The second worst busker in the world ever

you-thinkIt’s five years ago now that I came across the worst busker in the world ever. I was making my way through town, making a half-hearted attempt at shopping, when my mission was interrupted by the unmistakable strains of a familiar song being totally destroyed by some bloke in a shop doorway with a guitar.

The guy in question was tall, thin, dishevelled and – more to the point – could neither play the guitar, nor could he sing. His repertoire was pretty diverse, but the one number that absolutely captivated me was one that, quite frankly, it should be impossible not to be able sing… However, the combination of his dire strumming and thin, reedy, classical-ish, tuneless, unsyncopated, toneless, and somewhat bizarre voice conspired to render ‘Anarchy in the UK’ almost unrecognisable. It’s fair to say that I was simultaneously appalled and spellbound, so bad was his performance.

And then he sang it all over again. Twice.

It was one of those priceless moments that cause you to stop whatever you’re doing; the rest of the world fades to grey, and you’re there, lost in a surreal moment when time and space cease to exist – there is only that moment in time, and it is utter perfection. There is something absurdly sublime about that which is dire – when something is so bad it is actually a triumph. I knew then I had to capture it and share it with you, but at the time the technology let me down and – perhaps in the best interests of humanity – the moment was completely lost to posterity.

I’ve hoped ever since that I would come across him again, but it seems that I’ve hoped in vain. Then today, I was walking through town, and there stood in the self-same doorway, was a bloke with a guitar. Sadly, it wasn’t the worst busker in the world ever, but he was trying his utmost to win that title – he was, indeed, truly awful. Each song would start with several failed attempts to find the right chord, if not quite the right fingering, then a few abortive attempts at hitting a sort of right note, until – throwing caution and sanity to the wind – off he’d go with a rendition of… Well, to be honest, I’m not sure! I didn’t recognise a single song and I can only assume they were either his own compositions – doubtful though, since he didn’t appear to be trying to sell any CDs or promote his website – or what he was singing was so badly mangled that it sounded like something completely different.

busk4_001He was so bad that I found myself compelled to stop, sit and listen, and covertly attempt to record what my ears were telling me was quite definitely not music by any normal definition. Once again, I can only offer my apologies: Covert recording on a mobile phone is hardly of CIA quality, and the results aren’t worth posting… But, trust me, you’ve had a lucky escape!

It used to be the case, not so long ago, that there was a baseline of crapness above which it was not possible to progress. Certainly there were bad singers, musicians, artists and writers out there, but their unfortunate audiences were limited to immediate family and friends who wouldn’t protest too much. Today, with the internet open to anybody who fancies a pop, and a rash of ‘talent’ shows making up Saturday night television, the message seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether you have any sort of talent or not, you owe it to the world to inflict your abilities upon them. So we end up with dumbed-down, electronically-enhanced, second-rate, poor quality rubbish – I like to think of it as Poundland talent – cheap, nasty, but for some reason we put up with it and make the excuse that it’s ‘value for money’.

noretuneSuch things are not confined to the real world, we can see it in the virtual world too. The democratisation and accessibility of the creative process fostered by SL means a level playing field upon which genius and idiot alike share equal terms. Unfortunately, just as in the real world, it’s the idiot who thinks they have something of great value to give, and is utterly oblivious to the paucity of their offerings. For every brilliant mesh creator in SL, there are a hundred people who will place their badly-built, crappy-textured and poorly-designed creations on the Marketplace and expect people to pay for them. For every amazing inworld artist, there are a dozen wannabes who think that slapping any old screenshot on a prim, bunging it on a wall with half a dozen other poor quality screenshots and calling the result a gallery, is going to impress. And for every DJ who puts time, effort and knowledge into a set, who is friendly, welcoming and personable, there are many, many more who think that simply bunging their entire questionable music collection randomly over the stream and demanding tips in return is perfectly OK.

Maybe that’s why so many seem to spend a short while in SL then go away, never to return? Perhaps they’ve heard of this amazing, spellbinding place where there are things to be amazed at around every corner, yet when they log in they fail to find them as they trawl through the tacky freebie warehouses and cheap gogo bars that form the staple fare for the newbie to SL.

It’s a shame, but I guess that true genius will always be surrounded by more than its fair share of dross… That’s just the way of the world, whether real or virtual, when opportunity is the norm and everyone has a voice; yet, somehow – right though it is – it doesn’t really work.

s. x

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
Rob Falsini – One

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

WiFi for the soul

nirvanaMost of the time, the conversations I tend to be involved with inworld could hardly be called highbrow or even particularly intelligible, however there are the odd occasions when weightier matters do crop up and I find myself party to a rational and even serious discussion.

Such an occasion occurred fairly recently, when the topic of conversation turned to the matters of the corporeal body in which we live and the essence of who we are. I think it’s probably fair to say that, no matter what your belief or personal faith, most of us would have little difficulty with the concept that the meat bodies which contain our essential organs and enable us to eat, sleep and breathe are not necessarily what makes us essentially ‘us’. There is something that goes much deeper than skin deep that defines us and makes us uniquely who we are… Call it a soul, spirit, or whatever you wish; it is an intangible, indefinable aspect of us that will always remain esoteric and mysterious.

Who is to say that our soul – or whatever alternative you wish to employ in its place – is even tied to our physical condition? It’s not something that I’d particularly thought about previously, but during the course of our virtual conversation, somebody mentioned that the nature of the soul is that it’s a link to the wider whole; that whereas our bodies might falter and fail, the essence of ourselves is not limited only to that small, human-shaped entity, but surpasses those limitations and may well continue to be, without such physical constraints. I don’t know whether that was a view based on any particular religious persuasion, or just a philosophy held by that person, but it did resonate with me.

I think sometimes the world in which we live can be a very dehumanising, soulless place. It’s very easy, as we go about the daily grind, to lose that vital connection between what we are, and who we are – that spiritual WiFi that connects body and soul. And, just like a WiFi connection, it can fluctuate, break down, be hacked and stolen, and occasionally go completely haywire!

omega-point3_001It’s long been recognised that a sense of self is incredibly important for navigating the tricky pathways of life – in it’s most basic form we gain that empowerment from our life context and our environment: ‘I am Fred’s daughter’… ‘I am Maisie’s sister’… ‘I am a police officer’… ‘I am the leader’… and so on. This not only gives us a sense of being and purpose, it allows us to formulate how we relate to the world and people around us, and in like fashion, it provides a framework for those around us within which they interact with us. A more highly developed sense of self might be grasped from achievements – as we move upwards through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, to eventually attain self-actualisation, we develop a much stronger self-identity. However, I would suggest that there’s more to it than that, and – whether we consider ourselves as spiritual beings or not – I’d be surprised if we didn’t all have some innate predisposition towards that aspect of our lives. To be human is, I would suggest, to be part of a greater whole – and to be aware that we have a place within it. Some of us embrace that knowledge and actively seek it out, perhaps through faith and religion; perhaps through mind-altering practices and substances; perhaps through the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom – whilst others may rail against such things and obstinately insist that there is nothing more to being, than simply existing in the here and now.

Maybe the one thing that constrains us, whatever our philosophy, is the vice-like grip of rationality that the world holds upon us. We cannot prove that there is anything more than what we can see, experience and explain in scientific terms – anything else demands faith, belief, uncertainty and a certain degree of risk, and even if we were able to prove the existence of those things we cannot adequately explain, there are many who would argue that this would fundamentally alter their nature, and effectively negate our need for them. So, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place – as Agent Mulder would say, “I want to believe”, yet would do everything in his power to prove beyond doubt that there is nothing to believe in!

tma2_001Does perhaps SL provide us with a middle ground of sorts? A place where, free from the constraints of body and physics, and free from the encumbrances of physical limitations, we are able to project that element of us that is truly who we are? Are our avatars some sort of representation of our soul, our spirit, the essence of ourselves? Could SL be a means by which we hardwire ourselves into the greater whole?

In some ways, SL could well be Nirvana for the digital generation.

s. x

Life is bigger
It’s bigger
And you, you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Passenger – Losing My Religion

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Death… re-visited

oddsI had no idea what to write about today – it’s been one of those weeks where inspiration has failed to materialise, and that combined with a lack of oomph, tiredness and a real world crisis to deal with, had contrived to leave me bereft of anything to post. I was resigned to giving up, when something in my daily traffic stats caught my eye – a post, written way back in 2011, that for some reason someone had decided to rescue from the dusty vaults to read. Oddly enough, April 2011 must also have been something of a dry period for me, because it was a time that I’d done something I rarely do – I’d taken up one of those 30-day blogging challenges, in this case selecting a song to write about to fit set criteria. This particular day’s challenge was ‘A song that you want to play at your funeral’.

I’d forgotten all about it, and reading back through what I’d written, I had one of those strange moments when I realised that I was actually thoroughly enjoying something that I’d penned myself! I’m not saying you’ll enjoy it too, but if you fancy giving it a read through, you’ll find it here.

halloween1_001Death, for many obvious reasons, is a bit of a taboo subject – which means it fits into that strange realm of discussion best avoided unless you hold a professional interest in it – bowel movements, kinky sex, cancer and masturbation are the uneasy bedfellows of this domain, and discussion of such things in polite circles usually results in an embarrassed silence, much shuffling of feet and the odd evil stare. It is, however something that is difficult to ignore and which we all have to deal with in some capacity, at some stage of our lives, no matter how distasteful we might find the experience.

The past year, in particular in terms of famous passings, seems to have been a veritable death-fest right from the start, and by the time this post is published, it’s quite likely that the bell will have tolled its death knell once more for someone of note… Ian McCaskill, Greg Lake, Peter Vaughan, Andrew Sachs, Leonard Cohen, Pete Burns, Jean Alexander, Gene Wilder, Kenny Baker, Caroline Aherne, Anton Yelchin, Muhammad Ali, Prince, Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett, Paul Daniels, Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, and slipping in right at the fag end of last year – so worthy of an honorary mention, Lemmy –  to name but a few. One thing is for sure, the afterlife has become a whole lot more entertaining in the past 12 months!

I’ve always believed in laughing in the face of death – like so many things that are inevitable: Income tax, growing older, missing the last train home… The only way to gain a true sense of perspective on such things is to find the humour in them, yet for some reason, we seem to think this is a macabre thing to do. But why should death be any different from all those other things we poke fun at, and why should it be exempt from ridicule? Even so, we really don’t like to talk about such things, except in the most reverent and serious tones.

Except in SL.

ironwood7_001We’re actually rather good at opening up inworld, and often in the most jovial manner, in regard to those things about which we dare not speak in RL. Amongst my virtual circle of friends is a chap who we are convinced is the Angel of Death in pixel form – with uncanny regularity it seems that he only has to mention the name of a celebrity for them to pop their clogs within hours of being mentioned. He’s started to become quite paranoid about it, and it’s not helped by the fact that everyone around him has started poking fun at him regarding his ‘gift’, and goading him into mentioning those particular celebs that we really wouldn’t mind seeing the back of. If you’ll excuse the pun, it’s dead funny!

And it’s not just death that we’ll laugh and joke about inworld – all of those taboo subjects I’ve mentioned, along with a good many others, are also fair game when it comes to a spot of irreverent ribbing – it doesn’t matter how serious, unfortunate, or downright nasty the subject, we’re more than happy to expose the ridiculous, humorous and amusing facets of life’s little curve balls. Perhaps it’s because SL insulates us from reality to a certain extent, or perhaps it’s because we lack some of the inhibitions and constraints that we’re subject to in RL. Whatever the reason, I happen to think that there’s something inherently healthy about being able to escape inworld to a place where nothing is sacrosanct and nobody feels compelled to speak in hushed tones about the more dreadful aspects of living the fleshly existence.

Personally, I wish we could speak as freely and irreverently in the real world about such things – but it’s a rare occasion that we get the chance, and I think we may be missing a trick in the process.

s. x

Pushing up the ante, I know you want to see me,
Read ’em and weep, the dead man’s hand again,
I see it in your eyes, take one look and die
Motörhead – Ace Of Spades

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Rainbows (and why not?)

in-my-soul-i-am-still-that-small-child-who-did-not-care-about-anything-else-but-the-beautiful-quote-1Sometimes, you just need a rainbow in your life.

The trouble though, with rainbows, is they’re not the kind of thing you can conjure up on command.

They’re capricious, unpredictable and transitory things.

A quirky combination of science and romance, light, raindrops, angles and refraction.

And, when you need them most, you can never find one.

They lurk… Outside speeding train windows, or sneakily peaking from clouds when you’re otherwise engaged.

You catch a glimpse, then – rushing through the business at hand – you turn for a second glance…

Gone. Vanishing vapour in the vault of heaven, sought in vain.

Sometimes you just need a rainbow.

Not because you’re sad, lonely, lost or lamenting, but simply because that’s what you need.

Like candy floss, or toffee apples, warm hugs and unicorns.

But sweets are bad for you, hugs are never around when you need them, and unicorns…

Well, unicorns, I’m sorry to say, are in short supply right now.

So rainbows it is, but it won’t be today, or tomorrow, or any day that we would choose.

It’s a matter of waiting for the finger of God to daub his painterly fingers across the clouds.

But, waiting for rainbows sucks, and God has better things to fill his time. Or so it seems.

So, bereft and left to my own devices.

SL beckons.

And I shall paint a rainbow of my own.

Wherever, whenever, I want.

The laws of physics, convention and common sense can all take a hike.

Because my rainbow needs them not.

But I

Really do

Need a rainbow in my life.

rainbow_001

s. x

I don’t keep my secrets there
I hide them everywhere
I could deny
but I’ll never realise
I’m just chasing rainbows
all the time
Shed Seven – Chasing Rainbows

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

Going mobile

microI’m a workstation sort of person – I like to have an area set aside, with all the essential tools that I’m going to need, where I can spend my working hours in an environment that is conducive to what I’m doing. Chair, PC, power, a view of the estuary and a coaster for my cuppa form the basis of my ‘office’… But it’s also my play station too, and when the days’ work is done, it’s a comfortable and accommodating retreat where I can play around with photos, surf the web and, of course, hang out in SL.

That’s all very well, but unfortunately any sort of station tends to be – as the word suggests – somewhat stationery! This is fine if you aren’t in the habit of moving around, which if I had any choice in the matter, I would be perfectly happy to be that person, however for the past couple of years I’ve become a lot more mobile than I ever have been previously. I wouldn’t mind so much if my workstation was equally mobile, but lugging a desktop PC around, along with a couple of rather large monitors, not to mention the coaster for my mug is rather an unfeasible proposition, particularly since much of the time I could really do with having them to hand on train journeys and in hotel rooms with crappy Internet connections.

The answer, of course, is to go mobile – laptop, netbook or tablet would be perfect for the job. Unfortunately, whilst I have an inordinate quantity of laptops lying around the house, they are pretty much all the size and weight of concrete breeze blocks, and whilst they might happily cope with a spot of surfing the net or the odd bit of word processing, logging in to SL is, unfortunately not an option. The letter is also true of both my netbooks, which in their day were cutting edge, but today are now rather more the butter knives of technology. The XP one is no use for SL and the Windows 7 one throws up its digital hands in horror at even the thought.

computer_001Splashing the cash on something new isn’t an option – there’s no cash to splash on something high end… However I’ve finally relented and got myself a tablet – albeit a small one, an Amazon Kindle Fire actually, mainly because I was able to get a really good deal on it in a moment of madness! My main motivation was to have something lightweight, compact and capable of running SL. Things are never quite that simple however – the Fire operating system is a customised version of Android which doesn’t natively allow access to the Play Store, drastically limiting the options available for accessing SL. Not that it stopped me… A little bit of hacking later, and Robert’s your father’s brother: Lumiya Viewer side-loaded and installed… I was ready!

I’ve given thin client and text viewers a go before, but never been particularly enamored of them. To miss out on the greater part of the SL experience, whilst you’re avatar simply stands around helplessly just isn’t my idea of a fun time, and whilst I’ve given Lumiya a whirl a couple of times before on my phone, it’s just not been a satisfying experience. I was prepared for the worst… But I was to be pleasantly surprised.

Certainly, it’s a small screen, and yes heavily textured scenes take a while to load, (but don’t they do that anyway, no matter what viewer you use?), but that aside, I have pretty much all the functionality of SL available to me, with full streaming audio and in HD tablet quality visuals – all over a rubbish hotel connection with only one bar of reception. Amazing!

I’m very impressed with Lumiya and it’s rather fun being able to take SL with me, no matter what I’m doing or where I am, in fact it’s given me a whole new lease of SLife!

I should warn you though, this does mean that you can’t escape from me now inworld quite so easily, and you need to hope that next time I have a conversation with you I’m not conducting it from the comfort of the loo!

s. x

We’ve be flyin’ high and so low
Lord, and all this madness, ain’t crazy as it seems
Everywhere they stop and stare
I’m just a stranger on this road
Blackfoot – Highway Song

Posted in Rants, RL, SL, Tales of the Road, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Don’t dream it…

confort-zoneI did something very out of character this week: I went to the theatre to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show… And, I dressed up for it. Most people, of course, tend to dress up to go to the theatre, however – for those uninitiated in the ways of Rocky Horror – dressing up for this particular occasion is somewhat different to, say going to see Hamlet by the RHS! I’ll say nothing more about my outfit, other that it involved suspenders, fishnets and a few wintry draughts in places I usually wouldn’t normally expose in public, (right now, I predict that at least one reader of this blog will be choking on his morning cornflakes at the thought!).

I must admit that, although my night out was a lot of fun and I did enjoy myself, I can’t honestly say that I felt 100% comfortable, and I was grateful to escape back home to the welcome embrace of my dressing gown at the end of the performance. Some people have little problem with throwing caution to the wind and going a bit bonkers – I am not one of those people, and to try something that is diametrically opposed to my usual sensitivities, and way outside my comfort zone is not particularly something I tend to relish or pursue too often, if I can help it.

Despite all the above, there is something deep-seated within me that just wants to throw off all my inhibitions, stick two fingers up at the rest of the world, and just do what the heck I want… And to hell with what people might think! If only. In that vein, there are some real, extremely profound truths buried amongst the bawdiness and mayhem of Richard O’Brien’s creation: Be yourself, whatever that might be… Live for the moment… Ditch the conventional… and, something that I’ve always taken to heart, even if I’m not particularly good at putting it into practice – Don’t dream it; be it!

I guess that’s one reason why I, and so many others, find SL as compelling as we do – the virtual world allows us to go beyond dreaming and permits us to be whatever we aspire too. Such aspirations can be as ‘mundane’ as running our own business or becoming a designer, or they can be of the esoteric and exotic variety… Taking the form of a dragon and taking to the skies, exploring apocalyptic wastelands, or building futuristic space station homes. In both cases, SL is the great enabler that turns dreams into virtual reality, and when we see the potential that SL can unlock, we stop simply dreaming and we start being instead.

okinawa6_001And what a pageant of peculiarity we are! Whether we succumb to the allure of the Lycan, the fun of being a furry, the drama of the DJ, or the excitement of the explorer, there’s an us-shaped space in SL into which we will fit perfectly – and no matter what we choose to be, or how often we may change who exactly we might aspire to be, there is more than room enough to accommodate us. Unlike the real world, there really is little risk involved in throwing off the restraints – that’s not to say that SL people won’t ever judge us or show prejudice, we are all human beings, after all, but in my experience SL is far more tolerant of the differences that make us unique than the real world ever seems to manage. So there’s really nothing to stop us exploring those hidden character traits and suppressed desires once we log in; nothing that is, apart from ourselves – and my own experience is that it’s far easier to overcome our own fears and reservations inworld that it can be in RL.

It’s entirely possible that I may never find my way out of my own self-imposed shell in the real world – I can handle that, although sometimes that knowledge comes with a little wistfulness and wondering about what life might be like if I could, but for now that’s a life and a me that will – for the time being, at least – have to remain a pipe dream. However, as long as I have SL, I have an alternative.

And there I don’t just dream it… I can, and will be it!

s. x

Give yourself over to absolute pleasure
Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh
Erotic nightmares beyond any measure
And sensual daydreams to treasure forever
Can’t you just see it?
Rocky Horror Picture Show – Don’t Dream It – Be It

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Unresolved

futureI don’t make New Year resolutions, I’ve never seen the point. What’s so special about the beginning of the year that it’s the only time that people feel empowered to make a change for the better in their lives?

I do understand that for many the passing of the old year marks a convenient and logical point to put the past behind them and refocus on the future – particularly if last year happened to be somewhat less than ideal – but the timing is nevertheless somewhat arbitrary: The calendar moving on a digit is no guarantee that life will improve or will be any better tomorrow than it was yesterday. There’s no difference between making a resolution on 31st December, or 18th July, or any other date – we just have to decide that is our particular way point.

Or am I perhaps missing the point? Maybe the attraction of New Year resolutions is that they give us an opportunity to reassert control over our lives, rather than be victims of circumstance? We cannot resolve to have life treat us any better, but we can decide to make changes that will be of benefit to ourselves and others. Doing so at the cusp of the changing year gives us a convenient point to both assess the past and plan the future, giving us useful starting post against which we can assess progress.

However, I still don’t intend going down that route. The past year has been a good one as far as I’m concerned – I have been happy, content, and circumstances have dealt me a pretty decent hand, for which I am both surprised and grateful… Although, in retrospect, none of those surprises has simply fallen into my lap – I’ve had to work for them, take risks and reorganise my life to accommodate them. If anything, life has become a lot more complicated in the past year, and many of you – if you knew the details – might well feel it is unsustainable and untenable… Personally, in many ways, I’m living the dream, and yes it’s complicated, but I happen to think it’s worthwhile.

None of that happened because I planned it that way last January, and I know from experience that plans do go awry and often get left by the wayside. Spontaneity has always been my thing, and I’ve yet to be convinced that any other approach is any more beneficial.

dreamshire_015I tend to follow the same ethos in SL too – I know that all too often I’ll plan my inworld activities, only to lose the plot completely as time passes. That’s usually not a problem, since changing plans rarely affects anyone other than myself – I would be a disaster at running an inworld business, but since I don’t, it doesn’t matter! Virtual time and tide, for me at least, flows slowly and not necessarily in a straightforward manner. I may set out to complete a project within a certain timescale with all good intentions, but within hours or possibly several weeks, I’ll suddenly head off on a tangent, plough my efforts into something entirely different and may not return to my original designs until much, much later and usually by a tortured and circuitous route.

Having said all that, I’ve started this year with all sorts of renewed energy and good intentions, probably all due to having had the opportunity to relax, take things easy and generally enjoy being away from the cut and thrust of normal everyday life for a few days – give me a week or two and things will no doubt revert to normal! I do have plans, although in the broadest of senses, in both real and virtual lives: In SL, there’s more I’d like to with with the SWR – Seren’s Wonderful Railway, to begin with. Then there’s Marmalade Skies – my ever-evolving and impermanent creative space which is currently home to my Christmas landscape – I’ve lots of ideas for that: A post-apocalyptic laser shoot-em-up experience; a smoky rooftop retreat; enchanted elven ruins; a giant aquarium… Oh yes, plenty of ideas, some of which will probably never dee the light of virtual day! And, of course, it’s high time I sorted out another exhibition at The Gallery – actually, that’s already in hand, but even so that’s no guarantee that you’ll see anything materialise immediately!

The thing about the future is that it is by no means certain – just look at the past if you want to see the evidence of that – and that is true of both the real and virtual world. We can’t know what will transpire over the next 12 months, we can only hope; and knowing that the future is uncertain, it seems to me that making plans cannot dictate what may or may not happen. So, I’m just going to see how things pan out – life’s more interesting that way, anyway!

s. x

I am unwritten,
Can’t read my mind
I’m undefined
I’m just beginning
The pen’s in my hand
Ending unplanned
Boyce Avenue ft. Diamond White – Unwritten

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

SLeidetic memory

forgottenI have a memory like a, erm…. What do you call those things with holes? Sieve! That’s the word – couldn’t remember it!

And that’s my problem – simple, everyday things that most people have absolutely no problem recalling, I frequently struggle to remember, however my powers of recall are inconsistent: When it comes to obscure facts and useless information, I have no difficulty at all recalling the most arcane details, but when it comes common knowledge and everyday things that everybody else seems to instinctively know, I flounder.

Ask me the Latin name for a fish, plant or animal and there’s a good chance that I can rattle it off without even thinking, and then tell you the specific meaning of the taxonomic name. Question me on how how tall Kevin Keegan is, African geography, pre-Raphaelite painters, post-modern architecture, international stationery sizes or heraldic symbols, and I’ll have little problem recalling the most obscure details. However, if you were to question me about which actor starred in any particular film, the lyrics to most songs, any telephone number I routinely have to use, a work colleague’s name, or what I did a couple of days ago, and the chances are, I won’t have a clue.

That can be quite a nuisance – whilst knowing what type of coffee is produced by which country may be interesting, it’s not particularly useful on a daily basis. Whereas, the things I do tend to forget are pretty much indispensable… “Can you give thingy a call about that thing we were working on, umm… I forget when… Their extension is, erm…” – see what I mean?

tharen5_001When it comes to SL, however, I seem to have no such difficulties. I can recall avatars whom I may only have met once, six years ago, with little difficulty; I can tell you where I was, with whom, and what was said on any given occasion, with crystal clarity, and I can recall the layout of sims from the distant past, as if I was there only yesterday. I’ve never seen the need for a feature like the visual outfits browser, since I know exactly what’s in all of my inventory clothing folders without looking – no matter how obscurely they might be named. I also seem to have a talent, (if that’s what you call it), for being instantly able to recall and spontaneously play any of the thousand plus gestures I have in my inv. without even thinking about it – it’s one thing to have a gesture for any occasion, but even more impressive when you can remember what those gestures and their triggers are, without hesitation.

The only explanation I can come up with for my seemingly prodigious memory for all things SL, is that somehow my brain unconsciously puts anything to do with the virtual world into the corner of my mind marked ‘Useless Knowledge’ – because that’s the only kind of stuff that I ever seem able to remember in RL – I only wish I knew how I could deal with the far more important things I need to recall, like where I’m supposed to be going to work tomorrow, in the same manner. Fate, it seems, has dealt me a rather cruel blow in that regard.

Still, it does have its up side – I’m ace at trivia questions, just so long as they steer clear of anything run of the mill; stick to the obscure and hopelessly irrelevant, and I’ll be able to reel off the answers like Serendipipedia, but ask me for a capital city, who sang a particular song, or what I came into the supermarket for, and I’ll look at you blankly and shrug.

Now, I have to be going – there’s something I really have to do… But I’m damned if I can remember what it was!

s. x

Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song
Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong?
Noel Harrison – The Windmills Of Your Mind

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Retrospeculative

retroIt’s that time again – when we turn the final pages of 2016, chuckling at the no-hope personal ads and pretending we’re not quite yet at the age when we’ll have to start seriously considering the cut prices offers for walk-in baths and stairlifts. Then there’s a final perusal of the too-good-to-refuse Franklin Mint limited edition collectable plate series on the back cover, before consigning the past year to the wastepaper bin of life, and excitedly picking out items of interest from the glossy front cover of 2017…

But, wait just a moment, we’re not quite there yet, because it’s also that time of year that we tend to stop and take stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and what our plans might be for the next 12 months.

Over the past few years, this blog has been no exception. With varying degrees of success, I’ve attempted to make my own predictions for the fortunes of SL in the coming year. Sometimes I’ve nailed it with surprising accuracy; that’s not always the case, however, and my predictions for this year, made at the tail end of 2015, were so far off that I’m not even going to go over them a second time. Nostrodamus Haven, I ain’t – at least not on this particular occasion.

So, instead I’ll just broadly review the year that was. It won’t be in any particular chronological, or even logical order; just a random consideration of where we’ve been and how the virtual world has changed – for change it has – and in my experience, it doesn’t matter how great a change has taken place in SL, there are still an overwhelming majority of residents who – it must be said – really should know better, who think that nothing ever improves and that SL is still stuck in a 2006 timewarp and will never better itself.

autopsia9_001The fact is that, compared to this time a year ago, SL has progressed in leaps and bounds. We have new avatars with greater flexibility, a Marketplace that is more tailored to user needs, the first of a new generation of community hubs, new Linden-created residential regions and experiences, and – who would have thought it? – increased land impact limits for everyone! In addition to these very obvious changes there are a wealth of technical changes – things like the stripping out of old and redundant code – that have taken place which means that SL should run faster, smoother and better than ever.

There are those who would challenge that last assertion – mainly because SL does not appear to be running smoother faster and better than ever for them. Unfortunately, any technology tends to only be as good as its weakest component, and the same is true of SL. If you live next door to an SL server farm, have a top grade fibre internet connection, and a decent machine used solely for inworld activities and little else, you are going to experience super-duper performance. If however, like me, you live some several thousand miles from the nearest SL server, even with a decent internet connection and high-spec PC, you’re not going to get the best SLexperience. Similarly, if you’re in the position – as are many of my fellow Brits – of having a reasonably decent computer, used for streaming video, a host of other activities, and competing with other family members for bandwidth, on a connection that relies on a bit of old-fashioned telephone wire between the distribution box and final termination… Let’s face it, your SLexperience is going to be average at best, no matter how good the original setup!

I’ve been seeing users talking about getting 60-70fps inworld, whilst for me on a good day, I’m happy to get 10fps – and in a crowded place I know that will drop to 3 or 4 – but even then you won’t find me shaking my fist at the Lindens and complaining about how antiquated SL is, as many of my fellow avatars tend to do – it’s not the Lab’s fault and, in real terms, SL is still better than it ever has been before even for those with less than optimal circumstances.

The Lab have even given us more tools to ensure we get the best experience possible – Avatar Complexity limits, (that’s jelly babies to you and me), are one attempt to put things right. I’m not convinced it’s the right approach, and you know my feelings about that, but for those afflicted by the demon lag, there’s no excuse now for us to wholly place the blame server side.

On the inworld content side, we’ve seen some much-loved sims disappear, (OMG!… SL is dying!), but also – surprisingly – we’ve also seen some of those same sims rise phoenix-like from the ashes to live again. It seems the Lindens, and possibly other benefactors, do understand the value of preserving the SL legacy for the future and are prepared to do something about it. Never expected to see that!

express4_001So that’s the legacy of 2016 – most of which I completely failed to anticipate beforehand. Dare I try to predict what changes next year might bring?

OK, I’ll give it a try – five virtual predictions for 2017, and if I’m wrong, so be it – even the Mayans made mistakes!

  • I predicted it for this year, and got it completely wrong, but I still think it’s a possibility: I reckon sometime in the next 12 months, we’ll get an inworld building tool – possibly Java based – allowing the creation of simple mesh objects. Nothing overly complex, but maybe something that’ll replicate the majority of prim creation features, only with lower land impact;
  • I’m going to go out on a limb with this one. We won’t see reductions in tier, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole new – easy to understand – system of land ownership and payment. Frankly, you need a degree in pure maths to understand how it works at present, and it’s high time a simpler model was given a go;
  • I expect to see a rekindling of collaboration between the Lab and the community. Not just through Community Gateways, but in a more tangible and practical sense – such as when the Lab gave up their servers to host Firestorm downloads when Firestorm’s own resources ran into difficulties. So, at least one, if not more joint ventures that will maybe change the way in which SL approaches at least some of its user base;
  • We all expect Sansar to go open beta in the summer – I predict that we’ll see a release version very shortly after, to a blaze of publicity and that we’ll all be shocked at the high level of interest it will generate. However, I’ll add a caveat that the vast majority of Sansarians will not be SL veterans, and will be a whole new demographic for whom our traditional ideas of a virtual world are unappealing. Similarly, I don’t think the advent of Sansar will have any noticeable impact on SL, where it will be pretty much business as usual;
  • And, finally, I think we’ll see the formation of a Linden Historical Project – a formal process whereby sims of significant virtual cultural, historical or other important merit that would otherwise face the prospect of closure will be able to apply to the Lab for permanent preservation, along the lines of what we’ve seen in 2016, but with a clear and defined procedure in place. I wouldn’t expect it to be utilised frequently, and I’d expect stringent conditions to be attached, but it’s something that I’d love to see happen.

So there you have it – my, perhaps foolish, attempt to predict the virtual future. Let’s see how wide of the mark it falls!

And, as we reach the dregs of the 2016 vintage, it only remains for me to wish you a happy and prosperous New Year, in both the real and virtual worlds, and remember: Even if the Lindens don’t make 2017 a year to remember there’s nothing to stop us from making it special for ourselves… So, go for it!

bubble5_001

s. x

And so we are told this is the Golden Age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you, be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
U2 – New Year’s Day

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope you have a wonderful time, filled with everything good that you could wish for 🙂

christmas201611_001

s. x

And yes, I have all of the usual objections
To consumerism, the commercialisation of an ancient religion
To the westernisation of a dead Palestinian
Press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer
But I still really like it
Tim Minchin – White Wine In The Sun

Posted in RL | Leave a comment