¡Fragrant!

flowersIf you smell the flowers

in Second Life:

you’re ⁁ guaranteed to get hay fever.
       virtually

s. x

Don’t smell the flowers
They’re an evil drug to make you lose your mind
Dio – Don’t Talk To Strangers

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Poetricity, SL | Leave a comment

Logic bomb

po mU & me 4evr?
NOT.

Y

XOR
!

s. x

This is not a love song
This is not a love song
Not a love song, I know
Public Image Limited – This Is Not A Love Song

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Poetricity, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

Rebel rebel

rebelI hate to conform – I’d go so far as to say that a substantial proportion of my life has been engaged in one long attempt to be subversive, not in a particularly dangerous or edgy sort of way, but more along the lines of not wishing to follow the crowd, with a decent helping of sticking it to ‘the man’, and some mild rebellion against whatever authoritarian entity happens to be ‘in charge’. I’ve certainly never been one to be in with the in-crowd or to toe the line when I can otherwise justify doing things my way. Occasionally it has got me into trouble, but mostly it’s meant that I’ve lurked on the fringes, carving out my own niche, rather than feeling compelled to fit into anybody else’s.

But of a square peg in a round hole? Well, yes – but it’s of my own making, and at least I can say I’ve always done things my own way.

That’s almost certainly why SL appeals so much – it is, of course, an ideal place for someone like me; it’s a little subversive and its very nature means that it’s unlikely to ever become mainstream and popular – it’s an ideal environment for dropouts, rebels and non-conformists of every kind. In many ways, it’s what those who know better would call a stabilising influence – something that allows me to explore the more extreme parts of my character in a safe and non-damaging environment… to which I say “Cobblers!” – I’m perfectly safe and undamaged being who I am in the real world, I don’t need SL to be my hidey-hole where I can misbehave and be rebellious: That’s what RL is for – SL is for me to be just like everyone else, a place where all of that crap from the real world has no business being, so basically I can just get on with things with none of the hangups associated with being me in RL.

So, my inworld persona tends to fall into a recognisable and fairly standard pigeonhole: pretty ‘normal’, (by SL standards), maybe a little quirky and eccentric, but not particularly outrageous or way out, and for the vast majority of the time, that’s exactly what you’ll get – boring – if it’s edgy, wayward and a pain in the butt you’re looking for – but fun (well, possibly).

rebel2_001However, even in the virtual world, I find my rebellious nature occasionally has to be satisfied. There are times, often triggered by real world events or maybe an unexpected inworld occurrence, or just sometimes an unrestrained mood swing, when I can go right off the rails.

Those are the occasions when even those who know me well may raise a bemused eyebrow, or even be a little shocked at the sudden inexplicable transformation. The fairly even, predictable and reasonably well adjusted person they are used to can suddenly turn into something completely unrecognisable. I become the sort of lout who gets shouted at for riding motorcycles at speed in pedestrian areas; children are hustled indoors when I appear; and those of a nervous disposition – mafioso, cage fighters, and the like – find excuses to TP away from my presence. Be unfortunate enough to run into me on these occasions and you’d be forgiven for thinking I was one of those undesirable people your mum warned you about – the wild, staring eyes, unkempt hair, shredded clothing, bristling weapons, bruises, tattoos and crazy behaviour tell their own story.

rebel9_001It’s all show and bluster though – I don’t become some mad griefer, intent on alienating those around me and trashing the joint: All I’m doing really is aimed at myself, because deep down inside I just don’t want to be normal, conformist and a pillar of society, and there’s always a danger that’s what I might indeed become inworld without the perspective that a real world environment would otherwise assert.

It’s not done to shock or to grab attention, it’s more a case of that overused profile declaration: ‘RL and SL – I’m the same in both worlds’ .  At the core, I am, but most of the time that’s really not how I present myself. In RL, I’m shy, retiring, quiet and have no desire to join in, participate or otherwise express myself in any way publicly – inworld, it’s a completely different story, but inside I’m still the same person, and sometimes that needs to find its way to the surface. Sometimes – even in SL – I have to go off the rails and be the awkward, fringes of society rebellious dropout that I really am. Enough said.

rebel19_001

And, of course, it’s a whole lot of fun too!

s. x

Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress
Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!
David Bowie – Rebel Rebel

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | 2 Comments

unwritten

letterThere’s something you might think would come as second nature to me but which I’m actually pretty hopeless at.

Before you flood me with a million comments pointing out exactly what all my many faults and deficiencies are, perhaps it’s best that I cut you short and tell you the specific shortfalling I have in mind! My friends, I am absolutely useless when it comes to maintaining any sort of regular written correspondence with anyone.

Yes, it’s true – for somebody who can contrive to find any excuse to rattle off a page of text at the slightest provocation, I am far from adept when it comes to staying in touch with friends and family, or for that matter, anyone at all via the medium of the written word; it wouldn’t be overstating the matter to say that I fail abysmally. Ask me to string together a couple of thousand words on any given subject, and I’ll do so at the drop of a hat, tell me to put a report or business case together to meet a last-minute deadline and you’ll have it dropping onto your desk ahead of schedule, challenge me to write a story on the spur of the moment and I’ll come up with the goods before the words are out of your mouth. (I vividly remember attending a training course, where all the participants were instructed to write a hundred words in five minutes based on the brief: ‘A snowman’. Everyone else wrote instructions on how to build one, only I wrote a story about a lonely snowman, which earned a spontaneous round of applause from the group!)

Abducted!

Abducted!

I digress! The point is, I can happily do all of the above without a second thought, but send me a chatty email, expecting a prompt and equally chatty reply, and I’m afraid you’re likely to be facing something of a long wait. I have letters sat on my ‘to do’ pile that really should be written to people who really do deserve the five minutes of my time it will take to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, but whose correspondence has somehow fallen into some sort of black hole where time stretches out indefinitely. After around three years of procrastination I reach a point where it would be so embarrassing to reply that the only option is to spontaneously write, exclaiming surprise that my correspondent hasn’t been in touch for so long, (that’s just wrong), or to pretend I’ve died, been abducted by aliens or been held hostage by Somali pirates, (also wrong, and hopelessly implausible).

Even should I ever get my act together and write, it’s usually a painful experience – both for myself and the recipient, as anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of one of my letters, emails, notecards or even anything but the most basic of IMs will attest to. When it come to written communication – believe it or not – I suck!

It’s not often that I’m baffled by something about my own character, but this is one of those occasions. Why should it be that I should struggle to even come up with the words to write to a friend, when at the same time I’m churning them out nineteen to the dozen on this blog? The only explanation I can come up with is that – when it comes to writing – it’s easy, provided I can disassociate myself completely from the intended recipient; however throw in anything akin to a ‘real’ connection, bond or relationship with the reader – an emotional tie – and I hit a mental and emotional brick wall… in fact, I find it easier avoid the issue altogether than commit to strengthening that connection.

Inworld, I’m the same: bump into me in a social situation and I’ll happily rabbit on, ad-infinitum in open chat, but throw me a friendly IM and I’m reduced to a tongue-tied, awkward and inept conversationalist, for whom any exchange of pleasantries becomes a traumatic experience.

oblivion5_001The truth of the matter, I think, is that as long as I can preserve that essential element of distance, I’m fine. You’re a reader, or an avatar, another resident – a vague idea of a person that is somewhat removed from reality. However, cross that invisible, but very real line, to become another human being – a person, and all of that so well hidden away reticence to connect on a ‘normal’ level comes to the fore. I shut down, hide away and hold back.

Heaven forbid I should ever meet you in real life!

And, if you are waiting for a reply from me… I promise I’ll get around to it, eventually – and, if not, you can blame those Somalian pirates!

s. x

Mr Writer, why don’t you tell it like it is?
Why don’t you tell it like it really is?
Before you go on home
Stereophonics – Mr Writer

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Scotty dogs and top hats

monopolyLife is unpredictable – one minute everything is going swimmingly, the next you’re fighting against the tide and in danger of drowning. You just don’t know what it’s going to throw at you, and that’s probably a good thing when you consider some of the possibilities!

This has been painfully obvious to me over the past few weeks… It seems to have been the case that friends and relatives have recently been receiving more than their fair share of misfortune. Thankfully, little of it has directly affected me – I’ve been on the periphery, providing support, advice and solace, coffee and the occasional intervention. Life, for those concerned has not been easy.

It’s at times like this that you’re reminded that life is very much a game: A game in which we don’t get to make the rules, and in which we are merely players, subject to circumstance and situations that can change as arbitrarily as the role of a dice, or us happening to stumble upon on an unhelpful square.

And, you know what – it’s not fair.

Sure, we see those around us on the Monopoly board of life for whom fate seems to have dealt all the Community Chest cards: They’re the ones who got to choose, or were presented with, the scotty dogs and top hats, whilst we labour with the flat irons and old boots that life has seen fit to pass our way, and feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with this game. While we hang around, loitering for opportunities in Free Parking, they’re living it up in their hotels and passing ‘Go’ every other double-six roll of the dice.

cyclone_001Although that really isn’t strictly true. Certainly there are those for whom the game is a breeze, and those for whom it’s a storm; but that’s not to say that the bankers and builders can’t themselves land on hard times, or the ne’er do wells don’t occasionally win the game. It happens, and it happens to us all – indiscriminately and without rhyme or reason – it happens, because that’s the rules and they’re rules that we didn’t get to write.

What’s all this got to do with Second Life? Good question, and one to which there’s something of a surprising answer – particularly coming from me. I’ve always been a staunch proponent of the ‘SL is not a game’ school of thought, but my musings recently have made me question that stance, because if SL is indeed what it purports to be – a second life – then, by definition, if life itself is a game so too is SL.

You may argue that life is not a game; I’d argue that it most certainly is:

  • It has definite goals – which may differ for each player – but are nonetheless what we aspire to;
  • It has fixed rules, strategies and patterns – break them at your peril;
  • Whilst we may have our own interpretation and methods of play, we have no choice but to follow the overall game plan;
  • We are all subject to the rules, and there’s nothing we can do to change them;
  • It has a definite beginning and end, and it is time-limited;
  • Knowledge, experience and collaboration can all give us an advantage, but luck plays a large part too – and it can go both ways;
  • There are winners, there are losers.

And what about SL? Yes, there are elements of some of the above to be found within the virtual world, but overwhelmingly it simply doesn’t fit within that definition – great news for the ‘SL isn’t a game’ brigade, like me – but if it’s not a game, then what the hell is it? Because by the same token it’s certainly not a second life!

So there you have it – caught in my own logic trap… I never expected that, and it leaves me in the rather embarrassing position of not actually knowing what exactly it is that I’ve been writing about for the last five years!

Time for a re-appraisal, maybe?

confused6_001I’m left with a couple of potential definitions: The rather prosaic, but practical, ‘SL is a platform’, but that doesn’t sit entirely comfortably with me. To reduce SL to just a platform is to strip it of all the essential elements that make it, well… more than a platform – the things we build upon, in and around it; the constructs, ideas and derivations; the communities, the people and the relationships. To say that SL is a platform is akin to saying the internet is Unix – technically correct, but blatantly wrong. Besides which, if I’m, going to argue that SL is a platform then I’m basically saying it’s the equivalent of the Monopoly board… and surely that makes SL a game? QED – and I have a Babel Fish moment.

Which leaves me with one final possibility: Second Life is something far less definable, and far less physical than most of us would ever consider. It is an idea, a concept, an abstract rendition of an esoteric ‘ourself’ in an abstract space; timeless, practically limitless and – ultimately – it’s whatever we want it to be… because here, we make the rules.

Life is the game; it’s SL that’s real.

s. x

Oh, It’s my life
Don’t you forget
Oh, It’s my life
It never ends
No Doubt – It’s My Life

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 4 Comments

Addicted

addictedI am far from perfect – we are, after all, imperfect beings – however I try to counteract such imperfections as I can wherever possible. It helps to know where particular imperfections lie, and both accept and acknowledge them – to do that is often the first step towards resolving them. Then again, there are things about ourselves where the best we can do is to accept and acknowledge they exist, knowing full well that there is little we can do to change. Some things are part of us, and though we may try to improve, we may not always succeed.

One of the less desirable aspects of my real world character is that, unless I’m careful, I can tend towards a somewhat addictive personality – indeed, I’ve mentioned it in passing only recently. It’s something that’s caused me huge problems in the past, and not always in the most obvious ways that might possibly be springing into your minds as you read this. To be ‘controlled’ can have all sorts of undesirable consequences, however to be in that position need not necessarily feel like it’s a bad, unacceptable or damaging thing. In much the same way that cigarettes may bring pleasure to a smoker, so may other addictions seem perfectly acceptable and even desirable to those afflicted.

It can be a daily struggle to identify when that side of my personality is kicking-in and to kick right back, whereas sometimes I just give in and accept that this is the way things are. Sometimes it’s just easier that way, sometimes it’s just a lot more fun. That’s life.

There was a time I was addicted to SL – with horrific outcomes, I’m afraid – but now that’s not the case. I don’t feel a crushing need to log in, deprived if I don’t, and structure my comings and goings to tie in with my inworld lifestyle – these days it’s a pleasant diversion and a positive influence in many ways, but there is certainly something inherently addictive about our virtual world, and even the most staid and well-adjusted of us can find ourselves caught up within that strange domain that goes by the name of ‘compulsion’.

It’s not just SL itself that can appeal to the inner addict – in fact, it’s more likely to be something in or around the virtual world that has the greater hold on us. Some people support a club or other venue with almost religious fervour – putting inworld pursuits before real world responsibilities in some cases; that couple of hours logged in is held as inviolate and is factored in to whatever else needs to be done. Others will have a particular Midnight Mania board that must be slapped, or lucky chairs that demand our indulgence following every log on, often requiring extensive periods of inactivity, as the the addicted avatar hovers anxiously around watching the board numbers tick over towards the target, or ready to dive on the first available chair within milliseconds of the right letter appearing.

bar5_001Then there are the inworld games that gobble up our time, giving little in return… I’ve seen people stay logged in practically all night, endlessly pursuing an elusive high score on a game that persistently disappoints. Then there are the board games, card games, dice games and time trials that demand you play them, even if you have better things to do. ‘Just one game you say’, and twenty games later you’re still playing.

Is it that SL is incredibly effective at tapping in to something that may form a deep-seated part of our psyche, or is it just very good at enticing us to play along? Or could it be that we are evolving into a species for whom the bright flashing lights, beeps and boops, and constant flow of never ending images, sounds and memes that the information age has spawned, have contrived to evoke a Pavlovian response in us that is impossible to resist? The buzzer sounds, and we press the button… the buzzer sounds, and we press the button… the buzzer sounds…

Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so much fun :(

s. x

The crystal ship is being filled
A thousand girls, a thousand thrills
A million ways to spend your time
When we get back, I’ll drop a line
The Doors – The Crystal Ship

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Tales of the Road: The Happy Hobo

irony“Look around you”, he said; “Tell me what you see.”

It wasn’t exactly inspiring – a squalid collection of flop houses, seedy rundown stores and the disorder and clutter of tired old, sad old, broken down relics of what must once have been a vibrant and exciting corner of the Grid. The place would have had the smell of diesel and burning oil, smoke and damp earth; equally, the old tramp would have exuded a distinctly savoury fragrance too… sometimes the limitations of SL were something I could be profoundly grateful for!

The distant sound of steam trains and steel wheels clacking across creaking rails hung in the smoky air, and I wondered what it was I was supposed to see.

“It’s all a bit rundown”, I replied. “I’ll be honest with you, I’ve seen better places.”

hobo1_001“That’s because you lack nothing”, came the response – I looked at the old tramp’s unshaven, lined faced, his dishevelled hair and battered clothing and wondered what he might be trying to convey: “I don’t understand…”

“You have a great deal, whilst I have little. Your inventory no doubt numbers in the thousands, whilst mine is barely worth counting; you have lindens in the bank, land of your own… whilst I possess neither.”

I still didn’t get it. What was I missing here? A train rumbled in the distance.

“Walk a little with me”, said the tramp, scrabbling to his feet and discarding the cardboard box shelter he’d been wearing against the elements. He led me away, along the tracks and back alleyways, pointing out the buildings that we passed.

“That’s the hobo shelter – free board and lodging, a bed for the night, the occasional bit of friendly company, and somewhere for a wash and brush up; somewhere you can get changed.” 

hobo2_001Seeing my expression and the sideways glance I shot at his outfit in response to his comment, he winked: “Well, I wasn’t expecting company today!” he smiled.

“Now, across the street from here, is Arcadia’s… not exactly high fashion, but it keeps me clothed and decent and she does a decent line in shelters and bedding, and of course, it’s all free, which is handy if you haven’t a linden to your name, like me!”

Feeling guilty, I offered him a few bucks – he refused, with a laugh:

“Hey, it’s fine by me. You’re still not getting my point, are you? I don’t need cash, I’ve got everything I need here, and none of it costs me anything.”

He had a point – as we poked around the shabby shop frontages and seedy bars, it was obvious that pretty much anything you needed to scrape an existence in SL could be grabbed in Calletta for nothing. Coming to think about it, most of the people I knew inworld were shelling out a small fortune for most of the things he was getting for free – paying rent for rooms, a place of their own – it seemed a bit dumb when you could get by on nothing at all and still have the luxury of a roof over your head.

hobo3_001“This is where we go our separate ways”, he said, as we arrived at the station; the end of the line for me, but the start of another journey as far as he was concerned. “Yep, I’ve got business elsewhere”, he said climbing aboard a waiting train, “but I ain’t walking… that’s for mugs. Why walk when you can have free travel?”

I thought of the vast collection of cars, bikes and other vehicles stashed in my inv., an expensive and mostly unused luxury. Daft!

A whistle sounded, and the train – with my erstwhile friend hanging out of the window – pulled slowly out of the station. As he passed me on the platform, a thought occurred to me…

“Don’t you ever get sick of this dirty old place?”, I shouted.

“Don’t be silly!”, came the reply, “You don’t really think I spend all my time hanging out here do you? There’s a whole Grid out there to be explored… just because this is home, doesn’t mean I have to stay here!”

He waved, and disappeared in a cloud of steam and engine noise, into the distance.

 

s. x

We don’t need
Anything
Or anyone
Hazel O’Connor – Chasing Cars

Posted in Serial killers, SL, Tales of the Road, Tour Guide, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

The game name

ferretSo, one of the Lab’s big secrets is now common knowledge… Following a bit of digging around the US Patents office and other unlikely sources by a few diligent spies, the rumours started to be whispered around the metaverse:

“Pssst! Have you heard that Linden Lab have named their top secret SL2 enterprise ‘Project Sansar’? Pass it on!”

sansarQuick to still the rumour mill, LL decided to officially let the cat out of the bag and formally announced that SL2 is indeed ‘Project Sansar’, but as for the eventual proper name of our next generation virtual world, well we’ll still have to wait and see.

This is one of those bizarre faits accomplis that hackers, conspiracy theorists, and would-be industrial espionage agents consider to be a major coup, but is actually nothing of the kind. So we now know Linden Lab’s internal codename for SL2, well whoop-de-doo! It’s about on the same level as knowing who ‘Inspector Sands’ is at at the railway station, why there’s a ‘Telephone call for Mr Fish’ at the London aquarium, what a ‘Code Green’ in the vegetable aisle is, or why a cartoon dog has just walked across the screen at the cinema. It’s insider knowledge that makes you feel pretty cool, but – let’s face it – it’s essentially worthless information to an outsider.

So, what exactly does Project Sansar tell us about the new virtual platform? Zippo, zilch, nada, nowt and sod all, I’m afraid – it is still very much a mystery.

It’s fun though to toy with the possibilities… The Lab has, for example, carried on the tradition of using Sanskrit names for the new grid – a practice that goes way back, although most of us are only familiar with Agni – the Main Grid – and the Preview Grid, Aditi, (for those with an interest in SL history, (or Sanskrit), there were also Grids named: Siva, Durga, Soma, Ganga, Uma, Shakti, Vaak, Mohini, Yami, Nandi, Mitra, Radha, Ravi, Aruna, Damballah, Bharati, Chandra, Danu, Parvati and Skanda. And if you know of any others, I’d be delighted to be further enlightened). I’ve always wondered why the Lab never employed Rama – although I’ve always harboured a sneaking suspicion it’s because Arthur C Clarke had already filched it for his own imagined fantastical environment, but that is sheer supposition on my part, (would be nice if I was right though!).

As for Sansar, that’s a little more obscure. You’ll find precious little in terms of meaning in the standard repositories of all human knowledge, other than it’s a marten – a small ferrety type animal, suspiciously like a Meeroo in characteristics – not that I believe for one minute that’s anything but a meaningless coincidence.

We have to go delving a little deeper, way back to the origins of Second Life itself to solve the mystery, which is revealed in this long-forgotten explanation given by Robin Linden, former VP of Marketing and Community Development, about how the name ‘Second Life’ came about:

“Originally, during the Alpha period, the grid was known as Lindenworld. As we were getting ready to launch the Beta, we decided we needed a name that would convey the expansiveness, involvement and complexity we hoped would characterize this world as it grew. We started by debating the merits of a ‘place’ name versus a ‘descriptive’ name. We believed a place name would give people a sense of destination, and possibly some added layer of meaning. And we thought a descriptive name would help people understand this new concept of a shared, 3D collaborative space.

We had a lot of ideas for place names – one of my favorites was Sansara, which was not only euphonic, but had an interesting meaning in the original Sanskrit, meaning roughly ‘ever changing world’. Ultimately, though, we chose to go with a descriptive name, and looked at many derivatives of Terra, Viva, and life. We kept coming back to Life2, and then landed on Second Life as more interesting, more evocative and more what we hoped the world could become as it evolved and grew to be as big as life.

“And that’s how it came about!”

So, there you have it – it’s a derivative of Sansara: ‘Ever changing world’. Personally, I think that’s a wonderfully descriptive and evocative statement of intent, and I love the fact that it’s linked so closely to the embryonic SL, first time round. You’ve got to wonder whether some of the names touted for the original version might even find their way into the final mix… Life2, anyone?

'Generation Next'

‘Generation Next’

Speculation and wild assumptions aside, what do we really know?

Not a lot at the moment. We do know that there’s still a long way to go before we see anything like a public Beta. We also know that the Lab is only looking for creators experienced with using Maya in the first instance, (I’m experienced with Maya!… OK, I’ve played with it a bit, but that’s experience, right? Pick me, pick me!). That tells me the Lab are serious about getting a professional and high quality feel and finish to the new platform before they let the Great Unwashed loose on it – be prepared to be able to model efficiently with mesh if you want to build in the brave new world; that’s my gut feeling, anyway.

For the time being, however, we’re just going to have to sit tight and wait. The Lab will tell us what we need to know when it’s good and ready, and I don’t think that even the most assiduous spy is going to find out a lot more until that happens.

Exciting times though!

s. x

Soon it will be over and buried with our past
We used to play outside when we were young
And full of life and full of love.
Some days I don’t know if I am wrong or right
Your mind is playing tricks on you, my dear
‘Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
Of Monsters And Men – Little Talks

Posted in 2.0, Linden Love, RL, SL, SLarcheology | 3 Comments

Troglodyte

WelcomeHomeSweetHome1Our homes are incredibly important to us – over our lifetime, whether we buy, rent or build, there’s a fair chance that our abode will be the one thing upon which we expend the most energy, cash and effort. Everyone has their own idea of what makes anywhere a home, and most of us do what we can to make it as welcoming, safe and personal to us as we can. Yet, many of us – no matter how happy we may be where we are, and with what we have – would hesitate to say that it’s perfect. Almost everyone has their ‘dream home’, and much of the time it bears little relation to the practical reality of where we live.

The proliferation of shows on TV focussed on moving, improving, upgrading and titivating our homes is testament to that feeling that what we have is not quite there yet and the wealth of magazines and programmes devoted to finding that special place in the ideal location – generally featuring those far more fortunate and well off than ourselves – speaks volumes about how far removed from where we’d like to be most of us are. There’s nothing wrong in aspiring to something bigger, better and brighter than what we’ve been blessed with, but when it comes to dream homes, the emphasis is almost always on the ‘dreaming’.

gypsy1_001However, the story in SL is very different: Whilst we may never find or be in a position to acquire that perfect property we dream of in RL, it’s something that’s far more readily attainable within the virtual world. And here at least none of the constraints and pitfalls of home-making in the real world stand in our way… indeed, if ever there was a place where our dreams can come to fruition, no matter how outlandish, far-fetched or unlikely, it’s in SL. Whether it’s a castle on a cloud, an elven tree house, or an homage to 1960’s chic, there’s little standing in our way in SL to stop us turning our dreams into virtual reality, and a great many of us relish the prospect of doing just that.

However, when it comes to a virtual place to live, that freedom to throw away the design guide can have some unexpected results:

My real world dream house, if money, time and resources were no object, would be a little stone-built country cottage with a thatched roof, roses around the porch and a cottage garden full of lupins, forget-me-nots and wild flowers. I’d have a huge kitchen, full of burnished copper, a Belfast sink, quarry tiles on the floor and an Aga taking pride of place. A well-stocked kitchen and herb garden would complete the scene and to the rear, a sun-dappled private forest of oak, elm and birch would provide pleasant walks on long Summer evenings. My views to the front would take in a small, private, sandy cove and the twinkling sea beyond. Just perfect.

That’s my dream home… but it’s not what I’ve chosen in SL.

Inworld, my home is a cave! Yes, a cave.

cave2_001It’s a fairly well-appointed cave, in lovely surroundings and just a stone’s throw from the beach, but it is nevertheless, a cave. The walls are mossy, rough and unforgiving, the facilities are rudimentary, there’s no front door (although there is a doorbell), and the only running water is from the spring that cascades down from the roof into the plunge pool below. Although I haven’t investigated too closely, I imagine there are a whole host of spiders and creepy crawlies who are also more than happy to call it home. When it rains outside, it tends to rain inside too… even so, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is home, sweet home.

There’s no way I’d choose to live, even for a short time, in a similar – or any – cave in RL. What might feel like a romantic and quirky hideaway in SL would freak me out completely if I had to live in the real world equivalent, yet I can’t for the life of me explain why I feel so at home there, even though it bears little relation to my RL ideal. However, I can take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who falls into this pattern.

butterfly2_001I have inworld friends who live in boats, motel rooms, in the open air, hobo shacks, tree houses and on the surface of the moon, and I imagine if you were to ask any one of them to describe their dream home, it would bear little relation to where they choose to lay their hat in SL. It seems that faced with the potential to live out those dreams in virtual reality, there’s a deeper instinct that knows what’s good for us which takes over and guides us to a happy place.

Whatever the reason, it works for me. So what if I live in a cave? I like it, and if you ever fancy paying me a visit, I’m pretty sure that you’d like it too!

s. x

Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home
I’m telling you that’s my home
Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Not perfectly meshing

flexRegulars will know that I tend to have a bit of a love-hate relationship with mesh. Much as I’ve tried to embrace it as the next best thing, I’m still a long way off from seeing mesh as the ultimate solution to all our inworld needs.

Those who are somewhat newer to our virtual world may not have been around in the pre-mesh days, and might not therefore appreciate the huge leap forward it was to us, yet – for me – mesh has never quite come into its own. It isn’t that I don’t like mesh – quite the contrary, in fact – I think it’s great for many, many reasons. The level of detail and realism possible using mesh is indisputable, and the resource savings possible from employing well-crafted mesh objects are fab; even so mesh isn’t without its limitations.

First and foremost, there’s the horribly steep learning curve required to even begin to attempt to model with mesh. Whereas pretty much anyone can teach themselves to build inworld using prims in an evening, mesh is another matter entirely – and, unlike prim building – it’s not enough to simply master the basics: Badly designed and rigged mesh can not only misbehave, it can be far more resource-sapping than the most amateurish prim build: Case in point – the simple cushion I created in mesh this week that would have had an LI of 148, if I’d uploaded it inworld! There are, of course, half-way prim to mesh solutions that many swear by… great for reducing Land Impact, but not a lot of use if you want organic realism or real functionality.

Even if we put aside creating meshes – employing them isn’t the happy utopia we all imagined it to be. Throw up a mesh building inworld, and you can bask in the knowledge that your LI will barely be affected, however just nudge the size up by a metre or two, and suddenly your LI is sky high! Do the same with prims or sculpts, and nothing changes. That isn’t to say I dislike mesh buildings – in many ways, I think they kick prim butt! Even so, they’re by no means perfect.

I’ve spoken at length previously about mesh body parts and, whilst they have their place, they’re not my thing and – with all the HUDs, Appliers and bespoke paraphernalia that’s started flooding the market, for an old fashioned type like me, life has become needlessly and annoyingly complicated. Even buying shoes has become a chore – there have been a number of times I’ve blown my hard-earned cash recently on shoes I can’t wear, because the creator HASN’T BOTHERED TO LABEL THEY’RE FOR SLINK FEET, (hint, hint)!

How about other clothing items? Here again my feelings are somewhat mixed. You have to love the level of realism and intricacy that mesh endows to even the plainest of outfits, but I also happen to hate pleats that never crinkle, wrinkles that stay put in any circumstances, skirts that become elastic around the knees, dodgy alphas, gaps and holes, invisible crotches, and – worst of all – a complete lack of movement, realistic or otherwise. I want a skirt that swooshes, not something that’s as rigid as uPVC!

And here, I’d argue, lies the biggest limitation of mesh – there just ain’t no flex!

It just feels to me like a retrograde step to go from flexi-prims to inflexi-mesh. And, whilst skirts that pass through your thighs as if they weren’t there, glitch pants and super-swishy wisps of clothing are by no means ideal or desirable, they do have that one elusive quality that mesh doesn’t – movement that obeys at least some of the laws of inworld physics. The same goes for hair: I’m happy to put up with hair that flops through my shoulders, far more than hair that appears to have been conditioned with glue!

Mesh – in most cases – undeniably looks better, but I think that’s its downfall – it looks too good and too real, and when something looks that realistic our minds expect it to behave realistically too. When it doesn’t, we’re in serious uncanny valley territory, and it feels distinctly uncomfortable to me. Give me flowing, flexi, fripperies and I’m happy – they may not look as real, but that doesn’t matter because they behave as I expect them to… I’m an avatar, not a Barbie doll.

pink_001

So I’m still not sold on mesh, even though I like it a lot. I think prims and sculpts still have their place and – in some circumstances – can even do better than mesh when it comes to making SL feel real. Perhaps I might change my mind if flexi-mesh was to burst on the scene… but then again, I can be an awkward sod, so probably not!

s. x

It’s the way that we build-ity
Sharing a soliloquy
We cut the broken thread from flexibility
Massive Attack – Blue Lines

Posted in Builder's bum, Rants, SL | 6 Comments