Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Far Away

Peaceful blowing wheat field, creaking rusting windmill, abandoned train engine, a table set at pause…Am Radio, an artist who works for IBM, designed this environment based on his home scenery of Illinois, in honor of the disappearing farms that he’s been witnessing, as America gives way to the corporate crapscape.

Photographic backdrops of big skies create the feeling of depth, and you feel, as you stand there, that you might be breathing big country air as stalks of wheat tickle your palms. The skies are gray and brooding, anticipating a storm, and you feel the charge of the atmosphere, a bit of mist across the nose…this is a computer simulation, people, but it’s also art.

Radio has taken advantage of the attention he rightly deserves for creating this amazing place to sell replicas of the sim to benefit Heifer International. He’s earned about $500 so far…

I invited my new friend Polo to explore it with me. We released ourselves to an animation that allowed us to blow, turn and be pushed about by the gentle wind created by the windmill. Now and then other visitors would show up…one newbie joined us in the sky and played with his appearance, making himself paunchy and jolly, then studly, then paunchy again as he rolled over the air waves. Another couple disappeared behind the train engine…it’s a romantic spot really. A romantic, forgotten American landscape. And, like most things in sl, embedded with a bit of mystery and humor. We flitted this way and that, Polo in his Baroque suit clothes, me in my bustle, and talked for a long time…

Read more about AM Radio here:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rez Day = Birthday

Me with lemming gun, preparing to strike the runners...

The residents of Caledon were invited way on high up to Polymath Upstairs to celebrate the rez day of Colonel Exrex Somme. I arrived inappropriately dressed in my latest can-can gear (tiny top hat, to-the-knee skirt and corset) so flew off to a discreet corner of the sky to change into something more appropriate. I had no idea how high up I was* until I plunged down onto a deserted island below. I dusted off my knees, seemingly alone, when I suddenly saw a blinding red cape flutter over the hill towards me. An Italian avie dressed as Superman blared “WHERE AM I? WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?!” I calmed him down, made him put on a tux, and sent him on his way. Next I changed into an enormous black layered ballgown…which would become a hindrance later…

Back Upstairs I found a dance in full swing and jumped right away into a 10 person polonaise that whirled me around the floor – certainly not a traditional polonaise but a wild, let your hair down one – Caledon-style that included crinolines and sweat, whoots and huzzahs. I, and my typist, were made dizzy as we ran round and round the floor. Colleen and I had recruited a new friend earlier, while fencing, a Mr. Polo Watkins, and he gamely offered to join me in a wheelbarrow race, designed by Mr. Hotspur O’Toole and set on a track 600 feet above Middlesea.

I agreed to carry, as I didn’t want Watkins to look up my skirt but, this being sl, opportunities to reveal ones undergarments are all to easy. I clicked on a pink poseball and the skirt of my dress instantly poofed into Mr. Watkins’s face as I squatted in preparation to lift him onto his hands. “Er, you know I can’t see?” he said through muffled fabric.

After a bit of readjusting, courtesy of O’Toole we were off. I haven’t laughed this hard since my first day in sl. Watkins flapped his palms against the track as I shoved him along…we hollered and cursed as we hobbled round…we could see spectators preparing to pelt us with guns that shot out purple squeaking lemmings (no idea!). We got lost in a swarm of explosions and were suddenly stuck with half the track left til the finish line. “Go! GO!” My partner barked. “Help!” I yelled. My feet were fused to the track. The hands of the race timer went round and round as my typist clicked frantically trying to bump ourselves off whatever was holding us back. I held on to his flapping feet and his face turned beet red from being upside down for so long. . “You know I’m blaming you for this predicament”. Watkins laughed. Lemmings and other obstructions swirled around us and I could see we were drawing a crowd. Mr. O’Toole found us in the middle of all the mayhem and made some adjustments to the track, allowing us to make our way, limping, to the finish line. But hey, we didn’t fall off…

After we caught our breath O’Toole asked “Where are all the lemmings?” So we obliged by letting out a volley of the little creatures in celebration of all things Somme. After wishing him well and thanking our hosts, the three of us made our way home, chuckling…

*over a certain height normal hovering requires assistance from a flight feather or other attachment

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Keep Quiet

“Your world. Your imagination.” This is SL’s motto and it’s pretty clear that residents make use of their imagination through fantastic bodies, wardrobes full of sl-couture clothes, partying into the wee hours dressed as vampires or foxes…this kind of thing. And so why would one want to ruin a perfectly good fantasy with real life details. Voice enabled chat fairly recently became available to users. Stick in your ear buds, post a microphone, and with one easy click you have another way to thrust yourself into the metaverse. While voice will benefit the academic/professional side of sl, it can be a drawback in social situations. For example,

I went to a party and my pal Colleen asked if I was listening to the chat around us. I thought voice was something I’d have to download and risk blowing my hard drive on but no, a change in preferences and suddenly I could hear the snuffling and coughing of my fellow avatars, right there, as if they were in the same room with me. Since I had no mic I eavesdropped (which everyone knew). While I’m captivated by the technology of Second Life that allows it to be so immersive, do I really need to listen to my fellow avatar, dressed in a maid’s uniform holding a kitty and dancing a super cute and sexy can-can that she’ll “brb – gotta take out the garbage”. Another fellow, who I had had my eye on, appeared to be – through his sounds anyway, an old geezer in a smoke stained upholstered rocking chair, eating from a bag of ranch Doritos. What I thought was an aloof cool, through his avatarian presentation, was really a voyeuristic human, breathing heavy and making comments to the ladies nearby that he liked watching their skirts rise as they danced. The others giggled and shot him down, saying “Now, now, dear” but still…the thing about text conversation is that you do have to think before you type, lest someone be offended. With voice, there’s no chance to amend your belches. Predictably, I’ve disabled the preference.

(credit to the image maker whose name I did not catch)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Veteran's Day

I wanted to spend the day with my dad, take him out for a favorite bowl of chocolate ice cream, but instead he chose to go flying, solo, up and above the trees. Flying, or scuba diving, seem to be the only times that he can get a bit of real peace - concentrating fully on little dials, air pressures - leveling himself toward a horizon line.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I was so disappointed when I first started looking for art in sl. I found awkward sculptures of bulbous horses, high-school styled graffiti ramblings and frustrated scribblings – most of which included long-haired fairy women with big boobs. I was reminded of a stained glass artist I interviewed with years ago. Hoping to learn the craft of leading and making patterns, I found myself in a studio that made those horrible Heineken lampshades that hang over pool tables. The artist showed me photographs of his real love, his personal work – which included a 7’ tall window depicting himself, in the nude, carrying a woman (also nude) in his arms – all illustrated in panes of glass. It creeped me out. So, in other words, I got a bad feeling for art during the early days of sl.

But all this exploring has amounted to something. Last night I met the extraordinary Teofila Matova, curator of A.R.t Gallerie at New Boston Station ( I couldn’t help but feel Teo’s enthusiasm for her work in-world which includes, in part, reference work at Second Life Library and the Caledon Library. She was kind enough to speak with me about her projects, and to show me around her gallery. She handed me a sparkling glass of champagne and gave me a private tour. What a treat! What a talented woman!

Spaces in sl are often confining (or else boomingly large) but the architecture at the A.R.t Gallerie shows a true comprehension of art installation. The gallery is traditional, elegant and open, allowing the art to be comfortably approached. The quality of the art and artists represented (including GM Nikolaidis and Autopilotpatty Poppy) is the best I’ve observed in sl.

Her office, which sits high above the sim in a sky box (you need a flight feather to get there) was truly stylish and illustrates her good taste. She interspersed just a few artifacts, some free, some modified, among the photographs/birdscapes of GM Nikolaidis – a nice combination of real life things in a virtual world. She even had a laptop sitting on a desk (with moving screen saver) that could e-mail me directly from sl. This is old hat to all the experienced scripters and builders out there but I was blown away. Thank you, Teo.

I found myself scrambling around online later, trying to identify the rl curator and artists behind the sl names…

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Getting Involved

The only way I’m going to start making a community for myself is by offering myself up to the community. My museum of one picture is just about ready – I need to figure out how it will be best presented. I’ll plan a formal opening to SL museum group first for input (though Caledonians may wonder what’s up if they see a crowd on my land). As with any art opening, it would be good to arrange music and “refreshments” so I’ve got to find out how to stream music. In the meantime, the easel is built and the art is posted (a photograph rendered in grass by Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey).

It’s also time for me to start participating in library activities. Sir JJ Drinkwater, director of the Caledon Library, shared with me the catalog of collections and I offered to submit a copy of Emily Thornwell’s Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility, in time for the holidays. For this I’ll need to add a bit of code to a pdf file. I’ve also learned that Sir JJ is interested in the documentation of the community so I’ll offer myself up as archivist to document visually the history of the region.

Here’s the link to Caledon Library description. The reading garden in-world is a great example of what libraries can share in a virtual environment. I’m getting more and more hooked on sl every day, folks…

Friday, November 2, 2007

Crushed out on a pony

First Lord of Cymru, Viderian Vollmar, graciously hosted a Halloween shin-dig that went on way past my bedtime. Colleen sent flying bats across the dance floor, ZenMondo Wormser kindly played all requests (Halloween-themed of course), Achariya showed up dressed as a 1970s flight attendant. I wore horns and lizard tail which I think I might keep on for a few more weeks. This being sl my tail will be accepted wherever I go. Everyone, as usual, was up for dancing and banter. The music elicited all kinds of woo-hoots from the crowd and things got a bit rowdy when the ladies demanded that Zen and Viderian take off their shirts (a pretty common demand by the ladies of Caledon, I might add). Viderian said if Zen was tipped 3000 or so lindens in less than ten minutes, he’d go shirtless. Zen’s tip jar was overflowing in under two.

That’s His Grace, shirtless and zebra-skinned. I found myself curiously attracted to His Grace, who is most often found galloping around Tanglewood, usually as a unicorn. I must find an excuse to meet him…