Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I see a red moon rising

Full moon last night, and at Atelier Alizarin, the home of RL/SL artist Alizarin Goldflake, it was party time.
To celebrate the opening of her sky sculpture garden, Ali put on a garden party, giving a host of her fellow artists and stray friends like me a chance to see her art, and be enchanted by the delicate beauty of a Japanese dance by Miso Susanowa, whose Garden of Sound you may already know.
Ali is a Boston-based artist, and it's no surprise that she is drawn to the fabulous MFA and in particular to the Tenshin-En garden in the courtyard there. This is her version of the garden, it's kare sensui, which is Japanese for 'without water'- now there's a useful phrase if you're ever on a day trip to Osaka. The Boston garden is a serene blend of cultures, New England and Japan, mostly, and the soiree was equally blended, our international harmony only briefly broken by the tiresome virtual roach who quickly scuttled away (one hopes, to the proverbial motel).
But the always harmonious Thoth Jantzen was there, his build {]Simplexity[} just scored Editor's Choice, it is a place I love, and everyone was pleased to celebrate his success, script king Velasquez Bonetto called him 'the master', and he really is.
Other attendees included... oh too many names to list, but Rowan Derryth was there, for once was not manhandling an underage avatar; the 'best summer costume' competition was won by Betty Tureaud, with stiff competition from Fuschia Nightfire, Juanita Deharo, and Isabella Alphaville; Scarp Godenot was there, his comments and demeanor confirming the old saw that abstinence is rarely the answer; soror Nishi looked her usual fun and fetching self, can't wait to see her 'Tree of trees', coming soon at the IBM compund.  The conversation ran around building, and on to Inworldz and a new place, Veesome which is just getting up and running, and looks very nice.
The centerpiece of the garden is 'At the end of the day' which must be seen in person. The view through the enchanted glass changes as you walk or cam in and around it. A subtle and serene blue dream.
There are six other floors to visit here, from musical kinetics to RL digital drawings, so if, like me, you can't be in Boston for Labor day after all, come visit the Atelier, and be somewhere.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Home and garden: Soleil's Giverny

Gardening and painting apart, 
I'm no good at anything
Claude Monet
Summer is grey-white and gloomy here, indoors and out, so to try to beat the blues, I followed Geo Meek's link from Facebook to two SLCC speeches, the first by Philip Rosedale, the second by Doug ThompsonI thought for a long time 'Dusan' was a girl's name, Dusan/Susan, I suppose. Anyway Hobo stalwart Geo Meeks rocks, you should bookmark his site 
Before today, I had never seen or heard P. in the flesh; he wore a weird shirt and improbable hair; but to be fair he was jet lagged, which explains why on a couple of occasions he lapsed into trying to sell us an iphone. 
He is going to fix lag, Search, and the communication gap; let 16 year-olds come play with the grownups (yippee), and make it so an avie can have multiple names, because... apparently we need more deception in SL.
He is going to let you design him a brand new avatar - as long as it looks like the old one, but with better (ie free) clothes. 
So, 'Everything is/will be fine'. I felt sorry for the lady teacher, whose hard work selling the soon-to-be defunct teen grid is now all for nothing; she got an amazingly insincere response from P and after lunch, Doug Thompson rambled on for an hour on this and that. He has the same tailor as P.
But who cares. 
When there is no way to walk away, what do you do? Keep going. In otherwise excellent health, over the last two decades of his life, Monet lost his sight to cataracts. Colours became desaturated, and objects faded into blurred shapes; a deteriorating, frustrating, unbearable state of unrezzedness. Four years before his death he wrote to a friend, "I am more absorbed than I've ever been, expecting to achieve something, but I was forced to change my tune and give up a lot of promising beginnings and abandon the rest."
That threat of abandonment did not materialize, the paintings kept coming; abstract, with rather muddy colours, but paintings nonetheless. 'My poor eyesight makes me see everything through a fog. I't very beautiful just the same, and this is what I wish to convey."  
That beauty is conveyed into Second Life thanks to Soleil Snook  and her Monet house on Giverny. The house, built by Jorge Serapis with sculpties by Vicky Jayaram, is a fascinating case study in how a real life treasure can become accessible to everyone on the grid. It is still a work in progress, although the kitchen, living, and dining rooms are well on their way to being complete. One unexpected aspect of the house is Monet's choice of art - you find none of his own pictures on the walls, he preferred Japanese landscapes, and was instrumental in making them popular. 
Soleil Snook: I don't mind that the process is taking a long time, and I love Vicky's sculpties because they lay flat and don't pucker. I'm particularly pleased with the sculptie oven. Monet entertained a lot at home, that's why the oven is so large, he took great pride in serving fresh produce from his own kitchen garden. Sculpting is not my thing. Mirror imaging just makes me crazy, so I build things and send them off to be converted into sculpties.
There's a poster in each room that shows how close Soleil's version of the house is to the real one.  The original house was a farm house and when Monet bought it he added on a bedroom for himself and a studio with a separate entrance, seen here. This was because he was a morning person, and Alice and the children were not, this way he could entertain buyers without disturbing the whole family. He had six grown-up children living with him at one time, the three boys sleeping in the attic, and the three girls in a small room above the kitchen.
Outside, Soleil has given an impression of the 'floral fanfare' that continues to delight RL visitors to Giverny, complete with kitchen garden. SL Giverny has had its upheavals, but Monet had his own trials; in 1913 he wrote: "We were in the midst of a great flood and I, in my selfishness, could think only of my garden, my poor flowers that have been soiled with mud. With this weather I haven't managed to do anything and to add to my miseries an appalling storm has created havoc in my garden. The weeping willows I was so proud of have been torn apart and stripped; the finest entirely broken up." 
Soleil's sim boasts a fine glass house by her friend Podruly Peccable  and you'll also find a gallery for sculpty artist Kyra Roxan. back in the house, the creation of each room has involved many days of research, planning and gathering, a magpie process with minute attention to detail, somewhere between making a painting, a jigsaw, and putting together a doll's house. Using drawings and paintings rather than photos gives her the control and freedom to get the look just right. She is rightly proud of the lovely blue walls of the drawing room, and plans to furnish it exactly as the photo, right down to the playing cards on the folding table. 
In RL Soleil cares for a terminally ill relative. Building the interior of the Monet house little by little when she has the time and energy required, alternating activities from textures to furniture making to installing poses in chairs is all part of a slow upward curve of creativity. 
'Art is hard work,' Monet once told a reporter. Yosemite Sam-ming apart, what else is there?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

No-one's Perfect: Sextan Shepherd

External objects produce decided effects upon the brain 
Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth

It's the perfect cure for any midsummer melancholy: Sextan Shepherd's Nemo. If you haven't been lately, get out your best graphics card and prepare to spend a couple of hours in bliss. Forget about clown fish, Captain Nemo is the central character in Jules Verne's book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a brilliant and sometimes disquieting book well worth a (re-)read this summer. Even if you're not into Steampunk, this build will delight you and pull you in. Quiet, charming and self deprecating in the best Gallic style, Sextan has put together one of the most amazing adventures available inworld. Albatroz Hird, who was wearing his Indian avatar, introduced us on the dockside.
It was late at night. This is what happened, minus most of my inane questions and cooing.
 If you click on the pictures, they get bigger.
Albatroz Hird: Thirza, meet Sextan, Sextan, here is Thirza :) Voilà, comme ça, ça, c'est fait ^^
Sextan Shepherd: Thanks for the introduction Alba.
Albatroz Hird: Thirza a écrit un super article sur Avignon, très bien illustré.
Sextan Shepherd: Yes Alba, I have read it, it's really well done.
Woo hoo, vive la France, mental handshaking and compliments. You can't beat it. On the jetty, there's a dirigible that takes you on a tour of the island, it's one of those rare places where you get the delicious feeling of being a little lost, in an imagination vast enough to disappear over the horizon. Alba, Sextan and I walked into the great underwater elevator.
Albatroz Hird: Un indien dans tes installation, c'est compatible ?
Sextan Shepherd: LOL il est étanche l'indien?
Thirza Ember looks up  étanche = waterproof ... hehe je crois.
Albatroz Hird: Sûr, en tout cas, y prends pas l'eau! C'est vraiment étonnant de réalisme, je suis vraiment impressionné!
We walked out into the big underwater compartment, and looked at the model of the installation.
Sextan Shepherd: You never came here before Alba?
Albatroz Hird: Nope, it's my first time
Sextan Shepherd: OK, Thirza, so you already know the submarine city. I'm afraid all that I have built since that time is no more connected with  the J.Verne story. The flying city in the poster is called Alnitak. It is the ancient name for the biggest star of the orion constellation Zeta Orionis. Come on, follow me.
   I tried to follow them, but this horrible Snowglobe viewer, or the new mouse, or ...something. Anyway, I fell in a sort of trough and couldn't get out. There's no flying on Nemo, so I was pretty stuck, and did all kinds of jumps that this skirt was not built to withstand.
Thirza Ember: uff... don't laugh so hard.
Sextan Shepherd: ...... I said nothing!
Albatroz Hird: We don't, do you Sextan?
Sextan Shepherd: You are so thin.... you can hide between the walls.
See, I told you they were French. The giant shrimp is my favourite part of this build, it makes me hungry for a yummy fritto misto. Although this one might be a bit indigestible.
Sextan Shepherd: So how did I had the idea to build Nemo. Look over you, at the manta ray on the ceiling. This is the start of Nemo. I built that manta ray because I thought it was cool, don't ask me why! Then after that, maybe I was hungry too... I have built the shrimp. I was just having fun. Then I thought it could be nice to have a place where I can put this stuff in, and Nemo was born.
Albatroz Hird: c'est vraiment un travail, exceptionnel que tu as réalisé.
Sextan Shepherd: Before this, I was building small objects, like the object that you saw at Avignon. I got the sim to make this real. Ok, so now that you know how Nemo was born - lets go to see the rest! Fasten your seat belt!
With that, Sextan led us up another flight of stairs and down a tube. Once again, I got stuck in a gully. It was all pretty humiliating. I asked about textures. There are hundreds of sharp, beautiful, and surprisingly quickly loading textures in this build.
Sextan Shepherd: On this sim the textures represent 50% of the time involved in the building process, I create all my textures from scratch, or I start from a picture taken,  so I spend a lot of time on photoshop. You know, I love video games, and I wanted to find the same kind of atmosphere, something very immersive, that doesn't look like what we usually find in SL and yes, the details are important to get that immersion.
Albatroz Hird: Volta, Tesla, Faraday, Watt, Edison, et tous les autres précurseurs devaient vraiment tout inventer: c'est ça, le pur génie. Créer pour pouvoir créer plus loin. [That means Creating in order to create further - I looked it up]
Sextan Shepherd: Absolutely, Alba. They had all to discover things. J'adore l'electricité. I'm a big fan of Tesla's work; I don't think he would have liked SL, he was involved in reality, in matter, and he was already beyond our universe. This would all be too unreal, too abstract. William Crookes is another genius ...dans un autre genre. He discovered Neon. All the neon lights that we have today.. it's his invention, we owe him the TV screens too. Tesla, Verne, Eiffel, Guimard, Crookes... they all lived at the same period! They could have met each other.
Albatroz Hird: Au sommet de la tour pour un diner, ennuyeux pour les autres, mais certainement intéressant pour la science!
I tried to imagine them all at the top of the Eiffel tower, at the Verne restaurant of course, and wondered what they would order. Maybe the shrimp. Or lobster. I like lobster. In another room which, for once, I navigated without mishap, there were round platforms with a celestial clock and other mechanisms were on display, part of the continuing build.
Sextan wanted us to move on, down another long dark straight tunnel, but I hesitated, trying to take a picture, and apparently was waving my arms about, although not on my viewer.
Albatroz Hird: Thirza rame - you want some flippers, Thirza ? :))
Thirza Ember: you are too quick for me: remember I am only a blonde and it is all new.
Sextan Shepherd: It's because there are so many things to see.
Albatroz Hird: Take your time, no problem
Sextan Shepherd: Ok now lets walk straight..
Easier said than done. We came out into a cavernous space dominated by a giant drilling machine.
Sextan Shepherd: These are the orichalcum mines. It is a fantastic material, it's what gave to Atlantis its technological advance. Plato talked about that when he wrote about Atlantis.
We climbed an iron staircase and came to a transporteur.
Thirza Ember: This is beautiful too.With so much detail, you make the sim seem very big, it is an incredible imersive experience.
Sextan Shepherd: Well it's a sim size. I just can't have bigger.
Albatroz Hird: Je suis réellement impressionné.
Sextan Shepherd: Lol it's nothing but a few prims.
Albatroz Hird: Oui, mais quels prim!
When the transporteur stopped, we were at Nemo station. A path led off to the left, to the village, but we climbed up to take a look inside the Nautilus. I asked Sextan how he builds - from RL drawings, or gradually, prim by prim, within SL.
Sextan Shepherd: I have no organisation at all. One build calls another one, and another one, it's a kind of organic growth.
Thirza Ember: The central idea is very strong.
Sextan Shepherd: ho.. if you found the central idea .. send it to me! I wish I could knew it!
Thirza Ember: I think it is beauty in science, or elegance in exploration, like Tesla; he found elegance in electricity.
Albatroz Hird: Depuis combien de temps travailles-tu sur ce projet ?
Sextan Shepherd: I have started this in March.
Thirza Ember: Tell me, also, does being famous it make it harder for you to build?
Sextan Shepherd: I'm not famous LOL so I can build quietly lol

Thirza Ember: oh no, you're famous - the sim was full from the first day. Everyone is drawn to this build, it is
so beautiful and interesting, and even now there are always people here.
Sextan Shepherd: Yes, but 99% of the people that came here on the first day have forgot my name since. The sim is famous .. not me.
Thirza Ember: Well, I don't think so, but i think it is better to be quiet than to be famous.
Sextan Shepherd: yes me too!
Albatroz Hird: I agree.
Thirza Ember: you don't feel pressure to make something even better?
Sextan Shepherd: Ohh yes, all the time. Every build is a challenge, how to make it better than the
Albatroz Hird: This kind of pressure is coming from the inside of you. it's the worst one, and the best one too.
Sextan's version of Nautilus is a giant fish. propped up on the shore. It's a role-player's dream, and I should have thought it would make a great place for whose in the literary community, struggling with writer's block, to meet and get inspired.
You can see why Sextan's study is right here on board, in the heart of the build. It was late, very late in France, but Sextan kindly continued the tour. The men talked about building tips, something about metal textures, stuff I wouldn't have understood even in English, and I admired the helm. After a bit, we got back on the transporteur and rode to the village. Sextan really isn't at all Steampunky in the way one would expect, as I then discovered.
Albatroz Hird: Tu connais Syberia ?
Sextan Shepherd: Non Alba. What is siberia but a country?
Albatroz Hird: C'est un jeu d'enquête fait par Benoît Sokal dans cet esprit steampunk, un univers d'automates.
Sextan Shepherd: Oh no I don't know.
Ooo shops. I remembered the SLSyberia build that Clematilde Oyen and her friends put together a couple of years ago, and wished I'd better pictures of it. Sextan led us into to a giant orrery, complete with shadows that make the planets seem alive. Under the mechanism, a couple of lovers were saying a shy good night in open chat.
Sextan Shepherd: Thirza this part of the sim is not taken from a book, it's just my fantasy, je me suis amusé avec le planetarium.
Ever the perfectionist, Alba's next question was no surprise.
Albatroz Hird: Super! tu as calculé la correspondance des cycles, je suppose ?
Sextan Shepherd: Oui plus ou moins...
Albatroz Hird: je me régale [that means 'I'm loving it', isn't that nice?]
Sextan Shepherd: haha tant mieux!
Albatroz Hird: pas de parcelles à respecter, libre de faire comme tu le vois, c'est top!
We went up onto the roof. There was a giant cannon.I like giant cannons. Mouselook. We shot ourselves up into the sky and landed on the flying city above. What a trip.
Sextan Shepherd: Welcome on Alnitak the Flying City. It's still in progress... want to see something new in SL ? La maison aux miroirs.
The geostationary mechanically assisted flying city reminded me of an old fashioned funfair, the attractions linked by a sort of boardwalk. We walked into a lofty room, bright with stained glass and turning mirrors. The men started talking technical stuff, and I just zoned out, enchanted by all that spinning, sparkling glass.
After a while, we walked over to the Space-O-Rama. This beautiful metal sphere contains a theatre with giant lenses that turn to show aspects of space: a sun, a nebula, and the vortex of a black hole.
Albatroz Hird: super !
Thirza Ember: It's a wonderful build, and I have almost no lag, which makes it so much more fun.
Sextan Shepherd: I try to keep the scripts as low as I can: I still need to add something in one lens, it's empty for the moment.
Alba suggested a model version of the sim, similar to the one he is wokring on for his own marvellous build at Avignon, but with so manyy intricate and oddly shaped buildings that seems close to impossible; and yet, looking at Sextan, nothing seems quite beyond his ability.
It was late, so we took a brief look at the Museum of Flying Machines, containing some of Sextan's notable working creations, and this beautiful photograph. It was really very late, dawn had broken over the sim and it was time to say bonne nuit to both these fine builders... I knew I'd be back, again and again, for there is still so much more to see, from the underwater rooms to the tea set carousel, and the spider building...
 I hope you'll visit Nemo soon, and experience this truly liberating place for yourself. Nemo is the perfect antidote to all the imperfections of the summer sun. If you see a clumsy blonde in the corner, give a wave, it's probably me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Bridge and the Bird

On y danse, tous en rond.
August is the cruelest month, scratchy and strange. The small talk at arty parties reaches its most miniscule, little misunderstandings balloon, and before you can say Qarl Linden, almost every able bodied and uninstitutionalized person mumbles stuff about pulling the plug on SL for good. And then there's the SLCC ... But wait! There are places like SL Avignon! Built by  Albatroz Hird, this fantastic sim is based on the magnificent medieval French town, most famous for its Papal Palace (voted Best Alternative Christian Venue, 1309-1378).

In RL, Avignon hosts two summer festivals - the 'In', a highbrow theater event, now in its 64th year, centred on the courtyard of the Papal Palace, and the 'Off', a much more populist event held at the same time in which performance artists of all types and all levels of ability put on shows in clubs, theatres, squares and even supermarkets, all over the city. The 'Off' festival, brainchild of  Andre de Benedetto, finally gained official status in 2006. Now 'Off' is moving into virtual worlds. Thanks to GP Ohl and his webZine Journal Transversal du Off we have our own Avignon here in Second Life. Just as with the RL festival, the process of growing the sim has been gradual,the original build involved multiple creators and a range of styles. Several months ago, Albatroz, whose RL job involves remodelling old houses, put together his version of the famous South Tower. Though far from a slavish copy in every detail of the RL stronghold, it's a very precise piece of work; Alb is a perfectionist, and visited the city several times as well as studying pictures closely. 
Albatroz Hird: I have a strong love for old stone, and I wanted to make a place that a tourist can recognize, but my idea is also a spiritual one. In RL I am also a musician, I play the bass, it's an instrument that keeps your feet on the ground, but lets your mind fly free. My totem has always been a bird: an albatros I think sums my way of thinking perfectly. The idea of a vertical union between the practical and the ethereal, the sea and the land, it very important for me. This is a mishmash of dreams and reality. People from Avignon have told me they feel very at home here - that's a huge compliment, and it's been included in a Portuguese RL/SL crossover festival, the Bienal de Cerveira.
It is a very masculine build. Like the city in RL, it is full of squares and right angles, continuity and cohesion in color and form; unlike the real thing, Albatroz has textured the palace facade with a painting by his favorite artist, French painter and sculptor Ieko Catnap, and raised the whole building to make room for another gallery. His original contribution, the South Tower, has an avie-friendly lift rather than central stairs. From the roof, you get a rich sense of place, and an idea of the 'bug' that inspires his building style - big panoramas in which textures and perspective come together to make a sort of 'sound' to his ears.
Below the South Tower is the  rue des Teinturiers, one of Avignon's most picturesque streets, complete with the medieval dyer's water wheels. A walk down the street will bring you to the virtual version of the  Theatre du Chene Noir, with its beautiful Rose window 'restored' by Alb. The sim is intended to foster the arts, and has at least 10 artists on exhibition at any one time.
When Alb got involved in the project, the sim was a mixture of different styles by different builders; now it's entirely his own creation in which he's attempted to respect the numerology of the period.
Albatroz Hird: The numbers that were considered the most powerful by the Templars, the patrons of the great cathedrals and palaces of the Middle Ages, were 3, 4, 7 and 8. Religious buildings were constructed with a deep symbolism and these numbers and proportions can be found in the city, and I have brought them into my version of Avignon.
The sim is just getting off the ground with entertainment in the Great Courtyard, where nuriah Laville, licio Follett and Mickeala Praga were performing the other evening - fantastic live Italian music. The plan is to have regular monthly concerts, so keep it in mind as a venue!
It's worth dropping by even if you're not in time for a concert - in the same space you can also see the machines of Leonardo da Vinci, by noted builder Sextan Shepherd, most famous for his Nemo sim.
Like the ancient city, virtual Avignon has its mysteries and treasures. On the broken bridge, Alb has recreated the chapel of St. Nicholas; inside it are some frescoes he 'borrowed' and digitally restored from the Templar chapel of Cressac. Keep looking, and you will find an allegory on Hamlet in the dungeon.
Despite the scratchiness of August, here is bliss. From Templars to Shakespeare to modern art, Avignon continues to build bridges across time and realities, and that's worth dancing about.
LA STUPENDA CITTA d' Avignone è ora visitabile anche in Second Life, grazie all'intervento di CG Ohl  (all'anagrafe Jean-Pascal Girou, direttore della webzine Journal Transversal du Off un sito dedicato al Festival  'Off', a sua volta il festival artistico di RL che coinvolge tutto il centro storico durante il mese di luglio, una sorta di risposta poplare al più raffinato Festival 'In' che occupa il palazzo dei Papi con spettacoli e concerti.
 La versione virtuale della città è stato realizzato da Albatroz Hird, svizzero, amante della pietra antica e l'architettura esoterica; perfezionista, Alb ha messo più di un anno  nella costruzione della land, cominciando con la famosa Torre Sud - eccoci sul tetto. 

Dentro la torre, da non perdere, le tele della brava Ieko Catnap. Le tele sono diventate parte delle strutture virtuali, creando un ponte artistico tra l'archittettura medievale e l'arte del ventunesimo secolo.
Scegliere le textures poco convenzionali non toglie assolutamente dal look  antico ed armonioso della land; a distanza tutto sembra fatta della stessa stoffa. Dalla torre sud, si vede lo splendido cortile reale,che in RL diventa teatro per spettacoli quale il Re Riccardo II di Shakespeare sotto la regia del grande Jean-Baptiste Sastre. In SL, invece, l'altra sera si sono esibiti nuriah Lavillelicio Follett and Mickeala Praga e si spera di fare ogni mese un concerto diverso. 
La via dei tintori, con le sue ruote idrauliche, porta al Theatre du Chene Noir da ammirare il bellissimo rosone, reinventato in questa versione  dell'antico e famoso teatro, e anche allo strano fungo moderno che sovrasta la land. 
Da non perdere le macchine di Leonardo, nel cortile reale, e sul ponte, la cappella di san Nicola, con gli affreschi 'prestati' dalla capella templare di Cressac e digitalmente restaurati da Albatroz. Sotto la capella una sobria allegoria basato su Hamlet...e le pirahna. Non è facilissima trovarla ma ne vale la pena
Avignone virtuale crea un ponte tra passato e presente, tra la musica e il teatro, l'arte tradizionale e quella moderna. Come nella vecchia canzone, un ponte sulla quale tutti noi possiamo ... ballare, perché no, tutti insieme.