Right now, I’m toying with the idea of refurbishing the blog. Way back when this all first started, some 11 years and 4 days, and – according to some rough and ready calculations – over a million words ago, I had lots of ideas about where I wanted this thing to go. Some of those ideas worked out really well, others… Let’s just say there are some pages that haven’t seen any sort of update for several years!
So, I’m thinking about streamlining, rationalising or maybe just archiving-off some content, or perhaps I’ll just leave things as they are. It’s all a bit like my land inworld: Some of it has remained unchanged for years, and very occasionally I’ll feel the urge to make changes, which rarely turn out anything like I planned and tend to leave me feeling nonplussed and unimpressed with my efforts. So sometimes, I think, unless one has to, that things are better left as they are.
One part of the blog that has seen lots of updates – although only sporadically and hardly with any regularly – is my Alt. life: pages. This is where you’ll find me exploring writing beyond the confines of Second Life, mostly short stories and flash-fiction, and often with a darker side compared with the fun and fluffy stuff I tend to write about SL. It appears that I haven’t updated Alt. life for over a year – which came as something of a shock to me – time flies, when you’re having fun, clearly!
So, I reckon it’s time to put that right, and maybe also to start posting more regularly to that section of the blog, perhaps on a monthly basis? And I’m starting today!
Today’s offering is a piece I wrote fairly recently, which I submitted for publication to an anthology of short stories. It was rejected, for a number of reasons, but even so, I like it and I also think it’s good enough for sharing with a wider audience, so here goes nothing!
By the way, if you like what you read, there’s 11 year’s worth of similar stuff in the Alt. life: Archive, and if you’re a real sucker for punishment, I have longer stories and compilations of stories that were serialised in the main blog pages over in The Library… So, if you’ve not done so before and have some time to kill, fee free to explore!
I’m trying something new, and playing with light and decor in a different way.
Fancy something a bit retro, maybe a little bit industrial, and with a hint of the authoritarian? No, I’m not describing my own character, I’m talking about my brand new product range!
Introducing Neon Dreamz light boxes – those old-fashioned, chunky boxes you see bolted to breeze-block walls in theatres and studios, or strategically lodged above mysterious doorways, just daring you to check out what might lie behind that closed door… But be careful, these signs aren’t meant to be ignored!
They look equally good in a commercial or home setting I reckon, and have a range of applications from sci-fi to just making a personal statement… and if you want to make a really BIG statement, they scale up with a click to super-sized! Starting at only 2LI each and L$220, they won’t make a huge dent in your pocket or your resources. The lettering is cutout from proper, hand-crafted mesh too, so much better than boring old textures!
We were out having a dance at the local club the other day having one of those fairly typical discussions that tend to arise in such situations – you know the sort of topics: Bulldozer fuel, depreciation of assets, dark matter… All the usual suspects, when the topic turned to that interesting chap, Elon Musk.
I have very specific views on the gentleman concerned, none of which happen to be connected to his purported (or otherwise) views and/or practices around recreational drugs, but are rather more directly related to his business practices, ideology and world-view. I won’t share my personal views here – you don’t need to know what they are, although if the billionaire in question happens to read this blog and is willing to give me a freebie Tesla in exchange for me saying nice things about him, well I’m sure we could come to some sort of an arrangement! That aside, whatever I may think of the guy, it’s fair to say that he does tend to spread his sphere of interests far and wide, when it comes to innovation and technological advancement.
There are, in fact, any number of high-tech projects he’s invested in or endorses that have little to do with electric cars, hyperloop travel, space rockets or boring tunnels, and he’s now investing a considerable amount of cash, from his own not-inconsiderable reserves, into new schemes involving artificial intelligence. In particular we’re talking ‘Open AI’ – because Mr Musk doesn’t trust secretive, sneaky AI at all. Think – instead of Skynet – of a fluffy, friendly type of AI; a kind of Disneyfied, AOL version – all chunky, colourful interfaces and a nanny-knows-best approach to ruling the world, with a nice – almost, but not quite – sexy voice to tell you when you have mail.
One offshoot of Elon’s Open AI company is the excitingly-named GPT-2 Predictive Text Generator, a.k.a. ‘Talk to Transformer’ (nothing sinister there, at all!), whose only function is to spool off reams of text, inspired by an initial prompt, using a neural network to glean insight from 40 gigabytes of data pulled from around eight million websites. The purpose? Well, who knows, but considering that the vast majority of bot-created comments made on this blog and trapped by my spam filter, and the huge number of ‘blog articles’ I come across that have clearly never troubled a human neuron in their creation, I have a pretty good idea!
So, ever the intrepid reporter, I thought I’d give it a go. Let’s see if a neural network can do a better job of blogging than I can? So, as a prompt, I took the opening lines of my last blog post, and challenged Skynet, er… GPT-2, to try and come up with something better.
Let’s see how it did…
The sim in which my inworld home is situated has recently undergone something of a ‘reinvention’ – it’s still the same, recognisable and familiar Moonletters Town that it’s always been, but the underlying vibe has changed.My BFF, Moon, who has managed the sim for well over 10 years, has a real affinity for the 1980s – everything about it, from the clothing and decor, through to the popular culture and music of the time…
And Moon has embraced this, and created a wide range of new challenges, quizzes and mini-games, all tailored to show off all the pop culture her followers are awash with. The new town has really become a real talking point amongst my loyal followers – and Moon is often teasing me with ideas of what she could turn Moonletters into next.
Of course, when they arrive, I can always be more creative – and if she asks nicely I may be persuaded to get the wheels turning on something big…
This time next year, I’ll have to let you know if I’m really up to anything like that, but for now, there’s a flurry of activity underway as my resident stud user, Mitch, has had a bit of a remix in the mix, as I said a few days ago:
Moon is incredibly supportive of my creative ideas – she really does have the artistry and expertise to guide me into the next phase of my sim and to ultimately enhance the look and feel to match her unique style – which is what I’m really aiming for.
Because if you’ve followed me on Twitter for any length of time, you’ll know that when I say ‘well I’ve done this, now how should I do that’ – Moon often replies ‘I think you should just do it your way’, and she knows that is what I’m after.
With this in mind, my first design project was to do a little upscaling – and I believe it’s pretty spot on…
Then she was incredibly gracious in suggesting I make the second…
Hockey Dad styled once more, Moon’s directions were:
“Always sign the headers”
“Got a custom actor – to maybe add a personal touch”
And “He’s wearing a ‘Save the Children’ tee”
The custom actor (which I’m told stands for ‘Body Mod Artist’) is pretty clever, but it’s a custom I can’t use again – I’ll definitely be tweaking this idea in the future.
But this won’t do! I have my fingers crossed that I can soon produce a few elements, which have been alluding me in my workbench all week.
And there you have it… And, I think you’ll agree, it’s rather disturbing!
I’ll grant you, it’s not even remotely anything like how the original article turned out, but the first part, in particular is beyond spooky – that first paragraph, for example is accurate to the extent that you’d be forgiven for believing it was written by someone who’s actually borne witness to recent events on my home patch. And what follows is equally unnerving, because this weird, intangible AI seems to be incredibly clued-up on the relationship between me and my inworld friends to the point of being uncomfortable to read. Just how the hell does it know this stuff?
There is, thankfully, the odd faux pas that has me looking askance at the text – ‘my resident stud user, Mitch’, for example… Who he? Similarly, despite seemingly knowing the inner workings of my psyche, Skynet appears unaware that I don’t use Twitter, but right up to that point, I reckon that with just a couple of tweaks, I could drop this into the blog and you’d never know I hadn’t written it! Scary huh?
Sadly, as is so often the case, with these things everything suddenly starts to fall apart towards the end. ‘Hockey Dad’ sees the commencement of somewhat less coherent and nonsensical ramblings, and by the time we reach the final sentence any semblence of intelligence, articificial or otherwise, let alone understanding of the English language is starting to allude, erm, elude us!
Which is a shame, because at the back of my mind, I was almost hoping this would work out well, and I could put my feet up and let the machines do all the work. Unfortunately, we’re not there just yet… Damn you Musk and your billionaire bright ideas! (I’m still open to a free Tesla though!)
I thought I’d let the robot have the last word, but unfortunately, I seem to have broken it, or perhaps driven it insane with my crazy demands! Oops! (Sorry Elon, but can I still have a Tesla, please?)…
The last word according to the robot after the end of which we shall praise the stars.
The last thing that speaks it is the last word according to the robot the last thing that speaks
it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing that speaks it is the last thing
Can you teach me how to feel real Can you turn my power on Well, let the drum beat drop Martina And The Diamonds – I Am Not A Robot
The sim in which my inworld home is situated has recently undergone something of a ‘reinvention’ – it’s still the same, reconisable and familiar Moonletters Town that it’s always been, but the underlying vibe has changed.
My BFF, Moon, who has managed the sim for well over 10 years, has a real affinity for the 1980s – everything about it, from the clothing and decor, through to the popular culture and music of the time. It’s the time of her teenage years, and mine also, and over the past few months that the new feel to the sim has been taking shape, I’ve discovered a whole new connection to that period, which had previously eluded me… It seems I’m a real child of the 80s, and I didn’t even know it.
The thing is, back in the day, when everyone around me was into costume jewellery, rara skirts, leggings and lace gloves, and listening to New Romantic and New Wave, or – alternatively – safety pins, tartan, ripped jeans and spiky hair, listening to the Sex Pistols and The Damned, I was off doing my own thing. None of that for me, in fact I loathed most mainstream music of the time, and punk – frankly – both the music and its followers, terrified me. None of that for me, thank you very much; instead, you’d have found me clad in denim, drinking Special VAT cider from the can, and listening to heavy metal. And, for years, although my tastes have diversified hugely, and although I rarely wear denim at all these days, my tipple of choice on a hot summer’s day is still dodgy cider, and I have a massive soft spot for the likes of Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Saxon, Rainbow and Judas Priest. Just hearing the opening riff of an 80’s heavy metal track can instantly transport me back to those days and put a smile on my face, and prompt a raucous vocal to issue from my mouth.
However, something unexpected has occurred… My recent exposure to all things 80s has awoken a latent and, lamentably all-too-recent, appreciation for all those things I spurned as a teenager, and I’ve started to realise just how cool they were, and – for that matter – still are. I’ve always loved the culture of that decade, and for example, I’m an avid reader of the contemporary writing of the time, particularly cyberpunk and the like, which in so many ways managed to accurately portray many of the innovations and conventions that we take for granted today, but back then were practically science fiction. I think that the appeal lay in the escapism they provided and the way in which so much of what I read was very much about beating the system, championing the underdog and the real heroes were those who never could be. As the title page of my original copy of Star Wars, (which I didn’t actually read until the 80s) stated: “They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes.” That kind of ethos always held a great deal of appeal for me.
With hindsight, the metalhead in me was, at its core, also a rebellion against the system and all things authoritarian, and therein lay its appeal. There is however, if I’m honest, something a little passé about heavy metal, and in many ways it lacked the edginess of punk. Today, if I could do it all over again, I’d definitely be a dyed-in-the-wool punk rocker, and I’ll confess to having developed a deep affinity and love of the whole original punk ethos and music scene in recent years, albeit only some 40-odd years too late!
However, what about the rest of the music of the time – the whole New Romantic and other stuff that, way back then, I turned my nose up to? Well, thanks to the changes around me inworld, I’ve had something of an epiphany, and there’s no-one more shocked, (and happily so) about it than me.
I’ve suddenly realised, after all this time, just what I was missing with my headphones clamped tightly against my ears, volume turned up to 11, headbanging away to Motörhead; and honestly – it’s brilliant!
New Romantic, New Wave, post-punk, electronic and synth-pop… How on earth did I not appreciate any of it at the time? And, why oh why, is it only now that it’s suddenly become meaningful to me?
Music is a powerful thing – it can provoke intense feelings, drive one to tears or elation, evoke the good times and the bad times, and gladden the heart… And it was all there to be enjoyed, explored and experienced, but somehow I’ve managed to ignore it – even deride some of it – for the better part of the last 40 years! It’s only my recent inworld exposure to it that has opened up a treasure-trove of memories and utter enjoyment and has allowed me to become a teenager, all over again, only this time with a far greater appreciation for the whole, rather than just a narrow, rigidly-defined genre.
Tonight – a long-awaited Friday evening escape from what has been a demanding week, saw me spending time with a couple of friends inworld, listening and dancing to music of the 1980s, that – when it first came out – would mostly have passed me by, and one song in particular hit me like an express train. Partly, it was the lyrics, partly it was the music, partly it was they way it made me feel… But, ultimately, it simply left me with a tear in my eye and the overwhelming thought – ‘that’s just beautiful’.
I can’t believe I missed it first time around, and I can’t believe it’s never spoken to me, as it did tonight, in the last 39 years, but I guess sometimes the most wonderful things can elude us for a very long time, but – if we’re lucky – we might just get a second chance to appreciate them. And, that’s why it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you find me writing this post. So thanks, SL; and thanks, Moon, my friend – I owe you both 🙂
You’ll find it at the end of this post. I know that you may not like it, and it may not be a track or the kind of music that you’d ever rate, but if that is the case – maybe just this once – do what I’ve done, and permit yourself to open your mind to explore something that you might otherwise ignore, dislike or avoid. Just put the headphones on, close your eyes and get lost in the music… Who knows where it might lead you?
I suppose I’m something of a creature of habit. I naturally tend to fall into routines – which is not to say that I’m incapable of spontaneity and acting on impulse, but life for me does tend to follow fairly predictable patterns. It’s not a bad thing, and I tend to have so much going on from day to day that being able to slot into a well-worn routine means that I can get through an astonishing amount of work that might otherwise see me snowed-under.
Naturally, Second Life, which has pretty much been a part of my daily life for over 10 years, has its own place in that routine – and, indeed, once logged in, I have inworld routines that I also tend to follow: Nothing rigid, or set in stone, but there are nevertheless clear patterns that I tend to slip into when it comes to SL.
You can usually expect me to log in at around 9pm, when I’ll get changed into an outfit for the evening, before setting out on my inworld activities. It’s at this point that the course of proceedings will change, depending on how I’m feeling and whoever else might be around that might enjoy spending some time with me. Usually, if I see a group of friends gathered nearby, it’s a simple enough decision, and I’ll inflict myself upon them for the duration of the evening, or at least until that moment when everyone decides they’ve had enough and makes their excuses, heading off to catch the last bus home.
If there’s nothing much going on locally, I’ll usually head off to the mainland to do a spot of driving, railroading or general exploring, if I don’t fancy that, it’s a case of dropping random words into search and seeing what pops up that looks interesting… These occasions tend to turn into extended shopping excursions, but I rarely actually buy anything – I just like looking at the pretty dresses! If, however, you’ve caught me on one of my frequent building frenzies, I’ll probably quite happily spend the entire evening, tucked away in the sky on my build platform, getting frustrated with bits of mesh and gluing together chunks of coloured plywood – some of it might even end up looking like something other people might like to own, at which point I’ll invariably start all over again and redo the whole thing from scratch, properly this time, and end up going through the arcane business of getting the finished product onto Marketplace.
No matter what direction my evening takes, it almost always ends in exactly the same manner, with me taking one last walking tour of my parcel, and putting myself to bed, before finally logging out.
Yep… I do actually put myself to bed! I’ve written about it before – somehow, it just feels wrong not to. It’s one of those little inworld habits that has somehow developed over time and if I didn’t follow it, something inside me feels a little uncomfortable. So, at the end of the night, I’ll wander through the flowers at Nowhere Land, past the old cromlech, up the stone stairway beneath the gaze of the stony serpent, into my cosy cave and finally, I curl up in my bed, ready to enter the realm of digital dreams.
However, of late, I’ve found myself slipping into other, equally puzzling, and inconsequential habits, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. In some ways, I find them quite annoying, but nevertheless, I also find myself succumbing to them, no matter how daft they may be.
Most recently I’ve developed a weird obsession for looking after my own safety. Let me explain: To return home on foot – and teleporting simply isn’t an option, if I don’t do my end of day amble, it doesn’t feel right – I have to cross two railway lines; the Marmalade Skies Branch Line, and the Nowhere Land Mainline, of the SWR (Seren’s Wonderful Railway). To be absolutely honest, I’m hardly taking my life into my hands by doing so, the trains are going to cross my path no more than once every 10 to 15 minutes, and even if I was unfortunate enough to be caught trespassing on the line by an express coming through at full steam, it’s not exactly going to do me any harm whatsoever.
Nevertheless, at each track, I stop and look both ways to check for oncoming trains, and if there does happen to be one coming, I’ll wait, rather than play chicken, even though most of the time, I could probably sit in the middle of the track and have a picnic before it ever reaches me. There’s absolutely no reason for me to give way to trains, and yet that’s exactly what I’ve found myself doing for weeks now – it’s irrational, and a little bit weird, but I just can’t bring myself to blunder across the tracks without looking!
Whilst this might simply be considered something of an odd quirk, it does mean that my end of day SL routine now has another element to it; one that takes time that would be far better employed in making a bedtime drink, brushing my teeth or actually trying to get off to sleep for the night. I worry that should I start to introduce even more unnecessary steps into my habitual ritual it’s going to come to a point where I’ll have to log in, get dressed, then spend the rest of my time inworld preparing myself to log out!
Am I the only one bonkers enough to be doing this sort of thing, or is it something that creeps up on us all as we get older inworld? Actually, don’t answer that, because if it is just me, then it’s almost certainly another sign that it won’t be long before they cart me off to the funny farm.
Just make sure they look both ways before hauling me away across those damn railway lines!
`“And they’re coming to take me away ha-haaa They’re coming to take me away ho-ho hee-hee ha-haaa To the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds And basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes And they’re coming to take me away ha-haaa” Napolean XIV – They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!
I’m not generally evil in everyday life, in fact, I’d say I’m quite a decent person, sometimes perhaps a little too much inclined to be nice. I have, for example been considered a little weird when, unlike most people I know, should a spider run across my desk, or the floor or – as is currently the case – occupy a small gap between my bathroom cabinet and the wall, which it’s made a home in, I don’t have a problem with that. Indeed, I feel quite protective towards them, and as long as they’re not going out of their way to bother me, I don’t bother them.
I cry at sad news and get emotional over weepy songs and movies, and when I mow the lawn, it rarely ends up looking manicured or well-tended because I avoid the patches where the forget-me-nots have grabbed hold and I skirt around the wild primroses that have staked a claim, rather than mowing them down in cold blood.
I’ve written here before about how I’ll avoid arguments, do anything to keep an even temper and walk away from disagreements, so – all in all – I think I’m a pretty amenable, kind and inoffensive sort of person.
Until I log in to SL, and then the red mist descends!
I’m not sure how exactly, but inworld I do seem to have gained a reputation for being something of a renegade… A person that it’s dangerous to know, and who’d not think twice about despatching any antagonist who happened to cross my path. A shoot first, ask questions later sort of person, and you’d better believe that I have a vast array of weapons upon which I can call in any situation or activity for which I may deem deadly force necessary… For example, baby-sitting, flower-arranging, or yoga!
In fact, clothing aside, the only other possessions in my inventory that you’ll find in greater number than weapons, is vehicles. I have vehicles of every possible description, some of which also defy description or any sort of logic. They range from sit-on mowers, to shopping trolleys and wheelchairs, all the way up to container ships, jumbo jets and a huge, mechanised, walking castle! The only problem with someone like me, who inworld is a bit of a terror, is that even without trying, I find it remarkably easy to accidentally weaponise cars, or any other type of vehicle I happen to be in control of.
Although, ‘in control’ is probably stretching it a bit… It’s more a case of being out of control more often than not, and therein lies the problem. There really is no such thing as ‘safety first’ when I’m around and trying to handle any sort of vehicle. Even tucked away indoors, far from any highway or byway, you’re not entirely safe from harm – it’s not unknown for me to come crashing through a wall, or come falling from the sky, like an unguided missile, to land right in the middle of your living room – there is no escape.
I promise you, I don’t cause mayhem on purpose, well mostly not on purpose! And most of my mobile misadventures are complete accidents, or caused by circumstances beyond my control. There are, for example, few things more disconserting that to find oneself happily speeding down a mainland road one moment, then being catapulted across half a continent at an unexpected sim crossing, to end up sat in limbo underwater, with the bus you were previously driving embedded in somebody’s prize petunias on the other side of the region. It’s not always my fault!
It quite definitely wasn’t my fault I splatted somebody this week, I promise you.
I was taking my brand new truck out for a test drive, cruising at decent rate of knots along the road, visibility good, perfect weather and no other traffic in site, when completely without warning, the familiar sight of a curry cloud appeared in the road right in front of me. In seconds, with no time to stop, and completely unable to take evasive action, I was upon them and the first – and the last thing – they would see, as they rezzed into being, was the massive front grill of my lorry bearing down on them.
I’ll be absolutely honest with you, I gritted my teeth, put the pedal to the metal, and hightailed it outta there for the border without looking back. All of which seemed perfectly reasonable in the circumstances. I mean, although I certainly did squish them – I felt the bump and heard the crunch on impact – it was hardly my fault that they chose to appear from nowhere, right in my path; and who chooses to appear in the middle of a road anyway?
Maybe I should have stopped, checked they were OK and exchanged insurance details, but I reckon they got their just rewards for jaywalking on my watch, and if you’re going to play chicken, well you have to suffer the consequences if your timing’s out.
I am nice, really. It’s just that SL tends to bring out my dark side, even when I’m not trying. When I’m driving though, there is really only one safe place for you to be… In the passenger seat, next to me!
I can have a dark side too I can have a dark side, I can have a dark side I can have a dark side… Ooh, yeah… Tim Minchin – Dark Side
Freebies! The magical word that has the potential to draw both applause and ire, depending on your own individual feelings about the subject. If, like me, you started life in SL destitute, with ony the system clothes you originally rezzed in, then freebies were a God-send, and they ensured that most of my needs were met for a good few years before I took the plunge and started investing real money into the virtual world. So, I have much to be grateful for, thanks to freebies, but not everybody feels that way.
There are those who argue that freebies are a terrible thing – they undermine the hard work that content creators expend on their products and they lead to false expectations in terms of what constitutes value for money. ‘If I can get something for free – why should I pay a reasonable price for it’, so the argument goes. Personally, I’ve always considered that the consumer always has the choice anyway – freebies notwithstanding – if somebody wants something badly enough, they’ll pay the price, whatever it is; if they don’t, they won’t. Certainly, we may consider some things cost more than the value we perceive them to hold, but value is a strange thing, relative to both the seller and buyer’s perceptions, and usually reflects far more than just an arbitrary stab in the dark at a figure.
Take, for example, my own little manufacturing niche. I might sell an average, straightforward piece of neon decor for around L$250. You, being the astute and savvy consumer that you are, may think that’s a little over-priced, and that you can probably get something just as good, if not better, elsewhere for less. I won’t stand in your way, you should spend your hard-earned lindens in the best way you can, and I understand that ‘value’ to you means value-for money and gettting a bargain for what you’re paying for. I, on the other hand, have a different handle on the value intrinsic to that particular item:
I will have spent a disproportionate amount of time designing and planning that piece; then there’s the whole mind-numbing and long-winded process of creating, texturing, rendering and exporting the mesh – a process I might go through half a dozen times before I’m happy with the finished object. Once inworld, there’s tweaking and scripting to be done, followed by the even more mind-numbing and time-consuming process of creating a Marketplace listing. Then, there’s more time spent in Photoshop, creating a suitable image for MP, before I can finally reveal my new creation to the world, and even then, should I choose to blog about it, that’s more time and effort expended on an item that, in real terms, is worth all of 55p in real money. That’s before taking off all the upload fees, the 10% cut that Marketplace takes from sales and all the hidden costs of land rental, advertising and other outlay that supports this little venture. So, that’s a good few hours of work, for practically no return – I reckon L$250 is way too little – but I have to be pragmatic and be competetive.
So, what you perceive as an item’s value, is likely to be very different to how a creator perceives its value.
Therefore, if a content creator chooses to give away something for nothing, I’m pretty certain that a) they have a pretty good idea of market forces, brand loyalty and consumer thinking, or b) they are simply doing it for the greater good, and just want to spread a little happiness.
Either way, it’s their choice, and if they’ve chosen to give away freebies, I’m not going to feel bad, or consider myself a freeloader for taking them up on their generosity. Indeed, many of my favourite freebies have seen me returning to pay real, hard cash for other items from the same creator.
I’m not an indescriminate freebie collector however, and I only pick up those things that appeal to me. Which indirectly, leads me to the matter of lucky chairs. I equally love and loathe the things. Love them, because it’s freebies! Loathe them because my letter never comes up, and when it does, the freebie on offer is never the one that I want! I can waste hours stood around a cluster of lucky chairs, waiting for that magical combination of my object of desire and the letter S to coincide, whilst desperately scanning the horizon, hoping I have a faster trigger-finger than any other avatar who shares my initial, lurking to usurp me of my rightful prize!
Some years ago, I came across the ultimate in torture – a cross between a lucky chair and gacha. It held an outfit I desperately wanted, but rendered down into its component parts, each of which was randomly being offered via lucky chair. With 12 items required for the full outfit and 28 alphanumerical characters to randomly pop up at intervals of 15 minutes, I calculated it would take me something like a million years constantly logged in to stand any chance of coming away with the full set. (My maths may have been a little out, but I knew it was a very big number, however you calculate it). It actually took me six weeks of random TPs to the store for short stints, which – to this day – still surprises me and seems impossible, but I did indeed walk away with the whole outfit, and – of course – I’ve subsequently worn it…. erm, twice!
So, it can be done, but you really have to have your heart set on success if you’re ever going to see it through; which brings me to my latest mission.
I have just discovered a lucky chair that contains some really, really cool stuff – well, I think it’s cool anyway – and it’s expensive stuff too… Things that I’d have a hard job justifying splashing out on if I was simply to buy them outright. There’s only two or three items I’ve really set my heart on, but there is a catch. This particular chair has a 60-minute countdown – so even without a single duplicated letter, that’s a possible wait of up to 27 hours before my initial comes up, and that’s not taking into account the happy possibility of my initial coinciding with my preferred winnings; and then repeat, two more times.
I’m nothing, if not determined, however – and this is a mission I fully intend to complete, even if it kills me!
So, if you happen to see me logging in at weird times of day for just a few minutes, at intervals of around an hour… You’ll know exactly what I’m up to.
“I remember when this was all fields”, the old-timer wheezed, waving his arm in an expansive gesture, taking in everything within draw distance.
“Then came the boom times: The good times, when the place was full of craziness and people all round, just doing their thing. Sure, we had our fallings-out and the odd punch-up, but no harm done… Just the odd bruised ego.”
“We had this saying – ‘Your world, your imagination’ – and at the time, I guess that’s how it was. It was like that chocolate factory, surprises around every corner, and you never quite knew what to expect next. Those were the good times, alright.”
“But, something went wrong.”
The old man sighed, rocking gently in his chair, the wood creaking in time to each heavy breath.
“Just look at what you’ve done to the place. All ban lines and rules, and nobody wants to play nicely any more. You lost the imagination… And along with it, you kinda seem to have lost your senses. You got greedy, and selfish and stopped caring; you turned away from ideals and made idols; instead of community, you’re all ‘me, me, me'”.
A tear glistened in the old-timer’s eye, before slowly rolling down his cheek.
“Yeah… You lost your imagination, and so we lost our world.”
He gazed wistfully into the distance, before speaking again, so quietly I had to strain to hear.
“All this wasteland… It’s not just what you see around you…”
Yesterday was my birthday. It’s not something I usually make much of a fuss about, although I do like to at least try and celebrate a little. This year however, with things being the way they are, apart from a pizza, a slice of cake, and a bottle of bubbly, shared with nobody but myself, it may have well have been any other day. It seems a long time ago that there would have been a sense of occasion and an excuse to buy cakes for the office team, and then head out to the pub for an evening celebration… I haven’t been into any office for well over a year, and even if I did, nobody is sharing cakes or nights’ out at the pub any more.
So yesterday was very much the same as the day before, and the day before that, but different in so many ways to what my mind says it should have been. That, of course is the new normal: Life goes on, and changes little from day-to-day, yet inside there’s that persistent, nagging knowledge that every day is very different from our intrinsic understanding of normality.
I tried, but failed to make any effort to celebrate in SL too. Certainly, I donned a posh frock and had every intention of having fun, but that petered out pretty rapidly and, in fact, I didn’t mention to anyone that it was a special day for me, and the evening sort of deteriorated until, at the end – for an hour before I finally gave up and logged out – I found myself dancing alone in an empty sim, it felt like the last dregs of Prosecco in my bottle… All the bubbles had gone, leaving it rather flat and acidic. Well, at least the music was decent!
Again, in the virtual world for me, and I’m sure it’s felt by others too – like RL – things are very much the same on the surface, but are nevertheless somewhat different, once you start to dig deeper. Whilst SLife goes on as normal, with places to explore, shopping to be done, hunts to be undertaken and building to be carried out, there’s something different. I’m sure much of it is down to real-world events, either the pressure and stresses that people have had to deal with has pushed its way inworld, or people’s true natures have revealed themselves under pressure, and it’s not pretty.
Last year, I threw a big party for my birthday, complete with light show and fireworks, where I spent a fantastic evening with my SL friends, partying on a giant cake in the sky. Quite a contrast to this year’s ‘celebration’- things are indeed different, and that drastic change is entirely a product of how people have started behaving very differently in the virtual world.
Whilst I’m fairly sure that the root cause of the fractured and broken SL relationships, nastiness, aggression, selfishness and childish behaviour I’ve seen and experienced over the course of the past year have the all-consuming RL situation at their core, or have been exacerbated by the same, I certainly don’t accept that the outcome should have any sort of inevitability about it. We, ultimately, are in control of our emotions and have the power and the responsibility to deny them the power to control us. Bad behaviour is bad behaviour, whatever the ‘reason’ or excuse, and we all make a concious choice about how we treat others, no matter how we ourselves may be feeling.
I would hope that, whatever the circumstances of my own real-world life, I’ve managed to maintain a degree of integrity and self-control in my interactions with people inworld. As far as I’m aware, I’ve not changed how I treat anybody – even those who have treated me badly – I act in the same way I always have, speak as I always have, and my inworld activities and choices have remained unaltered before and during the pandemic, and indeed will continue in that fashion. Granted, I accept that at times, I may have reacted perhaps a little forthrightly, and been a little more defensive than usual in some situations – usually when faced with untruths, or to defend myself and my friends, but I’ve never chosen to ostracise, punish or enter into a fight with anyone – even when that might be fully justified. I’m grown-up enought to know if I’d been badly behaved, as does anyone who chooses to do so, and I’m confident that I’m pretty much the same now as I always have been, and will continue to be, despite how those around me may elect to conduct themselves. As a result of which, I’ve pretty much sailed through ththings in both RL and SL that the majority have found incredibly challenging – it’s just the way I am, and whilst it’s true that some things do bug me – of course they do – (and if they do, you’ll probably read all about it right here), I rarely let anything really drag me down.
I’m not bigging myself up, just telling it like it is – that’s my way, learned through my own struggles and difficulties, and I think I’m a pretty well-adjusted individual as a result.
There’s a few ‘life rules’ that I follow, which I find are good for both RL and SL. I’ll share them here, just because you may find them helpful, but even if you don’t, it’ll help those who know me to understand why I do the things I do, in the way that I do:
Be nice, if you can. Show empathy, sympathy and compassion. Don’t be nasty.
Don’t take sides – consider every viewpoint and choose where you stand.
Don’t argue – if someone says/does something you disagree with, disagree, and give your reasons, or shut up and say nothing if it’s not that important.
Don’t say things to provoke a reaction. Pushing people’s buttons is not as funny as you think it is.
It’s not your job to publicly defend, justify or explain other people’s actions – that’s for them to do.
Be self-aware. Understand how your behaviour impacts or can be interpreted by others.
If you’re in a situation that’s going South rapidly… Leave.
Be assertive, not combative.
if you’re not having fun, what are you doing there?
Don’t associate with toxic personalities.
Don’t accrue suck-ups and cronies – cultivate friendships.
Make your point. Stand up for yourself. Leave it there.
I’m no psychologist, behavioural expert or guru, but I do know that observing the points above have helped me avoid some of the potential pitfalls that surround me in the real world, and in SL too. I share them here because, like everything I do on this blog, I think there may be something worthwhile in it for you. Take it or leave it – your call.
As for SL, I’m pretty sure it will go on being the same place for a long time to come, and I’m equally sure that, as far as things feeling different goes, I’ll adapt and change to meet the challenges that creates, as will we all… Maybe.
Even a slight remark Makes nonsense and turns to shark Have I done something wrong? What’s wrong’s the wrong that’s always in wrong The Associates – Party Fears Two
E-mail me a topic, together with a reason i should use it and, you never know, i might write a 100 word story on it - what have you got to lose?
(See what's gone before here)
"Nobody gets out of here alive."
My chainsmoking companion looked at me sagely. He was a veteran, surviving against all the odds, but he knew his days too were numbered.
"Even those who survive everything they throw at us are doomed. They cart them away, kill them, and cut up the bodies""If I were you, pray for a quick death, not like those poor souls over there"
He gestured towards the other side of the room, where our companions shivered and twitched, tortured, for no apparent reason
A lab technician approached my cage.
I prayed it would be quick.
13 June - 'The Shadow on the Ceiling'
17 May - 'Nobody'
14 Jul - 'Custard Creamed'
Moonletters: Up to date
31 May - 'A Poem About Penny Lane
Around the World
09 Apr - 3 new stories
Blogroll & Links
Only In RL
19 Sep- 'On the menu...'