The mobile mambo

It’s a peculiar thing, but it seems to me that the vast majority of people are completely unable to remain stationary when taking a mobile phone call whilst on their feet. It’s an affliction that the male of the species seems more prone to, but not exclusively, and those of both sexes- myself included – are sufferers.

Apparently, the human body is not designed to remain still whilst upright and on the phone and feels an overwhelming need to pursue some sort of movement, no matter how aimless or random it might be. The result is a kind of repetitive mechanical dance, which usually involves rocking back and forth, from foot to foot, walking in a tight circle, and the occasional twirl for artistic effect. The moves themselves are executed unconsciously and cease the moment the call is over. It can be quite a sight in a crowded place to see a group of people, unaware of what is going on around them, all following their own private choreography, turning wherever they happen to be into a sort of ad hoc dance floor.

One you’ve noticed it, this strange automatic movement becomes compelling viewing, and the more you watch, the more you get the feeling that you’ve seen all this somewhere before. Then it hits you – you’re observing the bizarre phenomenon of RL animation override!

Yes indeed, that same rhythmic pattern of movement shares an undeniable similarity to the AOs that we employ inworld to make our moments fluid and natural, something that by and large, they manage to do pretty successfully. Getting one’s first proper AO is something of a rite of virtual passage: losing the duck waddle of noobyhood is like taking the stabilisers off your first bike – you suddenly feel all grown up, even though you still have quite a way to go. Of course, not all AOs are equal, and finding the correct balance between animated and realistic can be tricky, especially – and somewhat perversely – when it comes to the difficult art of standing still… Because standing still just looks plain odd.

Most of us will spend far less time worrying about how we look when we’re walking, running or flying than we ever will over how we look when we’re at rest. We tend to pick an AO for the quality of the sits and stands rather than how it expresses our more energetic movements, and we’re far more interested in the subtle nuances that make us seem human when we’re at a standstill than when we’re in motion. It’s the subtle shifting of weight, the breathing, the way our body moves when not under the control of a guiding force – all of these things are important attributes of what goes into making an avatar seem alive and human.

I have a number of AOs and regularly employ perhaps two or three of them in my everyday SLife. As with so many things inworld, I find it surprising just how much others associate those movements with me – just as I tend to associate specific AO movements with friends and associates, and I do notice when they change too. It’s the finer details that matter to me though, and I’m happy with my standing movement – which cycles through a number of different routines randomly, although never the one I want when I’m taking a screenshot! Even so, I’m always on the lookout for something that is more uniquely ‘me’, and I live in hope of finding myself the perfect AO. Maybe one day I will.

However, SL isn’t always about being yourself, and it does no harm to think outside the box sometimes. Many years ago, my previous avatar was given an AO by a kindly stranger, an AO that certainly didn’t reflect my character and, if I’m honest and I saw somebody else using it, I’d probably want to slap them and tell them to stand still – even so, I loved it. Somehow I lost it, and I’ve never been able to find anything quite like it since; and every time I think of it, it’s with a pang of sorrow. It was one of those model poses type AOs, the sort that had me pirouetting about, admiring and inspecting myself, and and basically loving the camera like some sort of SL supermodel… Highly pretentious, rather smug, and altogether awesome! Maybe one day I’ll find it again, who knows?

Until then, I suppose I’ll have to keep watching the antics of those around me in the hope of spotting something that’ll fit the bill, and maybe I should keep an eye on those unwitting dancers in RL on their mobiles, just in case I can steal some ideas from them too?

s. x

Let’s sway
while color lights up your face
Let’s sway
sway through the crowd to an empty space
David Bowie – Let’s Dance

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Too tired to type

I’ve entered the buffer zone recently – the cache of standby posts I’ve built up just so that I can take the occasional day off from writing, should circumstances or my mood require it.

On this particular occasion it’s been very much a case that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, or rather, the flesh is exhausted. I can’t remember any time previously that I’ve felt so drained that I don’t have the energy to put together blog posts, at least not for days on end, but it’s a real struggle right now. I’m putting in long days at work, and they’re pretty challenging and demanding days at that, with long train journeys at both ends of the day. Normally, I’d write during those journeys, but lately I’ve just been falling asleep instead. The change of seasons isn’t helping either – I’ve been on the train 45 minutes this morning, and dawn still hasn’t broken, and I know it will be getting dark by the time I head off to home later.

I think I need to hibernate!

It’s times like this when there’s a huge temptation to fall through the door on arrival back home, grab a packet of noodles as a substitute for proper cooking (eaten straight from the pan – less washing up!), crawl into bed and be asleep before 9pm – I live alone, there’s nothing to stop me from doing it, nothing that is, other than the knowledge that this would be a Bad Thing, and the start of a slippery slide into a Very Bad Thing. Which is where being somewhat addicted to SL saves the day. You see, I am a creature of habit, and unless I have something pressing to do in either the virtual or real world, around about 9pm is when I tend to log in on a weekday. It’s a habit that I wouldn’t say is particularly hard to shake, but it does exert a pull over me when faced with a choice between going inworld to do things, or slobbing around in the sofa doing nothing in particular/heading off for yet another early night. Usually, unless I really cannot keep my eyes open, SL wins.

This I consider to be a Good Thing, since logging in compels me to at least do something; whether that something is chatting and socialising with friends, listening to music or doing something creative, it will require my participation and interaction with the virtual world around me, keeping my brain and faculties active in a way that seems to be oblivious to tiredness and, if nothing else, helps me to feel that I haven’t totally wasted my precious downtime.

Of course, it doesn’t solve the problem of being tired out – I probably could do with a few early nights of quality sleep time, or better still, a few days off from the daily grind – but no amount of sleep seems to make any difference right now, and the chance of any sort of a break is a lost cause, I’m afraid. Maybe I would be better off in bed, but I just know that I would feel that I’m wasting what precious free time I do possess and so, as far as I’m concerned it’s a no brainer. There are few things worse in my mind than a downward spiral of wake-eat-work-eat-sleep…

However, despite its therapeutic benefits, SL isn’t quite so good at masking my current frazzled state… My typing tends to come out pretty mangled at the moment with more than its fair share of typos than is strictly necessary; and that’s when I’m able to keep up with the conversation at all, or even manage to string together a fairly coherent sentence. I keep missing bits of the activity and conversation going on around me; my motor skills are shot to hell and I’ve a tendency to drift off in the middle of a conversa…

And there you have one of the great advantages of writing anything whilst inworld over writing on the train: If you do happen to fall asleep mid flow, there’s nobody nearby for me to dribble on, or to overhear the incoherent mumblings of the semi-conscious zombie that I recently seem to have become!

s. x

Hush, little baby don’t you cry
It is just a lullaby
Dreams of rainbows make you stop
That I am here to wake you up
Brennan Heart & The Prophet – Wake Up! (Over The Rainbow Mix)

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Blogging Bytes: 16th October

It’s been a while since I paid a visit to the dark side, so it’s time to put that right.

Coffee shops, and the people that frequent them: Ever sat at a table, enjoying a flat white and an almond croissant, just passing the time of day and people watching?

And ever wondered about the stories of the people around you?

I have…

Alt. life: The Girl At The Coffee Shop

s. x

So one of these nights and about twelve o’clock
This old world’s going to reel and rock
Saints will tremble and cry for pain
For the Lord’s gonna come in his heavenly airplane
Joan Osborne – One Of Us

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

2.4 Kids

I’ve just been an unwilling party to an intensely irritating conversation between an annoying girl on the train and whoever was on the other side of her phone. It was one of those conversations that, even if you were the other party, would drive you to an intense and completely justified desire to murder the person speaking to you…

“He was like, going to pay like for them like, but like their not supposed to be coming anyway like. Like what am I supposed to do, like my family is like real easy going like, but his family is like really needy…”

There are many things wrong with that conversation, quite apart from the fact she droned on and on for the twenty minutes she was on the train, at a volume that was just too intrusive for you not to listen in, and the subject matter – apparently, although it was never totally clear, was one I loathe with a passion – wedding planning. I’m not a violent person, but I was at the point of Googling ‘contract killers’ when she got off, still bemoaning the fact that Angie and David were insisting on bringing their kids, even though like, nobody else was, like.

However, rant over, for that particular annoyance – it’s just not worth the bandwidth to explore further, although there was one particular comment that started me thinking – the one about the needy family.

‘Families’ in SL is a phenomenon that I’ve never been able to fully get to grips with. And this applies to either of the types of families you’ll typically encounter inworld.

There’s the freaky 2.4 prim kid family where ‘mom’ (it just feels right to use the Americanism) had chosen to put herself through the pain and indignities of a virtual pregnancy and birth, the results of which are now proudly boasted about in mom and dad’s profile picks, where they are joined by images of ‘the bestest auntie in the world’ and, inexplicably but invariably, a mention or two of a favourite BDSM club or slave market.

Then there’s the equally freaky SL extended family, again extolled in profile picks, with reciprocal extollation from the various extollees selected by the extoller! These are typically phrased in gushing nonsense-speak, expressed in weird and unreadable ASCII fonts and usually include a dire message in warning to anyone who upsets or otherwise offends a fellow family member. You’ll often see such profiles proliferating amongst wider familial inworld groups and communities such as bikers, vampires and members of Frank’s Elite.

I completely understand that some may feel the need to belong and feel part of a close knit group who care for each other and connect on a deep emotional level; I also understand that for some, the pretence of living as virtual family, complete with babies and relatives, is attractive. Both scenarios are, essentially, role play – but, to my mind it is role play of the creepier and more obscure kind, and it does have the effect of alienating me from those who practice it.

Oddly, maybe, I’m perfectly OK with other types of role play, even though I have no interest or leanings in that direction at all – and, at its heart, isn’t SL just another form of RP anyway? So if you want to do your Gorean furry vampyric BDSM dollification sex play, carry on – I’m fine with it; I’m not interested in joining in, neither do I particularly want to hear about your exploits when you indulge, but whatever floats your boat is fine with me – YKINMK, but feel free to crack on with it if you so wish. However, if it’s SL families that are your thing then that’s something I’m going to feel pretty uncomfortable with, even if there’s no real difference between that and any other type of RP common in SL – it’s simply one of those things I neither understand, nor am I wholly at ease with it – it’s me, it’s not you!

But, what do you think?

s. x

Collecting pieces of my family
In an old pillow case
This one has a skull
But it don’t have a face
Alice Cooper – Pick Up The Bones

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Glytch: Pants?

I’ve held back on commenting on the ‘exciting news’ about The Lab’s new Grid wide experience – ‘Tyrah: The curse of the magical glytches’ Before going any further, I should make it clear that I haven’t actually checked out the game and it’s pretty unlikely that I will, so don’t think you’re going to get any sort of review or informed criticism today, because you’re not!

Why then am I writing about this at all?

Well, firstly, it’s rather a significant departure from the underlying principles of SL – it’s no longer a case of having a platform where user created content is king – an infinite variety of experiences and possibilities. Instead, we have Linden created and managed content with clearly defined goals and outcomes which, ultimately, is intended to mesh and sit alongside the user-defined world. Secondly, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a game – certainly not the first pure game that takes advantage of the architecture of SL, and neither is it the first Linden game inworld; but it is the first Linden game intended to span both official and user-created content.

Thirdly, it’s a clear statement of intent about the direction that The Lab are pursuing in their quest to make SL a more attractive prospect for future generations of residents, although whether the focus is on retaining and energising the existing user base, or appealing to new signups is unclear.

What is clear – to me anyway – is that The Lab has invested a great deal of time and effort into Tyrah, and this whole venture has been in the making for quite some time. We saw the initial glimmerings with the creation of Linden realms – essentially a test bed for Experiences and the game model that The Lab has plumped for. It was a clever move to then make Experience Keys available to residents, allowing the Lindens to gauge the appetite for inworld games – such as those developed by Madpea – and to test the potential of Experiences once in the hands of users. Now, fully fledged, we see the end result of those efforts – the question is, to what specific end?

Let’s consider those who have made SL their virtual home. There are a great many of us who will have joined SL from a gaming background, indeed many will be happily indulging themselves with SL right alongside more traditional games and MMORPGS. Whether The Lab’s new adventure is going to appeal to this community is debatable – are those, more attuned to slick gameplay, high quality graphics and fast rendering really going to be attracted to the rather simplistic and ponderous style of Tyrah? I’m not so sure that they will, although those who’ve bought into the Pokemon Go culture may well appreciate the similarities of this inworld equivalent.

Then we have those like me, for whom the very thought of an inworld, Grid wide game is anathema. The closest we’ve ever let ourselves come to gaming in SL is the odd hunt and the thought of anything that erodes that ‘your world, your imagination’ mantra is, frankly, unacceptable. We’ve tried games elsewhere and found them restrictive, annoying and confusing and would very much like to keep anything of the sort well clear from our virtual existence. I’ll be honest with you – I gave Linden Realms a go and gave up even trying to make sense of it within just a few minutes (it didn’t even last as long as Windows 10 did with me!). The freaky cartoon graphics that reminded me so much of Day of the Tentacle (which, to my shame,I also gave up on at a very early stage and never succeeded in finishing), and the hijacking of my avatar’s motor functions at inconvenient times didn’t help either. As for my one and only visit to the repurposed Cornfield… I found myself sickened by the travesty that this once-fabled location had become. Tyrah is not for the likes of me!

That leaves the dabblers… Those with open minds and generous spirits who’ll give most things a fair crack of the whip and will no doubt enjoy pottering around the Grid hunting Glytches – but how long is the novelty going to last before it wears thin and those same people are off dabbling with the latest breedable pet/horse/plant/weird furry critter craze that catches their attention? [Edit: If recent comments in the metaverse are anything to go by, it’s already reaching it’s sell by date!]

Could it be then that Tyrah is The Lab’s concerted attempt to generate new signups and drive retention, bearing in mind that – if what I’ve said above is true – for present SL residents, the new game is likely to have only limited, short term appeal? I have a horrible feeling that it may be, in which case I really can’t see where the logic for this lies. I can’t seriously envisage anyone joining SL just to play Tyrah – not that there’s any real mechanism in place for them to even know about it in the first place; and, even if they did, there are plenty of very good alternatives out there against which the Lindens will find it impossible to compete. Then there’s the issue of the rest of the virtual world: What happens when our noob, fresh from collecting an extensive collection of glytches, finds themself wandering around a resident created sim and the full reality of the big bad virtual world? Not only will they be no better off than they are now, but they will be labouring under the false illusion that they’re part of a simple, easy to understand game where everyone plays by the rules. Oh dear.

I do try to remain positive about the weird decisions that Linden Lab constantly seem to make, but sometimes it’s hard. On the positive side, I daresay that none of the effort and enhancements that have gone into developing Tyrah will have gone to waste, and we’ll all benefit from that, but it still seems to me to fundamentally miss the boat.

You may of course, question whether I could do better, and of course, I’d be the first to admit that I probably can’t, although I do sort of think that – rather than mess about with Experience Keys and bespoke regions – they could simply have gone back to the good old days… Send a few Lindens inworld, then challenge us to beg, borrow or steal their Linden bears! Much simpler, and in my opinion, a whole lot more fun!

s. x

Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games
Hiding out in tree-tops shouting out rude names
Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers

Posted in Linden Love, SL, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

The shape of things to come?

Much of my exploring in SL is very much self-directed – I’m a great advocate of the ‘pick a spot on the map and TP’ approach, which can often yield unexpected results, or I’ll harvest locations from the profiles of interesting people I might meet on my travels. Less frequently, my visits will be the result of recommendations or tips from others – although I often find that these aren’t always the niche locations I hope they’ll be… Popular does not always equate to enjoyable in my book!

Recently however, I threw caution to the wind and paid a visit to a sim on a recommendation, and I’ve come away with mixed feelings. Mitsumi-Town is a – still evolving – attempt to faithfully replicate a district in the city of Tokyo, and it manages to do so with impressive success. It feels like the real thing; it’s done on a lavish scale;the attention to detail is stunning; and the degree of realism that its creators have managed to create is admirable. I could go into raptures simply telling you about the detailing on the streetlights and electricity cables! However, in my opinion, it’s fatally flawed and lacks an essential ingredient that is difficult to define – perhaps I could call it ‘soul’?

You see, despite being jaw-droppingly photogenic, hyper-realistic and lavishly set out, the whole place has – for me – an overwhelming feeling of sterility. It is too damn good, too functional and lacks anything that I could connect with on an emotional level. There’s nothing at all wrong with having exquisitely detailed vehicles, parked in pristine streets, but something is missing – you need some car horns, the sounds of traffic, exhaust fumes and… Most of all: People. I spent a decent amount of time at Mitsumi-Town, and whilst I was there, I didn’t see a soul. There were a couple who appeared distantly on the radar, but mostly it was just me – a lonely soul, alone in the city – it all felt very ‘Lost in Translation’. I’m not sure that I like it much.

I do have concerns that this is what the future could look like for virtual worlds, particularly now we know what Sansar looks like. Are we looking forward to beautifully detailed, professionally designed experiences, each floating in their own isolated bubble… Something we can dip into, walk around, then disappear; only running into the occasional unfortunate soul whose visit coincides with our own by accident? My overwhelming impression coming away from Mitsumi-Town was that I’d just visited a proof of concept architectural model, a ‘Hey! Look what we can do’ demo, with none of the fun, anarchy and interaction that typifies SL, and that’s not something I find terribly appealing.

My fear is that virtual worlds could become museums to the future: Lovely to look at, but little else. If I have to visit a museum, I want one with exhibits with buttons I can press, things I can climb on and get inside, that I can touch and handle, not a bland display of impressive, but soulless models – the product of an artist or creator, totally constrained by their own vision and parameters, without the element of the unexpected and interpretive, which the interaction with strangers elicits.

Certainly, my preference results in a messier, more unpredictable, and occasionally broken, experience, but if that’s the price to pay for a world that never fails to surprise, challenge and inspire, then it’s one that I more than willing to pay, even if it means we’ll never have that ‘perfect’ orderly, but ultimately, sterile world.

s. x

”    “
Death In Vegas – Girls

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

Winter is coming

It’s rained a bit over the past few days, it’s definitely getting darker earlier in the evening, and I’m finding that my need to have a fan constantly blowing in my vicinity is becoming less of a necessity. The flowers in the garden are looking past their best, and the leaves on the trees are started to lose their summer green. I’ve been picking apples and plums and, just this weekend, I harvested a decent-sized bag full of oak leaves, which are currently stewing in their own juices, having started their journey towards becoming this year’s wine vintage.

I’m no real fan of the cold, wet and dark weather, but then again, I do enjoy living in a country that enjoys distinct seasons, and each of them has something that appeals to me, as well as an aspect that I find less endearing. Autumn is a time I associate – quite literally – with fruitfulness, and sensory pleasures of every variety, and even though the weather may be colder and less convivial than that of its summer predecessors (in theory, at least), it’s not entirely without its charms, and even when it’s not so good, it’s always an enjoyable experience to get out of it, warm up and dry off!

Rest assured, I shall be making effort to get out and about in the evening when the weather is conducive to outdoor activity, but those days aside, this is the beginning of those long SL nights – times when staying in at sitting in front of the computer doesn’t feel such a guilty pleasure and the darker evenings mean more time inworld.

These are the productive days – days when there’s plenty of time to plan, build, explore and write and we can start to look forward to the annual festivals that have become such an integral part of the inworld experience, along with the plethora of hunts, seasonal sims and activities that go along with them.

It’s time to pack away the Summer dresses, crop tops and strappy sandals, and dig out the cardigans and boots from where they’ve languished for months, forgotten in our inventories, waiting for their annual outing – there’s no need, of course, but SL does a fine job of reflecting how we are in the real world and some conventions, even when completely unnecessary are hard to break away from.

We’ll start to see SL subtly change, just as the world around us begins to wear its autumn colours. Our inworld activities will alter and an almost intangible, but gently relentless change will be set in motion. It’s an exciting, although sometimes poignant time in both worlds, but inworld, it’s a time I find fascinating, if only because it’s happens at all – or doesn’t have to, but – like the seasons themselves – SL moves to its own rhythms and patterns, and I think that adds to the world rather than detracts from it. Change happens in both worlds and whilst it may not always be welcome, it is refreshing and necessary…

And I welcome it.

s. x

So when you hear this autumn song
Clear your heads and get ready to run
So when you hear this autumn song
Remember the best times are yet to come
Manic Street Preachers – Autumn Song

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Refreshes the parts…

It had been one of those days – started well, but started a slow decent into madness just after lunch and could have ended as one of those you just want to write off and forget.

I finished early enough – perfect timing, in fact, to get caught in a flash storm that was determined to give Harvey a run for its money! Wet and cold at the station, I was thrilled to find out my train had been cancelled, meaning a 40 minute wait for the next one. The connecting Manchester train was held at the station due to an animal strike further up the line and passengers were sent scurrying for the Nottingham train, several platforms away (also delayed), which we weren’t allowed on because it was too crowded. Eventually, I managed to get the Taunton train – delayed, of course, by the late running Nottingham in front of it – which then proceeded to crawl, at walking pace, for the entire journey.

When I did finally arrive home, tired, damp, fed up and back aching from seats that are designed specifically to be tailored to anything but the human body, I wasn’t really in the mood for anything but slobbing out with a glass or two of Grenache, and not a lot else!

However, it was Thursday, which means heading inworld, getting dressed up and joining friends for music and dancing at our usual retreat, and I really didn’t feel like making the effort. But, I did – and it did me the power of good.

It was one of those evenings that just went perfectly – the complete opposite to my day from hell. Great music, great company at the club, followed by an equally enjoyable chill out session at the local pub back at my home sim. I stayed much later than I should, and when I did finally logout, it was with a smile on my face, a now empty Grenache bottle, and a feeling that the world isn’t such a bad place after all. To say that SL saved my sanity last night is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly felt like it at the time.

Had it not been for SL, it’s likely I’d have spent a pleasant enough evening doing very little, and ended up going to bed feeling much the same as when I’d arrived home. I certainly wouldn’t have made any attempt to meet up with friends, tried to fill my time with anything particularly special or gone out of my way to try and lift myself above the trials of the day, it simply wouldn’t have happened. A Thursday probably isn’t the best evening for socialising anyway – it’s unlikely that even if I’d made the effort, that any opportunity to spend some time socialising would have presented itself, but the ease with which SL permits people to come together and make the most of the available time, whenever and wherever you happen to be, is unmatched.

It’s not something that conventional social media manages to achieve anything nearly as well, since it lacks the tangible shared environment that is so central to SL – it’s not a platform, it’s a place… And it’s a place that replicates much of the positive side of living, without having to expend too much energy to achieve it. For example, after a hard day at work, I’m far more likely to dress down than to dress up, and whilst that may be a lot more comfortable, there’s something about making an effort with how you look that just makes you feel good about yourself. At home, I may be in jeans and t-shirt, but for a night ‘out’ inworld, I’ll throw on something smashing, touch up the makeup, and feel great about looking good – nothing at all, in practical terms has changed, but emotionally and mentally I’ve made that special effort and that in turn lifts my spirits.

Some may think that’s a poor substitute for the real thing, notwithstanding that sometimes the real thing is impractical or simply too much effort and organisation to be worthwhile doing. That’s when SL comes to my rescue and sometimes, like last night, it’s all I need to get myself back on the rails (even if the trains can’t manage it!)

s. x

Because we’re holding our own in a great big storm
And though we’re cutting it close
We won’t let go
Nate Ruess – Great Big Storm

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One of my work colleagues turns 60 in a few years time, and some time back they decided that, a) Getting older was no excuse to slow down, b) Life is too short not to be living it to the full, and c) There’s a wealth of untried experiences out there, if you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone. And that’s when she came up with the idea that she was going to do 60 new things before she reached 60.

I’m sure that many of us throughout our lives have made bucket lists, set ourselves life challenges and resolved time and time again to spice up our lives, but – unlike my colleague – nothing much has ever come of it and things soon fizzle out, leaving us to return to our mundane and routine daily lives. She, however, is already half way there and recent exploits have included taking part in a triathlon, mountain climbing, and – believe it or not – bog snorkeling!

I’m both in awe of her, and somewhat ashamed to admit that many of the things that she has chosen to have a go at, youwouldn’t find me attempting in a million years… Far too athletic, energetic, and – although I fully appreciate the sense of achievement gained from taking on a difficult challenge – I can’t ever see myself in their position. On a scale of zero to superhero, I’m firmly in the ‘Joe Average’ category, and although there’s something deep inside that nags me to be something greater that I have become, my capacity to reach such goals is sadly lacking.

Certainly, when I was younger, things were very different and I did some crazy, even insane, things. Some I can look back on and smile about, others I’m still regretting to this day, but they’ve made me who I am today. At some point along the way, however, I managed to become dull and boring! People around me have gone on to great things – I have a friend who ran a marathon, despite requiring a medical support team to run with him; another friend realised their life’s dream of becoming a successful published author; one of my exes formed a charity and has set up an orphanage in Africa; others have built their own dream home, made it big in the music business, own their own companies, have climbed Everest and have navigated the Amazon.

I watched a video recently of a young woman, an independent film maker who travels the world, living the dream. She talked about her own life and how people can achieve what they set out to do, but many find excuses not to: “I don’t have the money”, “I wouldn’t know where to start”, “I have responsibilities”, “It’s too much of a risk” – and I know I do the same: A great many of us do.

It’s always surprised me just how many of the people I come across in SL are well past the first flush of youth. Most of the people I associate with inworld are in their forties and older, and over time, as these acquaintances have become friends and we’ve learned something of each other’s lives there are a couple of common themes that seem to hold true for many of us. Firstly, the past lives of many of the people I know are – quite literally – astonishing. I’ve met people inworld who’ve experienced the most profound tragedy, rubbed shoulders with the super famous and royalty, excelled in sport, music and business, and whose lives at some point seem a far cry from everyday and routine. There’s more than one person inworld that I’ve told should write a novel about their experiences.

Secondly, it also seems that a decent proportion of those same people have slipped, whether by design or circumstance into a life now that is very different from that of the past, and feel – just as I do – that something is lacking that was once there.

I wonder sometimes if part of the reason that we see so many people of a certain age, or at a certain point in their life in SL, is that the virtual world allows an alternative to a life that may, in every practical way, be perfectly OK but is nevertheless lacking the thrill, challenge, exhilaration or excitement that they once perhaps took for granted? Here in the virtual world we can indeed be the superheroes, the champions and the rockstars, when maybe our real life situation is no longer going in that direction, or has settled down into that comfortable, reliable and predictable pattern of normality that is somehow considered so desirable once you get past a certain age, even though – deep down inside – we might actually resent it, or wish that we could recapture the fun of our more youthful years. SL let’s us take the risks, misbehave and break the rules, and generally relive our past life vicariously and without consequence, and it does so very well.

However, I can’t help feeling that it’s cheating and that, just maybe, I should grasp the mettle and stop living in the past in the real world and start real living, once again, in the here and now. Less of the excuses and more of the action! And, if I really can’t get my act together and start doing something about it, then maybe I should just accept that’s the way it is and the past, no matter how glorious it may have been, is quite definitely, in the past.

There will always be those for whom the march of time and changing fortunes will never pose an obstacle to living life to the full; similarly, there are those who even when given 60 years will never get anywhere near achieving 60 successes they can look back on with pride and a smile.

I know which I’d like to be, I’m just not entirely sure how I get there!

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ― Hunter S. Thompson

s. x

Tonight, we are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun
Fun – We Are Young

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Memento mori

One of the benches at my local railway station has a new brass plaque – it’s in memory of a chap who ‘spent many long hours watching the trains at this station’. I’m sure it’s a fitting memorial which would have been much appreciated by the gentleman in question, had he still been around to enjoy it, although I sure that many of the poor souls commuting on a daily basis would be be bemused by anyone wanting to spend a moment longer than necessary at this location, let alone ‘many long hours’! It’s a funny old life, as opposed of course to the alternative, which is rarely considered particularly amusing – death.

Coincidentally, the memorial bench served as a graphic illustration to follow on from this morning’s breakfast reading – an article discussing some of the more novel methods available these days for remembering loved ones. You can now amongst other things – have the burnt, carbonised remains of your nearest and dearest incorporated into a vinyl pressing of recordings from their life, drink from a mug painted with the ashes of the decreased, stick flowers in a vase glazed with their essence, or bling yourself up with diamonds pressed from their remaining carbon.

Whilst the methods may be modern, such attempts to capture a lasting tribute to those departed, are not. I vividly remember stepping inside Christies’ London auction house a couple of years ago and being fascinated by a collection of Victorian memento mori, which included such delights as pictures of the dead, woven from their hair and other such tangible fragments of those who had shuffled off their mortal coil. Even if we’re not disposed to the preservation of the physical evidence of those expired, throughout history we’ve attempted to capture their memory through stone, paint and prose.

Inevitably, we tend to follow the same conventions in SL too – we are, after all, human beings whose emotions don’t cease to function simply because we’ve logged in, and we do form friendships, attachments and relationships through the medium of SL. Indeed, the virtual world situation can be somewhat more complex, since our knowledge of those who may disappear from virtual life may be such that we may never know whether they have simply quit SL, popped out for an extended lunch or gone to that great cloud server in the sky – ‘The Big Quiet’. Sometimes, because of such uncertainty, along with the transient nature of the virtual world, the only memorial we may keep to ‘departed’ friends will be a poignant profile pick, an album of images, maybe a landmark that no longer points to anywhere… Perhaps the perfect allegory to illustrate departure from an inworld existence?

There are are however more public, tangible inworld reminders of SLives now passed. I’ve seen some incredibly moving tributes to those who have logged out permanently from both lives, including people I’ve known and shared time with myself. A club where you’ll find a chair that will always belong to its absent incumbent; an obelisk or flame dedicated to a much-loved resident; a garden of memories of those who are no longer with us; even whole sims put aside for the celebration of lives now over.

Some may think it odd, even distasteful, but grief and loss – even in a virtual world – need to be acknowledged and dealt with, and in a world where you can live your life however you wish, I don’t think anyone can be critical of how we choose to remember those whose virtual lives are now over. It’s not morbid, it’s part and parcel of being.

And, with that in mind, I can’t help wondering what my inworld legacy will be… Will somebody build a statue to me, light a candle or put my picture in their profile? I’d like to think someone might, but failing that, maybe just a virtual brass plaque, on a virtual bench somewhere, with a pithy inscription:

“In memory of Seren, now permanently lagged”

s. x

“We live to dance another day,
It’s just now we have to dance for one more of us,
So stop looking so damn depressed,
And sing with all our hearts, long live the Queen”
Frank Turner – Long Live The Queen

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