A Portrait Of The Author As A Young Man
Internet, let's keep this between me and you:
When I was eleven, I coordinated my braces with the colors of upcoming holidays. I wore a fanny pack--in the front--with extra pencils, tissues, dental wax, and eyeglass cleaner. I ate garlicky croutons for snack every day and avoided breath mints as assiduously as others avoided me.
I had a crush on a girl named Claire in my karate class. When we practiced throws, I'd put my hands around her waist, freeze up in delight, and end up lying on my back with nary a breath of wind in my chest and my eyes doing that annoying plate-eyed swooning manga shit.
For a long time I was an active member of not one, not two, but three Linkin Park fan messageboards.
Let's not discuss my Harry Potter fanfiction addiction.
See, I'm no stranger to sucking. I'm a veritable connoisseur of crap. Much of my childhood was a series of misfortunes, interrupted by instances of ineptitude and short spells of mere failure. Nevertheless, the mindshattering awfulness of Second Life still amazes me. A lot of people complain about the technical problems of the game, but in fairness very few applications can handle a 100% membership increase in two months without hiccuping.
Sure, navigating Second Life feels like swallowing an entire can of dry tuna fish in one ill-advised gulp. Why would I choke down old albacore? Because I'm too cheap to buy a meal plan and it seemed like a good idea at the time. In any case, if that analogy were accurate, the whole harrowing experience would end one giant, bone-crushingly explosive shit later. But it doesn't.
No, the people that use Second Life bother me. Those people suck.
Not quite everyone in Second Life sucks. For example, most of the goons who do the Second Life Safari screw around in a harmlessly madcap fashion. The people who take Second Life [url='http://slserious.ytmnd.com/']too seriously[/url] ruin it for everyone else. The furries that ban you from [url='http://slurl.com/secondlife/NorthStar/26/25/45/']their land[/url] when you conjure one too many giant psyduck prims. The pedophiles that become upset when you don't recognize their behavior as a socially legitimate form of sexual expression. You get the idea.
WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE The Internet does a lot of good for the world. For instance, it lets scientists design supercheap laptops for African children so they can pirate pornography and pop music like civilized folk. But it does a lot of bad, too, like inspiring weirdos to think they've a right to be free from ridicule, an assertion Linden Labs supports. I've always felt that ridicule can be beneficial. Hell, if I'd never been made fun of for being a loser in junior high, I'd still wear sweatpants everywhere. But that's beside the point.
Internet communities attract psychos like moths to the flame, only without the satisfyingly climactic moment of self-immolation. For years, they've masturbated to Sonic all by their lonesome, so adding even ten people to their crazy little cult makes it seem almost mainstream. The fact that you can script or animate just about anything in Second Life makes it about ten times worse than the rest of the Web. In the past, reality confined disgusting desires to the dreams of deviants. Now, by playing puppetmaster with avatars in Second Life, these sad souls can "live out" their fantasies. They think they are their avatars.
The Internet convinces me that the problem of the human condition is not evil but stupidity. Like minds attract, and the strength of that attraction is inversely related to intelligence. If it weren't for [url='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelato']gelato[/url]--a delicious Italian delicacy which naturally repels stupidity--mankind would have wiped itself from the asscrack of the earth long ago. Most medical experts agree that morons naturally exert a tangible force against two things: Dostoyevsky and gelato. Don't believe me? Smear a copy of Crime and Punishment with peach gelato and visit your local community college. You'll fly higher than the local Cannabis Reform Coalition.
And that, my child, is how zeppelins came to be.
In Second Life, your unmolested avatar enjoys an androgyny envied by David Bowie. If Second Life aimed to further social progress or incubate new business models, this sexlessness would be an asset, since it eliminates gender bias. Goddammit, Roger. Imagine a world of androgynous agents, each blind to the other's actual inadequacies, purely pragmatic in their behavior. It's beautiful, in a bleeding-heart, sociology major type of way.
Unfortunately, the virtual sex industry is alive and well, as we've [url='http://www.somethingawful.com/index.php?a=4186']catalogued[/url] [url='http://www.somethingawful.com/index.php?a=4206']in[/url] [url='http://www.somethingawful.com/index.php?a=4230']previous[/url] [url='http://www.somethingawful.com/index.php?a=4274']updates[/url]. Sure, you may be a mouthbreathing needledick in real life, but in Second Life it costs mere pennies to equip yourself with a massive member [url='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandingo_%28pornstar%29']Mandingo[/url] would envy.
The [url='http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,71657-0.html']digital dicks industry[/url] is thriving. The sheer size of it must merit some special server-side attention. I believe that somewhere, ensconced within the vast, gelatinous bureaucracy of Linden Labs, there lives a neckbearded programmer. With hairy palms and oily skin, he furiously designs, tests, and optimizes a penile physics engine. I will call him Roger.
Roger's greatest childhood fantasy was to rub Neosporin on a dog's dick. He saw his friend Evan do it once and it was totally hot. But after PETA put him on its' hit list, Roger went underground and investigated the science behind simulated scrotums.
Of course, every man knows that even in real life a penis is only good for three things: fornication, urination, and carrying an extra bag of groceries when your hands are full. I always ask for plastic for exactly this reason.
What good is a cock that only exists in your computer? This brings me to my next point, which is that
Growing up, my best friend was my neighbor Josh. He didn't have a choice in the matter--his family moved in next to mine, and while familiarity breeds contempt we were both too lazy to find friends elsewhere. Good for me, though, because now I had a friend, and he had a backyard with delicious cherry tomatoes ripe for the taking. They blamed it on deer. Suckers.
After his bar mitzvah, when the whole shebang was winding down, we sat on the steps of the synagogue talking about life, love, and whatever else we could think of. Engaging in serious discussion is difficult when you're distracted by aged alcoholics dancing with chairs and yodeling the background.
Anyway, this ancient relative of his came toddling out the door. When I say ancient, I don't just mean old. I mean literally antediluvian. This guy did Pilate's taxes.
"Josh," he croaked in hoarse tone harshened by epochs of usury, "Josh, I have something to tell you."
"What's up, great-uncle Bernie?" asked Josh, clapping the stooped octogenarian on his gnarled back.
Bernie smiled a hoary smile and wheezed into Josh's ear. "Never date a flat broad. There's nothing to hold on to."
why you touch boob
I sometimes wonder what great-uncle Bernie, that primordial paragon of sexual virility, would think of Second Life. Would he appreciate the "erotica" of [url='http://www.alphavilleherald.com/archives/000341.html']Players[/url], the Second Life pornographic magazine? Would his clubbed fingers feverishly guide him towards "[url='http://www.yesbutnobutyes.com/archives/2006/08/the_best_little.html']the best little whorehouses in Second Life[/url]"? Would he assume the identity of a younger man and peruse the wares of [url='http://www.slboutique.com/index.php?p=buy&nh=1&user_avatar_id=84']Strokerz Toyz[/url], brainchild of peerless penis programmer [url='http://www.secondlifeherald.com/slh/2006/12/stroker_serpent.html']Stroker Serpentine[/url]? Would he slowly succumb to the tender touches of [url='http://cardiemahoney.com/']Cardie Mahoney[/url], Second Life's most esteemed cum dumpster? Or would he prefer the forbidden fruit of furry [url='http://www.secondlifeherald.com/slh/2006/11/axeonos_fluffba.html#more']Axeonos Fluffball[/url], admin of [url='http://slurl.com/secondlife/furnation////']furnation[/url], who demurely divulges that she "doesn't yiff while dressed like a lolita"?
I sometimes wonder these things, and then imagine Roger programming, with autoerotic precision, the aerial trajectory of an old man's money shot, arcing through the ether before settling, with a robust THWAP, on the primly poised lips of a pixellated prostitute.
And then I wonder why I am cursed with wonder at all.
The legend. The myth. I'd say the man, but I don't think anyone really knows what to call Prokofy these days. Suffice to say that [url='http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/']Prokofy Neva[/url] is not so much a person as an experience. A way of life. Once you go Prokofy, you never go back.
I WANT TO BE A REAL BOY!
Prokofy Neva is like that one superintelligent person you knew in high school who aced every test but also wore fairy wings because she thought she could fly. She believes, with equal earnestness, that the right to free expression is inviolable [url='http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2006/08/the_unmarking_o.html#comment-21881883']and[/url] that "diminishing [the seriousness of virtual rape in Second Life] is part of what minimizes rape in general," encompassing the entire political spectrum in a single mighty mindfuck.
She is the [url='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_rape_in_cyberspace']Julian Dibbell[/url] of Second Life. Sometimes, I agree with her, but mostly I just want to launch her out of a catapult into an ravine filled with large, uncomfortable rocks.
She may be the best example of how Second Life melts your mind. A former sociologist who studied the oppression of Soviet women, onetime human rights advocate to the U.N., and executive director of the International League For Human Rights, she gave up effecting change in the real world to become a transgender landlord in Second Life.
I actually have a sort of morbid respect for Prokofy. She has a [url='http://slhomepage.com/forums/showpost.php?p=810&postcount=44']keen legal wit[/url], but flails her formidable intellect about like an epileptic at a rave. Still, if a law professor with three degrees can be [url='http://www.lawschool.com/duped.htm']suckered[/url] by the Nigerians, is it so hard to believe that something in the Russkie water made Prokofy go a bit wonky?
I think Prokofy and I agree on certain philosophical points. Where we differ--where Prokofy and most people differ, actually--is the [url='http://slhomepage.com/forums/showpost.php?p=775&postcount=24']seriousness[/url] with which she approaches what is, was, and always has been a video game. But I guess I'll never know, seeing as she banned me from posting in her blog after I laughed at her for [url='http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2006/12/my_predictions_.html']avowing[/url] that "the avatar has reliably been found to be a window to the soul; and that communion of the souls is possible in SL in ways that aren't so religious as to be off-putting, nor so hippy-dippy as to be meaningless. It's real."
Update 12/26/2006: Prokofy has apparently sued me for libel for this post. She argues that she is "currently", not "formerly", involved with effecting change, and that "I work in causes and projects that a lame little asswipe like "Petey" can't even begin to comprehend." Good for her if it's true. It doesn't change my opinion--which, of course, you should all assume these features to be--that she's crazy.
CNET just published an [url='http://news.com.com/IBM+to+give+birth+to+Second+Life+business+group/2100-1014_3-6143175.html']article[/url] about IBM establishing itself in Second Life.
An aerial view of Baku
Big Blue meets grey goo.
This is where I get back to talking about Second Life sucking.
I've spent some time in [url='http://slurl.com/secondlife/baku////']Baku[/url], the infamous goon stronghold in Second Life. It's a wild and zany place that changes by the moment. I've sat in a hot tub next to Roger Rabbit and BASE jumped with Santa Claus. If you can code creatively, Baku is a place where you can realize your ridiculous fantasies in a community that understands it all to be a big joke.
But I wander outside Baku and into wedding parlors where debutante doppelgängers become betrothed to handsome husbands. Into a virtual Nike outlet, where people buy virtual Air Jordans. Into [url='http://secondlife.reuters.com/']Reuters[/url], where a preeminent international news agency actually pays someone to ignore crime in China, starvation in Sudan, and insurrections in Iraq in favor of [url='http://secondlife.reuters.com/stories/2006/12/12/study-on-second-life-and-the-pursuit-of-happiness/']reporting[/url] on [url='http://www.epn.net/interrealiteit/EPN-REPORT-The_Second_Life_of_VR.pdf']studies[/url] that conclude "there is a strong correlation between well-being and success in Second Life and well-being and success in real life.”
Prokofy Neva said that "geeks who sneer at people [in Second Life] who shop, or who drive SUVs, or have cybersex online, are going to be Missing the Moment."
Count me among those missing the moment, then, because digital dongs aren't my idea of a good time. While I'm out watching my Second Life pass me by, enjoy this entirely NWS video of Harry Potter discovering the carnal pleasures of simulated sex shops. See what I've been missing? Me neither.
Tomorrow's tech headlines you never want to see, before you have to see them.
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Second Life Safari highlights a magical and mystical adventure through the bowels of the Internet. We take a look behind the scenes of "Second Life," and present to you the things all other media outlets are too embarrassed to show. Social networking hits another new low, and can only be seen in Second Life Safari.