. This is something I’m extremely familiar with from my own real world experience: My RL job is entirely focussed on delivering change initiatives: Not so much project management, but rather, project implementation – working with, and alongside, those who will be impacted by radical organisational change, to enable them to move from one state to another. It’s hard and it’s challenging, but it’s taught me a huge amount about people and about myself.

In the most simplistic terms, within this context there are two basic personality types: Those who fear, resist, and do not understand change – these tend to feel out of control and see change as something that is imposed upon them and adopt a victim mentality. Then there are those who (usually with support) will adapt and learn how to change when necessary – this type of person will often see change as an opportunity and consider themselvs to have a role in it. There is another third, and relatively uncommon and unusual type – those for whom change is their adopted normal state, even when it is undefined, inconsistent and fluid – and that’s where I find my own particular niche.

It doesn’t matter whether this is real life, or Second Life, people will tend to follow the same behaviours and responses in both worlds – if you don’t like change in RL, you won’t like it in SL, and that of course poses difficulties when we consider that SL is inherently unstable and changeable, particularly if you treat SL as your escape to ‘normality’ from an unsettling and challenging real world.

Whilst I may be entirely comfortable with change in the real world, I do like my SL to have a degree of stability and reliability, because it is one of the few areas of my life where I’m pretty much in complete control, and sometimes it’s just nice to escape the madness! However, there’s always the danger of stagnation and routine; even of finding yourself getting bogged-down with things that were once cool and held a special place in your virtual heart, but now have had their day, (at least for the time being… It’s surprising how often the ‘retired’ can assume a new lease of life in SL when the time is right). The realisation that I’m slipping into that sort of regime is a call to action that I can’t ignore, even though it inevitably requires an investment in time, effort and hard cash on my part to resolve.

Every dog has his day, and the same applies to our inworld perspectives too. It was something of a shock when I realised that my inworld Gallery had been hosting the same set of images for 5 years. That realisation resulted in a complete revamp and the launch of a new exhibit ‘Human’, at the beginning of this month. That, however was just the start of a wholesale reappraisal of my inworld ‘estate’, starting with my – now extensive – collection of tribute replicas of defunct real world music venues, such as Wigan Casino, CBGB and The Marquee, along with a bunch of other esoteric and fun clubs that I’d whip out of inventory for special events. Most of them haven’t seen the light of day since last summer and, for complex and boring reasons, I haven’t held a regular event at any venue since November, so the time has come to mothball them – possibly permanently, but certainly until some time in the future I feel the need to resurrect them. To be honest, I never really enjoyed the mechanics of running clubs… DJing, hosting, managing – the appeal always really lay in the build and in creating a unique and special atmosphere.

That decision means I now have a spare 400+ prims to – quite literally – play with on my land, allowing me to realise the construction of an inworld store for Haven Heavy Industries. It’s a work very much still in progress, but which will ultimately take me into new creative territory and push me to delve into the world of virtual retail in ways I’ve yet to explore.

I think I’ll be revamping some of my land too, maybe do some terraforming and look at changing the look and feel of parts of the parcel. Other than some initial messing about with environmental settings, which has resulted in some rather dramatic skyscapes, I’ve no real ideas as yet, but those will come over time, and I’m in no rush… So, I guess it’s going to be a busy few months for Yours Truly, but afterwards I’ll be able to put my feet up and relax.

Although, coming to think about it, it’ll probably be time for a new exhibit at The Gallery by then!

s. x

A time to build up
A time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Turn, Turn, Turn

Posted in Builder's bum, HHI, Neon Dreamz, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, The Gallery | 1 Comment

I don’t wanna hear about it!

People have many and varied reasons for choosing to log in to SL. In my case, it’s to spend time with friends, unwind from the day, and escape the hassles and nonsense of the real world. Others may log in for specific events or activities, or to get creative in a way that they can’t be elsewhere, or – so I’m told – some may actually escape to SL to do teh sex!

Whatever your own personal reasons are, I’d be very surprised if you chose to log in to SL to treat it simply as a continuation of the real world, only with pixels, instead of the real thing. Yet, every now and again I run into people inworld who seem to relish doing just that.

I treat SL as being exactly what it says on the tin – a second life: Distinct and separate from the one I happen to be blessed with outside the confines of virtuality. So when I log in, I’m looking forward to chilling and relaxing, whilst not having to worry about doing the ironing, paying the gas bill, dealing with annoying emails from the boss, or any of the other million-and-one things that the real world requires me to put up with because they are in some way important to my continued existence, comfort or employment. I can forget about all those things once I’ve clicked that magical login button because absolutely none of them are necessary in my virtual world: My Second Life.

This means I’m free to muck about, shop, play, party, shoot zombies, drive like a maniac and whatever the hell else I want to do, without worrying about the price of petrol, how am I going to dispose of the bodies, have I got enough milk to last me the rest of the week, and is that worrying rash I’ve developed just a mild bit of irritated skin, or something more sinister? It’s a reality free of worries, concerns or (let’s be honest here), actual reality – and that’s what I love about it. That’s not to say that it SL doesn’t itself generate a whole raft of its own drama and problems, but that’s a whole other ballgame, and I guess that no world, real or otherwise, is wholly perfect.

Nevertheless, no matter how much I try to leave reality behind me when I’m inworld, I find that there are many who seem to hold a completely different perspective and not only feel the need to drag real life with them into SL, but having done so, feel no compunction when it comes to inflicting it upon those who would rather avoid it. Seriously folks, when I’ve logged in to SL, I really don’t want my fun interrupted by somebody moaning about their ingrowing toenails, or how Aunt Edna has started to smell even more of wee since you moved her to the nursing home. I don’t want to know how bored you are with lockdown, and I definitely have no interest whatsoever in your views on anything even remotely political in the real world, thank you very much.

Those are exactly the things that I wish to leave festering in real life, which inevitably I will have to return to at some point, but in the meantime I’d very much like to keep it off the radar and out of my presence.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve no problem having a heart-to-heart with a friend in IM about something that’s causing them concern or a headache in RL – that’s what friends, even virtual ones, are for – but what does bug me more than I can possibly say is when people insist on bringing the real world into a group gathering and then derailing the entire conversation to the point of saturation. And the worst of it is that, in a group, it’s horribly infectious… Once one person decides to share with the party the intricate details of their chronic haemorrhoids, everybody present seems to feel the need to weigh-in with their own symptoms, treatments and family history of anal-related complaints.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made my excuses and left, logged-out prematurely or simply retreated into a miserable shell, when an evening of entertainment and irreverent banter has been hijacked and I’ve found myself subjected to an hour or more of heated political debate, in-depth discussion about somebody’s halitosis or endless arguments about things that aren’t fun, aren’t conducive to friendly chat and make me feel that logging-out and doing the washing-up are viable and enjoyable alternatives to spending time inworld with friends.

By all means, feel free to discuss Latvian politics, the failings of the monarchy, and how depressed you are about not being able to get a decent haircut over the past year, when you’re having a private chat with friends – as long as they don’t mind – but please don’t bring it into a communal setting where others might just be looking for some downtime, away from the rigors of real life for a couple of hours, where the only thing they have to worry about is if their alphas are showing. If you really want to log into SL and get into a political debate, discuss your chillblains, or argue the relative merits or otherwise of large-scale deforestation in favour of industrial beef and palm oil production, then by all means find a group of like-minded people inworld and spend time getting it off your chest with them; you can even set up your own group and have dedicated events around your preferred topics of discussion, but don’t just dump it on a bunch of unsuspecting victims who might simply want to spend an short while away from that reality and have a good time. It’s not fair, it’ll make you unpopular and no matter how well you make your point, it’s not going to make a blind bit of difference to party politics, or the state of your rear sphincter!

If I wanted more of the real world… I’d stay there!

s. x

Please just shut up
I am going to slap you
Backhand and handicap you

Kat McSnatch – If You Don’t Shut Up

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Human

One of the activities with which I enjoy frittering away my time in the real world is photography. Unfortunately, these days I find it difficult to fit it in amongst all the other activities that fill my days: work, writing, SL and the everyday tasks of living that somehow seem to expand to fill the available time.

Even so, I’ve always loved photography and I wish I was a lot better at it than I am! Photography has always for me been an almost magical activity – capturing and keeping a moment in time is a special thing. Sadly though, the democratisation of the medium, through the proliferation of devices that can capture images, and the presence of a camera in pretty much everyone’s pocket these days, has in many ways diluted the potency of photography. It’s not that the equipment isn’t up to the job, indeed the capability of the average smartphone camera can easily exceed that of dedicated photography equipment… The problem is a poor image is still a poor image, no matter how good the equipment or optics.

What defines a poor image is contentious, but I have my own views on the matter, and whilst others may feel that the technical side is everything, that’s not such a big deal for me. I think that a great photo can still be a great photo, even if it’s technically faulty – some of the greatest images ever captured are poorly focussed, badly lit, dodgily exposed and suffer from numerous technical glitches. What makes a poor photo for me is inelegant framing, bland subject matter, and a lack of something that is hard to define: Let’s call it passion. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of photography that we’re subjected to these days falls into the category of ‘poor’.

Maybe I shouldn’t say too much on the subject – my own photography leaves much to be desired, something that I’m well aware of, but I do think it needs to be said!

One of the key points of photography is to know your strengths and weaknesses, and these will often coincide with your choices of subject matter. When it comes to my own preferences, I’m drawn to documentary, wildlife and travel photography, mainly because these are also those subjects I find appealing and compelling, but also because I believe that a photograph should tell a story, and these are subjects that have a huge capacity for storytelling. A good photo is more than just appealing to the eye: It should draw you in, make you think, and take you to another place.

I know that it’s unlikely I’ll ever be good enough to have my own exhibition in the real world – although, that won’t stop me trying! – but one of my early goals in SL was to have an inworld gallery, and back in 2010, that’s exactly what I did. It was only a small a small affair but then, the following year with the aquisition of my first parcel, I built my own bespoke gallery, and it’s been there ever since. It’s been four years since The Gallery hosted a new collection, but this Saturday, 3rd April, sees the unveiling of a brand new exhibit – ‘Human’.

“There’s a human being behind the avatar”

But, what does it mean to be human?

In this collection, I explore what it means to be human, from an observer’s perspective. The images – some posed, some candid – are everyday people, simply living their lives: Different people, different places, different situations, but every one of them has their own story to tell, in their own unique, personal way.

I make no attempt to interpret or relate those stories – instead I ask you to make of them what you will… To forge a human connection with a stranger and try to understand their world. I’ve avoided negative or deliberately provocative images – we see enough of that on the news and social media, and I earnestly believe human beings can do so much better than that, if we only try.

The exhibition opens at 9.00pm UK/1:00pm SLT on 3rd April at the Nowhere Land Gallery, and I’d love to see you there. The first hour will see a champagne reception, and I’ll be present to answer any questions and talk about my images – if you can come along, I’d love to see you 🙂

s. x

Pictures of you, pictures of me
Hung upon your wall for the world to see
Pictures of you, pictures of me
Remind us all of what we used to be
The Last Goodnight – Pictures of You

Posted in Events, RL, SL, The Gallery, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Disruptive technology

Wow… It’s been busy lately! I started jotting down notes for this blog post around a fortnight ago, and that’s as much progress as I’ve been able to make. Similarly, inworld I’ve achieved a bit fat zero in terms of all the things I wanted to get on top of; so there are still a pile of bits and pieces I need to finish working on and get uploaded to Marketplace, a bunch of ideas that have still to see the light of day, and the long-overdue launch of my new Gallery exhibit has dragged on for yet another month, even though all the elements are ready and waiting to be put together.

I need a robot assistant: Either one that will happily take on my RL job, which is currently occupying so much of my time, leaving me too wasted to contemplate doing anything even remotely unconnected with work, or a sentient, autonomous bot inworld to tie up all the loose ends that are currently flailing about.

Unfortunately, on both counts, the technology has yet to catch up with the ambition.

It’s all very disappointing: When I was growing up, an avid consumer of sci-fi and real science, in pretty much equal proportions, the future promised to be a wonderful place, all flying cars and personal positronic-brained robot assistants. Sadly, that’s not quite how it’s turned out and, whilst technology is – it seems – finally making a bid to break free and blossom into the future we all hoped we’d already have by the turn of the century, I think we’re still a long way off the technical wizardry we envisaged back in the day.

Sure, self-driving cars are almost a thing, and Alexa may well be able to turn on the lights and remind me to go to the dentist, but until I can just jump into a vehicle, tell it where to go and sit back and read a book while it gets on with the job, and until Alexa can make me a coffee and bring it to my desk, it’s still not the futuristic utopia I’d hoped for.

It’s a shame really that time travel still eludes us, because it would have been handy to be able to nip back in time a few decades or so and give a few insightful pointers to those sci-fi authors who were determined to believe that we’d all be whizzing around in personal helicopters by the 1980s, just to manage everbody’s expectations a little. More to the point, we could have had a word with all those scientists who were earnestly beavering away, creating the tech of the future, to guide them away from those things that, at the time, seemed to be the Holy Grail, but experience has taught us were actually a huge flop.

I’m always surprised at some of the things we always imagined would be surefire hits, but then crashed and burned, like 3D TV, for example. If ever there was something that I’d have expected to be a massive success, this was it, but somehow it never really took off and for those end-consumers who were caught up in the hype, it turned out to be a rather expensive and disappointing venture, whilst for the companies championing the tech, I daresay it was something of an embarrassment. We can analyse the reasons for its failure to catch on… Unaffordably expensive, for both end-users and developers; poor industry support and buy-in; low consumer interest; and, an indefinable sense that it was all a bit too gimmicky and weird for the everday person.

Such was the fate of many tech innovations that were never really the successes we might have assumed they would be. DAT tapes and Minidiscs, Laser discs, quadrophonic sound, Google Glass, and even some of the wider benefits promised by DVDs: Multiple camera angles on demand, alternative scenes, interactive viewing… all fell foul of the same issues. Despite promising to be the next big thing, they were ultimately things that nobody really had the appetite for.

As I gaze into my digital crystal ball, I predict a whole load of similar innovations that I just don’t think are going to cut the mustard, no matter how brilliant, apparently desirable, or worthwhile they might seem. Into this basket of likely flops, I’d like to throw 4K and 8K TV, 360° images/videos, and cosumer 3D printers, for all of the above reasons. Even some technology, that we think might be here to stay, may not be all that it’s cracked up to be: For example, many broadcasters who could employ 1080p at 60fps for Youtube video, prefer to use the lower resolution 720p at 30fps because, to the human eye, it’s more natural to watch. In a similar fashion, many people these days turn off motion interpolation on their smart TVs, because for anything other than sport, it makes the picture look dreadful. Perhaps we need robot eyes to appreciate robot TV fully?

It’s hard to predict the path that technology might decide to take. Nobody predicted the capability and ubiquity of smartphones in any of the old science-fiction novels and movies, yet life without them today is almost unthinkable. Similarly, it took a pandemic to establish video-conferencing front and centre as a viable and essential means of communication, not just for business, but home users too.

And that opens up a whole new technological can of worms in terms of what the immediate and long-term future may bring. All of a sudden we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in all sorts of virtual meeting spaces, including virtual worlds, and that leads us into all sorts of possibilities… But, just how far can we really go, and is there really any appetite to go there? Certainly, there seems to be commercial interest in developing virtual environments to meet business needs, but development is very definitely going down the mini-me avatar route, rather than the more traditional style of avatar we’re used to seeing in SL and other virtual meeting places. It seems that business wants vitual people who not only look like regular people, but – more to the point – look like the person they’re respresenting (albeit, in many applications, that resemblance stops at the shoulders, with just a pillar and stumpy add-ons performing the function of body and limbs). So, even though environments like SL offer perfectly recognisable, innofensive and reasonably lifelike options when it comes to avatars, what the real world wants in a virtual space, is digital replicants of the participants on the other sde of the screen… Speaking in their own voices… With gestures and movements mirrored by their avatar. Which surely begs the question, why do it virtually, when you could simply have a Zoom meeting instead?

It’s even more ‘exciting’ with the prospect of new doohickeys coming onstream, like Microsoft’s glitzy new Mesh, which feels to me like a desperate attempt to make Hololens something that somebody, somewhere must want, but when you weigh up the cost, effort and how stupid people are going to feel having meetings in 3D, is the lure of augmented reality in your weekly team meeting really going to be enough to draw you away from less complex means of getting together over the interwebs? Something inside me says ‘no’.

I’m sure when we finally get to the ‘new normal’ – however you choose to define it – there will be those who feel SL should have made at least some effort to rise to the challenge, but I’ll be more than happy if it doesn’t – SL was never meant to be the hangout of business executives having high-powered meetings in their virtual Armani suits and plush pixel offices, and frankly even if it was, I doubt very much that they’d approve of the virtual proletariat sharing the space anyway. More importantly though, on a personal level, I have more than enough real life work taking up my time as it is, and logging into SL at the end of a busy day is often a blessed relief and a complete escape from reality…

I really don’t relish the thought of a future where I might have to log in to SL for my day job as well!

s. x

You know I hate to ask
But, are ‘friends’ electric?
Mine’s broke down
And now I’ve no one to love

Tubeway Army – Are Friends Electric

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Ain’t what it used to be!

Nostalgia… We’ve all been there: Maybe we’ve run into an old friend we haven’t seen for years, passed by a location where we frittered away our time as a kid, opened a box full of memories whilst cleaning out a cupboard. And then it hits you – that delicious moment of wallowing in the past, recapturing and reliving the things that once were. It’s a cosy, wistful trip down Memory Lane, and it can accost us at any time, without warning.

Sometimes, of course, we might intentionally seek out memories of those times. It can be quite therapeutic to spend a little time remembering the happy times of the past and reminiscing – it has that rosy-hued feelgood factor that can so often be missing in the grind of our everyday lives, and there’s nothing at wrong with trying to recapture those happy, sometimes long-forgotten, moments from our past to lift our spirits.

So it was, as I was idly scrolling through the tech pages of Amazon, filled with the irrepressable urge to spend, spend spend, I came across a cheap and cheerful cassette to MP3 ripper, and it was as if a golden ray of light had fallen upon the page, illuminating a need I’d never previously realised!

Weird though it may seem to my ancient mind, I know that there may be some readers for whom the term ‘cassette’ is something of a mystery. So, if that’s you, gentle reader, allow me to educate you…

In the dim, distant past, when MP3s were just a glint in a baby programmer’s eye, we had these things called CDs. Round, shiny discs that would magically play music when you slotted them into a player. Contrary to claims that they were practically indestructible and that they’d play without skipping even in the midst of a nuclear holocaust, many of us learned to our cost that taking a Stanley knife to a disc, or coating it in jam before inserting it, did in fact result in unplayable discs and wrecked equipment. Touted as the way that music would be heard in the future forever, they’ve now passed by the wayside and sit gathering dust in the corners of rooms, much to the dismay of the CD-rack industry! Enterprising types have since found alternative uses for old CDs, and you’ll find them forlornly dangling from bean poles on allotments, failing to scare the birds away.

The great advantage of CDs over vinyl, was their portability – but even before CDs we had a perfectly acceptable and brilliant method for carrying music with us… the casette tape.

Cassettes were brilliant. The size of a cigarette packet and cheap as chips, they sat side-by-side with vinyl on our record-store album shelves, but – better still – you could get blank ones too and record your own mixtapes, up to 120 minutes worth! There’s a whole generation who grew up taping their favourite radio shows, finger poised ready to press ‘Record’, hoping desperately that the DJ wouldn’t talk over the opening bars. The same generation who rated the quality of pens, not on their inkflow, but on whether they were of the requisite diameter to establish a snug fit with a tape spindle, thereby allowing the perfect wrist action necessary to wind a cassette tape rapidly by hand. Cassettes had their own special audio quality, warm and slightly muffled, and for plebs like myself who could only afford the cheap ferric oxide tapes, music always had a subtle, reassuring background hiss! Posh types who could stretch to ‘metal’ and chrome dioxide tapes, with their high-end HiFis and Dolby noise-reduction may have been laughing at us, but I reckon they were missing out!

The point to all this, is that I have masses of old-tapes stashed away, some of which I’ve not been able to listen to for decades, and suddenly – thanks to the wonders of retro-tech, I could!

I grabbed a tape at random, slotted it into the ripper, let it do its thing and then spent a blissfully nostalgic evening listening to music I’d been recording from the radio at the tender age of 16! It was brilliant… Even more so when, to my absolute delight, a recording of a request I’d made on the radio way back when I was still in school started to play. Just hearing that once more, after all these years, made everything worthwhile. I knew there was a reason I’d kept all those boxes of tapes, through 11 house moves and a whole lifetime of turmoil and change, and now it was justified.

There are many of us who have been around SL for a decent number of years too, and like the real thing, virtual life has changed greatly over time, and there are moments when either by accident or design, we can drift into that nostalgia for the way things once were. We hanker for the ‘good old days’ and the frontier spirit that the fledgeling vitual world presented; days when you never quite knew what to expect around the next corner, where sex and gambling rubbed shoulders with music and dancing on the very same region, the Lindens prowled inworld, and if you wanted to do anything at all beyond simple movement, pink and blue poseballs were the order of the day. We seem to forget the Wednesday downtime, the rubber-banding laaaaaaaaag, painted-on underwear, chunky hair and arriving from a TP with your head stuck up your bum! Then again, when we do recall those downsides, it’s with a certain fondness that an outside observer, or more recent SL resident might find a bit baffling. Such is the nature of nostalgia.

Aside from getting all nostalgic about what SL used to be like before the horrors of mesh, animesh, and environmental controls (I’m only half-joking, too), virtual living allows us to indulge our wistfulness for the past in ways that are somewhat less attainable in RL. Whether you want to stroll the streets of 1920s Berlin, walk the corridors of the Hotel Chelsea or dance to the music you grew up with, there’s something, somewhere for you to be found inworld.

All of which brings me back to the music that I fondly recall from my youth, because I’m about to be indulged! My good friend and landlady, Moon, is opening a brand new club – The New Moon – where apparently, ‘the neon is louder than the music’; and tonight will be its inaugral pre-opening event. The music will be from the 80s and I’m certain we’ll have a fab time – and, if you have a hankeing for the music of your youth, I can’t recommend a better place to be, and even if you don’t get all misty-eyed at memories of the sound of Duran Duran and The Cure, why not come along anyway and broaden those musical horizons? Find it here, tonight, 9pm UK/1pm SLT. Better still, join the Moonletters group and keep up to date with forthcoming events at the New Moon before they happen!

Second Life… Where the past is just a click away!

s. x

I wanna be the one to walk in the sun
Oh girls, they wanna have fun
Ho hoo girls just wanna have
That’s all they really want
Is some fun

Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Posted in Events, Musicality, Party guests, RL, SL, Tour Guide | 2 Comments

The man in the blue hat

Some years ago, I was fortunate to travel to Bali – a place renowned as a tropical paradise and for its beaches and surf, although I have no interest whatsoever in beach holidays, and my days of messing about on the waves were sadly, even then, long gone. What Bali also possesses however, is a fascinating culture, traditional lifestyles, incredible scenery and architecture, and a mystical element to everyday life that is completely unknown to most of us from the West… Things that tick all the boxes as far as Yours Truly is concerned.

We went during Galungan, which meant that there would be some incredible photographic and cultural moments to capture and be part of, some of which would almost certainly be ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences – so you can imagine that I would be in my element.

I didn’t go alone; there was a small group of us, a mixed bunch that included a Balinese girl whose family we’d be spending some time with, and a guy who was very much a seasoned traveller as a result of his job that had seen him spend time in a number of weird, wonderful and way-out places, and whose tales of foreign adventures had entertained us all at many a social get-together. You’d imagine that he’d be the perfect travelling companion, however, surprisingly it was he who turned out to be a liability, a danger to himself and – at times – a complete pain in the rear end. Let’s call him Sid.

It was Sid who almost got abducted when, refusing to pay hotel exchange rates, took a solo trip to town, where he was persuaded by a random stranger to go to some back-alley money dealer, who then proceeded to fleece him of all his cash, refusing to return his passport until he’d handed over the lot! It was Sid who became so paranoid about our hire vehicle being stolen that he insisted on sitting inside, in the baking heat for 3 hours, whilst the rest of us explored a temple complex, then complained that we’d been gone too long. It was Sid who, in his anxiety to exit that same vehicle, forced his way out of the back seat before I’d had the chance to retrieve my prized 300mm lens from the seat in front, crushing it underneath the folding seat-back! And, it was Sid who insisted on wearing the ridiculous blue, floppy sun hat.

There was nothing that screamed ‘tourist’ more that Sid, bumbling around, constantly checking over his shoulder, in that stupid blue hat; more to the point, he had an unerring ability to suddenly appear in the most annoying fashion whenever you didn’t want him around.

I lost count of the number of spoiled photographs of breath-taking vistas, busy marketplaces, mystical temples and glimpses of Balinese culture that resulted from Sid suddenly appearing just at the moment I released the shutter. I’d spend ages setting-up the perfect shot, only for Sid to bumble into frame just as all the elements came together: Rustic village marketplace, with man in blue hat staring abstractedly at his fingers… Paddy fields with the sun rays spilling between the clouds and glinting off the waters, with man in blue hat striding across the scene, casting his massive, elongated afternoon shadow… Balinese masons, chipping away at blocks of stone, and somehow popping up right in their midst, that stupid blue hat!

I’m sure he was completely unaware of the frustration he caused; it was just in his nature to constantly be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.

Now, Sid may not – thankfully – be abroad in SL, but it seems that there are many Sid-alikes inworld, and for some reason, I seem to attract them wherever I go. They may not be wearing daft blue hats, but nevertheless they manage to detract from the moment whenever they appear, and it’s all I can do not to scream at them whenever they cross my path.

You’ll be aware that I enjoy exploring the varied locations of SL, and part of the enjoyment comes from being able to compose screenshots that capture the essence of a place. SL being what it is, it’s a rare occasion that you can simply ‘fire from the hip’ and capture the perfect image – there’s invariably tweaking of environmental controls, careful positioning and framing, and a fair bit of waiting for textures to fully rez. Then, once everything is spot on, and I’m about to click away, some numpty Sid-alike appears in the middle of the picture from nowhere. Sometimes they’ll just TP to the spot, then hover as an annoying curry cloud, obscuring the view… Other times, they’ll walk into shot, and decide that having done so, it’s the perfect place to hang around while they go AFK for a poo or to walk the dog for half an hour! Then there are the running men – it’s always male avatars – who for some reason have AOs that only permit them to sprint everywhere, rather than walk. At the precise moment I’m about to commit my picture to disk, they’ll charge across the screen, and then they’ll do exactly the same thing two or three times more, just to make the point.

I find it intensely irritating, so much so, that I’ll purposely check the map before arrival to ensure a location is as free from people as possible, I try to stay away from landing zones and obvious pathways and routes, and I avoid times of day that are likely to attract high volumes of visitors. Nevertheless, you can gurantee that within moments of finishing preparations for the perfect shot, the region will suddenly be overrun with people, all jostling to be the most annoying and intrusive they can!

There’s another type of Sid-alike that I find quite creepy. They’re the ones who hang around in the immediate vicinity for no apparent reason, other than making their presence known. Even before the apocalypse, I was always a fan of social distancing, even inworld, and for me a decent personal space would happily extend to half a region away – anything closer, and I’d get twitchy. However, people do seem to gravitate towards me, to within a few metres or closer, where they hover – making no attempt to interact or communicate (and no, I’m not going to make that effort either – I really don’t want to encourage them), and just silently, creepily, loiter. Invariably, after a minute or two of being too close for comfort, I inevitably absent myself and find somewhere less-crowded to be… Of course, it doesn’t stay that way for long, and within a short space of time I find myself, once-again, surrounded by members of the virtual blue hat brigade.

All I want is a bit of space to myself, without having to peer around random strangers, is that too much to ask?

s. x

Well I wandered off to Ubud, just a little up the track
One week there didn’t want to come back
Listening to Gamelon playing guitar

Redgum – I’ve Been To Bali Too

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Who’s in charge?

It’s a general rule in life that there are a wide range of situations where, if things are to work out for the best, somebody needs to be in charge. In work, sporting activities, education, disaster relief, politics and pretty much every organised venture, you’re going to need a co-ordinator, referee, manager, leader or organiser, otherwise things go rapidly downhill, and can end in disaster.

There are, of course, alternative methodologies – collectives, cooperatives, committees, and flat networks, for example, and they can work extremely well in some circumstances, however for the vast majority of day to day activities, there will usually be somebody calling the shots.

Sometimes, this can be a bad thing – top-heavy hierarchies and bureaucracies are notoriously unresponsive when required to act reflexively; dictatorships are prone to abuse of power, and power struggles, coups, dissension and abuse are rife throughout all types of practice, which – in turn – has resulted in the evolution of rules of conduct, rigid terms of reference, methodologies for advancement and business structures. Some would argue these can, on occasion, be as detrimental as letting things just work themselves out – I think that’s probably misconcieved, but it might be fun to see it in action!

It’s said that Harry S. Truman had a plaque on his desk, stating ‘The buck stops here’, and I think it’s an important point that leaders – whether or not they are considered effective or otherwise – often fail to appreciate. With power, comes responsibility and accountability, but these are not always qualities that we see demonstrated by our leaders, more’s the pity. This being the case, we may have recourse to the aforesaid rules and regulations – which is helpful in the real world, but in a virtual world setting, things can be very different.

To begin with, the very question ‘Who’s in charge’ may be a difficult one to answer in some circumstances in SL. Ultimately, of course, it’s the Lindens who are in overall control of the world, however things can become somewhat unclear when it comes to interpersonal, commercial and other types of everyday activities, where the Lindens either do not, or should not intervene, and without clear understanding of where responsibility, accountability and authority lie, that can result in significant problems for residents who just want to get on with their SLives in relative peace and quiet.

Things can get really thorny in situations where we find ourselves having to contend with self-appointed, or assumed, leaders who often spontaneously evolve within groups inworld. Whether this is by dint of popularity, hunger for power, assertivenes, bullying, or even by default, because no-one else will take a lead, it’s not particularly satisfactory. Some situations/gatherings simply do not need someone in charge, and when somebody steps up to do it nevertheless, then it’s usually for all the wrong reasons. We also find that a self-appointed leader can often be coercive, misinformed, self-serving and frequently wields the power, but lacks the accountability and responsibility that are also necessary – such ‘leaders’ are also going to lack any authority, or for that matter, any means of asserting authority other than sheer brashness, bullying and coercion.

On the other hand, we can find that those who really are in charge in SL, may often shy away from employing their power to deal with problems, frequently allowing bad behaviour to flourish or allowing others to have their own way, with no formal power-exchange. So, we see club owners who tolerate bad behaviour, store owners who give in to unreasonable customer demands, and roleplay sims where factions arise and individuals with no real authority are calling the shots and dictating what people should believe and do. It’s a badly-skewed, destructive perspective and leads to discontent, disrespect, break-ups and bad behaviour.

There is, however, as far as I can see, a pretty clear structure to power in SL, and I’ve never understood why so few people fail to understand or observe it. So, here’s my take on who’s in charge in SL, and I think it’s a pretty straightforward and helpful guide, should you ever find yourself questioning either what you should do, or to whom you should turn to if you find yourself in a situation where the buck really does need to stop:

The property punch-up
Real estate issues inworld are actually pretty simply resolved – sim/land owners and managers wield absolute power. My top tip: never upset a land owner, unless you fancy being booted and banned. They can, and will, kick you and your property out for any reason they choose – it could be because you’re an arse, refuse to behave according to the land covenant, annoy the neighbours, or haven’t paid the rent. Equally, they just might not like you, or object to your hairstyle – they have no obligation to let you in if they don’t want to. Don’t fall into the misbelief that you have a contract: You don’t. When it comes to land, the buck stops with the owner, end of. Don’t believe me? – Then consider this: They have a button to eject you… You don’t.

Club corruption
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a live music venue, dance hall or pub. The owner, ultimately, is the person in charge. However many clubs delegate specific powers to managers or hosts – often the ability to join and eject, or the authority to have a quiet word with trouble-makers. DJs, unless they also fall into one of the above categories, usually have no power or authority, so if they start slagging you off for not tipping, you can simply mute them. This system only works though when there’s a formal structure in place: Too often, in venues like this, you find self-appointed ‘spokespersons’ who have no authority, but act as if they do, often because they’re charismatic, own the best dance HUD or are just loud-mouthed and bossy. In situations like this, it’s worth calling them out and asking them outright ‘who put you in charge?’

Another important point to note in these settings is that if you’re the sort of person who likes to cause trouble, stir things up, and create animosity between members and form cliques, or even badmouth other unconnected clubs and events, then karma is going to nobble you in the end. What you’re successfully doing is undermining the venue’s reputation – that will put people off going, create a bad vibe, lose members and revenue and eventually even the dimmest club owner is going to wise up to the fact you’re destroying their hard work… Guess what happens next?

Roleplay ruckus
Not going to go into this in too much depth – the vast majority of roleplay sims have comprehensive rules that they expect to be followed, designated enforcers who have both the authority and capability to deal with issues that may arise, and well-rehearsed processes for making sure the rules are respected. Read that notecard on arrival, and keep it with you.

As for individual, informal, roleplay, (do I really need to say this?), it’s up to the participants to discuss and agree their own terms and conditions up front, and then stick to them. Commonsense really, but I realise you can’t mitigate for stupid every time. If you do find youself in a TOS-breaking scenario, report it to the Lindens; covenant-breaker, contact the land owner; anything else, [CTRL]+[Q] and don’t go back – in this case, you’re in charge, even if you’ve previously agreed that you’re not!

Store shennanagins
Let’s get something straight, once and for all, the customer is not always right. That’s nonsense. The customer is sometimes right and even when they are right, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have any particular rights above and beyond those of whatever contractual agreement they’ve entered into. If you haven’t purchased anything, you’re not a customer; if you’ve asked a creator to custom-make you something and they say ‘no’, you’re not a customer; if you can’t make your clothes fit because you have a weird-shaped body that clothes are simply not going to fit under any circumstances, you’re a jerk if you complain.

The store owner is in much the same position as a club owner – they are in charge, but they may choose to delegate power and responsibility to customer service reps, however they will almost always tell you their policies. If their profile says to submit complaints by notecard and you insist on pestering them by IM, don’t expect a response – the vast majority of store owners and creators are reasonable people and will be happy to discuss and try to resolve problems if you treat them as such. If however, you’re just going to post angry product reviews and tell all your friends never to shop there, you’ll probably get a ban, and it won’t effect their business one little bit.

So, there you are, my take on who’s in charge. You may diasagree, or take issue with some of the points I’ve made, and – of course – you’re entirely within your rights to do so, but whatever position you take with what I say in this blog, just remember, I’m in charge.

And, the buck stops here.

s. x

You come on with it, come on
You don’t fight fair
But that’s okay, see if I care
Knock me down, it’s all in vain
I get right back on my feet again

Pat Benatar – Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Trouble in Paradise

I generally keep the content of these posts fairly light-hearted and try to avoid anything that’s only going to be relevant to a particular group or inworld community. After all, if I’m going to witter on here about events and people that you neither know, nor care about, it’s hardly going to be riveting reading. I also try to keep my personal inworld thoughts and feelings out of the public eye, although that never used to be the case: When I first started blogging, many of my posts were overly-emotional, angsty, drama-laden diatribes, where I’d happily name and shame protagonists and bore the reader with the perceived injustices of a fresh-faced new avatar struggling to find their feet in a strange and provocative virtual world.

Thank goodness, in a fit of pique, I consigned that particular blog to the oblivion of destruction, although if I’m honest, the early days of this – its successor – were not without their regular emotional crises!

Now, I hope that maturity, objectivity and a Second Life that manages – usually – to skirt around and avoid drama, results in a more balanced and sensible sort of blog: One that requires few disclaimers, isn’t too shouty and is hopefully, in consequence, a fairly enjoyable read.

However, there comes a point where even the most level-headed and laid-back commentator on virtual life can be driven to say ‘enough is enough’ and feel a strong need to vent.

I have reached that point.

Against my better judgement, I’m not going to go into all the gory details, or name names. Although I would actually sorely like to publicly lambast one or two individuals who are thoroughly deserving of being hauled over the coals and shown up for the utterly shameful examples of gutter-dwelling inhumanity they really are. This time, I shall not do that, even so I’m pretty sure that the content of today’s post will no doubt reach them by some means, and I’m sure they’ll have no difficulty in recognising themselves from it; and believe me, if as a result I receive a single iota of unfounded criticism, bad-mouthing, or the same sort of illicit lies, undermining and downright shitty behaviour that they’ve dished out to my friends, then I’ll have no hesitation in completely screwing them over so hard they’d wish they’d never discovered SL! Names, actions and chat logs that they really won’t want shared will come out for all to see. Fair warning.

For now, I’ll let it lie, but not without saying that karma can be a bitch, you reap what you sow, and what goes around comes around (that should cover all philosophies, religious and otherwise).

When people in SL deliberately spread lies, rumours and bad feeling where it’s not merited, and manipulate those around them into positions where they blindly follow the crowd, choosing not to question or establish the true facts, you can’t help but feel pity for them and those around them. I’m constrantly surprised that otherwise intelligent and sensible people can allow themselves to be so easily led by those out to do mischief, but apparently they can. Weak fools, the lot of them.

There are, of course, perfectly rational reasons why people – particularly in the parochial and tight-knit environment of SL – allow themselves to be drawn into such untenable and unfortunate positions. At the top of this unpleasant food chain there are those who employ their poularity and a ruthless determination to be top-dog in order to build a following. They are generally talentless, self-serving individuals who parasitise others around them who are more able, more successful and more intelligent than themselves. They exert control over them, eventually subdue them and effectively become their puppeteers, controlling and manipulating them, by employing underhand and shameful tactics. Like the Black Widow, they tantalise their victims with offers of sex and sustenance, only to consume them when they have what they want.

Having gained a foothold and a subservient lackey or two, others are then caught up in the web of deceit. This can be for many reasons: Fear of missing out, fear of being different, fear of being bullied, fear of being ostracised, fear of being unpopular and, finally, some will jump on the bandwagon because it paves the way for personal gain, kudos, or allows them to do something that they would otherwise not have the opportunity of pursuing. None of those are particularly good reasons to follow someone, particularly someone who primarily has their own interests, rather than yours, at heart. Although, certainly, it’s an effective way to exert power and influence over people and establish a following of docile, unquestioning, puppets. After all, it worked for Macchiavelli, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Ceaușescu, Trump… Who wouldn’t want to revel in that sort of company?

Well, not me. So I don’t.

Y’know what though – if that’s what you want, you’re welcome to it. Just don’t come running to me in tears when it all goes bad. I’m done with you.

s. x

The devil has no soul
Doesn’t love who he fucks
Plays his cards wrong
Down on his luck

Throwing Muses – Sue’s

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment