In loving memory of Elizabeth Rofanui, 1977-2016
In loving memory of Elizabeth Rofanui, 1977-2016
A long time ago, in a sim far, far away,
Walter took Camryn as his submissive.
Nine years have passed since that day.
The Force is strong with this couple!
Master, may the Love be with you, always!
Happy 9th Anniversary, Master! Thank you for 9 fabulous years!
Challenged by friends, I set out to answer the question: “Why do I love Nine Inch Nails?”
It is a puzzling question, for sure. Anyone who knows me would never guess my favorite band. I am a classical musician by training, and a quiet person by nature. Even more puzzling is why I like Nine Inch Nails, but have never found a single other band in the same genre that I can tolerate. For me NIN is, apparently, unique.
[A note: This is NOT an overview of Nine Inch Nails, or a Greatest Hits compilation. Let me just note that although I am a decent musicologist in my own field, I am 100% not qualified to judge rock music. So I am only offering my own subjective reactions, not opinions.]
First I’ll tell you how I discovered Nine Inch Nails. That will probably reveal some things about why I like this music.
Picture it: Second Life, early 2007. I was a few months old and had fallen in with a community led by an artist and builder named Baron Grayson. Baron’s creativity fascinated me. The things he could pull out of his imagination were amazing. He was sort of Goth, which was a new thing for me. The worlds he created were dark, beautiful and rich with narrative.
Baron streamed NIN as the background music on his sims. The music was a perfect match. As you can see, he even modeled his avatar after him.
So NIN was the soundtrack of my life in 2007. This also tells you at what point in Trent Reznor’s evolution I joined the stream. It was firmly post-sobriety. I love all music by NIN but for this discussion I’m going to focus on music from 2002 on.
When I first heard NIN, I admit I recoiled from the more violent, screaming stuff. But Baron also played the moody ambient NIN and the acoustic and stripped down songs from the album Still. All the music on Still is pretty quiet, so it was easy for me to listen to.
[Adrift & At Peace – Still, 2002 – 2:52]
I remember thinking how much it reminded me of Arvo Pärt: meditative, hypnotic, and gently repetitive, like a mantra. The gentle repetition gives the music a feeling of stasis, of being suspended in time. At the same time, one can sense a subtle sadness underneath the serene sounds. I think I connected with that sadness, even more than the serenity.
Then Year Zero came out. At the time, my life was in a place where the album’s message that “the world is fucked” totally resonated with me. All that despair in the lyrics, and the more violent sounds, started connecting with the darker places in my head.
Drawn by the darkness, gradually I found myself more willing to listen to the louder songs. And I was surprised by what happened. It was almost as if the music created a container, and instead of trying to push away my black thoughts and emotions, I discovered I could pour them into this container… and they wouldn’t destroy me.
For example, the last half of this next song just explodes in a violent tidal wave of noise – and somehow I found that instead of shrinking from it, I could fucking swim in it. I felt this exhilarating mix of primitive rage and elation.
[The Great Destroyer – Year Zero, 2007 – 3:17]
I can barely tell you how liberating it was, after 50 years of trying to deny my dark side, to finally embrace it.
When The Slip was released the following year, I was embroiled in a really twisted relationship in Second Life. I was massively depressed, and one song on The Slip seemed to have been written especially for me. I played it over and over. Like many of Trent Reznor’s tortured torch songs, it’s very bleak and yet very tender.
[Lights in the Sky – The Slip, 2008 – 3:29]
So that’s the emotional underpinnings of my love of Nine Inch Nails.
But there are also some more objective things I like.
I like that the music sounds transparent, even when it’s loud; the various electronic sounds are separated so that it feels like there’s space between them, and you can hear them, instead of having it all blend into one big soup of noise.
I like how he layers all the sounds, building layers and then stripping them away. If the sound was full out all the time, I would become numb. But he controls the level of intensity, letting it rise and fall so it’s never too much for too long. That actually serves to make the intensity even more intense. It is really true that nothing is so loud as when it is surrounded by silence.
[Copy of a – Hesitation Marks, 2013 – 5:22]
I like his use of dissonance and distortion, not gratuitously, but sparingly, to make a point, like the pain represented in the opening notes of Hurt, or the distorted bending as the world begins to come apart in the second verse of The Great Destroyer.
I like that he uses motifs that appear in several songs. They are like clues that connect ideas. Sometimes he will invert the motif, or harmonize it differently, sort of teasing the listener into following him into the maze. He refers to it as a “trail of breadcrumbs.”
I like that the music is intelligent. It’s emotionally raw, for sure, but it’s not mindless. It rewards thoughtful exploration.
As a singer, I have a deep appreciation for poetry, and I find his lyrics very affecting.
And I love the energy and the pure physicality of the hard beats. It’s part of what creates the container for my darkness, capturing my body and making me get involved. I can’t sit still while listening to Nine Inch Nails. It compels me to respond.
I’ll stop talking now and simply offer three songs that illustrate these points.
[Less Than – Add Violence, 2017 – 3:30]
[While I’m Still Here – Hesitation Marks, 2013 – 4:02]
[Just Like You Imagined – The Fragile, 1999 – 3:49]
to be continued…
Find out which of these 12 virtual world personalities best describes you.
What type of virtual world person are you?
In a recent discussion, someone said, “What people want in the virtual world is…” They proceeded to describe a world of zero interest to me. Within a few minutes it became clear that the virtual world cannot be summed up so neatly. Not everyone wants the same thing in virtual worlds.
I’ve identified at least 12 types of virtual world people. Most of us are a combination of these types, but I believe we tend to identify most strongly with one or two of them. Which one(s) are you?
The Chatter — Your main interest is conversation, and to you, the virtual world is a big chat room. You participate in several chat groups. Your favorite people are witty, talkative and convivial; you don’t care much what their avatars look like, only what their text looks like. You have lots of friends and relationships. You enjoy hanging at clubs and social events, but usually your avatar is parked somewhere while you chat. You don’t pay much attention to your surroundings because your screen is usually covered with multiple IM windows.
The Aesthete — In contrast to the Chatter, the visual element of the virtual world is exactly what draws you to it. Your pleasure comes from what you see. Exploring places that evoke deep feelings and real sensations, dressing your avatar in stylish and beautifully crafted clothes and accessories, collecting exquisitely designed things – these are your source of delight. Your thirst to have them is what fuels the virtual economy; you depend on The Craftsman and The Artist to supply your bliss. You don’t need as much interaction as The Chatter; you can be just as happy spending time by yourself, making outfits, posing and taking selfies for your blog.
The Engineer — You are fascinated by how the virtual world works. To you, it is a toy to be taken apart, analyzed and manipulated for fun. You don’t get very immersed, because you are always thinking about what makes it work. The visual element is only important to you insofar as it tells you what is going on underneath. You script, you build, you may even run your own grid, and you take pleasure from things working right. We depend on you to make the world work. Aesthete types irritate you because the visual splendor they crave causes lag. And they don’t even seem to care.
The virtual world stubbornly refuses to be summed up as one thing. It is many, many things.
The Glitterati — A combination of Chatter and Aesthete, you love bars, clubs, dances and events, but unlike the Chatter, you aren’t just there for the talk; you also revel in the visual surroundings. You especially like how sexy and stylish you (and your partner) look, and how great you feel to be surrounded by the grid’s social elite. You have a charismatic personality and your presence is the magnet that attracts others to the scene. At your best, you use your popularity to energize charity events.
The Artist — You are a graphic artist, designer, photographer, painter, writer or filmmaker. The virtual world is your inspiration and your canvas. You spend most of your time creating scenes to photograph or video, then retreat to editing software perfecting your artwork. You may create giant 3D art installations. You create for your own satisfaction, not for the market. You may be part Engineer, using technology as a tool to expand your artistic palette. You may have friendships, but art is the one love you can’t live without.
The Craftsman — You make stuff. You have the soul of the Artist but the practicality of a business person. You make the things others need to make the virtual world feel real. You build houses, you create clothing, you make furniture and décor, you design sims, you make trees or vehicles or adult toys or body parts. With a little luck, you also make money. Everyone needs you; Aesthetes worship you. You probably began with a starry-eyed appreciation for the virtual world but now you spend all your time alone on a platform making stuff. But you’re okay with that.
The Horndog — For you, the virtual world is a way to create your own porn. You hang out at Sex Island or any place with a large number of willing partners. You’re really only there long enough to persuade someone to go to RL voice and cam sex, so you aren’t that interested in virtual appearance. If you are male, you may be attracted to female avatars with enormous boobs and as little clothing as possible, who agree to sex without too much effort on your part. Good thing, because you probably have a noob avatar, a free plastic penis and verbal repertoire limited to “mmm” and “harder faster”.
How we relate to others in the virtual world, the effect that the visual element has on us, what we find important, and how we think of our avatars are all variables that differ dramatically from one person to the next.
The Player — The play’s the thing… role play, that is. You are an actor and a storyteller, and you want to inhabit the stories you create. Both interaction and aesthetics are important to you, for the sake of immersion. You think of your avatar as a character, a separate person from yourself, as you would regard a character in a story you are writing. You need a community of fellow storytellers, so you seek out writers and groups like Steampunk, Gor, Elves, SciFi, historical recreations and post-apocalyptic wastelands.
The Domestic — While others are role-playing in fantasy worlds, you are most content with a virtual life that looks very traditional. Maybe your RL is stressful and you need some relief. You want to create your happy place. You use the visual element of the virtual world to its most positive effect. You have a lovely home that gives you great pleasure. You may be content with solitude, though you probably have a partner, who has become an essential component of your happy place. You spend most of your time fixing up your private home, and simply enjoying being there.
The Dreamer — Your imagination takes flight in the virtual world, more than most others. You immerse so completely that you forget the “real” world. You crave experiences and you eagerly soak up everything the virtual world has to offer. Your curiosity is boundless. You want to see strange new worlds, meet intriguing people, and see what it’s like to live as someone – or something – else. You may have a non-standard avatar, perhaps an animal, kid, robot, monster or supernatural creature. You want to dream it and be it.
The Gamer — You like online games, and your main interest is turning the virtual world into a game. In RL you probably played Farmville, Skyrim, Call of Duty or Pokemon Go. It’s all about the game for you. You probably can be found in the virtual world playing Greedy, collecting breedables, fighting in a combat zone, racing vehicles or solving a MadPea quest – as long as it yields points and prizes, levels and achievements. You might form friendships with your competitors, but you probably just think of them as NPC’s.
The Publicist — You are here with a message to share. You are devoted to a cause; you may champion a charity, or perhaps you are a survivor, an enthusiast or a scholar. You use land in the virtual world to create exhibits and educate people about real life things like health, religion, social issues and history. Your work adds value to the virtual world. You participate occasionally in festivals and charity fundraisers but your primary interest is in the “real” world and you rarely let down your guard in the virtual one.
I think it’s great that there are so many different perspectives on the virtual world, and that it stubbornly refuses to be summed up as one thing. It is many, many things. I find it fascinating that others look at the virtual world so very differently from the way that I see it. How we relate to others in the virtual world… the effect that the visual element has on us… what we find important… how we think of our avatars… all are variables that differ dramatically from one person to the next.
I’ve intentionally omitted a few types like griefers and spammers. But I know there may be some others. What else have I left out? What type of virtual world person are you?
What’s the best way to design and lay out a store in the virtual world? One of my responsibilities in our virtual world is building most of the shops, so this is a topic always on my mind. In search of some fresh ideas, I recently visited the Hair Fair in Second Life. Although the hair creations showcased at the event are interesting, I am always more fascinated by the venue–the design of the sims and the individual shops.
I complain that I struggle with creativity, that I am more of an engineer than an architect. But instead of just whining about my deficits, I do my best to try to learn what I can about design, style and composition, so that I can become a better builder. For my own education, I photographed all 60 shops at the Hair Fair, and made notes about what I liked and didn’t like about each design. I was struck by how each tiny shop was uniquely and meticulously designed, and how lovely they all were.
I decided to share some of my observations here, for the benefit of my friends on Littlefield Grid. We are blessed on Littlefield Grid to have a lot of creative people, who generously share their creations with other members, so we have lots of shops. While there is nothing wrong with pasting vendor signs on the walls of a rectangular room, it can be fun to challenge yourself to think creatively, and come up with new and different ways to arrange a store. Please allow me to support you, by sharing some of my observations.
There is no law that says you have to paste vendor signs onto a wall. Sometimes someone will complain to me that they have used up all their wall space. While making a bigger store for them is not a problem, there are lots of other ways to use the space. Use the middle of the room!
This shop sported hotel lobby luggage carts:
Here the signs were hung from the ceiling:
Products and vendors can sit on various types of tables, shelves and racks. This also allows you to use the wall for other things, like windows, to enhance the appearance of your shop.
Frank Lloyd Wright famously waged war against the tyranny of the “box.” When every room is a rectangle with corners, it gets pretty boring and can feel confining. Although the space assigned for your shop may be rectangular (as all these examples were), you can take steps to make the shape more interesting. When the corners disappear, the room feels more spacious.
These shops varied the shape of one end of the room, making it round instead of square.
Who says that the floor has to be flat? Or the walls or ceiling, for that matter?
Here they made the corners vanish into darkness.
This shop got rid of the corners… and the walls and the ceiling and the floor… leaving nothing but product.
You can make your shop more interesting with a theme or motif that reflects your style and the style of your products. Here are a few interesting ones I saw:
Make the indoors outdoors – go to the beach:
If you have to use the wall, consider creating alcoves to frame your product.
Above all, make the experience of visiting your shop an interesting one for your guests. It’s a great way to make life more enjoyable in our virtual world. Your creations are and should be the center of attention. I hope this shows you some ways to make them stand out!
We speak of “real life” in contrast to the virtual world, as if the physical world is more legitimate, more authentic. The virtual world is relegated to the status of playful fantasy. A dream.
When I entered the virtual world, I dreamed the person I wanted to be. I thought I was fantasizing. Some would say I was creating a character. That it was “playing.” I thought so too.
I immersed myself into the dream. It was rich with color and feeling, alive with relationships and possibilities.
The woman I dreamed was me inhabited a boundless world. There were no constraints on her. She could be anyone she wanted to be. She didn’t become anyone. She became someone. She blossomed, becoming an authentic individual with a unique personality and style. She was not a character. She was not a fantasy.
One day, I realized that this dream person is the real me.
The physical world that my flesh and blood body inhabits is confining. I am trapped inside walls of limitation. Not only physically, but in terms of just being who I am. I have never been able to be myself in the so-called “real” world. But I didn’t even know it, until I had the opportunity to dream myself into existence in the virtual world.
There are still a few who choose to look through my virtual self, ignoring me as if I were not real, or just some kind of placeholder, or at best, dismissing me as a fantasy character. They consider my physical self to be the “real” me.
That makes me sad. Because those people have chosen to limit me. They have chosen not to see the real me.
Dream the real world with me.
Back in the 1990’s, when it was still new to many people, my work involved conducting workshops about online communication. Twenty years later, most of what I taught then is common knowledge. But there are still a few points that might usefully be revisited.
One principle is that “silence cannot be interpreted.” When we are missing information, often our imaginations fill in the blanks with our fears and suspicions. Alternatively, our imaginations might fill in the blanks by creating a fantasy of that which we wish were true. Neither tendency is reliable. Without solid clues, you can’t know what is in those blanks.
Without the cues of body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and observing real-world actions, written communication leaves out a lot of information. People feel very deep emotions through the written word and very deep connections to other people. Thoughts put into writing can go very, very deep and be very expressive. But they are still only partial.
Imagine the phrase, “Thank you,” as said by the following:
The words are the same, but the meaning behind them could not be more different in these situations. You discern the meaning—and the sincerity—not from the words, but from the non-verbal cues—cues we don’t always have available online. Without that information, our imaginations make assumptions that may or may not be correct.
Some of us compensate for this lack of information by trying to add expression to our words through emoticons, or just by writing more elaborately. That can be very helpful. Unfortunately, it can also be a trap. It’s helpful when you are communicating something genuine. It’s not so helpful when one is communicating something false.
From time to time, one will encounter a person, quite skilled in the use of language, who seems to be very friendly, courteous and kind. Sadly, based only on their words, we cannot know for sure if they are genuine. They might say to you:
At first glance, this seems to communicate warmth, and friendship. It might inspire trust. Alas, you cannot really know whether this person really is smiling softly, or if they are blank-faced, or yawning, or laughing derisively behind the screen. I hate this, because words like those above appeal to my own fantasies about warmth and kindness. I really want them to be true.
For my own self-protection, over the years I have learned not to form opinions about people online based on what they say, or how they say it. Instead, I form opinions based on what people do—how they treat people, the choices they make, the actions they take. I love words. But actions mean more.
I admit I am disappointed when I meet someone whose words project an image of kindness and nobility, but whose actions reveal them to be manipulative, self-serving and deceitful. I really want them to be that kind, warm person, and it is a big disappointment to learn otherwise.
It is far better to place my trust in someone whose real-life actions repeatedly demonstrate generosity, honesty, kindness and real caring.
Being “nice” is only a façade if it goes no deeper than words and expressions. Buying into the appearance of niceness is a great way to get hurt.