Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wholly Spirit

Try the Exodus Viewer, said claudia222 Jewell. You will love it.
Love is good, and as beloved as the old layout is for those of us still in Imprudence and her sisters, we're going to have to weather that grating feeling between eye and hand that comes with changing Viewers, not to mention no longer being shielded from pitiful Display Names. Presumably all you SL stayathomes already dealt with that long ago. Exodus was intended for combat games, which explains the Hostile Radar; since I never cross paths with poor old Crap, I can't say if that works - and indeed, who cares. The more important options took a shedload of fiddling, but it was all going to be worth the trouble.
claudia222 jewell: In Exodus there are many nice and useful things you will not have with any viewer 1. In a few days you will love it, it's just the settup that's a little work. After that it will stay like it and the pictures you make will reward you to have gone trough the hassle, I guarantee you.
And suddenly, there it was. When the exclamation marks subsided, Claudia explained why she takes the time.
claudia222 Jewell: I try to help people for months to get adjusted to new viewers :) it's worth it bcause my exposition would otherwise never been seen, or just by Linden Lab itself. 
What makes this even more special is that Claudia's break-through mesh build, Spirit, has been open for a fortnight, and she's currently the hottest property for chat shows and glossy reviews of every kind. To go from the largely solitary world of building and Blender to the whirlwind of openings and TV interviews might turn a girl's head, but no. Not that she doesn't enjoy the way her work has been received.
claudia222 Jewell: The opening was amazing really, they all came, and I have met all now, I spoke all night with them for 5 hours, and had to go to work in RL without sleep, but was sure special to me. I was very lucky to get this chance to show my work here thanks to the Art Screamer team, Zachh CaleAmase Levasseur and Chestnut Rau. They have always been very generous to me and supportive over a long time.
As Spirit rezzed for me and claudia chatted, two visitors, Kermit Rutkowski and SIMONE Lyvette, came over to say hello. Both looked fabulous, they seemed content to bask in the serenity of their surroundings, and indeed the build is quietly busy at all times of the day and night.
SIMONE Lyvette: I love this avatar, I feel part of the art ㋡
It's impossible to cam around the sim without feeling you should be filming all this. The stream only enhances that sensation. Claudia decided to simply leave on the channel she'd listened to while building, rather than upload a special set of sounds.
claudia222 Jewell: This music made me feel calm. I think to have music that's not really anyone's normal choice makes it more accessable, also because we know it as background music in films, so it enhances the feel here, and also lets us accept the little strange parts of it, as it does in films we see. There are already lots of machinima of the build, I added many to my favorites in my YouTube account. I feel very happy it inspires so many to do it. People are seeing it through so many different eyes, and I think through the photos and machinima, it becomes like also their art. If  I am able, I will plant links to all of them all over the sim, like little discoveries for people to find, and also to reward the artists that made them for it. It's all much work, so it's a little thing I can do for them, to say thanks.

claudia222 Jewell: I had not even a computer till 2002. When I started I didn't even know I could be allowed to build. I had no idea we had sandboxes in SL. I left and came back 2 years later,  when  I heard we can learn about 3D here also. I wanted to learn to understand how it works, but was also  very unable to understand what 3D is really.  A bit over 1 year now, I have a nice desktop and have been able to start to learn  about  programs outside SL. I downloaded some programs like blender and others. I was very lost! The first thing I was interested in was human anatomy, and was making some faces, I think, and other organic shapes. I think we all  go and do try first with forms we are familiar with in our memory, to be able to focus more on  the technical aspects. Sculpties were made especially for people like me that loved to  make shapes of a more organic nature, to manage bring more realism to their work, but it was not  a format that helped us to learn much about 3d  practices in general. I made many mistakes always,  but it helped me a lot to learn from mistakes, even when it can be very frustrating - luckily, my computer never reacted to the tantrums in my head!
She has the spirit of a mesh evangelist, on a mission to convert us, one soul at a time if need be, to a better and deeper way of experiencing 3D.

claudia222 Jewell: Many have seen me as a strange balloon girl for months. I didn't mind, but I am glad you can see me now. I know in time we all will see mesh for the beauty it can give, so was a small price for me to not be seen.  The avatar its a asexual shape  for me. There are no arms to hug, no legs to run away, no sexual organs, and sealed lips; but I have wings and spirit, imagination and memory and eyes - even a heart  too. Some may see me  here in this avatar and think I am disabled,  but it's more about showing what I can give here. I  hope this sim shows everyone, including amateur 3d modelers, just ordinary people, that anything is possible. Our dreams, our will can motivate and enable us all  get  the know-how we need, simply by wanting it. SL is a place where people can find their talents, their best abilities. I want all to give mesh a fair try and help to make it a dream come true.

A reception as warm as the one Spirit has been given usually provokes one of two reactions. The creator either enjoys some laurel-resting, or else begins fretting over the Next Big Thing. Yet Claudia turns the success story she is living into something greater than herself.

claudia222 Jewell: I want to learn to make  mesh avatars in the near future - I mean I want to perfect them, and make many different ideas, and also learn to maybe animate them. We will get new bones for the  avatars to animate, and we will need to make custom animations to actually use them. I am not sure if I will manage that, I may even work with others more specialized in animations than me, but first I want to try myself. We are never finished with learning. I just see it as steps I take to get further. It needs all of us to exchange ideas and try and make this work. Its not that it's all fixed; the  work is still in front of me, but every little step is rewarding me, we are so smiling by every little success.
That's the spirit.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


It's a long way down
Sarah McLachlan, Ice Cream
Ask RAG Randt what one word best describes his SL experience, and he'll say '3D '. Which says a lot about him; a person of depth and purpose, touched with an persistent sense of delight at the freedom which that third dimension gives a graphic artist - the opportunity to draw the audience even deeper into his design.

RAG, aka Richard Goldberg, is a professional artist and illustrator of such books at 'Pull My Flagellum' and 'Notes from the Commode' as well as numerous posters and greetings cards. Am I Dreaming? is a half-sim pilgrimage-style install with an icy twist, inspired by the sight of his small niece in close proximity to large quantities of chocolate birthday cake. The child's rapturous words have become, in Second Life, a rhapsody to the unalloyed delight of childhood where all good things tumble around the visitor as the story unfolds.

This is a linear experience. From the landing point onwards, you're set on a strict path, with notecards to read, and no point-to point tp'ing. (Dang, should'a studied harder at Arrow School.) As RAG points out in his instructions, some lag must be dealt with. The easiest way to manage is by toggling your graphics quality from Low to High, allowing you to walk the line, but not to miss the atmospheric quality of each scene when you arrive.
RAG found that his original inspiration grew and developed as he built the sets, making it a genuine child of 3D. The cat is called Strawberry, and this scene comes with a choice of sprinkles or no sprinkles.
RAG Randt: I hand draw the lines, and then the paint the textures and combine in Photoshop. The hardest thing is getting the patterns on the pajamas to read well at 512 resolution, and I hope I succeeded. Capturing the imagination of a child in a way adults can also enjoy isn't easy, but I believe 3D storytelling has great potential. To go from a 2D illustrator to 3D is VERY exciting!
Hannah, Richard's niece and muse, found the build exciting too - at 4 years old, she was mesmerized by what her uncle had made. Mission accomplished, then.

SL Hannah sleeps in a Goodnight Moonlight world which is open to possibilities, and yet grounded in the practical wisdom and semi secrets of the very small. Let your inner child click everything, for there are trap doors, secret rooms, poses and passages you may miss if you try to go too fast.

Walking through the bedroom, you step out onto a long, skinny jetty. It's a place where you can either sit in companionable silence with our little dreamer, or leap out from the edge of the world, letting both imagination and avatar take flight.

From sky to seabed, a pair of dark little wings lift you across the build, finally bringing you to rest underwater, on the sidelines of a mermaid's sporting event.
RAG Randt: Watch out, it's a pretty serious game of kick-the-clam! I love SL, and intend building here and in other virtual worlds for many years to come. I have done some work in Inworldz also. The possibilities are infinite, and there are so many great 3D people here, it's very inspiring.

Do dreams have a temperature? Here, the primary colours of infancy melt into the muted tones of uncertainty: a dream, or a reality? It's as if RAG himself can't quite believe his luck at finding such a satisfying medium, such a sweet message. The cool environments pass from one toy-type to another, forming a storybook safari that is cleverly original (cleverly, in this age of copyright paranoia) but also heartwarming, fresh, and funny.

Journey's end with (chocolate) lover's meeting; this is a trip you're going to adore, and a build that's sure to attract machinimists and Koinup operators alike. Be smart and visit  Am I Dreaming? in the off-peak hours if you possibly can.

The build is so definitely a storybook, it deserves a permanent 'shelf', and RAG's looking around for sim-space in which to keep it for the long term. In any case, his LEA experience has been positive, and he's applied for an upgrade from half- to a full sim soon. But RL comes first...
RAG Randt: I will be leaving on a 10 day vacation starting SL! Can one have fun without the internet, do you know? Hmm, I may have to read a book or something. Perhaps some sci fi by Silverberg...
Thirza Ember: With all this dream stuff, not Freud then?
 RAG Randt: lol, no I am a Jungian.
Jung at heart. I like that.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tick Tock

Time flies, and it's already February. Last month, just like clockwork,  the Flash Fiction contest held by Canolli Capalini came to its conclusion, and while it's too late to compete, you're still in plenty of time to take part - by reading the stories, and perhaps thinking about joining in next time. At the R.F.Burton Public Library, three residents, Jedburgh30 Dagger, Fire Broono, and Serafina Puchkina, told me a little about the event.
Serafina Puchkina: Miss Capalini is an amazing builder and gets full credit for the contest, which runs from December to mid January each year. The rules and description are posted on our not-ning, a great resource for learning about Babbage.
Fire Broono: Community is important here - and events keep us interested and united - like the Oiling Festival!  My first time here, I was  invited to display one of my builds there, so I moved in!
Jedburgh30 Dagger explained that the stories can be no more than 600 words, and she should know, her offering 'The Key to all our Futures Past' won a prize, and is my favourite, along with The Keys to the Kingdom by Bookworm Hienrichs.
Most of the entrants are local (though possibly not 4th placed Crap Mariner, in many ways the ketchup at the buffet that is SL writing) and bring to their stories a sense of the place they live in, which makes it all the better that one can sit down within that world and read the stories here. The Flash Fiction collections for this and past years are on a little table just inside the door of the Library, and easy to overlook, but once you have them, you can snuggle down by the fireside, or try the great outdoors, Caledon Style, perhaps choosing the Vannevar Bush Reading Garden, where I recently ran into Librarianissimo JJ Drinkwater.
JJ Drinkwater: The garden is named after a RL scientist. His article "As we may think" prefigured not only networked computation, but even the web.
Glaubrius Valeska won the competition with his story "To Her Heart", inspired in part by a dream. His fine house in the center of New Babbage is an ancient piece of steampunkitude, and contains portraits of  many heroes, including Poe, seen here. Last year, Mr. Valeska attempted an offering for the contest, but in the editing of it ended up with "a mess". This time he's cracked it, ending up in fact with two prizes - his re-working of a very old joke took 12th place.

The Key to Success by MacKnight Culdesac, maker of music boxes, came in second; here he stands before the books containing his, and all the other stories, at the R.F.B. P. L. Emerson Lighthouse took the third spot.
MacKnight Culdesac: It was more of a challenge than I had expected. The theme was simply 'Windup Keys'. A simple concept; still, I had to go through several times, reducing the word count on what I thought was already a very short story. This prize will pay my rent for many weeks. I moved here in June, and have been very happy. In the month of December, we had 4 community competitions, including this Flash Fiction contest. I hadn't entered any competitions before, and this contest is actually the 5th prize I've won here since Christmas, most for building, which I consider my primary effort. Here, it seems, entering a competition greatly increases you chances of winning.

Canolli Capalini:  I've been enamoured for years of Flash Fiction, and thought it might be a good thing to bring here.  A shorter format - notecards and thInc books - gives people a chance to show a moment in time, which can be part of a larger story, in this case, Steamlands. I always panic the first 2 weeks of the contest because I keep thinking no one is going to submit anything, but then in the last week, they flood in! In previous years the response was limited, but last year, I was completely blown away by the response. This year has been wonderful too.  I read on average 3 or 4 stories a day, with my morning coffee. It should also be noted, there is a cash prize to the winners. Occasionally anonymous people  match what I offer. The hardest part is waiting for entries! Making  textures for the thInc books can be demanding, I'd love to say choosing the story is the hardest part, but usually I know it when I read it.  Many stick with me, either because they're poignant and strike a chord, or for a turn of phrase, or because they're just plain entertaining. These people in the steamlands are a uniquely creative bunch!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Collected at the borderline

C'mon and get your rubber ducks...
Are you one of us?
Broken Bells, The High Road
ChapTer Kronfeld wears old fashioned 3D glasses and has a voice like a Viennese coffeeshop, rich and  velvety and bewildering, especially if, like me, your only knowledge of German involves ordering extra cream with your strudel. And no, that isn't a euphemism. You partially saw his work at Asmita Duranjaya's East/West build, and in the photos for Here be dragons *shakes fist at TPVs*. This time there's no doubt, at Virtual Cologne, we're treated to the full effect of his RL drawings and paintings, and at the vernissage, we got to hear him recite some of his original poetry too.
The gallery, inside an anonymous looking post-war concrete building, has a surprisingly purple interior studded with about fifty pencil compositions, halfway between doodles and sketches, curated under the title "Reales in einer Welt aus Pixel" at Virtual Cologne, or Virtuelles Koeln as they call it nowadays (has the umlaut been retired? where was the memo?). ChapTer's art is a chronicling of the creativity of a no-man's-land between conscious and subconscious thought, and so it's most appropriate that his exhibition should be on a sim that explores all those 'place non-place' tropes. The brainchild of Annie Milestone, Virtual Koeln is home to a painstaking recreation of Cologne Cathedral, complete with authorized reproduction of Gerhard Richter's Symphony of Light stained glass window (unveiled in real life on August 19th 2007, and installed in the Second Life version just two days later. *pauses to allow for Teutonic stereotype mental comments*)

The line between real and virtual is extremely thin here; reinvigorated by new and enthusiastic group members, the sim, which features a German-language Newbie training area, is working on plans to host a number of shows by Cologne-based artists (the city is home to more art galleries than practically any other town of its size in the world) as well as international SL art.  Anne was immensely impressed by Chapter's art which she described as 'superinteressant', and showed me her favourite picture, a leg-challenged lady.
Annie Milestone: The title is:'On these stones' Chap says it's a picture of a woman with a dislocated hip, I think it's remarkable how he captured her pain.
The opening was brilliant. Chap led us around the room, sharing verses in voice in what Yoku Tison, who runs the gallery, and sports the titian tresses you see here, called a poetry slam. I learnt a new word, schmunzeln, which LMGTFY says is "smiling quietly to yourself". There was a man wearing knickerbockers and a stocking cap. The name Wilhelm Busch was being thrown around. People said stuff like "Heino hatte noch die Frage glaub Wer ist "ich". (Being a beginner, I was still on 'Wer is Heino', so i kept schtum. Is that a word?)
Yoku Tison sees Chapter's art as a conduit between realities,  a playful attempt to, as he puts it, 'percolate the borderline imposed since we lost paradise'.
Yoku Tison: My favourite picture is one of the surrealistic line plays on the first floor that showed the little princess on the left hand. I like it because it is something I also found in the works of Max Ernst; do you know what the little bird means in the pictures from Max Ernst? Ask yourself what the little princess should mean in the picture I liked most. When Max Ernst was just a boy, his sister died. On the same day, the bird they had at home suddenly disappeared, and young Max thought it was the bird that take his sissy away from him.

It's another voice, another accent, another world. I always sing 'rubber ducks', not 'overdose'; try it.
See ChapTer Kronfeld's exhibition at Virtuelle Koeln (including new works, added almost daily) through the end of February.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Vanishing

You've a couple more weeks to see Fuschia Nightfire's 'Not Everything Is Plain Black & White' on sim MetaLES.

That 'Not' is a marvellous paradox in this sparkling concoction of night and day, town and country, earth and sky, protagonist, victim and observer. Fuscia's RL professionalism glows in the clarity of her brief notecard, which gives her visitors credit for using their own imagination. No windy exposition here, Fuschia knows how to vanish into her work, and yet be ever present. It's a level of skill very very few artists in SL have the confidence, or the competence, to achieve.

Contradicting artistic conventions from the word go, the landing point is the free Gift Shop. Jump through the floor, and you're confronted by a shivering cityscape, and tunnels that are lines of promise going nowhere.

Many immersive builds include very specific costumes - sometimes complete avatars, but Fuschia takes the broader approach of the consummate artist by supplying black and white skins and clothes for those who wish to mix and match and invent their own greyscale fantasy. In my perverse blue state of mind, Fuschia's rainstorm hat seemed a propos. Fully interactive, you can add your photos to the build's Flickr Group, and the pictures there show many vistiors vanishing into the art in the most exquisite way.
For a more moving approach, here's Spiral Silverstar's vid of the build, but check out Fuschia's own film, and another nice machinima by Praxisfield Resident

The lunar-like sim is scattered with wonderful sculptures.

 Some confront head on the tension between light and darkness, while others invite a more subtle inquiry into our personal nuances, posing the eternal question of poses, for example.

Perhaps the most powerful element is out on the ice. A tiny gallery coolly explicates the vernissage experience; you mingle with two dimensional characters with shadowy nothing-names, contemplating a black canvas, becoming - what? Part of the art? Or part of the limnal experience, somewhere between showing and being shown? As always, choice of conclusion is left to the viewer.
Clever work. If  art is perception, then this is our vanishing point, to which we submit, and which, in turn, reflects us all.

Fuschia Nightfire's build 'Not Everything Is Plain Black & White' remains on sim MetaLES until February 20th.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Into the Blue

Few things suck more than finding your camera's memory card has suddenly lost all the photos you've been keeping on your camera, meaning (but never quite remembering) to transfer to safer climes.
Especially the one of Lola under the tree. Oh well, that's what the mind's eye is for.

Equally sad is the disappearance of the blue place, Scottius Polke's build The Docks on sim Originalia, along with installs by Cherry Manga, Callipygian Christensen, and Fuschia Nightfire. It's hard to believe that so much time has gone by, and it's only right in a way that some other art and artists get their turn. But oh, all those quiet evenings sitting here long before the build opened... it makes me quite blue.

The four builds officially closed yesterday, but just now, in the bright light of an alpine morning, I got a last photo or two of 'my' Blue place with someone who'd never seen the build before, Bitt Zane the new Events Manager from VMS: 'like something out of a tale', he said. The magic of The Docks is like that photo of Lola, a story saved, somewhere.