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September 06, 2007 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-09-06

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, September 6, 2007 - 3B

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Thursday, September 6, 2007 - 3B

COURTESY OF SECOND LIFE
See that guy? You can be as lame in Second Life as you are in reality.
MEDIA COLUM
Life repackaged
as a distraction

ouldn't you know, the
powers that run this
small world are pick-
ing up a few tips from the plebian
generations.Our country's intelli-
gence agencies are finally moving
online. As reported in the New
York Times, the government's
Wikipedia-inspired Intellipedia
will soon be joined by A-Space,
a (wait for it)
networking
site based on
Facebook and
MySpace. It's
about time the
intelligence
community en
this country A EW
and beyond
finally gets SARGUS
behind the KLEIN
whole "Inter-
net as information gatherer" ball.
And not to belabor the obvious,
but this is proof that the Internet
- and the media world at large
- has taken the instant access of
information and pushed it to the
extreme (the intelligence com-
munity's recent developments
still seem outdated). There are
12-year-olds who could probably
set up a spread offense for a Divi-
sion 1-AA football team, political
bloggers earning White House
press credentials, museums set-
ting up audio walkthroughs via
cell phones, sweatshops whose
workers sitoncomputers allnight
collecting virtual gold World of
Warcraft to sell online to lazy
(and wealthy) gamers.
Culture is fast moving to the
limits of knowledge and con-
venience, at times to the point
of over-saturation (for starters,
once you start reading celebrity
gossip blogs, your life spirals). It's
awesome and disturbing.
Case in point is the meta-real-
ity of Second Life. Essentially, it's
the Sims with real people. You
get started with a credit card and
a PayPal account, buying a per-
sonal stash of virtual currency.
The exchange rate is somewhere
around $1 U.S. to $285 SLL (that
would be Second Life Lindens,
the site's currency). You build
whatever you want wherever you
want, be it Illuminati obelisks or
wedding rings or stadiums.
There's astonishing busi-
nesses, shops, clubs and services
waiting for your avatar, including
live audio/video streams of con-
certs and performances, a place
started by the Department of
Homeland Security for training
first responders, a 3D interactive
art exhibit with Swiss-govern-
ment-sponsored artists and a
city where every neighborhood
is decorated in a different genre
anime. The iPhone can't do that
(yet). And it's all just filtered
through a pixilated, imaginary
version of yourself.
But then there's the fact that
individual users (not just cor-
porations) make real money off
of selling virtual real estate (the
government is looking into the
possibility of levying a tax on the
site - it's that serious). Rape and
sexual harassment incidents are
popping up. There's even jour-
nalism - seriously folks, virtual
LIKE WHAT
YOU SEE?
GREAT.
HATE IT?
EVEN BETTER.

MASS
MEETING
TONIGHT
AT 8 P.M.
420
MAYNARD ST.

reporting. There's something
strange afoot. The point is less
that the 600,000 or so unique
users are living in a made-up
world and more what drove them
there and just what direction this
world-that's-not-a-world is head-
ing.
Money, of course, rears its
head, sniffs the air and smiles.
No matter how far you get
from realtsunshine and air and
streets, you're going to find some
ads, which means some people
will buy stuff. The site's corpo-
rate marketing capabilities have
been debated across such web-
sites as New World Notes and
Wied (which also extensively
documented the site's features
and is an important source for
this column), and it looks as if the
site is a viable (though not explo-
sively so) option for advertisers.
Capitalism follows the money, no
matter how deep into the Inter-
net you retreat.
The Internet gets bored eas-
ily - no shit. But this particular
manifestation is more than a blog
or an RPG. If you're online all
the time, Second Life is a serious
distraction (genitalia changes,
sections with loads of guns and
it's every avatar for itself), but
offers relevance (there are lecture
podcasts, interactive discussions,
etc.). An RSS feed from a website
is one thing. Talking in a forum
about news of the day before
heading off (literally walking) to
the International Space Museum
It's OK if you
don't have
a life - just
build another.
(complete with planetarium)
then catching a streamed concert
is another. Who needs to burn
precious energy walking when
it's all in a few clicks and strokes?
We were glued to our TVs in the
'50s. We live through our com-
puters now.
It's no surprise corporations
are calmly settling in - that's
what they do. It's painfully iron-
ic that this world which is not a
world is really the same world
we started with, after all. Second
Life might be garish and ad hoc
at times, but it nevertheless is an
astonishing media development,
a freakishly interesting muta-
tion splicing the Internet with
unlimited boredom and corpo-
rate potential.
It creatively repackages online
everything we could experience
in real life, and though it smacks
of innovation, it's still a little
creepy.
- Klein's avatar got himself
ejected from a concert for being
too awkward. E-mail him with
any condolences/suggestions
at andresar@umich.edu.

Brad Pitt in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," due this month, one of several films this fall with name actors starring in thromback monies.
W ac o. rATUATIuN

By JEFFREY BLOOMER
and PAUL TASSI
Daily Arts Writers
Brad Pitt had it rough last year, at lea;
screen. Stuck in a mess of convoluted emi
as a distraught husband in Alejandro Gon:
Inarritu's "Babel," he was regulated tc
decidedly supporting role of a man whose
is accidentally shot in Morocco, and the:
stood, bawling when he finally got his
on the phone to tell them what happeni
Mommy.
And what about Russell Crowe? I
reunited with his "Gladiator" director
ley Scott only to follow up the consume
period-action vehicle of recent years witl
role of a frigid banker who waxes sentimi
in the middle of an Italian chateau in "Alt
Year."
Lest we forget poor Tom Cruise, w
"Mission: Impossible III" more or less fi:
amid persistent public outcry over scie
ogy-based transgressions. Will Smith got
siderable praise for his role in "The Pursi
Happyness," but come on: How can that p
MORE ONLINE
at michigandaily.com
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bly stack up against blowing up Miami, which
he hasn't been allowed to do since 2004?
Maybe these traditionally blockbuster-
engulfed actors enjoy these movies, the type
of offbeat prestige roles that are increasingly
in vogue forbig names no longer content with
A welcome return to
the roles that made
them famous.
double-digit opening weekends. We do, too.
These guys want gold, or at least their agents
do, and that's understandable. But with the
exception of Cruise, these aren't the mov-
ies that made them famous, and so to these
observers, they just look miserable.
Luckily this fall has an answer for all of
them, or at the very least for those of us who
thrive on having A-list Hollywood talent on its
home turf. In the coming months there will be

a series of films in which the industry's high-
est-priced men get to do their own approxima-
tion of the fierce all-American action hero in
various incarnations. There's a small revival
of the Western for Pitt and Crowe, who will
star in the long-delayed "The Assassination of
Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and
a remake of "3:10 to Yuma," respectively, and
Smith gets a virtual one-man show with "I Am
Legend," in which he fights vampire-like con-
verts in a nearly decimated New York City.
Crowe will also star as a cop opposite resi-
dent badass Denzel Washington's drug lord in
"American Gangster," another collaboration
with Ridley Scott that may just redeem him
in machismo circles. But no one gets to yap
and giddily dominate the screen like Cruise,
who will don suspenders as a U.S. senator who
rattles off loud diatribes on the war on ter-
rorism to Meryl Streep's journalist in Robert
Redford's provocative political thriller "Lions
for Lambs."
These movies may well be awards contend-
ers, but perhaps more important,they will also
be pop-culture moments. This fall there's an
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