Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'tis that season

Si mes souvenir sont bons je peux tout oublier - an appropriate enough New Year's saying from the Young Gods, yes? Enjoy yourselves! xx

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We, the people

portrait of gwendolyn

james schwarz (ftr that's a kazoo in his mouth)

James Schwarz is an artist who captures and illuminates the paradox of the avatar through his Headshot Series. I first learned of his work through intrepid profile stalking. I noticed that profile pictures taken by Schwarz had more depth than any I had seen before. The faces materialize from twilit dusk and the eyes make direct contact with the viewer. His subjects gaze confidently, coolly, sassily – they’re a bit intimidating. One of his sitters admitted being a bit shy about approaching Schwarz for an appointment (I felt the same way) so it was refreshing to read his follow up comment that he too, may feel a bit of the same when meeting people for a photo shoot. The nervousness comes from mutual admiration. We respect his work, and he respects us for timidly offering ourselves up as subject. He cares for his subjects, smoothing and softening their angles. The portraits are the same in size and presentation, but include personal accoutrements - a ciggy here, a headband there. Some avatars are plain, some are elaborate, each one unique. Take a few moments to view his flickr stream showing the series. It offers a rare opportunity to contemplate and know these personalities who are typically roaming, dancing, shagging, building, or otherwise on the move. I had a moment to catch up with Schwarz and asked him about the Headshot Series. He made an interesting point:

James Schwarz: "SL is pretty much a whole different dimension. The diversity of people…it's like the way each avatar is represented it's not just the work of one person, the owner, but a work of several others. If you think about it, the way you look right now is the hours and dedication put into by the creators of your skin, clothes, hair etc."

I’d never thought about that aspect of an avatar; that each individual represents a communal effort. But this idea is essentially the essence of SL, working collaboratively to achieve your individual vision, which made me think of Thich Nhat Hanh:

“You are me, and I am you. Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?”

See Schwarz’s first project – 100 Avatars – a community profile of the metaverse. Schwarz may have expressed being shy, but his artwork is not - it reaches out to each of us with a welcoming embrace. Rad.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

four Yip's...

art inspires me so very much. A commercial/graphic artist from Amsterdam, she has been gracing SL with her extraordinary freebies. When I say freebies I mean her art which she shares for free, allowing the viewer to interact, participate, collaborate and become her work (more about that here). I attended her opening at Wyatt Benoir's ARTist's Park. Here she features portraits - avatars rendered in broad brush strokes. The works are whimsical and curious, each holding a detail that made me quiver, laugh and sigh with happiness. Look for the lush attention to fleshy creases - a bit like John Currin coupled with a Jenny Saville attention to creases, but never bleak. On the contrary - the portraits, and their monumental presentation in the gallery - are bright and fun. The portraits capture a flushed tangibility through a Vogue stylist's eye - a stylist drinking a proper herb filled Pimm's .

(person standing in the top photo: Sawyer Campese)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Collecting fine slart

I purchased my first piece of slart, finally! It's a portrait by Cienega Soon. This piece, titled Crosley, reminds me of a poster torn off a light pole by a club kid on the way home at sunrise. I was drawn to it for its warm and papery surface, not often seen in portraits of avatars. It's a departure from Cienega's other work, which has a much more steely pallet, with fantastical subjects and lines that made me think of Richard Dadd (who painted the Fairy Feller's Master Stroke and Crazy Jane). Time slid away and stories formed in my head as I found myself falling into a number of her photographs, wanting to know more, the sign of a good story teller, the sign of a fine artist.

See her work at the Castle Valeriya Artist Gallery or on flickr.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm no seamstress

I can't believe I've never written about fashion in sl. My gawd. Having grown up with a seamstress granny who taught me how to thrift, I am well obsessed with clothes. I settled in Caledon because of the intellectual scene but, let's face it, the population are some of the best-dressed on the grid. Now and then I'll come up with some idea for an outfit, but I'm not sure I have the patience (or the equipment - hard to make buttons using a touch pad). I think I'll leave it to the array of incredible designers out there. My last attempt at dressmaking was for a Victorian gown based on an 1883 travel album containing albumen photographs from India. The top of the dress includes an image of the Tomb of Altamash in New Delhi, which was built in 1235. See how the architectural forms reflect the feminine, as in renaissance and baroque architecture, which acknowledged the human form. These forms are later seen in the work of the artists of the Art Noveau movement, who reveled in the fanciful, swirling line known as "whiplash", which celebrated the sensual female figure...and why shouldn't we celebrate that figure, eh? Here's an example of a designer whose clothing absolutely adores all figures: Hyasynth Tiramisu.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You are original

Welcome, friends of Achariya who may have found their way here...I started this blog when I started Second Life a little over a year ago...gamely at first, to explain SL to folks who might never try it out, then mainly to keep a record of things that have struck me along the way. On Monday I was invited to a benefit concert for Heifer International which took place at AM Radio's Refuge. Singer ColeMarie Soleil played live. In between self-deprecating comments ("Sorry 'bout all the mistakes in that one") she belted out these amazing, moving notes; spontaneous, kooky, dark, gorgeous. I relaxed into my headphones, cammed about and felt like I was in some kind of charming menagerie, with the music, the wondrous setting, and the intriguing assortment of avatars all in one place...inspired me to look up Darwin's 1858 essay on the varieties of species...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Any problem in the world can be solved by dancing...

...said James Brown

I've always danced...ballet, African, go-go on a box...Being in a club, dancing to music that makes you wiggle, is like having an affair with everyone around you. Everyone in the mood, everyone on the groove. Same works in SL...it's surprisingly satisfying to sit back and watch your avi twirl, grind and jump. Sinewave is the place to pick up decent animations. You may be familiar with the Lindy, Shag, Pogo, and Hustle...in SL you've got Caramel, Sprite, Swoon, Gimme gimme gimme, Jammy dodger, Yipeeeeeeee, Shaken and Stirred - hundreds of choices. You can slow dance, line dance, even reel. It's the best way to bond with your mates. If we in the actual world danced as much as those in sl we'd all be fit as fiddles...now, if I could only master Want Some in the actual world....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Almost Halloween

Versailles meets the end of the world...

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Steampunk Resource Center

Sea Beaumont has pulled together a most comprehensive collection of resources at Caledon Downs. Three floors of freebies, links and landmarks for the discerning steampunk. So you won’t look like a total farb* pick up some authentic textures and artifacts such as a rusty smelter, a hobonet computer typing animation (powered by a sturdy little rat), a giant tesla ball, skybox, even a leathery catsuit and black leather kicks for the ladies. All for free!

Related landmarks are gathered together here, so you may never have to step foot in the 21st century again. On the second floor you’ll find a brief history of steampunk and punkers, like the British engineer Isamard Kingdom Brunel (who smoked 40 cigars a day, slept less than 5 hours a night, and accidentally inhaled a half-sovereign coin, which lodged in his windpipe – the kind of man Siri would have invited round for tea). Online resources include links to you tube clips, Steampunk Magazine and the Steampunk Workshop.

Visit the Steampunk Resource Center here.

*wiki says: Farb “is a derogatory term used in the hobby of historical reenacting for participants who exhibit less commitment to historical authenticity, either from a material-cultural standpoint or in action.” (Though, believe me, steampunks are far more forgiving then the rev war folk).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Burning Life 2008

I decided to head to Burning Life today and found myself a game companion willing to bear the hippie drums. Wearing our over sized aviator glasses we shielded ourselves from the burning avatars and made our way to a clever diorama built by Manx Wharton called The General Welfare - a lovingly sarcastic ode to back country South; the yard is full of detritus (including a cook book that contains a recipe for squirrel), a worn shotgun shack leans against its creaky wooden steps. Watch out for the swinging carcass draining on the porch. There you can sit on a plastic lawn chair (I could feel the weakened seat strain under my bottom) and take in the many details worth contemplating...Who set the Chevy blazing? We want to know.

Other highlights include AM Radio's installation "Beneath the Tree that Died".... a telescope bisects the land, a story of love lost documented through a telegram. Will the telescope help him sight his memories?

Finally, experience a bit of depressing-but-true political commentary through a "patriotic" installation where you're greeted by a gurning Marilyn Quayle and Lynne Cheney, and further spun and wrung through Warhol-esque portraits of Reagan and Palin...quotes from these brains mimic and taunt..not for the wavering voter this. It culminates via the temple to politics, which offers a soothing hot tub in an appropriate culmination of politics & sex. Let's hear it for Burning Life!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Blurred Line - written by guest blogger Andrijah Beardmore

Second Life was created as a form of escapism. You leave your real life behind in the actual world and embark on an adventure using an avatar in place of yourself. In this world, you can be the person you've always wanted to be, do the things you've always wanted to do, etc. But there is a certain reality behind Second Life. For every avatar there is a person sitting before a computer controlling their every function, so it is bound to happen that a bit of the real life person becomes a part of the avatar. There is a line between the two worlds, one that undoubtedly becomes a little blurred, thanks to the 1st life tab on everyone's profile, as well as the potential use of voice, among other things.

Recently I had a chance, not just to blur the line, but to completely cross, and being the type of person I am, I took it. On September 17, I boarded a plane and flew to meet up with the typists behind two of my most loved friends on Second Life, Siri Woodget and Colleen Lilliehook. A proposition like that might seem a bit scary to some, with the potential of completely destroying the illusion of that which we hold dear while living out our alternate reality. To me, I was thankful not to have any worries, having interacted with them so much in world, that I already knew them, even before we met.

There was no hesitation or wondering what I might discover, just a sense of knowing that this would be a great trip, no matter what could have happened.The meeting at the airport was quite good. I saw Siri first and instantly knew it to be her. We hugged like life-long friends. The same can be said when meeting Colleen, though she did a little bunny hop first, which I have to mention, or the story would just be incomplete. During my 3+ day visit, I got to see the two of them in their natural environment, which is quite dissimilar from Second Life. As it turns out, they are not always going to clubs to listen to music or hopping around from party to party, though I clearly knew that going into it, as we all do. What I did discover is that Colleen's hair is not quite so spiky, and that Siri is a bit more outgoing, among countless other little details. But the thing is, neither was in any way too different from the avatars they control on a daily basis. For the most part, they are the same people, even though their actions may not be the same - but then again, who does the same thing in both worlds.

In some ways, there is a realization that once you cross that line, there is no going back. Nothing will ever truly be the same. Now, when you converse in-world, you have these great memories to feed off of. You now refer to things you've actually seen and done together; going to a great concert, which was so worth seeing, eating Mexican food at this delightful little dive, being shown where Siri works, a mid-afternoon movie, and last, but certainly not least, sitting around a fire pit telling stories about in-world and out-world experiences. Oh there are stories I could tell you, but if I did that, you would have one less reason to find out for yourself exactly why meeting in real life is not a bad thing. For us, it was quite a good thing. I have made two friends that will last longer than I can imagine. I crossed the blurred line, and for that, I have no regrets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Primgraph Magazine

This entry is made on the run - i.e. sandwiched between rl obligations - but wanted to be sure to cite the Primgraph Magazine (edited by Alesia Markstein) "The Metaverse Magazine for the 1740s-1920s sims within Second Life". The content is very much worth reading (*ahem*, I contributed an article on Lady Lovelace), including articles on topics of General Interest, Arts & Culture, Fashion, Society and Technology. The magazine offers wonderful insight into the programming, social life and activities within Second Life's "before present"(pre-1950's) themed sims.

It's available in-world but I encourage you also to take tea (coffee/absinthe) and visit the magazine online via Calameo. The technology is really entertaining, allowing for a more actual reading experience - have fun flipping the pages back and forth, just like a real magazine, minus tearing and folding over the pages. Here's the link to the magazine - click "read the publication". Happy reading!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Evolution of an avatar

avatar - 5 minutes old

20 minutes later

the following day

1 month later, forming an identity - club casualty

1 month later - an alt's alt - real wife of orange county

(avatar surviving on freebies)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Daedalus Project

Today I’m contemplating the Daedalus Project – Nick Yee’s psychological study of mmorpgs. Scholars have found that there is an effect on the real life behavior of people who have avatars, especially those who are considered particularly attractive in-world.
“Cyberspace grants us great control over our self-representations. At the click of a button, we can alter our gender, age, attractiveness, and skin tone. But as we choose our avatars online, do our avatars change us in turn? In a series of studies, we've explored how putting people in avatars of different attractiveness or height change how they behave in a virtual environment.” (from the Virtual Human Interactive Lab at Stanford).

Siri is definitely not conventionally attractive – I’m experimenting with that idea through an alt. As Siri, I’ve noticed that she is rather shy in-world, more so than her typist, as she figures out the technology, defines her place in a community, and navigates the myriad of virtual relationships and respective identities. Cultural immersion or assimilation takes time; there is a learning curve, and customs must be observed then practiced. Admittedly, after all the time I've spent in-world, in the actual world, I’ve noticed an increase in my sociable conduct. I’m more willing to make a call, get to a show, step out of my routine. I’m re-learning the art of socializing…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy belated rez day to me

earliest siri

In honor of a much belated rez day I thought I'd revisit my earliest blog entry...ah, memories...
Here's what happened to me one day during my first week in second life.

"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."

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Meaningful Fun"

Yesterday I attended a talk given by Tom Bukowski (Boellstorf), author of Coming of Age in Second Life – the first anthropological study of the metaverse. Bukowski spent two years conducting research, focusing on ideas of place, identity, avatars and sex. The lecture was packed, the questions provocative. Of particular interest was how he chooses to use the phrase “actual world” or aw rather than “rl” or real world. By using the phrase “real world” you assume a real world that is computer-free; that one life is more “real” than the other. One scholar calls the examination of that blurry line between the two worlds “boundary work” which is so appropriate. Regarding the separation between the aw/virtual world, Bukowski writes: “…what I find more significant and less debated is why we find the question of traffic between virtual worlds and the “real world” so compelling….A large body of anthropological work…demonstrates that crossing a boundary can strengthen the distinctiveness of the two domains it demarcates”. Virtual life is not a completely separate, isolated social world…Bukowski received a bit of skepticism from colleagues (though support at UC Irvine), but it seemed to me that this reluctance to examine virtual life likely stems from a generation of scholars who shy away from new technologies. Luckily, Bukowski-as-Boellstorf has been named Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, journal of the American Anthropologist Association, which ought to guide scholars, young and old, into virtual studies.

Read the first chapter of Coming of Age in Second Life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not too far from my reality

Onwards I head into my next yet-to-be-named-project. I do my best (dr)thinking in fine Irish pubs. Andi and I found our way to this watering hole via the Inksters Competitive Writers' Group's headquarters. The founder, ItsNaughtKnotty Canned, sponsors a very clever daily writing challenge for members. Authors, of any sort, are given two inspiring themes and have until midnight slt to submit their piece. Winners receive 25 lindens and a nice hefty pat on the back from their mates. Yesterday's challenge included:

Who is supporting your medical treatment? What logos and brands would you love to eliminate from your life? Describe a life where every move is dictated by a corporate identity.


Leaping from the single engine plane without a parachute .
Hit that link to read more about the>> INKsters.

Being a dormant illustrator myself, I asked Andi if he might offer a word to work from, that might begin to flex and force my weakened fingers onto a blank page. He chose "brick" and I've been banging my head against a brick wall ever since, in response.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lady Lovelace at the Whitehorn

What a great turn out for the opening on Saturday. Thank you all for coming! I couldn't have done it without the support of Sir JJ and Sir Zenmondo, who patiently answered my endless questions. This exhibition is truly dedicated to Sir Zenmondo, who is Ada's long lost partner in code poetry. Thank you to Miss Poppy for the portrait of Zen. Thank you also to Miss Snook who provided suitable music and commentary, and set a perfect tone.

The exhibition inspired a visitor to relate the following tale about Charles Babbage - my favorite so far:

13:01] RF: Here is my factorite Babbage anecdote.

[13:02] RF:Babbage once took issue with one of Tennyson's poems. The poet soon received a letter from the logician:

"In your otherwise beautiful poem," Babbage wrote, "one verse reads,

Every moment dies a man,

Every moment one is born.

"If this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death. I would suggest:

Every moment dies a man,

Every moment 1 1/16 is born.

"Strictly speaking," Babbage added, "the actual figure is so long I cannot get it into a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Exhibition Opening - curated by yours truly

I've been beavering away on the Ada exhibition - only a week to go! Here's the blurb - do come to the opening!

Mesmerism, flying machines, Romantic verse and proto-computers.... Ada Byron (King), otherwise known as Lady Lovelace (1815-1852), stands at the intersection of Victorian art and science. Daughter of the renegade Lord Byron and his more numerically minded wife Annabella Milbanke, Ada was born with dual powers: her gift was to grasp and render mathematical theory with the immediacy of poetry.

As a woman, an intellectual and a mathematician, Ada cuts a compelling figure. Although she died young, her contributions to the history of computer science are significant. Join us in a celebration of her unique contribution, and find out how a young Victorian woman became the First Lady of computer programming.

Join me for a gala opening Saturday, August 2nd from 12 - 2 pm.

The exhibit will run from August 1 to October 25th

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Black Eyed Dog

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

Feeling rather a bit like Eeyore lately...luckily found my way to the
Garden of Sorrows where I let the rain wash over me while I let a rl and sl cat curl up at my feet and found a book to distract me...so bound to head toward the up and up.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Toulouse

Last week I attended the opening the Toussaint L’Ouverture Library of New Toulouse .
What an open, friendly, educational, magical place. Partygoers wore celebratory white and toasted with traveling cups of gin. I took in the accompanying exhibition about Kate Chopin and thought I’d illustrate for you here just what an exhibition in SL looks like. Here you see me examining a photograph, imported into the SL interface. I click on the photograph and a dialogue box containing a “webliography” appears so I might examine exhibition themes more deeply. The web page opens within sl or can override the sl window altogether. Opening the page in-world allows me to continue an easy rapport with other visitors – I can interact with them as well as the text. In other words, I can stand side by side with others and enjoy the exhibition – sipping gin of course.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Upstairs Downstairs

All things being rather limitless in sl, owning land doesn't tether you only to your terrain. In rl I own a parking space and am allowed to build freely up to 7 feet above the ground. In sl, I can build over 500 meters into the sky.

Since moving into Caledon, I've kept my boots firmly on the ground, with only a few forays into the sky via hot air balloon. I've heard there are some dirigibles and the like hovering overhead but I was not prepared for what I did, in fact, discover, as I rocketed up above my cottage.

High in the sky, dotting the airscape, I found a whole assortment of what can only be described as love shacks - sweet, quirky, private, and experimental. I felt I had stumbled upon "the king's chambre" in Lauderdale House, Charles the II's room where he met his mistress Nell Gwynn. There is something so romantic about settling in the sky, among the clouds, the sunset stretching before you. So this is what my neighbors have been up to...and here I was thinking it was so quiet when there was a world of action right over my head.

Of course I had to assemble my own little dreamy yurt....

Friday, June 13, 2008

Steampunk Neko

It's Friday the 13th and we're going to celebrate Halloween tonight - why not!
Anyway, while looking for zombie skin to compliment my dead-stewardess outfit, I stumbled across the JD Mechanical Toy Factory .

My ears were accosted by the comforting sound of rusting cogs and puffs of steam. I was reminded of Bladerunner's J.F. Sebastian and his apartment full of toys when an automaton named Machine Person made flattering remarks while I browsed. Conceived by Jenne Dibou, there are some fantastic creations here - slouchy victorian cottages, rustic skyboxes, and for the ladies, a beautiful pair of pumps with gears spinning in the heels.

Speaking of gears and beautiful detail - check out this set of steampunk neko ears and tail by Blackheart. Being more inclined towards steampunk than neko I picked up this scripted tail and ears, for an extremely reasonable sum. Get your coppered arses down there!