Live long and prosper

dressEvery so often, I have one of ‘those’ moments… one of those single grain of sand on an infinite beach moments, when I reflect on my life and my achievements and come to the unsatisfying and disappointing conclusion that it doesn’t really add up to very much at all. Following which, I then have one of those ‘other’ moments: Those clock is ticking and I’m not getting any younger, and there’s so much of the world I haven’t seen and things I haven’t done moments, and everything seems just that little bit more pointless.

To misquote Bogart in Casablanca, the problems of one little person don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, (and we’re talking a pretty small hill – maybe one of those half size tins that are just enough for beans on toast when even Super Noodles seem too much work). Trying to gain some sort of perspective of our lives is frequently a pretty depressing exercise – to rather more accurately quote Douglas Adams: “If life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.”

I suppose much depends on how how you set your own personal goals, and here my advice would always be – for sanity’s sake – to make them as unattainable as possible. Forget SMART objectives because whilst they may make terribly good sense in the workplace, when it comes to setting life goals, it’s rarely that simple. I’d much prefer to aim to be rich and famous, with my own private island and fleet of Italian sports cars, knowing full well that the chances of getting there are pretty much nil, than set a reasonable objective that should be well within my grasp, and fail completely to achieve it. So set your sights high, because the sense of crippling failure you experience from abject inability to manage what those around you manage to breeze through, is seldom a rewarding experience.

edge6_001This is a life lesson I’ve learned through bitter experience – having reasonable, attainable objectives hasn’t worked well for me and, indeed, I seem to be travelling backwards with regards to some measures… success, solvency, independence, satisfaction – many of which I’d probably assess myself as being in a less tenable position that I was in the past. C’est la vie.

No doubt, this is the point at which you are fairly confidently predicting that I’ll launch into a discourse something along the lines of, never mind all that – you can still have fame, fortune, success, private islands and sports cars in SL, even if RL has dealt you lemons. Er, no… Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not going to do that at all.

However, I do think there are things we can take away from SL that might assist us in dealing with some of the curve balls that RL throws in our direction. There are many aspects of the virtual world that are no different from the real world, however whilst we choose to rail and rage against the trials and injustices that RL deals us, when we’re on the receiving end of the virtual equivalent we take a much more pragmatic view, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get on with SLiving. Perhaps we can learn better how to deal with the real world by considering how we deal with those self-same issues when they arise in SL?

Here then are some home-truths that we all know about SL, most of us have experienced, and – having gone through them – have survived comparatively unscathed. Surely whatever we did right on those occasions will have some merit if we choose to follow the same process in the real world when faced with the equivalent RL circumstances?

  • Some things we might be really good at, most things we will really suck at, and some things – no matter how much we might pretend to the contrary – we will never have any intention of truly having at go at;
  • Some people – intentionally or otherwise – will be truly nasty to us, and we will not be able to avoid or distance ourselves from them;
  • We will do/say/write stupid things that we immediately regret; and other people will see us do/say/write them;
  • We will occasionally make colossal mistakes and horribly wrong choices;
  • We will lie about something, we will betray somebody – someone will lie about something that effects us, we will be betrayed by somebody;
  • We will fail at something we desperately wanted to succeed at;
  • We will put our heart and soul into something, and other people will laugh at it;
  • We will irretrievably lose something very precious to us;
  • We will lose contact with special friends;
  • There will be times when we don’t have enough money.

And finally, possibly the most important point – something we accept about SL and just carry on regardless anyway, but often completely fail to manage in RL:

  • SLife is not always perfect. It can be, but only rarely will it be.

perduta18_001

‘A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory LLAP’
(Leonard Nimoy, 1931 – 2014)

s. x

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
Sia – Chandelier

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

Baby talk

babySome things, (well, many things), baffle me.

Not sure whether it’s a common phenomenon, or whether it’s just one of the by-products of living in the chav capital of the world, but one of the more bizarre behaviours common to the younger generation around these parts is a total inability to speak normally. We’re not talking about dropping consonants or slurring vowels, mangling the language or even accentuating the accent beyond what is strictly necessary; rather it’s the weird and highly amusing affectations that the yoof of today choose to adopt when expressing themselves.

My absolute favourites are the wannabe rappers – teenagers for whom conversation can only take place if it’s in a monotone, 120 beats per minute, barely taking a breath, gangsta rap cavalcade of nonsense.

“Yo, bro I’m goin’ down to Tesco’s
gonna cruise in the car park for some fresh ho’s
you can come, if you hold my carrier bags
and lend me a fiver to buy some fags”

Throw in the swagger, the jeans hovering below the butt cheeks and the obligatory can of Red Bull and you find yourself wondering why you ever thought some of the characters you come across in sl were over the top, because they’re positively normal in comparison.

People can get caught up in playing a character, sometimes without even noticing it. It can be the rap-obsessed teenager, the black-clad, white-faced goth or the Beverley Hills styled trophy babe/bro who prefixes every sentence with ‘like‘ and presents each statement as a rising interrogative. Then there are the affectations that normally rational people take on when they wish to make an impression or fit in with the group – all patently fake, and to us the outside observer, completely risible… right up to the point we suddenly realise we’re equally guilty at times of doing exactly the same thing.

Things are a little different in sl – being a primarily visual environment, and one in which the options to change our appearance are limitless, it’s far more likely that the way we look will have the desired effect – there’s little need for the phoney accents, affected manner or over-exaggerated nuances because the visual clues are so powerful. SL is very much a WYSIWYG environment where there’s no need to work quite so hard at other aspects of characterisation in order to show an affinity that shows our belonging to our chosen ‘tribe’. Indeed, that can facilitate the easy transition across various personalities without the need to ever really deviate from being ‘ourselves’ – a few minutes re-creating our look, and we can flit effortlessly from Hells’ Angel to Charlie’s Angel, without the need to intrinsically take on a different persona, outlook or character. We remain ourselves whilst our avatar does all the hard work.

However, there’s always an exception to the rule, and in sl it’s one that can be incredibly irritating to ‘outsiders’ – that is those who don’t subscribe to that particular manifestation of virtual characterisation – and is widely misunderstood, misinterpreted and can be a complete mystery to many, myself included.

rocking1_001It is that fascinating, yet to the outsider, bizarre persona of the SL baby girl, (oddly, those who choose to manifest themselves as male youngsters don’t seem to be similarly afflicted): The baby-talking, twee lolitas of the virtual world. You know the ones… their profiles are filled with gushing tributes to ‘family’ members, spelled out in in faux script and UTF characters to the point where only the truly initiated can read it. Their speech is similarly augmented and punctuated by accents that any self-respecting adult avatar struggles to comprehend.

Yet, no matter how you may feel about such avatars or their human operators, spend some time observing their behaviours inworld and the overwhelming impression you get is that those who choose to express themselves in such a way that the majority may consider childish, weird, even uncomfortable seem to exhibit an innate joy and fundamentally innocent pleasure in the virtual world in which they find themselves.

No, I don’t understand it, and yes, it does leave me feeling vaguely discomforted, but I console myself that I don’t actually have to engage with anyone that I don’t particularly feel the need to, and that the real weirdos, freaks and monsters in SL are probably in the minority. Ultimately – how others choose to experience their virtual lives is really none of my business at all.

It’s not my thing.

But, live and let live, I say.

s. x

You were a child
Crawling on your knees toward him
Making momma so proud
But your voice is too loud
MGMT – Kids

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | 3 Comments

Looking Good

changeThe once thing that SL allows us to do with ease is completely change our appearance – that’s not to say we can’t change the way we appear in the real world, there are many ways in which we can alter the way we look, from the simple expedient of changing clothes and trying a new hairstyle to the more extreme and lasting types of changes, like surgery and a wide array of ‘body modifications’. However, the great thing about SL, is that it’s like Photoshop in one significant regard – it gives us the luxury of non-destructive editing… in other words, no matter how drastic the change, we can always revert back to the original. It’s not always so easy to do that in RL, as many who’ve undergone dodgy surgery or have tried to eradicate a rogue tattoo will attest to.

In effect, our avatars are a hi-tech equivalent of the good old-fashioned dressing-up doll – indeed there are a great many people in SL who speak about their avatars in precisely this way, although equally there are many to whom this way of thinking just doesn’t appeal.

Although, I’m guessing that most of us have, at one time or another, customised our avatars to the nth degree, departing into sometimes the weirdest and wildest of territories, on the whole I’ve found that we tend to fit into two broad categories: Those who frequently change form, shape and appearance (and I’d possibly include those with significantly differing retinues of alts in this group too); and those who rarely, if ever, venture far from their regular look.

2010

2010 – Yep, that’s Chakryn Forest when it was still awesome

Exchanging old photos with friends recently demonstrated to me just how many of my circle fall into that second group – most of my friends are instantly recognisable, even in images from the early days of SL and the changes in their avatar even from as far back as 2006 are pretty minimal. Most will have upgraded skin and hair and perhaps tweaked the odd slider or two but, other than that, the intervening years have shown a remarkable consistency in appearance. This is something I can readily relate to… the only significant change I’ve made since my very first attempt at customising my avatar is to reduce my height to a modest 5’9″ from its original statuesque proportions and tweak my hands so that they look at least vaguely human. That’s it – I have a bunch of Linden created skins, all based on the same template but with subtly different accents, (subtle accents – that’s not a term you often use when referring to the Lab!), which have pretty much been used constantly every since I discovered them, my hair changes more frequently than most people change their socks, but other than that, very little has altered over the years. Of course, there will be the odd occasions when I throw caution to the wind and assume a completely different, and usually pretty freakish, identity just for the fun of it, or to make the effort at fancy dress parties, but I tend to express myself through what I wear, rather than how my avatar is represented.

I find that those who fall into this cadre often strongly associate their avatar with a single personality – frequently based upon their own RL identity, or alternatively, may endow their avatar with its own, wholly contrived personality, particularly if their avatar is of non-human stock. Perhaps one of the most striking examples of virtual anthropomorphism in an avatar I’ve seen was a Scottish gentleman who consistently typed using a Scottish ‘accent’ – not just for effect, not just to make a point, but all the time – how he managed it, I’ll never know, but the effect was quite startling.

Non-human avatars aside, it’s frequently the case that people falling into this group will try – sometimes going to great lengths – to replicate their RL selves inworld, or alternatively, an idealised or stylised version of what they’d choose to be if they had the choice. Indeed, I have several friends whom I’d readily recognise if I bumped into them in RL, simply through knowing their avatars.

2012

2012

Then there are those for whom the SL body is just a canvass upon which they can paint an ever-changing and evolving picture. Often roleplayers or fans of fantasy, appearance to this group is equally important, but as a means of expression and engagement, rather than a natural extension of a human psyche. One day they may be a dragon, the next an Amazon princess, the next a merman or a hydra… here it isn’t so much a case of ‘this is who I am’, it’s more akin to ‘this is what I can be’.

Let’s return to our first group – the mini-me brigade – because thanks to the way in which SL and avatars in particular are developing, this group now face an unexpected dilemma. With the advent of mesh avatars and body parts, it’s only natural that many will fancy upgrading to a slicker, less ‘functional’ look – however the gene pool for mesh is strictly limited and those who do take the plunge will face the sobering thought that they’ll have to sacrifice some – possibly many – of the things that make them unique and different. With the best will in the world, if you elect to adopt a mesh body, particularly a mesh head, you are going to look very similar – if not identical – to a great many others around you. Much of that immediacy and character will be lost and the unique and quirky things that make your avatar fundamentally ‘you’ (or ‘him/her’) will simply no longer exist.

It’ll be bad enough not having your friends recognise you… Imagine how you’ll feel if you don’t even recognise yourself on screen!

Today

Today

s. x

Have you seen her dressed in blue
See the sky in front of you
And her face is like a sail
Speck of white so fair and pale
Have you seen the lady fairer
The Rolling Stones – She’s A Rainbow

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Search me

searchSL Search, or as it’s otherwise known to most of us: ‘that f%**@#!!  load of s*?!!’ - (OK, maybe that’s just a little harsh) – is not famed for its accuracy, user-friendliness or for that matter, its ability to actually come up with a result that even remotely resembles what we were hoping to find, but it is all we have and those of us well-versed in the ways of SL know that sometimes you just have to grin and bear such inconveniences.

The most peculiar aspect of search for me is the way in which it has managed to remain completely static whilst SL as a whole, in technical terms, has advanced in leaps and bounds. An age ago – in technology terms – I was inspired/frustrated enough by our search engine to put finger to keyboard and document my searching woes, and to be absolutely frank with you, if you changed the date on that piece to today, it would still be equally relevant. It’s almost as if the Lindens have left us with a search facility purposely designed to remind us just how far we’ve otherwise progressed… yes folks, this is how all of SL used to be in the good old days!

Or perhaps it’s a ploy to distract us from other issues? As long as search remains a punch bag upon which we can vent our spleen all those other niggles that frustrate us pale into insignificance in comparison.

It’s all too easy to blame the Lab for the search function’s inadequacies but, as with so many things SL, sometimes we have to be aware that when we point the finger at the Lindens to blame them for all our woes, all too often there’s a whole bunch of unseen fingers pointing right back at us too. Yes, it’s true that the most basic attributes of any search engine – the ability to use Boolean operators as filters – is sorely needed inworld, yet bizarrely, the Lab decided to skip that bit when designing their search engine. (Notice I said ‘inworld’ – Marketplace search does allow the use of some operators, you just have to play around with it to find out which ones!) Neither do partial word searches work inworld, but wildcards do work, and I bet you didn’t even realise it! Bung an asterisk in at an appropriate point and search will return a neat list of all the possible hits.

bunker2_001Knowing stuff like that can make search a lot more responsive, but where we really need to get our act together is the way in which we dictate what search finds. Telling search that we ourselves, any object or group we create, or our land parcel wants to be discoverable, really is as simple as ticking the appropriate box, (although there’s a fee for parcels) – something that I suspect we rarely do. Then there’s the vexed question of why on earth, no matter what keywords we use, does search invariably throw up a list of gogo bars and sex clubs, followed by a whole bunch of things that have nothing whatsoever to do with what we were looking for. Traffic has a lot to do with it, and sex joints do tend to get an awful lot of that particular commodity, but there’s more to it than that: Take a quick squint at any set of profile picks and I guarantee you’re almost certain to find completely inappropriate labels in the description for particular locations. Take the following for a long standing and extremely well-known clothing store:

Jeans,denim,dress,dresses,shorts,cargo,shoes,heels,sneakers,leather,sex,club,latex, high heels, fashion,mesh,teen,blouse,skirt,minikirt, exclusive,mall,clothes,bosl, clothing,thong,gifts,pants,top,vest,hair,skin,shape,lingerie,bra

The offending words are highlighted in red – remember this is a clothing store – but put the words ‘sex’ and ‘club’ together and that pushes up the interest level and broadens your discoverability instantly. There’s also a whole load of other terms needlessly hogging searchwidth – surely ‘thong’ and ‘bra’ are covered by the catch-all term, ‘lingerie’? Do we really need ‘clothes’ and ‘clothing’, ‘dress’ and ‘dresses’,’mall’? The sum total of thousands of places vying for our attention and employing descriptions full of clutter and nonsense, similar to these, is a search facility that is doomed from the start, and the example above is nowhere near as bad as some I’ve seen.

However, it’s probably too late to change it now and, let’s face it, why should the Lab bother giving us nice things, if we just abuse and break them by being greedy and misusing what we’ve been given?

SL search will never be Google – we won’t let it be – but, if nothing else, at least we’ll never be at a loss should we feel the need to visit a pole dancing club!

s. x

All my life I’ve been searching for something
Something never comes never leads to nothing
Nothing satisfies but I’m getting close
Closer to the prize at the end of the rope
Foo Fighters – All My Life

 

Posted in Linden Love, SL | Leave a comment

Bigger on the inside

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut what on earth do you do in there?

Interesting question… What indeed is it about SL that swallows up the hours, fills our time and keeps us so absorbed, even sometimes to the extent that other – more familiar – pursuits are pushed to the background?

On the face of it, it is quite surprising that a niche platform, with a pretty insignificant user base in global terms, run by a smallish company can command such loyal support and occupy so much of its users’ time and energy – and I think a lot of that boils down to the old chestnut that SL is not a game, but a virtual word.

Even the most casual observer has to to admit that Sl is far greater than the sum of its parts – if it was just about dressing up avatars, with a bit of social networking thrown in, then SL certainly wouldn’t exert the hold that it does over its adherents and we’d soon tire of what it had to offer, and that – to me – is very much the failing of so many games. Unlike SL, games tend to be very limited in their scope – even the most open-ended, organic representatives of the genre tend to have fixed goals, achievable in specific ways and a clear beginning, middle and end. Once you’ve fulfilled the criteria for success, there’s very little else to do, other that wait for the next expansion pack or mod to come out so that you can do the same thing all over again, only with different trees. Games also tend to have pretty rigid rules and whilst there are some that encourage creativity, you’re still working within the constraints of the overall game plan. You can’t write your own rules and there’s no such thing as an open-ended, yet completely satisfying conclusion.

The same applies to the whole gaming cadre to some degree… shoot ‘em ups; adventure; driving; platform; community-building and skill games – and whilst it’s true that some provide you with a framework upon which you can exercise a degree of creativity, few – if any – give you the freedom to tear down the framework and do it your own way.

tardis_001Even the most extensive games tend to be set within pretty tight and constrained environments, systems and processes. However, SL is subtly different – whereas games have a definable and finite span and constraints, SL isn’t limited to the picture on the front of the box, and – although the principle of SL is pretty well defined: a 3D social media platform with user-created content – both the scope and the environment within which that premise is explored take it far beyond the constraints that a traditional game would impose. In so many ways, SL truly is bigger on the inside.

It is this characteristic of SL that defines it in terms of being a virtual world – and similarly, justifies the name Second Life – to begin with, we have the element of unrestrained choice. Although we may start with a rudimentary avatar that looks the same as those around us, we choose how we wish to look, act and interact with others, and within a short space of time we have carved out our own unique look and niche. We have the choice about how much about ourselves we reveal to our peers and strangers – indeed, we can even make it all up, putting across a completely fake, but nonetheless valid persona when inworld.

le cactus2_001The opportunities and choices we face whilst inworld are incredibly varied and diverse, just as in RL, and whilst we might argue that it’s possible to customise avatars, quests and the environment within some games, it’s unlikely that we’d find anything quite so versatile and accommodating as SL. Again, like the real world, the more we explore, the more we experience, and the more we want to do, the more the world expands to meet those ever-changing priorities and needs.

I’m not saying that SL is not without some boundaries and constraints, however neither is RL – but those boundaries are far less restrictive than in other virtual environments and far more flexible than in any game I know.

So, what on earth do I do in SL? Whatever I want to! And the more I do, the bigger and better it gets!

s. x

It’s knowing that your door is always open
And your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my reggae bag
Rolled up and stashed behind your couch
Pat Sandy – Gentle On My Mind

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Ecce Blogger!

alchemyBandwagons: The blogger’s downfall… jump on board and unless you have something utterly unique to say about what everybody else is saying, you just merge into the background noise. It’s unsatisfying and leaves a sense of unfulfillment, a wholly understandable outcome if – as can all too frequently be the case – the only reason we clambered aboard in the first place was to grab hold of the easy option. Perhaps forgiveable: A slow news week, a few days when the well of inspiration has run dry, or just general fatigue and world weariness can be all the reason we need to churn out what everybody else is also churning out… the same words, just a slightly different order and perspective. And, if you do have something different to say from the madding crowd, the chances are it’ll never see the light of day; drowned out in the morass of garbled white noise spawned by the bandwagon machine.

It can make the blogosphere a very bland and disaffected place, although it’s always handy if you’re short on time, to know you only have to read one or two of your favourites and know you’ve pretty much got the whole of the bigger picture.

chalk_001Very occasionally however, something rather odd happens – a common theme will emerge spontaneously and flourish briefly – an opportunity to hear wildly disparate voices sharing their wisdom and insight in their own unique and special way. No bandwagon, but a collective of storytellers narrating individual threads of a plot that no-one has planned. Today, as I skim through the pantheon of blogs that forms my regular list of favourites it seemed that a whole host of bloggers are blogging about the art of blogging, in just this fashion… Nobody set the ball rolling, nobody themed it, memed it or otherwise determined that this would be international ‘Let’s Write About Blogging’ week, nevertheless the mysterious forces that direct the flow of the information superhighway have created that altogether special and precious moment when blogs converge.

Until some jerk like me notices, and decides to bandwagonise.

My only excuse is that it’s not something I’d normally do and – for no obvious reason – I felt a strong compulsion to write on the same topic. The root cause of that may well be that reading about other peoples’ experiences of blogging, their reasons and rationale for what they do, is a stark reminder to me that even after over four years of typing away at this thing, there are still two questions I’m still unable to answer:

  1. What is this blog about?
  2. Why do I blog?

OK, perhaps the first question is a little misleading – the blog is broadly based around SL, and most of the stuff I post is linked to or directly related to it, but then it’s also an outlet for a host of other things too… stories, drabbles, thoughts on real life, snatches of poetry and all sorts of other garbage that are basically just the outpourings of a slightly deranged, but (hopefully) fairly rational, mind. It’s very much a case of ‘have blog, will splurge’.

I know quite definitely what this blog is not: It is not a tutorial, repository of knowledge or fanzine for SL – it may indeed have elements of all those things occasionally, but that isn’t its raison d’être for being. Similarly, it’s not a review of SL fashion, objet d’art, home ‘n’ wares or desirable destinations – there are more than enough blogs out there to cover those worthy causes and, besides, I have absolutely no interest in pursuing those particular avenues.

oubliette10_001It’s certainly not an attempt to secure my fifteen minutes of fame. I’ve never sought to publicise, promote or otherwise raise the blog’s profile – compare this blog with most others of a similar age and you’ll invariably find that if success is rated by followers, hits or traffic, I’m way down at the very bottom of the league table, and that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Neither do I care about all that peripheral stuff… likes, reblogs, comments and their kin. I know that sounds horribly disingenuous, which I don’t mean to be at all: I really do love it when people connect with what I write and it’s wonderful to receive comments – to be absolutely honest, I still get surprised that anyone reads this, so when someone takes the time and the trouble to respond, it’s a real treat, but all that clicking of buttons, thumbs-upping and the usual fare that you’ll find on almost any website these days baffles me. I don’t know what a ‘like’ button does, and if you click one, although you’ll certainly evoke a big beaming smile from me, it’ll be followed by a mild panic attack as I torture myself wondering what on earth I’m supposed to do in response!

Let’s move on to the second question: Why do I blog?

Dunno.

No, really, I don’t.

I never set out to, and I never wanted to. I only started because an inworld acquaintance had a blog and I thought I’d give it a go. As fate would have it, it was blogging that completely poleaxed any sort of friendship between us when she wrote about a mutual friend in rather unflattering terms, which I happened to mention to said friend in passing. Cue one of the most bizarre exchanges I’ve ever had in SL:

[16:46]  Serendipidy Haven: that was before you called her a wotsit lesbian carnivore
[16:46]  Crazy Blogger: oh please tell me she doesnt know about that
[16:46]  Crazy Blogger: you didnt tell her surely
[16:47]  Serendipidy Haven: erm
[16:47]  Serendipidy Haven: i might have mentioned it while you were in the loo!
[16:47]  Crazy Blogger: WHAT
[16:47]  Serendipidy Haven: she thought it was hilarious!
[16:47]  Crazy Blogger: oh my god
[16:47]  Serendipidy Haven: hey – she’s fine about it
[16:47]  Serendipidy Haven: agreed actually
[16:47]  Crazy Blogger: no no,
[16:47]  Crazy Blogger: wtf?
[16:48]  Crazy Blogger: you told her something i wrote in private??
[16:48]  Crazy Blogger: thanks a f*cking lot
[16:48]  Crazy Blogger: f*ck you
[16:48]  Serendipidy Haven: pardon?
[16:51]  Crazy Blogger: you dont just f*cking tell someone, something i wrote in confidence
[16:51]  Crazy Blogger: what kind of sh*tty person does that
[16:51]  Serendipidy Haven: in confidence — on a f*cking blog?
[16:52] Crazy Blogger: f*ck off

Moral of this story: never under-estimate the power of words written publicly, (or the idiocy of some SL residents)

So here I am, over four years and more than a million words later, and I still don’t really know why I do it, other than it feels wrong not to, even though it can be damn hard work. Those who have never tried blogging have no real idea of the time, effort and emotion that goes into each and every post – and I don’t put nearly as much effort and dedication into this as many other bloggers do.

birds1At the end of the day, there must be something that compels me to write the nonsense I spill on these pages. I think the real answer is possibly the same reason that I find SL so absorbing. It’s the same reason that I don’t bother reading other blogs that are solely geared to reviewing fashion, or blogs that blandly bandwagon and memetate; those blogs in whose pages you’ll never find an original thought or connect with the consciousness of their authors. The only blogs – even those about SL – that interest me are those that communicate the essence of the person writing them.. the reality behind the illusion. Just as in the real world and the imaginary world of SL, I’m far more interested in the people – their thoughts, ideas, fears and emotions – than in the things that surround them. And, just maybe, that’s what my own blog is all about.

You see, this is me. These are my thoughts, dredged up from where they would otherwise lie hidden away forever. They deserve to be let out to play, and if you want to be their playmate, well I’m not going to stop you from joining in, after all, it’s kinda fun.

Not every thought will be a priceless gem – many will be base metals, lacklustre and everyday, but I’m ever the hopeful alchemist, living in the belief that perhaps one day those dull and prosaic thoughts, combined in some strange and exotic way, will be the ingredients that, combined and refined, might somehow produce pure gold.

Or maybe it’s just words.

s. x

Please don’t be a stranger in my place
What if I could be what you wanted me to be
What if I could see what you wanted me to see
Come on and show me
Paper Lions – Travelling

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 8 Comments

Jumble

clothesI have way too many clothes!

Yes, you read that correctly – it wasn’t some dreadful typo – I really do have an excess of clothes in SL, by any measure you care to mention. If I was to stop acquiring clothing right now, I could probably manage to wear a new outfit every day for the next couple of years without repeating a single one – and that’s without even considering the possibilities of mixing and matching.

Do I need all those clothes? No, of course I don’t, and I’m not entirely sure where they’re coming from in the first place – I don’t make a habit of frequenting yard sales, gachas or events, neither do I spend a huge amount on clothes – I can’t afford to – whole months can go buy without me spending on a new outfit, yet still my inventory grows. It reminds me of church jumble sales where somehow ever more junk get puts into storage, ready for the next sale, than is ever originally laid out for the current one.

The difficulty lies in staying on top of the issue – thinking I’d play it clever, and with every good intention, I decided to create a ‘pending’ folder in my inventory – anything new that wasn’t pressed into immediate use would go into the folder until I had the opportunity to try it, wear it or throw it out. That worked really well… Not! Now my pending folder contains somewhere in the region of 50 sub-folders and I dread to think how many yet-to-be unpacked boxes. All I’ve done is move the problem around.

Previously, I’ve tried working on the basis of sending new items to their appropriate destination folders straight away, but that didn’t work either – the main problem being that I’d rather unpack boxes and put their contents away properly than have to fiddle round with unopened boxes, bags and containers later, when I’d really just like to slip into something more comfortable rather than mess about unpacking and sorting. Since most new sets of clothing come in boxes (and sometimes in boxes, inside boxes), finding the time there and then to unpack and sort them isn’t always practical… so it’s back to the pending folder.

wardrobeThere’s another problem with accruing ever-greater piles of unworn clothing, before long you enter into a loop of non-productivity – a self-sustaining process that tends to mean you’re never going to sort out that wardrobe, no matter how often you try. The process goes something like this:

You buy some clothes and pack them neatly in your ‘clothes awaiting trying on’ section of your inventory, promising that next time you get a spare five minutes, you’ll sort them out. Some time later, you acquire more clothing; it too is put aside for later… this happens a number of times. Finally, ‘later’ comes when you realise you now have something like 20 new outfits you’ve never unpacked. A marathon session of unpacking, trying-on, mixing and matching, sorting and storing safely away takes place and, rather pleased with yourself, after a couple of hours’ work, you’ve got through about half the outstanding outfits. Next time, you’ll finish the lot, you promise yourself. Some time later, you buy some new clothes… rinse, repeat and so on. In a relatively short space of time you’ve acquired so much new clothing that the mere sight of that bulging folder sends you into a cold sweat, you put off the inevitable, again and again… once you’ve reached this point, it’s too late, you’re stuck with all that mess in perpetuity!

Or, in simple terms – the more boxes you have, the less chance there is they’ll ever be unpacked, let alone their contents worn. [Seren’s 6th Law of SL].

I can’t recommend this approach – although sadly, it seems to be the natural order of SL things. Resistance is futile!

It seems such a short time ago that I was proud to boast an inventory of fewer than 10,000 items, now it’s four times bulkier, and a good 10% of that is represented by clothing that I’ve yet to get around to sorting out. It seems I’m faced with a choice – bite the bullet and get sorting, or consign the whole lot to the nearest jumble sale. There is, of course, a third option: maintain the status quo, and leave things just as they are… I’ll get around to it sometime.

Not that I’d ever choose that option, of course…

s. x

And what becomes of you my love
When they have finally stripped you of
The handbags and the gladrags
That your grandad had to sweat, so you could buy
Manfred Mann – Handbags & Gladrags

Posted in SL | 3 Comments

Real lives: Real people

realThere’s a real person behind the avatar.

How often do we see that in somebody’s profile? Those of us who’ve been around for any length of time in SL are more than aware of it anyway – when you begin to forge friendships, even virtual ones, it’s not the avatar that matters, it’s the person – and there shouldn’t really be any need to remind anyone,

There are, of course, those within the virtual community who thrive upon drama and take a great deal of satisfaction in making other people’s second lives – and, by association, their real lives – miserable. We even have websites for those whose greatest pleasure is to heap invective upon anybody who happens to fall foul of their, usually hopelessly wrong, opinions. However, I’d like to think that those sort of people are in the minority and, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to give them their own space to spew forth their ire – at least you’ll know where, and whom they are, so you have a good chance of avoiding them.

Putting aside the gossip-mongers, haters, SLanderers and scumbags who seem to think that SL is their own private drama domain, what we’re left with is pretty much a bunch of genuine, friendly and accommodating people who get on pretty well with each other, most of the time. Many of us go much further than that – we get to know the real people behind those avatars… what they do for a living, their likes and dislikes, details about their families and lifestyles – in many ways, the two lives begin to merge: Silkycheeks Piebutton becomes interchangeable with Sylvia Peterson and the line separating reality becomes blurred to the point that we imbue the avatar with the characteristics of the real person who created it. We would never dream of hurting or offending that person either directly or through the medium of their virtual identity and, when occasionally we might accidentally cause offence, we are mortified and do whatever we can to put things right.

Even so, there’s a danger that this familiarity is capable of breeding contempt, Once we start to take too much for granted that the avatar and the person are one and the same, there’s always the possibility that we see the avatar as our friend, albeit endowed with all the human aspects of the real person with whom we have become familiar. So what? You may ask, why should that matter? I suppose, in many ways, it doesn’t matter in the slightest; after all, we’re all avatars in SL and it shouldn’t really make any difference at all if we see the pixels we’re interacting with as Silky or Sylvia… but, in some ways, that distinction actually does matter.

Imagine that Silkycheeks breaks down in the middle of an inworld conversation and reveals some personal real life tragedy that’s maybe only occurred very recently. Whilst this may be difficult to deal with in the real world, at least we’re dealing with a real person that we can hug, or console or simply be a listener to in a time of need. In SL, things become a bit weird… we want to reach out and hug their avatar, maybe blurt out a gesture that fits, but – worse still – if we’ve allowed ourselves to relate to the pixels more than the person, it can be difficult for our minds to connect at a human level: we’ve become far too familiar with what we see on the screen, taking it for granted that what we see is the person that we know. We’re aware that they have lives beyond the screen, and we know all about those lives, but when those real lives push their way past the virtual ones and insist that we take notice and relate directly to them, that’s when we can find ourselves unequal to the task.

contemplate1_001Something along those lines happened to me recently – a friend, whom I’ve known for quite some time found themselves on the receiving end of one of those nasty hands that life occasionally deals us, and I found myself floundering, unable to respond appropriately. Eventually, I took myself off to a quiet place inworld – and I did the same on the other side of the keyboard too – to think about why this should be the case. I realised that those things I knew of the real life of my friend I’d unconsciously – and wrongly – attributed to their avatar; I’d allowed them in my mind to become what I saw, rather than the person behind the mask.

And you  see, avatars – for all their faults – don’t die, don’t have accidents, don’t become ill, and never suffer personal tragedy.

Don’t forget that there’s a real person behind the avatar.

s. x

Well now look, at what we’ve become,
we’re only human, we´re only human
Hurricane Love – Only Human

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Alt. life: 50 shades

50Well, it won’t be long now… the long awaited, over-hyped and – in many quarters – already despised release of the movie adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey is finally going to hit the cinemas.

Let’s hope the movie is better than the book – although that wouldn’t be all that difficult to achieve – but quite apart from the dubious literary value of Erica Leonard’s writings, the 50 Shades trilogy has attracted controversy right from the start, beginning as an x-rated ripoff of Twilight, from which it allegedly borrowed heavily, up to the point at which the books gained massive mainstream popularity, garnering (quite rightly, in my opinion), a good deal of criticism from BDSM communities about its wildly inaccurate portrayal of the lifestyle and concerns about the way in which the novels fail to address significant failings in their commentary – notably in the manner in which they condone scenes that can be considered emotionally abusive and fail to adequately address the matter of consent.

SL, being what it is, has more than its fair share of D/s communities – both roleplay and lifestyle – probably because it’s ‘private’ and allows people to indulge in fantasy without ever having to bring it out into the arena of real life. Personally, there is nothing about the SL scene that attracts me at all – it’s terribly contrived, overrun by utter numptys and morons, and involves far too much typing and explanation of what’s going on… it is, to me at least, rather boring.

Ho hum… but isn’t ‘boring’ exactly the reason that a million housewives every day pick up a 50 Shades book and say, ‘I’ll have a bit of that, thank you very much’?

s. x

Who wouldn’t want a good girl, a soft hand, a gentle woman for a gentleman?
He said, “It’s been fine so far but after a while I want more than a soft style.
I want some slashes to go with those long eyelashes.”
Recoil – Breath Control

 

Posted in Alt. life:, RL, SL, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

Do I know you Hon………..

convOh, my word… Silly season is upon us once more!

Why do these things always have to happen to me? Of all the people on the Grid at any given time, why is it that I’m the one that all the weirdos gravitate to?

There I was, minding my own business, just doing my own thing quietly and unobtrusively when ‘that’ unprompted IM pops up on my screen:

[12:11] Complete Stranger: Do I know you Hon………..

It’s by no means the most offensive message I’ve ever received out of the blue, and it lacks the panache of ‘fancy a shag babe?”or ‘Do you wanna see my cock, I’ve got two sluts here and a spare poseball just for you’, but as an opening salvo it does commit the cardinal sin of ending in that universal term of endearment, guaranteed to set a stranger’s heart fluttering: ‘Hon’, (and what’s with supernumerary ellipses?). This is never a good way to attempt to begin a conversation with me – by all means, give ‘bitch’ a try, you could even go for ‘weirdo’, in truth I’d find either less offensive and more entertaining, but when a random passerby elects to address me as ‘Hon’ or any of its derivatives – whether in sl or the real world – it’s tantamount to saying ‘I would very much like you to punch me hard in the nose’. It’s just as well I’m not really all that violent a person!

However, I must have been in a terribly good mood, because I glossed over what was plainly either a very bad typo, or very bad mistake, and allowed myself to be engaged in conversation by my new found friend; that I’m afraid, turned out to be a little bit of a mistake:

[12:11] Complete Stranger: Do I know you Hon………..
[12:11] Serendipidy Haven: don’t think so
[12:12] Complete Stranger: Thought I might have been married to you on sl…………….. :(
[12:12] Serendipidy Haven: lol – fraid not
[12:12] Serendipidy Haven: i’d remember!
[12:13] Complete Stranger: I would not………. :(

Notice the apparent ease with which I dealt with the married statement, almost without missing a beat! However, at this point my Freakazoid Alert Siren was blaring out full blast, and the sensible thing would have been to make my excuses and bring the conversation to a halt. When have I ever done the sensible thing though? Besides which, I was more than a little miffed by the presumption that being married to me in sl would be an ultimately forgettable experience… believe me, if you’d ever found yourself in that most regrettable position, the one thing I can guarantee is that you’d quite definitely remember it!

beach8_001I won’t go through the rest of the conversation, other than to say it continued in much the same surreal manner as it had started. There was, of course the inevitable invitation to TP across the sim to join my mystery caller, which I politely declined, but other than that, it was all perfectly polite, respectful and by no means disagreeable, apart from the fact that I spent most of the time wondering what on earth we were actually discussing. It was a bit like having a conversation with a foreigner, when neither of you speak the other’s language, apart from a smattering of  odd words… you think you’re making progress, right up to the point at which you realise you have absolutely no idea what either of you have just said, nod and smile politely, and look for the nearest excuse to exit the conversation.

Except, I never find it that simple: Having wilfully entered into the conversation, I was finding it increasingly difficult to escape. Even the protracted silences between messages weren’t achieving their intended aim – two or three minutes would pass and I’d be breathing a grateful sigh, when suddenly that pesky little box would flash, and the saga would continue…

[12:36]  Complete Stranger: I will have to tell you The Almond Story someday…………

Er, yes… someday. Perhaps. Maybe.

Get a grip, Haven, take control and move on!

So I did – Feigning surprise at the lateness of the hour and muttering about some important business I needed to sort out, I made my excuses – knowing full well that I’d be logged back on in a different location within a few minutes of leaving. No, really it had been lovely talking and we should catch up again sometime… maybe I could hear all about the Almond Story?

And then it happened, just as my cursor was hovering over ‘log out’.

[12:38] Second Life: Complete Stranger is offering friendship.
Would you be my friend?
(By default, you will be able to see each other’s online status.)

Well, what could I do? What would you do?

Of course, I logged off!

s. x

Goodbye stranger it’s been nice
Hope you find your paradise
Tried to see your point of view
Hope your dreams will all come true
Supertramp – Goodbye Stranger

Posted in SL | Leave a comment