Monday, July 7, 2008

Birthday Mild Celebrations!

In my family, the holidays are celebrated beyond what one would normally think of in 'celebration'. It's an understatement to say they are blown out of all proportion. Hence, while I write that I couldn't care less about SL's birthday events, I secretly want to check them out. Sadly, two cases have prevailed.

First, is that in general I haven't had the time to drop into all the events. Other things occupy me and I have a short attention span to remember to check out this or that panel. The second issue is these panels bore me. Much of it isn't ground breaking and I could probably write out an entire conversation during these discussions if you gave me the topic.

When I go to exhibitions, there's so much lag that I can hardly see the displays and when I do, there sometimes is a notecard explaining what I'm looking at, sometimes not. Other people come in and sometimes play with the exhibits. In general, it's not a mess, but it feels more like a museum. You come and stare at the pretty pieces and are left to draw your own conclusions. I really have to be in the mood to do that. And there's a real life Art Museum near me I can visit where the general quality is much better (not to say SL doesn't have its geniuses).

It feels less like a celebration than a display of those who bothered to deal with the Lindens. In fact, if you ask most people what the past weeks have been about, they likely will have no idea what you are talking about. There just isn't an interest level to be invested into this thing.

I hear a lot of flinging about the 'culture' of Second Life, but I'll be damned if I can find it. This is the fifth anniversary of Second Life being opened to the public, the 5th birthday of the game this very blog (and many other blogs and forums) is about. And yet, we have... this. A sort of murmured whisper and general nod of the head, if you even remember the date.

Coming up soon is the Fourth of July, and for those of you just coming out from under your rocks, that's the American Independence day. After that is July 14th, the French Bastille Day which holds more or less the same significance. People in both countries celebrate, fire off some grills and fireworks, and work up a patriotic fervor. Second Life's day has come, and we get 'Nipplegate' (I'm not even going to touch that with a ten foot pole) and a bunch of panels on such things as "Bringing SL success in business to RL". Ok, ok, that's all fine and good, but where is the community in general celebrating? Where are the fireworks? Where are the grills? Something? Anything?

Perhaps, the attitude is taken like my family. Birthdays in my family are relatively quiet affairs. You give gifts, have a cake, maybe go out to eat (or cook something like a feast). Most of the extended family comes by for a few minutes to drop off a card, or use the US Postal Service as a middleman. The last birthday 'party' I had was my fourth, which was memorable for breaking a fire code. Part of this is due to extended family relations which are dismal, and part is just our attitude. Wee, let's celebrate another passing of the earth's complete orbit around its parent star since the arbitrary date of one's birth. It's hard to get revved up after that kind of realization.

You figure holidays would just be the same, right? Well, no, apparently arbitrary dates for cultural celebrations with suspect origins that are fixed on that same solar year get a pass. Perhaps because it's more than just a family and friends affair, but something you get caught up into with everyone else. Your birthday is memorable to your family and friends. Christmas, now that's something the entire country can get embroiled in.

Of course, lately there's a small debate on what exactly to call that time of season. Christmas promotes Christianity exclusively and we can't have that. A good deal of the country is Christian, however, and we just can't bring ourselves to celebrate the Kwanzaa season. Happy Holidays is a good generalization, but that offends deeply religious people who insist on going back to basics, besides, What about those other holidays? Saturnalia brings up paganism and that's 'bad'. winter Solstice, while in theory just a simple description of the obvious (For us in the Northern Hemisphere, when the Earth is tilted so we're 'farther' from the sun than the South, which has Summer Solstice on that date) also carries something of paganistic wicca evil bad bad bad connotations. But I digress.

Anyway, holidays, whether due to general community group think or sincere appreciation of the cultural diversity and significance of the season, are celebrated with abandon. We just don't deck those halls, we plaster them. And that's why I'm just a tad confused why Second Life's Fifth Birthday is a shuffle instead of people ... doing whatever it is that would correspond to a holiday.

Maybe that IS the way Second Lifers celebrate, by setting up displays and making note of it on their blogs and inside SL, and holding panels and Q&As and having speeches. If it is, that make me sad. To me, that is just bland. I don't know what to continue expounding on. It just feels wrong and unfilling. Like Diet soda.

Consider the lack of proper Second Life holidays. Most are ripped from real life. Poorly. The more memorable was December 2006, when NBC and SL tried to hold a lighting of the Christmas tree. There was Valentine's 2008 recently. I remember that one as the day I lagged so terribly that in the time it took me to do my laundry, prepare dinner, watch three hours of television, and a quick nap, Second Life finally crashed out after being in limbo during that time. The platform just can't handle the load. Just can't handle it.

So I suppose these 'enlightenments' (as they're being called) are a kind of compromise, a subdued celebration with displays as dressing (also moderated, as again the Herald has noted recently with 'Nipplegate'... ugh). One we have to accept, because most attempts otherwise have been dismal for those of us unable to buy a new super computer every month. It is very sad.

But them's the brakes, and it seems that SL's 5th birthday will be a subdued whimper rather than a fiesta.

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