It’s my pleasure to introduce Andrew Monkelban

andrew-monkelbanHanging out with people you like on a daily basis is a luxury, and nowhere is that more apparent to me than on PopTen. Everyday I wake up, jump on the blog, and see what’s been going on with some of the people I like best. It’s like a virtual Cheers without the cheese.

I’m honored to add a new voice to our group who is fast becoming an old friend of ours. We met him on the long road trip that was Second Skin. Actually, we met him through a friend of a friend, and caught up virtually in Second Life before the real life meeting months later.

Andrew Monkelban is a resident of virtual world in the truest sense. Almost everything I know of him emanates from the glowing box in front of me right now, and even our real life engagements play out mostly on the screen. In RL he’s confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, which has also rendered him mute and almost completely paralyzed. Nearly his entire personality has only one conduit for expression: his right index finger.

Online, Andrew has presided over a large guild, edited a plethora of anime music videos, written for various blogs, and is a big voice for disabled gamer advocacy. Over the course of the last two years he has introduced to me all sorts of video games, pop culture, and memes. It feels only natural to bring him into the fold, and have him grace us with his wisdom on all things virtual. Andrew is one of those unique people that allowed me to reevaluate why I was who I was. I only hope he does the same for you too.

rendered him mute and almost completely paralyzed. Nearly his entire personality has
only one conduit for expression: his right index finger. When I met Andrew, we were
inside the virtual world of Second Life, we both had wings, and I had no idea he was
disabled. Andrew endeared himself to me immediately, being both incredibly down-toearth
and witty. We hung out quite a bit online, having many late-night conversations. It
was weeks later that he revealed to me his disability, and months later that I decided to
pay him a visit, camera in tow.
Hanging out with Andrew that afternoon was a life-changing experience that forced me
to reconsider everything I felt about virtual worlds. Walking through his bedroom door
and meeting him, my first reaction was denial; this exuberant, funny online friend of
mine was reduced to an unmoving, silent shell immediately. It took me most of the
afternoon to become comfortable with Andrew again, mostly because the forced
silences felt so awkward and his face barely expressed his actual emotions. In our
world, Andrew was mostly limited to his room. Online, Andrew presided over a large
guild and edited anime music videos, which he shared with his virtual world friends. His
virtual life was infinitely more gratifying than his real life. He had multitudes of friends,
none of whom judged him on his physical body, and he could truly be himself and show
off his many talents.

Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza

Juan Carlos directed two acclaimed films: "Know How" a musical written and acted by youth in foster care, and "Second Skin" a documentary on virtual worlds. He is Director of Social Action Impact & Public Affairs at Participant Media, and the Founder of White Roof Project, a nonprofit organization curbing climate change. @jcpe

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