Artisan?

artisan-coffee-suppliersI’m writing this, whilst sitting in a bar/coffee shop, indulging in a slice of cake and working my way through a cup of coffee. It’s not just any coffee however, it is – apparently – ‘artisan’ coffee, a description that I seem to come across more and more frequently these days, although I’m not altogether entirely sure just what the term is supposed to imply.

The coffee is fine – I’ve had far worse, and I’ve also enjoyed better, however whether it merits the description ‘artisanal’ is something I have to question. I’ve no doubt that there is a degree of skill required to grow, process, roast and blend good quality coffee; neither would I dispute there is a degree of expertise to brewing a decent cup, but could it really be described as an art form, and do those who are involved in the process really deserve to be called artists? If feels wrong to me, since the proliferation of such artisan purveyors in the average high street is such that there must be an almost unlimited supply of creative, uniquely talented baristas all desperately seeking employment around every street corner!

The establishment I’m in also boasts ‘craft’ beer, although judging from the branded beer taps and well known international conglomerates from which those beverages originate, I have to question their provenance in terms of craftsmanship.

It is, of course, very much a marketing tool, and although there are certainly proper artisan creators of coffees of distinction, along with micro-breweries producing beers developed through craftsmanship and skill, I’m afraid that the majority of those establishments boasting artisan credentials do so only to appeal to that part of our nature that craves that certain something that makes us feel just a little bit special – the ego boost that elevates us above the humdrum and everyday.

It’s a technique that inworld merchants in SL have employed for ages, both as a marketing tool and an encouragement to stay loyal to their brand. I remember my early days in the virtual world and seeing other avatars sporting group tags that proclaimed them ‘VIPs’, ‘officers’ and similar and wondering just what one had to do in order to achieve such an accolade. It didn’t take me long to find out that such status was never earned, but was usually afforded by the simple expedient of joining a group – ostensibly for the benefits promised: Promotional gifts, exclusive offers, discounts and the like, but also the accompanying direct line allowing the easy dissemination of targeted marketing messages and a means for vendors to communicate simply and conveniently with customers. Not to mention the clever exploiting of group members to provide free advertising and recruitment services through those same group tags that so intrigued me as a noob.

lg6_001The allure of being distinctive and special, whether ‘craft’, ‘artisan’ or ‘VIP’ is undeniably strong. Indeed, in SL even the group thing can be taken one step further – some stores have cottoned on to the fact that we’ll even pay to gain VIP status… Yes, rather than having a standard group tag like the majority of our fellow store enthusiasts, by forking out our hard earned lindens, we can proudly become a ‘Privileged VIP’ or whatever elevated status is promised to lift ourselves even above that enjoyed by the lesser privileged masses.

Well, if that’s your thing, I won’t stop you – but let’s not have it cloud our judgement and fool us into believing that things are not necessarily special simply by virtue of somebody with a vested interest saying that they are. Good taste, a smattering of perspective and a healthy degree of cynicism are excellent tools when it comes to evaluating the true worth of the world that we live in.

Maybe the same might be true of people too?

s. x

I want you to notice
When I’m not around
You’re so very special
I wish I was special
Postmodern Jukebox ft. Haley Reinhart – Creep

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Home and Away

hotelToday, I’ll wake up in one town, work all day in another, and go to bed in yet another. In fact that’s pretty much going to be the pattern for the next three weeks. It’s going to be a pretty punishing schedule, and even when you’re used to it, you can become pretty disorientated.

It’s reassuring to think that amid the chaos and upheaval, there are ways and means of achieving some sort of normality and the one of logical assumptions is that SL should be an excellent method for doing so. I’ve written in the past about the stability that SL can give to those for whom RL is uncertain or in a state of flux, and how ‘home’ inworld can be more permanent than home in the real world, providing a sanctuary of stability and constancy that life outside the virtual environment may not. However, the more fragmented and disjointed RL becomes, the less easy I find connecting – in every sense – with SL can be.

Take the example of going on holiday, or maybe moving home – these situations are invariably going to be disruptive to your everyday SL activities. You may not have access to the Internet, and if you do, the connection may not be as stable as you’re used to. However, such circumstances last only a finite amount of time, and usually – once you’ve found a solution – things aren’t so bad, because you tend to stay put for the duration of your absence.

Not so when, like me, you find yourself moving from location to location, perhaps several times a day. It’s when you find yourself in this position that you suddenly realise that there are a number of prerequisites that need to be in place if you’re going to have any success with SL at all. There are three obvious considerations, such as having equipment that’s up to the job, and a decent internet connection, but there are a whole host of other points to consider that in any other situation we’re hardly aware of, yet when they’re somewhat outside our control they can contrive to keep us out of the virtual world, despite our best efforts. They are invariably simple obstacles, yet extremely irritating in their effectiveness at denying us access to SL.

Never, for example, underestimate the importance of a comfy chair in which to while away the hours inworld. Whilst this may seem a simple problem to solve, it can be more problematic than you might think. The typical hotel room chair, for example, was never designed to accommodate the seated human form. Their principle purpose in life is to promote discomfort, brilliantly accentuated when combined with a table or desk that was never designed to be used as a work surface. Abnormally high chair arms and an abnormally low chair back effectively rule out resting any device on one’s lap, not that you can bear to sit for long anyway, considering the solid concrete cushion designed to be perfectly out of proportion to any size or shape remotely human in form.

goodnight1_001Why not use the bed? I hear you, quite reasonably suggest. That’s simple – there is no known way to sit, lounge or otherwise adopt any means of repose in or on a hotel bed. They are designed for sleeping, and nothing else. Besides which, if you do manage to find a bed that you can feel fairly comfortable with, it will be in the only spot in the room that has no WiFi coverage and will be located in the one position where it is simply impossible to plug into a power outlet.

Speaking of power outlets, all hotels work to the same rule – always ensure there are at least two sockets fewer than anyone is ever likely to need. Consequently you have to unplug your device every time you want to boil the kettle to make a cuppa, then forget to plug it back in… That is, until your battery goes completely flat! All assuming that your room is equipped with proper plugs in the first place and not cables that disappear mysteriously into oddly shaped plastic boxes embedded in the wall!

Even the most innocuous, yet essential activities can interfere with that seemingly simple task of logging in and spending time inworld. We all have to eat, and generally that’s not a problem; it gets a little more challenging however when to do so means heading out into an unfamiliar town to hunt down somewhere decent to eat, then spending far longer than we would normally would on the simple process of eating. It means that by the time you get back to your room – only to find your battery is flat because you forgot to plug it back in after your last brew up – it’s all just a bit too much. And, if you’re away with colleagues, all that ‘networking’ in the bar tends to lead to much the same result. Actually finding sufficient time to log in can be a real problem.

It seems to me that home comforts and SL go hand in hand. It’s all very well and good having an Internet connection, a decent device to log on with, and all the good will in the world, but there are certain key essentials without which it’s actually pretty difficult to engage successfully with the virtual world with any regularity. You can try, but your mileage may vary.

At the end of the day, it can be quite a relief to head back home, unpack the suitcase, put the kettle on (without any need to unplug anything else), and log in to enjoy some quality time with my SL friends, without the hassle that being away from home can bring.

s. x

Mirrors on the ceiling
The pink champagne on ice
And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device
The Eagles – Hotel California

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Where am I?

whereMany, many years ago I was involved in an unfortunate incident which led to me doing something that I thought only happened in movies. I was in a radio studio during a live broadcast and the atmosphere was hot, humid and stuffy – not something I tolerate particularly well. I started feeling distinctly queasy and light-headed, along with the telltale aura of an incoming migraine. What happened next, I’m told, was that I passed out quite spectacularly, right across the DJ and decks, completely disrupting the broadcast and breaking my nose in the process.

I came round shortly after, having been carried out the studio and accompanying mayhem, and the next thing I remember is coming around to find myself lying on a couch whereupon I uttered the classic line: “Where am I?” – I really didn’t think that anyone in real life ever actually said that when regaining consciousness, but obviously I was wrong!

Throughout my life that phrase, ‘where am I’, is one that has featured frequently. It’s a question I’ve pondered at various times and in various ways, for example, when considering where I’ve arrived on life’s journey and what options and decisions I have to make when deciding on the way forward for the future. However, far more frequently, it’s a phrase that gets plenty of use when travelling and I haven’t a clue of my whereabouts and location. I am ace at getting lost! For years I’ve tried to fool myself that I can find my way around anywhere, but the truth is that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve become hopelessly lost, whether on foot or in the car.

That isn’t to say that I’m no good at using maps or other aides, it’s just that sometimes such things are just not enough to get me out of trouble – if indeed I use them at all, since I have an unswerving, but utterly misguided belief in my ability to navigate my way around anywhere, no matter how unfamiliar the location. My favourite trick is to turn right when I should be turning left, or head north when I should be going south, which even with modern technology is incredibly easy to do. There is, for example, the occasion I was unable to work out which direction I should head when leaving Manchester Piccadilly station, so I plumped for the way they seemed most likely – two hours of tramping around later, despite having Google maps at my fingertips, I was still nowhere near finding my destination, as well as being completely bewildered and having lost all sense of direction. It didn’t help when I found out that if I’d turned the other way out of the station, turned left and walked up the hill, I’d have reached my intended goal in about three minutes!

More terrifying was getting hopelessly lost in the souks of Fes, which saw me literally going around in circles, much to the amusement of the jeering locals, who I swear were laying bets on how many times I was going to pass the same spot, and in which direction!

Yet I have no such difficulty in SL. Inworld I rely extensively on the world map and mini map for guidance advice and direction and have no trouble at all. If I’ve visited a sim once, I can unerringly find my way around it again, even if my next visit isn’t until months later, and on the mainland, I can even work out my relative position and navigate without assistance simply from knowing the name of the particular land parcel I’m on. Why this should be, when I’m so hopeless at getting about in the real world, I don’t know.

here_001You have to question the efficacy of SL’s world map anyway. Back in the days when you could walk the entire length of a virtual continent in a matter of minutes, a map was probably an unnecessary luxury. Then, as the Grid grew, having a global atlas became something of a necessity. Now, the virtual world is so dispersed, with the bulk of the space occupied by unconnected private islands, the map has become far less useful. There is simply too much land mass, spread across too many locations to gain a useful overview of anywhere – if you’re looking for something specific, you’d spend a better chance of finding a very small needle in a very large haystack – you may as well randomly TP to any old location and take pot luck.

Once you’re on the ground, you’re not much better off. The mainland is so sparsely populated these days, there are few landmarks of any real consequence we can use as way points; on the other hand, most private sims are so small no map is required, you can see pretty much everything just by standing in one spot.

SL does have one huge advantage over the real world however: It doesn’t matter where in the Grid you are, or how lost and disoriented you might be, because with the simple click of the mouse you can be home in an instant.

If only it was that simple in the real world!

s. x

Strange little girl, where are you going?
Strange little girl, where are you going?
Do you know where you could be going?
The Stranglers – Strange Little Girl

Posted in Rants, RL, SL, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Mistaken Identity

identityOne of those things I’ve always vowed never to do is meet anyone from SL in the flesh – for me one of the most attractive features of living in a virtual world is the way in which you can choose for it to be entirely removed and distinct from reality. I can be whoever I wish, and do whatever I want, in whatever context I desire whilst inworld; that does not in itself convey any need or wish for my virtual existence to be in any way connected with the real me. If I choose to share something of my virtual life with someone in the real world, (a situation that has not yet occurred), I will do so, but it will be on my terms and only to the extent to which I feel entirely comfortable. Similarly, if I choose to disclose elements of my real life to those I know from the virtual community, it will be on the same terms, and there are a number of things that will always remain strictly private, confidential and none of your business.

Not everyone feels the same way, but each to their own, and whatever works for you is fine.

When it comes to my virtual friends and acquaintances, I’m afraid this produces an unequal equation: Many of those I know inworld have no problem with sharing information and details about their real lives that I, for one, will never share about myself, except with a very favoured few. There are those who, if I was to run into them in the street, I would instantly recognise: I know roughly where they live and I know what they look like and sound like in the real world. They, on the other hand, could walk past me and never know they’d encountered Serendipidy Haven, unless they are one of the handful with whom I have shared my photo and voice – and even then, it’s such a rare occurrence, I might still pass by unnoticed.

I’m pretty certain however that those of you who do associate with me inworld, or even through the pages of this blog, have some sort of mental picture of the real me, and in some cases that may well be a fairly accurate one. However, I discovered only recently that imagination and reality can be worlds apart when it comes to the facts, with amusing results.

I shall paraphrase the recent exchange that took place between an inworld friend and myself over the course of a few days:

Friend: Who’s that girl pictured on your blog then?
Me: Huh? What girl… What picture?
Friend: That girl. It’s you, isn’t it?
Me: I don’t think so!
Friend: I think it is!
Me: I don’t even know what picture you mean, but I know it’s not me!
Friend: I’m sure it is. I worked it out.
Me: OK – I’m intrigued now – send me a screenshot of the picture.
Friend has offered you inventory
Me: Erm, that’s definitely not me.
Friend: Bet it is.
Me: Nope… That’s Scarlett Johansson!

They were very disappointed; I was very flattered!

litNo doubt, the friend in question will wish to beat me to a pulp when they read this – but I certainly wouldn’t wish to humiliate them over such a sweet mistake, so they shall remain completely anonymous and if anyone asks me who it was, my lips will remain tightly sealed.

It’s weird how our minds, when presented with only the bare minimum of information, will still nevertheless, try to fabricate a coherent picture from what is available, and will latch on to any strand of detail that comes their way, no matter how tenuous it may be. Throw in some intelligent guesswork, a bit of luck and you may – Nutrimatic fashion – end up with something that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike me!

This is probably a good thing, since:

a) You will be spared the true horror of experiencing the true reality of me;
b) I will be spared the true horror of ever being recognised in RL by you;
c) I am more than happy to be mistaken for Scarlett Johansson.

There is a further aspect to this whole anonymity thing that also merits exploration – some people in SL really do appreciate the anonymity the virtual world provides, for the simple reason that they actually do wish to remain anonymous and experience things as a normal, everyday person. What if – and you have absolutely no way of knowing the real facts here – what if, in real life, I really am Scarlett Johansson? Surprise!

The problem with being famous is that it’s very difficult to escape to normality – the moment anyone suspects you might be a celebrity, they’re all over you asking for your autograph, taking photos, bragging to their friends about meeting you and generally meaning you never have the opportunity to have fun and do all the things that normal people get to do. It’s bad enough not being able to pop down the shops for a loaf of bread without the paparazzi hounding you, or being unable to leave the house without a disguise, but if you can’t even escape to a virtual world and experience some semblance of normality, then fame can be a real bind. So we may never know when the rich and famous are amongst us in SL – our best friend may be a superstar, and we’d never know it!

scarlett. x

Fame, (fame) what you like is in the limo
Fame, (fame) what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, (fame) what you need you have to borrow Fame
Fame, (fame) it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to crime (fame)
David Bowie – Fame

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, SLilverscreen | 3 Comments

Pew-pew, pew-pew-pew!

hotshotI’m not a fan of shoot-em-ups, give me a puzzle to solve or an adventure to navigate my way through, and I’m happy. Put me at the wheel in a driving game and you’ll put a smile on my face, but introduce any sort of combat into the mix and I’ll rapidly lose any interest I may have had.

I think, to some degree, I lack some of the essential motor skills that running around with a gun, targeting and despatching opponents, whilst all the time saving my own skin demand. Even when such things aren’t the major element to any particular game, the need to resort to them even incidentally can kill the moment for me. One of my favourite games ever was Tombraider – I loved it, and would play for hours, right up to the point when some bad guy would heave onto the scene and I was required to blast them to kingdom come in order to progress further. I’d give it my best shot, but it usually ended in frustration and that sighing exclamation, “aaahhhh”, as Lara once more bit the pixellated dust. Knowing that I’d have to restart and face the same scenario all over again, and again, and again, really did little to keep my interest, and I swear I’d have completed every level a darn sight sooner if it wasn’t for the fact I was being killed every few minutes!

In fact, you have to go back a very long time to find a combat game I’ve ever enjoyed – and indeed, managed to become somewhat addicted too… It was the original arcade version of Star Wars. And I can still remember the calming voice of Obi Wan in my ears – “Use the force, Luke” – as I thundered, lasers blazing, down that narrow exhaust shaft on the Deathstar, then pulling out at that last second to spiral off into space and witness the fruits of my labours: The explosive annihilation of that dark symbol of the Empire’s might! Happy days.

laser_001I’m not sure if it’s some dim memory of those halcyon days subliminally influencing me, or perhaps it’s a spell of temporary madness that has befallen me, but I’ve only gone and created the last thing inworld that I’d ever imagined I would – a laser combat zone!

It’s a complete diversion from anything I’ve set up before – a gritty urban area, complete with abandoned buildings on several levels, lots of nooks and crannies to secrete yourself and blast your companions, and – despite my complete ineptitude when it comes to such things – it turns out that not only am I actually a bit of a natural born zapper, but I thoroughly enjoy myself whilst I’m at it, contrary to all my expectations.

laser_004Maybe you fancy yourself a virtual Buck Rogers too? Or perhaps you’re something of a sharpshooter yourself? Well, here’s your chance to prove it… You can find the portal to my laser combat zone at Marmalade Skies: Take the yellow train – but hold on tight, the ride is heart-stopping and if you fall out, it’s a long way down. On arrival at the combat zone, click the base station in front of you for your kit and instructions. Then run, hide and blast your friends and companions back to their constituent pixels!

It’s fun. Honest!

Would I lie to you? (Be careful how you answer… I’m armed!)

laser_005

s. x

I’m gonna take you down – down, down, down
So don’t you fool around
I’m gonna pull it, pull it, pull the trigger
AC/DC – Shoot To Thrill

Posted in Builder's bum, RL, SL, Tour Guide | 1 Comment

You know you’re a geek when…

geekTo be a geek is something of a badge of honour these days. It used to be the case that to be categorised in that way was something of a slur, bringing into question your social abilities, stature and ability to connect on any level with anyone other than a fellow geek.

That’s no longer the case: It’s almost the case that geekism is now trendy and hip and there’s an almost grudging admiration from those who firmly fit into the non-geek category for their bespectacled, awkward, pale-skinned compadres. It’s a cross between wanting to tickle them under the chin and say “aww, aren’t they cute”, and the nagging realisation that your average geek probably possesses the knowledge and means to hack into the Pentagon and direct a pre-emptive nuclear strike, directed at you personally, whilst simultaneously whupping your butt at World of Warcraft!

I accepted long ago that I’m of the geekoid persuasion – it’s never really worried me that much, but I’d does have its irritations. There are few things more annoying than having to endure the wafflings of a know-it-all who patently, to the trained mind, actually knows nothing at all and is spouting a load of nonsense. Then there’s the lack of opportunity to ever have a full-on, in-depth geek discussion on a level that meets that deep-seated desire to know and explore all that is knowable.

arkham6_001SL to the rescue! Our virtual world is a geek’s paradise, not only does it provide us with ample opportunity to dive into the nitty-gritty of truly geekolastic topics as 3D rendering, optimal computer settings, baud rates and multi-threading, but it is stuffed to the gills with other geeks who enjoy nothing better than getting deeply embroiled in endless conversations and debates about everything from non-Newtonian fluids to quotes from the director’s cut of fabulously obscure moves from the 80s that were only ever released as showreels on U-matic video! No to mention that you can do all this whilst dressed as Batman, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Bazinga!’, and surrounded by posters making obscure references to girls in red dresses, black cats and the phrase “I know Kung Fu”.

It’s the perfect environment for me, and best of all, SL gives me an opportunity to use some of that seemingly useless knowledge in a productive way. I’ve lost count of the number of times that somebody has asked “Does anyone know how I can…” and I’ve found myself jumping in, almost without thinking: “Preferences > graphics > general > maximum complexity slider to max”, or spending ten minutes in IM with somebody to diagnose and fix a problem that they just haven’t been able to sort out themselves. In SL, geek really is cool, especially when it means you can make someone’s day by pointing them in the direction of a hidden debug setting, or digging them out of an ever deepening technical hole.

screenshot_2017-01-03-20-58-58However, it is possible to be a little too geeky. I realised that this week when one of those annoying and intrusive ads popped up on my phone. We’ve all had them… Invitations to download the latest game, sign up to Amazon Prime or check out the latest cut price lingerie collection, but I finally realised I’d taken geekism to a whole new level when the this particular advertisement demanded my attention… I mean, how many people, in all honesty get targeted adverts trying to sell them oscilloscopes?

I’m rather proud of it, actually!

s. x

hacking on computers disassembling stuff
paid off in the end now who got it rough
the beauty of the baud and the world of the switch
make a new generation of us geekstas rich
YTCracker – Meganerd

 

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

Previously…

repeatThere’s an annoying trend that I’ve started to notice more and more frequently in Brit TV programmes. It’s something that our compatriots in the States have known as part of their televisual entertainment, possibly since the old gogglebox first found its way into households, here in the UK however we seem to have mostly resisted this particular annoyance, but just lately it’s started to creep into our programming.

What am I talking about? The seemingly essential recap of what’s happened previously, before we can settle down to enjoy our programme, that’s what!

I can appreciate the need to recap at the beginning of a new season – we can’t be expected to recall with crystal clarity the events of the previous episodes after a gap of many weeks, but I’m less tolerant of the reminder that’s slotted in to the beginning of the latest instalment solely to remind me of what I watched only a week previously. It strikes me as something of a nonsense to add this needless segment, particularly since they tend to get attached to the sort of epic long-running sagas that almost every viewer will almost certainly be up to speed with – and if they do happen to miss an episode, there’s every chance they’ll have taken the opportunity to catch up before tuning in for the next gripping instalment! Do we really need to be reminded about something we already know in these situations before we can see what happens next?

Far worse, however – and utterly pointless – are the completely unnecessary rehearsing of what happened ‘before the break’, where the viewer is subjected to a rehashing of the last 30 minutes of programme, being forced to relive what they’ve already watched in some ghastly Groundhog Day moment every single time the programme returns after an ad break. What on earth is that about? Has the demographic for television audiences suddenly started to be dominated by goldfish? Do these people seriously think that our memory spans are so short that in the space of two insurance commercials, a fishfinger advertisement, a reminder of the latest DFS sale and a heart-wrenching appeal for some worthy cause, we are going to forget what happened in the last 15 minutes of programme we watched? Worse still, do these idiots think their viewers are so dim that they’re not going to notice the cynical recycling of clips that reduces the amount of work that production teams have to do by at least a third, rather than making decent programming that fills the whole slot for which it’s intended?

Or perhaps I’m the one who’s being cynical? Perhaps this is a necessary evil hallmarking the advent of the soundbite generation… A world full of people for whom anything longer than a six-second Vine or 140 character tweet is simply too much for the capacity of their attention spell?

Somehow, I think not – because if that were the case, we’d have to apply the same principles to everything in life, and that simply doesn’t work:

Can you imagine if every post I wrote was preceded by a 300 word recap of the previous blog post? There’s simply no way you’d put up with such nonsense. Or imagine every time you logged in to SL, spending your first 15 minutes catching up on all the salient points of your previous session? Maybe it would go something like this…

‘Welcome back Serendipidy Haven! Before the break, you’d spent the night dancing away to an eclectic mix of music at the local pub with some friends: Albert, Orinoco126, Betty and Fairypoop. You played guitar – rather badly, I’m afraid. The conversation mainly covered such diverse topics as cheese; life, the universe and everything; the cost of light bulbs and hardcore pornography… blah, blah, blah

And so on for another three notecards, followed by 20 screen caps of the key moments and a short video of the best bits, and all before you have the opportunity to get dressed and check your alphas aren’t showing or even get started on anything that you’d logged in to do. It just wouldn’t work – yet, how many of us, without the option of fast fowarding to the new stuff, would simply put up and shut up?guitar_001

I do fear for the state of the human race when it seems that those very things that are supposed to stimulate and excite us are also the very things that are being dumbed-down, cut short and reduced to mere repetition of what has gone before. What place does creativity and innovation have in such a world? A world of smart technology, but dumb humans? It’s only a matter of time – if such trends continue – that our whole lives are reduced to a retweeted meme of a recap of a recap of a recap of a recap…

If that should ever happen, you’ll find me in SL: And don’t expect me to bring you up to speed when you join me!

s. x

If I go on
With you by my side
Can it be
The way it was
When we met
Did you forget all about those golden nights?
(The way it was)
The Killers – The Way It Was

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

Apocalypse… Soon!

apocalypseCue “Ride of the Valkyries” and Hueys flying in over the sea – its two and a half minutes to midnight and armageddon is just around the corner.

Yes indeed, scientists have made the decision to put the clocks forward, but this is nothing to do with daylight saving. The clock in question is the Doomsday clock, which for the past two years has stood at 11:57pm but has now advanced another 30 seconds towards the end of the world. As Corporal Fraser would say, “we’re doomed, doomed I tell ya!”

So, it’s not looking terribly good for life on earth, however does mutually assured destruction really mean what it says on the tin? I’ve read enough books and seen plenty of movies that are firmly of the opinion that mankind will survive the apocalypse in whatever form it decides to take, be that nuclear inferno, invasion by aliens, takeover by sentient talking animals, zombie holocaust or natural disaster of the icy/ wavy/ meteorific/ seismic/ viral kind. There will always be survivors, who will probably have abandoned law, order and rational clothing, but will nonetheless endure in the post-apocalyptic wastelands of after-midnight earth.

So, assuming that you survive the disaster in the first place and successfully manage not to be eaten, enslaved, drowned or rendered down to your constituent atoms, what in practical terms can you do now to ensure the ongoing survival, and even success, of your post-apocalyptic self?

Well, there’s all the usual stockpiling of supplies, and so on, but I wouldn’t rely too heavily on those – the best laid plans can fall apart with astonishing ease – it’s far better to be mentally prepared for survival and of the right frame of mind to be able to make your own opportunities when the need arises: And that’s where SL users have a huge advantage over their fellow survivors, because our virtual world gives us unique opportunities to hone our survival instincts and capabilities, without leaving the comfort of our own chair, and whilst enjoying a nice cup of tea and chocolate digestive!

Let’s consider the resources we can draw upon to succeed on the post Doomsday planet that are freely available in SL :

  • The virtual post apocalyptic experience
    Is there’s one thing that there’s no shortage of inworld, is the wealth of authentic post-apocalyptic sims and experiences that we can partake of. With everything from wastelands to gritty urban environments, often with their own complementary zombies too! What better way to practice your survival skills than somewhere that looks, sounds and feels like the real thing, especially when the worst that can happen, should you be shot in the face by a marauding Wastelander or devoured by a flesh eating zombie, is that you’ll be despatched home, somewhere wiser and more knowledgeable about survival tactics than you were before. What’s better than training for the real thing in an environment that is the real thing, just without the radiation, bloodshed and risk of sudden and painful demise.
  • Point and shoot
    Not all of us live in the land of the free – around these parts, the closest we get is the right to bare arms… And there’s not much damage you can do with a t-shirt! As a result, many of us if forced into a survival situation, wouldn’t have the first clue about employing lethal force. I know you have to release the safety catch, I just haven’t a clue how, (or even what a safety catch looks like!)

Once again, it’s a case of SL to the rescue, since we all have the opportunity inworld to play with any weapon we choose, and all in complete safety. It’s an ideal training ground for preparing ourselves for that inevitable post-apocalyptic moment when it’s a case of kill, or be killed. How reassuring to know that when that fateful moment comes, you’ll be fully equipped to whip out your banana gun and let off a volley of deadly fruit, with pinpoint, practiced accuracy!

  • No problem
    Problem solving is one of those essential skills that can bring dividends to every aspect of our life, whether at home, work or caught in the grip of a nuclear winter. The ability to find a solution to any problem and resolve it using whatever resources we have to hand can mean the difference between survival and perishing. We’ve all seen ‘Apollo 13’ and ‘The Martian’, and if they can do it, so can we. In fact, we’re at a distinct advantage here – trying to achieve pretty much anything in SL is so beset with problems and difficulties that within our first few weeks inworld we’ve developed skills that DaVinci would envy.
  • If you build it…
    One of your first priorities after the invasion will be to create some sort of shelter. It’s no good just climbing a tree and hoping for the best – it didn’t work in ‘The Hunger Games’, and if won’t work for you!

You’re going to have to know how to construct an adequate structure using the simplest of tools and materials, which is no different to how we build in SL – so start sticking those prims together, no matter how dreadful the result may look, one day you’re going to thank me for it!

  • Survival of the species
    Ultimately, in any post-apocalyptic setting, we’re going to have just one thing at the forefront of our minds – rebuilding our world and civilisation. And, let’s face it, we’ve already had a huge amount of practice with SL and it’s still going on… Surely the same mantra must apply to both the virtual world, and the real one that we might face after midnight tolls: We’re all here to build a better world.
Disclaimer: The foregoing advice should not be taken as definitive. Serendipidy Haven will not be held accountable for your failure to survive a global apocalypse, or should you be devoured by aliens as a result of following this advice.

s. x

Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say?
And can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away,
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave
Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction

Posted in /#: Apocalypse #/, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Gonna gacha!

choicesGachapon is one of those bizarre (at least to Western minds) Japanese institutions that is, to our rational, real life sensibilities, pretty incomprehensible. Like pachinko, fukubukuro, shibari, noh, pre-chewed gum and schoolgirls’ panties vending machines, and – to a lesser extent – karaoke, it takes a particular grasp of how the Japanese think and perceive the world for those of us not so enlightened to even pretend to understand the attraction. Despite this, when it comes to SL, those of us not acquainted with the Land of the Rising Sun are quite happy it seems to embrace such peculiarly Japanese foibles without reservation.

Gacha, (also frequently bastardised at the whim of Western devotees to be rendered as ‘gatcha’, or even ‘gotcha’), has attained unparalleled success inworld, to become a lucrative and popular form of trade – not only in the form of the gacha machines themselves, but also in terms of a thriving resale market. Inevitably, such a powerful commercial force is not without its critics and scandals, but on the whole the market has proven to be remarkably resilient. At its heart, gacha can be seen as a cynical method of tapping into human weaknesses – its a straightforward form of gambling where you pay a fixed amount of money in the hope that you might secure your particular object of desire. I’ve written at length on the subject previously.

Even so, provided you are not of a compulsive or addictive nature, playing gacha can be a fun and rewarding pastime, but even the most stoic of us can find ourselves teetering on the brink of foolishness, particularly when the stakes are low but the gains are high.

Personally, I’m not particularly drawn to gacha – they rarely fall within my sphere of interest, but when they do, I find that rationality can go completely out of the window, unless I’m very careful, and the temptation to have just one more go in the hope I might be able to secure the object of my desires is almost irresistible. It doesn’t help that the sort of gacha prizes I tend to be interested in tend to fall within the realms of ‘rare’, ‘ultra-rare’, or ‘you must be joking!’

halloween1_001For example, there was the May’s Soul La Parca staff that I spotted a random stranger holding, I simply had to have one. It took me days of hunting before I realised it was a gacha item, and a rare one at that, to be followed by an even longer time spent hunting down somewhere that I could actually have a go at getting one! In this instance, persistence paid off, and after only my second attempt I was now the proud owner of something that is still one of my favourite possessions.

Then there were Milk Motion’s ‘Roofs of Paris’, which I discovered completely by accident, and again, I simply had to own them. There’s a certain romance for me about the whole concept of rooftops in SL – which regular readers may remember me writing about a few months ago, and I just couldn’t believe that here was exactly what I could have wished for. The only problem, it was a gacha prize, and of course a rare item. Worse still, it came with a couple of HUDs to control chimney smoke and rain – neither of which would work without it, and without which I would have felt sold short. This turned out to be a rather more expensive expedition than I’d planned for, although actually very successful – I managed to grab all 10 items in 12 attempts, which I think is pretty reasonable, and the duplicates I could use elsewhere anyway, so win-win, I reckon!

My latest acquisition though is of a whole different order: 28 items, including 4 – absolutely essential rares! To be honest, I could have lived without 24 of the prizes, but I knew that odds of winning those 4 essential items were stacked against me, and that the likelihood of coming away very much out of pocket and without the very things I was angling for was high. So I cheated. I managed to find the complete set of all 28 pieces on the Marketplace for a price that I reckon was a fair bit less than I’d probably have spent gambling on the gacha coming up trumps, and I bought the lot. Possibly not entirely in the spirit of these things, but as with anything the true intrinsic value doesn’t lie with what it’s worth, but rather what it’s worth to you… And, in this case, I went away happy, and I daresay the person that I bought my spoils off was more than happy too, as was the original creator: win-win-win!

However, I think I’m going to give gacha a rest for a bit – contrary to what I’d fervently believed previously, it is rather addictive!

s. x

So what becomes of you my love
When they have finally stripped you of
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad
Had to sweat to buy you
Stereophonics – Handbags And Gladrags

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, SL | Leave a comment

Trumped up

politicsIt’s not my practice to discuss the wider real world issues on this blog, and rest assured: I don’t intend entering into the boggy mire of RL politics in this post today. I will however be making some observations on a theme that has – for all I know – always been prevalent in SL, but which had become extremely noticeable of late, and as a result I find myself questioning why?

As a rule, SL and the wider metaverse with which it is intertwined, is mostly about two things – having fun and interpersonal conflict (aka ‘drama’). Spend any reasonable amount of time inworld or trawling the blogs, feeds and forums dedicated to SL, and you’ll experience a fair measure of both, the precise make up of which will depend very much on who you mix with inworld and what you choose to peruse elsewhere.

However, the overwhelming majority of this experience will arise from and be based upon the virtual experience, although this will inevitably at times also touch upon the real world lives of those involved. Largely though, even the fiercest debates and most momentous moments will focus upon the virtual world and its influence. Occasionally the real world might creep in, but in almost every regard, it’s superfluous to the SL experience.

Except when it comes to politics – especially American politics, it would seem – and political issues.

If I’ve not said it before, I’ll say it now: I have little interest in politics, particularly the politics in other countries. You are free to tell me that I’m wrong and that I should show an interest, but frankly, I shall take no notice – the subject bores me and, whilst I do have political views and opinions, it’s not something I can usually become sufficiently excited about to want to discuss. So it baffles me when I see people getting embroiled in weighty discussions and arguments inworld, on topics that are far removed from the things that I perceive SL to be about. I fully understand that these things affect people’s lives and that there are those who are far more engaged in such topics than myself, however – in my view – there’s a time and a place, and SL just doesn’t seem to be it as far as I’m concerned.

Similarly, over the course of the past year and beyond, I’ve been bemused by the number of articles and posts I’ve seen on blogs and forums dedicated to all things SL and virtual that have wilfully strayed into territory more suited to serious political journalism. I’m actually quite fed up with blog surveys asking about the political leanings of avatars, articles about how the virtual horizon will shift as a result of Obama/ Trump /Brexit /climate change, and comments following practically any article on any subject that turn into a slanging match of abuse between opposing political factions….

“Those shoes you reviewed are to die for!”
“Well, that’s just the typical response I’d expect from a leftie Trump hating moron, why don’t ya do us all a favour and FOAD?”

Yep, I’ve seen comments like that, frequently.

election_001Even worse is seeing political mud slinging being brought inworld – quite apart from virtual bystanders being unwilling parties to, sometimes furious, inworld arguments and disagreements, there are those who use SL as a vehicle to further their own political ideals: They build inworld campaign headquarters for their political heroes, go on griefing expeditions against their detractors, and actively proselytise and attempt to recruit supporters from amongst the residents. What the hell is all that about? This is a virtual world, for crying out loud, not a vehicle for party politics!

Perhaps that’s why this sort of thing irks me so much. I, like so many others, escape to SL to leave the matters of the real world behind. Whilst I’m enjoying the daft and crazy environment that is our virtual world, the very last thing I want to have to deal with is the reality of real world politics – as far as I’m concerned, such things have no place in any virtual world, unless it’s been created for that specific purpose, and SL is no exception.

Call me shallow, uninformed, ill-advised or an idiot – I don’t care! I just want to forget about the real world when I log in, and have a bit of fun.

And I don’t think that’s much to ask for!

s. x

When one voice rules the nation
Just because they’re on top of the pile
Doesn’t mean their vision is the clearest
The voices of the people
Are falling on deaf ears
Our politicians all become careerists
Billy Bragg – Ideology

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment