Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who Burgles the Burglar

I received a wrinkled envelope containing an anonymous note made from letters cut from magazines. “Pssst.” was all it said. I looked up and down my beach, flitted to and from my skybox. one there. I was intrigued. Who left it?

And then a link – literally – was sent to me - *– detailing the exploits of SL’s premier cat burglar. I’d heard about him! Velvet unicorn paintings were being ripped off from around the grid and people were getting worried. I'd heard there was no building, no security system, he couldn't breach. As I pored over his journal entries I became increasingly excited - what did he want from me?

He wanted to meet. What do you wear when meeting a prowler? Nothing sparkly. He might grab it like a magpie. I tucked a pistol under my skirt and opted for trench coat and getaway thigh highs. I arrived at our agreed meeting place, palms sweating, gripping my notepad and pen.

And then there he was, right in front of me, knitted cap pulled firmly around his face, scratching his back with a lethal looking crowbar. Did I feel threatened? Yeah! I sat still and looked about. I was in his lair, surrounded by loot. He had taken me to his hub of operations. He began to talk and I was surprised by his gentle voice. Not at all what I expected.

He started prowling only lately, out of necessity, he told me. The recession had hit him hard. “It seems really unfair that people have pixel food in their fridge...and some have none.” Ah! A sensitive burglar. A bit like the amateur cracksman A. J. Raffles who justifies his thieving thus, “We can't all be moralists, and the distribution of wealth is all wrong anyway...” Mainly, our burglar prefers lifting collections of fantasy art that won't be missed, rather than decorative arts, furniture, or other objects. However, his sensitivity soared to new heights recently, exemplified by his – er - “adoption” of a baby that he found during a prowl, left alone, in a less than seemly home environment. “I know this is going to look all Limbergh baby and sh*t…and I don’t care. In the long run, this little tiger will thank me. And if worst comes to worst, in a few years...I have an accomplice...”

This burglar works hard. I asked how long it takes to scout a prospective home. “For every 20 places I find, 1 or 2 maybe are worth telling the story...All of this not faked...these are not things I place in peoples homes. Everything you see here or in my stories is 100% authentic and found in their houses.” For each exploit, the burglar writes descriptions and shares the slurl so you can authenticate his movements if you care to (I tested out a few slurls and confirm their validity.)

I looked across at him, slumping slightly over the table, and sensed a bit of pathos about him...he seemed, to me, to be a lonely burglar. “What have you learned about people, from exploring so many homes?” I asked. “How do people express themselves?” He sighed. Through “Lots of porn. Lots of self-portraits. Lots of wolves.” I began to think it was less about the loot and more about revealing the proclivities of some of our residents. He serves as the Phantom Gourmet of SL aesthetics.

We spoke about his greatest challenge so far (the Gorean castle) and he offered a few tricks and tips for maneuvering around security systems (which he may share with us). Although the burglar works alone, he asked me to ask you for tips and comments. If you know of a place that begs exploration, drop him a line via his blog and he’ll follow up.

As for future goals? “I think a visit to a Linden's home soon is in the cards.”

*Be warned, his discoveries are NOT PG-rated.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Roof is Gone (Burning Life, pt. 2)

Above photo by Warrick Renfold

The moment you arrive at Miso Susanowa and Misprint Thursday’s building, The Roof is Gone, your eyes and ears are put on alert. The main structure, constructed of wooden planks and encased in scaffolding (“I could actually build most of this in Nevada” says Miso), stands cross-like, assuming the air of a place of worship in the middle of a disaster zone. It generates a weather system of its own and is surrounded by swirling details; photographs spiral on the wind above, videos, embedded into prims, blink like lightning, and the static beginning of the soundtrack passes back and forth between your ears like sheets of heavy rain. And then you reach the eye of the storm, calm among the chaos. The song begins to soothe, there’s a living room to rest in, and, if you look carefully, you can even disappear quietly into the building.

The piece is part political, part personal. It conjures up memories of Hurricane Katrina and other natural catastrophes. It also invokes psychological drama through childhood imagery – the house is breaking apart, little bicycles are tangled in spikes, photos of kids are bent and curled. Miso left her “digital DNA” for us to examine, in the form of a poster in hanging on a wall inside. Over 50 hours worth of work went into the build and it shows. There are so many layers to explore (teleport yourself up several meters to experience the accompanying video to full effect) expect to spend at least half an hour to begin to scratch the surface. Miso explained that one of her main goals is to make art in SL that can be translated to the outside world. I look at this piece and see a maquette, a model that might be realized again in the actual world. The artists kindly offer a lovely freebie miniature of the piece, a great souvenir of BL 2009.

Hey, can’t BL be extended for a week? There’s too much to see and do...!

This just in from White Lebed, art director Burning Life: "The events and the activities will be closed in a few days, but the art and the builds will stay for another week and the gates will be opened till Nov 1st."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just a Mortal with the Potential of a Superman...

The Watchtower

Kalel Venkman in the Fortress of Solitude (photo courtesy of Venkman)

I read the article by Apollo Manga in the Second Life Examiner, about his role as ranger on the Playa. He writes that Burning Life Rangers are like “lubricants, reducing friction in the Burning Life community.” In a world that is self-governed, is there need for policing? The Linden Lab Terms of Service and Community Standards are in place as a set of rules for behavior – a LL book of etiquette if you will. But some folks choose to burn the book.

Have you ever been in sandbox, happily building away, when you were suddenly swamped under an obnoxious mass of particles? Le sigh. If you’re being shot at by projectiles, shoved, caged, verbally abused and worse, you’re being griefed (see one of my experiences). Who do you look to for help? Linden Lab has its own tactics we can use. For example, we can mute a fellow resident, or fill out an abuse report. But sometimes things happen that are beyond our skill set. Sometimes, we simply want help. What’s more comforting than the sight of a superhero, flying to your rescue? Yes, you can put a call out to the Justice League Unlimited. The JLU will sweep away the nonsense and leave you safe and sound. They have strategies to cope with the wide range of issues that cause grief in-world, from the obvious to the insidious, and offer assistance to everyone from sim owners to newbies.

The group began organically in 2006 as a crew of comic book fans, dressed as their favorite characters. Hanging around a sandbox one day, a couple of guys tackled a bothersome griefer using their innate tech skills, and from there, the JLU was born. It’s now made up of a 60-odd strong crew of scripters, artists, business people, authors, engineers – each contributing a particular talent to their collaborative undertakings. It functions much like a well-organized neighborhood watch. Their public service in SL has extended into the actual world; they sponsor and dedicate their services to a number of charity events, such as Project Jason.

I was invited to Justice Island for a few sessions with Kalel Venkman, who offered a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the headquarters of the JLU. Business takes place in a stately space station, the Watchtower, complete with a dispensary of sophisticated gear, meeting rooms, a library, and a place of respite, in the form of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. At the center of all is Brainiac, a tool designed by the League to monitor griefer operations throughout the grid. It’s a powerful piece of equipment, linked to all the gear League members carry about their person during patrols. Members go through a period of training and abide by a code of ethics that prevents misuse of any tool.

While some may bristle at the idea of “policing”, Venkman is adamant that the League operates as a peacekeeping and education force only, in place to help all residents enjoy the best SL experience, free from unwanted interference. The JLU gathers intelligence about griefing actions and communicate regularly with Linden Labs. Member ZenMondo Wormser invited me on patrol one evening and I watched Kohaku Owatatsumi, JB Hancroft and Wormser whip through a sim full of zombies and shooters in no time. As for advice to newbies, when confronted, don’t retaliate, says Venkman. “That does no good and just gets you into trouble yourself."

Their activities are a back breaking labor of love, like so much in SL, run on the good will of people who care that you have a good time. Although a dude or a dame in tights and a cape may not seem threatening, I assure you, they pack a punch. In a nice way. To read more about the JLU check out Krypton Radio.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Burning Life, part 1.

What terrific travels at Burning Life last see the Burning Life flickr pool for useful links and peeks at activities on the playa. It’s hard to know where to begin, so I started at Burning Life Zero Mile, hopped in a temp rez flaming vehicle and spun around randomly. It’s great to see the sims full of a variety of action - people looking and exploring, performers, like the Lamplighters, dancing off into the dusk, artists fiddling with their work, sculptures powerfully beating out heat, all against mad soundtracks from gentle breeze to speed metal. I was happy to run across wicked-blogger-on-a-break Wyatt Wellman, fitting right against the fiery backdrop wearing his charcoal persona. Blued Food was an ace companion – he’s a speedy scout. I followed him around as he shouted “Click EVERYTHING”. It’s true, the builds are full of surprises. I recommend doing one build per visit to really appreciate the work that’s gone into these sites. We found four Yip’s Fusion and I lost myself there for a good while. Yip has a way of providing comfort and romance wherever she lays her hand, and Fusion is no exception. Simple stenciled eyes blink and tear before you as you’re enveloped in a wash of pink and deep brown scrims, bending like waves. A track by I Monster (Heaven) makes you want to bow with them. The muted, dimly lit space is more mysterious than Yip’s typical palette, and suits the harmonic track. As always, she’s offering some charming freebies – soft bear noses and iridescent butterflies which follow along as you trek.

Other builds of note: Gettr II from Idialab for the Museo del Metaverso at Opal and The Roof is Gone by Miso Susanowa and Misprint Thursday at Black Rock which I’ll write about next.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pardon my silence - there's been a lot of interesting material to blog about, and I'm gathering entries for posting over the next few days. So please, stay tuned. For now, take this handy map and explore the Playa which makes up Burning Life...more soon and thank you for your patience, dear readers, x.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Unfinished Symphony of Prims

There’s something special about a work of art unfinished. The viewer is able to study the methods of the artist, and observe their hands at work. Seeing a sculpture where its hinged or the lines that lead into an idea - it’s like being a botanist regarding a leaf with a magnifying glass. Egon Schiele is an artist whose body of work includes several unfinished pieces which are some of my favorite, like this one, of old houses in Krumau.

Coordinators at Burning Life respectfully requested that observers refrain from taking photos of works before they were finished. However, as I watched builders at work today, I was enthralled by the amount of work that goes into building, which I could only appreciate by seeing each and every prim revealed. Seeing these builds in partial states made me consider the intricate planning it takes to build a structure, and, when a build is done right, it leaves the impression that it was a cinch to make.

I crept around Donpatchy Dagostino as he worked today, watching from high above to below his feet, careful not to interrupt. More than half is in a raw state, elliptical shapes awaiting textures, resembling, from above, the shell of a beetle. At this stage it made me think a little bit about artist-architects pushing the limits of wood, like Robert Harvey Oshatz. Dagostino’s intent may be better revealed once the structure is complete, but seeing it unfinished doesn’t make it any less impressive.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I joined twitter and plurk a while back but found my constant chatter to be incredibly dull. I bored myself to tears. To really take advantage of the twitter scene I'd have to spend way too much time away from rl work - so I gave it up. Until now. Today I found a clever thing. The SLtweets HUD allows you to twitter from within SL. Simply wear the HUD and post your thoughts, discoveries, and announcements in the chat bar where they'll be transported to twitterville for all your contacts to see. SLtweets also offers a tinyslurl widget so you can easily post locations. As an avid explorer, the HUD should offer a great way for me to share my explorations with you all. Away we go!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

One of the first things I did when I logged on to SL for the first time (once I'd figured out how to keep my hair on) was to go dancing. First I did the rounds of ballrooms and jazz bars. Realizing ballroom dancing masks itself as SL foreplay I found my way to the indie clubs - first to Popscene (now defunct) and Alt7 (going strong since March 2007). Swiftly, I was tuned in to djs from around the world and introduced to a great variety of new music. I kept a pad of paper next to me, scrawling all the wicked new tracks I was hearing.

Let's hear it for the DJ!

Generating soundtracks and backdrops against which you create your own personal dramas...these DJs are the secret workhorses of SL, engaging us using their own particular techniques; some spending hours upon hours crafting a set (yes, you Ms. Lilliehook), some "curating" music, hoping to turn you on to something you've never heard before, others space out and forget they're spinning at all but no matter - they're here to entertain us and animate our experiences.

So next time you're out and about, eager to try your new dance from Henmations, remember to tip your hat (and a few linden) to the dedicated crew that make your world more aurally exciting.

A special shout out to DJs past and present Colleen Lilliehook, Darn Darwin, Enigma Bombay, Ennui Clip, Hotjack Canning, Infinite Graves, PirateDucky Constantine, The Nachts, and Warrick Renfold, who've each created brilliant soundtracks to my slife...