Three Poems

My RL self did National Poetry Writing Month in April; 30 poems in 30 days. I thought I’d post three (at least) of them here, because they have some Virtual World content.

This first one, from the 29th, is notable for having inspired a machinima as noted the other day.

Dactyls are Dharma, too

Here in the midst of the ten thousand thingummies
Hearing the voices of ten million throats,
Feeling compassion for those who have aching knees,
Those who build bridges and those who dig moats.

Sitting in zazen and counting the in-and-out
One and a one and a one and a one,
Mind somehow caught in this insistent rhythm, I
Tick like a clock sitting here in the sun.

Dharma is silent but Dharma is noises and
Dharma is stillness but Dharma is speed,
Why should I think that the circling second-hand
Isn’t precisely the sound that we need?

One commenter (commentor? commentator?) somewhere said they’d learned two new words from it; I’m guessing “dactyl” and “dharma”; both good words to know.

The second one, from the 9th, is very relevant to lil Spennix:

A long way from Kharanos

Well it’s a damn’ long way from Kharanos
To th’ Gate o’ th’ Settin’ Sun,
But the beer is good an’ the beds are soft
When th’ daily slaughter’s done.

I left a dagger in Thermaplugg,
All those long hard years ago,
Took a bit of his gear as a souvenir,
Of Gnomeregan below.

But that crazy old coot was nothin’,
‘gainst the things that they’ve got ‘ere,
Bugs an’ Mogu an’ lizard men,
And hungry ghosts o’ fear.

Someday I’ll go back t’ ol’ Col’ridge,
An’ sit on the porch with ‘em all,
But ’til then I’m out here in the Vale,
Killin’ bugs up on the wall.

Well it’s a damn’ long way from Kharanos
To th’ Gate o’ th’ Settin’ Sun,
But the beer is good and the beds are soft
When th’ daily slaughter’s done.

… and here is an Action Shot of “Killin’ bugs up on the wall”:

Fightin' bugs up on the Wall

(Click through to the shockingly-redesigned flickr for the same picture larger, and in a confusing interface.)

And to close, this one from the 17th. Note that it’s not actually about Second Life, since that has real people in it, not just simulated ones. But still…

Walking Cross-Country

He says he’s writing a computer program
to simulate
walking cross-country
in an unknown place.

Where you might follow a brook upstream
and be surprised by
a forest lake
sparkling in the sun,

And follow a path around it
to a ramshackle house
at the end of a dirt road
where a woman with dark hair and soft eyes
opens the door
and smiles a welcome.

And I say that that sounds cool,
and I also say,
that the real world has surprises like that, too,
and even soft-eyed women,
and he should maybe go for real walks sometimes.

He turns to me,
like he’s about to say something,
but then he just shakes his head
and goes back to the keyboard.

Live poetry readings highly recommended! This one is probably too early in the day for me, but I’ve heard Ms. Hoisan elsewhere, and she is Teh Awesomes…

(Also: what does this “reblog” button actually do?)

Digital Rabbit Hole

I want to cordially invite you to my upcoming reading this month, at Poetry Reflections on Costa Rica Sims of Dream Seeker Estates. Those who have attended before, know what a beautiful venue it is, a true Arabic Salon for poetry, and I promise you a full hour of my best poetry, music, and imagery combined. I will be reading for the first time, three new ones, that I hope you will enjoy. It will be an eclectic mix as always, of my verses, and I invite you to dress up in the theme (but no obligation) and be ready for some after reading belly dancing, to get the circulation re-flowing after sitting so long.
If this sounds appealing to you, please invite your friends, as there is lots of room, and I hope you will join me for my monthly reading at Poetry Reflections.If you have never come…

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I’m in a podcast AGAIN!

Random cute podcasting iconLong-time readers will recall that several net-decades ago I entered an audio of myself reading a 100-word story into one of Crap Mariner’s podcasting Weekly Challenges. (I think I actually won that week, too; very validatin’.)

Well, for no discernable reason, I have done it again! (At this rate, by the year 2100 I will have produced, well, several of these.)

In truthness, I think I mostly did this one because I was driving along somewhere and started talking to myself in funny voices since I was alone in the car (you do that, too, right?), and I remembered for some reason what the theme of the weekly challenge was, and a story sort of (what?) precipitated out.

Anyway, I kinda like it.

Go over and listen (or read), an’ vote for whoever you like. Or not. :)

These are still pretty much the only podcast I ever listen to. (And even these are kinda long, at over 30 minutes, since there are N stories all being read in the same podcast, for N small but greater than two.)

Much Better!

I just did my daily check of the link that the Blue Mars folks sent me on the 5th, to see if the very restrictive Beta agreement was still there, and Lo and Behold, it wasn’t!

Instead it led to a much friendlier registration process, containing a ToS that (while still real real long) didn’t have any of that nasty Confidential Information stuff in it, or threats of ex parte injunctions; just the usual “you can’t under any circumstances sue us for anything no matter what we do” legalese.

Cool!

Maybe I will try it when I get home.

(I did notice one clause in the ToS that seems to forbid ever logging off, but that’s just humorous, not worrying. :) )

Update: So I downloaded all 1.2GB of the installer, started it up, let it churn for quite awhile, and then was presented with a screen asking me to agree to a long legal agreement before I could continue. And guess what! It was the old restrictive NDA-containing one! I think I will go to bed. Maybe tomorrow I will convince myself that the two short postings on the Blue Mars Twitter feed saying that the beta NDA has been lifted are enough to render clicking “I agree” on this thing legally and morally null. Not tonight, though.

AV : SL :: Body : RL

I’ve been meaning to write this entry for a long time, and (assuming I actually manage to finish it up and post this) I was finally pushed over the edge to doing it by an acrimonious debate over in a Second Thoughts comment thread, where one of the parties declared forcefully that (paraphrasing) anyone who identifies with their SL avatar is insane. (As I said in my one comment in the thread, I think the people involved are actually arguing over uninteresting matters of word usage, but it was this particular bit of it that drew my mind back to this draft weblog entry.)

All sorts of questions come up in the virtual worlds and their associated web-o-sphere, about and/or framed in terms of avatars. Just what is an avatar, what is an AV? (And why do we capitalize “AV” even though it isn’t an acronym? But I won’t talk about that here.) What is the relationship between a Resident and an AV, a human and an AV, and so on? Do avatars have rights?

One technique I’ve found useful in thinking about these things is to see what happens if I replace the SL terms in the issue with RL terms, and replace “avatar” or “AV” with “body”. Not that it’s always the same thing: the SL-AV and RL-body relationships aren’t exactly the same. But they’re surprisingly the same surprisingly often, and when they’re different the ways and reasons that they’re different can provide insights into things.

That’s really all I have to say :) but I will draw out the thought by applying it to a few examples. Feel free to add more in the comments, or in email, or in the privacy of your own home.

Why do we identify with our AVs?

Well, okay, so why do we identify with our bodies? That’s a question to make one blink, because it’s so obvious: of course we identify with our bodies, don’t be ridiculous!

There’s room for a good deal of variation in thinking about just why, though. I imagine there are people who would say that we are our bodies. (I’m not one of those.) At the very least, our bodies are the things that allow us to experience the world, to interact with the world, and with each other.

And in the virtual worlds, avatars are exactly the same: they are the things that allow us to experience and interact with the world and each other. And that’s why we identify with them.

(I don’t know how this would sound to someone for whom we are our bodies. Maybe insane.)

Of course the identification isn’t as tight (in general?), because we aren’t nearly as tightly bound to our AVs are we are to our bodies. We can’t feel physical pain or pleasure through AVs, we can change from one AV to another (and we even have to when we switch between non-interoperable worlds, boo), and so on. But it’s
the same in principle.

So when Chestnut Rau remarks quite accurately that our feelings about posting pictures of our bare pixel bottoms on the web “just goes to show how much we humans identify with our avatars“, she’s quite right. And our (often) even stronger feelings about pictures of our bare cellular bottoms shows how much we humans identify with our bodies!

“I met this avatar last night…”

Some people use “avatar” in ways that sound bizarre to me. One example I happened to read the other week describes how someone “was approached last year by an avatar from the Australia Council who was researching Australian artists…”. And that just sounds Wrong.

Applying the AV : SL :: Body : RL rule suggests why: that sentence comes out describing someone who “was approached last year by a body from the Australia Council…”.

Wahahaha!

Many times when I hear someone use “avatar” to mean “person” rather than “body”, I jump to the conclusion that they Don’t Get It. Although it’s jumping to a conclusion, it’s also often correct. :) On the other hand, I’ve also heard the word used this way by people who definitely do get it. Here is Eureka Dejavu:

And so it was that on my second night in Metaplace I ran into an avatar named Joe Castille.

The place was abuzz with avatars, many of whom, I learned, were interns and students participating in 3DSquared and involved with its parallel venture, GameCamp.

I know that Eureka Gets It, so my theory here is that she’s just in a slightly different linguistic community than I am. (I will speculate further that she may be more aware than most of us of the original meaning of “avatar”, as a deity embodied in physical form, and is using it as a word for a person as embodied in their AV, a concept that I admit I don’t really have a word for since I use “AV” to mean the form itself, not the person as embodied in it.)

I also wonder (since we’re getting into the subtleties) whether there’s a difference between “AV” and “avatar”, in either Eureka’s dialect or mine. Would she find it odder to refer to a person as an “AV” than as an “avatar”? I should ask her. :)

But anyway back to my own dialect, in which AV : SL :: Body : RL…

Do AVs have rights?

Well, do bodies have rights? I don’t think so. Part of what I wrote over on Second Thoughts was:

Bodies per se don’t have rights, avatars per se don’t have rights, vibrations in a phone line per se don’t have rights. People have all sorts of rights, and some of those rights involve their bodies, their avatars, and the vibrations that they cause in phone lines.

This seems to me to be nice and simple and correct; a place where the AV : SL :: Body : RL rule applies quite nicely. The rights that people have regarding their bodies are somewhat different from the rights regarding their AVs, but in both cases the rights belong to the people, they are just about the bodies or AVs.

“Nice AV!”

Here’s a place where the rule works less well, for a reason that’s at least moderately interesting to think about. Unless you’re a drunken immature male, you probably don’t say ‘Nice body!’ to people in RL as a general rule. But in SL, “Nice AV” or variations thereupon is a reasonably common and generally inoffensive thing to say.

Why is that?

It’s because, I think, we have so much more control over the look of our AVs than we do over the look of our bodies. Saying “Nice body!” to someone is complementing them on something they have only a limited amount of control over, and therefore (perhaps, or in some sense) reducing their agency, by reducing them to a piece of physical accident. But “Nice AV!” is complementing someone for something that they did in fact do (even if it was only to make good choices at their local BIAB store), and is therefore (perhaps, usually, among the people that I hang out with) less objectionable.

Which brings us quite naturally to…

If I said you had a beautiful AV, would you hold it against me?

:)

I’m in a podcast!

Random cute podcasting iconSo… I’ve mentioned that I don’t really listen to podcasts. And then more recently I dove into a Kanomi comment thread in which she was noting the rather obnoxious tone of some other SL podcast, and which sort of reinforced my negative impression of podcasts in general, in that:

(A) I found the podcast (like every other podcast over two minutes I’ve tried to listen to) ‘way too slow-moving and content-sparse to be worth the time, and

(B) While I am assured by a mutual friend :) that the people in the podcast are really a bunch of perfectly nice people just sort of fooling around, they actually come off as sort of obnoxious jerks; my theory is that this is because people often feel free in a podcast to say whatever the heck pops into their head (and it seems to be against the cultural tradition to do multiple takes or editing or anything), whereas in text weblogs people do proofread and edit and have second thoughts and stuff.

(I really shouldn’t have said, in the Kanomi thread, that podcasts are a waste of time simpliciter; that apparently insulted at least one podcaster, and I didn’t mean to insult anyone. I just meant, of course, that they are in my judgement not a good use of my time. To each eir own an’ all.)

But so anyway. One of the discussors (discutants? is that a word?) in the debate was ol’ Crap Mariner, who I’d been vaguely aware had a podcast thing of some sort, an’ Crap mentioned that he has a short attention span too :) and that his podcasts are like under two minutes long and that sounded good, so (after a surprising amount of searching about) I came upon Crap’s 100 word stories, which is pretty fun.

I love microfiction!

I admit I still prefer reading the tiny stories to listening to them, for whatever reason. But the general idea is neat, and they do fit inside my tiny podcast patience, so I can listen to them and feel myself somewhat less podcast-ignorant.

And!

And Crap also has this fun weekly thing were there’s a theme / topic / prompt, and people are invited to compose and record their own 100 word stories on the theme and send them in, and one of them gets chosen as the winner (through I process I don’t really understand) and the winner gets to choose the topic for next week, and all of the submitted stories get put together with Crap commentary and posted as a podcast itself.

The theme for #169 was “That’s not thunder, it’s…”, which was sort of intriguing, and like I said I love microfiction, and anyway…

I wrote a 100 word story, and recorded myself reading it. and sent the file to Crap, with the result that my actual voice appears in it. And not too long in, since I think I was like the 3rd story, and Crap didn’t start seriously wandering off on tangents in his commentary and talking to his cats and stuff until about story 5 hahaha.

(Most of the stories are funny and/or involve farting and/or have music tracks and intros and stuff, and mine being just a semi-serious (and too quiet) a cappella reading of a semi-serious story, it doesn’t really fit in all that well. But hey is fun anyway!)

So if you want a rare opportunity to hear at least one of the voices of Dale Innis, check out Weekly Challenge #169 and listen to the podcast. Or just read the story; the text is up there too. :)

How long, and how rich?

A picture of my weblog, for my weblog
So the first question in the Big Bad Blogger Challenge is: “How long have you been a blogger? How has it enriched your life?”.

For some reason I shudder at the words “blog” and “blogger”. :) But I’ve been writing a weblog since October 1999 (woot!), or perhaps since August 1999 (depending on how you count the rather weblog-like “news” page on my personal domain). On September 17th, 1999, I presciently wrote:

I think everyone in the world should be forced to write a paragraph a day of thoughts, events, rants, or whatever, and to put it up on the Web for everyone to read. Of course that would imply universal literacy and computer access, but that’s OK! Anyone who refused to post their daily paragraph could like have their livers eaten by eagles or something.

thus personally kicking off the entire Personal Publishing Revolution single-handed.

On the other hand, I started weblogging here on June 20th, 2008.

Hey, so I’m coming up on my tenth year of weblogging in general, and my first year of SL weblogging. What fun!

How has it enriched my life?

I’ve always loved writing, loved speaking in the textual voice; and similarly (I freely admit) loved reading my own words, listening to my own voice. In general I don’t speak in voice-voice nearly as much or as comfortably; I’m not that fond of the sound of my voice, and I speak kinda fast (not to mention I say weird things) so people often don’t hear and/or don’t understand what I’ve just said in voice. In print, they will at least see the right words, and they can reread them a few times if they seemed too nonsensical the first time. Not that that always helped. :)

Writing stuff in general has wildly enriched my life, I’d say, in ways and reasons that I can’t lay out in obvious milestones or promotions or new family members or titles of nobility. I’ve made friends, of that mysterious delicious textual sort of friend that one makes through letters, through words, through text. I’ve recorded bits of my life and later gone back and read them again, to great advantage in memory and placidity and general happiness. I’ve had nice validating comments from various people (you read what I wrote! you considered it significant enough to react to! maybe you even liked it!). And in general I think writing to the world, and hearing back from interesting parts of the world (I have the best readers) has kept me sane (more or less) and enriched my life marvelously.

Also I get to post pictures of myself! :)