Artistic licence

Just like the real world, SL has its limitations, although often we may well argue quite the opposite. It is true that SL gives us opportunities that we wouldn’t have elsewhere and the freedom to do things that would be undesirable, untenable and often downright impossible in the real world. Even so, the virtual world still has its rules and strictures that we are compelled to work within, not to mention some of the same impositions that we have to cope with in RL… Resources, space, time and skills, to name just a few.

In the real world, we’re well aware that compromise and making concessions are very much part of everyday life, and often that means we have to settle for the illusion of what we’d wish for, rather than the real thing. Everything from fake handbags to mock Tudor beams – substitutions for what we can’t have, because sometimes that’s just the way things are.

The same is true for SL too, and is never more acutely felt than when building. The need to limit land impact, cater for camera angles, reduce costs and complexity means that builders will often take shortcuts to stay within SL constraints – using textures instead of 3-dimensional fixtures, false windows and doors in lieu of practical versions, empty space, fillers and facades. None of this really matters in structural terms, since the natural laws of physics and construction simply don’t hold any sway in SL – but it can nevertheless be disappointing to be exploring an interesting structure inworld only to find it’s not quite what it appears.

Such difficulties can be exacerbated for the builder attempting to replicate the real world in virtual form. Buildings in the real world tend to have awkward shapes and forms that may be difficult to reproduce inworld, and unless they are locations that we are intimately familiar with and have unrestricted access to, there will inevitably be a lot of guesswork when it comes to those hidden parts to which we are not privy. The real challenge though lies for the builder wishing to create accurate reconstructions of historical locations: something that I’ve struggled to achieve first hand.

I have a particular penchant for recreating iconic, culturally significant, British music venues. My portfolio so far includes, Wigan Casino – instrumental in the rise of Northern Soul; Holyhead Youth Club – arguably the birthplace of 2 Tone; and, The Roxy, Covent Garden – the spiritual home of punk rock. At times, this has been absurdly challenging. In the absence of architectural drawings and any quality records of what these places were like, it’s incredibly difficult to produce accurate renderings of such places. Even the most diligent research often only produces a few grainy, black and white photographs of the exterior of these buildings, and you rapidly discover that hardly anyone ever thought to document or photograph the inside of 1970’s music venues, leaving questions about interior decor, colours and layout down to (hopefully) intelligent guesswork and a large degree of artistic licence.

There are, however SL residents for whom these were once real places – fondly remembered as where they learned to pogo, had their first proper kiss, or managed to get locked in the toilets after closing time! It’s these people whom I live in fear of… Petrified that one day they’ll turn up and tell me that I’ve got it all wrong and that it’s nothing like the real thing at all! I suppose that’s the risk you take, and for me at least, I feel it’s more important to preserve the memory and the essence of these iconic places than the accurate colour of the gloss paint in the toilets, (vibrant orange, bubbled and cracked using blowtorches, at the Roxy, apparently!)

It’s just another one of those constraints that the aspiring SL historical architect has to work within, I suppose: A very clear reminder that, when it comes to the past, once it’s gone, our really is gone!

s. x

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
The Beatles – In My Life

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Posted in Builder's bum, Musicality, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

A failure to communicate

The world today is all about communication; we’re reliant on communication more than ever before in history, and technology has evolved far beyond the wildest dreams of those who lived before the communication age. I can’t help thinking that if the same efforts had been put into finding a cure for cancer as have gone into disseminating pictures of cats across the internet, we’d have probably beaten it by now.

Our communication demands have increased exponentially too. A hundred years ago, it could take days, even weeks, before significant events happening elsewhere in the world filtered through to distant audiences; today, we can watch the news as it unfolds on the other side of the world… We can even interact with it in real time, or become roving reporters ourselves, thanks to the technology we now have at our fingertips. We spend more time than ever texting, typing, calling, Skyping, Facetiming, blogging, vlogging, tweeting, status updating, Snapchatting, communicating with a myriad other methods of keeping in touch with our nearest and dearest, as well as those in our wider ‘social’ circles, as well as complete strangers, lurkers and voyeurs who, for whatever reason, choose to take an interest in what’s going on in our lives.

The most frightening aspect of the whole thing for me is how utterly dependant on comms technology we’ve become. Many of us find it hard to ‘switch off’, and when we’re denied access to our connections, we feel bereft and lost. Far too many of us are now incapable of functioning without our constantly updated communication stream to accompany our daily lives. When you consider that all it would take is a single, high-powered solar flare to wipe out global communications, you have to wonder just how we’d cope if such an event were to occur.

So much for the real world, but what about SL? I’m very conscious when inworld that I’m in an environment that is fundamentally underpinned by communicating. SL is, after all a social network, and without the essential interaction between members of that network, it becomes something of a lost cause. Communication inworld isn’t just limited to the words that we type, or voice, either – there’s a surprising amount of non-verbal interaction that takes place too. It’s surprisingly easy to determine somebody’s emotional state, for example, (especially our friends), from their choice of clothing, degree of enthusiasm for the current activity, and the phrasing or lack of engagement in conversation. I’ve often had a friend drop me an IM asking me if I’m OK, with a remarkable level of insight into my emotional state at the time, simply because they’ve correctly gauged my mood from the non-verbal clues they’ve picked up from my avatar.

It’s surprising how easy it can be to ascertain when someone is upset, tired, moody, happy, angered, frustrated or feeling isolated, even without anything written or spoken to draw our attention to it, and I wonder if this is an emerging social skill that we’re developing as a result of the changing nature of our natural environment?

Even so, it seems that being part of an online social environment, able to interact with ease with both friends and strangers in a huge variety of ways is simply not enough. Quite apart from the individual connections we make with each other, along with the groups we join and the places and events we frequent, there are a growing number of us for whom inworld contact is simply far too restrictive. A growing number of my friends and acquaintances in SL maintain contact whilst outside the confines of the virtual world, to the extent that some are puzzled when they realise I’m not aware of upcoming events, in the dark about conversations that have taken place, or haven’t seen photos and discussions that are otherwise, apparently, common knowledge. “But it’s been all over Facebook”
they protest, and are then completely dumbfounded when I tell them that I most certainly am not all over Facebook, nor indeed do I have a FB account. You see, when it comes to the wider social sphere, I barely participate and have little interest in doing so.

Really, I’m a pretty private person – both in the real world, and in SL – and I have to say that SL is something of a departure from my real nature, which tends to be one that shies away from contact with others, socialising and constantly communicating using any means at my disposal. My phone is barely employed, I have no interest in social media, and I probably wouldn’t be all that bothered or affected if that big solar flare does decide to throw a curve ball any time soon.

I guess I’m just not a social animal.

s. x

Don’t speak
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts
No Doubt – Don’t Speak

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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

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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

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

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