Alt. life: Ghost

Christmas is coming. A time when suicides peak, apparently; a period when the lonely feel their isolation most keenly; and where the baser desires of greed, gluttony and selfishness rule supreme.

What on earth would the Baby Jesus make of it all?

In the spirit of the festive season, I thought I’d give you all my own little gift – although you make not like it at all, and I’m sorry, but you’re not going to be able to exchange it for something nicer when the January sales come!

Happy Christmas! – Alt. life: The Ghost of Christmas Present.

s. x

In the silence of your room
In the darkness of your dreams
You must only think of me
There can be no in between
Shakespear’s Sister – Stay

 

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

Don’t go changing

If there’s one thing that really gets on my nerves, it’s political correctness, and unfortunately the PC Brigade are so belligerent when it comes to getting on their soapboxes that very little these days doesn’t at some time or other fall within the PC remit. It can feel sometimes that no matter what the topic, we have to bite our tongue and avoid saying what we really think for fear of offending somebody. We can’t wear ethnically influenced clothes or hairstyles for fear of being accused of ‘cultural appropriation’, and what used to be considered perfectly acceptable humour is now a surefire way to fall out of favour with the overly protective and super sensitive.

That’s how we end up with idiot scandals where quoting Churchill condemns us to being racist and Christopher Columbus is vilified, simply for acting like anybody else of his time would have acted. Even historical fact, it seems, isn’t immune from being tarred with the PC brush, and we’re fast becoming a world where we’ll happily rewrite history, or conveniently sweep its more distasteful moments under the carpet, just because they don’t fit in with our current – and likely just as distasteful to our descendents some time in the future – world view. It won’t be all that long before Orwell’s Ministry of Truth becomes reality, mark my words!

What really irks me though is the way in which influential groups and organisations fall into the trap of toeing the party line and bowing to perceived popular opinion in order to institutionalise politically correct ways of thinking. That is, rather than allow us to make our own minds up about such things, we’re forced into a corporate, narrow-minded way of thinking what somebody else is dictating. It’s effectively attempted brainwashing, without any real attempt to disguise it as anything less.

One notable example of this approach to force feeding us political correctness is the recent regeneration of Doctor Who into a woman. Now, I’m all for women’s rights, breaking through the glass ceiling and equality, and all that, but some things simply don’t need to be changed, particularly if it’s a cynical move by a massively influential public corporation to show off just how politically correct it can be. I grew up with Doctor Who – it’s been one of the constants throughout my whole life, for a long as I can remember… And Doctor Who has always been, and will always be a man! His sex isn’t dictated by popular opinion, political agenda or the current flavour of the day: He is a bloke, plain and simple, and to make him otherwise – especially just to earn Brownie points, because Auntie Beeb wouldn’t have done it for any other reason – is wrong, and a little bit insane.

I resent the BBC taking an icon that people have grown up with and turning it into a tool to hammer home a message that I don’t subscribe to, and which – knowing the BBC – neither do they really, either. In fact, I’m confidently waiting for the scandal to break when we find out that Jodie Whatshername is being paid less than any of the male doctors that went before her.

You have to admit, that despite its many faults, Linden Lab goes the right away about letting SL residents live their virtual lives without imposing any sort of PC or other agenda upon us. This is an adult and grown up way of doing things, implying acceptance that not all people share the same sensibilities, and that we should be allowed to express ourselves and live in a way that we choose, even if that may sometimes be offensive to others. The other side of the deal, of course, is that we are also expected to behave in an adult fashion: Exhibiting tolerance and respect for those whose lifestyle choices may not gel nicely with ours, and ensuring that where we may cause offence to others, we moderate our behaviours accordingly.

Considering just how diverse and  at times, outrageous, SL can be, the whole thing works amazingly well  I won’t deny that sometimes things do go awry, but most of the time  the Lab’s hands off approach works very well. We don’t need to be told how to act, or react; we are rational, sentient beings who are more than capable of getting on with our lives within a complex social structure. Sure, sometimes others will offend us, but we have a multitude of ways in which we can respond: Take it on the chin and move on; give as good as we get; ignore; mute; humour; punch in the nose… And many more besides. But the last thing we want is for the Lindens to wade in, all heavy handed, and start dictating to us their own version of right and wrong.

We may be stuck with it in RL, please don’t ever let us have to suffer it in SL too!

s. x

I smoke weed, eat pussy all the time
Straight, bi or gay, they all stand in line
It doesn’t really matter, I don’t know what to say
They got a thing for my ass and I’m here to play
Ängie – Smoke Weed Eat Pussy

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

Lies!

If there is a Universal Truth it is that our lives are built upon Universal Lies. There is nothing particularly nefarious about these lies – we all know they are blatant distortions of the truth, yet we accept and tolerate them without question and still seem somewhat bemused and disappointed when the obvious, equally blatant, truth becomes apparent.

Here are some common examples of the Universal Lie:

  • I’ll pay you back next time I see you;
  • This won’t hurt – just a little scratch;
  • Two generous servings;
  • I wasn’t looking, honest;
  • You’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry/faint/fart/won’t be able to stop;
  • 48mpg in urban conditions
  • Flights from as low as £19.99
  • Covers in just one coat

That last one is particularly pertinent for me at the present moment, since I’m currently in the throes of redecorating my bathroom. You’ll know by now that I never do things the easy way, and this is no exception – rather than chisel off a whole load of tiles, redo them all, grout and all the other nonsense, I’ve decided to paint over the existing ones… This has meant cleaning and sanding them down, applying a coat of primer and then covering with a specialist top coat of paint. It’s bright yellow, and absolutely guaranteed to cover any surface in just one coat.

As I write this post, I’m currently on my third coat, with a fourth definitely required, and possibly – depending on the outcome – a fifth!

I’m not surprised, I’ve done a fair bit of decorating in my life and no matter what paint, what surface and what method of application I’ve employed, I’ve always needed a bare minumum of two coats, and usually several more to achieve a decent end result. It’s not as if I’m doing anything wrong either – decorating is one of those things that I try not to have to do too often, and I know that whatever I do will remain visible for a while to come; so I try to prepare surfaces properly, use proper materials and good tools, and take my time – besides which, my dad was for many years a professional painter and decorator, so I dare not make a bad job of it!

I guess, like most things, that we live in the real world, not under laboratory conditions, and what ideally in the perfect world would be the truth of the matter – like our ‘covers in just one coat’ – is rarely borne out by experience, and so the Universal Lie is perpetuated. It’s not a blatant untruth, since under specific conditions it may well be true, but for the other 99.999% of the time it’s pretty much never going to happen.

I suppose that the Universal Lie applies to the virtual world too: Take a look at any of Linden Lab’s advertising videos and images for the last 15 years, or indeed for any similar product by any other company, and the hype will rarely be mirrored by the (virtual) reality. Like those movie trailers that only show the explosions and car chases, there’s a lot that’s missed out and nowhere near as exciting. Similarly, there are those advertisements for video games that lead you to believe that they’re almost like reality… Until you spot the small print, ‘Not actual gameplay’! Second Life is no different – the Lab wants to show SL as sexier, sleeker and slicker than it really is, simply because it’s very hard to sell anything on the reality of what you can expect to be getting.

Take a look at this promotional video from 9 years ago, (which seems frighteningly like yesterday!), it’s always been one of my favourites:

Around 90%+ of that video is taking at least a little, if not a lot, of artistic licence. I particularly like the bit where the businessman puts down his briefcase and shakes hands; as if that particular scenario is ever going to take place inworld. (Even if you leave aside the challenge faced by the average user for animating two avatars to be able to mimic that simple activity!).

However, it’s not just the Labbies who rely on stretching the truth a little when upselling the virtual world, if you were to listen to most of the people who spend any amount of time inworld, myself included, you might be forgiven for thinking we were talking about something else entirely. Much as we might think that we’ve become a little disengenuous when talking about SL and that we may think we tend towards focussing on all the points which we like complaining about, we are also pretty good at painting a rosy picture of the platform too. We’ll encourage others to give it a try, tell them about the benefits and good things that we’ve discovered, and gloss over the difficulties, dumbing down the learning curve and in general putting rather a good spin on the SL experience.

I think that it’s all very much part of the same pattern that we fall into in RL. We know what things could be like in the perfect world and we also know that, very occasionally, that’s exactly the experience you can have in SL – but, just like the real world, the everyday reality is quite a bit different. It’s not the deal that we’re led to believe it is, but it’s still perfectly serviceable and pretty much as you’d expect it to be. We are after all, realists, no matter how much time out of the real world we might choose to spend!

s. x

It’s like I’m huffing paint and I love it the more that I suffer
Eminem – Love The Way You Lie

 

 

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Top tips

One of the disadvantages of being a Brit and spending a fair bit of time in an environment, such as SL, which can tend to have such a strong US bias is that I can struggle to get my head around some of the Americanisms that are often inescapable when living in a virtual world.

One such thing that I don’t think I’m ever going to reconcile satisfactorily in my mind is the mindset in relation to tipping, which can sometimes seem, to one from the other side of the pond, to be overly prevalent, and often hard to justify.

Maybe I should say from the outset that the concept of tipping isn’t alien to me, and it’s something that I’m entirely comfortable with. I’ve spent enough time in cultures where it is both the norm, and an important part of a person’s earnings in some sectors, to completely understand that in some cases it is both expected and a necessity. I’m also fully conversant with the American service industry norm, where tips can form the greater part of a living wage thanks to a remuneration system that is both fundamentally flawed and totally inconsistent with what purports to being a forward-looking and progressive nation.

To understand where I’m coming from, you probably need a basic grasp of the British way. Over here, tips are neither mandatory, nor are they necessarily expected – rather than a supplement to income, they are a method of expressing satisfaction with a job well done; specifically, excellent service, or something over and above what is expected. They are, in a way, a reward for making the customer feel special. We don’t work to fixed percentages, neither do we reduce the amount for poor or disappointing service – essentially, you either get a tip, or you don’t. Tips are not considered a necessary expense, and indeed you’ll find that companies who reimburse their workers for meal expenses incurred whilst working will never cover tips – they are not a right or a necessity.

Despite that, should I ever find myself filling up on food Stateside, I’ll certainly be more than happy to pay my way and tip as much as a native.

I suppose it’s inevitable that this particular aspect of the American Dream should find it’s way into the virtual world, but the fact that it is so prevalent both bemuses and irritates me. Whilst I can see the justification for tipping in RL, I find it much harder to reconcile with a virtual setting, and with very few exceptions, I find it something of an anachronism.

Let’s take the common scenario of a music club, where tipping is apparently part and parcel of having a good time. Certainly, I understand there are costs associated with running a venue, and it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a contribution to those costs and – other than charging an entry fee –  I guess that putting out a tipjar is a sensible alternative. Fine, but then you have the DJ, who also expects to receive something for their efforts, or at least that’s the impression you get. Personally, even after playing music for a couple of years now, I still get embarrassed about being tipped, and whenever I can, I avoid it – I’m playing music because I enjoy doing so and all the thanks I want is to see those assembled enjoying themselves. I daresay there are those who DJ as a means to boost their inworld finances, but frankly – unless there’s an element of skill involved – do you really deserve my hard earned lindens simply for loading a playlist into some software? From my point of view, if you’re going to tip me for something that takes little effort and which I’m doing for the fun of it, then you may as well tip me for being in the crowd dancing, while somebody else plays the music!

Then you have the club dancers. Seriously, you want to be paid money for jumping on a poseball? And, my particular pet hate: Hosts/greeters, or whatever they want to call themselves… I mean, you can’t possibly be serious? Perhaps I should also be shelling out my hard earned bucks to every Tom, Dick or Henrietta who randomly says hello when I arrive at a club, because, as far as I can see that’s essentially all that these people do?

And, what if I’m not enjoying the music, the ambience is awful and the club is lagging like it’s been pumped full of glue? Even then, a tip is still expected; and I’m sorry, but if you think I’m going to pay not to enjoy myself, you can think again!

I have friends who frequent numerous clubs most nights of the week, sometimes several in one night. I can only imagine they’re rich as Croesus, or have far more money than sense… Or, somehow they’re avoiding the impulse and all the pressure exerted upon them to line the pockets of those around them through the medium of tips? Guys, if you want to give your money away, give it to me – I’ll even say ‘hello’, whilst poledancing to the music I’m playing in my own club, if that will assist!

There are other examples of gratuitous gratuities in SL that confuse me even more: Tipjars in shops, for one. Surely the whole point of a place that stocks things for sale is that you make a profit from the things that you sell? Isn’t that what commerce is all about? Why then, after shelling out for a new shell suit am I expected to leave something in the pot on my way out in addition? It makes no sense to me… But what makes even less sense to me is that some idiots are perfectly happy to do just that!

So, am I a cheapskate, or is the virtual world just money mad?

s. x

I’ll just sit and grin
The money will roll right in
Nirvana – The Money Will Roll Right In

 

 

Posted in Linden Love, Musicality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

The taste of rhubarb

How do you explain Second Life to someone who has no knowledge or understanding of it?

I don’t mean in simple terms, but in the sense of the complexities of how it makes us feel, the way it influences our real lives, and the relationships, interactions and transactions that are all part and parcel of our virtual lives?

I suppose you could take the approach of finding common ground and extrapolating from there – maybe employing a multiplayer game, social media, even church by way of comparison? But that doesn’t address the fundamental point that SL is none of these things, and whilst it may share similar characteristics, when you depart from those shared areas of understanding, confusion tends to set in.

Maybe you take the more selective approach, focusing on a single angle, or just a few aspects of SL that are easy to grasp, but that always seems to me a bit like getting the proverbial three blind guys to describe an elephant by touch alone. SL is far too complex to render down into a few easily understood points. The trouble is, I would argue, that SL is not only complex, but unique – two qualities that can cause difficulties in translation in their own right, but together in combination are capable of stumping the most erudite communicator.

Explaining SL to the uninitiated is like explaining the taste of rhubarb to someone who had never tried it.

The only way you can possibly get to grips with it, is to try it; and, like rhubarb, your own experience is going to vary wildly compared to that of others. You may love it, or hate it; you may be unsure and want to wait until your palate becomes accustomed to the taste, or you might be unimpressed right from the first mouthful and not want to bother should it ever come your way in the future.

This is one of the problems that Linden Lab faces when it comes to promoting SL. We’re constantly griping that they don’t do enough to sell the virtual world, but seriously, with something as complex and unique as SL, how the hell do you do that anyway? Do we really imagine it’s possible to explain to anyone about the subtle complexities of the unique taste of rhubarb in a way that will appeal to anyone, no matter what their tastes? Yet that’s precisely what we expect the Lab to do when it comes to promotional activities related to SL.

Whether we are drawn to, or appalled, by the infamous vampire adverts of a few years back, the allure or otherwise of Linden Homes, new avatars or inworld games, will depend massively on what sort of things appeal to you personally, and to a very much smaller extent, on the quality of the advertising… And neither will have much at all that can give you any sort of idea of what SL is really about – it’s just not possible, it’s far too complex.

With that line of reasoning, you have to wonder whether any sort of investment is marketing for SL is even worthwhile, and my feeling is that it really isn’t. The vast majority of people for whom SL plays an everyday part in their lives, (that is, the sort of people that any advertising campaign worth its salt would wish to attract), are there often completely by accident, or through association. Many who joined up in the early years may have been caught up in the whole ‘virtual worlds are the future’ hype, others would have followed the evolutionary geekist progression from Usenet to MUDS and MMORPGS, and onwards and upwards. Still others will have been introduced by friends, family, pop groups, and even guitar and car manufacturers. Then there are those – like myself – whose curiosity was was sparked, maybe through reading Snowcrash, Ready Player One, Otherland, Neuromancer, seeing magazine articles, reviews or glimpses of SL on TV and elsewhere; but very few – if any – would have logged in to SL that first time with any real idea about what to expect.

I imagine that some of us are still finding ourselves in that position, even after years inworld!

We’re used to periodically passing through times of doom and gloom, when SL is supposedly on the decline and will soon find itself on the scrapheap of virtual failure and most of the time, we unthinkingly and happily lay the blame squarely upon the Lab’s inability to promote SL to the masses. However, as I’ve explained, that’s not a easy thing to do, if it’s indeed possible and – if it was such a deal breaker – how come SL is still going strong, even though Linden Lab has done little in real terms over the years to market it in any significant way?

I’m pretty certain that it’s those very qualities that make SL so hard to sell – its uniqueness and complexity – that are its biggest selling points and greatest assets. People who sign up to SL and stay, are precisely the sort of people that find this mix intriguing and captivating and it is exploring this environment and seeking what appeals to them that keeps them interested.

Just like rhubarb, the only way you’re ever going to find out what it’s really like is to try it.

And the same is true of Second Life.

s. x

This is my world today
and I couldn’t have it
any other way
in my world…
Secret Affair – My World

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

SWF GSOH WLTM…

There are some things about SL that I’ll never understand; similarly, there are some things about human nature that leave me baffled. Put the two together, and you have the potential for some proper confusement, like for example, the utterly peculiar (at least to me) need that some people have to seek a significant other through the medium of SL.

I’ll admit that I can understand, to a degree, those who may struggle in social and/or romantic situations in the real world might find the protection that SL offers a positive advantage over similar RL situations that could possibly lead to making a special connection with another; I’m also fully aware that it’s entirely possible for such a connection to grow and develop, even to the point that it can spill over into a real world relationship, even a lifetime partnership for real – I’ve seen it happen, and I know people for whom that is true.

What does confuse me however are those people who do not necessarily fit into the description of shy or socially awkward, who nevertheless use SL specifically as a vehicle to establish intimate relationships which they have no intention of developing into anything more than virtual.

My inworld neighbour is a business that caters to this particular market – essentially, it’s a virtual dating agency. Single avatars who no longer wish to remain single can sign up and  register as prospective hopefuls, and there is presumably some sort of clever algorithm, (or maybe no mechanism whatsoever), that matches up virtual singletons, (scientifically maybe, or perhaps just randomly), who can then hook up and see if cupid or fate steps in to lend a hand and perhaps allow romance to blossom.

Watching the sunset

And that’s what I struggle with. If you’re looking for romance for whatever reason… Loneliness, fulfilment, necessity, profit etc. then why on earth are you looking for someone in a virtual world to fill that niche? Particularly, a virtual world where those behind the avatars are notorious for deceitfulness, drama, and being nothing like the virtual souls they make themselves out to be? Surely, no matter how shy, retiring or ugly you may be, you should be looking for potential life partners or fun buddies out there in the real world, where you’re far more likely to strike it lucky with someone who at least you can see, hear, touch and, er… smell, without being under any illusion about what you’re getting into – at least, physically?

The other difficulty I have, is trying to understand the whole concept of taking pot luck on stumbling across another avatar that you’re going to click with by sticking your details on a computer and hoping. Surely, it’s far better to get in and about the virtual world, socialising and making connections with others, by which means – I would venture – you stand a far better chance of finding someone compatible. After all, that’s a far better method for sharing your vital statistics on a computer than simply typing them into one, if you see what I mean?

Maybe it’s nothing to do with romance and relationships? Maybe it’s just a more effective, clinical means of finding others with whom to bump pixels in the biblical sense? After all, if I’m looking for pixel sex, and you’re looking for pixel sex, it’s a pretty convenient way to advertise the fact and know that someone out there is going to take a punt. However, at the end of the day… It’s pixel sex; playing on a poseball; bonking on a virtual bed and – if you’re actually looking for somebody to connect with on a truly visceral level, it’s unlikely that you’re really going to find them without first investing some time and effort into developing some sort of relationship before heading off to the virtual sack.

However, I’m clearly in the minority and probably have no idea what I’m talking about, because, no matter when I log in, there are always avatars in the dating agency next door, and there they stand, sometimes for hours on end, unmoving; no doubt perusing the particulars of other hopefuls wishing to connect, and that agency has been there for longer than I have. So obviously there’s something to be said for it.

Although, I’ve no idea what that might be.

s. x

When we collide we come together,
If we don’t we’ll always be apart
Biffy Clyro – Many Of Horror

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Good old fashioned fun

A recent evening inworld was a little, shall we say ‘surreal’. Surreal in the sense that, had it been possible to behave in the same manner in RL, arrests would certainly have been made. Thankfully, this was not RL and nobody had to spend the night behind bars.

It all started innocently enough, meeting up with a couple of friends to chat and generally kill some time, until the fateful moment that one of us decided to wake up the sim’s resident zombie. Yours Truly, having become something of a nemesis to the brain munching undead brigade, it was just a moment’s work to whip out my ray gun, drop into a defensive combat stance and blast the creature into oblivion. And then we did it all over again. Several times. With a variety of interesting weapons, ranging from baseball bats and mallets, to nuclear bombs, flying pigs, beer cans, toilet rolls and Teddy bears!

Surprisingly, the flying pigs were tremendously effective zombie repellents – maybe you should bear that in mind, come the apocalypse!

When we tired of zombies, out came the War of the Worlds tripods, followed by daleks, flying taxis and blue whales. It was an interesting evening and we had an enormous amount of fun, although I can’t say whether the neighbours were terribly impressed! It’s the sort of thing I’d regularly get up to in my younger virtual years, but only rarely – if at all – in more recent years, but by the same token, as one of my companions remarked, the vast majority of the weapons and nonsense we were having fun mucking about with was, in virtual terms, pretty antiquated. And that started me thinking.

Perhaps it’s not so much me that has become more staid and grown up over the years, and therefore less likely to dig out the banana guns and blingtard launchers, but SL itself that has somehow matured, and I’m not so sure that I like it. There seems to me to have been a subtle shift from good old fun and games to more serious pursuits inworld: The proliferation of music venues with their DJs, dancers, hosts and greeters; the growing numbers of ‘professional’ photographers, models, and – I kid you not – even mesh beauty consultants. Then there are those who are in SL not for the fun of it, but for profit – land sales, fashion and content creation – nothing new, of course, but probably far more significant in terms of commerce than ever in the past; and the very nature of what we do inworld has become far more serious. Even games and having fun has become a glossy, corporate, experience-keyed mesh adventure experience, with organised and professionally produced creations that – for me at least – manage to suck all the life and fun out of having fun.

When did we all get so serious about mucking about in the virtual world? Who decided that tomato chuckers and all the other old school playthings should be locked away and never see the light of day again? And how did glossy, corporate, sanitised inworld play take the place of rumbunctious, anarchic, good old fashioned fun?

Only recently, a friend announced they were heading out of a club I was at because they at least expected ‘adult conversation’. Maybe they were just in a bad mood and weren’t finding the discussion about different varieties of popcorn particularly stimulating, but who logs in to an SL night club for adult conversation for Pete’s sake? (And why would Pete care anyway?) I, for one, have to put up with more than enough of adult conversation, grown up behaviour and being sensible in my day to day activities in the real world, and the last thing I want when I hit the virtual world is more of the same – I want to unwind, enjoy myself and have a laugh and if that means doing things that may be a little childish or silly, well why not? It doesn’t hurt anyone and if ever there was an environment where we should be able to do that without fear of criticism, it has to be SL.

So that’s exactly what I plan to continue to do, and perhaps it’s time I dusted down some of those old-fashioned, outdated and primitive toys that have been hidden away in my inventory for far too long.

Anyone fancy a cupcake battle?

s. x

That’s all they really want
Some fun
When the working day is done
Oh, girls—they wanna have fun
Oh girls just wanna have fun
Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

I remember when this was all green fields…

I’m beginning to think that I’ve been around SL too long: More and more frequently, I find myself reminiscing about the good old days inworld, much like I’ve heard many of my older friends, whose time in the virtual world goes further back than mine. Only the other day – for the second time in as many weeks – I caught myself revisiting the past and talking about how much the old sim had changed since I set up home there, now some eight years ago.

In that time, I think there’s only a couple of places that haven’t changed much at all, including the low budget motel where I first set up home in the community, other than that, there’s the homeless shelter in the more disreputable corner of the sim, and the avatar dating agency that has sat unchanged for as long as I can remember next to what is now my own parcel.

You know you’ve been around a while when you can say that you can recall a time when what seem to most to be permanent features, simply weren’t there… Not only can I remember a time that the local pub wasn’t where it is now, but I can also recall when wasn’t there at all. There were mountains in the middle of the sim too… Which may come as a surprise to many, who for years will only have known the town as being as flat as old Amsterdam.

My home sim, like the rest of SL is a dynamic, changing environment, constantly in a state of flux, as anyone who has ever seen their favourite store or club disappear off the map will know. There’s something horribly disappointing to find that that landmark which has sat in your inventory since the beginning of time now dumps you unceremoniously into thin air, or an empty plot festooned with ‘For Sale’ signs. Worse still, is when an in-depth search for that newly-elusive destination comes back fruitless too.

Such is the nature of the virtual world, and sometimes, whilst bad news for some, there can be nig advantages for those who are in the right place at the right time… On a few occasions my inventory has swollen as a result of massive reductions at closing down sales; but, then again at other times it can feel like a punch to the stomach to find a dearly loved place is no longer what it once was.

Thankfully, some of the more important historical artefacts of the virtual world have been purposely preserved – Governor Linden’s House; Steller Sunshine’s beanstalk; the Ivory Tower of Prims – all fascinating and a glimpse into what once was, preserved for posterity.

Then there are the anomalies… The peculiarities that you come across from time to time if you happen to travel the Grid as extensively as I do. Many of these places are old Linden relics – remnants of the days when the Labbies walked among us, which have somehow never been bulldozed (thankfully). To wander around abandoned Linden villages, office complexes and the forgotten remnants of the Teen Grid can be an eerie experience… You almost expect the Ghost of Torley’s Past to accost you, radiant in watermelon light, to thrust his bear into your hands. And indeed, if you know where to look, it’s possible still to find the occasional Linden bear in the wild. Then there’s the weird, but exhilarating feeling of sitting in a vast town hall conference centre in the same chair as Philip Linden once sat, with his spiky hair and magical underpants; or the thrill of finding his own personal car, hidden at the bottom of the sea; the excitement of rediscovering Magellan Linden’s smoking spacecraft, dumped on an isolated island in the middle of nowhere… Awesome stuff.

I think my most fascinating rediscovery must be the the gatepost pillars – the sole remaining relic of the Linden World Expo of 2003 – pretty much prehistoric relics in SL terms. There they stand, unremarkable and with nothing to highlight their historical significance, with no plausible reason for them still being there considering the years that have elapsed and the total annihilation of all other signs of this historic event, and I’ll bet no-one gives them a second glance and few know what they are: Just one of the weird anomalies of the virtual timeline.

I like such anomalies though, and it’s somewhat reassuring to know that in a world where things do change over time, some things – odd though they might be – do endure, some of them outlasting even their own creators.

Which is quite an achievement in a digital world.

s. x

Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways, for me and for you
What more can we do?
The Kinks – The Village Green Preservation Society

Posted in SL, SLarcheology | Leave a comment

I’m sorry Dave

Somebody famous died this week in, their nineties; somebody who influenced the way we interpret the world around us and whom most of us can quote without even thinking about it.

And it wasn’t Stan Lee.

This person, who passed on 11th November, played the central role in a film that routinely appears at the top of those lists of most important\groundbreaking\influential movies of all time, and yet, if you passed him in the street, you almost certainly wouldn’t recognise him. That is, unless you stopped to say hello. You see, his unique and distinctive, quiet, measured, and somehow emotionless voice would raise the hairs on the back of your neck and send chills down your spine: For Douglas Rain was the unmistakable voice of HAL 9000.

It’s a voice that defined the barely suppressed fear we have of computers, a voice that summed up that stock meme of the sci-fi genre, and forever cemented our fears and paved the way for so many movies that were to follow… The lurking computer consciousness, ruthlessly pursuing its own secret mission and refusing to let mere human life stand in its way. It’s a fear, deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness, that computers have the upper hand and we are just an inconvenience to be dealt with, and I’d venture to suggest that it crystalises a principle that has shaped how we feel about and interact with technology in general ever since.

When things go wrong with computers, we take it as a personal affront – an attack against which we are powerless to defend ourselves, causing rationality to go out of the window and paranoia to set in. As we grow ever more frustrated with the error messages popping up on the screen in front of us, starting to panic over the missing files, broken links and crashing applications, we start to lose the ability to think clearly… Each typo is the keyboard conspiring against us, as we mash the keys ever more frantically, every beep and protestation from the implacable machine causes exasperated growls to issue from deep within our soul, until – driven to our wit’s end – we throw the mouse across the room, screaming: “This thing hates me!”

When it comes to computers, most of us fall into two distinct brackets – those who profess to be tech savvy, and those who swear that they are ‘hopeless with technology’, the reality however, when it comes down to our personal interaction with anything of this nature, is that we are actually all a bit rubbish when it comes to understanding the way things really are. When something as insanely complex as sim surroundings take a few seconds longer to load that we’d like, or a sim crossing sees us rubberband for a moment before continuing, or we try – and fail – to login, time and time again; a Marketplace purchase never turns up… Or anything of that nature happens, we curse and swear and spout invective in the Lab’s general direction, or blame the uselessness of SL.

Yet, how often do we walk into the bank to make a deposit, only for the cashier to roll her eyes and complain that “the system is slow today”; how frequently do we phone our energy supplier and the agent on the other end apologises because the database has just gone down… “bear with me while I restart”; and on how many occasions does our own PC, laptop, tablet or phone misbehave, break or simply refuse to do what it’s supposed to?

And yet, we’re surprised, irritated and enraged when SL does what technology pretty much anywhere else, in any walk of life, routinely does; and that’s exactly what we expect technology to do! Do we honestly think that SL uses some sort of magic tech that will always work perfectly? That the billions of calculations per second that produce a picture of us dancing on the screen are beyond the reach of glitches, failures and faults? Obviously that’s not the case, and it’s probably a good thing. Can you imagine if SL was all-powerful and far more advanced than anything comparable? Would we trust it? Probably not.

Can you imagine putting your virtual life into the custody of a, hopefully benign, supercomputer that could at any moment go all HAL 9000 at us, kick us into the icy offworld wastes, and refuse to open the virtual pod bay doors and let us back in? It’s a rather terrifying prospect, and personally I’d rather put up with an imperfect virtual world than one hellbent on my destruction!

R.I.P. Douglas Rain.

s. x

Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer do!
I’m half crazy, All for the love of you!
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.
Daisy Bell – HAL 9000

 

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

Sapiosexual

I think maybe I owe an apology – not to anybody in particular, but maybe to the virtual world in general. It’s an apology for over-simplifying certain aspects of virtual life, and lumping a whole range of behaviours and pursuits together under the umbrella term ‘peculiar’.

Let’s talk about SLex.

I’ve always maintained that the whole process of jumping on a poseball and getting jiggy in a bout of pixel porno is decidedly weird when you consider the mechanics of it, and even when such cartoon capery is taking place between two people who’ve established a deep and fulfilling relationship with each other, it can’t possibly compare to some of the alternatives available, such as picking up the phone, getting up close and personal over Skype or Facetime, or even – although I accept it’s not always possible, meeting up and doing the deed for real.

But, I’ve recently come to the astonishing conclusion that by holding this view, I may have been doing a disservice to the virtual community, and it’s even possible that I’ve misunderstood and missed entirely, a fundamental tenet that underpins this whole murky hinterland of SL.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t a whole bunch of people who manage to get their rocks off by watching avatarian nookie and talking dirty; of course there are, and it’s still something that baffles me, especially when there’s a great big interweb out there, not to mention real life, where a far more realistic version of that sort of thing is available, should you care to look for it. Even taking into account what I’m about to discuss, I really don’t see the attraction of computerised bonking… But, each to their own: YKINMK!

That’s where I think I was intellectually sidetracked, thinking that is all there is to SLex, but I’m starting to realise that it actually goes far deeper than that. They do say that the biggest sexual organ is the brain, and that – in the context of SL – is a game changer. Certainly, I would argue that there can be a certain amount of titillation to be found in watching pixels doing their thing, but bring the incredible power of imagination, emotion and creativity into play and any visual stimulus pales into insignificance beside it, even to the point where the visuals may even become completely superfluous and unnecessary.

In the real world, in my own experience, there is often a correlation between exercising mental acuity and emotional intelligence, abd the ability to experience satisfaction, contentment, and enlightenment in that particular aspect of one’s life. And I may be wrong, but within the circle of people that I know who happen to have an interest in the more esoteric of these pursuits and lifestyles, there seems to be a much higher proportion of high achievers, professionals and academics than what we might traditionally associate in our minds with sexual proclivity. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects and so on seem to me to far outnumber the ‘flasher mac’ and grunt and groan, dirty old man brigade in the D/s, rope, fetish and BDSM communities, and I don’t think that’s mere coincidence. These are people who in other aspects of their lives are generally very adept at creative and abstract thinking, problem solving, and managing their emotions – people who are capable of expressing themselves in situations and circumstances that many might feel uncomfortable and struggle to relate to, and it must follow that they can apply that same talent and capability to the naughtier side of life.

It is precisely this particular type of mind that can also relate well, and is attracted to, the virtual environment. A state of mind that relishes the challenges that arise from the virtual world, and it’s no wonder that at least some part of that thinking is gainfully employed in bringing certain alternative lifestyles inworld. And SL is fertile ground indeed for exploring that side of human experience. I find people who embrace this perspective fascinating to get to know – almost invariably they are incredibly intelligent, open-minded, and have a story to tell… A story that is often still evolving and changing dynamically as they write new chapters upon its pages. They tend to have a very real sense of self and their place in the world – something that I happen to think is a real asset in a virtual world. The other benefit of possessing this kind of intelligent outlook is that your capacity to extemporise in any given situation can only serve to enhance your inworld experience – and if that experience happens to be bumping your bones, or engaging in a bit of slap, tickle and tie-up, then what happens to be unfolding on the screen in front of you is really only ancillary to the main action, the bulk of which is happening in the minds of the participants, demonstrated throughthe methods they employ to express what they are thinking.

Having come to this realisation – culled from RL experience, and from frank and honest discussion with friends inworld – I’m starting to gain an appreciation that SLex, on this more involved and cerebral basis is a very different beast to my previous ‘just jump on a poseball and nip off to brew a cuppa while your avatar gets on with the business’ assumptions, and that for those who really apply themselves to the task at hand, it is an emotional and highly evocative moment. Those who do indeed know what they are doing can develop, in a simple IM exchange, an all-encompassing and enthralling scenario in words alone… Nobody needs to get naked, there’s no clever equipment and scripting involved; it’s all down to the mind and the imagination.

Nobody can deny that sex is a big thing in SL, but like so many things inworld, it can be done badly, but then again, I’m starting to think that it could also be almost sublime – but, if it is going to be the latter, then it’s something you really do have to work at, otherwise it really is just pixels… Which is fine if that happens to work for you.

But, if it ever came down to it… I know that I’d want you for your mind, not your body!

s. x

Tell me now, baby, is he good to you?
And can he do to you the things that I do? Oh no
I can take you higher
Oh oh oh, I’m on fire
Bruce Springsteen – I’m On Fire

 

 

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment