Gargoyles

Spending the amount of time that I do travelling by rail around the country means that a lot of that time is spent gazing out of windows at the scenery passing by, both countryside and architecture. As you pass fleetingly through towns and cities you can’t help but notice the contrast between modern buildings, and those from another era.

The same is evident as you walk around our towns and cities: There was a time when craftsmen and masons would build with stone, along classic lines, with an eye for aesthetics, rather than pure utility. Then, sometime after the close of the 1950s, architecture went down a whole different path, discovering the joy of concrete, steel and plate glass; function over form was the order of the day and buildings took shape at the hands of civil engineers and construction crews. Today, of course, we hang our heads in shame at the crude brutality of buildings of the sixties and seventies and fill our cities with ever more bizarre constructions that are every bit as ugly as their predecessors, just in a different way.

Today, from the train, I spotted a beautiful and unique building – the water tower in Southall – and it reminded me that we still have a wealth of great architecture, despite the best efforts of city planners. However, my positivity was soon quenched, just moments down the line as I spotted a modern urban monstrosity which looked not so much that it had been designed as thrown together. Whoever had been responsible for this abysmal carbuncle clearly had a fascination for wire mesh fence panels, which had been ‘artistically’ carved into odd shaped pieces and hung at weird angles over the front of the building… It looked a bit like someone had magnetised the frontage and then thrown random bits of fencing at it.

It seems today that for a building to pass muster, it needs to have jutty-out bits, freaky roofing, bizarre cladding and look as if it had been cobbled together in Scrapheap Challenge. The trouble is, even if we put our minds to it, I doubt we possess any more the skills and ability to sculpt and create anything that you could consider to be beautiful, pleasing to the eye or anything as imposing and splendid as some of the great buildings that still remain as a legacy of past generations.

Sadly, it’s difficult for most of us to replicate that stylistic form in SL too. The inworld building tools are perfect for constructing the kind of modern day edifices that would make a millennial architect cream their pants, all magically suspended dangly bits, ugly protruberences and angles, and vast expanses of concrete, plastic and pierced steel sheeting, but not so good at making the organic, flowing and intricate constructions that typify earlier architecture. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it’s difficult, takes time and experimentation, and tends to be costly in terms of land impact.

One possible alternative – sculpts – is now frowned upon as being a drain on viewer resources, which only leaves us with mesh, which is not a learning curve that many would choose to go down and those who have are by far and away more interested in making clothing than the inworld construction industry.

So, the result is we’re stuck with ugly buildings in SL, but then again we always have been. Much of the prim work we see in SL has barely advanced from the clunky, blocky, Lego brick style that you’ll see in some of the earliest builds on the Grid, such as Governor Linden’s House. In terms of style, much of SL looks like it read the rule book, then threw it away and did the opposite, and wherever you go inworld, you’re guaranteed to find some truly ghastly builds.

That’s not to say there aren’t a wealth of truly gorgeous builds that can be found, but to be honest, pretty though they might be, I don’t think that they’re really representative of SL: Most of us are, after all amateurs, and unconstrained by the laws of physics, reality, or planning consent, we have no need to conform to anybodys concepts of realism, acceptability or beauty; and, in a virtual world, created by its residents, that’s perfectly OK.

In the real world, designed and built by professionals however, I think we could do a lot better!

s. x

All the majesty of a city landscape
All the soaring days of our lives
All the concrete dreams in my mind’s eye
All the joy I see through these architect’s eyes
David Bowie – Thru These Architect’s Eyes

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Undercover

A recurring assertion that has frequently been levelled at me over the years – and sometimes only half jokingly – is that I’m secretly a Linden. I’m not entirely sure what leads people to this conclusion, but the number of times I’ve been accused of being a Lab employee under cover makes me wonder what it is about me that leads people to this conclusion. Perhaps it’s that I don’t despise the Labbies with the same degree of vehemence that so many others seem to? Maybe it’s because I always seem to be one of the first to know about forthcoming changes to SL and can be relied upon for inside information that invariably turns out to be correct? Or could it simply be wishful thinking on the part of others? I’m not sure, but perhaps the time has come to set the record straight, once and for all?

So, let me make it clear, to avoid any doubt whatsoever, that I can neither confirm, nor deny, that I may or may not secretly be a Linden.

There, now that’s sorted, perhaps we can move on?

SL has a weird ability to blur the lines between reality and the imagination, as a consequence of which, we can be led into making the strangest of assumptions and characterisations of those around us in the virtual world often with little or no rational basis to base them upon. If I take my own circle of friends and acquaintances, I can readily come up with numerous examples of what could accurately be described as character assassinations, with no real justification in support.

One friend, for example, is the epitome of kindness, care and friendliness in real life, but invariably if I bring her into a conversation I’ll find myself demonising her as a power mad despot, who will take out a contract on you without a second thought if you should slight her, and makes Don Corleone look like Patch Adams, in comparison!

Another friend is a model of decorum and innocence in the real world, yet I’ll happily tell you that she spends her free time hosting swingers’ parties, and running her own sex chat line. If she happens to be missing from SL at any time, it’ll be because she’s out dogging in the local car park!

There’s the country bumpkin who spends his time driving around on his tractor, or lying in a ditch in a drunken stupor, (although at least one of those may actually be true!); then there’s the Borg-like consciousness who assimilates everyone she encounters into her evil clutches, bending them to her will, and crushing their individuality as they succumb to the hive mind….

And I’m sure that none of these characteristics bear any real resemblence to the actuality, and none of these people really deserve the bad press I’ve given them. Although, it is a whole lot of fun!

That’s a key point – most of these people probably wouldn’t mind this romanticised picture of their lives behind the computer screen, and indeed, many of them are perfectly aware of the nonsense I peddle about them and are happy to play along, because it is fun, nobody really takes it seriously, and often the imagined is better than the reality – or, at least, a lot more interesting than our everyday, mundane, lives. I know that I’m not the only one who creates these fantasy versions of people I know; the ongoing Seren Linden saga is testament to that, but I’m not entirely sure why we might do it.

I don’t think it’s a symptom of our brains filling in the blanks, as I’ve talked about before, where we compensate for lack of information about the real lives of those people we know inworld – if anything, it’s often the opposite. I find that it tends to be the people I know well, and about whose real lives I have at least some information, who end up subject to my wild imaginings. So maybe it’s just gentle ribbing of the sort that good friends can get away with, precisely because they are good friends. There’s no malice intended, no mockery involved. In many ways, it’s the virtual world equivalent of giving somebody a humorous nickname.

Wouldn’t it be funny though, if those made up identities turned out to be true?

s. x

Rebel inside
She’s always in disguise
Destined to kill
What she thought was real
Vanilla Ninja – Undercover Girl

Posted in Linden Love, RL, SL | 3 Comments

Intruder alert!

Hi. Is that technical support? I have a problem with my monitor. Yes, it’s working just fine, but there is a bit of an issue with it. Well, there’s a smudge on the screen. No, it’s clean – no fingerprints, marks or anything else like that – the smudge is behind the front of the screen, not on the surface. It’s small and grey, like a shadow; barely noticeable really, until you know its there.

Dead pixels? Yes, I’m well aware that even the best monitors have a couple, but I know this definitely isn’t a dead pixel. How do I know for sure? Because it moves around the screen! It certainly isn’t impossible – I’m watching it right now! No… I haven’t been drinking! Yes, as I said before, it’s definitely behind the glass… Oh, and it’s got a definite shape to it. Well, if anything, I’d say its shaped like a tiny fruit fly!

Yes folks – not that I’d ever go to the lengths of contacting tech support over such a thing – my monitor has, quite bizarrely and unexpectedly, acquired a resident fly, sandwiched between the front glass and whatever you call the surface that lurks behind it. It’s no big deal at the moment, provided it doesn’t decide to die there leaving its little fruit fly carcass forever sat in the middle of my screen; or worse, he’s just the advance scout for a marauding infestation of the things hell bent on world domination of my monitor! It’s not a scenario that I ever thought I’d have to contemplate, which just goes to show that no matter how secure something is made, someone, or something will always manage to break in. As Dr Malcom would say, “life, uh, finds a way”.

Security is big business and never more so than today – its hard to believe that there was ever a time before data security was foremost in our minds and when people didn’t particularly worry about being hacked, compromised or held ransom by unscrupulous online racketeers, but those days are long gone. The same is true of our physical world – my parents can recall a time when people would leave their front doors open without fear of intruders… All  sadly, in the past now.

It’s no wonder that we can often be at pains to protect our inworld lives from intrusion too, but I do wonder sometimes, if some of the efforts that we make are somewhat redundant in the context of what we accept SL to be. There are  of course, a number of commonsense measures that we should take to protect ourselves from unwanted and malicious attempts to get inside our private lives by way of the virtual world. It’s only wise to separate real and virtual identities, that stands to reason, as does being careful about what we share with others about our real lives, but as for the virtual aspects of who we are, just how important – and practical – is it for us to secure our virtual assets against intrusion?

In practical terms, I think there are two elements to this: Privacy and security. Security, I would say is mostly covered by what I’ve already mentioned, whilst privacy can be a difficult thing to achieve in SL, particularly since so many of the measures we can take inworld to protect our privacy are easily subverted. You can hide your presence from friends – I have an aquaintance who frequently logs into SL in stealth mode, and then starts a conversation without making themself known… I’m not sure why they do it, aside from wanting privacy on their terms, but it can be very annoying, and I think it’s quite rude, so I have no reservation about ignoring them when I choose to. We can also create private areas up in the sky or underground, but even blocking those outside from looking in is a bit pointless, since the radar gives away your presence and the ‘hide’ setting isn’t entirely foolproof. Similarly, ban lines and security systems can be fairly easily beaten, and when all a passer-by has to do is cam over, they’re not terribly effective anyway.

However, I have to wonder what the point of inworld privacy is anyway. Since the security aspect of our goods and chattels is taken care of by the permissions system and land tools, it’s an easy matter to stop people walking off with our stuff, or fly-tipping in our back yard; the real issue though is personal privacy.

Most of us don’t particularly want any Thomas, Richard or Harold wandering in on us when we’re getting changed, neither do we relish the thought of strangers (or even friends), testing out our poseballs and furniture whilst we’re not around, and there are times when we’d just like a bit of peace and quiet, which can be difficult if there’s a busload of tourists poking around our personal space. Then again, SL is – in many ways – a social network, and I suppose we have to occasionally put up with the inconvenience that it can bring, which is not to say that we all shouldn’t subscribe to at least the bare minimum of polite behaviours. Personally, I’ve not above having a nose at things that lie behind closed doors, but decorum and respect for the privacy of others will always come first.

I just have to hope that other people would treat me the same too… Although, there’s always mute, eject, ban, derender and report – which, at the end of the day, really does give those who want privacy the last word!

s. x

I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
And I have no privacy.
Woh, I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
Tell me is it just a dream?
Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me

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

/me blinks. Rubs eyes. Shrugs…

I’ve occasionally had cause to wonder whether having spent time around and in SL can encourage your to be more tolerant and accepting in the real world? If I’m honest, I think it’s probably unlikely that it does, and that the way in which you relate to the world and people around you is based far more upon your temperament and attitudes than any amount of learned behaviour acquired inworld could be attributed to.

Being exposed to a miscellany of cultures, beliefs and diverse experiences in the virtual world – despite what we might logically surmise – does not necessarily teach us to have a broader real world view, in the same way that learning to deal with the frustrations and irritations present in SL does not necessarily mean we become more patient and laid back in real life. Maybe it does help a bit though, at least in terms of giving us relatable experiences and the occasional pointer in the right direction, and I sometimes think that what SL does do quite successfully is inoculate is against some of the more ‘off the wall’ moments that we come across in RL.

Earlier this week, I was sat on the train, pulling out of Leominster station on a rainy afternoon. As I gazed through the window, my attention was drawn to a gentleman, stood on the platform, dressed in shorts, t-shirt, pork pie hat and – rather incongruously – a bright and colourful lei. Now, this being Leominster railway station on a wet July afternoon, I was hard pushed to come up with a rational explanation for such attire, neither could I satisfy my curiosity by contriving a satisfactory connection between Hawaii and Leominster, or for that matter pork pie hats. So I did what I so often find myself doing inworld when faced with the odd, peculiar, and downright out of place: I metaphorically shrugged, put it to the back of my mind, and moved on.

It was the realisation of what I’d just done that made me stop and think. Seren ‘enquiring minds need to know’ Haven seems to be becoming somewhat immune to the peculiarities of life and the world around us. This is worrying, especially since – now I come to think about it – it might well be the case in the virtual world too. It seems I’m losing that sense of bafflement and bemusement when I see the weird and inexplicable around me, and rather than questioning, wondering, investigating and pondering what it’s all about, I’m starting to just accept things without further enquiry, mentally shrugging them off, and moving on, none the wiser and remaining completely uninformed.

Yet I’m the one who always needs to know more; I’m the one with the mind of an eternal three year old, always wanting to know why; I’m the one who takes things apart, just so I can see how they work; I’m the one who loves to learn, discover and explore: But I appear to be losing that enquiring disposition… Which I find a little worrying.

It feels to me a bit like a bird, waddling around, that’s somehow forgotten that it is capable of flight – the wings and the fathers are perfectly functional, the capability is there, but for some reason it’s become easier to walk than to make the effort of flapping. And, even though there are plenty of flightless birds that do just as well as their aeronautical cousins, it seems to me that they lack the defining factor of what it means to be a bird. It’s like a photographer that never takes pictures, an artist who never puts brush to canvas, or a musician who never picks up their instrument – everything is there, except the will to do it.

Am I becoming disenamoured with SL, or more worryingly, unconcerned with anything that I see around me; failing to question, investigate or even wonder about the world passing by, even when presented with the unusual or bizarre? Have I become so jaded that life in all its variety no longer manages to raise even an enquiring eyebrow? Pepy’s famously observed that when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life… But, what if you skip the ‘London’ qualification altogether and are still tired of life?

There was a time when I’d suggest that’s exactly the point that SL comes into its own, but when even that crazy, mad, bonkers alternative reality doesn’t grab your attention, then I’m at a bit of a loss to know what will.

Any ideas?

s. x

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

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Out of credit

Am I the only person baffled by the strange continuity links that TV companies seem to think are essential to keep viewing audiences amused these days? Not owning a TV myself, I’m not sure how long this has been a thing, but a thing it is, and it makes no sense to me at all.

Perhaps I show explain what I’m waffling on about… It’s this weird practice of splitting the screen the moment the end titles start to roll, whilst a schedule of upcoming programmes appears on one side, overdubbed with some increasingly weird sounding continuity announcer repeating what is appearing on the screen in front of us.

The annoying part, of course, is that Yours Truly is then completely unable to read the credits, now shrunk to half a screen’s width, and consequently never finds out who that maddeningly familiar actor, whose name completely eluded me was, or what that particular piece of music that I simply have to have in my collection might be called!

Very. Frustrating.

It must also be pretty frustrating for all those hardworking cast and crew who poured their heart and soul into the production, only to have their moment of glory, as their name scrolls down the screen, completely ruined in favour of us being told that the football is coming up next. Having, in the past, been involved in film production, it strikes me as a particularly callous way of telling ‘Woman at launderette’ or the Second Unit Key Grip that their efforts are of no consequence to anyone and that what might turn out to be their one and only shot at 15 minutes of fame may as well have been edited out before release.

Whilst working away this week, I managed to stumble – as only I can – onto the set of Six Minutes To Midnight which stars Dame Judy and Eddie Izzard, (stumbling onto movie sets is something of a recurring theme in my life, as reflected on the occasions I’ve find myself accidentally on the set of both Casualty and Doctor Who!). Professional discretion prevents me from revealing whether or not Eddie, Dench and I did lunch, but I can say that Eddie is an extraordinarily nice bloke, and rather more attractive in RL than on the screen. At the end of a long day’s filming, as the extras and supporting cast were ushered into minibuses – (the stars had chauffeur-driven Mercs with tinted windows) – I did however connect with ‘Slim Edwardian Lady in Pretty Yellow Dress’ as she climbed aboard the bus. I couldn’t help thinking what a shame it would be, as her family, clustered around the screen in years to come, that they would need to pause playback and dig out a magnifying glass just to spot her name, because some berk thought people would be more interested in seeing that ‘Animals Do The Stupidest Things’ would be on after the news. I think that’s rather sad.

It’s for moments like that that one of the better aspects of SL, as far as I’m concerned, is the permissions system. I love the way that you can select ‘edit’ whilst looking at an object and it doesn’t matter what its history, whether shape, colour, ownership or whatever has changed; there, tucked away inside and open to inspection by whoever happens to have a passing interest, is revealed a simple credit: The creator.

To me, seeing the content of that little box is rather like the moment Captain Kirk rubs away the dust covering the probe in the first Star Trek movie – and suddenly everything makes sense, (as if we hadn’t guessed already!).

On so many occasions, that simple creator’s credit has been the missing link and the vital clue that has enabled me to track down many an object of my desires along with some of the ancient history and social commentary of SL. All because a name that might otherwise have been forgotten or lost in the miry bog of time was preserved as an intrinsic part of their work. In SL what you create remains testament to its creator. Even after you’re long gone, there’s always going to be something of you that remains – something that anyone with a curious nature can discover with no effort whatsoever.

It’s rather cool, I think, that SL is littered with clues and credits that reflect the genius of the people who’ve made it what  it is. And, unlike on the telly, you don’t have to come right up close to the screen, squint, and try not to blink at the crucial moment, just to find out who the hell it was!

Oh, and if I miss it – if you get to see Six Minutes to Midnight, keep an eye open for ‘Slim Edwardian Lady in Pretty Yellow Dress’, and let me know her name 🙂

s. x

it’s so bizarre you think you are
a new kind of James Dean
but the only thing I’ve ever seen of you
was a commercial spot on the screen
Harpo – Movie Star

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Towering folly

I’ve always fancied the idea of having an olde worlde stone-built tower on my land, although I’ve never really managed to get around to doing anything about it. A few years back, before I acquired my current parcel of land, I did build myself an old stone watermill which incorporated a turreted gatehouse, but there’s only so much realistically, that you can do with prims, and it was never quite the romantic, rustic folly I intended.

Folly is probably the right word for what I was looking for: I didn’t want, or need, a full blown castle, but I did want something whimsical that made a statement, without being too pretentious. It’s never been at the top of my shopping list though, and although I have come across the occasional candidate, it was either not quite the look I wanted, too expensive, too heavy an impact on the land, or frequently just too massive a structure for my cosy little piece of land.

Then, yesterday, I stumbled across the perfect fit at a yard sale. It was a very reasonable price, the style I wanted, and best of all, it was exactly the dinky size that would fit brilliantly into the space I had – only 17 land impact too. Having found the object of my desires inworld, a cheeky search of the Marketplace turned up an even cheaper resale…  Never before have I made a purchase quite so quickly!

It was only when I returned home and unpacked it that I realised what a prize noob I’d been!

I’ve always questioned the mental capacities of anyone who requires any sort of warning along the lines of ‘objects in the rear view mirror may be closer than they seem’ , but on this occasion I could really have done with a similar prompt… ‘objects displayed in stores may appear smaller than they are!’ It never occurred to me that the display version in the store may have been shrunk down to fit; but boy did that realisation dawn rapidly when I opened the box to rez it. The resulting 50 foot structure was certainly nowhere near 17 LI,more like 117! Oops.

No worries though, I could just do what that enterprising store owner had done, and shrink the massive structure down to a more manageable size. That’s when I discovered that mesh, when combined with non-mesh parts, can misbehave in spectacular fashion! After managing to unlink pretty much every single piece and then unsuccessfully tring to repair the damage I’d wrought, it became abundantly clear to me that whoever had managed to miniaturise the one I’d seen in the store was a lot more adept at it than I am. After much messing about, all I’d managed to achieve was a broken, messed up pile of tower parts with a higher land impact than when I’d started!

Eventually, after much fiddling, repositioning, relinking and cursing, I managed to repair the damage I’d caused – or at least, reduce it to a tolerable level – which is great, but it does mean that I’m right back at square one, facing the prospect of either living with a massive structure that takes up way too much of my primmage, or having another bash at shrinking down this no-copy nightmare to a reasonable size.

Guess what I did?

Yep – I’m not one to be beaten, so I had another bash at it, and this time… Success! Yay!

So, I’ve finally realised my dream of having a romantic stone tower keeping majestic watch over my land, and I’ve learned a thing or two in the process. Firstly, I can still be a total noob when it comes to some things; secondly, doing things in SL is rarely as straightforward as you might think; and finally, sometimes breaking things is the best way to learn. If nothing else, I’ve now worked out how to make my tower as small – or as big – as I want it, so as my fortunes change inworld, at least I can take my tower with me, no matter how much, or little land I may possess.

That’s rather a happy thought 🙂

s. x

“What beauty there is in interrupted towers, which continue in dream and which we all complete within ourselves!”
(Georges Rodenbach, The Bells of Bruges)

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Rewarding

You may have cottoned on to the fact that – for some reason I’m completely unable to explain – I like trains. I’ve always liked them and even these days when it seems half my life is spent on trains, (which is actually not something I particularly enjoy), if you take them out of the work context, I still like trains.

Just to be clear, I don’t fall into anything like the trainspotter category, although I’m pretty sure that I could give some of them a run for their money in the knowledge stakes; and I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to do a specifically train-related thing. Indeed, if you were to ask me to define what it is I like about trains, I’d be hard pushed to explain myself: I just think they’re cool.

Inevitably, as you’ll be aware, my interest in railways has crept into SL. You’ll frequently find me mooching around the terminal in Calleta, chugging away along the tracks of the SLRR or grabbing screenshots of myself undertaking various rail related tasks. Then there’s the SWR – Seren’s Wonderful Railway, which meanders through my home parcel, as well as taking some liberties with physics and reality, in order to take advantage of the views from high above the sim!

One thing I have discovered is that running a railway can be costly, both in terms of hard cash, time and land impact, and it can take careful planning to stay within budget, always with the knowledge that, no matter how successful your rail-related endeavours may be, you’ll never recoup the investment you’ve made. None of which matters, because in my experience, anyone involved in the SL railway business is there primarily because it’s something they enjoy, first and foremost… If they can make a few lindens along the way to help fund their ventures, then great, but nobody is really in it for the money.

Just recently, I discovered a place I’d not been before, and whilst it was promoted as a commercial showcase, it’s pretty clear that the whole sim is a labour of love, created by somebody who loves their trains. This is a place with a fully functioning and extensive railway, trams in the city centre, and, beneath it all, an underground system too. The trains themselves are works off art, exquisitely crafted, with a loving attention to detail that extends beyond  the locomotives even as far as the coal trucks. The scripting is remarkable – signaling, stops, level crossings and routing all working seamlessly, even the doors on the underground trains open and close automatically at stops. It’s very smooth, very clever, and very, very cool.

The thing is, no matter how marvelous these creations are and no matter what price they go for, this is a business that will never make a real return on its investment – the market is too niche, the customers too few and far between, and the simple fact is that if you’re going to build a railway in SL, you’re going to need land, and an awful lot of it.

So why spend so much on something that’s going to be something of a lost cause? It’s simple – I reckon that creator does it because they enjoy building trains and railways, nothing more than that, and what drives them to be so good is not the motivation of sales figures, it’s getting things perfect that matters.

I fact help wondering if that’s an element of SL that we’re in danger of losing altogether? I grant you that many of the goodies you can buy inworld and on the Marketplace are high quality, desirable and reasonably priced, but – in my opinion – far too much of this merchandise is being manufactured by full time commercial concerns, driven by profit margins and an unending battle to do better than the competition. I don’t have a problem with people making a living from SL, and if it was me, I’d probably follow exactly the same ethos, but I think there’s an unfortunate side effect that means anything that doesn’t fit into this virtual new world order is going to struggle to be seen and those who haven’t the clout, expertise or resources to pull their weight will inevitably feel obliged to try to compete with the major players anyway, which changes the whole perspective behind content creation.

The days when pretty much anyone would have a go at knocking together prims to build their perfect virtual world are drawing to a close – there’s little incentive for the newbie to develop and build new skills when they can buy something far better than you could ever hope to build yourself for minimal outlay; and for those who do want to carve out a niche for themselves for financial gain, the learning curve is now prohibitively steep. This shift in the market means that fewer people now create purely for pleasure, and this in turn means fewer will develop high levels of skill when it comes to content creation, honed as a by-product of making something worthwhile and enjoyable. It’s a vicious circle.

It’s a disappointing state of affairs, but it’s not all gloomy. I think there will always be a hardcore bunch of enthusiasts who will relish the challenge of making things – and making them extraordinarily well – that SL presents. People who aren’t particularly looking to be successful, are unlikely ever to become rich, and almost certainly don’t care anyway.

I only wish there were a lot more of them.

s. x

Runaway train, never goin’ back
Wrong way, on a one way track
Seems like I should be gettin’ somewhere
Soul Asylum – Runaway Train

Posted in Builder's bum, Philosophicalisticality, SL, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

I don’t know my onions!

Those of us who spend far more time than is sensible in SL have little difficulty taking the bizarre and weird in our stride. We’re so used to seeing everything from the utterly ridiculous to the freakishly disturbing in our day to day SLives that we can become a little blasé about such things, to the point that pulling out a laser blaster to despatch a troublesome zombie who muscles in to bite your friend during an ordinary conversation in the street becomes second nature, (yes I did that almost without thinking earlier this week).

I think that sometimes our familiarity with the weirdness of the virtual world can anaesthetise us a to some degree against many of the odd things we might come across in RL. That is, until something outrageously bizarre happens, which leaves you wondering if you have in fact left the safety and security of the real world and somehow crossed over into SL without noticing.

I’ve had a moment this week when precisely that thought crossed my mind – one of those, ‘what the heck is going on here’ moments about which, no matter how hard you might try, you just can’t come to a rational explanation about…

The location: My kitchen.
The back story: I was running low on onions. The onions are kept, securely, in a small vegetable rack that lives on top of my fridge. I bought a smallish bag of onions to replenish my stock, placing it in the rack with the dwindling supply of existing onions.

And that’s when things started to get decidedly odd. At this point, I should mention that there was nothing untoward or unusual about the placement of the the onions: They were securely housed, not jammed in or unnecessarily loosely or precariously stacked. Which is why, when I returned home from work at the end of the day, I was decidedly bemused to find three of the older, loose, onions lying in a distressed manner, scattered on my kitchen floor. I should point out, at this juncture, that the the new bagged onions had been placed on top of the older, loose onions in the rack – making the presence of said older onions on the floor all the more peculiar. I shrugged it off, picked up the onions and replaced them in the rack.

Then things got really weird – SL style weird!

Around 9pm, as I’m relaxing and messing about inworld, I’m distracted by a loud thud from the kitchen… The same onions were once again scattered across the floor. A thorough, puzzled examination revealed no obvious cause or reason for their state and – now a little unnerved – I decided to retrieve the vegetable rack from the top of the fridge and put it in a less precarious position; and, reluctantly, binned the escapee vegetables: Well, you can’t be too careful!

You can imagine that, now thoroughly perplexed, my mind ever since has been filled with possible scenarios that could have prompted this strange turn of events. These are the most likely that I’ve come up with:

  • Suicidal onions: Intimidated by the presence of their new, polythene-packaged, fresher interlopers, the old onions – flooded with a bout of alium-induced depression – decided that their oniony lives were worthless and threw themselves in desperation from the lofty heights of the fridge, to crash, broken on the tiled floor below. I think this is probably the least likely explanation, since in my opinion depressed onions would rather hide at the bottom of the rack and rot in the quiet darkness, rather than fight their way to the top of the pile and fling themselves to oblivion;
  • Thrill-seeker onions: In their lust for for the vicarious lifestyle, my onions decided to take up the vegetable equivalent of base-jumping. Again, I reckon that’s unlikely – onions, in my experience are not thrill-seekers, unless pickled. Did they suddenly collectively decide that it was time for a life less boring? With no indication of any leaning in that particular direction previously? I’m not convinced, especially since they were well past their prime and in the autumn of their years;
  • New kids on the block: It wouldn’t be the first time that younger, stronger, firmer noobs have muscled in and kicked out the existing residents. Perhaps this is one of those occasions when the new and fresher bully-boy usurpers have literally thrown the old guard out. Twice! This I’d consider a more likely scenario than those above, particularly since there have been no onion-related incidents since the older bulbs were removed from the scene;
  • Demon-possessed onions: I’m pretty certain this is the case here. My onions have become possessed and there’s little I can do about it. I’ve no idea how you’d go about exorcising onions, but I presume I’ll need a dark-robed priest, some spooky Mike Oldfield music. Possibly garlic – which, of course, works with vampires, but I’m not so sure about its efficacy against onions. My only concern is that the next time I come home, I’ll find potatoes crawling across the ceiling!

So, there you have it. As Shakespeare reminds us, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet I.5:159–167) and it would do us well to be aware that no matter how strange the virtual world may be, the real thing is a whole different ball game, altogether.

s. x

Chris MacNeil: Someone very close to me is probably possessed and needs an exorcism.
The Exorcist

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

Unlucky 13

Oh dear… It could be the end of the Internet as we know it, and I’m not even joking. That bunch of idiotic imbeciles in Brussels have overwhelmingly voted for ratifying Article 13 of the new European Copyright Law provisions, which as anyone with any degree of common sense will grasp will have completely the opposite effect to that intended. It’s a law designed to protect intellectual property and creativity, which will actually have the effect of stifling creativity before its conception. Its also the thin end of the wedge as far as I’m concerned that clearly demonstrates that in today’s ‘democratic’ societies, it’s certainly not the populace who run the show, neither is it the politicians: It’s the faceless, self-serving, multinational business concerns that are calling the shots and who have the puppet politicians in the palm of their sweaty, money grabbing hands.

In broad terms, for those not in the know, Article 13 – should it become law – will require all but the smallest of companies that host or facilitate the upload of user-created content onto any web based platform, to actively screen and police such content to prevent copyright infringement from taking place. On the face of it, that may sound reasonable, however what Article 13 fails to acknowledge is that there is no technology currently extant, or likely to be any time soon, capable of curating and accurately identifying such content across the vast spectrum of possible media types in use, and that whatever solutions are available or would eventually be developed are going to be prohibitively expensive to all but the very richest of companies. (Who are, unsurprisingly, at the forefront of the driving force behind the legislation).

In the simplest turns, a company with a market value in the trillions, such as Amazon and Alphabet, are not really going to particularly struggle with the new requirements, indeed they’ll take it as an opportunity to extend their portfolio of services and make even more obscene piles of cash, but smaller companies i.e. everyone else, including Linden Lab are simply never going to have the capability to comply.

So, what would be the potential options for Linden Lab, should Article 13 become law?

  • Do nothing. Clearly they’re not going to do this, but if I was running the show, that’s exactly what I’d do, because it’s going to take years before even the first case is successfully prosecuted and all the legal wranglings are going to be sorted out. I bet the lawyers are rubbing their hands over the legal status of, for example, an object that is non-copyrighted in the country of upload origin, but which is copyright in Europe, being uploaded to the Canadian servers of an American company being prosecuted by an EU member state! (And let’s not even think about how Brexit would come into play). Why not just sit tight and wait until there’s no option other than compliance – which could be decades down the line? C’mon Labbies, where’s your Maverick spirit… Show us you’ve got the cojones!
  • Stop all user uploads. Again, they’re not going to do this, although in the short term they might feel they have no option (assuming they don’t have the cojones mentioned above). Simply put, they’re not going to have the capability or resources to police user uploads as per Article 13 – hell, they can’t even manage it now! So, if you can’t police it, then take away any need to do so. Obviously, for a world that is created almost entirely from user-created content, this is slow suicide and probably not the best business decision to be making, but we are talking about LL here!
  • Inworld creation tools only. Imagine if the Lab had a billion bucks just hanging about doing nothing, and a whole heap of uber-talented developers with oodles of time on their hands. They could then quite happily create inworld versions of Photoshop, Maya, Blender, Cakewalk and so on, so that creators could only create original work, and negating any need to upload anything created from external copyright material with third party software. However I’m guessing the Lab don’t have any of those spare pre-requisites knocking about in Battery Street for this to ever happen, so it won’t.
  • A tried and tested solution. What if the Lindens just forced everyone who wanted to upload any content complete a little copyright quiz before they were allowed to do so? ‘Cause that really worked for mesh, didn’t it?
  • The only viable option. What will happen, of course, is that Linden Lab will simply be forced to do what almost every other company permitting EU users to upload content will have to do… Bite the bullet and stump up the cash to buy into whatever service the Alphabet/Google/Amazon/Microsoft giants will be selling to handle those uploads. It won’t be cheap, and that may well have an impact on the end users in SL, but what choice really do the Lab have?

It’s a sad day for the internet, let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

As for us bloggers, we’ll be clobbered by it too – and worse. It’s a double-whammy for us poor souls who will also have to deal with the fallout from Article 11 which, believe me, will reduce the integrity of any information we can link to, to a level of mere fantasy and conjecture. Then we can all strut around barking about fake news, like the idiot tangerine… Only in the future, it’ll be true.

Poor old Tim Berners-Lee would be spinning in his… Oh wait, he’s not dead yet (bet he wishes he was!)

s. x

The ladder starts to clatter
With a fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
REM – Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

 

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

Assimilated

Ask anyone what they think one of the greatest benefits of SL is and most would probably mention the freedom it allows us to express our individuality. Every one of us is unique in so many ways – character, appearance, personality… And being part of the virtual world allows us endless opportunites to explore and express that uniqueness, often to a far greater degree than we are afforded in the real world. It’s clear from simple casual observation that this is something that we really do embrace and make the most of, whether through our avatar’s appearance, the outfits we wear, the activities we undertake or the multitude of attachments, enhancements and personalisations that are available to us to make our inworld presence as unique as our real selves.

Most of us will expend a great deal of time and effort undertaking that process, and will go to sometimes extraordinary lengths to perfect and tune each individual aspect of our avatar in order to define what is uniquely ‘us’. This extends to the almost intangible, unconscious elements, which in RL tend to occur naturally without any thought, but inworld can require experimentation and honing until we are satisfied: This includes the way in which we express ourselves through facial expressions and movement – and for many of us these are very much the defining characteristics of how we present ourselves in the virtual world. How many of us can recognise our friends simply by virtue of their AO, or dances and movements that we’ve come to associate with them alone.

I am no different to others in this respect. Over the years, I’ve invested a great deal of effort into personalising my avatar, and in a way many of the nuances and ‘body language’ traits that have developed during that process are more a part of who I am, virtually, than the less permanent aspects of me; hair, dressing style and makeup. These latter items change frequently, but those other attributes are constants.

Having put so much work into personalising myself and developing something that can be interprested as being uniquely ‘me’, I can find myself struggling to glibly give up control of those essential unique elements for no worthwhile cause. It’s one of the reasons I’m pretty wary of ‘Experiences’ and inworld games and roleplay scenarios that demand I fit into a certain pattern of behaviour or appearance in order to participate. That isn’t to say that I’m completely at odds with such things – if it’s something that I particularly want to do, and I have the choice to join in, or otherwise, then I’m certainly not averse to making the decision to step out of my own character and into another temporarily – but the key point here is that it’s my choice to do so, and not a requirement that demands compliance.

You’ll understand from the above why I have particular issues when turning up at clubs – as I occasionally do – and find myself receiving, within a matter of minutes, what almost amounts to a demand to join the corporate dance HUD. This seems to be happening ever more frequently, and I find it somewhat baffling, and – not to put too fine a point on it – rather insulting to find myself the recipient of such a ‘request’. I’ll grant you that not all the dances that I might choose to accompany the music may be to everybody’s taste, or may not be the most up-to-date, mocap, bento brilliance that some may prefer, but they are the result of years of fine tuning, and whether others like them or not, they are as much a part of who I am as my AO. I feel weird and out of sorts being made to do a dance that isn’t part of my normal routine, and when I’m put under passive aggressive pressure to do so, I resent it.

I have nothing against dance HUDs – they certainly have their place, and I have one of my own. However, I’ve always held the view that one should ask to join, not receive an unsolicited and unwelcome demand to do so. Unless there’s a particular, compelling, reason to synchronise with everyone else on the dance floor, my opinion is that you should be allowed to dance as you damn well like, provided it’s appropriate and doesn’t interfere with others.

And that’s the other bizarre thing that I really can’t get my head around, because when I find myself in these situations, a brief glance around the dancefloor is sufficient to confirm that every other person is doing exactly the same dance – male, female, gender neutral, all performing the same moves, parrot fashion, whether or not they fit with their avatar. Some, indeed, look completely ridiculous: There’s something pitiful about watching a muscle-bound hulk doing the same effeminate dance routine as the nubile ladies around him, precisely timed and co-ordinated. It can sometimes feel as if you’ve wandered into some nightmarish, infernal line dance whose participants have sold their virtual souls and become assimilated into an unrelenting arcane ritual.

It makes me wonder why anyone would want to do this, especially when I see friends who I know are highly unique individuals meekly succumbing to being subsumed into the clutches of some sort of virtual Nestene Consciouness, no longer themselves but plasticised hive mind slaves of the Great HUD of Doom. No longer unique, no longer individuals, no longer the people I thought they were. And it’s just freakishly weird.

I know it just my opinion and it works for some, but in this case YKINMK, and I’ll remain uniquely me, if you don’t mind. Thank you very much!

s. x

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
Lissie – Go Your Own Way

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment