Out of circulation

You may have noticed that these posts recently have slowed to something of a trickle. And those who know me inworld may also have noticed I’ve been fairly conspicuous by my absence, only logging in on a couple of occasions a week, when previously – and indeed for pretty much the last ten years or so – it’s been almost every day. In fact, for many years, Saturdays have been the only day when you’re unlikely to run across me at all.

So, what’s going? Especially since it wasn’t all that long ago I was regaling you with tales of wonderful new experiences and things I’ve been up to in SL after a long period of ‘same old, same old’. It seems that I’ve abruptly gone from sudden renaissance to sudden apathy.

I’m not all that sure why either. It’s not that I’ve been so busy or indisposed in RL that I’m unable to spend time in SL; nothing in that respect has changed. Rather, it’s been a conscious decision not to bother and it’s difficult for me to put my finger on exactly why I’m feeling this way.

Have I become bored with SL? I don’t think so, and it’s not that sort of feeling anyway. I’ve been bored with the virtual world before: Logging in, only to while away the time doing very little and feeling unstimulated and unsatisfied. It’s not that. It’s more a case of me just not feeling bothered about getting online and choosing to fill my time with other things instead – I just can’t whip up the enthusiasm at the moment for some reason. I’m also finding that people around me, not just my close circle of friends, but complete strangers I run into all over the Grid seem to have become – not to put to fine a point on it – just a little bit boring themselves.

I should clarify that last point: By ‘boring’ I suppose I mean rather too predictable and regimented, but also, incredibly bland. It seems to me recently that people are doing the same old things, week in – week out, time after time, after time. And, whereas it’s perfectly obvious that there are scheduled events that people will subscribe to on a regular basis, I do find it odd that anyone would want to do the same thing every single day, for the duration of their time inworld, with the same crowd of people, even if the location might change. As for the blandness, I’m starting to think that everyone looks and acts the same, no matter who they are, or where you might come across them.I’m not saying that the Grid hasn’t become a more polished and aesthetically pleasing place, and the same goes for avatars, but it feels like it’s at the expense of quirkiness and originaliy.

It just seems to me that SL has become terribly serious and that nobody seems to be interested in being silly, odd or individual any more. The whole business of shopping,  getting dressed and going out and ‘enjoying’ yourself has become terribly regimented, expensive and labour intensive, and that’s a feeling that others have expressed to me too, although it often takes a bit of probing to actually bring those feelings to the surface. I find that if I should turn up somewhere sporting my own weird and wonderful style, I’m frequently the odd one out in a sea of immaculately turned out, plasticky perfect avatars, all mechanically slavishly dancing in perfectly synchronised movements. Sometimes I want to shout at them and shake them and ask them what’s happened to their individuality, but I’ve a horrible feeling that they’ll just look at me blankly, incomprehension in their eyes, like something out of a zombie B-movie.

The worst thing for me is that I’m starting to become very conscious that I’m the one who’s different. When I’m socialising, I’m the one literally dancing to a different beat; I’m the one for whom a nightclub visit in SL is the exception rather than the rule; I’m the one who’s constantly frustrated that the popular clothing creators are simply not interested in making anything that caters for anyone other than the masses… Surely there must be others inworld who aren’t interested in evening dresses slit to the thigh, bare midriffs and low cut, flimsy tops? Apparently though, there’s no real market for quirky, odd, unusual, grungy or downright weird mesh clothing, so I’m stuck with the ever-dwindling suppliers of decent system clothes to satisfy my somewhat off-the-wall tastes.

Nobody explores anymore, and the interstitial spaces in between shopping and going out seem to be solely filled with hours of standing motionless in skyboxes, trying to make your clothing fit. I find that odd.

So, maybe I’ve lost my virtual mojo, not because SL has become boring, but because the people who inhabit it are inexorably heading in that direction. And for rebels like me, that means the virtual world becomes an ever more empty, soulless and alienating experience.

Just like real life, in a way!

s. x

And nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before
And we’ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow
Del Amitri – Nothing Ever Happens

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Methuselah

I’m getting old!

Obviously  I’m not oblivious to the inevitable passage of time and the accompanying signs of aging, but apart from the odd ache, the realisation that I can no longer do all night what I used to do all night (sleep, that is… Without needing to get up for a wee), and the disturbing grunts and other noises I’ve taken to making when I get in and out of a chair, in the main, I manage to stay fairly unaware of the natural processes of entropy.

Then, whilst idly testing through the comments on a ‘true stories that really did happen to me in work’ website, I came across the fatal phrase:

“Whilst I was working in customer service, around the turn of the century…”

That stopped me dead. ‘around the turn of the century’ – now there’s a phrase that I never expected to hear used in my lifetime in that particular context. As a youngster, the 21st century seemed like the dim and distant future, a theoretical point in time that was so distant as to be incomprehensible. Then, as Y2K loomed, it suddenly all became very real,  although I have to say that my actual millennium eve, when the calendar finally clicked over from 1999 to 2000 was something of a disappointment, as was the fact that planes steadfastly refused to fall from the sky, traffic lights obstinately continued to work, and all the other promised horrors of the Y2K bug singularly refused to manifest themselves

Until then, the phrase ‘around the turn of the century’ always feel that it referred to ancient history. The realisation that the century turned all over again, during my lifetime, shook me up a bit.

I imagine that it’s the same for those who experienced the swinging sixties at first hand, rather than through the recollections of their parents, when they hear a Beatles’ song and remember buying the single when it was first released.

I am indeed getting old… I remember evenings spent taping songs off the radio and hoping the DJ wouldn’t speak through the intro; I remember panicking about the immanent demise of cassette tapes; I remember when Doctor Who was still a bloke, and moreover, he was Jon Pertwee; I remember having a black & white TV, and when remote controls didn’t exist; I remember being so excited at upgrading my 14k modem to a 28k and the sweet music of its digital handshake; I remember Netscape Navigator.

I remember experiencing SL on a 386sx PC that could barely display Internet images, let alone run a virtual world.

That’s quite disturbing too… Ten years is a very long time to have a life in a virtual world, especially considering that for much of that time I’ve logged in almost every day, and usually for hours at a time. That’s a lot of virtual hours logged during which surprisingly little has really changed inworld, despite the many momentous real world ‘upgrades’ and changes that have taken place during the same timeframe.

People, relationships and places, of course, have come and gone and sometimes changed beyond recognition, and technological advances mean that some things are a little slicker, a little more polished and the overall virtual experience is somewhat improved, but I don’t think there’s anything really comparable to many of the massive changes that have taken place in reality. Whilst I accept that there are those who may log in after a number of years’ absence and struggle to get to grips with this new-fangled mesh clothing, it’s nowhere near as radical a change as a time traveller might face in trying to buy something at a typical electrical goods store to to play their old VHS tapes on!

Much of what made SL unique, interesting and fun back when I joined up hasn’t really changed at all: It’s still a mad, quirky, bizarre and confusing place; negotiating doorways and spiral stairs is still a challenge even with ten years’ practice under my belt; goods still cost pretty much the same as they did in the past, and people still spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about the same old things they’ve always complained about.

Very little has changed at all, and for a geriatric avatar like me that’s great news… Because so little change makes me think that maybe I haven’t been around for quite as long as it feels.

However, the there’s something else about SL that makes me feel slightly less old: Second Life didn’t even exist at the turn of the century, and I arrived much later than even that… On that basis, I’m practically a complete noob! (Which would also explain why I’ve still to master walking through doors and climbing stairs!)

Yep, gotta say, even after all these years, I’m still down wiv the kidz! Innit though bruv! Safe.

s. x

People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
The Who – My Generation

 

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

Second Life: Second wind

Interesting times for me. After years of settling down into my own routine and feeling comfortable in my second life, in the past few months it’s all started to become rather unsettled – not in a bad way, I hasten to add, but my routines have started to become less routine and my day to day virtual experiences have developed a whole new array of unexpected territory to explore.

Whilst, on the outside, its all been rather subtle and unlikely to be obvious to anyone but my closest inworld friends, I feel that my character and the way I interact with those around me also changing as a result of the new challenges that SL has seen fit to send my way, and to quote the oft repeated mantra from so many profiles, ‘I’m the same in SL and RL’, so I can’t help thinking that what’s happening to my virtual self may well cross over into the real world too… And I’m not entirely sure what I think of that!

I’ve been doing a few things out of character lately in the virtual world: Firstly, my friends list has experienced a growth spurt, and unlike the majority of the pre-existing names featuring on the list, I’ve been finding myself able and willing to spend time with these people and, horror of horrors, chat to them about all manner of things in IMs – something that has never come easily to me. Please don’t think that this is any reflection upon any of the more established friends I have inworld – I wouldn’t swap them for the world, and for some of them, I’d willingly walk barefoot over broken glass… It’s just that I seem to have unlocked something that’s never been there before, and I’m not really sure why with some people things are a bit different, and with others, I’m the same old me.

I’m not one for social gatherings amongst strangers, or in unfamiliar places and settings, yet recently, I’ve departed from the beaten path on a few occasions and mingled happily with others in circumstances that previously would have found me hiding away in a corner. I’ve also found myself giving up my precious ‘me time’ in favour of ‘we time’, putting aside solitary pursuits that I previously would have preferred and instead spending time with others, chatting, shopping, dancing…

It’s all rather odd, and very much out of character and I really don’t know where it’s coming from.

I wonder if I’m becoming more social and gregarious with age, or maybe I’m mellowing somewhat and letting down the barriers that I’ve spent a lifetime erecting. Unlikely though that may seem to me initially, it does sort of make sense. The last ten years or so of my life have been one long process of reconstruction and re-establishing a sense of self, and perhaps that process is now bearing fruit. In RL, life has made me one tough cookie, and that has naturally been replicated in SL. I’m completely in control of every aspect of my life and no-one, but no-one, gets allowed in unless I trust them implicitly and it’s on my own terms – it’s a defence mechanism that works, and it’s not something that I relinquish without very good reason. The same is also true of SL.

The vast majority of my friends have taken months, sometimes years to become established; the vast majority of my time spent inworld has always been spent in solitude and doing my own thing; the vast majority of social activities I’ve partaken of fall within a tiny circle of places, people and events. This has been a conscious preference, driven by a personality that is hard coded for self preservation.

Until now, this has been sacrosanct and inviolate, but clearly something is undergoing a paradigm shift, and it’s almost as if I’m testing the water in SL before I take the plunge and start exploring new horizons in the real world. That is, frankly, terrifying!

However, many of the new aspects of my virtual life the have started to unfold were, if not terrifying, at least unnerving and capable of sending me into a flat spin in the past, yet I seem to be taking them on board without too much obvious angst… So maybe that’s a positive sign for reality too?

To be absolutely honest, I’ve been perfectly happy with my life, both real and virtual, for quite some time now, and I would have continued in that vein until I fell off my twig; however life can be both perfidious and benevolent when it comes to fate, not to mention occasionally mischievous, and sometimes you just have to lift your head above the parapet and take the risk that entails.

Maybe there’s a whole new wealth of experience that I’ve expertly managed to deny myself for years, or maybe it’s just a phase I’m going through which will eventually peter out and I’ll revert to type… Only time will tell.

Let’s see what happens!

s. x

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”
Talking Heads – Once In  A Lifetime

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Say cheese

It’s been rather a cheesy week inworld. It all started during one of our silly punning sessions, when a newcomer to the group made the mistake of taking to heart the assertion that we could contrive a bucket load of puns from any topic. Foolishly, he made the suggestion, ‘cheese’ and, would you brie-lieve it, the conversation that followed was gouda-nuff to eat, with a glut of caerphilly constructed cheese-isms that would drive any reasonable person to exclaim, ‘I canembert it!’

The cheesiness was to continue, completely unintentionally and somewhat bizarrely, when a conversation with a friend turned to the subject of these particular dairy products – not a usual topic of late night conversation before bedtime, but an interesting one, nevertheless.

That particular conversation was the prompt for me to begin a voyage of discovery, starting with the US Food & Drug Administration and the rules governing the sending of cheese to the States and ending with some in-depth research into the various types of true Wensleydale cheeses. It also led to the discovery that Aldi have stores in the USA – something I’d been blissfully unaware of, as much as my friend had been equally unaware that we have them in the UK too. This led to the rather freakish coincidence of discovering that we’d both been shopping in the same store for the same cheese at almost exactly the same time, albeit on different sides of the Atlantic.

SL can be weired like that: The most random and disparate occurrences can somehow combine to produce an interconnected matrix of improbable connections… And, it seems to happen to me all the time.

I’m not the only one though – not so long ago, we took to naming one of our cohort the angel of death because it seemed that any celebrity they happened to mention in conversation would promptly drop dead within the ensuing 48 hours… And this happened with alarming frequency. Eventually, the poor chap became so paranoid that he was scared to mention anyone by name, since to do so was almost guaranteed to condemn them to an early grave! Then we have the sentient audio stream that somehow, without fail, and no matter what the content of the radio show might be at the time, manages to contrive to play Cliff Richard or The Beach Boys within mere seconds of one of our merry band turning up who just happens to loathe these artists with a passion, second to none. It’s hilarious!

I’m sure you can come up with your own similar examples and I’m equally sure that such weird connections and coincidences occur in the real world too, it’s just that the sheer oddness and frequency of them happening inworld makes them far more intriguing than if they were mere boring coincidence, and like so much in SL, the normal laws of nature, physics and causality seem to bend and flex fast more than they really should in the normal flow of things.

In fact, I’ve seen enough of these peculiarities to convince me that there’s something of some other nature at work here. Let’s not go down the route of calling it magic, for that would be plain daft, but I think we safely say that – in the same way that space-time becomes warped as you near the speed of light, the reality-rationality continuum warps and stretches in ways that are both unexpected and unlikely. We shall call this, Seren’s Theory of Unlikely Patterns in Dimensions (STUPiD, for short).

My theory posits that when a physical object, such as a person in the real world, interacts with a virtual dimension, disturbances in the reality-rationality continuum occur and that the greater the interaction, the more disruptive these disturbances, thereby generating irrationality waves throughout the probability spectrum. Where these waves cross and intersect, spurious anomalies can arise… The unlikely becomes a certainty, the impossible becomes the norm, and as the waves of irrationality continue to crash and collide upon the shore of inevitably, ever greater weirdness becomes inevitable as we walk the promenade of coincidence, trying not to get our feet too wet.

And that, my friends, is the incontrovertible and definitive scientific explanation for the weird and wonderful coincidences that occur with ridiculous regularity in SL. Fact!

Now you know… It’s just STUPiD!

s. x

Is stupid really stupid
or a different kind of smart?
Do we really have a relationship
so special in your heart?
Pet Shop Boys – I’m With Stupid

Posted in Half-Baked, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Interesting times

It’s odd how we can get stuck into a rut of our own making without even realising it. Often it can be a result of a natural reticence to break out of our own comfort zones and break the carefully constructed mould that we normally inhabit.

We like to be comfortable and immersed in the familiar, which is why so many of us dislike and fear change – something that I’m well used to dealing with in in my everyday life, since my RL job is to deliver and manage transformative organisational change. On a personal level, I like to think that I cope with change extremely well, and all the evidence supports that, but drill down a little deeper, and you’ll find that – like most people – I have my routines and habits that are pretty deeply ingrained, and if challenged I’ll find all sorts of excuses to justify continuing pursue them and not divert from my preferred behaviours. Excuses like, ‘that’s not me’, ‘I prefer to do things my way’, ‘it’s out of character’ – all these and more have always seemed to me to be valid reasons to hide behind, and they’ve pretty much become part of my psyche, but just lately I’m started questioning whether those assertions are entirely true, or am I – albeit for perfectly good reasons – hiding behind them and deluding myself as to their true nature?

And what has led to this bout of self-analysis? Weirdly, it’s SL chat.

You’ll probably be aware, due to the frequency with which I mention it, that chat – especially of the IM variety – is something that I tend to shy away from inworld. There are few things I find more irritating than being barraged with messages within moments of logging in: I need breathing space and time to get my bearings before settling down to a conversation. Neither do I enjoy multi-tasking as a result of having to contend with IM conversations whilst undertaking other activities inworld – I get annoyed if I’m interrupted whilst building, exploring, shopping, or just relaxing and then having to feign interest in having a discussion with whoever has contacted me. As for juggling multiple IMs at the same time, there are few things in SL that I find quite so stressful.

All this, combined with my dislike of adhering to the social niceties of the shared virtual experience, means that I’m not one to readily indulge in idle chatter, and I’m pretty good at shutting down any less than meaningful conversation within moments of it starting, but just recently I’ve been acting somewhat out of character and although I wouldn’t go so far as saying that I’ve been actively initiating conversations, I haven’t been rushing to finish them off as soon as they’ve started… And, I’ve even found myself successfully negotiating the odd multiple IM conversation and actively engaging with those who want to chat with me and, moreover, making the effort to commit to the conversation. It’s been an interesting and illuminating experience.

I’m not a naturally talkative person. Those who know me from SL may find that hard to believe, since in company it can be a difficult job to shut me up! However, put me amongst a bunch of strangers and I clam up completely; similarly, in one-to-one private conversations I struggle to maintain momentum and eventually, inevitably, succumb to the uncomfortable silences. In this respect, there’s little difference between me in the virtual world and real life: When I have little choice, for example in a professional capacity, I can talk both hind legs off a donkey, but put me into a personal setting and you’ll barely wrest a word from me. In many ways, the public-facing me is a facade; a complex act of misdirection, designed to keep people at arm’s length.

Ask me whether I have any real control over any of this, and I’d avow that I do not, however my recent forays into social chitchat in SL would seem to suggest that I am actually capable of interacting with others on a human level… Which comes as something of a surprise to me. I’ve always considered myself something of a loner and mysanthrope, with – if the tests are to be believed – a moderate pysychopathic tendency, (but nobody’s perfect!), so finding that I am capable of engaging personally with others, even if only moderately, and only in a virtual, ‘safe’ and anonymous, environment is a bit of a game-changer.

Over the years, SL has taught me a great deal, and I honestly thought there wasn’t much more that it might have up its virtual sleeve to reveal to me… Perhaps I need to rethink that.

So, erm… Here goes. If you do happen to run across me inworld, why not say ‘Hello’ and have a chat with me?

Yikes!

s. x

Don’t talk to strangers
Cause they’re only there to do you harm
Don’t write in starlight
Cause the words may come out real
Dio – Don’t Talk To Strangers

 

 

 

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Talk talk

Strip away the glitz and glamour, all the mesh and fripperies, the shopping and dancing, the building and the bonking from SL and you’re left with what was once the staple diet of the internet – chat. In fact, all the elements that once made the internet great, back in the day when it was the preserve of hackers and nerds still underpins SL: Our chat and messaging isn’t much more advanced than IRC; groups are pretty much a primitive version of usenet; and if you think about it, hopping around the Grid by way of TP links is little different to surfing the net using hyperlinks.

If none of the above makes much sense, don’t worry, you can cheerfully ignore it!

When you consider all the technical complexity of the virtual world, you’d imagine that chat would be a pretty simple concept to implement and something that few of us should expect to struggle to get to grips with. Judging by the sagely nodding heads I imagine I’m seeing as you read these words, that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Second Life’s chat is famously borkened! It seems that the Lindens are always working on new ways to improve it, none of which ever seem to work, and indeed, for those of us who remember IRC in its heyday, there is little to suggest that we’ve moved forward a great deal in technological terms. However, it’s not just the technology that’s naff; considering we’re a species for whom communcation is key, and a huge number of us spend an inordinate amount of time glued to mobile phones, messaging apps and social media, we’re not terribly good at holding virtual conversations. It’s a case of what helpdesk support agents call PEBCAK – problem exists between chair and keyboard.

Even the best typists among us seem to turn into gibbering idiots when faced with SL. Our typos, additions, omissions and insertions mangle language, sometimes beyond recognition. Group and local chat become a typographical battle ground as competing topics vie for supremacy, whilst those caught in the flack struggle to make sense of multiple topics, interspersed with random gesturbating and incoherent ramblings. And that’s just in local… Throw a couple of IM windows and a group chat into the mix, and we’re really in trouble!

Personally, I struggle even at the best of times, with just one IM window open, but when I’m engaging in multiple private conversations, as well as local chat, it’s the virtual equivalent of patting my head, whilst rubbing my stomach, whilst hopping on the spot, whilst hula hooping and reciting Jabberwocky backwards in Serbian! I’m not very good at at it. Here we enter the WW realm… The dreaded wrong window. I’ve committed some appalling faux pas in my time and seen others do even worse, and it seems that the gods of chat constantly conspire against us to ensure that if we are going to WW ourselves, then it’s never going to be with an inoffensive and innocent remark, instead we’ll find ourselves blurting out to a room full of people. (or worse, one of the other’s that we’re currently juggling multiple IMs with), “How about a bit of bum sex?” – Of course, it’s far too late once it’s out there… No matter what you say to try to put your shameless remark into context, or explain it away, nobody’s going to believe you, and faking a crash is only going to ram it home, (oooerr missus!).

It doesn’t stop there either, text chat is fraught with potential disasters waiting to happen, thanks to its inherent inability to convey anything but the most basic information. Without nuance, inflection, tone or non-verbal pointers, communication can be a minefield, especially in tricky situations. Throw in dodgy grammer and inelegant phrasing and the chances of ending up in a textual punch-up are increased dramatically. Thankfully, we have the faithful emoji, humour and plain old ‘explaining ourselves’ to assist, but since only around 7% of communication is verbal, one can only imagine how ineffective chatting via the medium of text alone can be.

The safest course of action is to avoid any sort of communication, interaction or engagement with anybody else inworld at all. Hold up a cardboard sign saying, ‘I’m not rude, just terrified of cocking things up’, and only log in when you’re certain nobody else you know is around. Sure, it makes for a boring SL, but better safe than sorry, I say!

s. x

People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
Disturbed – The Sound Of Silence

 

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

Banned!

There are some in SL who consider it almost a badge of honour to be banned, whether it be from a venue, parcel, group or any combination thereof, and will happily own the bragging rights to their misfortune. I personally find that a bit weird – but each to their own – and, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never behaved in such a way to be excluded from any part of the Grid – and I’m quite happy with that situation.

The banning tools that SL provides are really quite powerful, especially when combined with the ‘no pushing/flying/script/object entry’ options, they’re an effective way of making people toe the line and for stopping undesirable behaviours, and I’m certain that all of us at some time have wished we had the equivalent powers in the real world to deal with the annoyances and obnoxious individuals that we’re often faced with in our daily lives.

The point was brought home forcibly to me the other day, when some of my own RL pet hates conspired to come together in an unholy moment that left me fuming. Imagine, if you will, me walking home in a pleasant residential area, minding my own business and without a care in the world. Then, in front of me, an idiot, walking erratically and totally oblivious to the world around him – due to the headphones covering his ears – his ocular attention focussed on the playlist on his phone, accompanied by the ocasional tuneless, blurted out lyric. I think you know what’s coming: He, of course, is slowly meandering all over the path, stopping randomly to flick through his music, whilst I am purposefully making good progress… I just know we are going to end up in an embarrassing collision.

Then it gets worse.

Coming toward him, and myself from the rear, again utterly oblivious to her surroundings, a woman is rapidly approaching; totally engrossed in the conversation she is having on her phone, which is held out before her like an offensive weapon.

They tangle in some sort of ritualistic pavement tango, whilst I – collateral damage – am forced off the footpath, into the road, and into the path of a car coming around the blind corner behind me.

Was any apology offered? Any concern shown? Of course not – my two assailants, merely untangled their cables and retreated into their respective private coccoons. And I inwardly fumed. The rest of my walk was spent plotting what I’d do to ban my pet peeves should I ever become ruler of the world, or alternatively, if I could ever come up with a real world equivalent of the SL toolkit.

Surprisingly, for one as tech savvy as myself, the majority of my nemeses are spawned by the all-powerful smartphone, but as with so many things, I feel that this particular gadget has the means to be a great power for both good and evil… Provided it’s kept out of the hands of numpties and idiots!

So, in no particular order, here’s my list of Hateful Things, which is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start:

  1. Using mobile phones on the move. If I had it my way, all but the briefest calls whilst walking would be banned. Anything more – long conversations, status updates, scrolling through any sort of list – would all have to take place in designated areas, well out of the way of anybody trying to make headway on the pedestrian highway
  2. Conversations on speaker in public. No! How can this ever be acceptable? If you’re incapable of holding the damned phone to your ear, then use an earpiece, and while we’re at it, don’t walk down the street having a disembodied conversation with somebody, giving the impression that you’re either mad, or want to involve the world in a conversation they have no interest in being part of.
  3. Playing music out loud. No thank you! I don’t want to hear it, nobody else wants to hear it, and you are not a radio station, mobile DJ, or gangsta rapper. So keep it to yourself!
  4. Drivers who do not use their indicators. Seriously, it’s an itty bitty finger movement and if you’re too lazy, arrogant, stupid or ignorant to extend this tiny courtesy to other road users, then – if I was in charge – I’d mandate the immediate seizure and crushing of your vehicle, and possibly the surgical removal of your hands, since they are clearly surplus to your requirements
  5. Umbrella users. I’d forbid the use of umbrellas without a licence. Two abreast would be banned, as would their use in covered areas. Blocking shop doorways, or erecting them when exiting onto the street like a spring loaded katana would be imprisonable offences
  6. Hogging train seats. If you want your bag, case, coat or dog to travel in the comfort of a seat, then you pay for the privilege, plain and simple.
  7. Eating crisps within public earshot. Until crisp manufacturers come up with noiseless, soggy versions of the snack packed in non-crumple fabric bags, then the only time it’s permissable to eat them is outside the usual 19 metre conversation range so sensibly imposed in SL.
  8. Dogs barking three doors down. Strangely, I could listen to hyaena vocalising, elephants rumbling and lions roaring all night, but that dammed dog, down the street, who constantly barks for no reason other than he’s left alone all day, drives me bonkers. It’s not the dog’s fault, so I’m afraid it’s the owners who have to pay the penalty of being chained up in a small back garden every day, with nothing better to do than shout at the top of their voices about the injustice of it all to anyone who will listen.

I could go on, but what’s the point? The fact is that I shall never rule the world, and there’s never going to be a real world equivalent of the tools we have to manage annoyances inworld, so I guess we’re stuck with them.

But, if I do ever meet you coming the other way, headphones on, eyes down, and no idea that I’m within range: Be warned, because next time, I’ll be pushing you into the road!

s. x

You sit alone at home in the darkness
With all the pent-up rage that you harness
I’m real sorry
‘Bout whatever happened to you
Courtney Barnett – Nameless, Faceless

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Social dynamics

The way that we interact with each other can be a complicated old thing, especially when in an environment as creative and diverse as Second Life, where cultures, individuality and personalities can collide far more frequently and, occasionally destructively, than they might do in a real world setting.

There’s a lot of emotional juggling that we have to do in order to stay on top of things, as well as a whole host of behaviour modifications that we often have to get to grips with ‘on the fly’, otherwise we run the risk of offending others, creating bad feeling and alienating ourselves from those with whom we share a social space. Then there’s the tension that exists between being authentic and true to yourself  or fitting in with the status quo – not something that I personally struggle with, since I’ll always do what comes naturally, even if some may feign offence at it, or alternatively, I’ll absent myself from the situation rather than affect a fake persona.

What can make things even trickier is that the rules we’re expected to follow are rarely written down or made explicit. There are, of course, global rules enshrined in the SL TOS and Community Standards, and general guidance that can be inferred from sim ratings, and we’ve all found ourselves at some time in a new location, being pestered by a persistent greeter imploring is to read the sim rules, nobody wants this to be the norm, and most of us would like our virtual lives to be unhindered by such draconian measures and left to moderate our own behaviors, using common sense and instinct, and the behavioral clues that can be picked up from those around us. Unfortunately, however, these can be often misleading and misunderstood, especially when context can change everything.

Take the example of a friend of mine who recently got a telling-off for inappropriate behaviour. The circumstances, in this case, were misleading – he was partying with a bunch of people whom he frequently partied with; behaving in a manner that – whilst it might raise eyebrows in some contexts – was the norm in that company especially in a party situation, and at any other time, nothing would have been said. So why the telling-off? It was a different club to the usual… Same people  same atmosphere, same reason for being there, but different venue with – apparently – different standards. He’d been caught out by assuming it was business as usual, because all the signs he was unconsciously seeing said so.

There’s a fine line to be drawn inworld between doing whatever you want – because this is SL – and holding back, because you don’t want to upset other people. And it’s so easy to fall foul of this, rather arbitrary distinction: Say the wrong thing out of context, decline someone’s offer of a dance or a freebie, not turn up for an event, fail to respond to an unsolicited IM or TP, being busy elsewhere when somebody wants your company, log out when you intended to, which just happens to coincide with someone wanting a chat… The list of potential tripwires is extensive, and so much of it can depend on the setting, the mood and not knowing what you’ve landed yourself into, that it’s amazing most of us manage to get on with each other, most of the time!

It’s can be a downward spiral too… Once we’ve tarred ourselves with the brush of being that person whose timing sucked and LOL’d right at the point the tragic news of someone’s death was announced, things always seem to go downhill: A joking comment gets interpreted as sarcasm, then your absence at the next gathering becomes suddenly noteworthy, and – before you know it – you’ve become a social pariah, scorned and reviled, and all because you accidentally caused offence when absolutely none was intended. We broke the unwritten, unspoken, unexplained rules, and we pay the price ten times over.

But, this is SL and we should be able to break the rules, even the ones that might cause offence. Unlike the real world, it’s a relatively simple matter to deal with things that we don’t particularly like – mute, block, derender and then carry on. Hell, I once muted half my friend’s list for weeks because all they would ever talk about was football!

SL is a great place for making friends, but it’s also a crazy melting pot for the forging of drama, grief and misrepresentation. I sometimes think that maybe we should occasionally step back, take a deep breath and remember that it’s all supposed to be fun – and maybe we should also take a good long look at ourselves while we’re at it, just in case we might have unintentionally broken the odd rule or two, and maybe offer a virtual olive branch of reconciliation.

Of course, if you’re like me, you probably did it on purpose… And there’s absolutely no hope for you!

s. x

I look to the future it makes me cry
And I just hope that you can forgive us
But everything must go… Go… Go… Go…
Chemical Brothers – Everything Must Go

 

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Top Pickers

Whenever I’m working away from home there are some habitual behaviours I tend to slip into that, at home, you’d never catch me doing. There are, for example, TV viewing habits I adopt that are alien to my normal way of life.

To begin with, I don’t possess a TV at home, which in these days of on demand Internet entertainment doesn’t necessarily preclude me from enjoying the occasional foray into TV territory, but does mean that I’m somewhat insulated from the wider populace in terms of viewing habits and current trends; and when I do feel the draw of televisual stimulus, it’s invariably on my terms and tailored to my own tastes, preferences and timings.

Not so when I’m away, sealed inside an anonymous, soulless hotel room, with little to entertain me other than calculating just how many cups of tea I can eke out of a single, individually packaged, tea bag and whatever might be available on the room’s TV set. It’s at this point that I tend to develop square eyes – or, more accurately, 16:9 eyes! My choice of viewing however is limited to a very narrow subset of the options avaliable: Top Gear, Taskmaster, American Pickers, and any of those blue light, fly on the wall, shoulder-cam programmes that seem to fill the schedules after a certain time of the evening.

I suppose it’s a bit of an odd mix and whilst I don’t have any problem rationalising the attraction of the TM and 999 stuff, the other two are really something of an enigma… I’m not entirely sure why watching a trio of idiots driving cars I will never own, in a manner I will never have the opportunity to do myself should be in any way entertaining, let alone addictive, (especially considering I’ve seen most of them before). Similarly, I’m not really sure what the attraction of watching a couple of American blokes negotiating over a piece of rusty junk might be… All I know is that it’s one of the few things I look forward to when I’m away. Oddly, I don’t even bother with any of these hotel night staples when I’m back at home – but then again, I’ve plenty of other things to fill my time when I am home, and watching the goggle box isn’t particularly high on my list of priorities.

So, what is the attraction?

Certainly the subject matter may have something going for it – I mean  everyone likes fast cars being driven crazily, and rusty 1940s oilcans, don’t they? But there’s more to it than that, and after some thought, I think I know wherein the real attraction lies.

Both Top Gear and Pickers are less concerned about the subject matter, than they are about the central characters. The real entertainment comes from engaging and empathising with the slightly crazy, but unequivocally enthusiastic presenters.

I love enthusiasts.

I don’t care what you’re enthusiastic about – whether it’s fast cars, Stephen King, Star Trek or tropical plants, what makes your subject of choice compelling is the way in which you approach it, and if you approach it with unrestrained enthusiasm, then you’re my kind of person.

You’re also the kind of person that tends to find that SL is the perfect vehicle for expressing your enthusiasm, because here is a world with few constraints, in which almost anything is possible and where the chances of finding a kindred spirit with whom you can share your enthusiasm is unparalleled. SL is chock full of music geeks, alternative lifestylers, collectors and hoarders, obsessives and nerds, and the way they express themselves in the virtual world is limitless. And it is because of this that SL is such a rich environment.

If it wasn’t for the enthusiasts, we wouldn’t have biker chapters in SL; Bladerunner themed regions wouldn’t exist; dance clubs would play only generic, radio music – mod, soul, trance and industrial music clubs would be absent from the grid; nobody would make bondage gear; we wouldn’t have sailing clubs, railways and airports… SL would be a barren, empty, half-hearted simulation of a real world that would be infinitely less appealing to the vast majority of us.

However, that’s not the case. Few of us would argue – even if our real lives are completely fulfilling – that there is not something compelling about the virtual world, and what is compelling is the enthusiasm with which so many approach the virtual world. It’s a fascinating place because people pour their heart and soul into it and invest so much of their time and energy into making it an expression of what matters to them, and that’s something I can really relate to, even if it’s not really my thing. When Mike and Dave successfully negotiate a cracking price for a old porcelain garage sign, I’m not caught up in the moment because I’m a sign aficionado, I’m grinning because I’m caught up in the sheer joy that’s expressed in their faces and the real enthusiasm they have for their business… And I experience that same enjoyment of the moment time after time in SL.

I hope you do too!

s. x

I don’t know what you’re looking for
You haven’t found it baby, that’s for sure
You rip me up, you spread me all around
In the dust of the deed of time
The Cardigans – My Favourite Game

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Stairway to Haven

 

 

 

 

There’s a lady online
And if you have the time
I’ll tell you a little more about her

She knows the world will always turn
And have no concern
For the people and things
That may be seen there

Oh, woe, oh woe
Ohh, ohohohoh
And she’s looking to find a haven

If the stores are all closed
She won’t go unclothed
Her inventory is full of outfits

And she can always mix and match
The one and only catch
Is to make sure that all of the mesh fits

Oh woahoh, woaohohohoh
And she’s camming around to find a haven

If there’s a tussle in your friends list
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean
To clear the dead wood
There may be some times you IM her
And she ignores you
Your message hangs in the system wind

And as she walks on down the road
Ban lines clash and lag scolds
She seeks a place that we all know
Somewhere safe that she can go
A place that’s not on any map
And where you won’t find any crap
Landmarks cannot be your ride
Because this place
Is deep inside

And she’s found her own pathway
To heaven

s. x

There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving
Led Zepelin – Stairway To Heaven

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