Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Home is Where the Heart Is

When I talk to friends who aren’t in Second life about Second life, the only question I get more frequently than “are those real people you’re talking to?”  is, “Why do you own a house?” 

Which got me to thinking….why do I own a house in Second life?  I’ve known people who don’t…they just set home to some public area and use public sandboxes to rez things.  As for myself, I own a couple of parcels, each of which has a house on it…none of which I ever use except to land at when I first login.  Truth be told, I actually don’t even land inside my houses. I land outside them on the patio or out in the yard.  I rarely go inside unless it’s to find something I can delete to save a few prims.  Other than that, the only time I really go into my Second life house is to show it to people. 
So why have a house?  There are a couple of obvious answers to this. I own a house in Second life so that I have a place to; change clothes; have friends over; rez things; build; have sex; chill out; to show my creative side.  But really, all of those things can be accomplished without owning land or a house of one’s own. 

If you’ve spent any time in Second life, then you’ve known people who didn’t have a house.  In my experience, these homeless avatars hover on the fringes of Second Life.  They never seem to develop connections or friends or a reason for being there.  Mostly these are people who are gone.  They left as quickly and quietly as they arrived.  While I’m not suggesting that owning a house would have kept them there, I think the fact that they didn’t has implications about why they left at all
Time and space are odd concepts in a virtual world.  Like everything else in Second Life, there are multiple definitions of time.  Each of us exists in two time zones, our own and Second Life time.  Each of us has the ability to control time there.  In a day that spans a brief 3 hours, if you don’t want it to be in nighttime, with just a few clicks you can change night to day.

In Second Life, our concept of reality and fantasy is continuously challenged.  We exist there and yet are not there.  The emotions  you feel and the people you meet are real but that pretty swirl of electrons that is your avatar vanishes as soon as you or they turn the power off.

In a world with so few real boundaries, I believe we are drawn to things that give our Second Life existence definition and meaning.  I believe our houses become connected to our identities in much the same way as our avatars do.

Houses give our Second lives form, definition and a base of operations.  They allow one to carve a small haven of normalcy out of a vast confusing grid.  They give you a place to impose your own stamp of order and meaning.  It’s your part of Second Life so it can look and feel however you want.  It’s your personal construction of reality.   It comes to represent you there, and in doing so, it becomes, in some odd way, the place that connects you most to Second Life and to other people. It's why we like to show them to people.  They allow us to share ourselves with others.   In some odd way, ones’ Second Life home truly does become the place where one’s heart is. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The tie that binds, or, God is a DJ

I realized that Nicky has an inordinate number of close friends in Second Life who are DJ’s (20 or so at last count).  Even in real life, I can't claim to be friends with that many people in my own profession.   It’s a fact that’s had a profound impact on my experience of Second Life.  Music IS a passion for me both in First and Second Life.   It’s always on…if not in world then on Winamp or my iTouch or the cd player.  Often times the same music is playing as I travel from Second Life to my car to my work and back home again.  For better or worse, this tends to blur the boundaries between those locations to me.   The music helps me make the transition from one place to the other and back again. 

It was music that kept me in Second Life.  After my initial month or two of wandering around lost, wondering where all the people were…I accidently stumbled into the Blueboy dance club where there was a live dj (Wesley Spengler) who actually greeted me by name, on air,  in World.  This was in the days before voice was incorporated into Second Life so it was pretty significant to a noob like me.  No one spoke then.  Yet this DJ, who was rocking the club and a big group of people, had singled me out and spoke directly to me.   Whoever coined the phrase “God is a DJ” must have had a similar experience.

For me, it was like that scene in Wizard of Oz where Dorothy opens the door to her house just after crashing in Munchkinland.  Everything suddenly turned to Technicolor.  It was my first (and up until that time), most profound experience of what it could feel like to be enveloped in a truly immersive environment.  At the time it was also the most revealing example of the social nature of Second Life.  Wes has a way of making everyone feel welcomed and “seen”.   That is his gift as a DJ.  The people there were open and welcoming.  (Which also speaks to Wes’s nature as a person and as a DJ. And to the kind of energy he tries to surround himself with.)   I met people that night who are still a part of my Second Life nearly 5 years later.  It was like walking into my favorite neighborhood bar.  And, at that moment, I got what all the hype about Second Life had been about. 

More powerfully for me, the medium connecting everyone that night was music.  So, double whammy for me.  Before that moment, everything had been in black & white.  I’d been disappointed and frankly bored up to then by my experiences in SL.  I was about to drop it and move on to something else.  (The denizens of World of Warcraft may now heave a collective sigh of relief.)  But the moment Wes called out my name in the darkness of that club, the nature of Second Life changed for me forever.  I got it.

As I’ve said, for me, music is a powerful force.  Especially in an environment where nothing is exactly as it appears to be.  It’s easy to feel disconnected in SL.  There’s an odd duality to everything…even the name.  Everything is real but not real.  The avatars aren’t real, but the people behind them are, as are the emotions they share there.
For me, music is the most direct route for translating feelings into something palpable and real.  The power it holds is that it touches people so easily and profoundly.  My most social experiences in Second Life have been shaped by it.  For me, Dj’s are the conduit which translate the fantasy of Second Life into the reality of a social connection.  This is the power they wield.  DJ’s (and the music they share with us there) are truly one of the strongest ties that bind us together in SL.

I know there’s more to Second Life than clubs and dancing.  But in terms of feeling truly immersed in a 3D social environment, nothing has ever come as close to the feeling I get, as when Nicky wades into a group of people at a club and shares an hour or two of music, dancing.

Some of my Favorite Second Life DJ's

DJ Wesley Spengler

DJ Zann Baxton

DJ Mike Dacook (photo courtesy Mike Dacook)


DJ Aeschylus Shepherd


DJ Merrick Ying (photo courtesy Merrick Ying)

DJ Sofia Diage (photo courtesy Sofia Diage)

DJ  Dextrum Boucher (photo courtesy Dextrum Boucher)

DJ Regi Yifu

DJ Ritch Nicholls (photo courtesy Ritch Nichols)

DJ Evermore Noel (photo courtesy Lanne Wise)

DJ Tyago Kidd

DJ Annie McMahon

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Go-go Nights

Nicky works as a go-go boy at Blu, a gay dance club in Boystown.  He’s been there since 2008.  Blu has always been a nexus for all that is trendy and au courant in the Second Life music and fashion scene.  Last week we did our annual group Christmas picture.  The go-go’s of Blu dutifully wore their prescribed costumes, a sexy, naughty-elf, short and vest set that didn’t show too much and didn’t show too little.  The set was simple, consisting of 2 giant letters, a “B” and a “T”,   arranged against a green screen backdrop. The go-go’s gathered and were arranged on and around the giant letters.  Some people were in voice (which I can almost NEVER get to work),   the rest of us were in chat.  There was the usual amount of horseplay and faux-flirting and a barrage of sex tinged quips and retorts.  We joked with each other, caught up on what everyone was doing or needed to do for the holidays, who was seeing whom,  who had broken up, where we bought our boots/shirts/pants.  Then we all lined up to have pictures taken of our asses for a future contest to be held in the club.  I suppose (though I’ve not yet seen one), that there was a Christmas card picture taken too. 

One of the most common complaints I hear from people new to Second Life is how hard it is to feel a sense of belonging there.   It’s easy to wander the grid as a rogue avatar who explores and observes but who  never really feels part of something larger, or connected to someone else there.   You don’t need anyone else in order to get a sense of how the place works or to explore it.  But, by doing it alone, what one misses are all the subtleties and complexities that make SL such a great social medium. 

The reason SL feels so immersive isn’t just that you’re manipulating an avatar through a 3D environment.  That’s just part of it.  The reason it feels so real is that you’re in an immersive environment INTERACTING with other people.  People who enter Second Life but, who, for one reason or another, don’t connect  with other people there are always disappointed.  “It feel’s empty.”  “There was no one around.”  “There’re some amazing environments there but where are all the people?”

Which is why, nearly 3 years later, every Thursday night from 6-8pm SLT,   I still slip on my go-go uniform, climb up on my dance podium and shake my money maker.    I suppose I could have found more gainful employment by this time.  I’ve toyed with building and played at owning stores.  But nothing connects you with other people faster than being put on display in a trendy club where your only purpose is to be seen and commented on,  a place where your job is to interact with whomever walks through the door and make sure they feel noticed and welcomed.  Sometimes I feel objectified.  (BTW, it’s GREAT to be objectified!  Don’t let anyone tell you different.)   More often what I feel is seen...recognized as part of something bigger than my avatar pixels.  It’s easy to walk anonymously through Second Life (and through real life for that matter) but it’s not much fun in either realm.

Yes,   I’m just a go-go boy at a gay club, where really all I do is turn on my dance chim and lob barbs laced with sexual innuendo at the patrons and the staff.  But being a go-go boy in Second Life has given me an excuse for interacting with people in a way I never would have done on my own in either life.  It has allowed me to connect and make real friendships in a place that could be just cold electrons and pretty pixels.

Naughty or nice?

It looks like "BJ" to me

My go-go buddies Zann Baxton, Billy Blaylock & Cody Bolero

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's not the stuff, it's the journey

I just finished the Menstuff hunt.  I didn't mean to do it.  I wasnt going to do it.  In fact, I swore after the last one I would never do another hunt again.  And yet, here I am, having lost 10 hours of my life I'll never get back,  with 100+ new items in my already glutted inventory.   Why did I do it? I'm not sure.  Invariably I will delete far more items than I will keep.  (From the last hunt I did, I kept exactly 3 items.)  For some people it must be the thrill of the hunt.  But you know, even in wireframe view, crap is crap, is crap.   For some it must be the hope that you will glean some gold from all that dross. (Three items I tell you.  Count-em! One, Two, Three.)

I think the thing that keeps me doing them is this...they make me go to places I'd never go to otherwise.  They make me explore even when I'm not inclined to do so.  The lure of free stuff just sweetens the pot.  They take me around the grid and I get to see what all those crazy content providers I hear so much about are up to. Sometimes I find a great new store, every once in a while I find a worthwhile gift, but, more often,  what I find are places that remind me just how imaginative and creative the denizens of Second Life can be.   I find reminders of why it has held my interest for so long.  Other things vanish off my radar with alarming regularity but Second Life has managed to pique my interest time and time again.  The free stuff is incidental.  It's not the stuff.  It's the journey.

Now that's hot.  Prince Charming ensemble from Okey Designs.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Let the Games Begin

Well, I've been thinking about doing this for some time here goes. I'll try not to be too boring. Though that doesn't seem to have stopped anyone else from doing this.  I've been in Second Life for almost 5 years now and think that gives me some perspective from which to prattle with some dignity. Whether or not it makes me'll have to stick around to see.

Some shout-outs are in order, to a couple of my friends. To Ilene who started me down the slippery slope that is Second Life. Thanks for helping me break my tv habit, and replacing it with an even bigger one.

 To my life partner Danny, thank you for your patience and perseverance. You know that all my journeys only and always take me back to you love. 

To all the wonderful people I've met from places near and far Kisten, Brianna, Wesley, Parrish, Arianel, Maggy, Carson, Lizbet (to name just a few)...thank you for touching my real life and helping to make Second Life more than just an escape.  To all the ex-boyfriends...thanks for the fodder.  To everyone else,  yes I have 5 years of chat you weren't counting on that.

A good place to the begining....Nicky over the years.

Nicky 3-22-2007

Nicky 9-7-2007

Nicky 7-25-08

Nicky 11-8-09

Nicky 2-22-10

Nicky 12-3-11


Nicholas Patrono has been a denizen of Second Life Since January 2007.


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