Yuletide mystery: avatars that can’t keep their clothes on

an old legend that attributed the discovery of roast turkey to the monks in the 13th century

William Heath Robinson: The first roast turkey: an old legend that attributed the discovery of roast turkey to the monks in the 13th century

Consider, if you will, a nudist avatar. Don’t worry, for the moment, about what it has to do with Christmas – even if I was introduced to this mind-bending oxymoron in a casual discussion between two thirtysomething lawyers talking across me at a Christmas lunch. It has something to do with the idea being not merely a conception but a contraption.

One of my neighbours was describing a divorce case. It was initiated by a wife incensed by her husband’s idealised self stripping down to his imaginary perfection with other believers in the same –ism – nudism – on Second Life, the all-digital Never-Never Land. Nudism, we know, is supposed to be about divesting yourself of all the artifice and status encoding that create needless barriers between human beings; about accepting the brute facts of your physical endowment with pride and joy. A vision of swaying, jiggling and drooping en masse inflicted on me on a Greek island at the long-ago age of twenty-one is engraved on the part of my brain that stores minor traumas.

But if nudism is about accepting and celebrating reality, what does it mean to take it all off not you, but the being you’ve invented to give reality the slip?

This manoeuvre struck me as almost as convoluted and unfathomable as some of the contraptions of W. Heath Robinson – the cartooning inventor-fabulist whose flighty meditation on the origin of the classic seasonal food I have borrowed to say – H A P P Y – C H R I S T M A S – a bit early, to everyone checking in here.

I had for some days before the lunch been wandering into an online gallery of his work, trying to decide whether, for example, I liked Compressed Billiards for Maisonettes more than A Cloud Dispeller Designed by the First Lord Discovering a Heinkel Bomber Hiding in a Cloud. That was because some of us on this site had been comparing his work to the creations of Jean Tinguely, the Swiss artist who specialised in designing satirical mechanical sculptures — with, Hazlitt told us, practically no justification at all.

From the lawyerly tête-à-tête, I gathered that the couple in the nudist avatar divorce were, like my fellow guests, in their early thirties – the average age of Second Lifers. When we got to the pudding course, they were complaining that the long sentences and descriptions of Charles Dickens were complicated and annoying, which made me rather sad. I find it disheartening that a generation after my own seems to have no patience whatsoever with his style of mental knotting — but unlimited tolerance for mental acrobatics involving figures in the pedestrian artists’ illustrations that pass for avatars.

How could anyone prefer those pictures to – for instance — the scene in A Christmas Carol when Dickens begins to turn up the suspense for Scrooge’s first haunting with an unexpected reminder of his partner, Marley, who has been dead for six years. On his way home from work, the peerless grump enters ‘a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard,’ and, Dickens continues,

. . . let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened
that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door,
saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate
process of change–not a knocker, but Marley’s face.

Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow
as the other objects in the yard were, but had a
dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark
cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked
at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly
spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The
hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air;
and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly
motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it
horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the
face and beyond its control, rather than a part of
its own expression.

Only being tickled made me giggle as much as listening to this passage, at some age before independent reading – and it has much the same effect on me now.

Do younger people – no matter how bright they are – find sentences of many clauses indigestible because no one read them to them properly, when they were children? I mean, pronounce them rivetingly, varying tone and pace so that understanding the way they worked became instinctive?

Or does the gap between their ability to enjoy Dickensian and digital fantasy have something to do with an inescapable requirement that a solipsism quotient be met? As readers, we let authors annexe our imaginations. It’s different in our compulsive contemporary electronic playgrounds, which cater to self-love by letting us insert pseudo-selves – artefacts of our own imaginations – into stories we help to shape. The imagery is shallow and two-dimensional by comparison with what minds following the multi-faceted directions of, say, a Dickens, can conjure and generate. But in imaginative entertainment, we’ve apparently entered the age of No Complexity Without Vanity.

A shrug seems the only possible response: autres temps, autres moeurs.

Another year is ending, and there’s no holding back progress.

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27 Comments

Filed under Housekeeping, The blogosphere

27 responses to “Yuletide mystery: avatars that can’t keep their clothes on

  1. wordnerd7

    Hmm . . . _lots_ of lovely Christmas Day lurkers, I see from the site visitor stats, even if no one is posting comments. : ) . . . The wood stove and tamaguchi (and Hirst and Adiga’s book) were only mentioned as a tease . . . and the Very Big Storm the forecasters predicted did _not_, in the end, have me firing up the stove and taking apart my pile of faggots. The lights stayed on. . . [see recent conversations in About and Salvage Operation]

    @Suzan and @3P4, . . . even with tribal/communal/collective art in ‘primitive’ societies, I’d guess that the original idea for an art form or style came from someone not unlike today’s individualistic, often batty, artists. Then the group took over the idea – whether it was the first African mask or Moghul miniature, etc., etc., and replicated it for centuries and made it part of its cultural symbolism. . . So it only became ‘tribal’ in your sense of the term at a later stage.

    . . . And by independent bloggers, I did not mean selfish, uncaring, Scrooge-like loners – which is how I suspect @3p4 might have interpreted me, originally – but people who think for themselves and don’t believe in the debating equivalent of bloc voting.

  2. Hi Wordy,

    Is your conscience playing pre-New Year tricks on you? 🙂
    I’m just back in Dublin this morning of December 26th and thought I would record some impressions in a blog post sometime this weekend, as you like reading those little Dublin pieces.

    The tree-lined street on which I live, is quiet and subdued. I have arrived quite unexpectedly on the wrong side of Christmas. The winter mood is mild considering its melancholy disposition and betrays no tales of frenzy sales downtown this fleeting St. Stephen’s Day. In spite of its startled surprise, I believe Dublin still endeavours with leftover tinsel for me. And too, some dangerous chocolate.

    I’m afraid I’m a lurker for today as I stil feel strangely suspended between continents.

    As I have mentioned to 3P4, I am going to read the whole creative/tribal definition thread carefully, now that I am safely installed in the warmth of my own home and welcoming computer and as the smell of hot sausages and eggs fill the kitchen. I have missed my breakies like anything!

    I thought to write out my thoughts this weekend.
    I suppose the bottom line is that on spontaneous reflection, I would associate tribal associations in an oral context over any kind of penmanship but there is so much more to unearth below the surface, which may reveal thoughts as interesting as archaelogy if not better.

    I’m also glad to report that Des has cheered up tremendously.

  3. Oops!
    That was meant to be ‘startled quandary’ in the second paragraph and not ‘startled surprise.’

  4. Oops!
    That was meant to be ‘startled quandary’ in the second paragraph and not ‘startled surprise.’

  5. Sorry Wordy.
    You’ll be amused to see that I accidentally wrote the above under Des’s name as we were sharing the same computer at the time and his details were already there.

  6. wordnerd7

    Oh @Suzan, you didn’t fool me for an instant. I know that you only invented that confusion to make the thread look less lonely. ; ) Sharing computers indeed! – whatever next, toothbrushes?!? . . .

    But comments were thin on the ground on blogs everywhere, yesterday, when there also were fewer visitors to the site than on any day since I began. I wonder whether our comrades might be avid discount shoppers – because there were many more clicks on the 24th and 25th than on Boxing Day.

    I didn’t worry too much about @Des because I think he knows all about the small fire that never leaves the sky . . (see https://acacciatura.wordpress.com/geniuses/ ) . . and people who do can sometimes put low moods to excellent use, in my experience. I went to his site a day or two ago and found he’d done exactly that, turning out this gritty, powerful vignette-plus-poem for a December 24 blog entry : . . . http://irishpoetry.blogspot.com/ . . . about which I tried to post a comment on his site, only I was given another warning of a clickjacking attempt. You might both want to read about this three-month old innovation in hacking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clickjacking

    Anyway, before I found that Des wasn’t merely alright but white-hot with inspiration, I found a scrap of Rilke meditating on the folly of wasted despair:

    Someday, emerging at last from the terrifying vision, may I burst into jubilant praise to assenting Angels! May not even one of the clear-struck keys of the heart fail to respond though alighting on slack or doubtful or rending strings! May a new-found splendour appear in my streaming face! May inconspicuous Weeping flower! How dear to me you will be then, you Night of Affliction! Oh, why did I not, inconsolable sisters, more bendingly kneel to receive you, more loosely surrender myself to your loosened hair? We wasters of sorrows! How we stare away into sad endurance beyond them, trying to foresee their end! Whereas they are nothing else than our winter foliage, our sombre evergreen, one of the seasons of our interior year, — not only season – they’re also place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.

    Rainer Maria Rilke

    Duino Elegies

    . . . How sad that no one dares to write anything quite as gloriously ott as that any more. . . ‘Wasters of sorrows.’ . . . What a thought. Deeply true, I suspect.

  7. wordnerd7

    And, @Suzan,

    . . . Since I’m back to the peace of reading and thinking, now that the tree-wrapping, present-stuffing and turkey-decoration are behind me for another year . . . I looked for a paragraph that your globe-trotting made me think of . . . I wonder whether you’ll also reach the conclusion I did in my early thirties – that I just couldn’t finish enough projects with so much whirling around. I still travel, but only for completely unavoidable reasons . . . as yours, too, might be. Anyway, this was once held in place by one of my refrigerator magnets as an important reminder about Movement at the Spot:

    Now if possibility outruns necessity , the self runs away from itself, so that it has no necessity whereto it is bound to return – then this is the despair of possibility. The self becomes an abstract possibility which tires itself out with floundering in the possible, but does not budge from the spot, nor get to any spot, for precisely the necessary is the spot; to become oneself is precisely a movement at the spot. To become is a movement from the spot, but to become oneself is a movement at the spot.

    Possibility then appears to the self ever greater and greater, more and more things become possible, because nothing becomes actual. At last it is as if everything were possible – but this is precisely when the abyss has swallowed up the self.

    Soren Kierkegaard.

    . . . There are of course people whose productivity seems to soar with frequent travel . . . travel writers like you, perhaps. Anyway, I’m so glad you’re back there – with sausages and eggs cooked by mysterious invisible hands. [ : ) . . . ! ] . . . I look forward to reading your next posts about Dublin.

  8. BaronCharlus

    Hi all,

    Hope the season is treating you well.

    Second Life naturism sounds truly bizarre. I don’t understand what kind of earth-reconnection could be claimed for that; probably none, and I’d suspect the motivations are quite other than those claimed by participants.

    Don’t think I’m surprising anyone by outing myself as a member of the ‘lost’ generation you describe, Wordn. I think the lure of SL and the like (for some) over other artforms, despite clunkiness, is that buzzword ‘interactivity’ which, of course, we are all enjoying right here (re the recent ‘above/below-the-line’ discussion).

    I confess I’ve had similar thoughts about Dickens to your lawyers although after rewatching Lean’s Great Expectations the other day I want to try again. I’ve always found 19thc British lit difficult not because of volume but because the processes the authors use to say something are so tortuous. Volume in itself is no problem; Proust takes forever to share a thought or image but (imo) every long, long sentence brings something new and precise; likewise Joyce. I’ve not always found the same with English c19th writing, which often seems to stroll around the point due more to the leisurely, conversational style of the writing more than any fluency or volume of ideas. But, as I’ve said, I will investigate.

  9. BaronCharlus

    Has anyone seen Tomasky’s predictions for the future of books on GU?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/27/comment-and-debate-2008-review

  10. wordnerd7

    So glad to have you back here, @BaronC — you are an irreplaceable sounding-board, and never fail to add interest and texture to a discussion. I imagined you experiencing the kip zonder kop on the other side of the Channel.

    === I don’t understand what kind of earth-reconnection could be claimed for that; probably none, and I’d suspect the motivations are quite other than those claimed by participants. ===

    Well, perhaps it’s something all of you know about the second half of that — that I don’t — that explains why no one appears to want to touch the subject. Not even @Suzan, who is fearless.

    Some motivations can only ever be unsolved mysteries. The lawyer telling us about the case was explaining why someone else at the table had announced that she specialised in bizarre cases. . . There was some mention of one involving Furry Animal (FA) people — grown-ups who like to meet dressed up in beast costumes. In the lawsuit, one FA-ist was suing another for libellous remarks on a web site — which were affecting the litigant’s livelihood, which involves . . . making furry animal costumes to order.

    . . . But then what about the wife divorcing the man for whatever he _thinks_ he’s doing on Second Life? . . . This is stuff that makes my head spin.

    . . . Thank you for reconsidering Dickens — I don’t much mind what you think of most other 19th c novelists. One of the lawyers said he wrote ‘just like Nathaniel Hawthorne,’ which had me silently gasping for air — NH being the biggest bore who ever put pen to paper.

    . . . Thank you so much for putting up the link to Tomasky’s prediction. Books were a vital part of my original bond with a friend who now spends so much time online that it not only makes no sense to give him print books, he wouldn’t have time for a Kindle. As you say, interactivity is what’s taking over . . .

    I think of that as sitting down to write and _feeling_ life on the other side of the screen.

    . . . Just one more thing, @BaronC — browsing over at GU the other day, I noticed an impostor claiming to be you . . . What are you going to do about that?

  11. Hi Wordy.

    Happy Depression ‘n Recession. Come the rev we will line the facist filth up against the back of the bus station wall and expose our souls and sad, sad, silly little minds to the sadder, sillier little men’s minds and the women who feed on capatilist doctrinaire, cuz we aint gonna take it any more.

    Being unhappy is a fundamental human right for 90% of the planet, and I was very depressed when Ms Abrams was off galivantin about in SE Asia, lookin at other men, havin a flippin ball, hey Sue, hey, hey?

    Well she came back when i threatened to do it. When she knew I wasn’t messin. The oven door open, web-cam trained on it. Me in two week old dirty soiled clothes, ten green bottles of cheap Latvian whiskey litterin the deck and a washed up has been with poor personal hygene, threatening the lowest trick in the book. Doin it for the memory of Syl and all the arties who’ve known pain. Felt the filth and scum nickin our little bit of arrogance through poverty; the right to speak as a poor man with nowt but bitterness and a lack of talent and education to blackmail anyone daft enough to fall into the lies we spin. Arghhh, happy Christmas Wordy mate, happy effin christmas….

    Gra agus siochain

    Deasmhuman

  12. wordnerd7

    @Des, that was _much_ too long a gap between visits . . .delighted to see real you back, and not (only) naughty @Suzan playing peekaboo with your screen name 😉 . . . A belated Happy Christmas to you, too. . . and I hope I can safely ignore that whole oven bit as purest invention.

    Your Christmas Eve post on your own Irish Poetry site reminded me of Dickens telling his contemporaries about suffering they’d rather not hear about – like the

    two “abject, frightful, hideous, miserable” children peering out from under the robe worn by the Ghost of Christmas Present. “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want,” the Ghost tells the quaking Scrooge. “No perversion of humanity . . . has monsters half so horrible and dread.” Dickens intended to make the sufferings of the most vulnerable of the underclass so pungently real to his readers that they could not continue to ignore their need, not so much for charity as for the means to save themselves

    Amazing to read in the same article in which I found that extract that _he_ started work on A Christmas Carol in a serious fit of the glooms:

    The months leading up to the publication of “A Christmas Carol” in December 1843 were not happy ones for Dickens. The most popular writer in England — in the world — was falling further into debt as he struggled to support a large family that included his spendthrift father.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/books/review/Harrison-t.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/D/Dickens,%20Charles

    . . . Btw, if you can throw any light on what particle of sense a ‘nudist avatar’ might make, I suspect that I won’t be the only comrade grateful to you. . . .As a man with four sisters, can you explain why the wife in this couple couldn’t leave him alone with his batty imaginings – I mean, it isn’t as if he was getting into her clothes cupboard or anything – was he?

  13. BaronCharlus

    More thoughts on virtual naturism later but, Wordn, I’m concerned about your claims that I have a tribute act. Which thread was this, what was said? GU is a big place.

  14. BaronCharlus

    Also,

    Hi Des, glad you’re back.

    Wordn, didn’t have any kip zonder kop (?) although I sometimes behave like one. I’ve actually been staying with family in Norfolk. Alarming, on the other hand, must have been enjoying all sorts of kerstische fayre.

  15. For years the outer reaches of performance and visual art investigated artificial intelligence and how it impinges on human activity. I once saw a performance by an ex-member of Fura del Baus ( theatre company from Catalonia ) who had connected electrodes to the muscles on his arms and legs. These were triggered by a computer keyboard so that the audience cold “play” him and get him to perform an involuntary spasmodic dance by typing. Quite primitive but also quite intriguing even if you thought better him than me.

    Similarly Stelarc the Australian artist had “intelligent” biomechanics implanted into his body so that he wasn’t in total control of what he did.

    Second Life seems a bit similar in that you can live a life you don’t have through pixellated means and it isn’t under your total control. As per usual with new technology it seems to be yet another way of having extra-marital sex but it does provide some extremely comic possibilities. Apparently you can hire virtual detectives to investigate your cheating partner.

    I suppose I’m intrigued more about the idea of a real life so unsatisfying that you have to live another on-line. Or is that the case? I also suppose it could be said that that my life is also so appalling that I have to make art to make it interesting so I am not in a position to pass
    comment. Again I don’t know.

  16. Baron a sober Xmas in Amsterdam this time but I discovered that the friends we spent Xmas with know the puppeteer you linked to on another thread – Ulrike and I can’t remember the surname now. They worked with another puppeteer and I’m REALLY struggling with the name now – Dienke Someneorother on their last show. I think she works with Ulrike as well as Dudu Paiva ( now I know that name! )

    It’s a small world and getting smaller.

  17. BaronCharlus

    @Alarming,

    Well I never! Small world indeed….

    I love Amsterdam this time of year; I was there in November. Have you been there for New Year, when the otherwise sensible Dutch go berserk, chucking fireworks into the streets?

  18. ISA

    Wordy,

    You talk about these virtual landscapes and conjour up Dickens conjouring up Marley. Where does this richness come from? No from the technologists.

    I stood next to the lizard in Parque Gaudi and I stroked it and couldn’t help smiling and smiling. Do you know where we are? I was asking my extended family? This is the very spot Ian Gibson described, it is where virtual reality became real.

  19. wordnerd7

    @alarming, all those subjects we’ve been discussing that are right on your gracht, and you gone missing for so long !!! …Don’t imagine you’re back a minute too soon.

    === These were triggered by a computer keyboard so that the audience cold “play” him and get him to perform an involuntary spasmodic dance by typing. ===

    Absolutely fascinating, in a hair-raising way, but ‘artificial intelligence’ must be one of the most wretchedly abused terms ever. It doesn’t belong in that context at all, does it? Forgive me for being a miserable pedant and noting that ‘cybernetics’ would be a better fit in both examples:

    === the study of human control functions and of mechanical and electronic systems designed to replace them, involving the application of statistical mechanics to communication engineering. === http://dictionary.reference.com/dic?q=cybernetics&search=search

    Yes, I think exactly as you do, here – and it stops me from feeling superior . . .

    === I also suppose it could be said that that my life is also so appalling that I have to make art to make it interesting so I am not in a position to pass
    comment. Again I don’t know. ===

    . . . and yet, what I was lamenting in this Christmas post, is that the new forms of vicariousness seem imaginatively impoverished – or perhaps I mean, anorexic. All it takes for me to discourage myself from enrolling and wasting time in Second Life is one look at the gormless renderings of places, people, etc. – third-rate illustrations; rotten colours. . . (grumble grumble)

    @BaronC, . . . someone who obviously stole your password posted a link to a My Space page with a photograph labelled with your name. The _nerve_! As if you’d ever look like central casting’s idea of Hercules Poirot re-invented as dashing and soigné . . . Yes please let’s get back to discussing virtual naturism later – what an elegant way to say that.

    Dear @ISA, re: ‘richness’ . . . what about someone announcing, on the verge of writing a shamingly well-informed post about Zimbabwean politics, ‘My Wife is a Pronghorn Antelope’? . . . http://xuitlacoche.blogspot.com/2008/12/my-wife-is-pronghorn-antelope.html . . . Don’t we all tend to appreciate most, in others, our own best qualities? . . Everyone posting here has unusual range – a small group, and yet already, so many sumptuous conversations. . . Eg., @alarming and @BaronC discussing the contrast between an Amsterdam sober at Christmas and Dionysian at the New Year – and somehow weaving in puppeteers, too. . . Reading them is bringing back many a deliriously happy trip to the Low Countries. Wonderful stuff.

    I’ll need to do a bit of looking-up before I understand about the lizard — what an image — and Ian Gibson.

  20. I read recently, an article by a British magazine editor who had fell prey to second life and met a man from Belgium on there, and was soon addicted to an online relationaship with him.

    After a year, she met him, even though he was married, more out of curiosity and a feeling they both had to, as friends who had met pretending to be avatars on a fictional gamer site.

    They had a weekend together, just as two people on the same wavelength, no hanky panky and things soon hotted up after the Beligian left his wife (the relationship was already in difficulties and second life had nothing to do with hastening it) and they began a real relationship, which lasted a year. The mag editor then got tired of him and ended it, because she reckoned he was too needy. He was devestated.

    Then, a few months after, she went back into to second life and found her ex up to the usual, not a bother on him, and she said she felt really jealous, even though she didnt want him any more.

    She then said she hasn’t been on the site since. It was an 18 month addiction. This is true, but I can’t…arh, the wonder of the net. Mandy Appleyard. Read her True Story Shocker!!!

  21. WN Indeed cybernetics was the word I was grasping for . Damn my lack of an English o’level.

    Baron I have lived and worked in Amsterdam but never experienced the New Year madness. Dogtroep the group I worked with over 25 years ago used to burn large wooden creatures on the stroke of midnight and accompany it with loudbrass band music. The photographs of those events was the nearest I’ve been.

  22. BaronCharlus

    I can understand how individuals form connections with others online – this site is a case of that, surely – it’s the concept that making one’s avatar naked could be in any way liberating that is so baffling.

    But then one must have designed the thing and revealed it to others; so perhaps it’s the online statement of intent, desire, time investment, finding like minds, of saying ‘this is what I choose, over all other, infinite, SL possibilities’ that provides allure? It also sounds like the man in the case did not feel free to pursue his interests in his analogue life, as Alarming has observed.

    Oh, Wordn, bless you for assuming the MySpace site was an imposter. It was me, I’m afraid, posting a Dylan/Limerick spoof. By the way, comic as it is, that photo is Alain Delon in Volker Schlondorff’s Un Amour de Swann, playing yer actual Baron Charlus.

  23. BaronCharlus

    @Alarming,

    Well, I just mentioned Dogtroep to my Dutch girlfriend and she responded with a speech including words like ‘iconic’ and the phrase ‘not just theatre makers but artists’ and was very impressed. She worked with a performer called Denise Evans a while back, who apparently did a stint with the troep.
    Sorry, social chat over.

    Be interesting to see if there are any Dutch, Finnish or German virtual naturists; there, a visit to the spa or sauna requires pragmatic public disrobing. I suspect one would find that the SL naturists are based in countries/families/relationships where such behaviour is considered, at least, a comment-worthy or embarrassing choice. The geography would tell us everything.

  24. wordnerd7

    @alarming,

    === Damn my lack of an English o’level. ===

    It’s alright to tell us that you needed all your brain cells for calculus and elementary particle physics. Surely we all know each other well enough for that, by now? . . . How else would you be impressing @BaronC’s friend with your Dogtroep connection?

    @Des, thank you . . . the most enlightening account I’ve ever read of a Second Life romance gone wrong . . . and for some reason (well, probably all those sisters to worry about 😉 ) I felt sure you’d have a strong opinion on the subject. . . I am no less baffled, though — the writer is something like a little girl imagining she’s a Barbie doll, and even that’s always been hard to comprehend, given that the doll-owners are usually pre-sexual and Barbie not.

    But actually, it’s the extremely specific details of the nudist avatar case that fascinate me. . .that the lawyer didn’t just describe the case as a wife angry about a net relationship that felt like real-life adultery but that the husband was taking imaginary clothes off his imaginary body with other imaginary nudists. . . And, above all, as @BaronC says so succinctly, ‘the concept that making one’s avatar naked could be in any way liberating’.

    @BaronC, all I know is that both the husband and wife in the case are almost certainly American. They could be Finnish-American, Dutch-American . . . I’m really only saying that it’s not so easy to slot Americans as naturist or not. It might all depend on how close they’ve remained to their culture of origin.

    About

    === I suspect one would find that the SL naturists are based in countries/families/relationships where such behaviour is considered, at least, a comment-worthy or embarrassing choice. ===

    . . . very interesting, as usual. But I’,m not sure if I’d draw my line of demarcation in the same way, grouping Finns with the Dutch and Germans. The survey I quoted in Sex in the Literary Blogosphere said that the Finns rank second after us in . . . was it marital infidelity?

    They are, notoriously, emotionally inhibited (I have Finnish friends who would readily confirm this) and like us, have a culture of heavy drinking. . . We all know that sex (like drinking) can just as easily be a way of avoiding emotional intimacy as a means of emotional bonding . . . This combination of facts has always made me a bit suspicious of the idea that ‘naturism’ comes more naturally to Finns.

  25. BaronCharlus

    @Wordn,

    I think we’re making the same point, in a way. I marked Finns, Dutch, German out because their ‘pragmatic public disrobing’ is not in any way considered naturism. There is no sense that it is liberating, a brave lifestyle choice, back to nature, etc. It’s just what you do when you go to the spa or sauna. This, I think, seperates nakedness from naturism-as-badge-of-choice, which is what must obtain, surely, for someone to go to the effort of being an SL naturist.

    The way people are moving their identities and hopes online is, in the more extreme cases, suggestive of a horrible kind of evolution. When we begin to relate to our avatars’ physicality more than our analogue bodies, then things are getting really weird…

  26. WN Interesting too that the rather fey look of the SL characters is in direct contrast to what appears to be volcanic emotions lying just below the surface.

    It’s almost as if the look doesn’t really matter it’s the possibilities of what might happen that drive someone on. I think of that marvellous Eliot line of “Gives promise of pneumatic bliss”. In fact the whole poem “Whispers of Immortality” seems extraordinarily prescient.

  27. wordnerd7

    @BaronC,

    === I think we’re making the same point, in a way. I marked Finns, Dutch, German out because their ‘pragmatic public disrobing’ is not in any way considered naturism. ===

    Yes, I see that we are indeed. . . and you’re making another important point, there.

    I’m sorry I haven’t returned to the subject of the ‘impostor’. I need some time to google images of Alain Delon and work out why I didn’t recognise him. It’s true that many, many, years have gone by since I saw an oldie-but-goodie with him in it — but I suspect that I’ve never seen him in colour before. . . The picture was a shock because of his striking resemblance to a close relation of mine . . . I knew that you were up to no good — teasing us in some way. I mean, that hair! the mustachios!

    . . . ‘analogue’ body. You do have a way with words!

    @alarming . . . for the same reason why Alain remains ungoogled, so far, I haven’t been able to look up Whispers of Immortality. Sounds irresistible. . . A brilliant Eliot line, thank you . . . and of course I couldn’t agree more with this:

    === the rather fey look of the SL characters is in direct contrast to what appears to be volcanic emotions lying just below the surface. ===

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