Friday, February 22, 2008

El Bosco

Lucas Cranach the Elder, the maestro of the pale and protruding Saxon forehead in early Renaissance painting, was sent on a secret diplomatic mission to the Netherlands by Frederick the Wise…there he found himself staring into the nightmarish fantasy world of Hieronymous Bosch.

Outside the Velvet nightclub, I stumbled upon this Hieronyous Bosch carousel built by Menubar Memorial and laughed out loud over my fingers. The second obvious characteristic of second life residents besides their creativity, is a sense of humor. I grabbed onto the spikey helmet of a creature, from the right panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights, being chased by a beast from the Temptation of Saint Anthony. The Seven Deadly Sins span above, twirling the whole mad crew round and round in their own elemental stew. I’ve been thinking about trying to find a church that suits my vague Gnostic leanings but nothing quite suits. And I mean the experience of church-going. Sitting on a hard pew, the cold creeping up your calves, the plodding hymns...Instead, what about sitting on a carousel that forces you to confront demons, one that could rinse and inspire as it spins its rider round and round…

Buy one here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rumsey's World

David Rumsey (aka Map Darwin), a San Francisco based collector of maps, has collaborated with advertising agency Centric, to create a wondrous sim for all you cartographers, travelers, historians, artists, sculptors, and designers to gawk at. The build takes advantage of an avatar’s ability to fly; it's taken in from above or from floating within. Rumsey of course appreciates scale. As I walked through the earliest detailed survey map of Yosemite (from 1883) I felt a sense of wonder. I safely explored the peaks and valleys, with no fear of dehydration or snakes. I’d love one of these for Franconia Notch in New Hampshire so I could plot out a route ahead of time. As a printmaker, I relished being able to peer closely at the inked edges of the hachuring (style of line that indicates slope).

Here’s me hovering inside the Globe Terrestre, 1790 by Giovanni Maria Cassini which illustrates the routes of Captain James Cook. The celestial globe was created by Cassini, in 1792. Here I am floating over the constellation of Coma Berenice (the only constellation named after a real person) and Bootes the Herdsman.
read more here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Educating Siri

For an old fashioned archivist like myself, one who works with dusty artifacts and iron-gall ink, just being able to dress my avatar in lots of different outfits was exciting enough.

As I move on to other more educational things I feel like I’m way behind the second life learning curve. With some avatars doing things like collaborating with NASA to create depictions of the earth with real time weather patterns, my recent contribution to the education of the second life public seems small. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

I donated a book to the collection of the Caledon Library (Emily Thornwell’s 1853, Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility – a handbook of Victorian etiquette). This means making a book, which means: downloading a scanned work from Google, turning it into a plain text doc, editing for mistakes, pagination, etc. then copying text into notecards that are placed into a folder which is then embedded into a three dimensional object in the shape of a book. When you click on the “book” your avatar is presented with a folder that can be copied into her inventory and read at her leisure. Likewise, I could have simply embedded into the book a link to the url which would lead to the original online source which my avatar/typist would have been led to via their web browser. Pretty cool.

So next up is curating my first online exhibition. I’ve chosen as my subject Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter. Her association with Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine I hope will excite the steampunk-inclined. I’ve met with the very lovely and very busy JJ Drinkwater, the director of the Caledon Library, who’s been guiding me through the process of finding an exhibition space and connecting me to potential collaborators. One thing I dig about sl is the ready, steady go go go attitude of residents. What might start as a gentle musing is immediately grabbed by anyone you care to muse with. Possibilities aren’t just discussed, they’re immediately experimented with. This was intimidating at first – “What do you mean we can just do it? Shouldn’t there be Approvals? Budgets? A Memo of Understanding?” This is the free-floating jazz mentality Au was talking about - a total relief from real world bureaucracy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Whither SL? one reply

In a lecture given at Boston’s Museum of Science in April 2007, journalist Wagner James Au described sl as “collaborative lucid dreaming” which results in “promiscuous changes” to the landscape like “free-floating jazz”. The beautiful thing about sl is that the content created in-world (a.k.a ip - intellectual property), is owned solely by the residents. Whatever you make is yours to do with what you wish (Linden Labs 2003 attempts to tax resident creations inspired a full-on Boston-styled tea party revolt, resulting in LL giving residents full rights to their stuff, no fees). Everyone works with the same tools, everyone is given an equal playing field. The base of the culture is creativity. And for those of us who like to fly their freak flag high, it’s a perfect setting. I’m not surprised that the median age of users is 35…with many of us fused to home life - engulfed as we are by parenthood, or dulled slightly by professional or financial life – those of us who are daring enough to dabble in the latest technology, those of us who are reticent designers, writers, artists…here is a home…without walls to hem you in!

I listened to a short piece on NPR the other night about how, according to a marketing analyst, corporations aren’t interested in sl anymore. He was quite snotty about it actually, and I sensed a bit of a chip on his shoulder. “The people who spend their time in sl are people we’re not interested in anyway”. Nah nah. Actually, residents in sl have demonstrated that they’re not interested in you. James Au observed that “in the context of the fantastic, their brands as they exist in the real world are boring, banal, and unimaginative”. *

The creativity and imagination of residents can be overwhelming – I often find myself thinking “How did they DO that?!” but I want to learn, and the desire to learn keeps me coming back…night after night.

*Marketing in Second Life Doesn't Work by Wagner James Au.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Here's Where the Journey Ends

My rl husband alerted me to the news that Journey, the rock band of 80s fame, was to celebrate their latest album in-world on February 1st. Now I’m no Journey fan. The band reminds me of those low teenage years, and something about the nasal pitch of Steve Perry’s voice makes the hair on my neck stand on end. Listening to Journey transports me immediately to a high school dance, shedding a teenage tear or two over “Wheel in the Sky”, spinning in a drunken stupor under the gymnasium bleachers…shudder…

I braced myself and found my way to the Journey Rock Band island. It was laid out like any other lazy mall on the mainland – a grassy football field hemmed in by structures on either side - and one lone tree. A panel depicting every Journey album cover emerged in front of me. The pavilions on the other side of the grass were in fact 3 dimensional manifestations of select album covers – an attempt to depict the songs’ vibes. The island advertised itself as having lots to explore, that it was so much fun for visitors that we’d want to return again and again. I looked around me…there were no people around, except for two newbies who were having a hard time getting settled.

[13:03] Amanda M: Yo
[13:03] Ace B: hey Amanda
[13:03] Amanda M: How are ya?
[13:03] Ace B: I’m you have a face?!
[13:04] Amanda M: I see my face, you don't see my face?
[13:04] Ace B: I am no good at this SL stuff!

I turned back to the panel and clicked on “Next” (1977) and was teleported the 4 feet across the grass to a pavilion-cum-living room filled with what looked like bongs. Maybe they were lamps. I stared at the hairy chests of the band members, thinking how bad the 70s were for music.

The “Infinity” (1978) pavilion was a trippy wonderland filled with annoying dragonflies and mushrooms. Exactly what I imagine as I listen to Journey. I ached to put on my Mötorhead t-shirt and light a cig. A carefree-sounding narrator greeted me. “Welcome to Journey Rock Band!” He read from a script, sounding like he had no idea what he was reading - could have been Winnie the Pooh for all he knew – in fact, the landscaped pavilion was very Winnie the Pooh. But no, he read out the interminable story of Journey’s journey to fame and fortune.

The fact that only excerpts of Journey songs were played over the speakers, like an itunes snippet, shows that this whole project is just one big marketing scheme. Not sure what else I expected…One of the best art exhibitions I ever saw was a recreation, in a gallery, of a teenage boy’s bedroom from the 70s. Visitors stood around chuckling and sighing in familiarity over the artifacts of a seventies childhood. Perhaps in Journey Rock Band I’d rather see a high school gymnasium filled with braces-wearing, mullet sporting avatars-as-teenagers. That would be something to see.

No, the book did not contain any lyrics, or pages for that matter

Read more about Journey Rock Band here.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Pretending I'm Kirsten Dunst at Versailles. Fencing, chess, and attentive French palace guards who chuckle while they shoot.