Cobwebs

It’s that time of the year when you might find yourself sitting back in a chair, with a cup of tea, on a sunny afternoon, enjoying the opportunity to kick back and relax. Then, as you sip the refreshing brew, your eye is drawn by the sun’s golden rays to the corner of the room, and there, picked out in the summer light, is a massive cobweb! Having had your attention drawn to this annoying blot on the afternoon horizon, you now come to the realisation that each corner, nook and cranny of the room has, overnight it seems, become home to a silken array of threads that would have made Miss Havisham’s dining room look positively well-cared for. And with that, your hopes of a relaxing couple of hours disappear as you, armed with dusters, vacuum cleaner and an air of fatal determination, attack every hidden corner of the entire house, determined to stamp out the unexpected invasion.

I’m not by nature a fan of the unkempt – maybe I could occasionally spend just a little more time tidying up and doing the odd bit of housework, but by and large Haven Towers is pretty clean and presentable; it’s just that cobwebs have a habit of hanging out in inaccessible places and only becoming noticeable when they choose to do so. The end result is always the same though – not only do I attack the cobwebs, but some inbuilt trigger in my psyche compels me to go a step further… Rugs get beaten, cupboards are re-ordered, windows cleaned, skirtings washed and – at the end of it all – the only thing that remains grimy is me!

And I’m so glad this is only a real world problem, because if I had to deal with that sort of thing inworld, it would send me to the funny farm before you could utter the words ‘mad cow’!

Just the thought of having to do virtual housework makes me shudder. In RL I have a moderately sized, smallish house, with a similarly sized back garden: I’ve been here about two and a half years, in which time I’ve decorated most of downstairs, repaired a bit of decking, and spent much time wondering whether I’ll ever get around to sorting the garden out. Head upstairs, and it’s a different story: Working on the basis that I’ll get around to decorating the spare rooms eventually, they have a distinct air of abandonment, and whilst I will occasionally run the Hoover around them, that’s about the extent of it. I’m sure I’ll apply myself to the task one day, but until I finally get myself a round tuit, they’ll keep!

So, staying on top of things in the real world can be challenging, but if I had to do the same in SL, it simply wouldn’t happen. In terms of land alone, I have the equivalent of around 20 times the area I’m responsible for in RL to take care of and, although my virtual gardening skills are far superior to my RL ones, if I had to tend all that land on a similar footing, there simply wouldn’t be enough of me to go around. Similarly, if keeping 8 rooms presentable can sometimes be beyond me, there’s no hope at all that I’d be able to so the same with a large art gallery, railway station, private apartment, my overnight cave rooms, and four (getting on for five) music venues… I’d need an army of cleaners and maintenance workers to get the task done. Thank goodness it’s only pixels!

Therein lies one of the great joys of SL: It is only pixels, and they never need cleaning, dusting, repairing, polishing, maintaining, cutting, trimming, mowing, ironing, watering, pruning, washing, drying or any other of the myriad tasks that keeping home involves. Instead, the extent of my labours inworld is limited to simply moving stuff around and occasionally tidying things away when the place is beginning to get a little too cluttered to be aesthetically pleasing.

Now that I think about it, the sheer hard work that would be involved in just staying on top of the cobwebs would probably finish me off… Speaking of which, I’ve just spotted another one; now, where’s my duster?

s. x

And you can tell
From the state of my room
That they let me out too soon
And the pills that I ate
Came a couple years too late
And I’ve got some issues to work through
The Dresden Dolls – Girl Anachronism

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Rage quit!

We’ve all done it – I certainly have – it’s that moment inworld when everything gets a bit too much for us and, in a complete fit of pique and frustration, we head for the hills, leaving an us shaped vacuum that makes a point far more incisively than mere words ever could. It’s a classic ragequit!

It can occur for many reasons: Tough day at the office and then someone inworld just happens to say the wrong thing… We find ourselves in the midst of an argument that we just can’t win… An idiot griefer succeeds in driving us to our wit’s end… Or SL is up to its usual frustrating tricks, it’s the 63rd time we’ve crashed, nothing is rezzing, and the chat lag is so bad we’re only just getting last year’s Christmas greetings! That’s when ragequitting rears it’s ugly head – the ultimate way to make an unequivocal point, drive home a message, or vent our absolute frustration. Often it’s done with such ferocity that we’ll forego the niceties of logging off, and preferring the far more satisfying route of [CTRL] +[Q], or better still, we’ll just hit that big red X in the corner of the screen.

Whilst we’d like to think that a well-timed ragequit is a perfect means of communicating our utter disgust with the ongoing situation, the effect can sometimes be somewhat less impressive to those observing inworld. A ragequit will typically be followed by puzzlement: ‘Did they crash?’, ‘Are they coming back?’, and then as it becomes ever more obvious that whoever has summarily vanished clearly isn’t planning on returning any time soon, the atmosphere becomes one of initial concern, soon overtaken by hilarity.

We may all have virtually stormed off at some time during our time inworld, but some are much better at it than others, with a few consummate professionals at the art. These are the avatars that time their exit to perfection, waiting to the absolute point of no return before disappearing in a digital huff; then there are the slow burners – those who have turned ragequitting into a way of SLife – who, over an extended period of time allow their dissatisfaction with the status quo to build and simmer, then at the perfect moment, they’ll make some sort of an announcement that they are going for a while – usually without providing any particular reason – and off they go. Sure enough, you won’t see them for weeks – sometimes months – then suddenly they’re back on the scene again, as if they’d never been absent. I’ve known people to ragequit and not come back for years, and then when they do, there’s no mention of them ever having been away, but you know they won’t be staying for long!

You have to question the logic of ragequitting. Yes, there will inevitably be occasions when frustration boils over, and anger takes its place – when that happens, perhaps it’s a good thing that we can get away to calm down, away from whatever has prompted our ire, but often little is achieved that could not be resolved with some straight-talking, supportive company and maybe just a little fun and jollity? All of which can be found in ample measure by staying inworld. Often, people take SL far too seriously and need to regain a true sense of proper perspective in order to resolve their problems – whilst ragequitting can certainly be one way of doing this, it may not necessarily always be the best method. Just as in the real world, talking through things, sharing the burden, looking at the available options or simply deciding to carry on regardless can be powerful ways of putting things to rights, and are usually far less stressful than throwing our toys out of the pram and storming off.

So what if we can’t get that virtual dress in just the colour that we want; is it really the end of the world if our body bits poke through, no matter how carefully we adjust our alphas; is it really a massive disaster if the mu.ic k.eps d.op..ng out an. we ca.’t hear w..t ev..yon. is list…ng to?; and is it such a big deal that chat lag is interfering with our ability to spew tpyos? Of course not, yet it’s just these sort of things that can drive us to the edge of virtual heart failure sometimes, and it’s really not worth it.

So, by all means have a paddy and ragequit if you must, but bear in mind that this is SL, and part of the fun is getting on with the fun whilst the virtual world falls down around you!

s. x

You could be taking it easy on yourself
You should be making it easy on yourself,
’cause you and I know,
It’s all over the front page, you give me road rage
Catatonia – Road Rage

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

Clubbed to death

Club culture in SL seems to me to be very different to the real world. At least, it’s very different to what I experienced during my clubbing days of, what I regret to record, was a not particularly misspent youth! I wasn’t very good at it, if I’m honest, and on the few occasions I did head off to town for a night out, you’d be more likely to find me sat in a dark corner, wishing I could go home, than strutting my stuff on the dance floor.

Even with that in mind, club culture in the real world has, apparently, charged a great deal since I was a youngster: Back then, the toilets were a place to throw up and talk, not to shoot up and snort, as seems to be the case today. Maybe things have always been like that, and I was fortunate enough to remain oblivious to it all?

I’d like to think that I’ve opened up a bit since discovering SL and that the inworld music and dance scene is something that I’ve been able to truly embrace. It certainly seems to be the case from a cursory inspection – you’ll usually find me out virtual clubbing at least twice a week and in between I seem to spend a great deal of time dancing with friends socially, one way or another. I even run my own club – The Wigan Casino – dedicated to a monthly night of Northern Soul; which itself has led to a further two spinoff clubs… It would be hard to say that the SL club scene isn’t a major part of my SLife, really!

So you would think… But deep down inside, I haven’t really changed all that much since those days of my youth, and SL has a way of reminding me that when it comes to the clubbing lifestyle, I really don’t have much of a clue and it still really isn’t my natural environment. I recently popped along to a new club to support a friend who was DJing there for the first time, and I found it to be a trying and far from enjoyable experience. It brought back many memories of past insecurities: Arriving in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by a crowd of people, many of whom were complete strangers; not particularly enjoying the ambience or the music and feeling like a spare part, unable to join in the – admittedly infrequent – conversations, and feeling isolated and very much alone.

I could have coped with that, but in its own peculiar way, SL just compounded the matter through the weird way in which nightclubs tend to operate inworld. I’d barely rezzed before getting an over-enthusiastic and gushing welcome from the club’s ‘host’, followed by a tacky and rather nasty hat being delivered to my inventory, (because more crappy clutter is exactly what I need in my SLife!) – before I’d even had time to assimilate what was going on, the same host was urging me to show my appreciation for the venue, DJ, and pretty much everyone in the sim by donating my hard-earned lindens. Seriously? In fact, I felt pretty intimidated by the sheer number of tip jars prominently on display, all of them proudly displaying in multi-hued hovertext the previous tippers’ generosity, presumably in the hope of shaming me into matching their contribution? It’s like those notices in hotels that shame you into saving the environment because ‘most people choose to re-use their towels’!

If a real life club operated in the same way as an inworld version, you’d pay for a ticket, then tip the bouncer for letting you pass, tip the person behind the bar for affording you the privilege of buying a drink from them, then hand over the rest of the contents of your wallet/purse to the DJ. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m more than happy to pay for good service and an enjoyable experience, I even help out with tier if you’re using your land for the benefit of others… But I have to draw the line at throwing my lindens away, simply because someone has made a big show of saying hello to me!

And that’s one of the reasons I tend not to stray from my regular clubs – none of which have greeters, hosts or any other sort of intrusive, in-your-face hassle, plus of course being around people you know and feel comfortable with makes a huge difference – I can relax, be myself and feel part of what is going on, rather than just watching from the sidelines and feeling somewhat lost and forlorn. I was probably never meant to be part of the clubbing scene, but SL gives me the opportunity – like with so many other things – to act out of character and do something that I probably wouldn’t attempt in the real world… So when I do find somewhere that I fit in, then that’s where I’m going  to stay, and I’m afraid that if a venue doesn’t fit the bill, well that’s just too bad, because I won’t be hanging around.

s. x

Whoa, everything in the room is spinning, I think I’m going to fall down
My heart’s beating to quick, I’m fucking tripping out
I wonder whether they got in, turned away no doubt
Who cares, there is a tune coming in, that one noise is like
I’m thinking
The Streets – Blinded By The Lights

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

Sliding doors

Periodically conversations inworld turn to the topic of ‘favourites’… ‘What’s your favourite song?’ – Impossible to say, there are far too many, and it changes constantly… ‘What’s your favourite food?’ – Possibly chicken with noodles, (but it has to be served in a deserted car park in Bali on a rickety table, by a bakso boy, during Kuningan! – Me, hard to please?)… ‘Favourite tipple?’ – Ice cold cider brewed at a (fairly) local orchard, no label, and pot luck which variety you get!

Then, inevitably: “What’s your favourite movie?”

Of course, the all-time, hands-down winner will always be Bladerunner, but then again – the more I think about it, the more I realise that there are a whole bunch of films that would easily jostle for space in my top ten, and that some of them surprise even me. That top ten is rather fluid too – it may easily change with my mood and I’ll always reserve the right to lump together originals and their sequels as a single entry; for example, the Alien franchise (but not the abominable AvP series, or the disappointing – so far – prequels), Kill Bill et al, and the Matrix trilogy. It’s a fair bet though that my list, ever-changing as it is, will contain what many might consider to be sometimes confusing screenplays.

For example, I’m a massive fan of Fight ClubBrazilInception, Cloud Atlas and, erm… Sliding DoorsYes, you did read that correctly, there is a slightly confusing romantic comedy in that list,but I just can’t help myself – there’s something I find very enjoyable about both the concept and the storyline, and that’s just the way I am… What is also very ‘me’, is that almost all of the preceding part of this post has very little, if anything, to do with today’s topic, other than the extremely tenuous link that the above movie triggered in my mind whilst shopping inworld this week.

Sliding doors, or more correctly, doors of any style at the entrance to shopping establishments are one of the most irritating aspects of inworld retail therapy that I encounter. That might at first seem a completely bizarre statement to make, but I’m sure that many of you can relate effortlessly to my own experiences and feel a similar sense of frustration, occasional idiocy and annoyance that shop doorways are rarely quite as inviting and/or convenient as they might initially make themselves out to be.

Let’s kick off with sliding doors, since that’s where I started. Although it’s not just doors of the sliding variety that cause me irritation – any door, in fact, where you make the reasonable assumption that all one needs to do is approach confidently and it will courteously slide or swing open as you draw near. This, in my experience can be a test of nerve, since there’s never any indication that any particular door is going to be quite so accommodating, with the rather predictable result that I frequently find myself walking, full pelt, into a stubbornly closed door which has no intention of opening without a preceding mouse click. Inevitably, there will always be a group of people clustered around the entrance, wetting their pants with laughter at my inability to master this simple skill. With this in mind, I’ve adopted the practice of pre-emptively clicking, which tends to have the less than desirable effect of flinging open the doorway on my approach, only to have it summarily slam in my face before I get to it, leaving me to career once again into the glass – cue further pant-wetting mirth.

However, even worse than the uncooperative door, is the terribly helpful, but fiendishly evil automatic door that swings open to let you back out of the door, pinning you between door and wall and effectively trapping you in the premises, whilst you haplessly try to release yourself from the constricted space, time and time again. To the pants-wetting hilarity of all those watching.

Unfortunately, it’s not just doors – cooperative or otherwise, that cause me problems. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve attempted to enter a building by way of a cunningly transparent window, misleading gap in the brickwork, or simply bumbled around the perimeter in the vain hope of finding a doorway so cunningly disguised that even Ocean’s Eleven would struggle to break into the building. This of course, is always performed to an appreciative audience, who somehow managed to find their way in with no trouble at all, all now laughing… well, you know the rest. Seriously builders, if you’re going to make a door, what’s so wrong about making it absolutely obvious?

That’s assuming there is a door, at all – I have come across stores that seemingly have no means of entry or exit at all. All I can assume here is that either they have no wish to sell their merchandise, or I’m simply not welcome on the premises!

s. x

They don’t seem to come around
Push the finger and make a sound
They don’t seem to come around
Maybe they they’ll knock ’em down
The White Stripes – My Doorbell

 

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

Cotton wool

I was in London the other day, and I got run over!

Y’know, got can take all the precautions in the world to protect yourself from harm, but at the end of the day, you can’t cater for other people’s idiocy.

As always, when traveling anywhere likely to be crowded or prone to other hazards, I’d taken all the usual sensible precautions: valuables stashed away, belongings never out of my sight, brisk purposeful walking, and – in view of the current climate – highly aware of my surroundings and vehicles, especially when crossing over Southwark Bridge! In fact, right up to the last moment, I was taking reasonable care, even waiting for the green man to appear before crossing the road.

Then, bang! Barrelling around the corner, and straight through the red light, an idiot cyclist took me out.

It was OK for him, with his helmet, elbow and knee protectors, and big lump of metal and rubber between him and me; but this was the day that I’d foolishly neglected to wear my anti-cyclist armour, and inevitably, I came off the worst. Don’t work though… I’m fine, just bruised, winded and just a teeny weeny bit furious!

To be fair, he was incredibly apologetic and did check that I was OK, particularly after he checked and saw that the light was indeed against him – shame he hadn’t thought to do that before assaulting me with his two-wheeled weapon.

When I run into misadventure of that sort, it always comes as a little bit of a surprise to find that I am indeed only human, and that these things – few and far between though they may be – always turn out to be more painful, traumatic and ‘real’ than I’d expect. In part, I blame SL: I’ve grown so used to a world in which being run over, shot, eaten by zombies, blown up and falling from the sky onto solid ground has no consequences, is completely painless and is trauma free, that when something does occur in the real world, it’s a bit of a shock to find that accidents and upsets are actually painful and can have lasting consequences.

I suppose it’s another example of that weird transposition of virtual over reality. The oft-experienced ‘wardrobe effect’, where we spend ages looking through our cupboards for a dress, only to realise it’s one we own in SL; or the weird experience of wondering how many prims that flatpack Ikea coffee table is, instead of questioning whether it’ll fit in our living room!

Whilst I don’t think it’s something to be unduly concerned about, I do wonder if I’ll ever get to the stage where my brain has become so addled and attuned to SL that I become a menace to myself. I can almost see myself, in a moment of absent-mindedness, accidentally jumping out of a second floor window under the mistaken conviction I can fly, or stepping off the pavement into a busy stream of traffic thinking that the cars will simply bounce off me with no harm done! It may seem a laughable and unlikely situation, but I I’m guessing that we’ve all done daft things in real life as a result of our brains being firmly in SL mode, and the potential to do something really stupid someday is definitely there.

Maybe I should accept the inevitable and start taking precautions now? Perhaps invest in an industrial sized bale of cotton wool, or a skip full of those polystyrene packaging nuggets, and not leave the house without wrapping myself in their protective embrace? And perhaps I could wear a hard hat at all times, preferably with a dangly sign hanging from it, constantly in view, to remind me: “Remember – you can’t fly in real life!”

Then again, that would be just a little bit silly when all that’s really required is for me to reassert the boundaries between the real and virtual – you know, in much the same fashion as all those profiles that say ‘I keep my RL separate from SL’. That way, I can enjoy the best of both worlds, and as long as I keep in mind exactly where I am at any given time, I should have no problems at all. Of course, it does mean that I have to accept that if I come a cropper in the real world, it is going to hurt, but that’s the essence of knowing you’re alive… Which surely begs another question: If I get run over by a bicycle in SL and it doesn’t hurt, then what exactly does that say about my virtual self?

s. x

I hurt myself today 
To see if I still feel 
I focus on the pain 
The only thing that’s real 
Nine Inch Nails – Hurt

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Tunnel vision

Lego aside, there are not many building systems that permit the level of complexity and flexibility afforded by SL. No matter what you’re constructing, the simplicity and adaptability of the simple prim for construction is remarkable. If it’s greater realism or intricacy that we’re looking for – and our skills are up to it – then mesh more than adequately fills any gaps, and all in all, there’s really not very much that can’t be built, either inworld or imported in, no matter how demanding our specification. Where I think SL does fall down a little, however, is in allowing us the flexibility to adapt our surroundings to complement our builds.

Before I came to SL, if you’d mentioned terraforming to me, my mind would be filled with visions of alien planets being prepared for colonisation by dedicated, hard-bitten world-building teams at the far reaches of the galaxy, (usually, it ended badly, thanks to the inevitable alien nasties, lurking in the shadows, but then again, I watch far too much sci-fi for my own good!)

Bearing that in mind, it was somewhat disappointing to discover the limitations of inworld terraforming which, unless you’re fortunate enough to own your own private island, is pretty much limited to making bumps and depressions, and even if you are an estate owner, you’re still pretty limited as to the extent that you’re able to customise the land you own.

One thing I find particularly annoying is how limited your choices are for tunneling, burrowing and other underground earthworks. Whilst there are a number of ingenious – and not so ingenious – solutions that you’ll see around the Grid, none of them are as straightforward and satisfying as simply being able to tunnel through a hillside or dig a cave with real ground above you. And, whilst we’re underground, there’s that water table issue to be considered… There’s nothing that ruins the illusion of plunging beneath the earth quite so much as being forced to make a transition between dry land and being completely submerged underwater simply because we’ve descended below sea level.

I’m also irritated that I can change the appearance of my sky, daylight cycle and water, but my parcel is stuck either with the terrain textures selected by the estate owner – and arbitrarily based on height maps – or I have to go to the trouble of creating fake ground cover to make up for my lack of control over customisation.

There must, obviously, be sound technical reasons that preclude giving residents the ability to modify their land beyond the existing constraints – but if it was possible, it’s something that would definitely appear on my wishlist, and I sure that there are a great many who would agree with me, although it’s something that I doubt we will see any time in the near future, if at all. In the meantime, I guess we’re stuck with all those alternative, but not quite satisfactory solutions, that we’ve developed over the years instead, although it does seem a bit perverse to me that some of the best ‘underground’ locations in SL are actually located in the sky, which is just fine, until you inadvertently cam out to discover you’re inside a giant floating box.

Or worst still, as I seem to manage to do every single time… You find the only gap, and next moment you’re plummeting through the sky, falling – bizarrely – from deep underground!

s. x

And the public wants what the public gets
But I don’t get what this society wants
I’m going underground
Paul Weller – Going Underground

Posted in Builder's bum, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Indiscretion

It seems that the world grows every more sensitive by the day. There was a time when you could say, show or do pretty much anything you wanted, and no-one would take offence – or, if they did, they’d take the sensible approach of either getting us to shut up and think about about our actions, or switch off, walk away or ignore – whichever was most appropriate.

Today, it seems that everyone needs to be nannied to the point of smothering, or we’re all so terrified of causing offence or unwitting harm, that we’re somehow failing in our public duty if we fail to issue a timely warning that we may possibly cause some sort of offence to those of a sensitive nature.

Let me give you an example: I subscribe to a live Internet feed, capturing events, as they occur, in the wilds of the African bush. Recently the broadcaster has started to append the following solemn warning to the start of the broadcast…

“This programme shows coverage of a live African safari and may contain images of animal kills and carcasses. Viewer discretion is advised.”

You don’t say? And there was me expecting the lions to be playing nicely with the gazelles and behaving themselves for the camera! And what exactly does ‘viewer discretion’ mean anyway? Presumably it’s a reminder that we have the right not to watch, or to close our eyes or hide behind a cushion during the gory bits; but actually it’s a nonsense phrase – a misappropriation of a word placed in an artificial and incorrect context. Am I being told to be discrete? Should I be watching this with the curtains drawn and am I breaching the implied discretion by telling you about it?

You see these stupid advisory notes everywhere.. ‘Viewer discretion’, ‘Trigger warning’, ‘Contains disturbing scenes for those of a sensitive nature’, ‘NSFW’, and my favourite: ‘Contains mild peril’, a total oxymoron if every there was one! As far as I’m concerned, every one of these is completely unnecessary and a complete over-reaction to a non-existent problem. There’s only one warning that I’d ever consider even remotely legitimate… ‘Contains spoilers’!

You’ve gathered by now that I have no patience for political correctness or corporate over-protectiveness; neither am I impressed by the rationale that by pinning some sort of catch-all warning to their content a publisher/broadcaster is magically absolved of any responsibility or accountability for the effects of their content. However, I suppose what really irritates me is that the whole thing is totally unnecessary in the first place. If, for example, I go to watch a Disney film at the cinema, I know exactly what to expect – I don’t need any warnings or advisories to prepare me for what I about to see. Yet, if I buy that same movie on DVD, the case will be smothered with warnings of mild peril and romantic themes, all of which pales into insignificance when I turn on the news or open my newspaper to be greeted by pictures of dead bodies and terror – with no disclaimers or warnings at all… Similarly, I can tune in to a TV programme, preceded by dire warnings of bad language, yet walk down my local high street and be greeted by exactly the same, or worse, profanity with no option to turn off or switch channels.

It seems to me that much of this semi-censorship is about as effective as what we see in SL. You’d imagine that enforcement of TOS, community standards and social protocol would be a fairly straightforward affair in a virtual world platform, but the simple fact is that, no matter how comprehensive the rules, regulations and guidelines, they are pretty much unenforceable in the main, and flagrantly violated a large part of the time.

I spend a lot of time, for example, in sims with a ‘General’ rating. However, it’s a fairly common occurrence to come across people openly flouting the rules with impunity, various degrees of nudity, highly inappropriate behaviour, homes and public venues filled with questionable decor and pose balls are all fairly common occurrences. Then there’s the content of so many profiles which, at times, would make even the most broad-minded of us blush… And it’s on display for the world to see, seemingly totally unmoderated or policed. Surprising really when you consider that Linden Lab once famously took the view that female nipples depicted in classical artwork were offensive and should be censored.

I’d suggest that from any practical standpoint, we should be grown up about such things. We log in to SL in the full knowledge that we may see, hear and experience things that may be distasteful to us, and if we are of a sensitive disposition then it’s up to us to undertake our own level of censorship – much as we would like them to, other people are not going to moderate their behaviour just to suit us. Indeed, that’s what most of us manage to achieve inworld anyway, without a whole host of do-gooders trying to protect us from supposed harm.

If only the real world could be like that, but I fear that things can only get worse in the long run. I can foresee a time, in the not too distant future when new arrivals into the world will be greeted by a midwife sternly holding a notice warning us:

‘This is real life – it may contain distressing moments for some participants. Those of a sensitive nature may wish to return to the womb now!’

s. x

This is not a love song
This is not a love song
This is not a love song
This is not a love song
Public Image Ltd – This Is Not A Love Song

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Computer says ‘No’

Well, that’s one of my questions about Sansar answered….

s. x

Dreams aren’t what they used to be
Some things sat by so carelessly
Smile like you mean it
Smile like you mean it
The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It

Posted in 2.0, Rants, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Unable to relate

Relationships are tricky things to get right, even the most successful ones tend to have their fraught moments and times of misunderstanding and mistakes, and many people will have been involved in relationships that have required an enormous amount of hard work and effort just to make them succeed. Of course, some – despite such efforts – do not, and the life lessons we learn as a result inevitably have an impact on how we view ourselves and ultimately how we involve others in our lives.

There are, of course, those who never seem to be in this position… People who grow up marrying their childhood sweetheart and stick it out together through thick and thin, seemingly impervious to life’s little challenges, until death do they part. Needless to say, I’m not one of those people – my life is a battlefield of broken and fundamentally flawed relationships, which have left me in a very strange place in my life and state of mind. My current relationship status is what most people would consider bizarre, unlikely, unworkable and as far from the norm – whatever you presume that to be – as is possible. It works for me though – even though, I’ll admit, it can throw up some ‘interesting’ challenges, I’m actually very happy with the arrangements.

Given that RL relationships can be so demanding, I find myself constantly surprised that so many people are more than happy to mix things up even further by pursuing relationships inworld too. There’s always the temptation to think that being part of a virtual relationship is a lot less challenging than its RL equivalent – after all, it’s not real, is it? – but many have found to their cost, that the virtual variety can be just as demanding, fulfilling and difficult to negotiate, and that this is compounded even further when you’re trying to juggle priorities and partners in both worlds at the same time. Yes, some do indeed choose to tread the moral and emotional minefield of dual-world relationships, with varying degrees of openness and success – rarely, in my experience, an easy path to take.

Even the most straightforward and benign inworld romance can lead to difficulties. They have a habit of becoming far more meaningful and important to us than we might imagine was possible, and they can be just as deep, life-changing and intense as anything the real world can offer. They can even make that transition from the virtual to real, crossing that boundary that so many profiles staunchly protest should never be breached.

The trouble with any relationship, whether it be romantic liaison, partnership, marriage, flirtation or fun buddy, is that it involves (at least) two people. Each have their own understanding of that relationship, and each have their own needs that will be met through that relationship and interaction with the other party – when cracks start to appear, or priorities change, any relationship can become as damaging as it was once uplifting, and as toxic as it was once nurturing. Either that, or one or the other of those involved decides it’s time to move on. Difficult times, bringing emotional upheaval. Whilst it’s easy to think that these are only RL considerations, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that relationships in the virtual world are any different.

My own view, borne from experience and observation, is that those sort of relationships are best kept out of the virtual arena and reserved for the real world, (although the terrible cynic in me would say that they’re best avoided in RL too!), and whilst it’s true that attraction is something over which we have no control, we most certainly do have control over how we act on it – but it is a very personal thing, and I would never tell anyone not to follow their heart, whether in the real or virtual world. However, I myself have a heart of stone: A heart that precludes me from any desire to put myself in that position.

I fully understand that, for some, finding a virtual significant other can be the icing on the virtual cake, but I would sincerely hope that if you do choose to pursue such a situation, you will do so in the full understanding that such things may be far more meaningful than you may ever have expected, and you should probably be mindful of that from the outset.

Just remember, there’s a real person behind the avatar… And that person may well be you!

s. x

Chill out, what you yellin’ for?
Lay back, it’s all been done before
And if you could only let it be
You will see
Remik – Complicated

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

InSansartised

As Linden Lab ramps up the hype for Sansar in anticipation of open beta, we’re seeing a slew of carefully produced videos that almost, but not quite, give us a clearer idea what to expect when the doors are finally opened to the masses. In terms of selling Sansar, I’m sure they’re achieving what they set out to – certainly, the graphics look pretty stunning, and I’ve been impressed with the apparent ease with which it appears you can adjust lighting to get the perfect effect for your creation (although this does suggest there will be no Sansar equivalent of Windlight). However – for me at least – none of these glossy videos address any of the critical questions users have about the new platform: Will it run on an average spec computer, and if so, what will it look like? What’s it going to cost? And, will the average Joe be able to build inworld?

That last point is especially unclear from what we’re being shown and told. Everything I’ve seen so far has been about full time and/or professional or commercial creators producing gorgeous, but for the vast majority of aspiring builders, completely unattainable standards of build quality. That’s a pretty grim outlook for those of us who like to dabble and who may find that there’s nothing for them in Sansar, quite apart from which, I really don’t fancy pottering about in a world that is pretty, but largely sterile and lacking in the personal touches and quirkiness that giving everyone free range to build allows.

Then there’s the single massive selling point of Sansar, which in my opinion is also its greatest failing. It’s abundantly clear that Sansar is primarily a VR platform – and that’s not necessarily a good thing. How many of us own the full range, if any, of the necessary VR kit? And, for those of us who don’t, how many would be willing to splash out on goggles, gloves and whatever else we need on the off-chance that Sansar is going to deliver everything we hope for, and more? I’m guessing those are pretty low numbers. Which means that a large number of us are not going to get the full Sansar experience and may find ourselves limited in how we can interact on the platform.

We’re nowhere near a ‘Ready Player One’ scenario yet, where plugging into a VR rig is as routine an activity as brushing your teeth, and we’re still a long way from it being a practical interface for connecting to the virtual world. When I watch the Labs’ videos of people building and manipulating objects inworld, all I see is hands waving about and heads twisting in all directions… Not a problem if you live on your own, in a house devoid of fixtures and obstacles, and are not prone to neck and shoulder problems, but a real issue if you plan to access Sansar whilst sat on the sofa, laptop on your lap, with your significant other sat next to you attempting to watch ‘Game of Thrones’! Presumably, being headset oriented also means that typed chat is going to be pretty much out of the question… Well, I’m sorry, but I’ve really no interest in listening to, or participating in, voice chat – if I wanted to do that, I’d use Skype.

This whole VR focus raises another issue for me too: I primarily head off into SL to chill and relax. I routinely have a drink and nibbles next to the keyboard and will frequently also be surfing the Web or using other applications at the same time. Those are all things I simply won’t be able to do if I’m all geared up… I won’t even be able to leave my post to go to the loo without going through the rigmarole of disconnecting then reconnecting every single time! Also, I’m sure that many of you, like me, spend a lot of time inworld undertaking potentially ‘hazardous’ and ‘energetic’ activities – hangliding, pursuing zombies and dancing the night away are all fun and relaxing activities when conducted through the keyboard, but if VR expects you to move those bodies in real life to produce the same outcome inworld, then it’s going to be very hard work, a lot less fun, and a great deal more dangerous! I don’t log in to keep fit, but that’s the implication.

I desperately wanted to like Sansar – I wanted to be the Steller Sunshine of the new world, but that dream is rapidly fading, and the more I see of Sansar, and the longer the Lab leaves us with unanswered questions, the less enthusiastic I become. It’s starting to look very much like it’s not the virtual world for me, and now I’m starting to worry if I’ll ever log in at all.

I hope I’m wrong.

s. x

The nature of reality
Is pure subjective fantasy
Space and time and here and now
Are only in your mind
Oasis – The Nature Of Reality

Posted in 2.0, Linden Love, SL | Leave a comment