smileYou are not, apparently, fully dressed without a smile; the whole world, allegedly, smiles with you when you do, and according to popular culture, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to punch someone in the nose.

Knowing me as you do, you might be surprised to find that I wholeheartedly endorse all of those sentiments and I happen to think that smiling is one of those important things at everyone’s disposal that we can employ to make our own lives, and the lives of those around us, that little bit better without any drama or cost.

Smiling is something that I wish I did a lot more of in the real world, but you know how it is – hard day at work, stress and pressure, problems, deadlines and demands all exert their toll, followed by a trudge home in the rain on a cold and grey day, to collapse – worn out – on the sofa for an evening of nothing much. All too often, I can go a whole day without breaking into a smile, and I those around me don’t seem to do much better, either.

Yet smiling, as any number of sources will attest to, is good for us – it gives us an emotional, physical and spiritual boost, it makes us feel good and helps us to deal with difficulties, and – like yawning – it can be hopelessly contagious. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be working in a room full of smiling people, than be surrounded by frowns and furrowed brows.

smileIt’s not all doom and gloom though, there’s one thing that is almost guaranteed to bring a smile to my face, in fact it goes further than that and has been known to reduce me to helpless tears of laughter: And the magic happens shortly after I click that button which bears the legend ‘Log in’.

I happened to mention to some friends recently that I spend more time smiling and laughing during the course of a couple of hours inworld than in the whole of the rest of my day prior to logging in – rather than being met with sympathetic smiles and reassurances that one day things would get better and real life would improve, the response was a resounding ‘so do we!’ from all of my friends. I’m not the only one, it seems, for whom SL is an antidote to the banality and sobriety of the real world.

It’s not really magic either: I don’t login and instantly feel a broad smile crossing my countenance – there is nothing instrinsically mirthful about SL, although there will be, just as there are in RL, locations, scenarios and situations that will naturally lift my spirits. What really makes a difference though is what happens when SL time is shared with others…

This is when the real magic takes place: The daft and witty comments, the ridiculous conversations and the trading of friendly insults. It’s the coming together of the mad and the bad, the good and the gormless with their opinions, stories and all manner of nonsense that we try so hard to suppress in the real world but floods out in playful wild abandon once we’re inworld. Then there’s the ridiculous things we get up to, the daft typos, unintended double entendres and cringeworthy anecdotes, whilst all the time we’re enjoying those things we share in common with a whole bunch of people – music, art, and a myriad of other pursuits – for which we might struggle to find even one partner in crime in RL.

stones.1jpg_001All of these things make me feel good: They make me smile, laugh, occasionally spit my drink over my monitor and frequently see me rolling about laughing – if not on the floor, then certainly doubled up on my sofa, incomprehensible and incapable of doing anything but laugh, and that makes me feel so good!

The stereotypical image people would have you believe of the virtual world enthusiast is a geeky, antisocial and rather sad individual… well, I beg to differ – because in my experience the average SL resident – when inworld – is a happy, whimsical, amusing and often ridiculously funny person, indeed the last thing I’d describe them as is ‘sad’.

Give me a few hours with that sort of person in RL every day, and every day I’d have something to smile about :)

s. x

You’d better smile
Smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile
Cause that’s all that you’ve got left
The Supernaturals – Smile

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment


large-division-symbol-latexThere are many things we happily do in SL that we might think twice about before considering them in the real world, and these can cover a multitude of experiences ranging from bungee jumping and riding motorbikes to the more ‘personal’ variety, such as going to swingers’ clubs and indulging in activities that we wouldn’t disclose to our nearest and dearest in RL.

That’s not to say we can’t indulge ourselves in much the same way in RL as we do in the virtual environment, but for those of us who happen to be rather more risk averse and reticent in the real world, SL allows us the opportunity to indulge in pursuits that we’d either consider too dangerous or somewhat extreme in a real world context.

Then there are what I like to term as the 3As of SL: Accessibility; Adaptability and; Anonymity. Accessibility, because SL overlooks many of the practicalities that indulging our whim would require in RL: things are so much easier in SL – we can pursue our entertainment through the simple expedient of jumping on a poseball, or dropping a few choice words into search… in the real world, things are rarely that simple or straightforward and often require serious amounts of expenditure in terms of cash, time and effort. Adaptability, in the way that SL enables us to be what we want to be, without the constraints of the real world to hold us back – we can have the perfect body, or the perfect bike, or both if we want; we can have a different avatar, with a different outlook and a different back-story to complement whatever activity we happen to be currently pursuing, and we can chop and change at will.

Then there’s Anonymity – it speaks for itself. There are things we’ll never do in the real world, simply because it would be horribly embarrassing to run into your kid’s teacher at the local bondage event! Then there’s the freeing aspect of anonymity… it’s a confidence booster: when the people around us don’t know what we look like or sound like; when they have no idea about who we really are, we can be who we really want to be – no hang-ups and no reservations.

However, not all of us would choose to explore some of the more esoteric, outlandish or out of character aspects of SL, preferring instead to walk a more well-trodden path… but even then, we can often experience a side of ourselves that is kept hidden away in RL. By day, we may wear a business suit exchanging it for comfy slippers and a onesie once we hit home territory… but inworld we’ll happily throw on a ballgown or costume that – whatever we might tell ourselves – we’d never willingly sport in the real world: we’d just feel silly, uncomfortable and worry that our knickers are showing or that we’ll spill food on our skirt. So even the most staid of us lose some of our inhibitions once inworld – and it feels good!

However, latex is where I draw the line. In RL there are certain types of clothing that should only ever be worn in very specific circumstances, and by people whose bodies are suited to such clothing – which rules out about 90% of the population about 90% of the time. Even if I could think of a likely scenario that would merit me wearing latex, there’s isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I would. If that wasn’t enough, a good friend vastly more experienced than I in such things tells me that the latex lover’s lot is not an easy one. First there’s the talc, buffing and polishing and afterwards – apparently – it’s a case of immediately getting the whole lot into the bath for a good scrub and a proper drying and airing if you want to avoid some pretty vile stinkage… Frankly, I’m just too damn lazy to even consider it!

An ideal candidate for SL then? Actually, no. There are far too many connotations associated with latex in the virtual world that really hold no appeal for me, plus it just wouldn’t feel right going about my normal business, doing the things I usually do, clad head to foot in shiny plastic – just not my thing.

So, what do you do when a friend buys you a latex outfit?

So yes, I did… and you know what, I actually quite enjoyed it! It was a a surprisingly enjoyable and liberating experience, and what the hell… this is SL after all, who cares? It’s just pixel clothes after all.


Perhaps I’m not as risk-averse as I thought?

s. x

Skin tight skin, hair dyed and walks like a rainbow
Where she goes the Joe knows her middle name
High heels, click, clack
Hey are you walkin’ or stalkin?
Suzi Quatro – Skin Tight Skin

Posted in RL, SL | 2 Comments

Rhythm & shoes

musicThere are many unexpected and unplanned avenues that spending time in SL leads us to explore. Despite being a rather expansive social media platform, with a strong emphasis on creativity and community, there are a vast array of spinoff experiences that even the least adventurous resident can find themselves drawn into: experiences that broaden the mind, provoke and stimulate free thinking and can even encourage the narrow-minded into philanthropic acts in the most pain-free manner.

When you consider the academic, educational and experiential wealth that SL offers, it’s no surprise that many can, and do, benefit from some form of directed or self-motivated learning with an inworld basis, whilst events such as Relay for Life, and so many other worthy causes provide us with an easy, low-risk, minimal commitment method for supporting deserving enterprises, and even if we shy away from the more blatant forms of giving, there are few of us who would begrudge shelling out a few lindens in a charitable hunt for a a desirable set of new clothes.

kowloon17_001Those are some of the more overt ways in which SL can stimulate the old grey matter, but behind the scenes there’s frequently a whole array of subliminal learning – an accrual of tacit knowledge and understanding – that one day springs out at us, leaving us bemused but smiling, with the question forming on our lips: “Where on earth did that come from?”

‘Where’ it comes from is the rich and incredibly vibrant pageant of virtual life that goes on around us all the time whilst inworld – a background murmur of information that we absorb, almost without knowing until it becomes part of us: An extension of who and what we are. Whether it’s the experience of mixing with people from such varied backgrounds, cultures and countries, the process of interacting with ideas and concepts that may be quite alien to us, or simply the way in which the sounds and colours of SL accompany, flow through, and are ultimately absorbed by us… it all has a tangible effect.

Music is probably an area where most of us have experienced that subtle, but persuasive power of suggestion that SL so capably wields. I’ve written before about the way in which inworld music can be a conduit for our tastes and can complement our SL experience, and how being exposed to other people’s tastes and preferences can expand our own musical vocabulary as well as set the scene for our virtual travels, but there’s far more to it than the ‘in-your-face’ method of delivery alone is able to achieve. Take the simple, and very much non mind expanding activity of inworld shopping – perhaps one of the last things you’d think of as a vehicle for broadening our musical horizons and exposing us to new genres, but – for me – it’s been highly influential in expanding my music collection to encompass styles and new experiences about which I had no idea even existed, before experiencing SL.

Background music in real world shops tends to be banal, boring and piped on the basis that shoppers don’t want to be challenged or exposed to anything less than mainstream or safe, but in SL such reservations are thrown away in favour of creating an atmosphere… an experience… an homage to the parcel owner’s own musical tastes. That can lead to some incredibly jarring sonic experiences as you TP from store to store, but at the same time it’s seldom boring, and just occasionally you can discover some absolute musical gems that cause you to stop in your tracks, turn up the volume and head off to the .net in search of more of the same: A new passion is suddenly born! A shocking amount of my post SL residency music collection owes its roots to inworld shopping, and my already eclectic tastes have blossomed far more than they ever would have done otherwise.

cyberdog1I love it! Consider a recent shopping excursion, taking in maybe half a dozen stores and goodness knows how many different styles of music, some of which found its way onto my hard disk simply because of the way it made me feel. As I shopped, the moods and music changed with each sim… From Chouchou to throbbing techno that transported me instantly and effortlessly to memories of shopping at Cyberdog; a quick TP and suddenly I was in a gothic horror musical morass, only to be thrown back onto the shores of movie-theme unreality to kick back, unwind and wallow in celluloid mellowness. Another store, another genre, before nipping across the road only to recoil somewhat at the rather cool. yet disturbing, background track that now accompanied my shoe shopping.

As I said, there’s plenty of ways in which SL can expand our horizons, without us even being aware of it… and it’s not just limited to music, I promise you.

s. x

[And now, the end is here]                           [It’s on America’s tortured brow]
[And so I face the final curtain]                         [That Mickey Mouse]
[My friend, I’ll say it clear]                           [has grown up a cow Now the workers have] 
[I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain]    [struck for fame ‘Cause Lennon’s on sale again]
[I travelled each and ev’ry highway]           [See the mice in their million hordes]
[And more, much more than this]               [From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads]
Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain – Life On Mars


Posted in Musicality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Tooled up

vwOne of my favourite new headlines so far this year must be:

Nasa emails spanner to space station

And what a fantastic story it is too, one that demonstrates the incredible versatility and potential that modern technology is increasingly able to offer. Such a thing would have been completely beyond the bounds of possibility, a mere five years ago, and certainly wouldn’t have been envisaged by even the most far-sighted of science-fictioners of the past – it’s just a little too off the wall and, in many ways, not quite exciting or dramatic enough to have been on the radar. As with so many great innovations it’s almost an off-the-cuff idea, a novel yet incredibly practical application of technology, that shows just how effectively the impossible can become reality.

However, this isn’t the first time that 3D printing has made it possible to produce an object off-world… at least one SL designer has employed the technology to breach the gap between virtual and real by bringing her inworld designs into everyday life. Space spanners may be more practical, but real life SL jewellery is just plain exciting!

winged3_001Every one of us who has ever searched through their wardrobe, puzzled by a ‘missing’ item, only to realise that we only own it in SL would love to have the opportunity of obtaining the real thing; similarly, there must be thousands of talented inworld designers who lack the acumen, funds or skills necessary to run a real world business founded upon their passion and ideas, but would make a killing if they could capitalise on their inworld success by the simple expedient of 3D-printing their virtual designs. At the moment, jewellery is an obvious candidate for this method, but we’re already seeing printed shoes and clothes which – although very much a quirky niche market at present – certainly have the potential to grow and diversify as new and cheaper materials and processes become available. Just imagine being able to wear your favourite SL designs to a RL party, and possibly at a fraction of the price that a real world designer label would set you back.

Such things are not what SL was created for – we are so used to thinking of SL as a place where we can do things that are impossible in the real world that to discover we can port parts of the virtual world into real existence is a complete surprise, even shocking to us.

Why should this be? After all, we almost expect the fantastic and far-fetched notions speculated in books and films to one day become reality… teleporting, faster-than-light travel, robots, portable computers, self-driving cars, virtual worlds – none of us is really going to be surprised when the keys to unlock these visions of the future are finally discovered and most of us, I suspect, expect many of them to become the norm in our own lifetimes. So why is it so much more difficult to imagine that the ‘impossible’ things that are part of our everyday experience in SL shouldn’t become everyday occurrences in the real world too? Simply because SL is a future rendered in pixels and coordinates, rather than print or film, shouldn’t make it any less an indicator of what may be yet to come.

Perhaps we don’t want that though. Much of the charm of SL is the very fact that it is other-worldy and that much of what it allows us to do and be is very much out of the question in RL. It would indeed be lovely to knock up a pair of our favourite virtual boots in which to strut our stuff in the real high street, but if that was to mean that SL became less an otherworld – a place of fantasy and escapism – and more a 3D design package for budding Mary Quants, I’m not sure that most of us would be happy to go along with that.

SL and the things within it are special by virtue of the very fact they are ephemeral and not of this world. Take that quality away and we take away much of what many of us log in to SL for, and that’s a price that I think is far too high to pay.

So yes, by all means have your favourite virtual necklace rendered in sterling silver, but let’s not indulge ourselves too much… let’s keep some of SL sacred. After all, if every astronaut had everything they’d ever need at their fingertips, what would be the point of going into space in the first place?

s. x

I always wanted you to go into space, man
Babylon Zoo – Spaceman

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Total eclipse of the fun

eclipseYou’d think that, of all the days that have the potential to make me feel good, today would have been it… It’s been a lovely sunny day – the first day of Spring, no less – and if that wasn’t enough, today hosted one of those most esoteric of celestial spectacles, a near total solar eclipse. Better still, this trilogy of fortuosity is all neatly wrapped up and presented with a great big bow; holding everything together in the form of International Day of Happiness!

You’d think my cup would runneth over.

Except it has kind of runneth pretty much all over the floor, to congeal in an unappealing and disappointing puddle of morosity and gloom. (And, as if to prove a point that I really needed no further proof of, halfway through that last sentence my computer crashed spectacularly and horribly. Oh joy.)

Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? I had a plan: Not a great plan, not exactly world-changing, but a plan nevertheless. The plan was to have a little lie-in and catch the eclipse from the perfect vantage point of my living room window, maybe even have a bash at grabbing a few photos. Work could wait – they owe me a shedload of time anyway – they could manage without me for a little while.

So much for the lie-in – the phone call from work rudely dragged me from bed at 7:00am, of course I ignored it, as I did the next 12 attempts at roughly 10 minute intervals! Trust me, nothing is that important, (it wasn’t). Steadfastly carrying on with the great plan, I threw open the window, expecting birdsong and the gentle sound of the wind in the tree branches opposite, only to be met with a cacophony of noise, courtesy of the local council gardeners mowing and strimming the playing fields within which said birds and trees reside. Now, to understand just how annoying this was, you have to realise that one of the most memorable aspects of the last eclipse I witnessed was hearing the weird and somewhat wonderful cessation of sound as the natural world decided night-time had come early, and it was time to go to birdy bed. Fat chance of that with the racket going on outdoors today… cue the phone ringing again!

attitude4_001Now a bit fed up, I decided the plan was doomed, so headed off to work deciding to enjoy the rapidly fading sunshine en route. When I say ‘work’, perhaps I should substitute the word ‘war’ instead – maybe the strange astral activities had triggered primal impulses of fight and flight into the minds of my darling charges, or maybe they just need to grow up and start acting like adults and do the work they’re being paid for – I don’t know, but trust me, there are times you can forget your fluffy management styles and emotional intelligence… tasers and emotional blackmail would make far more effective management tools! Much hard talking, home truths and drawing lines in the sand followed, but I’d rather spend an evening at Fight Club than go through another day in work like today, (although we don’t talk about Fight Club, ok?). No lunch. Late Finish.

Tonight, more than most nights, I need to escape to SL!

I need the irreverent, ribald humour, the laughter and the LOLs, the madness and the mayhem that abounds in SL to remind me that such things are the very essence of what makes life the rather cool place it really is. I need to be among friends and people who laugh and joke, to share in music and dancing, dressing-up and clowning around. In short, I need a good dose of fun, and that’s something I can – almost without fail – find in SL, without really looking. I need to be in a place where I can switch the lawnmowers off, turn the birdsong up, enjoy the first day of Spring every single day, and if I want an eclipse I can blooming well build my own, to enjoy at leisure, whenever I fancy it!

SL is my happy place, and despite the best efforts of that nasty old real world, I’m going to be happy too!

Happy Happiness Day everyone! :)


Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do
Pharrell Williams – Happy
[A fiver to anyone who can spot me in the video!]


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

Time warped

pages_B099_ThankYou_0_0That thing about dog years being different to human years has never made a lot of sense to me. The principle I understand, but I never really understood why it should ever be particularly important that we should be able to calculate an equivalent human age to a dog’s age. Surely, I reasoned, a year is a year however you measure it and why on earth should it be so difficult to say that a dog in its twelfth year is old for its species, without going through all that rigmarole of working out it equates to sixty odd years as a person?

Barking mad, I say.

I’ve said it before: time is a bit weird. Actually, at this particular point in time I haven’t said it before – well, I have, but you haven’t read it yet; but by the time you read this, you will have, (all will become clear in the course of time). As I mentioned in the future, which will be the past when you read this, time is not as constant as we like to think it is – in fact, it’s all over the place and has no idea what it’s doing. Never more true than in SL.

timemachine_001If we take the fairly universal idea, (well universal for us – I can’t speak for other universes), that a day is somewhere around the length of time that the sun takes to traverse the sky then we’re in for a few surprises inworld. We’re used to the concept that the length of a day in the real world will change according to latitude, time of year and how long we oversleep when the alarm doesn’t go off, but once we get inside SL, even that simple logic breaks down.

To begin with, the standard night and day tend to be a lot shorter in SL than elsewhere and they’re nowhere near equal. The SL forums explain it far better than I ever could:

Traditionally, “Days” are 3 hours long, and “Nights” are 1 hour long. There are 6 full cycles in 24 hours, thus assuring that no matter what time zone you live in in RL, you will not be always logging in in SL’s night.

That’s fine as it stands, but if you’re the sort that tends to become oblivious to all else when logged in, it can be rather confusing trying to relate real time to virtual time, especially since SL adheres to SLT which – based on the premise above – means that although it might be the middle of the night according to SLT, it could just as easily be mid afternoon in the day/night cycle, and breakfast time in the real world. If that’s not going to screw with your body clock, then you’re made of sterner stuff than me.

delayedIt does however explain a conundrum that’s baffled me for a while: some years ago, before moving to my current inworld home, i lived in a rented apartment with a lovely balcony where I used to sit and chat. It always puzzled me that during those long discussions I’d get to see two stunning sunrises, but only ever one sunset – now, after all this time, I finally understand… at least, I think I do.

So let’s return to our doggie friends – or at least to that confounded calculation – because it does, convolutedly I admit, lead to the question ‘how should we measure our avatar’s age?’ Convention tells us our avatar is the age stated in our profile: That is, real world days and years based on the length of real time since we first logged in, but is that the correct method of calculation? If I stay true to my argument that dog’s lives should be measured according to the physical laws of the world in which they live and not by some contrived method of equivalence, then surely we should measure avatar age according to the physical laws of the virtual world? By that reckoning, six days will have passed for every 24 real world hours – making our avatars six times older than we imagine them to be. No wonder we’re always buying new skins, the old ones are wearing out before our eyes!

Now, you may think that this is all a bit silly, and it probably is, but it’s no sillier than many things in SL, especially when the sobering thought hits us that when we’re logged out, our avatars are having six times more fun than we are… sucks, doesn’t it?

s. x

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
The Beatles – A Day In The Life

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

Synchronised shopping

supermarkYou know the scenario… There you are, happily minding your own business at the supermarket, digging around in the yellow label section in the hope of finding tonight’s supper, reduced to clear, when that irritating, greedypants who’s been hovering in the background, rams your heels with her trolley, elbows her way to the front and grabs all six packs of the prime salmon fillet you were reaching for.

You give her a withering look – to which she’s totally oblivious – and, whilst you’re otherwise engaged with trying to convey your utter disdain for her rude and arrogant behaviour, she’s cleared out the remaining decent bargains, leaving you with scrag end cutoffs of nameless deli meats and a chocolate dessert in a crushed box to choose from.

Then the fun starts, because – as you make your way through the rest of the store, inevitably it seems, your paths are fated to cross, over and over again. Each aisle you turn into, she’s there in front of you; you put on a brief spurt of speed, miss out the pasta aisle and take a diversion down to the cat food – even though you don’t own a cat – and then, as you sprint past the Toilet Duck, there she is… coming at you from behind the opposite gondola. No matter what you try, you know fate has stepped in – you’ve synchronised, and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Now resigned to what you know is about to happen next, you nevertheless hold back, loitering with intent just out of checkout range… seeing no sign of your adversary, you make a break for it, triumphantly arriving at the checkout without a hitch. And then it happens: That familiar pain as a trolley collides with your heel. She’s behind you, carelessly shoving your shopping along the belt as she loads up all those cut-price bargains that should have been yours!

Of course, she’s parked next to you in the car park – it stands to reason; why should the horror stop at the shop doorway?

So much for RL, but at least we’re spared that nightmare scenario in SL… well, aren’t we? Not if you’re me! Many times now, I’ve found myself in a similar position inworld, most frequently when I’m working my way through a hunt. At first, nothing seems out of the ordinary, but then it happens: Usually it’s one of those avatars that seems incapable of walking, preferring instead to run at breakneck speed everywhere, scattering people in their wake and – if you happen to be in their flightpath – knocking you out of their way without even an attempt at an apology.

supermarket_001You pick, yourself up, dust yourself down, mutter a few pointed expletives and carry on with the serious business of hunting, then it’s off to the next destination… and, of course, she’s there waiting for you, blundering around and generally being obnoxious. After this happens a few times, you arrive at each location with a sense of dread that you’ll see that familiar name pop up on the screen either when you touch down, or shortly after arrival, and you just can’t shake her.  Nerves beginning to fray, you skip the next few stops and breathe a sigh of relief when she’s not there when you land – but a few moments of bliss, then suddenly, she’s there again… how the hell did she catch up?

If it’s not ‘running woman’ following you around, it’s ‘sleazy guy’ who thinks you’re reverse stalking him by crossing his path more than once, sending you offers that you’d rather not have and suggesting what lingerie you might like to model for him. It’s people like him that have driven me to doing some hunts in reverse order.

Whilst the nature of hunts can lead to this kind of pan-Grid persecution, it’s happened to me on other occasions too… people have randomly chosen the same places to be as myself, even after a quick TP to another destination; or I’ve walked around stores trailing a ‘shadow’ who seems to want to look at the same clothes as me at the same time and practically pushing me out of the way to do so. I’ve teleported away to escape people, only to have them magically reappear moments after I’ve returned to the scene of the crime some time later… sometimes I think I’m cursed, believe me!

In the real world, there is – of course – the ultimate solution: online shopping, and you’re no doubt thinking that I could save myself all this inworld angst by staying away from stores and doing my SL shopping on the Marketplace in much the same manner, but it’s just not the same, so I guess I’m stuck with it… There are times that SL is just a little too much like the real thing!

s. x

I’m all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer
A guaranteed personality
The Clash – Lost In The Supermarket


Posted in Rants, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Passion or what?

scipturientPaypabak recently posted an article about the driving force that compels one to blog. Like Pay, the outpourings on these pages aren’t aimed towards family, friends or colleagues; my audience is far more nebulous and vague than that, and that has sometimes unexpected outcomes!

Much of the what she says resonates strongly with me… Some of the words she uses in her short, but insightful post strike a chord within me. Words like momentum, consuming, and refining; expressions like,  ‘finding turns of phrase that make me smile’, ‘then let it go’, and, that’s as good as it needs to be’ – all fascinating insights into how I’m sure many of us members of that weird species called bloggers think and feel.

The other word Pay mentions is passion, and here I have to stop. And, think.

Am I passionate about blogging? Am I passionate about SL? Is it passion that drives me to constantly and continually subject you, and myself, to the endless stream of mental Diarrhoea that flows across the pages of this blog?

And, perhaps surprisingly, the only answer I find myself coming up with is ‘probably not’.

I am not a particularly passionate person. Instead, I’d consider myself to be rational, analytical, sometimes acerbic, pragmatic and somewhat unflappable – I do at times think there really should be more passion in my life, but then again, that takes an emotional channel9_001commitment, something I avoid if at all possible. I have, at times, paid serious consideration to whether I have the mindset to be a serial killer or assassin, and come to the rational conclusion that – in a strictly clinical sense – I could indeed have a psychopathically wired brain. Consequently, it should really come as no surprise that I find it hard to be passionate about writing, even though I get an enormous buzz from it and a real thrill from the whole process of putting words together in a creative way. I thoroughly enjoy writing of all sorts, formal, academic, fiction, poetry and prose, to the extent that I always have some means of getting the ideas out from my head and into tangible form, no matter where or when I am.

Even so, I couldn’t say that any of the above is the result of passion, neither is SL. I enjoy SL and I find it can be an enormously fulfilling environment; I’ve made some wonderful friends in the virtual world and I love the challenges it presents, the creativity it unlocks and the surprises it can spring… but I am by no means passionate about Second Life.

Neither writing, nor SL are a passion, they are just something I do, although like so many other things in my life, I pursue them with a single-minded determination that will encompass and subsume every aspect of the subject matter at hand. I know the Latin names of my houseplants, and the grape varieties and provenance of every bottle of wine in the rack, I can tell you exactly how a PC works, strip it down and rebuild it from scratch – that’s just the way I am. To a certain extent, I have a logically eidetic memory, although I am hopeless at remembering anything with an emotional context – I’ll recognise you in the street, but will struggle to remember your name. I have a dangerously obsessive character, but it is not compulsive – my DVD collection is in no particular order and I have food in my fridge that has practically evolved into new life forms.

So is writing an obsession? Is Second Life an obsession?

wasted_001Truthfully, I don’t think so. I don’t need either to function, neither do I need my daily fix of one or the other, without which I’d get the shakes, go into a decline and eventually shut down… If the internet died today and writing was banned, I’d just find something else to fill my time. (OK, that was a little bit of a white lie – I’d still write, because the subversive, non-conformist, anti-establishment part of me would insist that I did!)

Why then does so much of me revolve around writing, Second Life, and writing about Second Life?

I dunno. Perhaps there’s just something inside me that needs release – something that needs to get out there and do something creative, subversive and different – all things that lie at the very heart of both writing, and immersing oneself in SL. Maybe that’s it, maybe not.

This post has been a very odd experience to write – not what I planned or expected. Hmm…

s. x

This is my church
This is where I heal my hurts
Faithless – God Is A DJ


Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 3 Comments

First person plural

whoWho are you?

Simple question on the face of it, but so many possible answers:

“I’m Seren”… “I’m the boss”… “I’m the one telling you to get your act together”… “I’m your wife/ husband/ mother/ daughter /BFF”… “I’m the voice of reason”… “I’m the other woman”… “I don’t know who I really am”…

The possibilities are endless, and every and any one of them may be correct, perhaps not all the time, perhaps not every time but certainly some of the time.

And that’s just in the real world.

Coming to think of it, if I was to throw that question at you – yes you, sat in front of your computer screen, reading these words – what’s your answer going to be? Will you be the ‘real’ you, or the virtual you? Right now, in your own mind, are you Jim Smith, or Jimbo Resident, and who exactly is Jimbo Resident anyway?

punk19_001Sure, you might be Jimbo Resident when you log in today, but tomorrow you could be Codeine Vella, Lord High Vampire of the House of Sanguinus, Lizzie Archibald, fashionista extraordinaire or Forgabon Resident, big-boobed and branded Gorean kajira. Each a distinct identity in their own right, with personalities, character traits and an emotional attachment to our real selves that is peculiar to each. Through them we experience the virtual life vicariously, changing our online presence to suit our mood, purpose and circumstances. We may choose to do so by way of multiple manifestations of the same avatar, or possibly through the medium of alts: each encompassing and encapsulating unique characteristics that define who we virtually are.

Who are you? – “We are legion”.

liquides11_001We are complex beings: This is as much true in the real world where our different roles, relationships and circumstances define us just as much as we elect to define ourselves. Mother, client, manager, customer, diner, leader, member, vocalist, priest, victim, accused, friend and enemy – we are many things to many people, and often our persona as perceived by others dictates how we act – or even indeed, how we are required to act in some circumstances – and our behaviours. Then there’s who we are on the inside… strong, weak, angry, sad, joyful, lost, seeker, realist, fantasist, daydreamer – Peter Pans living in fantasy worlds of our own imaginings, captivated by storybooks and poetry, or pragmatic realists, seeing things as they are and completely content in that knowledge. Not one of is ‘just’ or ‘only’ someone – an unchanging, WYSIWYG bag of flesh, bones and set ideas, aspirations and character. We are changeable, multiple personality enigmas, constantly redefining who and what we are according to rules that themselves may be inconstant and fluctuating.

dark2_001Real life can be so constraining, though – yes, there’s room to explore fantasy and wild adventure, break the mould and be different when we feel like it, but unless we’re extremely fortunate, rich or certifiably insane, it’s usually in an extremely limited capacity. Not so in SL… set free from the constraints of reality and given an environment that is far more tangible and believable – far more ‘real’ – than our dreams and imaginings, we can be who, what, where and when we want to be, changing at a whim, exploring the possibilities and challenging our own perceptions of ‘me’.

So, I say, bring on the alts and the chameleons, the clowns and the dancing girls, the princesses, dragons, grown-ups, young-uns, vampires and small furry critters wearing roller skates, because – quite simply – we can!

And you never know, one day you might ask any one of them who they are… and they, will be me!


s. x

I woke up in a Soho doorway
A policeman knew my name
He said “You can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away”
The Who – Who Are You

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Double speak

betterI’m not wanted  :(

My internet provider – Virgin – whom I’ve remained loyal to for a number of years, despite at least five changes of address and a fair few problems along the way has now decided that I’m no longer worthy of their attention, simply because my area isn’t equipped for superfast internet – hardly my fault. I’ve been sold off to the highest bidder, in this case Talk Talk, with no consultation and little warning… nice to know they care about their customers.

To add insult to injury, this is the second time that a comms company has dumped me recently and palmed me off to a new provider with a penchant for double-entry names. Last year, T-Mobile was subsumed into EE, (because one E was presumably less impressive?), leaving me with no support and the choice of ‘upgrading’ to a new deal that was more expensive and less expansive than my existing one. I have a nasty feeling that any new internet package I’m offered will be equally less appealing – so unless I can get a good deal from Talk Talk, I’m afraid I’m going to walk walk!

It’s made me think about what what we might do if faced with a similar situation with SL. What if Linden Lab were given an offer they couldn’t refuse and flogged our virtual world off to the highest bidder? (Let’s call them Tech Tech, TT for short). Maybe nothing would change under TT’s ownership and we could go on living our virtual lives in peace and tranquillity, as if nothing was any different other than having Techies instead of Lindens in charge.

present_001Then again, TT might have very different ideas about how to run a virtual world; ideas that would change everything. What if free accounts were scrapped, third party viewers were blocked and our accounts automatically linked to partner social networking sites? I daresay that many of us would be seriously thinking twice about whether we’d want to continue our relationship with SL. I wonder just how much things would have to change before even the real diehards and those with significant inworld holdings would be confronted with the stark choice of accepting significant change or waving goodbye?

It’s a choice we’re often faced with in RL, after all – like my own experience – companies frequently alter their plans, join with other businesses or otherwise change their focus. If we’re unhappy with changes we can negotiate – sometimes successfully – but the only other options are to either shape up or ship out, neither of which may necessarily be terribly attractive. However, there are always alternative suppliers and  providers we can migrate to, and we can usually find something to suit us. That’s a luxury we don’t have with SL – if we didn’t like the new TT regime, our alternatives are somewhat limited: Other virtual worlds and platforms like SL do exist, but without the bells and whistles, economy and vibrant community that we’re used to. I suspect that many of us would rather give it all up than try to get to grips with a second rate experience.

izzy_001As for myself, I’ve always said that if SL did come crumbling down around me, for whatever reason, then I probably wouldn’t seek out an alternative virtual world. I’ve tried a couple in the past and they just didn’t feel the same, however I do have a back-up plan. If things came to the worst, I’d seriously considering cobbling together a file server from a couple of spare laptops I have under the bed and opening up my own private OpenSim setup to the web. Of course, I’d have to limit access to friends only, for practical reasons, but at least it would mean we could still get together and rebuild something of what we’d lost, secure in the knowledge that no nasty corporate slimeballs could pull the rug from under us. It wouldn’t be perfect, but I’m pretty sure it would do the job.

Let’s hope it never happens!

s. x

You’re gone from here
And soon you will disappear
Fading into beautiful light
Cause everybody’s changing
And I don’t feel right
Keane – Everybody’s Changing

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