It is but a dream…

dreamsJust lately, that feeling has been coming over me, a feeling I seem to get around this time every year. It’s a sort of despondent, wistful, lethargy – as the Springtime world comes back to life around me, I fall into a soporific stupor, convinced I should be ‘doing something’, but completely failing to manage it; downtime becomes uninspired, lacklustre and dull. And it’s intensely irritating.

I hate being inactive and indecisive, yet for some reason it always happens about now, however in recent years there’s been one thought, quietly loitering at the back of my mind, which starts to push its way to the fore when all else is succumbing to that feeling of flatness… a thought that says: ‘It feels like it could almost be time to start working on the SL birthday celebrations’. Just as the trees know exactly the right time to burst into leaf, and the swallows know precisely when they should start their journey back in whatever direction it is they fly in the Spring, there’s an unconscious and and completely unexplainable part of my brain that kicks into gear at a precise moment, and says: “It’s time!”

bench4_001Sure enough, within just a couple of days of the thought occurring to me, a pre-announcement announcement pinged onto my screen: ‘It’s coming… watch this space’ – the timing was almost uncanny, and it came at a point when I most needed that particular snippet of news.

I’d been kicking my heels for weeks, unsure of how to fill my SL time… building something seemed the obvious solution, but what should I build? Now, at least, I knew that decision would be taken from me – all I had to do was wait for the theme to be announced, and it would all systems go! That’s when I go from zero to hero: Torpor is shaken off, and the lack of inspiration vanishes – a sense of purpose and activity descends, and I feel that I’m back in the saddle, ready to do battle once more with prims, scripts and textures, in a frantic and frenzied few weeks of concentrated madness. Then there’s the suspense – did I get a plot? – the craziness of getting everything finished, followed by the fun and frolics of the Main Event itself. I love it!

So perhaps I do go a little overboard about the birthday bash – after all, there are many events that take place in SL that could be considered equally meritworthy and might well be bigger – Relay for Life, Burn2 and so on – but, to be honest, I’ve never really felt an affinity with any festival other than SLB, and so that’s where my interest lies.

goodnight1_001I do wonder whether that affinity goes deeper than I suspected though. I seem to have somewhat more in the way of synchronicity this year than ever before. Not only did my thoughts pre-empt the announcement of SL12B by no more than a couple of days, but my thought processes have been spookily in tune with the event plans. Let me explain: I rarely dream, but this Tuesday I did. My dream saw me conjuring up a birthday build that was based, coincidentally, on the theme of dreaming. Then, out of the blue, Wednesday saw the announcement that SL12B was up and running, and guess what this year’s theme is: “What dreams may come!”

Obviously, having already decided on my exhibit the night before, my application was off in a shot – bit of an unfair advantage, really – but just how freaky is that?

I’m excited about the theme – anything that combines SL, creativity and Shakespeare has got to have a wealth of potential, although with all the luscious things that the Bard penned about dreams, it strikes me as just a little bit odd that the organisers should pick one focussed on death! Ah well, we’ll just gloss over that and concentrate on the fun, shall we?

So, it’s time for me to don my overalls and start brushing up on some new techniques, whilst inworld, I’ll be spending an inordinate amount of time beavering away on my build platform in the sky, but I’ll be happy and that pesky feeling that I should be doing something, rather than moping around and letting the virtual world pass me by will be just a memory, or should that be… a half-forgotten dream?

You can find out more about SL12B at the official blog.

s. x

Won’t you please come out to play?
I’m only dreaming, I’m only dreaming
Small Faces – I’m Only Dreaming

 

Posted in Builder's bum, SL, SL12B | 2 Comments

Doppelgänger

doppelOne of the fun things about being one of the ‘older’ generation of SL residents is having an extended family, across the Grid, of avatars who share your last name. There’s something just a little bit special about the feeling you get when you spot someone on the radar with that familiar appellation – a sort of kinship that comes from knowing that here is someone who first rezzed around the same time as your own avatar and made the rather astute choice of picking such an inspired second name.

Even better if you’ve made the happy choice of selecting a possibly less popular name – I’ve not yet met another Haven on any of my travels, there’s only ever been about 1250 of us inworld. It gives one a sense of uniqueness, and if I ever do run into one of my cousins-by-nomenclature, it’ll just make it all the more fun when I do. What you tend to expect rather less, especially if you have a rather less common first name, is to bump into someone blessed with the same or a similar to yourself, especially in unusual circumstances. My name is a bit odd anyway – I forget whether I’ve ever explained its provenance to you: It’s complicated, so maybe some other time… and yes, it’s supposed to be spelled like that, it’s a name, not a happy accident!

Serendipper has just visited your land.

Eh, what? Who?

Somebody with a name suspiciously like mine is wandering around my plot? What’s that all about then?

peaceful_001It’s moments like that when the old SL paranoia kicks in – instantly I’m wondering if I have a stalking griefer, or maybe even a griefing stalker! Visions of some ne’er do well, out to sully my good name for some imagined slight I’ve committed against them in the distant past cloud my mind; worse still, I imagine this could be some hopelessly enamoured soul, a psycho-fan, quite possibly someone who looks and dresses like me and is now trying to absorb the very essence of my pixel being from the vibes of my land! The thought leaps into my head that at this very moment they might be sampling my bed, drinking my virtual coffee, or lazily soaking in my perfumed pixel bath… Oh, my goodness!

Then rationality takes hold and gives me a good, hard shake. Calmly, I look up my stalker’s visitor’s profile, gritting my teeth and expecting to find they’ve copied and pasted my words into their blank spaces… but no, all’s well and I needn’t have worried. This is no C&P copy-catter, it’s just an ordinary person, with an ordinary profile, and nothing that even remotely suggests that she’s ever heard of me.

I breathe again and relax, and then another thought occurs to me:

What if she’s poking around Nowhere Land, consumed with SL paranoia over who on earth is this strange person, with the ever-so-similar name? Perhaps she’s having a good old nose at my own profile right now, checking out my groups and poring over my Picks for the slightest clue that funny business might be afoot!

No, of course she’s not. And, even if she is, I was here first – I can’t possibly be stalking myself! Crikey, now I’m even starting to doubt my own convictions.

A strong coffee and a decent dose of perspective later, and I’m seeing things much more clearly. Similar name, but by no means the same; happens to be exploring my parcel – well, isn’t that what I invite everyone to do? Acting suspiciously – not in the slightest; any connection with me at all – almost certainly not. It’s just one of those weird and wonderful coincidences that happen all the time, not only in SL, but in the real world too.

And there’s one final clincher that convinces me there’s nothing untoward going on… Who am I kidding? I’m not nearly famous enough to have a stalker!

I live in hope though!

s. x

Just when I think of escape then
There’s a fact I can’t hide
I go back to where I left her
But there’s nothing inside
Just these neon reflections
The Action – Shadows And Reflections

 

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Polarised poison

poisonWhat is it about the internet and SL in particular that manages to distil the less attractive traits of humanity into their purest form so effectively? We’ve all seen at some time or other just how fetid and bitter the otherwise placid surface of the interweb can be once you stir up some of the silt that lies just below.

Perhaps this is most clearly seen on Youtube – ostensibly a site for the sharing of videos, but in reality – as anybody even remotely au fait with the sort of comments that accompany such videos will attest – is a swirling cesspit of malcontent, bigotry and hatred. There is no logical reason why the comments following a cute kittens video should rapidly progress from “Aww.. I died from cuteness” to abusive diatribes, racial slurs and attacks against faiths, but they always do. There is no better place to see Godwin’s Law in action or for topping up one’s vocabulary of profanity, and the same effect can be seen anywhere on the .net where sharing of views is encouraged.

So you’d expect to see the same sort of thing occurring in SL too? Not necessarily -certainly, there are occasions when people’s emotions get the better of them, resulting in some pretty odious behaviour, and I won’t deny that there are those in SL who take great pleasure in creating, encouraging and participating in drama, but on the whole people inworld tend to be fairly engaging, rational and placid types who’d much rather be having fun, than having an argument. Let’s face it, SL is a massively collaborative environment and if we were utterly determined not to get along then the whole place would rapidly and catastrophically fall to pieces. So, in many ways, it’s in everybody’s interests not to rock the boat too much and, most of the time that we’re inworld, we don’t.

volatile1_001Take us outside the protective atmosphere of SL though and a strange and terrifying transformation occurs.

Outside the confines of the virtual world, normally rational and friendly types can turn into demons, baying for blood, and utterly incapable of getting along with each other. Take, for example, the SL frequenters medium of choice – Plurk – if ever there was a breeding ground of virtual discontent, Plurk is it. It’s a great frothing cesspit of anger, ire and little virtual Hitlers, all determined to slag each other off longer, harder and more thoroughly that anyone else around them. And, when Plurk spills over, the virus spreads unabated to other sites… SL forums populated by armies of ex-residents with an axe to grind, just waiting to wade into the fray; and ‘blogs’ whose sole aim seems to be to encourage the spread of vitriol and abuse – often on a very personal level, (even down to naming, shaming and blaming) – and all without any qualms whatsoever.

In fact, when compared to the rest of the internet community, it wouldn’t surprise me if SL folks are amongst the snarkiest, nastiest and vile drama-mongerers in the cyberverse – albeit, only when they’re not inworld. It seems we’re a bunch of Jekyll and Hydes – nice as pie when we’re in pixel mode, but evil as sin once we re-assume human form. Not everyone falls into this pattern, of course, indeed we may only be talking about a tiny minority, but the vocal nature of this peculiar bunch makes up for any deficit in numbers, and I can’t help but be concerned that the world in general might tar us all with the same brush.

Then again, maybe I’ve nothing to worry about because the vast majority of all this nonsense tends to be contained within a fairly narrow demographic, almost all of it forums, blogs and websites dedicated to plumbing the less savoury depths of the SL psyche. The wider world is probably – hopefully – blissfully unaware of any of it.

Personally, if that’s how people choose to behave, I’m happy to let them get on with it, just don’t expect me to join the party!

s. x

We need the words
We speak the words
Of consequent deception
C-Drone Defect – Hypocrite

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

Wednesday, between 9am and 5pm?

onlineYou know me well enough by now to have gathered that, whilst I’m fairly mild-mannered and evenly balanced most of the time, there are some things in life that drive me barmy. Usually, they’re the sort of things for which there is no real justification, but somehow we choose to tolerate them and put up with the inconvenience without a whimper of malcontent.

Anyone who has ever felt stupid about walking through the whole length of the zigzag maze of barriers to get to the front of the queue at the post office – when there’s no-one else queueing – will know exactly what I mean: we could, of course, just walk around the outside of the barriers,  or even duck under them, but deep down inside we know that’s a terribly bad thing to do, so we tolerate the inconvenience and never say a word.

Then there’s the bane of modern mail-order shopping… the dreaded delivery date. “I waited in all day for a delivery that finally arrived at 5pm”, lamented a friend in SL recently, and everyone knew exactly how he felt. I find it hard to believe that we can land a spaceship on a spinning comet, within a window of a few seconds, yet the best we can do when delivering a washing machine across town is, “It’ll be with you next Wednesday, sometime between 9am and 5pm”. The same is true of gas fitters, telephone engineers and plumbers – you may be lucky and get a choice between AM and PM, but the truth is you may as well book yourself a week or two off work, just to make sure you’re in when they eventually decide to turn up. As for sofas, forget it: one of the constants of the universe, along with the speed of light and Jeremy Clarkson offending someone, is that you’ll never be able to have a sofa delivered before Christmas. I’ve never understood why this should be the case, it’s not as if they have to grow the damn things from seed!

In fact the whole delivery business is a complete fiasco – the massive growth of eBay and Amazon means that, if we ever want to see our goods, we’re practically held prisoner in our own homes, afraid to pop to the loo or make a cuppa, just in case we’re indisposed when the delivery van turns up. Or, you can just leave it to luck… hoping that your parcel won’t require a signature, will fit through your letter box, won’t be thrown in your garden and isn’t going to be taken away and a card left explaining all your ‘options’ for redelivery. Speaking of which, since when was it helpful to offer to deliver a parcel in exactly the same manner that the company was unable to deliver the parcel previously? Why are these people never prepared to offer collection or delivery outside working hours, or on weekends, and why are their collection depots always located further away than you’d normally travel on a long-haul holiday?

Things, I fear, can only become worse as online shopping and store to door deliveries become ever more the norm. At least in SL things are a bit easier… but, wait a minute, there used to be a time when we couldn’t even say that.

vague_001It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the SL Marketplace held all the charm of online shopping, but with none of the advantages. You could peruse stores at your leisure, knowing the goods displayed would always be in stock; you could breeze around from store to store, filling up your shopping cart, happy in the knowledge that you’d have a second chance to reconsider your purchases before committing to buy. Then a couple of simple clicks, and everything was done. Everything, that is, apart from the butt-clenching, nerve-wracking, heart-stopping wait between payment and delivery, which is where it all went horribly wrong. Items you’d bought would arrive in no particular order and at no specified time; some would turn up twice, whilst others would disappear forever, leaving you with the frustrating dilemma of working out just how long you should reasonably wait before you gave in and screamed ‘failed delivery!’ Inevitably, within seconds of receiving your replacement goods, the originals would miraculously appear inworld!

However, that was in the bad old days, and things have improved tremendously – the vast majority of our purchases arrive – if not instantly – shortly thereafter, all neatly sorted into our ‘received items’ carrier bag. It’s a fairly rare occurrence these days for things to go missing and – best of all – you don’t have to be ‘at home’ to take delivery of anything… so much better than RL! No UPS drivers going postal with your parcels, and no trekking across half the country to collect your latest purchase, just because the delivery driver won’t push it through your letterbox without a signature.

Isn’t it great when the virtual world performs so much better than the real one?

Now, if only the Lindens could sort out Marketplace search so that it actually worked, I’d be a happy bunny :)

s. x

No one on the corner has swagger like us
Hit me on my Burner prepaid wireless
We pack and deliver like UPS trucks
Already going hell just pumping that gas
M.I.A. – Paper Planes

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Head in the clouds

10689794_856360964374177_3861229625281324680_nHas it ever struck you that we spend an awful lot of time extolling the virtues of sl as a 3D environment and yet the fact that our real lives are spent entirely in another 3D environment seems to almost completely pass us by.

Somehow, thinking of the real world in the same sort of terms that we constantly use as reference points in SL only rarely occurs to us in the massively richer and more complex environment of the real world. Is it simply that we just take the world around us for granted or are there other more subtle factors that come into play regarding how we relate to things around us?

Whilst inworld we’re often acutely aware that we’re functioning in three dimensions – our actions, activities and movements are plotted, determined and calculated by coordinates: our location is a set of numbers and every item and object that surrounds us has a fixed point in space to which it has been allocated.

Contrast this with our everyday world where the only time we get excited about coordinates is when programming the satnav, or if our work profession requires us to. Most of the time, despite spending our entire lives in a three dimensional environment, we tend to spend most of it only thinking in two dimensions.

skytrain_001X and Y give us little trouble, but Z -otherwise known as ‘up’ and ‘down’ is left very much in the background. Even when it does occur to us that we can occupy those planes that fall above and below the couple of metres which form the focus of most of our daily activity we tend to do so within fairly limited constraints – up and down tend to fall within the boundaries of where the stairs lead to, or which floors the elevator is stopping, with an occasional foray into the heady heights of the odd mountain range. If we do consider the sky, it’s either in terms of what we can see in it, or paying what is literally a flying visit during a plane journey.

In rl, the Z axis is there, but as long as it doesn’t bother us, we don’t bother it. Consequently, despite living in a rich and wide ranging three dimensional world, most of the time we really only ever consider it in two dimensions.

Sl is very different, unlike the real physical world, Z is as accessible as X and Y. We’re not as profoundly limited to exploring the world on a single flat plane: we have all the possibilities that the sky and even below ground level also have to offer. There can be few people in possession of a plot of land who haven’t also taken the opportunity to exploit the sky above it too. Building platforms, sky boxes, changing rooms and discrete private hideaways abound, indeed some parts of the sky are more cluttered than the ground below them.

abyss observatory_001The parts of SL beneath the surface are perhaps less utilised, but that’s not to say that you won’t find a fair bit going on there. There are some constraints as to what can be achieved, depending on the lie of the land, but there are any number of enterprising and creative people out there who’ve come up with a few neat ideas that open up all sorts of possibilities. (Indeed, you can always cheat and build a skybox as a faux underground environment, something of a mind-bending inversion, but it does give you pretty much limitless ‘depth’ for an ‘underground’ build!) Cheats aside, there are plenty of mine shafts, caverns, sewers and underwater grottoes throughout SL to keep even the most discerning and demanding of virtual troglodytes and water sprites more than happy.

The ease with which we can access the virtual vertical plane is no doubt an important factor too. Unlike the real world, we don’t need specialist equipment or vehicles to plumb the ocean depths, or the sky’s limits; there’s no need to worry about drowning, explosive gases, depressurisation or any of the other hazards that we face when exploring the vertical in RL; It really is no more challenging than a walk in the park. This is why, in some ways, SL is actually far superior to the real world – even in the most crowded inworld spaces there can still be an enormous amount of room – often I’ve checked a out a spot on the world map, stuffed with green dots, only to find that none of those people can be seen: They’re hanging out at some subterranean club or partying away somewhere high above my head.

That’s the real beauty of a world that’s accessible in three dimensions, the amount of space you have to explore and available to use, is cubed whereas in the real world – until someone can come up with RL skyboxes – we may as well be living in just the two remain dimensions for most of the time.

s. x

I’m higher than high
Lower than deep
I’m doing it wrong
Singing along
Metric – Twilight Galaxy

 

Posted in RL, SL | 2 Comments

Bite the bullet or be bitten?

metanoiaOne of the great things about SL is that there are rarely any really bad decisions that you can make. Most difficult scenarios can be resolved by a quick switcheroo of the inventory, a judicious muting, or logging out whilst things cool back down. Money problems can be resolved fairly simply by dumping land or selling-up, or – perish the thought – not spending! And even the most toxic relationships need not spell disaster: when dumping a partner is simply a matter of clicking a button, with none of that ‘who gets the house and the kids’ hoohah and costly solicitors’ bills; indeed, some people change virtual spouses almost as often as they change their hair. Even if things were ever to get really unpleasant, having an alt handy can literally unlock a whole new life, with none of the problems of the old.

Not that there’s really all that much in the way of life-changing decisions to be made in Sl, (if you ignore the really big questions like, “The red boots? The blue? Or do I go the whole hog and blow all my loot on a fatpack?”), which is not to say that SL won’t ever exert its influence on the real world in a way that can be profound – we’ve all heard stories of neglect and broken RL relationships that have stemmed from SL. However, by and large, the choices and decisions we make inworld are unlikely to have significant lasting effects on our real lives, unless we do happen to strike it incredibly virtually rich, famous, or really do bump into our eventual life partner whilst taking a stroll along Giggles Beach.

Such things can, and do, happen but – out of the million or so SL account holders – it’s a relatively rare occurrence, and one that most of us will avoid in a whole virtual lifetime, during which the most world-shattering decisions we’ll generally have to make are barely going to ripple the fabric of our existence in the real world.

If only RL was that simple!

misali1_001I suppose that’s one of the fundamental differences that defines the line between real and virtual – most of the time it’s the decisions we make in real life that decide how things will unfold for us, and unlike the choices we make in the virtual world, mistakes can be costly in every possible way. Pick the wrong partner, career or mortgage in RL, and you can spend a lifetime regretting it. Even small decisions can have big outcomes – walk down the wrong alleyway in the wrong neighbourhood, cross the road at the wrong moment and you could conceivably be taking a terminal risk. Wear the wrong outfit to an interview, study the wrong topic for an exam, or bet on the wrong horse and it could take years to put right the damage… and much of the time we have no idea what the outcomes of the choices we make – pretty much blindly – are going to be.

It’s one of the reasons that I’m incredibly good at vacillating, prevaricating and procrastinating when it comes to dealing with questions outside my comfort zone in RL. Do it long enough and with enough determination and the outcome is likely to be taken out of your hands, or the hand of opportunity will go away and knock elsewhere. The future is uncertain, and the thought of making it even more uncertain can be horribly unattractive.

Over the past few years I’ve promised myself that whatever life choices I make, whether they turn out to be good, bad or indifferent, that’s the choice I’ve made and it’s pointless harbouring regrets, ‘what ifs’ and dredging up the past in ritual self-humiliation. Que sera, sera. This is a ploy that has worked remarkably well, but it’s not infallible – and, to be absolutely honest, it makes a great excuse for not stepping up to the plate and occasionally taking a punt at a wild opportunity. If I don’t stick my head above the parapet, no-one can shoot me down. This is a little odd because I’m actually someone who isn’t afraid of change, indeed I’m quite partial to adapting, altering and developing new realms within my own experience and ability, and if there’s one thing the past couple of years have shown me, I’m more than capable of rising to the challenge of quite significant personal change, which you could say in some ways has indeed been life-changing to some extent.

omega point 10_001And now I’m facing a bit of a dilemma – my workplace is undergoing a period of unprecedented change which has, in its turn, thrown up a potential opportunity that I’m finding hard to ignore. It’s a complete change of role, will involve an awful lot of travel and will expose me to situations and processes that are entirely new to me, but which I know I can master. Essentially it will mean project managing a multi-million pound IT infrastructure development, with a national remit, and thereafter… well, who knows? It will certainly be a game-changer for me, but am I just going to sit back and let the opportunity pass by?

By the time you read this, the decision will have been made, and I’ll have either bitten the bullet or be caught in the backdraft of a rapidly accelerating missed opportunity, which is precisely why I’ve delayed telling you about it. It’ll have to be my decision, and I’ll be making it on my own… so, let’s see what happens.

Did I, or didn’t I?

Will I take the fatpack, or walk away?

s. x

Indecisión me molesta
Si no me quieres, librame
Dime! ¿Qué tengo ser?
¿Sabes que ropa me quedar?
Pero tienes que decir
¿Me debo ir o quedarme?
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Should I Stay Or Should I Go

 

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 1 Comment

Blogging Bytes – 9th April 2015

escI’ve said it myself, and heard many others say it too: SL is a means of escaping from the real world… But, is the real world all that bad, after all?

It’s been a bright, sunny day, those around me have been in a happy mood and I’ve achieved all I’ve set out to do. Typing away here, listening to the birds as they settle down for the night, as the sunset streaks the sky, now turning inky blue, with vivid flame and cerise, I can’t helping thinking it’s not all that bad, after all.

And there’s an awful lot of world out there that’s probably not all that bad either. I really must try harder to experience more of it.

In the meantime, here are three more travels in wordistry:

Around the World in 100 Words.

s. x

All you fellas better change your ways
Yeah, they’re leaving this town in a matter of days
Girls are good, you better treat ’em true
I seen fellas running around with someone new
The Byrds – Leaving Here

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, Tales of the Road, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Blogtivist

pcThere are few subjects I shy away from in this blog, in fact if I have something I want to say I generally say it, and to hell with the consequences.

There are, however, some topics that I tend to avoid, not so much because they cross some imaginary line or are a little too sensitive to grace these pages, but rather because I have very little interest, per se, in them.

You will, for example, see relatively few posts about fashion, SL or otherwise, neither do I tend to talk much about the ‘adult’ side of virtual life, (stop sniggering at the back!), that’s not to say I don’t have an interest in rumpy pumpy, but I prefer my kinky exploits to take place in the real world as opposed to getting my rocks off watching a couple of cartoon people bump and grind on screen. The other topics that I don’t think I’ve ever covered are politics and religion; again, not because I have nothing to say about either topic, but mainly – and this will no doubt sound terribly wrong to some of you – because saying anything in particular about them simply doesn’t interest me.

I’m sure that if there’s anything pressing I feel compelled to vent about concerning either faith issues or the political climate, you’ll be the first to know, and you’ll be getting both barrels too; however don’t go holding your breath because I can’t see it occurring any time soon.

I know that amongst those reading, some of you will be horrified that I can’t whip up any enthusiasm for such important topics. I know that a  large number of you hale from across the pond and are very switched on to political and religious debate, whilst my compatriots from closer to home will probably relate more readily to my stance… It’s likely very much a Brit thing.

Part of that Brit thing is the knowledge that such topics are inherently divisive, as is pointedly evident at a club I regularly frequent. This is a place where there is a distinct absence of ‘rules’ – conversation can, and frequently does, pursue a path that not only crosses the line but leaves it trampled over, barely discernible and distant on the horizon. Nobody there ever really intends to be overtly offensive or politically incorrect, but the general view is that taboos are meant to be broken – we’re all grown-ups and we take it in our stride with good humour and more than a decent pinch of salt. To give you some idea of a typical night’s conversation, some of the more eyebrow-raising discussions have covered toilet habits, petrol-driven vibrators, dwarf throwing, the biscuit game and butthole waxing – so pretty much anything goes you’d imagine. Wrong – venture even remotely into the political or religious arena and you’ll incur the profound wrath of everyone present. In simple terms, these are subjects where you can almost guarantee that somebody will get offended beyond what is reasonable, and you can bet your bottom linden that within moments any fun, enjoyment and bonhomie will have been drained from the proceedings, leaving only ire, vituperation and frostiness.

pulp_001I’ve seen it happen so many times in SL – which, unlike RL, is so reliant upon communicating by way of simple text without the moderating influence of body language, tone and eye-contact, and so can even more rapidly than RL, descend into a complete slanging match as misunderstanding escalates into alienation and conflict. Even with close friends, I’d be careful expressing any point of view inworld about these subjects – they are matters that people do tend to feel strongly about, with deeply held beliefs and affiliations: come across as attacking those and it amounts to an attack on the person, whether or not that’s what you intended.

In the run up to the general election in the UK, it would be naive to imagine that people won’t want to express their opinions, even if only in a humorous manner, however in the interests of virtual peace I’d counsel caution if you want to enter into a political debate inworld – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

That aside, there’s far too much intolerance, aggravation and disharmony in the real world that has at its source religious or political motivation and agenda and, to be absolutely honest with you, it can stay in the real world as far as I’m concerned – I’d rather it didn’t find its way into SL, thank you very much.

Avoiding the issue? Maybe… And I’m happy to talk it through with you – my email is in the sidebar – but definitely not in SL!

s. x

Oh this is an old story that’s rarely ever told
the raping of the country, of the valley
the men who came to reap with a musket and a bible
they wanted to take the valley
The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Ironmasters

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | 4 Comments

Just a number

ageHow old are you?

In the context of this blog, or being asked inworld, that question can generate one of two completely different responses – neither of which may be strictly accurate, depending on how truthful we wish to be and exactly how we choose to define age, in terms of our avatar – I’ve written before on the latter topic, which you can find here if it interests you.

When it comes to our actual RL age then I find myself bound to ask the question, “Does that even matter?” – the only scenario I can imagine that it might possibly have some bearing is if you’re intending to arrange some sort of real world assignation with another resident and don’t want a yawning age gap to stand in your way. To a lesser extent, perhaps, you might want to take the same precautions if you want to get jiggy with someone inworld, but to my mind if you’re going to bump pixels with someone you’re never going to see or meet in the flesh, just how relevant is age anyway?

old_001In the space of a few days recently, I’ve been asked my real age on three separate occasions and – to be absolutely honest – I’ve not felt the urge to respond in anything but the vaguest terms: I don’t care how old my fellow residents are, and it really shouldn’t make any difference to anyone else whether I’m in my nineties, or fresh out of my teens. There are a small handful of friends who do indeed know my real age, but they are all people with whom I’ve interacted in other ways, outside of SL. Within my inworld circle of close friends there are probably a core group of us who fall within the same broad age group, but similarly, I have close friends whose real ages range from young twenties through to well into retirement, but if nobody pointed it out, you’d never know.

It’s easy to make false assumptions about people’s RL circumstances based on what we think we know about them inworld. You might, for example, guess me to be older than I am, simply from the type of music gatherings I’m found at in SL – and you’d be wrong: a fair whack of the music I enjoy is more allied to my parents’ era than mine, although I’m equally happy listening to current trends too. Coming to think of it, I was never particularly enamoured with the music that I, and my peers grew up with, instead I tended to pursue rather less conventional musical tastes – although, these days I love all that music I missed at the time!

ufo_002It’s simply not possible to come to accurate conclusions about people without a rich source of supporting data. If I was to tell you, for example, that I’m currently working my way through watching the whole of Gerry Anderson’s UFO series, there are a number of conclusions you might come to based on that information… that I’m reliving my youth; am a Gerry Anderson fan; I’m into UFOs; I have a fascination with modelling and animation; or possibly, I’ve a fetish for string vests, or purple-haired women. One of those assumptions is actually spot on, but as for the others… you’d be completely wrong. Such are the difficulties we can find ourselves in with SL, not just the perils of assuming somebody’s age, but pretty much in relation to anything and everything to do with them, unless we know for sure we are right.

However, I return to my original question: “Does that even matter?” – and I’d argue that it does not. Many of us choose to divorce some, if not all, details of our real lives from our virtual ones – SL is a form of escapism, and if it permits us be whatever we wish, young, old, male, female, cat, whatever, then it’s only natural that we are going to leave behind some elements of our real selves in pursuit of that virtual persona. What we see on screen – including whatever back story we elect to endow our avatars with – is what we wish to see, and it’s what we wish those around us to see also, whether or not it’s an accurate reflection of our real selves. In behaving this way we are not being deceptive or manipulative, any more than an actor on stage is attempting to fool the audience, we are simply stepping into a role and allowing ourselves and those around us to suspend disbelief for a short while, nothing more.

In many ways SL is like a pantomime… nobody ever protests from the audience that the Dame is really a man, not a woman after all, (or that the hero is actually a woman), and nobody ever shouts out that the Baron can’t marry the heroine because in real life he’s twice her age, and married to boot, (or maybe even already married to Buttons!) The whole point of panto is that it is quite patently not real, and neither my friends – no matter how real it may feel to us – is SL.

Personally, if somebody wants to tell me something about the real person behind their avatar, I feel very privileged – however, it’s not something I expect, feel I have any right to know or have any pressing need to be apprised of. If anything, there’s a very strong chance that I already have my own mind-picture of you which may not bear any resemblance to the real thing but is, for me, who you are…

And that, is good enough for me.

s. x

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you’re acting like you’re somebody else
Gets me frustrated
Remik – Complicated

 

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SL Gone!

goneMy apologies to those of you who may have had a mild heart attack reading today’s heading – Second Life is still very much with us, it’s Onlive’s SL Go whose days are numbered.

That, in itself, may not bother the huge numbers of SL users who’ve never heard of the service, but it is somewhat upsetting to those who used, enjoyed and could see the very real benefits of an SL streaming service where all the tricky processing work was done remotely, rather than in the user’s own client. The days of being able to explore SL with full graphics and minimal lag on an ageing machine will soon be left in the past.

The SL Go news is particularly surprising in the wake of so many rapid improvements made to the service in just the past few weeks – we had Firestorm for SL Go, linden dollars accepted as a subscription payment method, and most recently, mobile Firestorm – all incredibly useful and forward-thinking applications of the technology that will now vanish until somebody else has the time, cash and will to re-invent them.

This is not a case of a successful company biting off more than they can chew, neither is it a company failing and going to the wall – this is a simple case of asset stripping by one of the big boys in the playground: Sony wanted the tech, they had the financial muscle, and they flexed it. The downside is that Sony have no interest in preserving Onlive’s business, so it has to go.

slgoneThere will, no doubt, be recriminations – assertions that Onlive don’t care about their userbase and, by selling out to Sony, they have effectively lost any credibility they ever had… which, I’m afraid is incorrect. It’s business, plain and simple. Linden Lab did exactly the same thing with Avatars United, and it happens every day in the real world, whether we like it or not – everyone, every company, has their price.

Let’s consider this blog, for example: Much as I love it and love writing for it, if somebody out there saw something they wanted in these pages and were prepared to pay a sum I considered to be significant for it, they can have the lot, and I’m laughing all the way to the bank! Yes, I know there are some readers who’ll be shocked by that, some who will call it unethical, underhand and uncaring, but I disagree – and I’m sure that there are many, many others for whom a wad of cash sufficient to pay for a brand new car, new home or an early retirement would be enough to seal the deal.

We only need take a look around us to realise the facts: There are SL bloggers who’ll pimp their posts to big up their sponsors (carrying the thinly veneered justification of that catch-all term, ‘full disclosure’); thousands of fashion bloggists who’ll say nice things about crappy clothes just to get freebies; machinima makers who’ve become mere advertising vehicles for the Lab; and Linden staffers who’ve gone to work for the opposition just for the position and paychecks. And, yes, I’d do it too, for the right price… and so would you.

confused8_001SL Go’s demise does crystallise one of the concerns I’ve always had about Linden Lab however. You know very well by now that I have little time for those doom-mongerers who think the Lab are going to throw in the towel on SL any day now – it’s not going to happen, the Lindens are still investing a huge amount of intellectual and real capital into our little virtual world, and I have little fear that – in this particular context – SL won’t still be around for a good long time to come. Oddly, I was involved in a discussion just last night, during which the prospect of the Lindens flicking the off-switch featured prominently; ‘not very likely’ was my thought. We’re still seeing innovation, new features, continual improvements and plenty of enticements to spend our time inworld, and SL is still Linden Lab’s cash cow… however, the same could have been said about Onlive, and this is where a degree of uncertainty finds its way into the mix.

Suppose Sony decided they wanted the Lab’s patents, were prepared to pay that magic sum, then gave us thirty days to gather our belongings before shutting down the server farms for good? It’s possible, no matter how distasteful it might be.

I’m no fatalist – I don’t think it’ll happen – but I am a realist, and I have a plan. I know what I’ll do, just as I have a plan for the zombie apocalypse. How about you?

In the meantime, SLife’s good – so let the music play and let’s carry on dancing as if tomorrow will never come!

s. x

Get up and dance
Get up and smile
Get up and drink
To the ones who are gone in the shortest while
Ocean Colour Scene – One For The Road

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