Monday, July 31, 2006

Mel Gibson - In Vino, Veritas

The downside of being a celebrity is that people are interested in everything you say. And what you say while you're being arrested, that's very interesting. And if it's controversial - woo hoo! Jackpot!

I don't know how to react to Mel Gibson's rather Nixonian Jew-baiting comments. To anyone's, actually. I've always considered hatred of Jews to be a ridiculous anachronism, at least in America. It's obviously of vital importance in the Middle East, where there is land at stake. But here? I thought we settled that question in the forties, decided the Jews were okay by us and it's time to move on to the darkies. Isn't it great that I can be so cynical and so naive at the same time?

The turn of this century seems to be a time where we dig up every unpleasant aspect of humanity and give them another airing. It could be good for us. You have to examine your stupid resentments once in a while, express them to exorcise them. Unfortunately every time we do this we are risking conveying the message with nuclear weapons. So far the species has had enough built-in survival instinct to avoid wiping itself out, but past performance is no guarantee of future earnings, and if one lemming gets his hands (it will surely be male hands) on the bomb, well, that's all it takes.

As for Mel Gibson, he lost me around the 2nd Lethal Weapon movie. Dude's too freaky.

Friday, July 28, 2006

It's A Lot Like Life

...And a lot NOT like life.

In my quest to find other things to do in Second Life besides seducing Avatars, I tried to attend a virtual book signing last night. Julien Dibbell, author of PLAY MONEY was appearing in game to sign books and be interviewed about how he had become rich trading virtual currency with games such as Half-Life and Halo. You could buy the book in two forms - an online version which could only be read in Second Life, or the same thing with a real book included, shipped through Amazon for around $20.00.

Mind boggling, eh?

I couldn't get in because they limit the number of avatars in areas, and this got enough press that you had to reserve in advance. About an hour after it was over I managed to teleport to the auditorium and met a journalist named Pixeleen to ask her about the event. She said it was boring, and for a very interesting reason.

Dibbell, a real writer, was terrible in the interview format. They would ask him a question and his response would take FOREVER, because he responded in fully-formed complete paragraphs, which he couldn't just hit SEND on without revising and correcting the spelling. So the format was Question, followed by "..." for two minutes, followed by a response. And you thought writers were bad on talk shows.

I understand there will be a live-music concert by Suzanne Vega in a couple of weeks, but they're smartly going to allow Vega's real voice into the show and leave the Avatar animation to someone else. Is this cheating? Hell no. Musicians have enough to worry about without also having to click on your head to move it around.

Once in a while I consider the idea of putting a stand-up comedy act in Second Life, but it keeps running into the stark problem of timing. You tell a joke, and there is a lag between punchline and audience response, as everyone scrambles to their keyboards to type /laugh or /chuckle. And if they really are laughing, they won't be able to type. How do you judge if you're bombing under those conditions? It's one of comedy's insoluble problems, and I got real-life problems that demand attention.

Still I'm consumed by the idea of some kind of stage gig in Second Life because it's something I could do to make money in that world. Programming and scripting are out for now because I don't have the skillz. I don't want to be a male escort because, frankly, I don't think it's a growth industry. Maybe I'll put together a Karaoke act? I dunno.

I met somebody in the game who was new, and was complaining that he didn't even know that the object of the game was. I suggested that maybe finding an object was the first goal. In that respect, the game is EXACTLY life real life.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bill and Keith: The Story of O's

A cute l'il battle is raging, the pundit version of wrestling match trash-talk. Keith Olberman has a segment on his show in which he names the nightly 3 Worst People In The World - Bill O'Reilly has made the #1 spot over 15 times. O'Reilly refuses to say Olberman's name on their air and has a policy of jettisoning anyone from the set if they do, has had Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes denounce Olberman at a recent broadcasters event. What fun! I can't wait to tune and see what they do next!

I believe that this whole thing is just a feud. Jack Benny and Fred Allen were running one in the '50s, and it's simply a form of cross-promotion. I'm not saying they're not sincere... I'm just saying that both sides benefit from a feud, because it draws attention to your show from an audience who would never consider watching otherwise.

They're both smart guys, and they both know this.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Space Tourism Is Already Here, But You Have To Be Dead

The estate of James Doohan has revealed that his ashes will be shot into space, per his wishes. He will orbit gracefully a few times, then fall back to Earth, at which point he will be re-cremated, this time for good.

He's not the first celebrity to get this treatment. In fact, Doohan is going up with the remains of 50 other people, including on of the Apollo astronauts. Gene Roddenberry has already completed his apogees. Hell, it's practically a FedEx run nowadays. But what about us, the ones who can enjoy it? The living? When do I get to go?

Bigelowe Aerospace says 2010. Of course, when space hotels are built (and can space motels be far behind?) can zero-gravity sex be far behind? Violet Blue points out that if you're going to try it, you better be okay with some kind of bondage, by necessity.

Of course, this is all moot to me. I can't afford a week in Hawaii this year. When a room costs in the multi-millions, well, I just hope you guys have fun. And that they find a way to velcro a mint to your pillow.

Monday, July 24, 2006

How About A Kiss For Your Cousin Dupree

My cultural heroes Steely Dan have once again put their finger on a problem that I couldn't quite locate. First it was wide-mouthed tenor Donald Fagen declaring that "once David Letterman hit the airwaves, it was all over for irony"; now in a letter posted on their website they expose the the movie YOU ME AND DUPREE as a ripoff of a song from TWO AGAINST NATURE.

In typically devious fashion, the letter is addressed to Owen Wilson's brother, Luke. It cites the character of Cousin Dupree, from the same-named song, and the similarities are striking:

Well I've kicked around a lot since high school
I've worked a lot of nowhere gigs
From keyboard man in a rock'n ska band
To haulin' boss crude in the big rigs

Now I've come back home to plan my next move
From the comfort of my Aunt Faye's couch
When I see my little cousin Janine walk in
All I could say was ow ow ouch

Honey how you've grown
Like a rose
Well we used to play
When we were three
How about a kiss for your cousin Dupree

I'd quote the letter at length but Mssrs. Dan posted it as a graphic, but it's definately worth a read.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I Don't Have Time To Write Now

I can't believe you have time to read!

Monday, July 10, 2006

SECOND LIFE Is Much Cheaper Than Heroin

I'm hooked. Having joined up last week to the virtual playground that is Second Life, I'm having a hard time staying out. This will happen to me with immersive games from time to time (I call it "software fever") but for the first time ever I lost track so completely that I played literally overnight. It was 9:00am and I still couldn't leave this odd little virtual world.

I spend most of my time in Second Life chatting up girls. This is probably what I would do in real life if I was single and looked as good as my avatar. My avatar is truly good-looking too. I bought a great skin for $L200, although I just found out this morning that it's probably hot. Somebody recognized my face as belonging to a skin which normally goes for $L4000. I kinda look like Rick Springfield.

When I'm not wearing the sexy me, I'm wearing the real me. I have an ongoing project in which I map my real face to an avatar. I've gotten compliments on my work so far, though getting my own skin tone to match the stock avatar's has proven problematic. I'll probably have to do an entire body.

I'm better socially in Second Life than I am in real life, because I don't fear the consequences of interaction there. It's a ridiculous fear, and maybe this will help me snap out of it. Or maybe I'll completely lose confidence in my real world ability, because I'm so good virtually. Either way, therapy is called for.

My wife asked me if I've had a lapdance in 2nd Life, because strip clubs are everywhere. But you know what? In the real world a lapdance is virtual sex, so a virtual lapdance would be so far removed that I might as well write blog entries while it's going on.

No, I'm not. I'm at work.

This won't go on forever. I got tired of Jedi Academy, I got tired of Doom, and sooner or later I'll miss sensation and taste. Just a matter of time. Just a matter of time.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Fascinating Intersection of Government and Vice

I know I know - intersection? Government is vice! But two stories are catching my eye today.
The first is New Jersey - there is a state government shutdown this week as the budget talks go into overtime. All non-essential personnel have been ordered to stop working until a budget is agreed on. Who is hurt the most - the children? The libraries? No, it's the gamblers. Casinos are not allowed to operate in Atlantic City and elsewhere unless a government inspector is on at all times. They haven't closed the casinos; so tourists and nickel-cup ladies are roaming up and down the carpeted aisles, gazing longingly at the slot machines just past the phalanx of security guards. Why are the suckers always the first to get screwed?
Speaking of getting screwed: Germany has legalized prostitution. Germany also has a state unemployment department. If the item I read on a couple of blogs is true last month, then these two statements combined into a truly horrible situation.
A woman was laid off from her job as an office clerk, filed for unemployment, and was ordered to take temp work as a prostitute. She is appealing the decision, reportedly. I wish I could find the details for you but they're not turning up on my Yahoo searches, and I don't want to drill down too far. But if so, isn't it the best story ever?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Lay Down

Well, the man is sly as a fox - he'll do anything to avoid a life sentence.
Seriously, who will miss Kenneth Lay? He probably has a circle of friends, but anyone who ever did business with him is surely glad he's gone, unless they had found a way to ruthlessly exploit him back. Even George W. Bush is backing off, insisting through Tony Snow that Lay was only "an acquaintance".
Kenneth Lay was the ultimate, number one, big daddy User. He played Monopoly with your money, whether you knew you were in his game or not. And even now, he's keeping it. If you lived in a state where he sold energy, you have been screwed by Ken Lay. If you worked for him and had your money in a pension fund, you have been screwed and left naked by the roadside. He sucked a lot of money out of the general economy and redistributed it to home-theatre shops, yacht salesmen, Island Rental realties, lawyers and public relations firms. If there was ever an example to disprove trickle-down economics, it is Ken Lay.
We should all be grateful that he was convicted before he died, because that example was made. I guess we should also be grateful that he wasn't tried in California, because even Hitler would have gotten off scot-free with one of our juries. It's a little reminder, along with the Supreme Court saying "yes, it is wrong to hold people at Guantanamo without a trial or due process", that there is only so much injustice society can absorb at one time.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Second Life And What It has Taught Me

I have avoided the online role-playing game Second Life up until now, for three reasons: I thought there was a monthly charge, I thought they didn't make a Mac client, and I feared it would suck every minute away from my real life. I was wrong about the first two.

But it's been a couple of days now and I think I'll be able to keep out of there. From what I've seen, it's a pretty boring little world if you're not looking for avatar sex. And like in reality, sex is expensive. A decent penis will cost you $L700! That's right, you have to buy a penis. On the plus side, drinks are free. Maybe that evens out.

The exchange rate for Linden Dollars (the world's virtual currency) is about $700 to $1, so you can look at a $1 penis as a bargain, but in the real world, I got a perfectly delightful one for free as standard equipment. In addition to the equipment, you can buy character animations for the sexual positions.

So much of Second Life is built to resemble a tropical resort - there are lots of bars and shopping malls. In the time I've been there almost everyone I've met with a virtual job was a bouncer or a sex worker. It's JUST LIKE A REAL RESORT!

I'll tell you what creeps me out the most. This evening I logged on and looked at the events - there was a group therapy session/lecture about Social Anxiety Disorder. I checked it out. Pretty well attended. What good will a thing like that do people? The best result you can hope for is the participants learn better skills to cope with other avatars - thus making Second Life a better place to spend their time than in real life, where their SAD is so severe they are driven into an online singles bar to make friends. I teleported outta there and shopped for better eyes.