Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back on Dawkin's Ass

I want to pick on Richard Dawkins a bit more.  I don't feel a bit bad about hammering away at him time and time again because on one hand he fairly begs for the attention and on the other hand I have no quarrel with his actual scientific work, work he abandoned for his current crusade against religion.

In each of his books on religion, Dawkins justifies his crusade by saying over forty per-cent of Americans take the bible literally, and he takes this large number as a great threat because they spread their views on their children and they have, (he thinks) vast political power.

This idea that American Christians have vast political power is quite wide-spread.  You see it all over the English-speaking world, and even in the Muslim world (although they have quite a different view on it).  From reading Dawkins' books, one could get the idea there is a great pending threat coming from the Christians of the United States.

There are a number of points he omits though that I'd like to make quite clear.

First, this forty per-cent figure fluctuates wildly, and has for the last fifty years.  Asking people whether they take the bible literally covers quite a lot of ground, from the miracles of Jesus to the whale swallowing Jonah.  Whether these people believe in all these things or just some of them isn't covered in that forty per-cent figure.

Secondly, unlike Dawkins own country, the UK, the United States places a constitutional restriction on religion, preventing it from ever acquiring the power of the state.  This restriction has held strong despite its many challenges over the years, including most recently, the judge in Alabama who wanted to display the ten commandments in his court house, but was over-ruled by one of the most conservative supreme courts in decades and forced to remove them.

This separation of church and state is probably responsible for the growth of religion in the United States, which is also home to the greatest diversity in types of religion on the planet.  It fights for the concept of free thinking and free believing, which I posit is an even greater good than Dawkins' love for science.

Dawkins loves to point out that there are museums in the United States devoted to spreading the idea of creation as told in the book of Genesis as fact.  This is true, there are two larger ones and many very small ones.  I don't think Dawkins has ever visited these though or he'd know they're a rather pathetic joke.  He also fails to mention that the second largest creation museum (the one in Florida) was shut down when the owner went to jail for income tax evasion, leaving us with only the one in Kentucky to contend with.

In Dawkins' own country of the UK there are museums dedicated to garden gnomes, the Loch Ness Monster and the active practice of Druidism, but somehow he doesn't see these as an equal threat.

American Christians are politically active yes.  Dawkins sees this as a great threat to the world.  American Automobile Dealers are also politically active, as are American Diary Farmers, American Steel Workers, American Nut Growers and American Shopping Mall Owners.

Politically active American Christians have supported candidates who won (they nearly always support one or the other of the final two candidates) but they have never elected their own candidate.  Mit Romney was their man in the last presidential election and he was brushed aside by John McCain.

In his books, Dawkins clearly sees Americans as crass and backward.  We are.  We also have done more with science than any other nation in the history of the world.  Out of the U.S.A. came the electric lamp, the motion picture, the airplane, the atomic bomb, flights to the moon and mars and, most recently, the internet.

Americans may very well be crass and backwards, but we've managed to be pretty productive as well. Darwin's Evolution which Dawkins spent most of his life studying and advocating isn't in any danger from the U.S.  There are those of us in the U.S. who are quite fond of Dawkins when he applies the science he loves so much, but not quite so when he spends his days evangelizing for it.  Science has a built in evangelic system: it works, and it's fairly easy to demonstrate it works.  That's all the evangelizing any concept needs. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Paula Deen Sex Sim

OK, so I went to this voice sex place with a bunch of gay trolls.  Don't ask why.  Sometimes I just decide to take in the freak shows and this seemed like one.

So I get there and there's seven or eight people already there and the show was about to start when the trolls and me show up.  There was this bed sort of thing off to one side and, as I understood it, an orgy was about to commence.

The "orgy" consisted of two men and a woman.  Kind of a small orgy, but it was my first time so it was ok.

The first guy, let's call him Roger.  Roger works as an air traffic controller in real life and proceeded to describe his voice sex experience with precision and clarity in a perfectly monotone voice.  Never raising nor lowering his inflection he sounded, well, like anything but a guy having sex.

The second guy was grandpa.  Grandpa had already told us about his ranch and his cows and chickens and how "back in the day" he was something of a wild man, even riding a motorcycle on occasion.  Grandpa claimed to be fifty-two, but sounded more like seventy-two.  I was worried for his heart for most of the evening's performance. 

The star of the show was the girl, of course.  There are lots of women on TV I'd like to see have sex, Paula Deen isn't one of them. 

There's usually an oral element to most orgies and Paula was somehow simulating this with her voice.  I don't know if she was using a prop or something, but to me it sounded very much like every so often she was taking a great big bite out of a grinder sandwich.

At some point, I have to say that listening to Paula Deen have sex with an air traffic controller and an old crusty cowboy on SecondLife was just about as sexy as listening to Paula Deen have sex with an air traffic controller and an old crusty cowboy in real life.

I doubt if I'll go back to the voice sex joint.  In fact I may never have sex again.  There are some things you just can't un-hear.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Origin of the Universe is in Danger

For nearly a hundred years now, we've taught our children that the universe began with a naturally occurring big bang.  This idea replaced the earlier concept of God creating the universe presented in the book of Genesis.

The Big Bang theory has two principal prefaces.  The first is Christian Doppler whose work with light enabled us to tell that stars are moving away from us and in which direction.  The second preface was Albert Einstein, whose relativity equations made it possible to build mathematical models around the concept of a singularity. 

It was Georges Lemaître who, in 1927, combined his own observations with the observations of Edwin Hubble and proclaimed that the universe was universally expanding from a central point, and that, at some time in the past, the universe must have began with all its matter and energy compressed into a single spot called a singularity, which (for reasons yet unknown) exploded one day in a big bang creating the universe.

Big Bang was a beautiful and elegant theory.  Even the Pope liked it so much he offered to make it catholic dogma with a papal edict, despite it's negative conflict with the book of genesis.  Perhaps he knew people weren't going to be satisfied with "let there be light" forever.

There is a problem with the big bang theory most people don't know about though. 

Lurking in the shadows is a mathematical problem that threatens to ruin big bang as a viable theory forever.  It seems the matter and energy and velocity of the big bang must balance in a particularly sensitive way.  At one end of the balance the universe doesn't have enough energy to ignite the stars, and without the stars there can be no matter and the universe is dead.  At the other end of the scale if there is too much energy, the universe flashes out in a giant explosion at the moment of creation leaving nothing but inert cinders behind.

It turns out this balance has to be incredibly precise or we have no universe.  By precise, I mean something like 10 to the eighty-second power to one against.  In other words, our naturally occurring big bang universe is mathematically impossible without someone like God holding down the odds for us.

Scientists don't like invoking God in their business so they've come up with something called Dark Matter and Dark energy to balance the universe.  They call it "dark" because we can't see it.  We can't detect it in any way.  In fact, we have no reason at all to believe in dark matter and energy, except that without it the big bang would be impossible, which coincidentally, is precisely the same reason why others invoke God changing the odds in our favor.  Without it, we have no universe.

Another theory some scientists employ add extra dimensions to the big bang concept, as in the popular M or String Theory.  Although absolutely fascinating and beautiful and elegant, there's a fundamental problem with String Theory in that there's absolutely no proof.  It exists, at this time, as only mathematical models which might solve the problem, but only as mathematical models, we haven't managed to actually observe any of its parts.

Stephen Hawking spent the first three-fourths of his career trying to work out the Unified Field Theory to resolve problems with big bang, but in the end abandoned it in favor of M-Theory.  In his last book, The Grand Design, Hawking proclaims God is no longer necessary and the universe is something of a tremendous spiral.

The only problem is that the, long-awaited and much-acclaimed, Hawking-Hertog theory of the cosmos has precisely as much proof as the God-turns-on-the-light switch theory from Genesis, which is absolutely none.

It's a beautiful theory, and I presume absolutely functional, although, I confess, I am personally utterly incapable of doing the math myself.  I do, however, know people who are capable of doing the math, and they speak quite highly of it.

They don't like bringing God into it either.  I'm afraid they may have no choice though.

Nature is simple.  Nature is elegant.  Nature's solution to vastly complex problems is to create a vast number of simple machines, each working away at a small bit of the problem.  This is how evolution works and it works very well.

That the creation of the universe is so utterly complex that we can only observe it mathematically strongly suggests some sort of outside influence.  I wouldn't look for the popular concept of God though.  This isn't an entity who looks like man, with flowing white robes and choirs of angels.  The creator God is more likely an entity of pure math himself, an immense field of ratios and equations which holds the universe together.

God may not even be sentient, at least not in the way we are sentient.  But, until men like Stephen Hawking can show the universe created itself by wholly natural means, we very much require a God to explain it.

Just like with the origins of life, close won't do it.  Close gets us nothing but dead rock or a dead universe.  Science either must show how it was done by their means or they must accept the influence of some force outside science.  If it offends them to call this outside influence God, then call it Harrold, or Petunia or Glibbity-Glop, I don't care.  Logic still requires it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Finding Life

Evolution really is one of the greatest things human beings ever came up with.

It, quite neatly, answers many of the questions people for thousands of years used God for, so neatly that, for people like Richard Dawkins, God has become quite unnecessary.

Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist.  I consider myself an evolutionist, although not nearly as well studied as Dawkins.

While evolution does a great job at explaining the breadth and depth and diversity of life on earth in a way that makes God quite unnecessary, there is an important step that both Dawkins and Darwin rarely ever mention, a step so important that it threatens to bring God back into the equation, that is: once you have a genome evolution explains it all, but how do you get a genome?  How do you get life from non-life?

There are a number of theories on this, but if you're dealing with an honest scientist he'll admit none of them are quite complete and have a number of short comings, among them are:

Whatever theory you have on the origin of life, they all lack evidence.  While we have evidence for any number of, what we consider, very primitive life forms, they're still life forms, we don't have any fossil or contemporary evidence explaining how they came from lifeless chemicals.

Similarly, and most confoundedly, whatever caused life to come from non-life, it seems to have stopped happening.  If it were a natural process, you'd think we could witness it happening even now, but we don't.

There have been a number of, what were thought at the time, very likely candidates, but they all proved insufficient.

One was lightning.  During the electric age of Tesla and Edison, many scientists believed life arose from lighting striking the ocean, and indeed lighting on water does some very remarkable things to the chemistry of the water, but it doesn't produce life.

Another likely, more recent, candidate was the volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean.  These were very promising because the local chemistry and the temperature and the water pressure produced something very like amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of the genome. 

The phenomenon was studied closely for almost fifty years, but there was a problem, creating chemicals very like amino acids was as close as it got, there were no further developments after that, no chain leading to life.  If life once came from these deep-water volcanic vents, it's not happening now.

Even more recently, a tantalizing meteorite from Mars revealed evidence for what might have been genetic material within it.  Perhaps we don't see evidence for the beginning of life here on Earth because it didn't happen on Earth, it came here from outer space.  Perhaps life was seeded  here, accidentally by natural forces or intentionally by intelligent extra terrestrial beings.

That's still not an answer though, it just moves the question of how life began from here to Mars.  Whatever it was must have happened there.

Until we can answer the question of how life arose from non-life, it might be premature to dismiss the concept of a creator God.  Many scientists, like Dawkins, would answer me saying, science may not have these answers now, but they have complete faith it will develop them.  I would argue, that this faith in science answering all questions is not all-together different from religious people who believe God will one day answer all questions.  Perhaps it will, but don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

The story in Genesis of God creating life from dust is unlikely in the highest degree, but, for the moment, it comes as close to an explanation as science does.  Perhaps the Genesis story works, not as a scientific delineation for creating life (which bronze age people lacked the ability to understand anyway) but a metaphoric explanation meant for the ages.

We know that life came from dust or water or mud or some simple lifeless matter, but we don't know how.  Perhaps calling the process, whatever it is, the breath of God is as close as we're going to get for a while, and even when we do one day know how it happened, can you really say it wasn't the hand of God doing it?

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Moment of Hesitation and Regret

I've been feeling a bit guilty about my decision to mute most Australians on sight.

It's a whole continent of people, after all, with their own culture...surely they can't be that bad.  It's not even that they're "bad" so much as they're just so stupid and vacuous and childish and boorish and brutish.

I came to the decision after hearing Cane pretend to be Kurt Cobain, again and hearing Slick beat his wife, again and concluded that there were somethings I just didn't need to hear.

So I'm in Korea 1 and I hear this bogan pipe up, and I hesitated.  "We'll see how this goes", I thought and didn't mute him.

I should have known better.  Whiskey the guido public deficator was there complaining nobody would bake him a lasagna, so the tone was already set.

I hesitated and because I hesitated I found myself hearing this bogan describe how he gave his ex-girlfriend a dirty sanchez in about as much detail as his limited vocabulary allowed..

There are some things I just don't need to ever hear.  I shoulda muted this idiot at the first notes of his Crocodile Dundee accent, but I didn't, but I didn't and was punished for my lack of resolve by having to hear about his less than hygienic amorous activity.

Not all antipodeans are worthy of the insta-mute feature.  Some of them are quite cleaver.  I've gotten pretty good at predicting which are and which aren't, now I just need to stick to my guns and act on it more quickly.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Richard Dawkins vs Ben Stein Death Match

Usually when you see Richard Dawkins arguing with a person of faith the cards are stacked decidedly in his favor.

It's, perhaps, to our discredit that most people of faith in the modern world aren't trained as thinkers or in the art of discourse.  These people, armed only with their dogma, generally fall like plastic ducks at a shooting gallery before Dawkins.

Ben Stein is another matter though.  Trained as a lawyer he confronts Dawkins for his film "Expelled".

I admit this clip is heavily weighted in Stein's favor since he has the power to edit out anything showing Dawkins taking the upper hand, but it's still good to finally see someone who can turn the argument back on Dawkins who's grown accustom to always winning these confrontations.

I would love to see these two go at it without either side editing the results.  So far I haven't been able to find a recording of it though.

Stein here pulls out all the stops of good lawyering, including arriving late to Dawkins' "deposition" to set him on edge.  The rest of "Expelled" offers far less to support Stein's argument for the scientific exploration of intelligent design.

In this clip, Stein argues not for the existence of God (for which he has no proof), but against Dawkins' claim there is no God (for which there is also no proof).  On the surface this may seem like equal arguments, but Stein forces Dawkins to try and prove a negative, which is impossible.

For example: I can say there is an absolute vacuum inside this jar on my desk.  My only proof for this is that you cannot show there is any matter inside the jar. 

Dawkins' argument is similar.  He says there is no God inside my jar, and challenges me to prove that there is, knowing I cannot.  Positing that there is no God inside my jar because I can't prove there is only proves that I haven't the means of detecting God, not that my jar is empty.

His argument is something of a bluff.  He can only posit my jar is empty so long as I am unable to prove anything in it.  Intellectually we're at a standoff and can go no further.

For some people that's enough though.  For them, not being able to show something exists means it doesn't.

The fallacy is obvious though.  A dark room seems completely empty until you trip over the couch you didn't see because the room was dark.  Because you couldn't see anything in the room only proved it was dark, not that the room was empty.

More Ghosts

There are currently three ghosts in Hanja.  One has been there for over a week.  Re-starts don't seem to fix it this time.

The server software in Hanja, Hangeul and Gukeyol is RC Magnum, with Idu reserved for a special version of the server code that enables people using the web client to rez there.

The snowstorm development process apparently causes Linden Labs to break some things as they fix others.  I suppose that was predictable.  The good news is that, with snowstorm, they're offering updates and fixes on a near weekly basis so whatever they break should resolve itself sooner rather than later.

In other news: 

Ratcloner has returned to SecondLife and he's out for revenge.  Ratcloner wants W-Hat to suffer the same fate as Woodbury and lose their virtual land holdings.  Why he wants this is something of a mystery since his mental processes don't work like other people.

Boogar-nose has apparently given up on the rouse that he's written his own destruct-o client and now says he's gotten hold of Onyx which he's using to (wait for it) ... crash sims. 

I don't think you have to be retarded to repeatedly crash sims, but it sure seems to help.

On the bright side:

Some of the more annoying people from Moose Beach have decided to spend their time at the new "info hub" built by the guy who was taking his daily bowel movement on mic at Moose.  God bless them, every one.  Perhaps they can arrange some sort of group ablution.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More on Assange

Further details about the sex charges against Julian Assange came out last week.  It turns out they are both more complex and legitimate than originally stated.

Assange stands accused of not forcing sex on a woman but of not using contraception when she asked him to.  This sounds like a nightmare of he said/she said complications to me, but it's statutory law in Sweden so they kind of brought it on themselves.

Rape is a special case in most cultures.  It's one of the most serious crimes, but one that leaves almost nothing considered traditional evidence, making it difficult to prosecute.  Many times there is simply no evidence other than the accusation itself.

Feminists will tell you that women never falsely accuse men of rape, yet more objective studies show somewhere between three and twenty per-cent of rape accusations are false with the broad range of that figure as a testament to just how difficult it is to get to the truth of the matter.

The motive for false accusations range anywhere from revenge to greed to regret to simple emotional or psychological confusion.  A example of psychological confusion would be the woman on SecondLife who accused another SL user of raping her by astral projection.

It's hard to say how much trouble Assange is in here.  Some pro feminist systems prevent defense lawyers from attacking the credibility of the accuser.  In a case where the accusation is the only form of evidence offered, not being able to challenge the accuser might render it nearly impossible for someone like Assange to defend himself.

We do know the woman accusing him once made a series of blog posts speculating on how to falsely accuse a man of rape, but whether that can be offered as evidence defending Assange remains to be seen.

My gut feeling is that Sweeden is a pretty sane country and they should be able to work this out in a reasonable manner, but there's almost no way to prevent it from being a circus, particularly when groups like anonymous get involved.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lawyers Suck

Most people don't remember the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Back in the 1980's, Ronald Reagan fostered a plan to de-regulate the financial sector.  I (and many others) maintain that the final act of this drama was the financial collapse of 2007.  To date we  have yet to do anything to restore adequate safeguards on the world's financial systems destroyed by Reagan.

One of the first victims of this de-regulation was the Savings and Loan sector, which by 1990 was nearly 100% destroyed.  Depositors in the S&L's lost billions, so congress commissioned a corporation made of lawyers to try and recover some of this money.

Once created, the RTC began systematically suing anyone ever associated with the hundreds of collapsed Savings and Loans that still had money, the vast majority of which were absolutely innocent of any wrong-doing.  Included in their attacks was future (now former) president George W Bush (who, thanks to his political connections, settled his RTC suit for a mere $50,000).

The RTC contracted private lawyers all over the country to prosecute their claims costing billions of dollars.  In the end, the RTC recovered only slightly more than the expenses they incurred and none of the injured S&L depositors for whom the act purported to protect saw a dime, despite the billions made by law firms across the country.

In 2009, Bernard Madoff was arrested for running a ponzi scheme (a scheme which would have been impossible had Reagan not de-regulated the financial sector) leaving his many investors empty handed.

Enter lawyer Irving Piccard, who on the behalf of Madoff investors who lost money began suing... Madoff investors who lost money.

You might ask, "why would people hire this guy to sue themselves?"   They didn't, the court authorized his actions as part of a class action.  You, as a private citizen, have no choice but to be part of the class if the court says so.

So, Lawyer Piccard sues these people, many of which lost everything they invested in Madoff, on the premise that when the fund was in business, they made profits on it, with the promise that, in the end, the money will be redistributed fairly amongst the injured, less (of course) Piccard's vast legal expenses.

In other words, they pay out the ass and get nothing in return while Piccard makes millions (if not billions).

Way to make the victims pay twice courts.

Most people aren't going to care very much about this story.  Most of Madoff's victims were already wealthy, even if they lost the bulk of their life's savings in his scheme.   I've written for years about how the system of class-action law in this country is broadly and obviously corrupt, but most people really don't care much because it's mostly successful, wealthy people who are sued while the working class and lower middle class are the ones who might one day receive a share of the proceeds after the lawyers take most of it.

Maybe they're right.  Maybe it doesn't matter very much if a bunch of rich old people get screwed over twice.  If there's anything you take from this article though, remember this, Ronald Reagan didn't do you any favors.  Most of the hardships we now face lay at his feet.  He was a stupid, corrupt man and I hope one day people will realize it.  Oh yeah, lawyers suck.  Remember that part too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Using the Mute List

I've noticed broad differences between what I'm willing to accept in real life and SecondLife. 

There have been many times when I've wondered: with all I've seen and done in life, why am I sitting on the computer listening to this bullshit?

To try and bring SecondLife and real life into more of a balance, I've decided to make better use of the mute feature.  From today forward I will add the following to my mute list:

  • Stupid people
  • Insane people
  • People who are drunk/stoned beyond the point of logical comprehension
  • Trolls who aren't funny
  • Tittering adolescents
  • Most Australians

If you speak to me and get no response, check and see if you're somewhere on the list.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The End of the World

To listen to many modern christian evangelists, one might think christian thought focused on the idea of the world ending soon through the ages.  That's simply not true.  There have been only two periods where Christians focused, in the beginning and fairly recently.

The modern focus on the Apocalypse began in the 19th century with the Dispensationalism movement.

They took bits and pieces from all over the bible and put together an elaborate mosaic describing what they believed were imminent events, culminating in the destruction of the modern world, replacing it with what they called "the Kingdom of God".

While their version of the Apocalypse doesn't match what we see in the bible itself, they believe their concept is blessed and biblical because it's made up of pieces from the bible.

This focus on the end of the world proved very popular with evangelists and still is today.  Its popularity lead to the development of several doomsday and suicide cults, including The Great Disappointment in 1844 when thousands of followers of William Miller gave away all their belongings and sat on a mountain top awaiting the return of Jesus, only to realize they were duped when the day came and the world didn't end.

A lot of people would take this as proof that Christianity and the bible aren't very valid models of thought, and indeed you don't hear believers discuss these things very often.

I think it's important for believers to know these things though to warn them away from the many logical pitfalls faith can lead you into.  If the prophesies on the end of the world were literal, they would have happened by now, which means logical Christians must assume these parts of the bible mean something other than the obvious, including the possibility that they were never valid predictions of the future at all.

The book we call Revelations is a beautiful, remarkable piece, written by someone who is obviously very devote, that it doesn't actually foretell the future is no shame on it.  The shame is ours for not applying our beautiful minds and remembering that no man can tell the future.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From Fonzie

Waterfalls told me she heard I'd hired lawyers to stalk Leslie so I could be Fonzie on the internet, and I should blog about it because she wasn't going to fall for it like those others.

With all those crazy, unrelated memes I kinna thought I'd be able to come up with something clever to say...but I got nothing.  It's too far out there even for me.  It's good to know these two are working together though, it should produce much fruit in the future.

It should be noted this conversation took place in Violet rather than her Ahern throne which has been full of nothing but noobs and foreigners for weeks, so maybe her batteries weren't properly charged.

She says I disappointed her as a leader.  The new leader over at Moose Beach likes to take a crap with his microphone on, so maybe not being a leader is kind of a good sign.

In other news, Stefanos has his own blog now.  Stefanos, you'll remember, came to Hanja dressed as a giant, three-headed, abortion to discuss the new fox hunting laws in the UK.  From a preliminary scan, his blog makes about as much sense. 

That's about all for now.  Stay cool kids, Eyyyyyeeeeeee!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wikileaks and Truth

There's no particular reason to believe any of the documents published by Wikileaks.

They guarantee protection of their sources so we'll never know who the document came from. If they have a vetting process or journalistic standards, they refuse to divulge it.

For all we know, these documents could be typed up as a joke by stoned seventeen-year-olds in-between games of Team Fortress, and yet many people accept their veracity without question.

When Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks found himself accused of raping a sleeping person (he must suck as a rapist) people all over the world assumed it was "the man" retaliation for all the stuff published on Wikileaks.

There are some important differences between Assange and the people damaged by Wikileaks though.

Unlike the people on his website, Assange has the right to face his accuser.  He has the right to cross-examine her evidence and testimony to verify or refute it.  He also has the right to appear before a judge and a jury of his peers, who will probably (based on what I've read of the charges) exonerate him.

It's often very hard to find the truth of any given situation.  That's why we have things like courts, trials and journalistic standards.  I have a hell of a lot more confidence in the ability of the Swedish judicial system in determining the legitimacy of these charges against Assange than I have in the ability of Wikileaks to verify the legitimacy of any of the documents on their site. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our Gang

Often cited as an example of the terrible things that happen to child actors, some of the veterans of the Hal Roach Our Gang series did have unhappy lives, but most went on to have pretty happy and successful lives after the series.

Joining the cast at age two, George McFarland who played "Spanky" was one of the most popular and memorable of the Little Rascals. Some biographers include him among the kids with a tragic outcome, but that's simply not true.

McFarland went on to work in local television for several years, but eventually settled on sales as a career and was pretty happy. After retirement, McFarland was a popular featured guest at many film conventions and enjoyed meeting his many fans from around the world. McFarland was in no way connected with the band "Spanky and Our Gang".

Below is a clip from a 1993 episode of Cheers where McFarland plays himself avoiding an encounter with Cliff Clavern.

Below is an incident I had forgotten about. Billie Thomas played "Buckwheat" in over three dozen Our Gang shorts.  After returning from WWII, Thomas had no interest in acting but worked for many years as a technician in the famous Technicolor motion picture film developing plant.

He died in 1980, but by 1990 a man in Arizona surfaced claiming to be him.  Below is a clip of Spanky McFarland confronting the fake Buckwheat on ABC

I don't feel bad for the guy exposed for not being the real Buckwheat, but in his little Arizona town, kids loved the idea that they could see the real Buckwheat at their mom's grocery store.

McFarland probably wouldn't have exposed the guy, but Eddie Murphy was doing an impression of Buckwheat at the time on SNL that really upset Thomas' family and the other surviving members of the cast, so he wasn't very willing to let another pretender walk all over his friend's legacy.

Watch Spanky, Buckwheat, Alfalfa and Porky in the 1936 short "Spooky Hooky"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Movie Meme of the Day : Lame Satanists

When Anton LaVey invented the Church of Satan, he intended it to be a rather theatrical endorsement of atheism.  He put Satan on the throne of his church, not to battle a God who would control us, but the religious right that controls so much of the world as we know it.

It was satire.  He was trying to be clever.  A bit too clever though, because some of his followers lost sight of the joke and started believing in the thing as if it were real.

In the clip from the History Chanel below, one of Lavey's followers puts a curse on somebody.  His words are bitter, painful, and yet, hauntingly beautiful -- and for me pretty familiar.

Below is a clip from the 1964 film The Seven Faces of Dr Lao, where Tony Randall as Apollonius tells the sad future of a shallow woman. LaVey didn't start his church until 1966 so clearly those pesky satanists stole their cursing ceremony from the George Pal Film.  I bet none of them even have a clue.

In case you're worried the film is all like the dark scene above, consider this one a little later, again with Tony Randall, this time playing Dr Lao explaining how there is magic in everyone's life.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The New Religion

The other day, the topic came up at the Hanja Discussion group of "Has Scientific Athieism Become a Religion".  In this article, I'd like to discuss at least one area where it clearly has.

For many people, science destroyed their religion so they let science replace it with another.

For most of them, the vague sense that there are intelligent aliens out there simply replaced the idea that one day Jesus might return to earth. While most aren't particularly into it, polls clearly show that in the English-speaking world, more people believe in intelligent life off the earth than believe in God.

With the publication of his 1968 book, Chariots of the Gods?, Erich von Däniken was the first to suggest that the aliens and our ancient religions were actually the same thing.

For millions of people wanting to switch from "bad" magical thinking to "good" scientific thinking, Von Daniken's book couldn't have come at a better time.  He, quite cleverly, took many of the most notable artifacts of our religious past (the Pyramids, Stonehenge, the Sphinx, The Bible) and re-purposed them to support his U.F.O religion.

Some of these artifacts, like the Sphinx, already had a long history of getting new meaning every time a new religion moved into town.

U.F.O. religions had a distinct advantage over traditional religions in that the new ultimate priestly authority on these matters was science, and although scientists themselves poo-pooed UFO "evidence" as swamp-gas, weather-balloons and the like, they had to admit, at least, that it was possible, indeed likely there were other intelligent beings out there (whether they ever bothered to contact us or not.)

High Priest Carl Sagan Holds one of the
Pioneer Gold Plaques prior to lift-off.
They even made quite a show of their own search for the intelligent aliens and from their radio telescopes, as grand and impressive as any temple, they listened hard to the blips and boops of space for the unmistakable message of "we're here!" that one day must come from our neighbors.

They even went so far to fashion gold plaques with messages of greeting attached to our Pioneer satellites, knowing it would be millions of years before the satellites passed close enough to a foreign planet to be discovered.

There is no logical, scientific reason to waste precious satellite fuel with these heavy gold plaques.  The odds that ET will ever see them are actually greater than the odds that an omnipotent God might hear the prayer of a lonely child somewhere on this troubled planet, and yet we persisted with the practice with each of the Pioneer vessels, and nearly all of its successors, including the Cassini–Huygens exploratory craft.  This was not a scientific practice, but a religious one.

Though the scientific establishment ripped von Däniken's work apart, they clearly supported his first premise that there is intelligent life out there and that was priestly authority enough for him to make millions of dollars off the idea.  To date he has published some twenty-six sequel books to Chariots of the Gods? translated into dozens of languages, and he even has an ancient astronaut theme park in Switzerland.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Last Conspiracy

From their deep hidden stasis chambers, the Nephalim began to stir.  The hour is at hand.  They shall return.

Five thousand years ago they retreated to these places, waiting, planning, for the day they would rule again.

As the preserving disulphide mist dissipated around his giant body, Lucifros, king of the Nephalim contacts his brethren by radio.

"Is all prepared for our rise to the surface, my brothers?"  He asks.

"NO!" Shouts Vulcan.  "I don't know how to explain it.  These human assholes have nearly destroyed the Ozone layer on this planet!  It will take us at least a thousand years to rebuild it.  We can't live here under these conditions, the skin will bake off our bones."

Lucifros sends out the order: "Prepare the escape pods.  Rendezvous on planet X.  We will reform our strategy there."

From deep within his secret Flemish bunker, the Grand Master of the Illuminati transmits a signal to his co-conspirators.  Video shows disc-shaped vessels accelerating out of earth orbit.

"Preliminary reports show a hunnert percent success rate.  All of our enemies have retreated to their dark little asteroid.

"Congratulations Grand Master Bush.."

"Couldn't have done it without you, brother Kissinger."

As a computer projection draws the telemetry lines of all the Nephalim vessels making their way to the furthest reaches of the Solar System, the Grand Master sips his brandy.  "See ya in a thousand years, assholes."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Greatest Griefer Ever

Griefers are so proud of the stuff they come up with to mess up SecondLife, but they completely ignore one basic fact everyone knows:  SecondLife barely works to begin with, so coming up with ways to break it is kind of like fighting your way out of a wet paper bag.

That's not to say Linden Labs shouldn't be proud of what they've accomplished here.  After all, SecondLife is far and above all their competitors as a technical achievement.  Riding the crest of the wave is never a stable place to be though.  Often they're dealing with technology that's just a few years old if that, so, of course there's going to be tons of ways to make it go astray.

One of the most popular means of griefing has always been to simply rez a cube, then put a script in it so the cube replicates itself, then map some sort of stupid image on it from 4chan or, add annoying sound and you're done.  Instant grief.  Infantile fun for infantile minds.

They say they do it because they're bored.  That's probably true.  Adolescent minds are almost always bored.  I've always been annoyed by the people who somehow believed it was our responsibility to give them things to do to keep them from being bored.  That mindset is probably why adolescents see malls, parking lots, and SecondLife as an offering to the god of their boredom and gives them license to trash it.

What's great about SecondLife though is restoration from any grief takes only a few seconds, if you have estate powers.  Now finding somebody with estate powers can sometimes take a while, especially if it's mainland and you have to find a Linden, but once you find somebody who can make the magic buttons work, normality is just moments away.

Recently Boogar-Nose asks that I write something and call him the greatest griefer ever.  I wouldn't mind really.  Seeing how easy it is to mess up SecondLife, being the greatest griefer ever is kind of like winning the sack race at the Extra Special Olympics.  He is kind of retarded, so maybe Greatest Griefer Ever wouldn't be such a bad title.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Three Trollateers

In his novels of the Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas begins each story with the famous friends at odds with one another but manage to come together again to defeat a common enemy.

SecondLife once had its own version of the Three Musketeers, only they aren't french cavaliers, they're trolls.

Traveling the sims of cyberspace, many residents still bear the rapier scars of Waterz, Constance and Rachel.

Like the french swordsmen, their differing troll styles worked perfectly in concert with the other two making the trio nearly unassailable.

No troll union lasts forever though, and somewhere along the way Constance got drunk one night and decided to troll her mates.  As a result she was banished from the trio and is now a favorite target of the other two.

I have to suspect though, just like Porthos, Athos and Aramis, the Three Trollateers of SecondLife will one day come together again when a sufficiently distasteful common enemy arises.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Peter Greenaway on the Future of Cinema

In a recent speech at the judging of SecondLife Machinima, Peter Greenaway tells us that cinema is already dead, and media like SecondLife is its inheritor.

I would love to refute Greenaway's requiem for the cinema, proclamations of its death were premature before, often just before extremely productive periods like the film boom of the seventies.

This time though, the patient may really be terminal.  I read recently where something like eighty percent of all cinemas ever built are now either abandoned or demolished, with another ten percent converted to other uses, that leaves us with less than ten percent still showing movies.

Overall, movie attendance is way down, even though revenue is up slightly due to the increase in ticket prices for 3-D films.

It's particularly unfortunate because it took us about a hundred years to learn how to use the concept of motion pictures and develop a language for it, and now its most remarkable and beautiful venue teeters on the brink of oblivion. 

As many blissful hours as I have spent sitting in the dark with strangers, I'm afraid my grandchildren will never have the same experience.  Cinema will probably go the way of Opera, preserved as a revival in a few municipal centers, but unavailable to most of the world.

As for the second half of Greenaway's prediction, I have felt for quite a while that the future of the motion picture probably lies in video game like formats and services like YouTube.

Recently, Peter Jackson remade the 1933 original King Kong.  His production stands as a testament to the use of digital technology for motion pictures, technology originally developed for video games.  His production of King Kong exists only because Donkey Kong came before it.

Greenaway says he's disappointed with the entries he was given to judge in the machinima contest, but he offers no guidance or clues on how to make better entries for the next contest.

At some point I'd like to say that, although Greenaway has said many times how much potential he sees in SecondLife as an art form, he doesn't seem to be using it very much as an artist.  I've seen his name attached as a consultant on a number of pieces, but never as the principal artist.

With his training in painting and cinema, I would think he has the ability, but perhaps lacks training in how to use the tools.

I agree with Greenaway that virtual reality can be the next big thing in art, but we're lacking the few key artists to make it possible.  That's not to say there aren't any at all.  There are some people I would consider giants in these early years of virtual reality as an art form.  People like AM Radio, for instance, or Rachel Breaker.

Perhaps Greenaway is wrong and the future of the medium is not machinima, but rather the experience of being in the virtual spaces live.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Troll Pet

From their behavior, many people might get the idea that trolls are devoid of human emotion, that's simply not true.

The trolls of Violet, for instance, have so much love in them they've gone out and gotten pets for themselves.

Now, troll pets aren't the cats and dogs most of us enjoy.  The trolls of Violet have a pet alcoholic.

Xanna is her name, and she's nearly the perfect troll pet.

Like a dog, Xanna is trained to speak when offered treats.  The treats, in this case, come in the form of attention scraps, which Xanna so dearly loves she'll do nearly anything to have them.

You can't call her vocalizations actual human speech though.  They're more like growls and burps and bits of bible verses.

A favorite stupid pet trick for the Violet trolls is to get Xanna on tinychat where she will pull up her shirt to expose her long flaccid breasts or fall asleep on camera.

Troll pets don't seem to live very long though.  Their last pet, named "ratcloner" was trained to insert vegetables in his rectum, which he then ate with glee. 

I'm not sure what happened to Ratcloner.  I heard the Humane Society rescued him and he's now living in a laboratory where they test chemicals for the cosmetics industry.  That may sound like a tough gig but it beats having your "friends" talk you into eating butt carrots.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cops Agree Abba Sucks

A small but villigant police force protects Parktown from the vagrants and other troublemakers in SecondLife.

Last nights patrol was interrupted by an alien encounter.  Officer Clark Restful and his K9 Companion Wild Faith meet a man from fart.

[20:36]  wild Faith: Alerts to a stranger.

[20:37]  wild Faith hears footsteps on the roof
[20:38]  Clark Restful: ok back
[20:38]  wild Faith: (wb)
[20:38]  wild Faith: Alerts to a stranger.
[20:38]  Clark Restful: Hello Hinderer
[20:38]  Clark Restful: easy faith
[20:38]  Clark Restful: how are you
[20:38]  Clark Restful: good deal
[20:38]  wild Faith stops barking and looks at clark
[20:38]  Clark Restful: same here
[20:39]  Clark Restful: yes she is a great dog
[20:39]  wild Faith wags her tail
[20:39]  Clark Restful: by the way I am trooper Restfal

Oh Yeah, Abba Sucks

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Princess Cupcake The Troll

Most trolls don't survive long in captivity.  If leg restraints are used, they will gladly chew off their own foot to escape.  One specimen, named "MonkeyCheese" bled to death after chewing off both hands and the wrong foot trying to escape.

We were very lucky with the troll we came to know as "Princess Cupcake".  Stranded alone after Booger-Nose crashed the sim, we captured Cupcake without event.  We took it as a sign she had the will to survive when, after her first forty-eight hours in captivity, Cupcake demanded "You niggers got any food up in here?"

Cupcake was a healthy middle-aged female.  You could tell she whelped at least one troll pup because her breasts were thin and dangled like hanged men.  It wasn't unusual to capture her without her pup though since trolls are well-known for eating their young if they get bored.

The first primatologists we brought in to study Cupcake was something of a disaster. 

"Who's this faggot?"  Cupcake demanded.  "What the fuck is wrong with your avatar you Aussie piece of Crap?  Do you even have a job?"  Dr. Blinkman resigned after Cupcake defecated into her own hand hand threw it at him.

Barbara Godwin was different though.  Studied under Jane Goodall and Dianne Fossey, Godwin held the controversial theory that trolls don't use their voice for communication at all, but rather as a defense mechanism like the quills of a porcupine or the spray of a skunk.

"Who's this bitch?" Cupcake demanded.  "Where's your real life picture?  What's with your ears bitch? Can you fly with those?"

Godwin remained still and determined.

Eventually Cupcake grew to accept the presence beyond her cage bars as Godwin moved a little closer each day.

"To communicate with a troll", Godwin calculated, "you must provide them with some means of communicating besides their voice, which is solely reserved for defense, or rather offense."  Citing similar studies with gorillas, Godwin decided to try and teach Cupcake American Sign Language, with some success.

"Cupcake lonely" Cupcake signed one day.  Separated from her own kind and ignored for long hours in her cage while scientists watched Jersey Shore, it wasn't surprising to discover Cupcake felt the pangs of her isolation.

Again, citing studies with gorillas, Godwin tried giving Cupcake a kitten to keep her company.  You could almost see the smile on the trolls distorted face when she held her kitten.  She stroked it's downy fur with her stubby troll fingers.  Trolls aren't very coordinated though, and often don't know their own strength, so Cupcake soon pulled the head off her cute playmate.

Dejected, she sat in the corner of her cage playing with her own feces.  "Fagot Kitten" she mumbled over and over.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Human Oddities

Sometimes I wonder where this whole internet thing is going.

There are people who, for some reason, like to search for the most disgusting thing they can find on the internet, then send you a link.  Why would you do that?

Even worse, they can tell you, "check out this link, it's the most disgusting thing I ever saw!" and, like idiots, we still look.

It's very common.  For instance: how many of you have seen the blue waffles picture or the two girls-one cup video?  You even knew beforehand it was going to be stomach-turning gross, but you still looked.  There are whole websites devoted to this phenomenon.

I guess it's the modern day version of freak shows, or maybe exposing ourselves to the horrible and disgusting makes us appreciate the beautiful even more or maybe we've just grown so calloused we'll do anything just to feel some sort of emotional reaction.

We do it on SecondLife too.  You can go somewhere and say "don't go to Korea1, there's the most disgusting, annoying person ever there" and half the room will teleport to Korea1 to see for themselves.

I generally try not to fall into this trap.  If somebody says it's disgusting, I'll take their word for it.  As a consequence I've never actually seen the two girls-one cup video-only heard about it.  I've been sent the link probably a hundred times, but never followed it.

There's a pretty good reason for it too.  I have very high visual recall, sometimes called a photographic memory, which means if I see something once, there's a chance the image remains fresh in my mind forever, and there are some things I just don't want to remember forever.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Video Game Cheaters

In the early years of PC Games, it usually took just a day or two after the release of a new game for cheats, exploits and walk-throughs to start showing up on the message boards.  There were whole BBS systems and USNet groups dedicated to them (and eventually websites).

I used to think "wow, these guys are amazingly fast at figuring these out." 

That's not what happened though.  The game designers themselves were building the cheats and exploits into the game and releasing them to the message systems themselves.

The idea was this: Even though they haven't accomplished anything tangible, people get a pleasurable sense of accomplishment out of beating a video game.  They get frustrated easily though and since the stakes are fairly low, they're very willing to abandon the game if they get stuck.

To make sure nobody gets stuck, the developers put out the cheats, exploits and walk-throughs to get them through the rough spots.

It was a vital step to the success of a game and (pretty much) everybody used them and since the game was just between you and your computer, nobody considered video game cheating a matter of honor, and the seeking out and collecting of cheats and exploits became a principal part of video game culture.

A problem developed though with the introduction of networked games like Doom.  Suddenly it wasn't you vs. your computer any more, it was you vs other real people who might get pissed if they found out you played the game in god mode or some other cheat.

In the beginning, it was something of a gentleman's agreement not to cheat in networked game play.  You can imagine how that went.  Pretty soon, the designers who put cheats and exploits into games were figuring out ways to engineer them back out of the game in network mode.

The server operators also developed ways to keep people out of the game who were known cheaters and the ban hammer was born.

Players were often fairly good coders themselves though, so they soon found ways to put the cheats and exploits back into the game (along with a few new ones) and engineer themselves a way around the ban hammer.

Users brought this culture of cheating and counter cheating and counter-counter cheating with them when they started using social applications with game like qualities like The Palace and SecondLife.

You would think, in a social application, there wasn't really any opportunity to cheat, but people found ways.

What we call CopyBot was called Avatar Stealing in The Palace, which always amused me since the Palace didn't have an economic system and all avatars were free anyway.

SecondLife does have an economic system though, so Linden Labs spent huge chunks of time and effort chasing down and eliminating cheats related to it.

The most cheats though came in the form of ways to annoy other users.  At first glance, you might wonder why anybody would want to do that, but in a live social application, intentionally annoying other people has vast implications on the social interactions, so "griefing" these became a major activity.

People who come from a video game background recognize it immediately.  It's the people who came to SecondLife without passing through that part of computer culture who take it as a threat.

Nobody intentionally developed this culture of cheating.  It came about for fairly logical and reasonable reasons.  It's moving it from the circumstance of one man vs his machine to man vs man where we got into trouble, and it's going to take a long time to work out a reasonable and reliable way of dealing with it.

When you see spinning cubes of goatse death flying past your sim, just remember it's part of computer history and video game culture and try not to get upset.

Traveling Circus

There was a short time, a brief, shining moment, when the Trolls of Ahern found solace and peace in Violet.

They got along.  They talked in normal tones without yelling.  It was nice.  But it was not to last.

Left behind (intentinally I would guess) the rest of the Ahern circus felt lonely and rejected, so they followed the Trolls to Violet, and brought the cacophony with them.

Soon the peaceful, Asian pergola of Violet rang out with cries of cat rape, missing tampons and every possible degradation of real life photos.  Crappy music from four different people at once, Arabs, Asians and several variations on Niggah, The peace was broken. 

You can't reason with a cacophony, it only wants more noise. Violet was sanctuary no more.

I don't really know what happens from here.  If the Trolls move again, the circus will only just follow them again. 

It's doubtful I'll follow the story if it moves.  I only came across it this time because Violet was already in my rotation of places to visit.

Sometimes I wonder if  human beings really just aren't ready yet for all the things the internet makes possible, but all this has happened before and will happen again.  It happens every time there's a frontier. 

There are more and more people now who never lived without an internet, as they grow up, they will probably be the ones who learn to experience it without driving each other nuts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Troll Meter

Since SecondLife isn't a game, there aren't really any power levels or energy points to keep track of, unless you wear some sort of gimmicked hud for something kinda lame like vampires or Gor.

There is, however, a level everyone uses in SecondLife that's actually too complelx and too subtle to represent with a computer graphic.  It's the Troll-Meter.

The Troll-Meter measures how much people on SecondLife can and will make fun of you.  The best score is 100 and the lowest score is 0.

A person, new to SecondLife, starts off with a score of 50.  It's 50 because there are lots of people who will make fun of them just for being new.  As they learn to use the interface and understand the complex currents of social insanity, their score gradually increases.

There are some things that lower the sore, like:
  • being stupid
  • having a speech impediment
  • habitual drug or alcohol abuse
  • unattractiveness
  • variance from English standard western culture
  • pride, vanity, hubris
  • bad singing
  • bad joke telling
  • inappropriate or lame sexual activity
  • boasting or lying about things other people know a lot more about
  • joining the bandwagon
  • not joining the bandwagon
  • and many more

People pick up on these things and troll you about them to lower your self-esteem.  Allowing your self-esteem to be lowered also lowers your Troll-Meter score.

The Troll-Meter doesn't actually enhance the SecondLife experience in any way, but because it exists, some people slavishly tend to it, comparing their score to others and trolling everyone they can in an attempt to raise their own.  Trolling others doesn't actually raise one's own Troll-Meter score though, it just makes you feel better about it.

As your score lowers, other people begin to troll you almost compulsively.  I guess they don't want to be the last person on the grid to join the fun of trolling person X.

Some people, like Harrison Digfoot or Jonny Rumsford,  have a Troll-Meter score so low they can hardly go anywhere on SecondLife without being trolled.  Their only possible refuge at this point is a place like Heather's Welcome Area, which actually probably wouldn't be a bad idea for either of them.  It is possible to love somebody back to a healthy troll-meter score, but that kind of love is pretty scarce in most places for most people.

The other day, Harrison TP'ed into a place, and a woman who'd never seen him before began to troll him, simply because others were and, being a social creature, she figured joining in the troll might raise her own Troll-Meter score.

A friend of mine tried to point out the obvious to this woman, that having never seen or heard of Harrison before, she had no reason to troll him, but it went completely over her head.  She even tried to get Harrison to sing, thinking (since he's a fairly good musician) it would stem the flow of troll-hate toward him, but, to no avail, all they did was troll his singing ability.

There is one thing that pretty much always raises your Troll-Meter score.  That is: not giving a shit. 

Not, saying you "give no shits", but then responding by trolling back as hard as you can or trying to befriend griefers to attack your trolls for you, Jonny.  No, you have to genuinely not care what the trolls does or says.  You have to take your ego out of the game entirely.  You don't even have to say you don't care, saying you don't care is usually a signal you do, all you have to do is simply not care and the balance of power shifts immediately. 

The Troll-Meter exists because, as human beings, we evolved from ape-like creatures who lived in social troupes where maintaining a place in the pecking order often meant life and death and certainly impacted the odds of reproducing your genes.

We actually have evolved to a point where this pecking order isn't entirely necessary, but it's incredibly difficult to get people to leave it behind.  I suppose in a new environment, like virtual reality, people are insecure because it's new, so they fall back on their oldest behavior patterns to help develop a sense of themselves in the new environment.  If that's true, then the Troll-Meter will probably dissipate over time.  One can only hope so.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Trained Orangutans of SecondLife

Your mom uses nice china plates at home because she knows you and  your dad will do your best not to break them.

The people at Denny's, however, use indestructible polymer plates because God only knows what sort of insane people will eat from them and they hire trained orangutans to wash them.

Writing software for public consumption is like the plates at Denny's.

There's a theory that hackers and griefers of a software system actually work to improve the system because they find the weaknesses and cracks in the system that need fixing.  As annoying as it is to be using software when it comes under one of these attacks, this theory is probably correct.

The problem for the engineers at Linden Labs is to find ways to plug the exploits used by the griefers while still retaining the cool stuff the rest of us use peaceably.  For instance: they could fix the old griefer trick of replicating cubes by turning off the scripting ability to make one prim spawn another one.  But that would disable a lot of cool stuff that the rest of us have fun with so they had to find another way.

Recently, a relatively new griefer hit Moose Beach dozens of times.  Although one of his tricks appears to be genuinely new, the rest use the same exploits known by Linden Labs for a long time.

When a grief attack happens, Linden Labs takes the event logs for the area and examines the objects and scripts and whatever else they can find involved and try to figure out a way to plug the exploit.  It's not a particularly fast process since they're also working on a lot of other projects at the same time and these issues go into the "to do" stack with a bunch of other things.

Meanwhile, the third party viewer developers also set to work coming up with ways for their users to shield themselves from these attacks (although there's almost always one or two people working on third party viewers that make these and new attacks easier).

The result is a system that starts out with tons of exploits for griefers to use, but over time they get fewer and fewer as the engineers involved find ways to make them impotent or impossible.

Back at Moose Beach, most of the stuff Stark uses is dispatched or disposed of immediately, or people use aspects of their viewer to make them impotent and people are already looking at his new exploit to figure out how to resolve it.

People who have been around a while get kind of a kick out of seeing all the self-replicating cubes build up because they remember when just a few of those would have made the sim inoperable for an hour or more.  Now, most of them dissipate in just a few minutes, with a staff person or contractor coming along later to clean up the stragglers.

Although annoying, the system works.  You couldn't make something like SecondLife without attracting a ton of kids bent on messing it up.  Fortunately, the people at the lab have been around the block a few times and know just how to handle it.  Exploit #3724 goes into the To Do stack, and eventually it goes away.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Huis Clos

Waterfalls told me today I wasn't writing about her in the proper tone, so I decided to write this sentence in the proper tone.  That's about all I can really think to say about her at the moment though.

The question came up of why I write the things I write about SecondLife.

For me the question is more one of how could anyone see the things there are to see in SecondLife and not write about it.

A lot of what I see and write about is fairly mundane stuff, but sometimes when I log into SecondLife it's a three-ring retard circus, especially in welcome areas and info hubs.

The thing I've written about over and over, and really believe, is that the worst mistake you can make in virtual reality is to get your ego involved in the process.  Once you do that, once you start to care about staking out territory or maintaining a "position" or some sort of online reputation, you're sunk, and it's only going to get worse.

That's why I make no secret of my real life information.  This business of having people discover your real name become the worst possible thing that can happen in SecondLife is insane.  Dozens of real life people see me every day, why should it make any difference if SecondLife people can too?  They can't be any more annoying or crazy or malicious than the people at a store or in traffic.

You want to know what I really see when I log into SecondLife?

Sometimes I see Jean Paul Sartre's play Huis Clos ("No Exit" in English).  The play tells the story of four people, locked forever in a room together, never satisfied, always hating, always plotting, and they can't even escape by death because they're already dead and in hell.

It's the ego that makes it hell, and when you have multiple people trying to press their ego over each other, then they sometimes get trapped, always searching for a way to win advance, revenge, some leverage against each other, but unable to so the cycle continues.

It's worst for guys like Nero or Harrison or Dummythrust or Jonny Rumsford, who return to the same scene over and over only to become the target again and again by the same people.  They return because they've convinced themselves: one day it will be different, one day they'll have the advantage, but it never changes and the struggle continues day after day after day.

Some people escape the cycle by writing about it.  The troll manual does, as does Crap Mariner's blog and others.

Some make the cycle much worse though like Prokofy Neva's blog.  Prokofy demands people recognize her as the queen (king?) of her area and gets a little insane if anybody challenges it.  Although the perspective is quite different, the process is not unlike Waterfalls claiming the steps of Ahern as her kingdom and going a little insane if anybody challenges it.

The only sane conclusion one can make here is that "status" in SecondLife is meaningless.  If you can't do what you do on SecondLife because it's interesting or fun or funny then you're probably just annoying yourself (and the people around you).

It's not just the retards that fall into that pit though. 

There are trolls who troll because it's funny to them or to their friends, and that makes a fair amount of sense.

There are others though who figure it's all about making somebody else look bad whether it's funny or not and they end up just making themselves very negative-minded people and from it (logically) develop a nihilist or misanthropic point of view on life.

Sometimes you can almost see them going over their mental list trying to figure out how they can belittle this new person they've encountered.  One day I saw two trolls go on for thirty minutes because somebody made the arms too short on their avatar.  I guess they reached the bottom of their list and short arms was all they could come up with.

I guess I should apologize if anything I write hurts anybody's feelings.  I'm more sorry if they actually give a crap though.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Betrayal and Breakups in the Battle for Moose Beach

All good things must end.  The Bromance between Jonny and Stark/Booger-Nose/Kronos has ended in the only way it could end: with them wanting to kill each other.

Jonny found succor amongst some very patient normal people with Booger-Nose left telling a bunch of noobs and bots he's the new king of Moose Beach.

Apparantly Jonny threatened the life of Booger-Nose's E-Mate (even though he denies it and nobody seems to have witnessed it) so now Booger-Nose is determined to kill Jonny.  For some reason Kronos now loves me, even though he wanted to kill me just a day ago and I'm pretty sure he knows I've been making fun of him for weeks.

Most curious of all, Booger-Nose now claims to be the protector of Harrison Digfoot, even going so far to teach him how to evade a hardware ban.  I suspect he'll end up regretting this decision since Harrison is one of the most annoying possible people on SecondLife.

When these rejects from Waterhead first started showing up at Moose I worried that Moose might end up just like the retard circus that Waterhead was.  That seems to have come to fruition.  All they need now is for Strider to show up and the transformation will be complete.

I feel bad for the people who used to hang out at Moose Beach.  What's left is probably going to be the Jonny/Harrison/Boogar-Nose show for weeks if not months as they fight to destroy each other, but since they can't it'll just be the same drama over and over until even they get tired of it and move on to something else.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Internet Villain

Stark the Booger-Nose hates Secondlife.  Well, really he loves SecondLife, but the girls reject him and the boys make fun of him so, he's determined to take his revenge and become a villain.

Villainy's kind of hard on SecondLife though.  There's not much you can do to cause people any real damage, so Booger-nose resolved to do the best he can by rezzing self replicating cubes with pictures of Hitler on them and crash sims.

For him, it takes about ten minutes to crash a sim and about thirty seconds for the sim to blink back into existence.  It hardly seems worth it, but it's kind of annoying so he persists.

Wednesday night when I went to bed he'd been on a rampage for about two hours spewing out dancing Hitlers and crashing sims in a hit or miss fashion with the Lindens playing whack-a-mole behind him.  I guess he thought he was really showing them a thing or two, if it weren't for the fact they were getting paid to play the game and he wasn't.

Thursday morning when I got up, my sources told me his rampage just ended a little while before.  He'd spent something in the neighborhood of eight hours rezzing dancing Hitler cubes.  At this point I realize there must be some mild form of retardation involved here, along with a fair amount of drugs.  A reasonable person just doesn't do this crap for eight hours otherwise.

We've had retarded griefers before.  Ratcloner comes to mind and I guess Booger-Nose Stark is the latest one.  For these guys, crashing sims over the internet is probably their highest possible level of achievement.

Booger-Nose claims membership in a number of griefer groups, even though none of them claim him and you never see any of them around him or talking to him.  The only person you do see talking to him is Jonny Rumsford, who's also slightly retarded, mostly drug addled and a compulsive liar, so I suppose they're made for each other.

Somewhere I suppose Booger-Nose has a caretaker.  A Mom or maiden aunt who pays his rent, bakes his chicken pot pies and keeps him in RedBull.  I suppose they think, "oh how nice, Stark's making friends over the internet."  I suppose it's just as well they think that.  It's not their fault he's brain damaged and socially awkward.

So, three cheers for internet villains.  May we all cower in fear and wait 30 seconds for the sim to restart.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not Ready for Paradise

A lot of cultures describe heaven not all that differently from what we experience in SecondLife.

There's no war, no poverty, no hunger or disease.  You remain young and beautiful forever, you can create beautiful things from your fingertips and you can even fly.

So what do we do with this little piece of heaven?  We troll and grief and fuck every other soul around.

Maybe we're just not really ready for heaven after all.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Redemption at Violet

I've written before about the invasion of Violet by the Ahern trolls.

There were troll scouts for months now, but the full-scale invasion only started a few weeks ago.  Most of the Violet regulars beat a hasty retreat, tearfully leaving their shops and farms behind for the barbarians to use as they will.

The trolls were ensconced.  You could see them swinging from the rafters and pissing in the corners.

Then a strange thing happened.  A transformation, if you will...out of Ahern, half these assholes weren't half bad.

The vitriol, the racism, the anger and sociopathy all abated.  Minor scirmishes remained, but even they started taking on the tone of friendly rivalry rather than genuine hate.

Trolls who were making new accounts two or three times a day just to access the grid now have accounts that are three and four weeks old, committed copybotters now join grid fashion scavenger hunts and there has been virtually no griefing.

There's been rumors for years that trolls begin life as human beings.  Could taking them out of Ahern somehow re-humanize them?

Part of the change might be because they left the self-appointed Queen of Trolls behind, along with her salivating lieutenants, adopting a far more logical stance of "Who cares who's in charge?  It's the Internets asshole."

Most of these trolls never bought into the idea they had a queen in the first place, but having somebody struggle for control can have a trickle-down effect that makes everybody cranky.

So, this year for Halloween, we had a little miracle in SecondLife.  The trolls of Ahern became human again...some of them...maybe.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Production Triangle

I was thinking about Phillip's goal to make SecondLife Fast, Easy and Fun.

One of the first things I learned in my theatre education was the concept of the production triangle.  With the production triangle, there are three choices, Good, Fast and Cheap, with the trick being you can only have two of these at the same time.

In all my years in theatre and the arts, I've never seen this rule violated.  You might have a project that's good and fast, but it won't be cheap.  Likewise, you might have a project that's fast and cheap, but it won't be good and so on.

I wonder if Fast, Easy and Fun aren't really the same thing.

We all know what "fast" is, but what if "easy" is just another way of saying "cheap" and what if "fun" is just another way of saying "good"?

If that's true, then we may be kind of screwed going for Fast Easy and Fun, because you can only have two of the three.

If I had to choose, I'd go for Fast and Fun.  Both speak to a satisfying user experience.  Easy though, sometimes we don't much appreciate things that come easy. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Me Me Me Me Generation

People used to call the generation of people born to veterans of World War II the "ME" generation, in criticism of their selfish and hedonistic ways, but these critics had no way of knowing how selfish and hedonistic the grandchildren of the WWII generation would become.

I've had my differences with the boomers though the years, but a lot of the stuff they fought for was pretty legitimate: the right not to be drafted into military service, social and racial integration and the fight for the health and welfare of the poor and elderly. 

The boomers fought for the right of artists to express themselves freely, without the heavy hand of censorship in their work.  While the boomers fought for free content in art, they were certainly willing to pay for the works once they were produced.  Boomers all over the world saved their allowance and lined up at record stores to pay for the latest works of Lead Zeppelin or the Beatles or whoever, because they wanted it.

Their children feel just as strongly about the censorship of artists, but they go an extra step and now demand the music itself for free, over the internet, along with movies and video games, and if you don't give it to them they'll take it from sites like Piratebay.

Somewhere along here, I gotta call bullshit.  With the possible exception of food and medicine, demanding stuff for free or you'll just take it isn't freedom fighting, it's looting.

For many of these assholes, I know their parents taught them better because I know their parents, or people just like them.  The problem is, parents don't usually know what a kid is up to alone in his room with a computer unless or until a subpoena shows up at the door.

Legitimately purchased popular music is cheaper now than ever before.  I'm sorry that's not good enough for you.  I suppose there is no business model as attractive to these kids as getting their shit for free.

I would suggest you're killing the goose that laid the golden eggs though.  The music and movie business are on tougher times than they've ever been before and they day may soon come that there just isn't that much to steal anymore.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Moose and Violet War : Cubes of Rage

I reported earlier how Booger-Nose Stark likes to throw out cubes to crash Moose when he and his friend Annoying Johnny get butt-hurt.

Saturday he did it at just the right moment for the map making cameras to catch it.

I'd like to point out, that despite all these, the sim didn't crash.  Oh well.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moose and Violet : War is Heck

and the faggotry continues:

Although I wasn't around for it, I understand the trolls who took over Violet spent the day giving out RL phone numbers for Annoying Johnny and Harrison the Insane and ordering pizzas for people who don't want them.

I'm not sure how the telephone thing works:

"Hello, may I speak to Johnny please?"
"Hi, this is Johnny."
"Hi, Johnny, we're from the internet and you're annoying."
"You BASTARDS!!!!"

Beyond that, the trolls are pretty well dug in at Violet, and most of the regulars have moved on to saner places. I'm not convinced the other shoe has dropped there so let's watch and see what develops.

A Confederacy of Dunces:
Back at Moose Beach Annoying Johnny is building his allies.  He's been taking a spanking, both from the locals and the visiting trolls.  He's convinced bringing in more stupid and annoying people for backup will solve his problem.  It probably won't.

Besides a tentative strategic alliance with Harrison the Insane, Annoying Johnny brought in some guy named Anthony (Not THAT Anthony).  Anthony is a vampire who's adopted half a dozen Second Life kids (all female) whom he regularly gives money.  He's working on a malicious SecondLife viewer on the side, but it's not ready to use yet.

Besides those guys, Annoying Johnny aligns himself with Stark Booger-nose.  Booger-nose claims to have once been a member of the Patriotic Nigras, even though he can't name any of them and none of them seem to know who he is.  He is using their viewer though, which he claims to have written by himself.  Booger-Nose also  has a bunch of scripted griefer toys from like 1950, that he brings out occasionally.

There's also R2, who's actually kinna cool.  The trolls called him "beaner" like fifty times because he has a slight foreign accent.  The accent is a combination of Arabic and french though, so calling him "beaner" is kind of a fail.

Crashing Moose Beach
I didn't get on SecondLife until late last night, so by the time I TP into Moose Beach, Annoying Johnny is already pretty annoyed.  The trolls passed out his phone number all day and his E Girlfriend is mad at him for some reason.

"SHUT UP BOYD!"  Johnny shouts as I enter.  I guess he thought I was gonna troll him.  I probably would have eventually.

It was kind of hard to hear him though, since Cane/Oz was there, and, well, you know what that's like.

Pretty soon a zero-day-old account shows up with a stupid name.  That'll be booger-nose I recon.   Annoying Johnny has called in the retard greifer to take revenge on Moose Beach by crashing it.

Retard griefer Stark the Booger-nose starts throwing out replicating cubes with pictures of Hitler dancing on them.  In the old days, this would have crashed the sim pretty quickly, but the Lindens have toughened them up a bit since then so Booger-nose has to keep throwing them out.

About ten minuts into the process he gets popped.  A few minutes later, he shows up again with a new account to continue the effort.

By now, everyone has noticed the sim filling up with dancing Hitler cubes.  Having seen this a thousand times before, they respond by saying "look, it's cubes with dancing Hitler on them."

No sooner had I speculated that he just wasn't going to be able to crash the sim and it winks out of existence.

I TP to the adjoining sim to wait for it to come back.

Booger-nose IM's me to call me faggot and then proceeds to try and spam crash me.  Thanks to Phoenix, I don't even notice his attempts at first as they were dispatched pretty much immediately.

While the server software churns away, setting things to right, I decide to taunt Annoying Johnny through group chat.

"Our permacubes of doom will keep the sim crashed all night!"  he IM's me.

No sooner had I hit enter on my reply "uhh, what's a permacube, dickless?" and Moose Beach blinks back into existence.  80% of the dancing Hitler cubes are gone, and the rest start to pop out like cheap Christmas lights.

Let's Throw Johnny Under the Bus
Moose Beach is back in business!  Who's the first person to rejoin?  Insane Harrison.  Fuck me running.

Harrison picks fights with each new person as the join.  The result, logically, is a room full of people all fighting with Harrison.

Somewhere deep in his neanderthal brain, Harrison does the math and realizes he doesn't stand a chance here.  So, what does he do?

"What about the Johnny guy?  He Sure is annoying!"

Harrison throws Johnny under the bus.  So much for their fragile strategic alliance.

And the fight continues.  Who will win?  Probably the sane people and the regulars.  They almost always do in the end.  It might take a while to get there but that's my prediction.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The War for Moose Beach and Violet

Six months ago Moose Beach and Violet were among the calmest places on the grid.

Today there's a full-on war for their control.

The battle lines are drawn between two groups.  Let's call one side "The Trolls" and the other side "The Retards", with the people who used to populate their places on neither side and rather scratching their head wondering what the hell just happened.

Normally a war between retards and trolls would end pretty quickly, with the retards left somewhere cold and naked and confused, but in this case, they somehow keep calling in reinforcements (from god knows where) and the battle continues.

It began with the mysterious emigration out of Waterhead and Ahern.  Nobody really knows what started it.  Some have suggested it's fall out from the ban hammer falling on Woodbury and W-Hat, but I'm not convinced.

My theory is that these people always hated each other, and with the addition of Tinychat, they eventually just got to the point where they couldn't stand each other's presence any longer and went in search of new territory.

The first noticeable sign of the conflict was a few weeks ago when somebody rendered Violet inaccessible for over a day.  Since then, many regulars chose to abandon the info hub rather than deal with the cacophony of the new residents. 

Ironically, being a privately owned area, Violet will probably be the first to return to its former character since all it really takes is for the owners to decide they've had enough and spend a little time managing it again and it'll settle pretty quickly pushing the trolls back to Ahern.

Moose Beach may be another matter though.  It's a Linden area and the retards have dug in pretty deeply.  The Lindens have a "do not take sides" policy in these matters, which is just as well since I doubt they could tell the difference between the trolls and the retards.  Sometimes I do too.

Some of the more savvy locals from Moose have been able to parry the retards fairly well, but when there's a full-on battle between them and the trolls, even they TP out to greener pastures.

Interestingly, in terms of how SecondLife has developed, five years ago this would have been a war of scripts and tortured prims and a year ago, it would have been a war of hacked viewers, but today it's mostly a war of psychology with game and pack theory leading the charge.

One should note and congratulate the Lindens for making the grid robust enough that struggles like these are now fought with far less sim crashing and lag.

It's unlikely that there will be a clear winner in this conflict.  Most likely, both sides will just eventually run out of things to say.  Except Johnny of course, that fucker never shuts up.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cubes of Butt-Hurtedness

Troll rules clearly state:  "He who demonstrates the most butt-hurt fails."

There are no set rules for demonstrating butt-hurt though, so you kind of have to look for the subtleties.

In a recent article at the Alphaville Herald, Pixeleen Mistral gives photo evidence that somewhere on the grid, he has mini hate shrines for Phillip Linden and Kalel Vinkman, complete with scripted objects showing how much time his hated enemies have spent in world over the past week or so.

Building a hate shrine for somebody is a pretty good sign you're the most butt-hurt.  There's one for me out there in the form of a blog, but it's kind of lame.

A lot of times, butt-hurt people don't realize their actions only make them seem more butt-hurt.  Pixeleen probably thought people would think his hate shrines for King Phillip and Superman were really cool, and that's why he posted pictures of them.

To be fair, Vinkman probably would have scripted objects to let him know when his enemies were online since that's how they'd do it in the comic books, but since his enemies have no stable accounts, there's really no way to make it work.

So, once again, everybody in unison repeat after me: "We're sorry the Lindens killed Woodbury Pixeteen, and we're sorry the Super Friends were on your ass.  Please try to get over it and be happy again."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New CEO Search Begins

Phillip Linden announced today that the search for a new CEO has officially begun.

When replacing M Linden as CEO, Phillip said his job would only be as interim CEO.

March of the Trolls

So there's a guy at Moose.  Let's say his name is Johnny. 

Johnny isn't malicious, he's just annoying.  Like a lot of annoying people, Johnny is vaguely aware of how annoying he is, but he's also fairly powerless to do anything about it.  He tries to be cool, but trying to be cool just makes it worse.

Enter the trolls to save the day.  From far off Waterhead and Ahern they come.  Dragging their troll clubs behind, marching to Moose Beach, because there, it's said, is a lol cow, and trolls must drink the blood of lol cows to live.

The regulars at Moose Beach are fairly used to saying "shut up Johnny" or just muting him, but suddenly their population triples.  There are so many trolls at Moose Beach, nobody else can enter.

These aren't regular trolls.  They're the "A" team, and they have (they think) Johnny's real life phone number, and they're going to gather at Moose Beach and wait for him to come on so they can call him and tell him, on the phone, just how annoying he is.  Redundant much?

One of the trolls figures it's fine to pass out  Johnny's phone number, but if somebody posts her real life picture (fully clothed) juxtaposed with a picture of gollum, that's disclosure and she's going to report him and get him baaaaaaaaned!

At this point I call bullshit.  They don't really need lol cow blood to survive and if it's ok for her to hand out one person's real life data, certainly it's ok for somebody else to pass around hers.

This game of looking for people to troll is getting pretty damn boring.  Johnny might be annoying, but he's not half as annoying as this bullshit.

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