Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Second Thoughts

This morning I thought I might join Second Life, the internet world where you make up an identity and an age (a very attractive thought that), and start afresh as it were. My reasons were as usual many, incoherent and quite unconnected. I got a bit pissed off with my First Life last week because of the tedium of having to engage with what women are and are not allowed to wear at work. I thought for a while I might try to get a job as a Roman Catholic archbishop and insist on wearing a bikini and a purple wig at the pulpit but flatly refuse to wear a crucifix of any kind.

Another justification was that I am getting so frightened of identity fraud I thought I better have a backup plan. You don’t want to be left without any identity because your career options are very limited. You could get a job as an amnesiac in a trashy American soap opera where you have to have a name like Cholera or Timpani. The only other thing you can do is wash up on a beach, stumble to the nearest piano and start playing some Chopin Preludes.

The upside is that while your identity is unknown, the entire world is preoccupied with finding it out and you get much more attention than you would normally. Once everyone finds out who you actually are, most people return to their sudoku puzzles. Some will set about trying to steal your newly returned identity and the Inland Revenue will investigate to see if you’ve accrued any back taxes while someone else was you and you weren’t anyone.

Finally, I was intrigued to learn that Reuters has set up a news bureau in Second Life to report on the comings and goings of the virtual community’s million or so inhabitants. Bureau chief Adam Reuters (pictured) hasn’t reported much yet. The stories on the website www.reuterssecondlife.com so far mostly relate to the twilight zone between the two worlds. The US government is interested in whether or not it can tax the transactions that take place between avatar residents. That’s a bit like setting up a newspaper on Mars and then only reporting on what is happening in Hackney.

There was a story about one of the Second Life banks, Ginko, that already has the equivalent of $US220,000 in real money on deposit and is paying investors interest. Questions are being asked about whether it’s a Ponzi scheme – like pyramid investing. Maybe it was my fantasy but I imagined that Second Life would be free of avatars trying to rip other avatars off. Why start another world if it’s only going to be as crap as this one? Have these people never seen Star Trek or heard of Project Genesis? Perhaps they’ll have television advertising campaigns like they do in First Life to inform you that just because it is called a ‘women’s empowerment scheme’ it does not mean that it’s ok to rip off £8,000 from each of your six best friends.

When you move to Second Life, you can choose any first name you like but there are only two hundred or so second names. Many of them are beat generation writers – Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Kesey, Levertov, Brautigan, Rexroth. None of them are Great Train or Brinks Matt robbers. In the words of Duke Ellington, ‘I got as far as the door’ or maybe that should be ‘window’. I got all excited about being twenty years younger and called something exotic like Elektra Electricteeth or Imelda Immelman and then realised that the ‘free’ membership needs to be supported by a credit card. I don’t really do giving out my credit card number for no good reason. So I’m stuck with my First Life and my own very real, real estate transaction which is going about as well as English sport and my transfer to the tropics scheduled for sometime during the 2012 Olympics at this rate.

I don’t like to think too much about the Olympics. It’s going to be happening just across the canal from me. Hopefully, I’ll be long gone. There seem to be frequent meetings about it in which local residents are invited to ‘participate’. I thought of offering myself for the egg and spoon race but I don’t know if I would pass the drugs test as I took an Evening Primrose tablet this morning. I’d hate to get a life ban from something I’m not even interested in. Think of what that would do for one’s self esteem.

I don’t really know what residents are expected to contribute to these meetings. I think they’ve already decided what sports they’re going to have and who they’re going to invite. Maybe they just want to see if anyone wants to run a stall. I could do a tombola with whatever’s left in my cupboard and that bottle of blue Curacao I foolishly bought on the way back from Cyprus in 1992. Excellent plan. I consider my emotional housekeeping done for today. Come to think of it, having one life is probably just about as much as I can deal with right now…

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