2012: The Year in Review – Part 2: Blogging

2012 saw a landmark in the history of Second Life Shrink, as we celebrated our fifth anniversary back in May. Despite that it has been far from a vintage year, and our post rate and traffic have been well down, partly due to the myriad distractions of life, but mainly because, I must admit, I have rather lost interest in the whole concept of virtual worlds.

I don’t seem to be alone in my ennui; many of the Second Life blogs that were active when we started up are now defunct, and even the mighty Alphaville Herald is but a shadow of its former self. Hamlet Au, to his credit, keeps plugging away at New World Notes (even if he showed terrible judgement by leaving us off his list of influential SL blogs), and there is still a constant froth of SL fashion blogs, but the days when Second Life promised a new intellectual frontier seem to long gone.

Anyway, here are our top ten posts by traffic over the last 12 months:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
  3. On Second Life and addiction
  4. The Social Network
  5. Guess I’ll go eat worms
  6. All Stars
  7. Zombie epidemiology
  8. What’s up
  9. Virtual alchemy
  10. Plunging Necklines

All but two of these are pre-2012, reflecting our low output this year. Of the posts we did manage, these are my personal picks:

WordPress introduced a new statistical feature this year allowing us to trace where our readers live; here are the top ten countries:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Germany
  5. Australia
  6. India
  7. Brazil
  8. Netherlands
  9. New Zealand
  10. Italy

Unsurprisingly we’re most popular in the English-speaking world, but we have had visitors from 103 countries, on every continent except Antarctica. The most notable exception is China, where I can only assume we are censored as a threat to state security.

So what of 2013? Will we have a creative renaissance, and delight the world with our incisive commentary on culture and the metaverse? Or will we coast along, content to bask in the fading glow of our past glories? Watch this space…

2012: The Year in Review – Part 1: Culture

Back in February I had the brilliant idea of starting up a Tumblr, upon which I intended to note every record I bought, every film I watched for the first time and every new book I read, so that come December I would have the raw material for a review of my year’s cultural highlights.

I have managed to keep this going (unlike the Pinterest project, but that’s another story), and it has revealed, disappointingly, that the cultural landscape of my life is more akin to an arid desert than the tropical rainforest I imagined it to be.

I did best on the recorded music front, with 24 albums purchased, a fraction of what I consumed back in the 90s, but perhaps not too bad for an old dog. Books read numbered an embarrassing 11, none of them published this year, while my movie intake was a mere dozen, with only two actual trips to the cinema (and one of those was to see The Muppets). I seem to have managed to completely avoid going to concerts and exhibitions.

Have I descended then into philistinism? Has the pernicious effect of the accursed internet completely rotted my brain? Not quite yet I hope. I spend rather more time than I should on idle web browsing, but I do try to keep up with the Arts sections of the papers, so I can join in conversations about contemporary culture, even if most of my opinions are gleaned from reviews rather than direct experience. I still listen to music pretty much all the time, though I stick more to stuff I know I’ll like than I used to. I do need to start watching more films again, starting with the stack of DVDs I accumulated this year that I never quite got round to viewing.

Anyway, on with the review. Music first; here’s my 2012 mix-tape, made up from my favourite track from each of the records I bought this year, mostly new releases, but some older stuff too:

Chocolate Boy – Guided By Voices (Let’s Go Eat the Factory)
Norgaard – The Vaccines (What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?)
On a Neck, On a Spit – Grizzly Bear (Yellow House)
Wasted Days – Cloud Nothings (Attack on Memory)
Boyfriend – Best Coast (Crazy For You)
Secrets – Headlights (Wildlife)
Love Interruption – Jack White (Blunderbuss)
Can We Really Party Today? – Jonathan Wilson (Gentle Spirit)
Better Girl – Best Coast (The Only Place)
Be Impeccable – Guided By Voices (Class Clown Spots a UFO)
No Cars Go – Arcade Fire (Arcade Fire)
Neighborhood 3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire (Funeral)
Yet Again – Grizzly Bear (Shields)
June – Unrest (Imperial f.f.r.r.)
Harnessed in Slums – Archers of Loaf (Vee Vee)
Polyester Bride – Liz Phair (Whitechocolatespaceegg)
Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know – Dinosaur Jr. (I Bet on Sky)
Season in Hell – Dum Dum Girls (End of Daze)
Pinhole Cameras – …And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead (Lost Songs)
He Gets Me High – Dum Dum Girls (He Gets Me High)
Waking Up The Stars – Guided By Voices (The Bears For Lunch)
Keep Believing – Bob Mould (Silver Age)
The House That Heaven Built – Japandroids (Celebration Rock)
The Anarchist – Rush (Clockwork Angels)

There are several contenders for my record of the year, including Attack on Memory, Silver Age, Celebration Rock and both the Dum Dum Girls’ EPs, but I’ll give the nod to the pleasingly complex Shields by Grizzly Bear.

The best book I read this year was The Cambridge Modern History Volume IV – The Thirty Years War, a majestic tome published back in 1906, available on the Kindle for pennies, which covers not just the titular conflict but also the English Civil War and religious, philosophical and cultural developments of the period. The editors’ Victorian prejudices do show to some extent, but the raw material is so dramatic that it can’t miss being a gripping read.

My fiction reading this year mostly consisted of catching up with books I’m faintly embarrassed to admit I hadn’t read already, like The Trial, The Gambler, Crash, and, my favourite, The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing. I liked it for its depiction of life in the CPGB in the 50s, which is a little specialised I guess, but it’s also worth reading for the experimental structure and proto-feminist sensibility.

Film of the year? I hardly feel qualified to comment, but I thought On the Road was quite good. The Muppets was OK too I suppose.

So, that sums up my year of culture. Not my best ever, but not too shabby. Hopefully I’ll be inspired to try a bit harder in 2013…

The Lay of the Last Avatar

So the world didn’t end last week after all, which is a good outcome, I guess, not least because it means that the $80 I spent last month on renewing my Second Life premium membership for another year hasn’t been completely wasted.

It has been almost completely wasted though, since I don’t currently possess a computer capable of running the viewer, and I have no plans to purchase one in the immediate future, which will obviously limit my enjoyment of the service a bit (unless the Lindens get their act together and release some sort of mobile client). I did hesitate a little before handing over the cash, but in the end my sentimental attachment to my virtual land was strong enough to convince me that the relatively modest investment was worthwhile.

Sir Walter Scott, in his narrative poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel, wrote:

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!

There are a few places I have stayed in the real world that have seemed like home, for a while, but that feeling invariably faded, as time moved on and people and places changed. I have occasionally tried to recapture it, but without success – you can revisit a physical location, but you can never really go back, because the person you used to be exists only in your fading memory.

So I find it comforting to think that there is some corner of a virtual field that will be forever the same, a home for my eternally youthful avatar. I can only hope that there are enough other people who feel the same to keep Linden Lab in business…

End of Daze

I’ve not had much time, nor inclination, for blogging in the last month, for one reason or another, but I thought I had better get myself together to post a final word or two ahead of the end of the world on Friday.

Of course the rational side of my brain is aware of the cosmic narcissism implicit in believing that the Universe turns according to an arbitrary schedule pulled out of the air by a long-dead member of our insignificant species, but my more fanciful side can’t help hoping that the promised UFOs will show up, bearing benevolent aliens who will issue us with personal rocket-ships and immortality pills.

Failing that I guess I might be able to shake off my torpor long enough to compile our usual year-end review. We’ve been pretty quiet over the last twelve months (and we already did a five-year retrospective back in May), so it shouldn’t take too long…