Do You Have a Question, Pixeleen Minstral?

By Dana Milbank
Friday, September 1, 2006

Presidential hopeful Mark Warner, the former Democratic governor of Virginia, was giving his views on abortion in a news conference yesterday when a large woman in a red skirt levitated out of her seat in the audience and hovered, weightless, above the stage.

"Ummm," called out Grace Sutter, another spectator, "who is the weird giant on stage?"

Warner paid no attention to the flying audience member. "I support Roe v. Wade , and I think the challenge from this administration goes beyond an attack on Roe v. Wade ," he said.

Warner was not surprised by the floating woman because he himself had flown onto the stage -- or at least his animated avatar had. The governor invited reporters to join him yesterday for a virtual event at the Web site Second Life, in which participants create their own animated characters that fly and teleport through space and time.

The concept was pretty cool: Warner and his invitation-only crowd, using instant-messaging technology and action figures they moved with keyboard and mouse, interacted in an animated chat room resembling a video game. In Warner's theory, this will eventually allow him to reach young, tech-savvy voters in virtual town hall meetings.

But the trouble began immediately for the Luddite staffers and reporters yesterday as they journeyed for the first time into this strange world. They could not figure out how to make their characters, with names such as Shorewarz Zon and Pixeleen Minstral, take seats.

Taking Nap: How do you sit down?

Hamlet Au: Right down there. Just right click and Sit.

Spin Martin: heh

Whirling Eddy: /sit

Shorewarz Zon: /sit

Jonl Trumbo: /sit

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