The Wolf who worked for ABC

27 02 2014

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey

The Criminologist from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

They all kept telling me that I should do it, they told me over and over again, those friends of mine on a forum I was on, It could do this, it could do that, I wasn’t interested, because Second Life looked too much like a game, and I wasn’t a gamer, there would be no way that I’d ever use it.

Then I saw it on “Beyond Tomorrow” on Channel Seven, and decided that I could try it, and if I didn’t like it, I could simply leave.

I signed up.

I found myself on an island where avatars were born, and I couldn’t get off that Island, I was getting frustrated and may have logged out forever, except a friend found me and teleported me, to her.

Things started to look better, except I was still somewhat lost, but I found other friends were already in there, and they helped me get started. One of the first things I wanted to do, was to shed my human form, something many of us furries would eagerly do in real life, if it were possible.

One of my friends felt he could see the potential of Second Life and so bought us an island, which would be our home base, I was kind of shocked, buying an island was expensive, but I couldn’t stop him from getting one, and about a week later, there it was.

We were just feeling our way around, the experience was like being on another planet, and one where we were free to be ourselves completely, like some sort of hippy commune, we would walk around “naked” in this world. It’s funny, but it doesn’t take long for the avatar to feel as though it’s an extension of yourself, so when someone catches you naked, it’s a little bit embarrassing.

Furry culture thinks that sex, of any kind, is quite a normal thing, and that genitals are merely another part of the body.

I had genitals, multiple kinds for each avatar… human, equine, canine and dragon and we wore these proudly and flashed them about with gay abandon.

Psychologically it was quite interesting, there was a certain child-like thing about this stage of our lives in this virtual world.

Then I found out, via a friends forum, that ABC were investing in an island, and they wanted help, So I offered to help which was accepted, but it took months before the island opened, and there was lots of speculation and rumour about the island.

Abi, who was going to be the owner of the island, met with us on our own island, and we had a talk about how we’d set up our island, I think in general, most people want newbies to set up an island just like theirs, I think it’s an ego thing, I think we had a certain amount of pride in our island too.

The island did finally have a grand opening and loads of people went in to see it, I thought it started off really well, and I would meet some new people that day who I would get to know well over the next few years…

…Oh yes, did I say I was using Second Life every day now? It was now my main reason for using the internet, it ate data like crazy.

Later that day, a group of us were made Admins of the island, which allowed us to look after it, the fact was that ABC staff couldn’t keep an eye on it 24 hours a day, but the users could.

We could remove pests from the island, if we needed to, and we could report any technical issues with the island if anything went wrong.

Once something went very wrong, the island had pretty much vanished, and we thought that it was due to “Griefers” (a sort of internet vandal). Before we could get a definite reason for what went wrong, the story, and a photo of me flying around a deserted island, was published… but of course the story was laughable, it was a complete cockup, but loads of people read the story and many believed it.

The real story was that the computer which runs each island on Second Life, makes a backup of the island, every twelve hours or so, and during one backup, either the power failed or the computer crashed, resulting in a partial backup… so when the faulty backup was used to re-start the island, it looked as though someone had destroyed the place.

The people who run Second Life were told, and the island was started using an earlier backup, and everything went back to normal.

That’s all it was, but it’s not as exciting as the first story, is it?

I was on ABC Island a lot, trying hard to get people to come in and use it, but most people, like me at the start of this story, didn’t want to, and refused to even try it.

If they did, they’d get to the difficult first stage and give up.

Or their computer was too old and too slow to cope with Second Life.

Some people found the learning curve too steep, they either just wanted to play a game, or chat, this was over-complicated.

Or they lived way out in the country with extremely slow, or no broadband.

I knew that If we had the NBN back then, Then Second Life would have been wonderful for people in small communities around Australia, but sadly, with the woeful internet we have in regional areas, that wasn’t possible.

The Admins worked hard to get people to try Second Life, and especially our ABC Island which we were very proud of.

I should say at this point that many people thought I worked at ABC, because I was on ABC island so often, I told them that wasn’t the case, but  I did work *for* ABC, though only on a voluntary basis… Oh yes, it was work, it was surprising how much work there was, just to keep it going. If I had kept my own home that clean, the place would have been spotless.

But it was like having a really serious hobby which I was heavily involved with, so I enjoyed it.

I never had been put in a position of responsibility before, and because I wanted this project to work, I put as much into it as I could. and now I was dealing with new psychological changes, I found myself becoming strict, and if anyone disobeyed the rules, I’d get cranky about it and they’d suddenly “leave” the island.

Eventually there was another point where I gave myself a really good shake-up and told myself to lighten-up, I didn’t like what I was becoming, I wasn’t nearly as nice to people as I ought to be, at least that’s how I felt, I’ll let any of you who met me in world be the judge.

I had also, mostly been left with the job, You see, the other Admins, although they liked ABC Island a lot, and certainly helped me when I needed it, had found other creative interests and had decided to set up their own islands. They had developed and wanted to do their own things, which was great, but it had the effect of fragmenting the group.

A documentary crew had asked me to make a film about Second Life with them, which I did, but sadly, a lot of the facts about what I did on Second Life were dropped, I knew this at the time, but felt that making a film would still be fun. There was no mention of ABC because the film was made for another network, so a big part of what I really did on Second Life was left out.

I don’t blame the Director, She was under pressure from the network, who, after all, were funding the thing, but I was really quite unhappy about the result… ahh well, at least I had a few free meals and some fun.

The Doco involved Katie, My Alaskan Malamute, She had a few car rides out of it so she was happy.

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Katie and I, Taken during filming of Alter Ego: Photo – Matt Calissi, December Films.

I waited for a long time to see this Doco on air, and find out what people thought, but the network held onto it for ages, and then had some sort of review and changed from a station which played documentaries, into something which was more about general entertainment, the doco was shelved until one night, at 11pm on a December 23rd, thus, very few saw it.

As a good friend says “That’s Showbiz”.

Alas ABC was getting fewer visitors in later years, and I found myself standing around for hours, hoping someone would turn up, it was clear to me that Second Life wasn’t working, I had created Rockit, a music quiz show which did get people back to the island, but I was the only host, for what would always be a very small audience, as only a small number of people could ever be on an island at one time, We needed more hosts and more shows, Whenever anything was done which would draw an audience, it often did… but the logistics of getting it done were always difficult, there were roadblocks from ABCs side which couldn’t be overcome.

Second Life was an idea which came along at a point when computers weren’t up to the task and the internet wasn’t up to it either, If Second Life can hang in there for another ten years, then maybe it can regain some ground, but it’s going to take some imagination and some serious forward thinking, something we might have, but our government (like any right wing government) completely lacks.

This was also a time when I thought the ABC could do no wrong, but I have since seen it’s other face, and didn’t like it one bit.

When ABC Island closed down, I left Second Life completely, I had no purpose there anymore.

Wolfie Rankin

* I didn’t explain what Second Life was, Those who were there know exactly what it is, and those who weren’t, won’t care.





Bullying

13 07 2012

I think if a psychologist asked me to choose a word which goes with school, I would say “Bullying”.

And I think almost everyone I’ve spoken to about school, especially high-school would say the same thing, I think I’ve only ever spoken to one person who said that their high-school life was ok, it’s a shame that is remarkable.

Teachers in primary school used to warn about television numbing the mind, while reading was obviously better, but this was often nonsense. I found that a lot of the shows I watched broadened my mind quite a lot. “Why is it so?”, “The curiosity show”, “Towards and Beyond 2000”, “In the wild with Harry Butler” to name just a few.

And I feel that personally, if left to my own devices, I would have had much the same education, short of a few practical lessons, as I would have if I had gone to school.

And in some ways I feel I have learnt more since leaving school, than I did while I was there.

And the bullying was something I didn’t need.

I have thought about a question from time to time, What would I choose if I must have…

Seven years of school or six months of cancer treatments (Which I have had), and I’m really not sure which I’d rather go through.

The pain runs very deep for both, but one is over quickly.

The last year of school for me was year 10 at Footscray High School, a year I was repeating, not surprisingly because I simply didn’t care anymore, I’d get up, go to school, fear for my life from 9am till 3:10pm and then go home to where it was safe.

I never did homework, as soon as I was home, that was it.

Mum didn’t push me, it wasn’t as though she didn’t care, she did, quite a lot, but knew that school and I were like oil and water.

Then one day I’d had enough, I faked an argument with my Dad who was taking me to school in his truck, and I told him I’d rather walk to school… well I walked home instead and laid on the roof of the garage until the day was over.

The funny thing was that Mum and Dad were called to school by the co-ordinator, She wanted to tell my parents that I really wasn’t doing very well and I wouldn’t get a high enough grade to finish the year and go onto the next.

Except when they called for me over the P.A. Well… I wasn’t there, was I?

The next day I had a chat with the co-ordinator, she wasn’t upset with me, She knew that I’d given up, She knew that I was now completely ignoring the maths teacher and reading novels instead, she wanted me to go out into the world and give it all I had.

Up till that time, I’d considered her harsh and formidable, but in actual fact, she was a genuinely caring person.

I remember that last walk across the playing field, that hop over the fence, and that final journey home, school and I were now, forever separated, and I could finally begin to grow.

Wolfie!





Sci Fi Sci

31 05 2012

I’ve come up with an interesting idea for a science series, which is part Sci fi and part factual.

What if you could have Doctor Who (An expert on time) host a show about fossils, travelling back in time, in his TARDIS, to explain how things looked thousands of years ago, giving an insight into the natural history of Earth?

Or Jean-Luc Picard hosting a show about the local planets, from the Enterprise itself?

Now we’ve had actors providing their voice for these sorts of shows before, but never in character. This would not be a voice over job for the actor, but a chance for the viewer to accompany the character on a ride through time and space, and learning about real science along the way.

This would be how “Sci Fi Sci” would work.

Obviously this would require film and TV companies getting together and giving their OK , I’m thinking about rights issues, but if done well, it could be quite an exciting, and entertaining documentary series.

“Sci Fi Sci” (c) Wolfie Rankin 2012 – All Rights Reserved

Wolfie!





Post Second Life

7 02 2011

I thought I’d have time off from Second Life, and see how that goes. Maybe after a few weeks I’d have rested enough and suddenly decide to go back.

But I haven’t felt any desire to return.

Although Second Life was a place where I could pretty much do anything, it also came with so many rules and operations (prim limits, island stuff) and the bitching, as to smother anything that was lovely about it.

Would I return and carry that torch for the thing that I tried to convince others was worth their time and efforts, and the thing that I often tried to convince myself was worth my time and effort?

Yes, I know, I was the cheer leader for Second Life for such a long time, but even during the time that we were filming our Doco, I was already asking myself why I was hanging on, I had taken it about as far as I could go, I wanted more, but there wasn’t more.

Then I found what I was missing was over on other social networks, suddenly it seemed that the place I thought was mine, really wasn’t, that I’d been fooling myself this entire time.

I never liked the aspect that Second Life took, where a person was supposed to concentrate on Second Life things, but somehow not on real life.

At no point was this made clearer than when Julia Gillard was made Prime Minister.

Twitter was all over it, In fact Twitter knew about it before TV did (nothing unusual there), The news broke while Hey Hey it’s Saturday was on… I watched it, and the rest of the show, there was probably half an hour left, Then, after the show finished, I went into Second Life to do my usual Schtick of playing News Boy for ABC and The Australians group, But feeling I’d be far too late, they’d all know.

But they didn’t, not till I mentioned it, I was very surprised… I think, perhaps I still don’t like admitting the harsh reality to myself, that this is how things really were.

In Second Life, people disconnect themselves from the Real World a bit too much, I do understand, sometimes the real world is too hard to take. We look for escape, somewhere to hide… but a line needs to be drawn, people can’t go around being that disconnected, but they can, and do.

I read Myf Warhursts article on Second Life, and wrote to her, defending it, as I always did, but a part of me probably felt that she was right.

Not that long ago, my computer always displayed the goings on in Eragon or ABC Islands, suddenly it didn’t… I thought I’d go back, but there was no desire… I did momentarily to show a friend on twitter what it was, that was for an hour, maybe that would make me reconsider, it didn’t.

Days go by now, I do my tweeting and facebooking, I compose e-mails and write to my blog, I feel more at home now than I ever did in that big 3D world with nobody in it. I talk to people who are in media, and I understand them because I’m one of them, I’m on their frequency.

I couldn’t wait to get back into Second Life once, to see what was happening, but it’s attraction soured so much for me that I wonder if I ever really did like Second Life at all.

And Katie doesn’t mind the extra time spent with her, although I doubt that She ever missed out on much.

Wolfie! (The 2D Version)





My Virtual Frustration

26 10 2010

As many would know, I’ve been using Second life for about five years now, and during that time, it has given me friends… not cliché online friends who could be axe murderers or whatever, but genuine friends who I’ve met in real life and invited into my home.

I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with a documentary, “Alter Ego” commissioned by SBS, and to have a credit in an Australian feature film “Beautiful Kate”.

Second life has loads of potential, alas, in many ways, that’s often all it has.

Yes folks, I’m going to bite the hand that fed me.

Second life worked, at least it worked to a point. I found that I could work my rear end off creating some form of display, only to log in a few days later and find that another member of the island had done something, usually to the land, and this had upset my work.

If I write a blog post, in fact I’m writing one now, I know for a fact that however long I leave the page, when I finally do return, that all my words and posts will be intact… not floating in the air, or hurled into a lake or returned to me by another member.

One member of the ABC Admin had made a lovely garden area, which not only looked great but functioned very well, it was being used and enjoyed by others. I was annoyed to log in one day to find it all gone. It turned out that another member had said something which possibly offended the creator, and so she removed it, leaving a flat and empty construction zone which even today hasn’t been adequately used.

I also miss the Laneways, which despite some of the problems people had, mostly due to a slow down of their computer, refered to as “lag”. I was listening to the fors and againsts, and things were split 50-50, there was discussion on whether it should be kept or not, but eventually it was all taken down.

Rockit was something I had worked very hard on, it was my virtual music quiz show, which made an appearance in the documentary. But it was hard to bring people in to watch it… unlike television, it had to be done live and couldn’t be recorded for later… at least not by myself, and the point of it was the interaction, watching a recorded show wouldn’t have been quite as much fun. Having a live show meant that people had to be in the audience NOW
not always easy to do, I’ll admit, when the kids have to be put to bed or the dog walked.

As I said, Second life had a lot of potential, but many wouldn’t bother turning up to try it, I remember that I was even reluctant to try it, as I have never seen myself as a gamer, and at that point I assumed that it was a game.

Once I logged in, and stayed for a while, I realised that this was a 3D Social Network, where I could meet people and make real life friends, and since I found it difficult to get out due to my health, I found it a real boon, logging in for hours each day.

At one point, ABC offered a Science Discussion, hosted by members of the CSIRO which was a hit, but only lasted for about five weeks, I’m not really sure why. People asked me dozens of times if the CSIRO talks would return or if we’d have some other science content happening instead. Well I tried, I really did. I have some science connections and put the word out, but I may as well have been yelling into the wind as nobody was interested. of course all this would have been done for free since I’m just an individual who has no money to spare for projects and I do know that even keen scientists aren’t always keen to talk about their subject for free.

I tried inviting Pool into ABC Island, We had a building created, and thought that everything was all set to go, only to be trapped by certain legal hitches, or perhaps by people who just didn’t care. Everything ground to a halt.

I have told people about Second life and it’s potential, hell even if you’re not a gamer then surely you can see the benefit of standing with a group of people, you in Australia, a friend from New York, another from London and one from Germany… all talking together about things you did in real life today, for as long as you please. It’s the cheapest discussion ever, and much, much more fun than staring at a single face on Skype.

But they won’t log in… ok, maybe their computer is too old, or perhaps they don’t have the bandwidth, but then,
Second life doesn’t demand so much that it’s going to be that much of a problem. Sometimes it just seems to people that the learning curve is too great, but it’s not really, you pick things up as you go, people will give you handy little tips along the way.

It’s especially excellent for those with health issues or those who are stuck in rural locations and want to get out and socialise, but can’t.

I found the oddest thing was that when I was in Second Life, I didn’t feel like I was talking to my friend overseas on the phone, I felt like more like I was with them, and that was nice. Granted it’s not exactly the same… but how many of us can spontaneously decide to get the Lear jet refueled and fly to Canada on a whim?

Whether it was pre-conceived ideas or actual computer problems, people just never really seemed to give Second Life a real go, to see if it was useful.

It’s certainly every bit as useful an online tool as Facebook and Twitter, what went wrong? I’m not sure.

Anyway, for five years I tried my hardest, I did a lot of work, I tried to bring people in to show them that this place really can work well, but all I seem to have to show for it is a huge pile of frustration.

The island that I originally lived on and helped design recently ran low on funding, and it was sold off, I’m about to have everything I put in place returned to me, which saddens me somewhat, but there’s little I can do about it.

I’ve pretty much given up, I’ve been using Twitter and Facebook, and have been writing here, but as far as Second Life goes, I just feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall.

And I seldom log in anymore.

Wolfie!





Getting a Job

8 10 2010

My dream job is to work with the ABC, but there are complications, firstly I’ve never had a paying job, so I really don’t know what to expect. The idea of going for a payed job feels something like being lead to a cliff, blindfolded and asked to take a “leap of faith” (and as I’m an atheist, that’s a hard ask).

I have filled my time either with education or voluntary jobs.

What I wanted to do most of all at high-school was to work in radio, and I did get to act out my wish at a community station in Melton, Victoria called RIM-FM (now 979FM). I was there for three years, I ran a two hour music program twice a week and also did some background work, such as writing CSAs or any material which needed to be scripted. I also edited lots of tape. A skill I learnt from a small amount of time at the School of Audio Engineering at St. Kilda.

Illness stopped me from going further, so I dropped out and waited a few years, and found that I felt better… so I decided to do a course in Shiatsu Massage which lasted two years, this was my new age hippy stage, which I can’t knock because I needed something at a relaxed pace which I could handle.

After this I took on another voluntary position with Friends of the (Melbourne) zoo, and liked this, but my health took another dive a few months later.

People who know me would know of my battle with cancer, in myself and with family members.

So I have been on the disability pension for some time, I don’t go out much, just to shop and walk my dog, then I come home and rest.

So the internet has become very important for me as a way to socialise and be involved with things.

I began using it in the 90’s via my Amiga computer, so have seen a lot of changes from then till now.

In the last few years I have been assisting ABC on a voluntary basis on their Secondlife island, acting as a greeter to the public, building it’s structure, producing a live game show for the visitors, and making sure that it runs smoothly from a technical perspective.

The island is a project of ABC Innovation in Sydney, Abigail E. Thomas is in charge there.

I am also a very keen Facebook user, My page almost resembles an online newspaper as I like to add links to the important stories of the day, and to interesting videos or images (photos and comics). However I don’t play facebook games.

Twitter is something I have also found worthwhile, I enjoy reading tweets from the people I follow, who are usually media people. Often this is where I discover links to the news stories which I use on Facebook, Crediting the finder or writer of the story as I add the links.

My technical skills include:

Basic computer use: PC, Mac and iPhone, I can also do some limited maintenance.

Basic Photoshop skills, which I’ve used for Secondlife, Various blogs and Twitter.

Basic Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas skills (Video Editing) the results can be viewed at my Youtube page.

I recommend watching the “Win a Secondlife Avatar” promotional video, Featuring use of a virtual world, Filming of a virtual world, Video Editing, Video Effects and Soundtrack editing.

And also “Step out of the Shade” A music video I made, using the same techniques as mentioned above.

I can edit sound recordings in various sound editing programs and produce and publish a podcast.

I also have reasonable photography skills, I’m familiar with DSLR use and HDV camcorder use.

I have completed a documentary with December Films called “Alter Ego” about users of Secondlife which was produced for SBS, and Have a very small credit in the Australian Feature Film, “Beautiful Kate”.

My limitations mean that although I could occasionally make it to a location, I would far rather work from home if possible and e-mail in any work which needs doing.

I am exceedingly comfortable using the internet, and not quite as comfortable with the real world.

I am an unusual but friendly character, who has a loyal and caring nature, if you can take my oddity, I consider myself a furry, then perhaps we can come up with a plan?

Now, I don’t have the highest opinion of myself, however, if you think that by looking at what I’ve written here, that I may be capable of what you require, then just send a tweet to @Wolfie_Rankin.

Also, I’m pretty broke, My house is falling to bits and I need some help to get out of this hole.

Wolfie!





Countdown Experience

6 10 2010

I had an idea a few days ago about Countdown,
the 70s/80’s pop music show that ran in Australia on the ABC

Imagine that you could go back in time, with recent camera and sound
equipment, or better, perhaps you come from the future.

So you do this, and your objective is to make recordings, perhaps for
historic reasons, of the tv shows of the 20th century, your project
is Countdown.

Perhaps we can, in a way.

I’ve watched “Life on mars” and “Ashes to Ashes” which dealt with roughly the same time frame, and was impressed with all the details.

It would be easier to fool me with an Elizabethan setting, as I am
not that old, nor have I been to England, but I know, and I dare say
that most of us here remember the 70s very well.

What if we had a total re-creation of Countdown?

We have actors playing the parts, we have to, because none of the
stars of the show look the same as they did back in 1975.

But we have the original music, yes it would be mimed to, but then
bands always mimed their songs on the show, so it doesn’t really matter.

(guitars were often, noticeably not plugged in)

And what about behind the curtain, fly on the wall moments with agitated performers, some of them calm, some annoyed, others throwing up. I mean, there has to be tales from people who were there who saw
things and heard things.

So what I’m suggesting is that we get our heads together and come up
with a one hour, one off, experimental television program which looks
as authentic as humanly possible. a genuine labour of love.

Now, Hey Hey came back because someone started a facebook page which
encouraged people to join up and talk about the show, so I’ve done the same.

If you’re on Facebook, and the idea appeals to you, please join me
There and let’s see how far we can push this idea.

Countdown Experience on Facebook

Also, if we can get it moving, I will be tweeting the progress of the programs development via
@Air_Digital.

Wolfie!

Countdown is copyright ABC