Thursday, June 28, 2007


Last night was very quiet. Cramped in rl from crouching on the floor over my laptop for three nights straight and stunned from a heat wave, I left Siri lying in a hammock wearing a ready made tiger striped tankini, on a beachy island club called Italia.

I was okay there for a while, as the place was empty of people, but soon wary, when I noticed that the place was obviously some kind of hook up joint, scattered as it was with pose balls with intimate sounding titles. It was time for some fine art...

I searched the grid for art-related sites and pulled up the White Cube Gallery. I approached the gallery with excitement, thinking I was going to experience art of real White Cube, London, proportions. And I enjoyed the exhibition – sort of.

I entered the exhibition "4" (June 3rd to July 4th) by American artist Juria Yoshikawa (Lance Shields). Juria, a female in sl (this helps explain:, is an artist in real life and has been creating sculptures in sl since March 2007. In this particular installation she collaborated with musician AldoManutio Abruzzo (Dennis Moser). Her artist statement reads:

‘ "4" is the latest artistic romp of emerging virtual artist Juria Yoshikawa collaborating with composers Miulew Takahe, Bingo Onomatopoeia, Auxillary Snook and AldoManutio Abruzzo. Given a month in a 15x15 meter cube shaped art space, she has chosen to use a single number as the beat to create her artwork to. The idea is simple. Yoshikawa will install a new artwork in the gallery each week. The minimalist number concept then extends to the 4 SL musicians she has called on to collaborate with, one each week. Each composer is given a single number 1, 2, 3 or 4 to create a soundscape based on their musical interpretation of that number. Yoshikawa herself will use her 4 opportunities to extend her ongoing exploration of light in immersive spaces.’

I entered the exhibition and animated my avatar as instructed. My sl body was blown and lifted through cubes of white light. I listened to the rush of music and was in the moment...for a moment. Unfortunately, technology failed me, or I it, again. My avatar was supposed to float gently on sound waves. Which it did, until I tried to stop all animations and my left arm somehow bent over the back of my head in some wrenching yogic crunch. Once again, I was ruining a perfectly good scene…

It takes a lot of openness on the part of the rl operator to truly appreciate an online exhibition. Like, if I had a 36” monitor and Boston Acoustic speakers attached to my computer. And blinders, so I wouldn’t be distracted by the stack of half-folded laundry, mocking me in the corner of my living room where I sat on the floor with laptop. Upon reflection, I thought about the work of rl artist Olafur Eliasson and would be interested to see a virtual representation of "Your Spiral View" or "The Inverted Shadow Tower".

But there was something there, emergent. And though a disclaimer in sl would have been the respectful thing to do, disassociating the gallery from the real place, with artists pushing the boundaries of material uses, it may not long before White Cube, London will jump on board.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Baby steps...

Last night was lovely.

I found a changing room and practiced trying on a variety of free outfits, thus protecting my virtue from further humiliation. Cheesiness abounds in Second Life and not surprisingly most of the free clothing I picked up was more suited for an MTV Yo Raps video. The majority included fishnet crop tops, platform f*k me boots, gold lame and sequins. When in doubt, go for black. I finally found a black swing skirt called “Rasputina”. Of course it was made of net and ribbon, and therefore see-through, but I found some granny pants – or what looked like spandex cycling shorts which are probably for a man’s wardrobe – and wore those beneath. I made some black shoes, locked on the tresses and off I went. My friend found me pretty quickly and invited me to try dancing again. What the hell. He teleported me to Osborne (133, 117, 62), site of last night’s disaster. I held my breath and there I appeared, in front of the fountain, fully clothed. Hurrah! My friend on the other hand, seemed to have had a problem on the way…

I’d seen avatars appear, or walk by, in a sort of granite state, like an animated stone statue, while their clothes slowly “rezzed” on. They appear like blank canvases until fully realized. But something funky was going on with my friend. In RL I’ve been flashed at before – it’s a rite of passage. I’ve been flashed at in parks, trains, even while canoeing. However, there’s something particularly disturbing about watching an avatar standing before me, body features grayed out, except for a semi-transparent, hairy and rotund little penis pointed in my direction. Did he know he was flashing me? Was this some kind of SL joke? Did my body parts emerge like this to others? I don’t think he flashed me intentionally but what do I know? Obviously not much. And I was too embarrassed to ask. Actually, I was convinced that my friend had only good intentions. Plus I didn’t want to waste my avie’s newly found confidence due to a hint of penis. His clothes finally appeared (very debonair actually) and he escorted me to the dressing room where I could purchase a ball gown for free.

I walked into a huge dressing room, complete with dressing table and images of gowns to choose from posted on the walls. I put on a swirling black Scarlet O’Hara/1950s tiered and eyelet gown, cinched at the waist and strapless, which swung from the waist in animated splendor. I felt lovely. My friend escorted me onto the floor, which was glowing with prisms from the lights above. Romantic, streaming music was provided courtesy of Blue and pink spheres, or pose balls, bobbed around the floor reading “Swing 2” “Slowdance 5”, “Tango” and “Swept Away”. My friend guided me carefully towards a pink pose ball reading “Swing 1”. Sitting on top synchronized my avatar with his and suddenly we were twirling round the dance floor like Astaire and Rogers. My hands left the keyboard and we just let ourselves go. It was a bit awkward to be dancing with a virtual stranger (as my husband walked by in the living room poking over my shoulder). In fact, it made me think of those teenage dances I used to go to (anyone remember Mosley’s in Dedham?). Now and then we’d chat and joke about the dance styles. Sometimes we were quiet and watched our avies enjoy themselves. Honestly, I felt exhilarated…My friend sent me a happy attachment and I smiled for the rest of the evening…

Monday, June 25, 2007

Help me...

Signs posted warned me against leaving Help Island until I felt ready, as there’s no going back. However, being as impulsive as I am, I decided to go for it and headed towards the mainland. My advice if you decide to try a second life? Stay on Help Island for as long as possible. Learn how to dance, dress, back flip, build a bit and then depart. Learn from my mistakes…

I felt pretty pulled together as I toured around the place. I had a cup of free coffee in a Greenwich Village café, toured Info Island where all the librarians hang out, visited an art gallery filled with fantastic photographs by a contemporary French artist. I even made a friend who chatted with me one evening on a park bench. Thinking that my city buns were giving me away as a newbie, I decided to use the coupon for free hair at Gurl 6 and picked up an awesome set of locks that I wish I had in real life (bountiful, layered, six different colors!). However, malls are malls whether in real or second life and after browsing hairstyles for ten minutes I got that panicky feeling that I get in any shopping center and decided I needed a pint.

I managed to find my way to an English pub called the Three Lions. Once inside the bartender shouted my name in greeting and folks chatted by a roaring fire. I was met by my friend, who was wearing a Penguin t-shirt and socks with sandals. He asked if I wanted to dance. We watched two women, wearing tiny petticoats and leather corsets, gyrate to generic rock music being played by a band on stage which transmitted through the computer speakers. My friend slipped across the dance floor like Frank Sinatra, twirling and sashaying, leaping and bending. He was amazing! He told me to touch a poster on the wall in order to make myself dance. I did…and then all hell broke loose.

Suddenly my avatar was spazzing out like it was on cocaine and ecstasy. I did the hustle, the foxtrot, moonwalk, Britney and jazz hands all at once and over and over again. “Woh!” my friend said and backed away from me. He shouted directions at me “Right click, for god’s sake, right click”. I couldn’t stop myself from moving. As I blazed around the dance floor I noticed all the avatars had stopped conversing and were staring at me as I whipped by, back and forth. I think the band even stopped playing when my avatar raced over and pounded the floor of the stage before doing a pole dance in front of them. After what seemed like a half hour of hysterical command prompts, I managed to steer myself out the front door, still dancing mind you, and halted all animations.

I caught my breath and backed sheepishly into the pub. After a sit down and a pink cocktail (courtesy of my friend – though I couldn’t figure out how to drink it) he offered to teleport me to a ballroom dance. Amazed that he was still willing to hang out with me I agreed.

I was whisked away to a peaceful marbled piazza, with a fountain gurgling in front of me. My friend descended a staircase, elegant in a black tuxedo. He asked if I had a ball gown. “I have a ‘medieval frock’” I told him (that I had purchased for something like 2 cents in U.S. currency). We noticed that I was still in the seated position from the pub. “Hang on a sec.” I told him and tried to stand up. Nothing worked. Was it lag? Caps lock on? For reasons I can’t explain, I grabbed my hair from the top of my head and threw it on the ground. “Wow. You don’t have to get angry.” My friend said. Unexpectedly bald, I tried to grab my hair back and clicked edit to change my appearance. And then something happened that made me SO WISH I was the kind of gal who read directions before building a new toy.

Abruptly, all my clothes disappeared and there I was…standing butt naked in front of a stranger. “You’re full of surprises, aren’t you?” My friend laughed, “Cute butt”. I was HORRIFIED. I frantically clicked and copied and tried to get some clothes onto my body but instead turned my avatar towards my friend to give him full frontal. Now, I’d heard that you had to buy genitals at some Second Life mall in order to “complete the picture” but let me tell you – I was – as my son says - “nudie-pie” and all the parts were there. My friend was now snarfing with laughter as I managed to sit, yes sit, on a skirt and put on a black t-shirt. “Aw, Sweetie,” he said sympathetically. I blabbed about meeting later after I had gotten my bearings and bailed, teleporting myself next to the park near Three Lions for some privacy (next goal is to find some changing rooms). I left Siri in the park, in the dark, naked…except for a skirt that her cute butt is sitting on.


After logging back on I found myself safely on land, still on Help Island. I was feeling okay. I made my way, carefully, towards the plaza where all the folks had gathered. I noticed a lovely looking "person" wearing a gown covered in peacock feathers. She gestured towards a sign and made beautiful white glowing spheres shoot from her wrist. I hobbled towards her and pressed the "chat bar".

"Hi, I like your dress." She turned to look at me and flew off.
Did I look weird? I suddenly felt sort of shy. What the hell? How can I, an avatar, feel shy?? But there you have it - real life crosses into second life. I couldn't bear the thought of walking down the promenade towards the group with everyone checking me out. Everyone looked so pulled together. So I hovered above the group and watched as chat appeared on the lower left side of my screen. I was eavesdropping! I landed and sat on a bench. I had no clue what anyone was talking about. A huge guy with black wings rushed by. An avie with shining "bling" stood sentry near me, arms crossed. His handle (or name, which floats above everyone's head) read something about a car company. I sat there for a little bit when a nice person named Arri asked if I needed help. Like in real life, I was most concerned about my outfit. I asked how I might change my clothes. Arri promptly delivered a box of clothes to my inventory. I made my way back to the park and tried to edit my appearance. My avatar froze and arms and legs stuck out like a kid preparing itself to be slathered with sunscreen.

All clothing pieces are objects created by "prims", or shapes, that can be edited to create anything from clothes to stuctures which then inhabit the worlds in Second Life. I clicked a few buttons and suddenly I lost my skirt (still had pants on). I then tried to manipulate my hair-do, or "city buns". They floated next to my ears like birds nests and landed on my face. I struggled with the hairy city buns when suddenly an enormous avie who resembled the Incredible Hulk sidled up to me and shoved me. "Here's my anus!" he shouted (through my computer) and he bent over. Thankfully, I didn't see any prim-built arsehole. "Here's my anus!" He yelled again and walked through me. I stood my ground and struggled with my buns...time to log out.

Help Island

The first day went alright. I chose an avatar called "city chic". A tall chick in red tunic and capris appeared and stood around cluelessly in the middle a grassy field on "Help Island", first stop for all "newbies". I pottered around in circles and then tried flying. I wandered over to a road and building that had the atmosphere of City Hall Plaza Boston at 4 a.m. on a Sunday. I tried to drive an abandoned steam roller but it didn't run. I saw the body of another avatar slumped over in a car, otherwise, the place was abandoned. Where were all the peeps?

I lifted gently and rose above trees and structures and lo and behold...there were others. I could see them bustling in a park. I flew toward them, over a vast ocean and promptly landed in it rather than the park...I watched, horrified, as my avatar plunged into the sea. I frantically clicked my directionals as Siri struggled into a speck and then disappeared under the water. I've never felt so bleak.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Life begins...

So with all this talk about Second Life during my classes at library school, I thought why not check it out. I mean, I loved playing Adventure on my dad's IBM, where I typed directions in orange text and made my troll character fetch gold bars. I scrawled maps as I made my way through the maze and avoided the wizard. (Alas, my parents split up and my dad took the computer before I could earn my "certificate of wizardness.") After that came D&D and sci-fi conventions with my boyfriend's brother leading the way. We traveled up and down the east coast, staying in hotels and browsing the huckster's rooms. For an impressionable teen this was great stuff - watching large men in chain mail chatting up creatures dressed in fur and bunny ears sipping cherry brandy, fairies and vampires, ghouls and warriors, taking over Sheraton Plaza hotels. This was a complete antidote to my crappy suburban high school experience where the arty and punk rock kids were shunned and shat upon. I could breathe easy among these supposed freaks and geeks at the cons. I was never compelled to role play myself and, later, was turned off by those in the Excalibur Club at college who used to run through campus towards the dining hall wearing capes and drawing swords.

After college, in the early 90s, I lived next door to a guy who never came out of his apartment. He was gray-faced from indoor living, surrounded by computer monitors, and babbled endlessly about the end of the pen and pencil. He gave me an old apple mac and introduced me to Myst. He gave me copies of dreamweaver and macromedia and other top secret programs that sent sreaming skulls at me when I downloaded them to my harddrive. He spent all day long inventing a virtual museum, which I never cubes floated about in the universe of his computer monitor, turning slowly about. I could see the potential but it was never realized during our friendship. He must have gotten somewhere because now, years later, we have Second Life.

And so, yesterday, armed with an unsteady understanding of all things virtual, and without my certificate of wizardness, I began my life as Siri Woodget.