I don’t know my onions!

Those of us who spend far more time than is sensible in SL have little difficulty taking the bizarre and weird in our stride. We’re so used to seeing everything from the utterly ridiculous to the freakishly disturbing in our day to day SLives that we can become a little blasé about such things, to the point that pulling out a laser blaster to despatch a troublesome zombie who muscles in to bite your friend during an ordinary conversation in the street becomes second nature, (yes I did that almost without thinking earlier this week).

I think that sometimes our familiarity with the weirdness of the virtual world can anaesthetise us a to some degree against many of the odd things we might come across in RL. That is, until something outrageously bizarre happens, which leaves you wondering if you have in fact left the safety and security of the real world and somehow crossed over into SL without noticing.

I’ve had a moment this week when precisely that thought crossed my mind – one of those, ‘what the heck is going on here’ moments about which, no matter how hard you might try, you just can’t come to a rational explanation about…

The location: My kitchen.
The back story: I was running low on onions. The onions are kept, securely, in a small vegetable rack that lives on top of my fridge. I bought a smallish bag of onions to replenish my stock, placing it in the rack with the dwindling supply of existing onions.

And that’s when things started to get decidedly odd. At this point, I should mention that there was nothing untoward or unusual about the placement of the the onions: They were securely housed, not jammed in or unnecessarily loosely or precariously stacked. Which is why, when I returned home from work at the end of the day, I was decidedly bemused to find three of the older, loose, onions lying in a distressed manner, scattered on my kitchen floor. I should point out, at this juncture, that the the new bagged onions had been placed on top of the older, loose onions in the rack – making the presence of said older onions on the floor all the more peculiar. I shrugged it off, picked up the onions and replaced them in the rack.

Then things got really weird – SL style weird!

Around 9pm, as I’m relaxing and messing about inworld, I’m distracted by a loud thud from the kitchen… The same onions were once again scattered across the floor. A thorough, puzzled examination revealed no obvious cause or reason for their state and – now a little unnerved – I decided to retrieve the vegetable rack from the top of the fridge and put it in a less precarious position; and, reluctantly, binned the escapee vegetables: Well, you can’t be too careful!

You can imagine that, now thoroughly perplexed, my mind ever since has been filled with possible scenarios that could have prompted this strange turn of events. These are the most likely that I’ve come up with:

  • Suicidal onions: Intimidated by the presence of their new, polythene-packaged, fresher interlopers, the old onions – flooded with a bout of alium-induced depression – decided that their oniony lives were worthless and threw themselves in desperation from the lofty heights of the fridge, to crash, broken on the tiled floor below. I think this is probably the least likely explanation, since in my opinion depressed onions would rather hide at the bottom of the rack and rot in the quiet darkness, rather than fight their way to the top of the pile and fling themselves to oblivion;
  • Thrill-seeker onions: In their lust for for the vicarious lifestyle, my onions decided to take up the vegetable equivalent of base-jumping. Again, I reckon that’s unlikely – onions, in my experience are not thrill-seekers, unless pickled. Did they suddenly collectively decide that it was time for a life less boring? With no indication of any leaning in that particular direction previously? I’m not convinced, especially since they were well past their prime and in the autumn of their years;
  • New kids on the block: It wouldn’t be the first time that younger, stronger, firmer noobs have muscled in and kicked out the existing residents. Perhaps this is one of those occasions when the new and fresher bully-boy usurpers have literally thrown the old guard out. Twice! This I’d consider a more likely scenario than those above, particularly since there have been no onion-related incidents since the older bulbs were removed from the scene;
  • Demon-possessed onions: I’m pretty certain this is the case here. My onions have become possessed and there’s little I can do about it. I’ve no idea how you’d go about exorcising onions, but I presume I’ll need a dark-robed priest, some spooky Mike Oldfield music. Possibly garlic – which, of course, works with vampires, but I’m not so sure about its efficacy against onions. My only concern is that the next time I come home, I’ll find potatoes crawling across the ceiling!

So, there you have it. As Shakespeare reminds us, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet I.5:159–167) and it would do us well to be aware that no matter how strange the virtual world may be, the real thing is a whole different ball game, altogether.

s. x

Chris MacNeil: Someone very close to me is probably possessed and needs an exorcism.
The Exorcist

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

Unlucky 13

Oh dear… It could be the end of the Internet as we know it, and I’m not even joking. That bunch of idiotic imbeciles in Brussels have overwhelmingly voted for ratifying Article 13 of the new European Copyright Law provisions, which as anyone with any degree of common sense will grasp will have completely the opposite effect to that intended. It’s a law designed to protect intellectual property and creativity, which will actually have the effect of stifling creativity before its conception. Its also the thin end of the wedge as far as I’m concerned that clearly demonstrates that in today’s ‘democratic’ societies, it’s certainly not the populace who run the show, neither is it the politicians: It’s the faceless, self-serving, multinational business concerns that are calling the shots and who have the puppet politicians in the palm of their sweaty, money grabbing hands.

In broad terms, for those not in the know, Article 13 – should it become law – will require all but the smallest of companies that host or facilitate the upload of user-created content onto any web based platform, to actively screen and police such content to prevent copyright infringement from taking place. On the face of it, that may sound reasonable, however what Article 13 fails to acknowledge is that there is no technology currently extant, or likely to be any time soon, capable of curating and accurately identifying such content across the vast spectrum of possible media types in use, and that whatever solutions are available or would eventually be developed are going to be prohibitively expensive to all but the very richest of companies. (Who are, unsurprisingly, at the forefront of the driving force behind the legislation).

In the simplest turns, a company with a market value in the trillions, such as Amazon and Alphabet, are not really going to particularly struggle with the new requirements, indeed they’ll take it as an opportunity to extend their portfolio of services and make even more obscene piles of cash, but smaller companies i.e. everyone else, including Linden Lab are simply never going to have the capability to comply.

So, what would be the potential options for Linden Lab, should Article 13 become law?

  • Do nothing. Clearly they’re not going to do this, but if I was running the show, that’s exactly what I’d do, because it’s going to take years before even the first case is successfully prosecuted and all the legal wranglings are going to be sorted out. I bet the lawyers are rubbing their hands over the legal status of, for example, an object that is non-copyrighted in the country of upload origin, but which is copyright in Europe, being uploaded to the Canadian servers of an American company being prosecuted by an EU member state! (And let’s not even think about how Brexit would come into play). Why not just sit tight and wait until there’s no option other than compliance – which could be decades down the line? C’mon Labbies, where’s your Maverick spirit… Show us you’ve got the cojones!
  • Stop all user uploads. Again, they’re not going to do this, although in the short term they might feel they have no option (assuming they don’t have the cojones mentioned above). Simply put, they’re not going to have the capability or resources to police user uploads as per Article 13 – hell, they can’t even manage it now! So, if you can’t police it, then take away any need to do so. Obviously, for a world that is created almost entirely from user-created content, this is slow suicide and probably not the best business decision to be making, but we are talking about LL here!
  • Inworld creation tools only. Imagine if the Lab had a billion bucks just hanging about doing nothing, and a whole heap of uber-talented developers with oodles of time on their hands. They could then quite happily create inworld versions of Photoshop, Maya, Blender, Cakewalk and so on, so that creators could only create original work, and negating any need to upload anything created from external copyright material with third party software. However I’m guessing the Lab don’t have any of those spare pre-requisites knocking about in Battery Street for this to ever happen, so it won’t.
  • A tried and tested solution. What if the Lindens just forced everyone who wanted to upload any content complete a little copyright quiz before they were allowed to do so? ‘Cause that really worked for mesh, didn’t it?
  • The only viable option. What will happen, of course, is that Linden Lab will simply be forced to do what almost every other company permitting EU users to upload content will have to do… Bite the bullet and stump up the cash to buy into whatever service the Alphabet/Google/Amazon/Microsoft giants will be selling to handle those uploads. It won’t be cheap, and that may well have an impact on the end users in SL, but what choice really do the Lab have?

It’s a sad day for the internet, let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

As for us bloggers, we’ll be clobbered by it too – and worse. It’s a double-whammy for us poor souls who will also have to deal with the fallout from Article 11 which, believe me, will reduce the integrity of any information we can link to, to a level of mere fantasy and conjecture. Then we can all strut around barking about fake news, like the idiot tangerine… Only in the future, it’ll be true.

Poor old Tim Berners-Lee would be spinning in his… Oh wait, he’s not dead yet (bet he wishes he was!)

s. x

The ladder starts to clatter
With a fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
REM – Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

 

Posted in Builder's bum, Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Assimilated

Ask anyone what they think one of the greatest benefits of SL is and most would probably mention the freedom it allows us to express our individuality. Every one of us is unique in so many ways – character, appearance, personality… And being part of the virtual world allows us endless opportunites to explore and express that uniqueness, often to a far greater degree than we are afforded in the real world. It’s clear from simple casual observation that this is something that we really do embrace and make the most of, whether through our avatar’s appearance, the outfits we wear, the activities we undertake or the multitude of attachments, enhancements and personalisations that are available to us to make our inworld presence as unique as our real selves.

Most of us will expend a great deal of time and effort undertaking that process, and will go to sometimes extraordinary lengths to perfect and tune each individual aspect of our avatar in order to define what is uniquely ‘us’. This extends to the almost intangible, unconscious elements, which in RL tend to occur naturally without any thought, but inworld can require experimentation and honing until we are satisfied: This includes the way in which we express ourselves through facial expressions and movement – and for many of us these are very much the defining characteristics of how we present ourselves in the virtual world. How many of us can recognise our friends simply by virtue of their AO, or dances and movements that we’ve come to associate with them alone.

I am no different to others in this respect. Over the years, I’ve invested a great deal of effort into personalising my avatar, and in a way many of the nuances and ‘body language’ traits that have developed during that process are more a part of who I am, virtually, than the less permanent aspects of me; hair, dressing style and makeup. These latter items change frequently, but those other attributes are constants.

Having put so much work into personalising myself and developing something that can be interprested as being uniquely ‘me’, I can find myself struggling to glibly give up control of those essential unique elements for no worthwhile cause. It’s one of the reasons I’m pretty wary of ‘Experiences’ and inworld games and roleplay scenarios that demand I fit into a certain pattern of behaviour or appearance in order to participate. That isn’t to say that I’m completely at odds with such things – if it’s something that I particularly want to do, and I have the choice to join in, or otherwise, then I’m certainly not averse to making the decision to step out of my own character and into another temporarily – but the key point here is that it’s my choice to do so, and not a requirement that demands compliance.

You’ll understand from the above why I have particular issues when turning up at clubs – as I occasionally do – and find myself receiving, within a matter of minutes, what almost amounts to a demand to join the corporate dance HUD. This seems to be happening ever more frequently, and I find it somewhat baffling, and – not to put too fine a point on it – rather insulting to find myself the recipient of such a ‘request’. I’ll grant you that not all the dances that I might choose to accompany the music may be to everybody’s taste, or may not be the most up-to-date, mocap, bento brilliance that some may prefer, but they are the result of years of fine tuning, and whether others like them or not, they are as much a part of who I am as my AO. I feel weird and out of sorts being made to do a dance that isn’t part of my normal routine, and when I’m put under passive aggressive pressure to do so, I resent it.

I have nothing against dance HUDs – they certainly have their place, and I have one of my own. However, I’ve always held the view that one should ask to join, not receive an unsolicited and unwelcome demand to do so. Unless there’s a particular, compelling, reason to synchronise with everyone else on the dance floor, my opinion is that you should be allowed to dance as you damn well like, provided it’s appropriate and doesn’t interfere with others.

And that’s the other bizarre thing that I really can’t get my head around, because when I find myself in these situations, a brief glance around the dancefloor is sufficient to confirm that every other person is doing exactly the same dance – male, female, gender neutral, all performing the same moves, parrot fashion, whether or not they fit with their avatar. Some, indeed, look completely ridiculous: There’s something pitiful about watching a muscle-bound hulk doing the same effeminate dance routine as the nubile ladies around him, precisely timed and co-ordinated. It can sometimes feel as if you’ve wandered into some nightmarish, infernal line dance whose participants have sold their virtual souls and become assimilated into an unrelenting arcane ritual.

It makes me wonder why anyone would want to do this, especially when I see friends who I know are highly unique individuals meekly succumbing to being subsumed into the clutches of some sort of virtual Nestene Consciouness, no longer themselves but plasticised hive mind slaves of the Great HUD of Doom. No longer unique, no longer individuals, no longer the people I thought they were. And it’s just freakishly weird.

I know it just my opinion and it works for some, but in this case YKINMK, and I’ll remain uniquely me, if you don’t mind. Thank you very much!

s. x

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
Lissie – Go Your Own Way

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

So… We meet again!

It may come as a surprise to you – or perhaps it won’t – that not everybody thinks I’m wonderful. Strange as it might seem, there are those at large in the world who consider me to be their worst nightmare. The reasons are both long, and complicated, and I’m certainly not going to go into the details here, suffice it to say that such feelings have usually arisen out of shared experiences and differences of opinion, and that consequently crossing paths with these people is never comfortable.

The feeling is however mutual, and as much as I may be their version of evil personified, they are very much my own nemesis too. Thankfully they are few and far between, with only one that springs to mind from SL, and perhaps three in the real world. Happily – for me, anyway – my inworld nemesis has left SL to the best of my knowledge, and geography combined with circumstances in the real world do a good job of preventing unwanted incidents elsewhere

At least, that’s what I thought.

It doesn’t always work out quite that way…

Pick a random city, to which I, and nobody that I’ve known, past or present, has any connection. Pick a random day that I’ve taken off work to enjoy a trip to somewhere new. Then, on a random street in that random city, at the specific time that I happen to be wandering down it, I hear a terrifying sound: A horribly familiar cackle… And, walking don that same street, mere paces ahead of me: My primary nemesis, who by some freak of circumstance had contrived to be in exactly the same place, at exactly the same time as me.

And then, it happened again today. Once again, a day off work and a day out to somewhere off the beaten track for me and a place that no-one connected with this incident would have any real reason for visiting. I happened to pop into a charity shop – a very, very small one, at that – and there, within touching distance, another of my nemeses from my past! Needless to say, I hightailed it out of there.

What are the chances? Well, apparently, if you’re me, around 100%! In fact, it seems that the only way I can be wholly assured of not running into harbingers of doom from previous lives is never to leave the house in the first place. This is a shame, since never leaving the house tends to be my default – and rather irritating – position, and actively making myself go out and do something in the big, bad world outside was precisely the point making the effort on these two occasions. It seems that my nemeses have unwittingly gained the upper hand in these instances, which is rather galling!

A rather miserable side-effect of today’s, and my previous, experience is that I’m now developing an irrational fear that I’m going to unexpectedly run in to my inworld nemesis, despite the chances of that being pretty slim… Although, I thought that about RL, and the chances of it happening there are probably far greater, I reckon.

The trouble is, unlike in comic books and movies, unless you happen to be some sort of superhero, running into your nemesis isn’t actually all that it’s cracked up to be – it’s certainly not fun, no matter which side of the equation you happen to sit. In my experience, there’s not a whole lot of chasing through busy streets, excaping from exploding buildings, or tense moments involving lasers, shackles or unexpected hidden twists. Neither are there villainous cackles, steely-eyed glances or looks of grim determination. I’d suggest the overiding emotions tend to be anger, resentment, fear and an overwhelming urge to get the hell out of Dodge, followed by a lingering persistent feeling of unease, dismay and self-loathing. Not exactly an enjoyable feeling, whether it’s in RL or SL, and in my view, something that I’d rather avoid given half a chance.

We tend to joke that those who tout the ‘no drama’ message in their profiles are those whom you can guarantee that drama will accompany in all its forms, however I am firmly of the school that really does prefer no drama, be that in the real world, or the virtual – although it seems that no matter what I do in RL, I’m destined to run into an arch-enemy around every turn. I can only fervently hope that the same doesn’t start to happen in the virtual world too!

s. x

I’m the babe that sleeps
Through the Blitz
I am a sudden and quite unexpected twist
I am your one true love who sleeps with someone else
I am your nemesis
David Gray – Nemesis

 

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Rude!

I’ve never liked rudeness. I was always brought up to believe that politeness costs nothing and should be the expectation, and nothing that life has thrown at me has served to change my opinion. When the rudeness comes from others, ignorance and ineptitude aside, I find it quite offensive, which as you can imagine means that get offended frequently in SL. Perhaps ‘offended’ is a strong word – I don’t take it personally, unless it’s directed at me intentionally, but it does irritate me a lot.

A recent happening inworld demonstrates a typical example of the sort of thing I see almost everyday in SL. The usual suspects and I were hanging out, as we often do, at the local pub, chatting, listening to music and having an impromptu dance. Now, we’re a friendly enough bunch and pretty inclusive, (alright, we do burn the occasional noob, but generally we’re pretty easy-going), and we always make the effort to make newcomers, and regulars for that matter, welcome. So when a stranger TP’d in, right in front of our ‘just for fun’ raffle board… Well, I’ll let the chat log tell the story, (some names have been edited to protect the innocent!):

[13:56] MystiTool HUD 2.0.2: Entering chat range: Expromt (6m)
[13:56] Serendipidy Haven: hi Expromt
[13:56] Raffle Board A (MAIN) 2.1: Now checking Profile Picks for Parcel.
[13:56] Raffle Board A (MAIN) 2.1: Expromt Resident has parcel in profile picks.
— Expromt vanishes —
[13:57] Serendipidy Haven: nice to meet you too
[13:57] S** F***: hi Expromt
[13:57] Serendipidy Haven: so glad you popped in to say
[13:57] Serendipidy Haven: nothing
[13:57] Serendipidy Haven: she’ll probably win now
[13:57] S******** R*****: Don’t you just love people who come in just to enter the contest and who don’t talk to anyone ?
[13:58] S*** McL****: another raffler just trying to fleece s*****s hard earned cash !

Other than the weird fact that all of our little group’s names seem to begin with the letter S – something I’ve never really noticed until now, it’s pretty clear from the above that we’d been the unwelcome bystanders to a drive-by chancer. A quick glance at Expromt’s profile picks revealed a host of unlikely locations, no doubt the common denominator being that they all possessed some cash dispensing potential in exchange for pick advertising. I imagine that our Expromt has some sort of HUD that homes in on whatever network of raffles and other cash dispensers are scattered around SL and spends her time cruising between them in the hope of occasionally striking it lucky. In fact, judging by the number of complete strangers who seem to win with surprising regularity from our local board, located on what is primarily a residential sim where the majority of people present at any given time know each other very well, this is a popular pursuit.

I should say that I’ve no beef about how people choose to make money in SL – if you want to make a career out of jumping from sim to sim in the hope of making a fast buck, that’s fine with me; we’ve probably all done it at some stage, but if you are going to suddenly appear in the midst of a group of people who make the effort to say hello, the very least you can do is return the compliment, even if you have no intention of hanging around. To do otherwise gives the impression that you’re slinking in to do something despicable in the corner, before high-tailing it back out again and leaving some other poor unfortunate soul to clean up your mess. That’s rude.

I wish I could say that this was a one-off, but for some reason, our sim – and the pub in particular – seem to have a lot of passing traffic: People rezzing in the corner next to the jukebox, who then stare blankly into the middle distance for a few minutes, pointedly ignoring any attempt by those gathered to be friendly and polite, before striding off – often pushing through those around them, without care or apology. That’s extremely rude.

But there’s a lot of rudeness that goes on in SL and on the interweb in general – from random and obnoxious IMs to personal attacks in public and on profiles; even Youtube music video comments invariably sink to cesspit level within a very short space of time; bullies, self-important and opinionated bigots and those who just haven’t got a kind word to say about anyone abound on Facebook, forums and chat rooms… It seems that the cloak of invisibility that the digital world gives us also has the effect of dehumanising us and bringing out the worst in our attitudes. Sadly, SL is by no means immune, and I don’t like it one bit!

This, my friends, is why we can’t have nice things.

s. x

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too?
Magic! – Rude

Posted in Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Paper ‘plates’

Eating establishments these days are doing their utmost to be trendy, as evidenced by the number of meals you’ll find served up on lumps of wood or quirky, impractical crockery; accompaniments presented in miniature items of cooking utensils, and – the subject of today’s rant – burgers, presented on small trays.

It’s not the small trays that bug me, but rather the ridiculous convention of placing a sheet of thin, decorative paper between food and tray. It’s a habit that pubs, restaurants and other non-burger focused establishments seem to have adopted, presumably to replicate the authentic burger joint experience, giving the illusion that your burger came wrapped in the paper upon which it now reclines. I find that more than a little weird – if I wanted the authentic burger joint experience, complete with food packed in Styrofoam, lard shakes, sticky melanine tables and obnoxious kids running around, then I’d have gone to Maccy Ds in the first place!

However, it’s not even the odd efforts to bring a decent eating experience down to the level of a cheap and miserable Happy Meal that really winds me up, its the fact that unlike a Chicken Royale, or whatever your favourite mass market mechanically recovered reconstituted meat product patty might be, that sheet of wafer thin paper has no practical purpose. Unlike your McMonstrosity – where it serves as a functional and useful wrapper, doubling as a convenient and sensible means for holding your burger without mess or unpleasant deconstruction – when placed beneath your double wagyu truffle burger, miniature kettle of sweet potato skinny fries and healthy dollup of gourmet coleslaw, all designed to be consumed with knife and fork, that layer of paper becomes a complete nightmare.

There are few gastronomic experiences worse, in my opinion, than having to contend with a soggy, torn mess of paper half way through your meal. You end up ingesting equal quantities of cellulose, mayonnaise and lettuce, and spend most of your time combing through the contents of your fork to dispose of greasy paper fragments – it’s thoroughly unpleasant, and completely unnecessary.

One of the things I do like about SL is that, despite trying hard, it always manages to miss the boat when it comes to being trendy. Certainly, The Lab does its best to keep up with what’s going on in the wider world, but things in SL tend to happen painfully slowly, which means that when all the new-fangled stuff does eventually arrive on the scene, it’s old news elsewhere and we’ve all had a chance to get used to the idea and decide whether it’s for us or not. We’ve seen it in the past with mesh, scripting, physics, avatar bones, pathfinding, experiences… Things that the wider digital community have known about and been playing with for a while, sometimes years, but by the time they’ve finally hit SL they’re really nothing new to the well-informed. And, unlike my grotty bit of burger paper, we almost always have the choice whether or not we want to be ‘on trend’ – we can choose not to Bentofy our bodies, ignore experience offers, and stick with our system avatars; we’re rarely forced to conform to the Big New Thing if we’d rather not – and that’s the second thing that endears me to SL: We don’t have to do stuff if we don’t want to.

People complain about the length of time that it takes for new inworld development, but for the reasons I’ve just mentioned, I personally welcome the chance for a cooling-off period before the next great innovation becomes available, and that we have the freedom not to engage if we so wish. Development does go on, no matter what the naysayers may have you believe, but we’ll never have the shiny new trendy things when they’re shiny, new and trendy elsewhere… We’ll get them though, eventually. So, if you want the stuff that’s all the rage right now – 360º images, 3D viewing, animated mesh, and so on – then you’re just going to have to wait, I’m afraid – although maybe not all that long for some of them. However, at least by the time they arrive in SL, we’ll all be familiar with those concepts and will have had the opportunity to consider both their merits and their downsides, and then we can decide whether we want any part of it anyway.

Which I kinda like.

s. x

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

Posted in Half-Baked, Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

SLife’s a beach

I’m am not a beach type of person. You’ll never find me taking a beach holiday or see me get excited about spending a day topping up my tan on the shore, in fact  there are few things that I consider as much of a waste of time as lying immobile in the sun on a lounger all day long.

It’s not just the sheer boredom of lazing on the beach that I find anathema, it’s the unwelcome gritty-stickiness of sand adhering to the skin, creeping unwanted into your picnic lunch and being whipped up into mini sandstorms that irritate your eyes. It’s the relentless sun that causes snowblindness as it reflects from the pages of that book that you’re ineffectively trying to both read and use as a sunshade, the blood draining from your arms, trembling with lactic-acid tremors as you hold your book aloft. It’s the screams of devil-spawn children, the odour of sweat and sunblock, and the knowledge that your evening is condemned to heat headache and sunburn. Yet, most people see to enjoy it.

I most certainly don’t!

I don’t despise beaches – give me a secluded cove on an overcast day and I’m fine; a deserted, windswept bay suits me perfectly, but please don’t expect me to ever get enthusiastic about a sun-soaked beach holiday, or an invitation to any sort of beach party, because I won’t!

I afraid that the same holds true for SL too. Whilst the majority of the more irritating inconveniences of the beach are avoided inworld, there are other facets of virtual seaside shenanigans that leave me cold: for example, the overwhelming slant that so many SL beaches have towards being pick up joints, almost inevitable you might conclude with so much enticing, inviting bare flesh on display, and let’s face it, there’s an awful lot of beach sims inworld more than happy to capitalise on that particular aspect of ‘entertainment’.

There also seem to be an inordinate number of music venues with a beach party theme, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but again it’s not really my cup of tea I’m afraid, and once again I can’t help harbouring the suspicion that a lot of these venues are as much about dancing around wearing as little as possible as they are about the music. Not my thing, I’m afraid, so when a friend recently decided to throw a beach party I was torn between showing my support and joining in the fun, and staying true to type and avoiding it like the plague. In the end, loyalty and friendship prevailed.

That presented me with a problem. My aversion to beaches means that my wardrobe, in terms of beach party wear is somewhat limited – and I’m afraid, rather dated – to say the least. Out of a 55 000 item inventory, only around 20 of those items could be classified as beach wear. In the past, I’ve usually opted for the humorously ironic Victorian beach paraphernalia, but on this occasion, I thought I really should enter into the spirit of the occasion and make the effort… There really was very little worth wearing to choose from, however. I considered buying something new, but I really didn’t want to spend a great deal on something that would get very little use; and there was another issue that I largely manage to avoid when it comes to everyday clothing. Being a bit of a virtual luddite, I’ve never ‘upgraded’ to a mesh body and, because my body shape remains pretty much as I designed it way back in my early days inworld, there are certain bits of me that just don’t get on with mesh, whether ‘standard’ size, or otherwise. This makes looking for anything worth wearing that could be described as beachwear somewhat challenging. Much of what is available pre-mesh can be a bit naff, but anything newer is likely to be tailored to specific body shapes – none of which fit my avatar. Such are the perils of stubbornness!

Eventually, I came upon upon a nice system bikini that I had floating in my inventory, and coupled it with a simple mesh sarong from the Marketplace, which appeared to fit perfectly… Until I turned around!

My butt cheeks poked out of the rear like a couple of backward-facing headlights, despite utilising the suplied alpha provided with the sarong. At this point, I’d had more than enough of trawling for something decent, (as opposed to indecent), and my sorry state of affairs was the prompt to get my act together and do something I’d intended to get around to trying for the past couple of years. It was time to have a go at making my own bespoke alpha masks.

It’s something I’ve wanted to have a bash at for ages – those aforementioned issues of trying to fit mesh properly on a weirdly-shaped body have been the bane of my virtual life, even so they can be fairly simply solved with a bit of work in Photoshop, and this was a perfect opportunity to finally get started – and the result? Perfect! No more butt cheek headlamps, and better still, all those mesh outfits I’ve been stockpiling but never worn because bits of me just don’t fit… Well, now their day might have finally come!

And all because of a beach party – I’d never have believed it.

(And I even enjoyed the party!)

s. x

Well I got the notion girl that you got some suntan lotion in that bottle of yours
Spread it all over my peelin’ skin, baby
That feels real good
All this skirt lappin’ up the sun
Lap me up
Why don’t you come on and lap me up?
The Stranglers – Peaches

 

 

Posted in Builder's bum, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Voice of reason

Unlike every second person in SL, I do not profess to be a DJ.

There are those amongst my circle of friends who would disagree with this statement, nevertheless I maintain my stance. The fact that I’ve built a number of inworld music establishments does not make me a DJ, neither does the act of me hosting musical events at these venues, and even occasionally being asked to do so elsewhere.

There’s a real misconception in SL that being able to load a playlist into a mixer application and streaming the result inworld somehow endows you with some sort of magical talent, earning you the coveted status of ‘The DJ’, when in reality, pretty much anyone can do it – indeed, I’ve made no particular effort to join those hallowed ranks, nobody taught me how to do it or initiated me into the arcane art, and I’m happy to be the first to admit, playing other people’s music inworld is one of the easier things you can do in SL.

It’s true that I do put some time and effort into researching, compiling and curating the music I put together, mainly because I want to preserve the essential character and uniqueness of the venues I’ve created, most of which are homages to iconic real world clubs… CBGB; The Roxy; Wigan Casino; Radio Caroline; The Marquee, to name just a few. When it comes to being an actual ‘DJ’ however, I lack some essential qualities.

I’ve no skills, for example, in mixing, beatmatching or taking a creative approach to the music I select – I just play it, plain and simple. Neither, to the disappointment of some – who it seems are obsessed with this one particular point – do I engage in talky bits between, over or around tracks. Whilst some of the best inworld DJs I know have the gift of the gab, voices that can send shivers down your spine, and have turned playful banter into an artform, I stubbornly shy away from using voice at all.

Some people love to use voice in SL, I don’t. In fact I avoid it like the plague: I’ve used it in the past and it’s just not my cup of tea. I find that in ‘casual’ SL, voice is horribly distracting and takes the focus away from what is happening on the screen – if I wanted to have a conversation with you personally, I’d phone or Skype you, but chat to you inworld? No thanks. (Actually, I probably wouldn’t Skype or phone you, either – outside of work, my conversations of this sort can be measured in minutes, over the course of many months!) I also find that voice inworld destroys the carefully constructed mental picture and illusion of reality that I’ve constructed around myself: For example, when people I’ve known for years suddently start talking and their voice sounds nothing like I imagined, it can be somewhat disconcerting and can even change the way that I think of them from that point onwards.

Most of all though, I lack any sort of self-confidence when it comes to interacting with other people on that level. Certainly, I have no difficulty when it comes to speaking with my peers and others in the real world, professionally, but take me out of a work setting and put me into a purely social situation and I instantly retreat into deeply INTJ territory; which is fine – I’ve spent my whole life that way and am more than happy with things the way they are, although those around me can find it unsettling, even threatening and weird. So, when I sit behind a keyboard, I can type witty repartee with the best of them – it’s a purely academic and emotionally detached state of mind – but ask me to be a real person, reveal my weakness and vulnerability by the simple act of talking – using my own voice – on a social level, and I turn into a gibbering idiot, clam up and shut down. That’s a wickedly unpleasant place for me to be which leaves me reeling and totally demoralised.

I don’t know what people think when they encourage me to literally speak out, and I say ‘no’, and I don’t really care. I’m sure that one or two must think I have some sort of speech impediment or dreadful accent that I’m embarrassed to reveal; or maybe they think that I’m a burly trucker from Bermondsea, hiding behind my avatar; perhaps I’m being ‘mysterious’; or, most likely, they just think I’m being stupid. So be it, but if they had any inkling of the social anxiety that being invited to a party, attending a seminar or event with a bunch of strangers, or being expected to do a voiceover for a musical track creates in me, perhaps they’d reconsider?

You see, many of us really do hide behind our avatars, and when we go out clubbing, socialising and enjoying ourselves in the virtual world, it makes up for all those same things that we purposely miss and avoid doing in real life. If I wanted to come across as tongue-tied, awkward, and a bit of a personal disaster in SL, then I just have to be myself, but to be honest, I’d rather come across as confident, self-assured and in control. And that’s the way it’s going to stay.

So I’m going to continue to let the music speak for itself, rather than do the speaking myself. And besides which, don’t forget, I’m not a DJ!

s. x

Terrified of telephones
And shopping malls and knives
We’re drowning in the pools of other lives
Rely a bit too heavily
On alcohol and irony
Get clobbered on by courtesy
In love with love and lousy poetry
The Weakerthans – Aside

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

Friendships that pass in the night

I have a sneaky feeling that my SL friends list may not be as populous as most. Most people that I know boast lists that number well into three figures, unlike my own list, which is rather short, and when you strip out all the alts, it boils down to, at most, around 25 avatars. In point of fact, a great many of the people that I count amongst my circle of friends aren’t even included on the official list and I’ve never really seen any need to have them added.

I’ve no doubt that it’s partly down to my usual reticence to be social – whereas others may be perfectly amenable to sending out friend requests at the drop of a hat, I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of occasions when I’ve formally initiated an inworld friendship and I’ve always preferred to wait until somebody offers the hand of friendship, rather than making the first move myself. Even then, it can come as something of a surprise when that happens – my own reticence to actively seek new additions to my friends list means that when I’m on the receiving end, it’s somewhat unexpected. After nearly 10 years inworld, receiving a friend request is still something of a novelty and makes me feel rather noobish and excited when it does happen.

Having a short friends list does make it a lot more manageable than trying to deal with a telephone directory worth of acquaintances, and you’ll never see that frequently repeated notice in my profile: “If you’re on my friends list and never speak to me, don’t take it personally if I remove you. I clean out my list frequently”.

The other, somewhat more poignant outcome of having a short list is that it’s very obvious when someone on that list is conspicuous by their inworld absence: Of those 25 names, almost a third are missing in action. Some have gone on to other things in RL; others have committed avacide, sometimes under unfortunate circumstances, whilst there are those amongst them who have simply succumbed to The Big Quiet.

A trip down avatar memory lane can be a sad and upsetting experience.

That list includes those that I’ve spent wonderful, happy and fulfilling moments with – hours of exploring, late night chats and crazy japes. There are those who once held a place in my profile as ‘partner’, others who have cursed the day I was rezzed, and still others with whom I had an undefineable connection: We just ‘clicked’, it was that simple. Now, all gone.

Not forgotten, however. They still live on… In textures saved in my inventory and pictures on my hard drives, memories tied to landmarks and places that themselves no longer exist, in gestures captured years ago, lying unused and unspoken in my inventory, but they’ll never be deactivated. In all these ways, my old friendships live on – gone, but not forgotten.

It’s a funny old virtual world that we have. We may never meet for real, never speak in our own voice, never write, message or make contact in any other way outside of the Grid, yet those connections can become more than just passing acquaintances, they can indeed become friends: People whose presence you seek out and want to spend time with; those with whom you are willing to share your deepest, darkest secrets, bare your soul and be yourself with. You trust them, want the best for them and will go out of your way to help and support them – and they would do the same for you. And, if that’s not friendship, then nothing is!

I tend not to spend too much time dwelling over those names in my friends list that now point only to inactive accounts. It can be a painful and depressing experience, and if I’m honest, I’ve lost enough close friends in the real world to want to remind myself that even in a virtual world, friends can come and go also. However, just occasionally, I will take a look for old time’s sake, and in amongst the sorrow, there’s joy too – you never forget the good times.

Sometimes, when I think about those SL friends who no longer log in, I can’t help wondering if they ever think of me, wherever they are now, and whatever they’re doing.

And, if they do, I hope it brings a smile to their face.

s. x

Oh, there is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Melons the size of basketballs

…And peppers as big as melons!

Many years ago, when my parents first moved abroad, in the days before my mother discovered the internet, and back when I was much better at keeping in touch than I am today, these are the things that she wrote home about. Her first letter raved about their trip to the local market, which is where she found her massive melons. Having lived all their lives in the UK of Britland, with its EU dictated ‘Class A’ fruit and veg, grown specifically to allow any remote possibility of possessing flavour to be non-existent, and measured to within a metric inch of its life, it was something of a shock to my parents that within the actual European bit of the EU, nobody gave a stuff about complying with arbitrary rulings from Brussels about the size and shape of vegetables and instead were far more interested in selling good quality, tasty, wholesome produce, at reasonable prices, with little thought for its size, shape and bendiness, and even – heaven forbid – still with traces of mud adhering to it!

However, it was the size of these culinary delights that particularly impressed my mum, so much so that it was the highlight of her first letter from the continent.

It was quite some time before I was able to pay a visit – a couple of years later, in fact and – needless to say – top of my list of things to do was head off to the nearest market and check out their massive melons! Sadly, I was somewhat disappointed: Certainly, they were impressive, but I’d been spoiled by some of the best and most diverse markets in the world, from Bali to Bangkok, Fez to Thika and from my well-travelled and enlightened viewpoint, they were not quite as impressive as I had expected. When you’ve feasted on fresh durian at Damnoen Saduak, gorged on salak by the handful at Chow Kit, and eaten roasted cobs of corn from the street vendors of Nyeri County, it’s easy to be underwhelmed by a European green pepper, even a large one that still has bits of mud on it!

Human nature is such that the more experience we gain, and the more encompassing our world view, the more it will take to impress us. That can be enormously beneficial, but it does have its downside. If we’re not careful, we can lose our sense of wonder and appreciation for what we begin to consider as being the more mundane things of life; and it takes ever more to stimulate and keep us interested and invested in the world around us.  The same is true of SL – it doesn’t take long for us to become first attuned to, then quite dismissive of the remarkable technological achievement that is our virtual world. When we first join, everything is an adventure; we’re constantly being surprised by the things we come across and can find ourselves entranced by the things we see and experience; then, over time, as we become more ‘sophisticated’ and more demanding of the virtual world around us, those moments become more rarefied – no longer is it enough to have an outfit that we initially thought looked cool… Now we want it in fitmesh, cladding a bento body. A prim house isn’t good enough anymore, instead we want something that’s low impact, high quality, with baked-in shadows and specular maps. A simple AO is no longer good enough: We want mocap, with bento and tailored to our body shape… And so it goes on, whilst our inventories become swollen with the unused and forgotten detritus of the past.

I have an inworld friend who, both in the real and virtual worlds, is fairly advanced in years – although I’d say that in their mind they’re still a teenager. They have an extensive inventory, much of which is rather antiquated and dated; even so, they’re happy to clothe themselves in those outfits routinely, and think nothing of what others might think. They also, despite their inworld experience, seem to have maintained an almost noobish charm in some ways: SL is still exciting, the simplest distraction – a gesture, an ancient dance, or any opportunity to do something new – are enjoyed with the same gusto and sense of wonder as you’d expect from someone still new to SL, and I think that’s exactly how we should all feel about the place, no matter how long we’ve been around.

SL isn’t something we should become complacent about, it’s not something we should take for granted, and yet many of us who consider ourselves seasoned avatars do just that.

Sometimes, we need to look at the melons with fresh insight, as if we’re seeing them for the first time, and then – when we do – perhaps we’ll be reminded just how special they are!

s. x

Here I go out to sea again
The sunshine fills my hair
And dreams hang in the air
Black – Wonderful Life

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment