Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Making of History: SL's Oldest Object

We cannot escape history.
-         Abraham Lincoln, 1862

The oldest object on the Second Life (SL) grid is ‘The Man’ created by Oldjohn Linden on Friday 19th July 2002, over ten years ago.

One of the interesting things about this object is that it actually pre-dates Oldjohn’s rez date by around six weeks! The reason for this, according to the Second Life wiki, is that it was originally built in the Alpha stage of SL then known as ‘LindenWorld’. It was built before any non-employee users had even logged into SL on a region called Natoma, in a test-city informally named “Linden Town” or “Linden City”. It formed the centre piece of a town square behind a City Hall.
Although the city was deleted before SL opened to the public in Beta, ‘The Man’ object was somehow overlooked and managed to survive!
A small number of coveted copies of ‘The Man’ exist in some oldies Inventories. Philip Linden, for example, has a copy. Another copy is owned by Erwin Solo who told me about its existence and got me interested in ‘The Man’s’ history.
‘The Man’ has passed into Second Life lore and some residents have been known to leave “offerings” to it. Indeed, some even say that good fortune will come to those who stroke against it.
‘The Man’ is still at Natoma region situated on a grassy knoll called ‘Philip’s Hill’. Go visit and be part of history!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Inevitability of Fate

Sights, sounds and stenches horrible beyond belief,
cruelties so enormous as to be incomprehensible to the normal mind.
- Colonel William W. Quinn, referring to Dachau in April 1945
Recently I visited the Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London.  The exhibition traces the rise of National Socialism and Nazism from 1933, when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, and the subsequent persecution and murder of European Jews until to the liberation of the concentration camps by the Allied and Soviet forces in 1945. Using photographs, documents, newspapers, scale models, military footage, personal testimonials and various objects confiscated at the camps (clothes, toys, shoes etc), the exhibition graphically demonstrates precisely how Hitler planned to implement his “annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe” policy.
As you can imagine, the exhibition is really very harrowing and disturbing. It remains with you long after exiting the museum doors.
For me, one of the most upsetting aspects was the realisation that all the people who had the terrible misfortune to get caught up in this horrendous chapter of history were in fact normal everyday folk who could have easily been my next door neighbour, my grocer or hairdresser; my cousin, brother or parents.
And, perhaps even more horrifying, was the dawning awareness that not only were the victims of the Holocaust normal everyday folk but so were many (not ‘all’!) of the perpetrators. A lot of the prison guards, low-grade political activists, train drivers, press reporters and many others were previously living normal, everyday lives. For me, it is a horrifying thought that seemingly most anyone can be turned from an upright citizen into a criminal monster given the appropriate external stimulus. It is a form of vanity, I think, to believe that we personally might be immune to such influences and would have therefore behaved differently.
The controversial psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich explored the mechanisms of how this might occur in his 1933 book ‘The Mass Psychology of Fascism’. Needless to say this book was quickly banned by the Nazis and Reich, realising the danger he was in, fled Germany for Austria and later to the United States (where, ironically, in 1956 he had his scientific laboratory equipment destroyed and his writings burnt in a New York incinerator by the FDA. Reich subsequently died in a US prison).
In one of his TV specials, The Assassin’ (2011), the eccentric and multi-talented English ‘mentalist’ Darren Brown reveals how a previously upstanding member of society with no criminal history could be “conditioned” and “programmed” to assassinate Stephen Fry, whilst Fry performed live on stage. Brown used various “brainwashing” techniques to accomplish this, including Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), hypnosis, aural and visual repetition and a host of other methods – each of which he describes in detail as he carries them out. In another special, The Heist’ (2006), Brown uses these and similar techniques to attempt to manipulate a number of individuals into holding up a security van in broad daylight. After receiving the conditioning three of them proceeded to rob the van of their own accord, voluntarily.
This is an important point, it seems to me. Although the robbery was carried out as a result of their brainwashing – they would not have considered doing such a thing beforehand; the “tendency” or “urge” to act thus having been artificially implanted into their mind – the actual act of committing the robbery was their own choice and not because of any directly given third-party instructions.
As well as being good TV entertainment, Brown’s programmes are often thoughtful and educational. In these particular instances they are also a bit scary because of the potential implications.
All of this brings to mind the now infamous Milgram Experiment carried out at Yale University during the early 1960s, with detailed findings published in 1974. This experiment was designed to observe how everyday folk respond to authority figures. It was specifically motivated to try and understand some of the psychological mechanisms at play within the perpetrators of the Holocaust. The experiment found that 65% of people were willing to administer (what they believed to be) a lethal electric shock to another person, if given an instruction to do so by an authority figure.
Scary stuff.
As I write these words, I am at Rose Borchovski’s deeply moving ‘The Inevitability of Fate’ exhibition in Second Life, after having just re-watched Tutsy Navarathna’s latest machinima of the same name (embedded below).
Rose’s installation addresses some of the same issues as the IWM’s Holocaust exhibition but in a narrative form.
The installation tells the story of Angry Beth and Lot.
Until Lot turned eight years old, everything was happy in their lives. However, when war came everything changed. Lot and Beth were forced to leave their home and became separated from each other. After a long, bitter war Beth returned home but Lot did not.
Beth forever searches for Lot. She has good days and bad days. On the good days, Beth imagines she is flying like a bird, face turned skyward; on her bad days, she knows only anger at her loss.
Beth’s wounds will never heal; Lot was never given the opportunity to become who she was meant to be.
It is a terrifically emotional installation made possible by a combination of the back story, the visual components of the narrative and especially the incredible sound loops that play constantly in the background.
These sounds are tremendously good, frequently giving me shivers and one particularly – the “I miss…” sound loop – bringing me close to tears.
It is beautiful work by an accomplished and experienced artist.
It was fitting therefore that an equally accomplished and experienced artist should decide to make a machinima of Rose’s installation. Tutsy’s film of Rose’s work uses many of the visual and aural elements from the installation itself, plus he brings his own unique flourishes and style to the work.
The IWM’s Holocaust exhibition, Rose’s installation and Tutsy’s machinima all tackle the same highly charged subject matter in their own particular way – and each have added to my appreciation of what happened during those dark days in Europe. Dark days, it should be emphasised, which were *not* at some distant point in history, but within living memory of some of my own family members.
I feel sadness right now. A deep sadness for what happened then and an almost prescient expectation that something similar may happen again, perhaps even within my own lifetime.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Comma Sutra

…those things which increase passion should be done first…
- The Comma Sutra

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cica Ghost's Black & White World

If everything isn’t black and white, I say, ‘Why the hell not?
- John Wayne, 1907 - 1979
For reasons I have never fully understood, the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) seems to come in for a lot of stick from some quarters. Whether it is their endowment decisions, the composition of the panel itself, or in fact just about any other aspect of their work someone or other seems to find cause to criticise.
I have to say however, that in my opinion the LEA makes a very valuable contribution to SL generally. It has also enriched my personal SL by allowing me to see the work of various artists and creators that I would otherwise have been unlikely to get to see.
Indeed, many of the scenes in my own Fwd: Evolution film for MachnimUWA V were filmed on the LEA regions. When at a loose end I’ll often fly around the LEA regions or just visit the LEA sandbox to see what is new. I’ve met and chatted with a lot of creative and inspirational artists this way, and made some good friends along the way.
I am therefore one of those uncool people who have no reason to criticise the LEA as an organisation or individuals on the committee. Sorry about that.
I logged on last Tuesday to a message from Tutsy: “Hey. Come see this sim. I like it! It is very very original.” I wasn’t surprised to see that the teleport request asked me to join him on a LEA region – LEA13, to be precise.
I accepted the tp and as I rezzed noted that it was a whole-region parcel named “*Cica*”, was owned by Cica Ghost and was using only 1200-odd prims of the allocated 15,000.
Cica Ghost
As I greeted Tutsy and thanked him for the teleport, I watched the textures resolve to full clarity and realised that there were a lot of 32bit alpha textures about. I automatically calculated if I needed to adjust my draw distance or bandwidth settings. As it happened, I didn't but it is some kind of instinctive procedure or ritual I go through whenever I land on a new region. 
I waited for the colour to “pop” in…
And waited.
And finally realised I was in a black and white world....
Cica Ghost has created a world of her own. A cute world. A quirky world. A delightful world of love and togetherness.
It may be an oxymoron, but Cica’s black and white world is also a world full of colour.

What is so wonderful about this installation is that Cica’s gray scale sketches manage to endow her world with colour and with life – the colour comes from your own imagination; after a short while you almost become oblivious to the fact that it is simply grayscale. The life comes from the fact that many of the sketches are animated and have movement. Sadly the static photos on this blog-post cannot show the animated nature of the sketches and therefore fail to successfully convey just how moving the installation is, and how well it works as a whole.

Many of the individual pieces depict uncomplicated, simple activities like watering flowers, flying a kite, fishing from a bridge – we see a cat here, swans there, bird fly. Raindrops littered with little hearts create puddles in which stick people play.
It is all very beautiful, very innocent.
And very, very moving.

Other pieces show young lovers holding hands, kissing in the rain, playing catch with a ball…
Again, it is all very innocent and moving.
Cica has managed to communicate emotion in all of the pieces. Each is a small self-contained tale but within a wider narrative when considered as a whole installation.

The LEA has granted the region to Cica for a six month period. It is intended that two months is spent building the installation and for a further four months the installation is open to the public. As such, the installation isn’t yet finished or officially opened. Cica will often be seen there working, chatting and wandering around.
She is very friendly and approachable.

Even though not officially opened, please do not let that deter you from visiting! Already lots of people are visiting and enjoying! Traffic is currently measuring 4000, just by word-of-mouth. This is a real achievement and all credit to Cica as the creator, and to LEA for selecting this installation for an endowment.

To celebrate just how much we have enjoyed Cira’s work, Tutsy & I have been wearing ‘Stick Men’ avatars. They fit perfectly! You can get your own Stick Man avatar from the Marketplace for only 50 Linden Space Bux! They are great fun, especially when embellished with your own personal touches. They draw many comments from other visitors! 
I enjoyed this installation immensely. I am sure most visitors will too. It’s innocence and simplicity are its strengths. Although we all enjoy cerebral, sophisticated, complex and “hyper-real” art often it is refreshing to return to basic black and white ink and paper.
And, as John Wayne would say, "Why the hell not?"
Pixie xx

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Brains & Boobs: Colleen Photographs Debbie

(click to see full size)

Recently, two friends whose work I have long admired were introduced to each other for a photographic glamour session.
The first of these ladies needs no introduction from me as she is already well known in the adult community – Colleen Criss.
Colleen’s photographs and machinima have deservedly graced the pages of THE PORNSTARS blog many times; her own popular blog and flickr page are good examples of how to steadily build up a solid respected body of work over time.
All the photographs on this blog-post were created by Colleen.
Colleen Criss
Colleen is also appreciated for her technical understanding of SL photography - advanced lighting techniques, the viewer itself and post-production.
As an admin of THE PORNSTARS group, Colleen can often be seen showing patience, restraint and tolerance in group chat as she helps handle some or another delicate and/or potentially explosive situation.
For this session, Colleen was the photographer.
Colleen Criss
The second of this glamorous couple is perhaps not as well known in the Second Life adult community. Indeed, this is her first session as a glamour model even after having being in SL for nearly six years! Her name is Debbie Trilling and, although not particularly well known within the adult community she certainly is in other SL communities!
For this session, Debbie would be Colleen’s model.
Debbie Trilling
Debbie was the Creative Director for some of the biggest live shows in SL, including artistic interpretations of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ and Fritz Lang’s 1927 ‘Metropolis’, as well as producing over eighty mainstream machinima. For the last three years she was responsible for creating the climax of the ‘Burning Life’ festival in SL – the burning of ‘The Man’ itself - which occurs on the penultimate evening of the festival.
Debbie was one of the judges at last year’s THE SEXIEST adult machinima contest and it was from here that she started looking more closely at the adult art scene and appreciating the amount of creativity, talent and passion that the community possesses, and wanting to experience that for herself.
Debbie Trilling
Colleen’s photos of Debbie on this page are the outcome those desires.
Colleen and Debbie are recognised as experts in their respective fields. As you can see from their pictures on this blog-post they are both also gorgeous and beautiful. They prove that having brains and talent and being sexy are not mutually exclusive!
Debbie Trilling
Both Colleen and Debbie appear in the September 2012 edition of ‘Busted’ – a SL magazine dedicated to busty ladies and prim boobs. Colleen has a full spread with photographs by Kei Frequency which also appeared on THE PORNSTARS blog; Debbie appears in the ‘Around the Community’ section. I wonder how many like me would like to see her in a full shoot! However, unsurprisingly, I understand there is a long waiting list to appear in the magazine!
I must admit that, although I have seen the vendors around, ‘Busted’ is new to me and I read it for the first time after being sent this month’s edition. The Senior Editor, Maggie Bluxome, has gained a reputation for exacting standards and high quality. The magazine reflects this; it is easily of equal quality to most other magazines on the SL circuit and I’ll be reading regularly now from on even though I am not a prim boob wearer. I found the articles interesting and informative, the photographs stunningly attractive. In the September edition we also see photographic sessions from firm favourites Jeanne Sahara and Aliecia Lionheart, as well as Colleen, Kei and Maggie.
Colleen Criss
To finish off, I embed below a video of Debbie’s only solo performance in her Second Life artistic interpretation of ‘The Wall’, the aptly named “Dirty Woman”! (EDIT: this video is blocked by EMI in UK and so I have replaced with another from 'The Wall' performance).

See her YouTube for the whole one hour performance which climaxes with the large puppets of The Judge, The Mother, The Wife and The Teacher and a massive collapse of the wall itself.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Ninety-Nine Percent

99% of rabbits are not Elite.
And, truth be told, they never could have been. Their common-garden DNA-seed was sown randomly and without any forethought or eugenic-type planning.
99% of rabbits have their destiny broadly defined before they were even born. They have no control over the dominant and recessive genes inherited from their parents. Their fate is sealed, no matter how hard or how vocally they may protest.
My own rabbits – Simon, Vellhi and Orwell – have occupied my land now for over a year-half. In that time, I have observed them closely and have written before about their individual personalities.
Despite their individual personality differences, the one common genetic trait all three share is they enjoy watching television while nibbling on chocolate-carrot cake.
And because of this particular shared genetic trait, they do not seem to be able to muster the necessary self-motivation to make those changes to their lives to ensure that their offspring have a chance of joining the 1% of Elite rabbits. 
The first philosophical question I pose for you today, dear reader, is this:
Should a rabbit deny him or herself the self-gratification of television and chocolate-carrot cake so that their future offspring have a chance of living the 1% Elite life of a Br’er Rabbit, or a Peter Rabbit, or a Roger Rabbit or a Bugs Bunny?
And the second question is this:
Should I love Simon, Vellhi and Orwell any less because they are not one of the 1% Elite?
Ponder well, dear reader, for the future of rabbit-kind may be in your hands.
For the Ozimal enthusiasts, I list below the key stats of my rabbits, just in case you wish to recruit any of them for breeding:
Birthday: 16th December 2010
Primary Personality Trait: “Buck trapped in the body of a doe”
Gender: Female, in a male kinda way
Fur type: Standard
Ears: Standard
Shade: Standard
Outstanding Features: None
Special Abilities: None
Hobbies & Interests: Watching TV while nibbling chocolate-carrot cake.

Birthday: 19th December 2010
Primary Personality Trait: Suffers from ‘Chronic Obsessive Happiness Disorder’
Gender: Male
Fur type: Standard
Ears: Standard
Shade: Standard
Outstanding Features: None
Special Abilities: None
Hobbies & Interests: Watching TV while nibbling chocolate-carrot cake.

Birthday: 20th December 2010
Primary Personality Trait: Nasty piece of work. No one has a good word to say about him.
Gender: Male
Fur type: Standard
Ears: Standard
Shade: Standard
Outstanding Features: None
Special Abilities: None
Hobbies & Interests: Watching TV while nibbling chocolate-carrot cake