Sunday, November 30, 2008

What!?! Particles for all avatars? Even for those that cannot script?

Posted by Alpha Auer

If you are anything like me, that is completely in love with particle effects and yet incapable of scripting your way out of a paper bag, then Jopsy Pendragon has the solution for you... And what a solution! What a veritable virtual feast this is!

The Porgan 1800 Particle Organ, is a full featured particle generator console with big differences: A fully visually intuitive, three dimensional interface, which allows you to preview your effects in 3D, alerts you to over usage of system, warns you of potential mishaps and errors - all of it in an easy to understand, user friendly and visually appealing manner. Virtually every imaginable variable that goes into creating a particle effect, from colors to wind to age to particle count, can be fine tuned and adjusted through various levers, dials and pickers on the console. Furthermore this beauty of a generative tool lets you use your own alpha channeled tga files.

You can easily create up to three different particle effects combined together creating truly stunningly complex and sophisticated visual effects, superimposed upon one another. Then, with just one click the Porgan will rez a mod+copy+trans version of your combined effect! (or, if you prefer, it will print scripts too!)

The huge difference between this console and all the many particle generators that I have fumbled my way through and never ever gotten the hang of, is that Jopsy Pendragon has involved the factor of human visual memory as a cognitive aid within his design strategy, creating a remarkable interface through clearly individuated input devices, most of which reflect their inherent functionality in their iconography. So instead of rows upon rows of identical looking buttons, which are based upon the assumption that we already know what they stand for, what we a looking at; the Porgan 1800 presents us with an interface that allows us to differentiate visually and to memorize the look as well the location of individual commands. A remarkable design system - indeed one that it might behoove many a real life interface designer from cell phones to TV remote controls to take a really close look at and to learn from.

Well, immediately having purchased my personal console I am now a true convert. And have I been playing with it! In fact, so entrancing is this process that I stand here in dire danger of turning into a complete recluse in front of my wonderful Particle Organ, admiring effect upon effect that I release into the virtual air of my island. I will start rebuilding Syncretia pretty soon and right now it looks like as if there will be oh so many many particles in version 2.0...

Well done Jopsy! Well done indeed!

You can view, try and purchase The Porgan 1800 at the Particle Laboratory to where you can teleport directly from here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

of caves and wolves: Leben Schnabel

Posted by Alpha Auer

In my long gone days of newbiedom I once went to a classical music concert. Truth be told, surrounded as one is with the VIP crowds at the newbie hangouts, I was just at that point where you begin to wonder if this Second Life® is all that it is cracked up to be? Should I even make the effort? And where were all the interesting people for heaven's sakes? Surely when people talked about creative endeavor in the metaverse they could not be referring to all the galleries with nice little framed JPEG's hanging on their nice little, oh so RL, walls? Or could they? So, as I sat there, pondering my desolate virtual life, this extraordinary figure came along and sat down right next to me. And I went "a-ha! That is what metaverse creativity is all about!". And stayed.

That extraordinary figure was Leben Schnabel. We became "friends", but never really hung out. One day I noticed that Leben was no longer on my friend's list. Which was only what was to be expected in the social turmoil of the metaverse - we had gone our separate ways.

And then, a month or so ago, I was out shopping with my furry friend. Now, she is a difficult one to please: Basically at that point in time, all the combined efforts of all the furry avatar designers out there had not been able to come up with an avatar that lived up to her finicky requirements. And then, finally at AnthroXtacy, we clapped eyes on the most extraordinary wolfess. And lo and behold, when examined, the creator of this gorgeous creature turned out to be none other than Leben Schnabel.

Leben Schnabel's work consists almost entirely of sculpties, which he crafts personally and onto which the textures are individually "baked".

It is very difficult to believe that Leben Schnabel is not a full time professional artist or designer in Real Life, and one of a very high caliber at that, given that the building as well as the texturing of both his avatars and his caves are amongst some of the finest that I have seen in Second Life to date. And not only that: Mr. Schnabel, who manages the development of large virtual game projects in Real Life, displays a most charming modesty regarding his remarkable talent:

"I am nothing but a hobby 3D artist. I needed a creative outlet to accompany my management related profession, and Second Life proved to be ideal for that. The natural grace and overall aesthetics of many predators fascinates me as much as human anatomy. So trying my hand at mixing the two areas seemed like a fun project.

The Lioness avatar is a private creation, designed for a close friend of the artist.

My take on SL art might be a bit strange: I was always fascinated by breaking through the barriers of limited systems. And in terms of 3D graphics SL is very limited compared to recent 3D games. So one of my goals was to find ways to produce SL graphics that seem to be much more detailed than what SL could normally render. Because of that aspect I don’t see myself as an artist so much, but rather as a craftsman. This self-conception might also come from the fact that the term “artist” is used differently in my native German where an artist has to have some kind of artistic vision. I personally don’t want to make any statements about the human condition with my graphics – I just have fun with my obsession for details and the fact that I can give people the means to express a part of their personality with my avatars. That, for me, is a wonderful aspect of working in SL. As fleeting and transient as our work is in this medium, for a while, people relate much, much stronger to it than to, for example, an expertly painted picture. Typically, people look at a picture for merely seconds, of maybe minutes if it speaks to them on some level. Somebody who wears my avatars or has his or her virtual home in one of my caves, might spend months in a close relationship to my work. That is one of the things that I absolutely like about making content for a virtual world."

The caves are beautifully "lit" through the implementation of a range of finely graduated textures of varying lightness values and hue.

Mr. Schnabel also builds caves, based upon commission. While his home cave is closed to the general public, an exquisite smaller, modifiable version can be viewed (as well as purchased) from here. Many different versions of both genders of the wolf avatar can be obtained from here. A collection of large sized photos of Leben Schnabel's avatars and caves can also be viewed on my Flickrstream here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wondrous solutions provided for most of your virtual discomforts...

Posted by Alpha Auer

Every so often I like to air out my brain. Especially with the nice northerly breeze we always get in the archipelago, the effects can prove to be most beneficial, I find. Thus, I am always on the lookout for seemly brain costumes with which I can flaunt my virtual grey matter and one of my ultra favorite ones comes from Cortech Enterprises.

"Flaunt your largest organ!" So tells us the creator of this wonder, Total Chastity, and continues: "Thank you for your interest in the Cortech Brain Jar, we trust it will provide many unsettling hours of mild distaste and horrified stares from your friends. The speech centres of the brain are linked to two antennae mounted on either side, broadcasting your thoughts as you type (Erm..well, sort of) and the loudspeaker fitted to the front will also show furious activity when your avatar is typing."

However, the aids provided by Total Chastity to all of those vexatious little problems and emergencies that tend to come along in a virtual life certainly do not end with the brain jar alone. The Cortech Jetset, comprised of boots, jetpack and crash helmet, designed by Total Chastity and Pavig Lok and scripted by Goodwill Epoch is yet another indispensable must-have - and furthermore is free for you to run off and just grab one.

Once again the creators inform us that this "is the complete solution to intra sim transport in Second Life®. The package consists of a jetpack, a pair of jetboots and a rather fetching helmet complete with goggles and faintly amusing springy radio antenna. There are two sizes of boots now in the package -- pick the pair more appropriate for you avatar and adjust them accordingly.

SecondLife imposes restrictions on flight above certain heights (around 200 metres). Many people in SL already have flight assistance scripts active in other gadgets (The very popular Mystitool, for example). If you haven't then your jet boots or jetpack may be helpful. Without flight assistance you may have great difficulty flying in certain areas above to 200 metre ceiling."

For those avatars wishing for a more stylish flight solution, the somewhat pricier (but then when it comes to these things one always does get what one pays for, doesn't one?) Cortech Hardware Wings will be just what the doctor ordered:

And finally, yet another free item: For all those lonely virtual hearts out there - your very own petmech shoulder companion/tiny avatar:

You can obtain all of these wonders by Total Chastity at Cortech Enterprises, to where you can teleport directly from here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The underwater sculptures of Jason de Caires Taylor

Posted by our guest blogger, Amalthea Blanc

As a group, NPIRL continues to trail-blaze into new avenues of self-expression, regardless of whether these avenues are in the metaverse or in the digital world at large. However, it's worth to keep up with fresh, amazing talent that keep pushing the limits of what “real life” can do. If that edge is something that defines our common interests, we have to be aware that it's not a static barrier. Case in point: the art of Jason de Caires Taylor.

Take a look for yourself at the video below or at the photography of his underwater sculptures.


The art of Jason de Caires Taylor transcends sculpture through its placement in the water medium. It's a fascinating approach to art. The corals, fish, and nurturing quality of water continue to modify and alter the initial sculpture, embracing it and allowing it to become a true part of the environment. In other words, the medium and the message blend together, in harmony.

The Lost Correspondent

Another notable aspect is the fascinating effect these works have on the viewer – they hypnotize through their silence and through the beautiful play of light among the water waves. Some have said that this particular type of art is eerie, probably because it taps into this feeling of “other world” that all of us have ingrained in our senses.


Nature Morte

More images and information about the artist can be found here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“uncharted pages from a voyage of the beagle”

Posted by Alpha Auer

"This time I am alone
This time I will not leave"

"I can not remember"

"It is happening again"

"what we thought were offspring are in fact an extension of the two: A way for change, a way to bring us in as a part of the whole."


The lines above are whatever little fragments I have been able to catch from the notes of the explorer that float above my head as I stand enraptured watching the toil of Nonnatus Korhonen's doomed creatures as they try to desperately make their way into an overcrowded tank that awaits them at the end of their long journey down a stepped structure resembling an inverted Ziggurat, one surrounded on three levels by circular walkways.

"... In lonely isolation, the avatar Lamarck Zapatero has been standing and observing the constant cycle and recycle of the system that surrounds him. Like his namesake, he is part of a cul-de-sac in a way of thinking about things - though the fragments of knowledge he will come away with are still vital to the picture as a whole. He is also the avatar of an avatar, a representation of Nonnatus Korhonen, one step removed from having his own human.

Falling from one of two ‘egg’ shaped objects at the top of the system, and close to where Zapatero spends his long days of observation, are small monotone creatures that appear to be at the whim of the simulated gravity, like ‘fish out of water’ they bounce and flail their way ever downwards. Their existence is short, as they are propelled from a place purely constructed from numbers (and values assigned to placeholders) into a place describing a possible visual representation of these numbers. As they fall, one of the many possible values that defines them will change ever so slightly, and this change has the potential to be inherited by further creatures as they are thrust into this world of eternal flux, where extremes of parameters are set in stone, but where almost limitless combinations of the interrelations of sites within these extremes give Zapatero the impression of infinite variation (and where the far more complex mind of the human observer is invited to suspend disbelief and observe the origins of complexity arising from these evolving parts.) The potential for inheritance is strengthened through longevity; something the viewer has direct control over, given dedication and perseverance to understanding the system through observation, trial and error..."

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
and Charles Darwin. Two names, two clues, which Korhonen seems to me to have woven into this starkly hermetic piece addressing the emergence and extinction of artificial life: "The Voyage of the Beagle" is the title commonly given to the book written by Charles Darwin published in 1839 as his Journal and Remarks, ideas which Darwin would later develop into his theory of evolution by natural selection. And Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 – 1829) is the author of the first truly cohesive theory of evolution, in which an alchemical complexifying force drove organisms up a ladder of complexity, and a second environmental force adapted them to local environments through "use and disuse" of characteristics, differentiating them from other organisms.

Hermetic as Korhonen's installation is, it did propel me towards my own musings and imaginings, which may or may not reflect the original intentions of the artist: Firstly, it would seem to me that the piece invites the viewer to make connections to Second Order Cybernetics, symbolized in the lone figure of Lamarck Zapatero, the observer of a system who in his turn ends up becoming observed - by me. Leading me to speculate on my own involvement and how I too am observed, in an endless cycle of Droste effects, by others.

The Theory of Evolution put an end to the Biblical Myth of Creation. But did it also put an end to the mystical explorations surrounding the subject of creation itself? Or did it simply reposition the whole discourse onto the level of abstraction already present in the Kabbalah? And does Korhonen ever so subtly weave these associations into his Ziggurat of generation and destruction? The creatures themselves: I can end their overcrowded agony by pushing a button, something resembling the stopper of an ancient inkwell. A red stopper. Red for Gevurah? The 5th Sefirot on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life? The mighty one of destruction which makes way for new life? And sure enough, when I push the stopper on the "inkwell" the glass tank turns red, and the doomed creatures become extinguished. I have just destroyed artificial life - to make room for its new generations. And isn't it strange that it is me, standing at ground level, who has been endowed with this power rather than the observer Lamarck Zapatero, enthroned God like, high above at the top of the edifice? Which, of course, leads me straight back to Second Order Cybernetics? Is this where I am meant to go?

It is not an easy piece to understand, this work of Korhonen's. However, understand it or not, it dis-settled me into asking some very uneasy questions, while it also embroiled me in a very compelling narrative, a tale of inevitability and destruction, which despite the stark minimalism of the construct makes its presence profoundly felt; especially, I believe, through the rendition of the "creatures" themselves: Brown, soft textured spheres, a few striped tail like protrusions: It is through such stringently used visual means that Korhonen has managed to present us with an artificial life form that we do in fact end up feeling for, that we can thoroughly identify with. A reminder of childhood toys? The long lost eyeless teddy bear that I once had?

"... this incomplete narrative can only become whole through the creative imagination, and speculative mind of the persistent viewer. Suffice is to say this whole system is built upon the shaky foundations of a set of assumptions about artificial life processes that I believe exist in the previously mentioned cul-de-sac. Regardless, shaky foundations are often the starting place for many a fascinating insight or experimental exploration leading to the firmer ground supportive of more persistent sites."

"This time I am alone
This time I will not leave"...

You can teleport to “uncharted pages from a voyage of the beagle” by Nonnatus Korhonen/Andrew Burrell directly from here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"at home" with Truthseeker Young

Posted by Alpha Auer... ;-)

How easy can it be to write about someone that you really like and yet maintain your objectivity? Well, if the reasons that you like the person have something to do with the context of what it is that you have to tell, I personally see no big conflict of purpose...

Truthseeker has imagination. This is why I befriended this person. Truthseeker has a sense of humor. Again, this is why I befriended this somewhat androgynous personage, of whom I have absolutely no idea as to their gender, their age, or anything else related to their Real Life flesh and blood existence. And guess what? I am not even remotely interested in any of that. Truthseeker is possibly my one true solely virtual friend and I have befriended him/her through my interest in his/her art work, writing a glowing review of one of his/her installations basically during a time when I did not know this wonderful person from Adam/Eve. So, methinks that it is perfectly possible for me to write a blog post that does not reek too strongly of nepotism about the extraordinary home and the charged virtual days of my colleague Truthseeker Young.

(Photographs courtesy of Truthseeker Young.)

The obvious place to start I suppose would be Truthseeker's avatar. This slender creature of vague Meso-American or possibly African descent undergoes the occasional modification but some features have stayed in situ, more or less since we met: The back pointing open jaw, displaying an ominous set of teeth ready to bite the living daylights out of anyone who would dare to sneak up on this seemingly frail individual from behind... The staff, of course. The staff has had its share of transformations, however it is always there, in all of its glory... And of course, the goatee. But is this just a plain old a goatee? Or some magic appendage that seems to miraculously sprout forth from Truthseeker's chin?


And then of course, there are the stories that happen around Truthseeker:

We are crouching on the rooftop in anticipation of any kind of "undesirable element" to creep up. In which case, I guess we will proceed to pour hot virtual oil on them or something?

As it turned out later, an eminently sensible strategy it was too. Recently the place was in fact taken over by some highly undesirable squatters...

Alpha Auer: You were invaded???
Truthseeker Young: More like infested! A mother fighterjet & her miserable little young tried to roost in my front yard! Execrable vermin...

One day later:

Truthseeker Young:
oh! OH! OMG!!! d00d, where's my gun... ohhh, nonononono...this ain't good...

One day later:

Truthseeker Young: aah, crap! I thought I'd chased them off, but last night when I came back home, they were back, and they'd built a NEST outta my FENCE!!
Alpha Auer: the "crouching on the rooftop watching vigilantly" pose thingy isn't helping you too much over there is it? :)
Truthseeker Young: /me glowers & mutters curses from the acceptable distance established by the mother jetbird

(Photographs courtesy of Truthseeker Young.)


And then there is Truthseeker's house, what this proud parent of a three year old Real Life minx calls the "space_age_bachelor_pagoda", rezzed high up in the skies of Extropia. When first I saw it, it was a thing of floating splendor, imagination and grace, the likes of which one would be hard pushed to find maybe even in places like Bangkok.

But, recently this magnificent dwelling has acquired a far more anthropomorphic cast - indeed to the point where Truthseeker could not help but remark that he/she thought the house looked somewhat stoned.


We make art in Second Life. We rezz sculptures and buildings. Installations and soundscapes. Entire sims even. But isn't the thing that we are really busy creating, the thing of paramount importance, the thing that has never really happened before (or only in a very narrow "staged" context), our "self"? Indeed our many selves? Our very lives? The endless stories that we spin, the tales we tell to ourselves and to others. The magnificence of the fairy tale narrative come to life as an avatar.

Avatar Art?

It seems to me that we all do it. That every person who becomes immersed in a virtual world becomes involved in this strangest and most hard to explain and analyze of creative processes. At least this is my sense as well as my own personal experience. However, when a person possessed of the levels of visual talent, of imagination, of intelligence and of humor that Truthseeker so obviously is, becomes entangled in this magical mesh of make-belief the outcome becomes what I have tried to feebly describe above.


You can teleport to Truthseeker Young's home directly from here. More images and stories of Truthseeker's virtual life can be found on his Flickr photostream here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Academic Journal for Metaverse Creativity

Posted by Alpha Auer...

A few months ago I was contacted by Ravi Butalia, the publisher of Intellect Books and Journals located in the United Kingdom, with the irresistible offer of becoming the editor of a brand new journal, to make its debut in 2010, focused upon creativity in virtual worlds. The suggestion both for the content of this enterprise, as well as my name for the position of editor was made to Mr. Butalia by my much beloved and esteemed professor, tutor and mentor Roy Ascott, who really needs no further introduction in academic circles in the fields of the electronic arts as well as new media inquiry and vision.

Grave illness and subsequent bereavement related to my mother's passing away a few weeks ago, stopped me from focusing upon the development of this project but now I am fully back in the saddle and would like to proceed, prior to which I feel that a sounding out of ideas as well as getting a general feel for potential interest of involvement and collaboration amongst my peers in the metaverse is in order.

My personal approach in this venture has been delineated to Mr. Butalia as follows:

"This will be a refereed academic journal focusing on the examination of creativity in the metaverse, i.e., online social environments which differentiate themselves from online multi-user gaming communities in that they have no underlying social rules whatsoever that are game related: There are no scores to be gained, no levels to be attained. Thus, given this attribute of being intrinsically unstructured; ergo, being virtual environments where Residents undertake activities the purposes of which are defined by themselves entirely, it is hardly surprising that the pursuit of creative activity seems to have become one of the prevalent reasons for residency in a metaverse.

While creative activity in the metaverse certainly does include artistic activity, this definition should in no way be limited to artistic output alone but should encompass the output of the various disciplines of design, such as fashion and object design as well as virtual architecture that are currently all amply manifest in Second Life®, which still retains the position of being the most fully developed and functional of these environments to date. However, beyond art, design and architecture the creation of the very agent that enables the attainment of presence in a metaverse, i.e., the avatar should be considered as a primary source of investigation where creative activity in a metaverse is concerned.

Creativity in a metaverse manifests under unique conditions and parameters that are engendered by the virtual environment itself and is intrinsically related to these in its very act of realization. Thus metaverse creativity cannot be separated from the underlying metanomics (metaverse economy), the legal issues of ownership and copyright, the very geography and related atmospheric/lighting conditions, the underlying computational system but also cyberpsychology and cyberanthropology, the latter two becoming particularly important in the process of understanding the creation and subsequent role and interactions of the avatar with the social environment that it becomes a part of."

(Excerpt from Editor's Questionnaire submitted to Intellect Books and Journals on September 25th 2008, abbreviated version downloadable from here)

I have already compiled a substantial list of researchers and artists, all of whom I will be approaching individually within the next few weeks. However, I am certain that there are many individuals involved in such research activity out there, of whom I am not aware of and who would be a huge asset as contributors to this journal. Thus, it is in an effort to seek out such persons that I am now posting this here.

My first task will be the setting up of an advisory board, as well as establishing co-editors with whom I wish to share full responsibility as well as full credit in the enterprise. I am delighted to be able to say that my friend and colleague from the Planetary Collegium, Yacov Sharir (Cyboryac Jolles in Second Life), Professor of Digital and Performative Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, has already agreed to become one such. Beyond this, I will need to establish interest from individuals as reviewers and ultimately of course as contributors of academic/scientific articles.

Ravi Butalia has informed me that it is customary for the first issue of a new academic journal to be printed and distributed a few months ahead of its officially announced publication date and thus the proposed journal will need to be printed around September 2009. Which means that the call for papers will need to go out first thing in the new year, with a mid spring deadline in time for the reviewing and editing process to kick in at this time.

Finally, my personal academic credentials can be obtained by following this link here, and my artistic activity as well as some of my research data can be viewed on my Real Life website.

If you are interested in this venture please contact me at, with all of your suggestions as well as your proposed degree of involvement. Comments on this post are, of course, also highly welcome...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Watch all ten episodes of Molotov Alva's "My Second Life" on your 'puter - Will there be a sequel?

A little over a year ago, HBO acquired the ten-episode series My Second Life: The video diaries of Molotov Alva, which had been shot entirely in Second Life®, and written, directed and produced by NPIRLer Molotov Alva (aka Douglas Gayeton). It later aired on Cinemax, after the first episode became a smash hit on YouTube practically overnight.

The possibility of a sequel was never far-fetched, and Douglas - a filmmaker, television producer, and multimedia artist in Real Life - gave it the working title "Futuretopia: The further adventures of Molotov Alva," or alternatively, "Brave New World," a line he states repeatedly in My Second Life.

Douglas has since parted ways with Submarine, the Dutch company he partnered with to produce My Second Life, so he was more than surprised - he tells me - to learn today that they have been approaching folks about appearing in their sequel.

When I asked Douglas about this, he replied, "Imitation is a sincere form of flattery. It also gets you sued."

You can watch all ten episodes of the series in the USA here.
If you are in Europe, you can watch them here.

Industrial Steampunk =Thomus Keen

Posted by Alpha Auer

"The Spine Jetpack". The mechanical neko ears and tail, the steampunk clock bracelets and the boots are designed by Thomus Keen as well.

I cannot possibly have one favorite designer in Second Life®. Indeed I cannot have 10, or 50 or even a hundred - there are that many talented, imaginative people out there, all of whose output never ceases to delight me - not to mention of course, totally bankrupt me ;-)... However, if someone were to push me up against a prim wall and hold a virtual gun to my head - under such dire circumstances of duress, I might conceivably divulge the name of Thomus Keen as being on the very very top of my list.

"The Steampunk Glider"

Being the builder of Steam Forge and Steam Isle, one of which also houses his design enterprise Steam Powered Nuts; as well as the quite recently rezed Role Play environment called Apocolyptica (intentionally mis-spelt ;-), Thomus Keen's prowess as a virtual architect will definitely need to get covered in a separate future post. Today I will focus on objects and vehicles designed by Keen. I have not been able to interview Thomus Keen at such a length as I would have liked to have done, however looking at his Renderosity homepage I am inclined to think that the artist T.King, who is Thomus Keen's Real Life manifestation, is a professional game environment designer who has worked on the likes of Everquest, World of Warcraft, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

"The Airship Davintus"

In the one brief conversation that he and I had some time ago, I did manage to gain some insight into the working processes behind his fine output when Keen told me that he "fuss(es) a lot over details and quality, so sometimes it can take a month or more for a single release", after which point he changes very little of the original design, adding that like all Second Life designers worth their mettle he too has his ongoing battle with prim counts, particularly in attached objects, with regards to avatar render cost. Thus a very long time is also spent in prim reduction processes; a good example to which would be a Katana which started out at 130 prims, and when it was finally done, was down to 49 prims, thanks to numerous custom made sculpties.

"The Gearwing Raptor"

In Second Life, Keen describes his area of design expertise as "Industrialized Steampunk". Now, the gentle reader of this blog will probably have surmised by now that my personal preferences definitely lean towards the man made. Not to put too fine a point on it, I am not really much of a "nature girl" at all. Hardly surprising then that the mechanical, the industrial interests me and holds my imagination. And Second Life certainly proliferates in the type of output that captures me, over and over again. Even so, Thomus Keen's design work I find particularly fascinating: These absolutely Impossible in Real Life gadgets, flight equipment, jet packs and gigantic airborne vessels seem to me to hold a mechanical precision that is such that were they to be constructed in Real Life there would be no question that they would be fully operational. Structures like the Airship Davintus or the Gearwing Raptor, are such that every nut and bold, every joint, seems to adhere to an impeccable design logic which culminates in a Gestalt utterly convincing in its functionality. Keen also manages to convey this functionality in his textures which to me are probably the most convincing ones that I have ever seen in Second Life. Thus, the webs that join the mechanic/metallic poles of the flight attachment called the Steampunk Glider are textured in such a way that that we visually sense that these webs are of a far lighter material - possibly canvas or maybe even some kind of light durable parchment - than the dark poles and central flight mechanism that tie the whole thing into one cohesive structure - one fully capable of flying, one which conveys the very logic of being airborne.

"The Stephenson Rocket", 1829. Collection of the National Museum of Science and Industry in London.

"The Apollo 10 Space Capsule", 1969. Collection of the National Museum of Science and Industry in London.

However, it is not only the precision of the design but also the way in which Keen's work seems to reside upon very firm historic design references, which for me, ultimately sets him in a class apart. This strikes me to be very much the case throughout Keen's output, but becomes especially apparent in the way in which he endows wooden objects with mechanical usage, as was indeed very much the practice during the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Although not too overly fond of museums as a rule, I do make an exception when it comes to Science Museums, and particularly the one in London, where I have most probably spent entire weeks pondering upon the mechanical object throughout its history, but particularly during the 19th century, the age of the Industrial Revolution. But not only that period either: Gazing at the Apollo 10 Space Capsule in close proximity to Stephenson's Rocket one becomes aware of the unique aesthetics residing within the functionality of the mechanical object and how this provides a continuity of a visual language of design from spacecraft and early day steam engines to astrolabes, cannons and armillary spheres. It is this aesthetics of functionality that Thomus Keen seems to be tapping into and which he displays in his many gadgets and vehicles at Steam Powered Nuts, where incidentally you can also find wonderful industrial jewelry, mechanical neko attachments and various other avatar apparel such as boots and weapons, all crafted by the extraordinary Thomus Keen.

It should be added here that Steam Powered Nuts also carries a wonderful fashion line specialized in Victorian Steampunk and Badlands apparel, designed by Thomus Keen's talented business associate Destany Laval, who in all likelihood will provide material for a future blog post before too long.

You can teleport to Steam Powered Nuts directly from here. You can also see larger, more detailed images of Keen's flight objects and vehicles here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Olza Koenkamp looks inside out

Polish Olza Koenkamp (aka Piotr Kopik) is a full time artist with two lives: one as a human and another as an avatar in Second Life®. His virtual self operates a store where he sells freakish avatars of his own creation. In Real Life, he paints and is a co-founder of szu szu, a group that creates art for public spaces.

Not for the squeamish, Olza's avatars give us a view from the inside.

Olza recently participated in the collective virtual show called "Stop Making Sense." Above, a torso glides happily on ice, and below Olza, wearing one his avatars, spins gracefully alongside the torso object. Visitors to the installation could hop in the rink and select from several skating animations to interact with it.

For years, Olza's art explored his relationship with physical reality: objects that are within hand's reach, simple human gestures that are usually considered unattractive, like nail biting, or piles of abandoned objects and trash usually found at construction sites. In his show There is some escape, it was possible to peer at the busy world outside from inside a pile of junk.

Today, Olza is fascinated with the inside of his body. He doesn't care what it looks like, but concentrates instead on his feelings, how his body works and its relationship with his mind and psyche. His interest in Eastern philisophies and practices such as yoga, led to his "realization" that he needed to REBUILD himself. From that point forward, he gave his Real Life works the moniker PSYCHOSOMATIC REBUILDING. In Second Life, he refers to his activities as PSYCHOSMATIC REBUILDERS.

When it comes to expressing the feelings of the body, Olza believes that there will always be some deformation. "When I think, for example, about my tired eyes, I need to draw them with really heavy eyelids. The eyelids may need to have some additional flaps, the color might need to be more violet to express some little pains around the eyeballs..." explained Olza.

He doesn't care or want to control how people react to his work, whether they find it scary or funny. Furthermore, he is surprised that people are sometimes shocked by it. "Look at pop culture, look at all those games for children, thousands of litres of blood and killing. Look at the movies, with huge horror monsters and children's cartoons with spitting and farting. And what about the history of twentieth century art: piss paintings and drawings by Warhol, Viennese Actionism (Schwarzkogler cutting his penis) and many, many radical and classic artworks. Compared to them, my avies are funny little bunnies," he said.

Olza now crosses back and forth between Second Life and Real Life to create his art on either end. He uses his Real Life graphics as the basis for his virtual works, and his avatars to make collages and avatar stickers in Real Life.

See also:
* Olza's Flickr stream

You can teleport to Olza's PSYCHOSOMATIC REBUILDERS shop from here. Many thanks to Tooter Claxton, who greatly admires Olza's work, for the introduction.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"bfa after Durer - the Ern Malley piece"

Posted by Alpha Auer

There it stands, deceptively innocent, on the corner of Pavig and Littletoe's parcel at Popcha - a flat white panel; a beautiful drawing on one side, a beautiful poem on the other. Aaah... I have to work my way very carefully around this one, mind my steps... The wise thing to do would be to contact the artist and get the inside scoop and then proceed to write this post based on what I have learned.

But I am not wise: I am following the somewhat dangerous adage that if a visual work does not offer me enough to draw me in, based solely upon what I see, then it is probably not worthy of too much consideration to begin with. Perilously conceited of me, in our day of endlessly long art catalog introductions and reviews which instruct as to precisely what it is we are meant to see in a work of art and also how exactly we are meant to look at it. But nonetheless, I will follow my own nose: This double sided panel seems to tell me things and provoke thoughts that in all likelihood fall outside the intentions of the artist - and if that is indeed the case, then so be it.


The Ern Malley incident is a poetry hoax which occurred in Australia in the 1940's, involving the poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart, and played upon Max Harris, the publisher of the modernist Angry Penguins literary journal. Harris was indeed taken in by the beauty of the 17 poems that were sent to him by someone named Ethel Malley, proclaiming that these were poems written by her deceased brother Ern Malley. Thus, Harris enthusiastically promoted the poems in his journal, completely unaware of the fact that Ern Malley was an invention of McAuley and Stewart's. They had written the whole of "The Darkening Ecliptic" in an afternoon, writing down the first thing that came into their heads, lifting words and phrases from the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a Collected Shakespeare and a Dictionary of Quotations: "We opened books at random, choosing a word or phrase haphazardly. We made lists of these and wove them in nonsensical sentences. We misquoted and made false allusions. We deliberately perpetrated bad verse, and selected awkward rhymes from a Ripman's Rhyming Dictionary." Their ultimate aim was the discreditation of late modernist poetry, of which Max Harris was a huge proponent.

Although initially successful to the point where Max Harris was in fact completely discredited for not having been able to discriminate between hoax and reality, the passage of time revealed that the fictitious poetry of Ern Malley long outlived the poetry of either of the hoaxers. Robert Hughes wrote: "The basic case made by Ern's defenders was that his creation proved the validity of surrealist procedures: that in letting down their guard, opening themselves to free association and chance, McAuley and Stewart had reached inspiration by the side-door of parody... The energy of invention that McAuley and Stewart brought to their concoction of Ern Malley created an icon of literary value, and that is why he continues to haunt our culture."


The front of the panel shows a fine pencil drawing which brings to mind the panoramic engravings of cities during the late Gothic and Renaissance periods. And indeed, this one here is a very fine re-interpretation of Duerer's watercolor of Innsbruck. However, an Innsbruck constructed of organic shaped sculpties which are sandwiched between the panels and indeed bleed out into the back. Forms that are referenced from a medieval city's skyline but quickly proceed to acquire a life of their own - emergent, fluid forms of growth reminiscent of the biological drawings of Ernst Haeckel. But the fact that the template drawing generating such imaginative craftsmanship is none other than "Innsbruck 1495" leads us straight back to Ern Malley, since the first of the 17 Malley poems is entitled "Duerer: Innsbruck, 1495". And sure enough, the flip side of the panel reveals the poem itself:

"I had often, cowled in the slumberous heavy air,
Closed my inanimate lids to find it real,
As I knew it would be, the colourful spires
And painted roofs, the high snows glimpsed at the back,
All reversed in the quiet reflecting waters —
Not knowing then that Dürer perceived it too.
Now I find that once more I have shrunk
To an interloper, robber of dead men’s dream,
I had read in books that art is not easy
But no one warned that the mind repeats
In its ignorance the vision of others. I am still
the black swan of trespass on alien waters."


So, what is the secret message that revolves around Ern Malley which Pavig Lok would have me be riddled with? The piece is hermetic, which to me is one of its main attractions. I really do not want to know, I would prefer to live with the mystery. And I would really much rather go down my own path of musings which the piece has provoked in me, follow my own train of thoughts. Good art - really really good art, powerful art does that to you: It inspires you and so help me God, right now I am most definitely inspired!


A fictitious character, whose poetry outlived that of his two creators. And this brings to mind yet another creator of fictitious identities, the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, with his countless heteronymic identities, creating a world of imaginary people, circumstances and places. The self that generates many selves. Some closer to what we perceive to be our real selves, some more shrouded in fiction. And who is to say what is more real? Reality or fiction? What is more valuable? The somewhat stilted verse of the twosome that created Ern Malley or Ern Malley himself, who unhindered by formality and convention proceeded on to a level of creativity, which was beyond the scope of the "real" persona of its instigators.

I am of course, talking about avatars and alts - the many many selves that we create out of our one self. The lives we create that proceed to develop acts of creativity that seem to lie beyond the scope of the imaginations of our everyday, Real Life selves. These days I am heavily involved with my 5th alt: No Real Life look-alike/act-alike Alpha but a being quite unlike myself, somewhat confusing to behold even to me, her creator. And yet who is to say which one of us is more real? Or indeed carries the greater potential for creative realization?


Thank you Pavig Lok!


You can teleport to Pavig Lok's "bfa after Durer - the Ern Malley piece" directly from here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An interview with LaLa Legend, proprieter of the virtual world Legend City Online

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

March 15, 2009 ping: It's been months since I or anyone else I know has logged in to Legend City Online. Does it still exist? Does anyone care? Sound off, please!

Update: Per Marianne McCann, and in a message dated November 22nd, Legend City Online's LaLa Legend posted a clarification of LCOs terms of service to the LCO message boards:

"A reminder of our Terms of Service and Code of Conduct in reference to age and the use of Kid Avatars. All services are mature, strictly for entertainment purposes and are designed for individuals 18 years of age or older. It is strictly prohibited to portray a child or child avie in the matrix of Legend City Online in any way shape or form -- use of such will be seen as a direct violation of our terms and your account will be terminated."

The LCO Terms Of Service, however, as vague on issue of age, only indicating that, "Legend City Online will not knowingly execute an Agreement with anyone under the age of 18. Persons under age 18 may not use the Service without the consent and supervision of their parent or legal guardian. We only provide MATURE land. If Customer chooses to permit a minor to use the Service, Customer agrees to (i) supervise minor's use of any and all MATURE land usage, (ii) assume all risks associated with the minor's viewing of content received through use of virtual land we offer, (iii) assume any and all liabilities, including payment for services, resulting from the minor's use of Legend City Online Services as specified in this Agreement."

The only statement in their Code of Conduct ó roughly analogous to Second Life's Community Standards ó is that "all services are mature, strictly for entertainment purposes and are designed for individuals 18 years of age or older."



* Legend City Online's website can be found here
* Opened for business on September 22, 2008
* Legend City Online was formerly known as Central Grid
* Registration is free
* It is a registered US Company. The name has been trademarked and the design is under copyright.
* The German "Xumeo" continent was added to the matrix on October 28, 2008
* As of November 15, Legend City had a total of 303 Regions: 181 public regions, 69 regions on the separate continent of Xumeo, and 53 private regions
* There were 5,214 registered accounts as of 9am November 15, 2008; 2,196 of which are unique accounts since Legend City's acquisition of Central Grid
* Legend City will not disclose what kind of physics engine it is using
* Textures R Us (TRU), Simone and Alady Shapes are setting up shop in Legend City even now
* The Hippo Viewer, as modified and developed by Mana Janus, is their most compatible viewer. You can download it for Windows, Linux, or Mac here

Many thanks to Jolly Jedburgh for bringing Legend City Online to my attention eleven days ago. On the surface, this virtual world looks a lot like Second Life®, but it is another grid altogether. The differences don't stop with the company name, either. Despite the harried pace of signing up many new residents and dealing with the extraordinary technical issues that one might expect for a brand new world, it's owner graciously agreed to an extensive interview.

LaLa Legend has been a resident of Second Life since just after Beta in 2003. She left shortly after because, "(I) didn’t get the concept of its awesomeness," and returned in 2004 going by the name LaLa Xevious. Today, LaLa is the owner of Legend City Online. LaLa would not disclose her real name.

LaLa Legend

How many new accounts can you handle immediately?

LaLa: 75,000 new accounts can be handled, at which point we will need to restructure our database.

How large is your staff and what are their hours of operation?

LaLa: We have staff of 8 core team members as well as a small staff of volunteers working hard 24/7 to serve our community.

Why should we believe that you will not disappear overnight? People would invest in your grid, buy land, create content and set up shops... why should we believe that you will still be around in five years?

LaLa: Why would you believe that Second Life® would be? Our promise to our customer is this: We are working to create a lasting environment, where people can come and realize their goals and dreams at Legend City Online. We plan to be here for the long term.

Where is your funding coming from and will you be able to raise sufficient funds to maintain a state-of-the-art grid no matter what its growth might be?

Our funding is coming from multiple sources, and is stable enough to maintain our matrix as we are faced with the challenges that all I.T companies face in an ever changing market.

How long ago did you add a currency/economy and do you plan to keep it to Lindens? (This question was posed before I realized that the "L" I was seeing in my client related to the Hippo Viewer I was using, and not Lindens)

LaLa: We have enabled currency from day one. Our currency, the Legend $Ð has never been tied to the Linden$, nor will it be. In fact, the Legend $Ð trades at a different U.S rate than the Linden.

Understanding Legend City's currency

* Legend City's currency uses this symbol: $Ð
* Plans are in the works to establish a full-blown
* You can purchase Legend dollars at Legend ATMs in Second Life. $1,000Lindens will buy you $Ð666 Legend dollars
* Notably, uploading a texture costs you $Ð10

Like every start-up, some growing pains are glaringly in evidence. This building is adjacent to the Legend City welcoming area

What are your biggest technical challenges, at present?

LaLa: Legend City is burdened with many technical issues. This is pioneering work, and there will be problems, which we will solve as we go along. We are, however, not changing things for change's sake, and we are listening to our users about the user experience they would like to have and about the steps we have to take to get there. Please bear in mind that this is a very complex endeavor and there are many things in Legend City that, in this form, have never been done before. Making Legend City a world enjoyable for it's residents is our highest goal.

More on Xumeo, the German continent...

Xumeo is a separate continent/grid available by teleport only from Legend City. It is planned as an All German speaking environment including currency, blue box dialogs, and all in world communication and signage. The two main regions there are Willkommen and Willkommen 2.

Xumeo is very PIRL and urban

Country cabins, perhaps? These were found on Xumeo

What are your thoughts on governance? Do you welcome all communities (child avatars, Gor, BDSM)?

LaLa: We welcome people from all walks of life. Of course we expect everyone that comes to our community to be respectful of each other’s choices. As well as expect that all activities are legal.

Are groups working well yet? (In fact, since I posed this question, my own experience has been that while you can create a group, it is not yet possible to add additional members. In other words, groups in Legend City have one member).

LaLa: Group implementation is a work in progress and is not complete yet. However, we are the only world offering groups at all.

Legend City newbies

There are eight avatars you can choose from upon registration: four male and four female. Here I am (also Bettina Tizzy) within two minutes of rezzing in Legend City Online

Once in-world, you can pick up any and all of the eight freebie avatars at the welcoming area

* Friend people when they are in your presence. Even so, they may not show up on your friends list. Search does not work yet.
* To change any of your body parts, go to your inventory and create a new part. Then wear it and go into appearance to begin modifying it.

Newbie look-alikes abound

Skins and eyes are already for sale on the Barrows region

My own experience has been that female avatars seem to outnumber male avatars nine to one

Newbie navigation tips:

* While it doesn't always happen, you may find that your avatar begins to bounce. One way to prevent the ensuing sea-sickness is to set your avatar to "fly"
* Sometimes you will find that the ground seems to swallow you up whole. Again, set your avatar to "fly" and you'll be back above ground again
* A teleport can be a dangerous thing. If you are meeting friends, be sure to agree on a spot before you attempt that teleport.

Sometimes the grid performs admirably and all seems perfect. You can even dance!

I have had a giggle over my avatar becoming a contortionist at times. Major lag spikes are not uncommon.

When do you expect to add voice and what protocol do you plan to use?

LaLa: We currently have no plans of adding voice because there are no technologies available to us that meet our standards. However, as our technologies develop, we will certainly look at including this feature.

Are you working with standard back-end protocols for everything?

LaLa: OpenSim is based on standard back-end protocols. These include http, xmlrpc and REST (Representational State Transfer). So the answer to your question is yes, we are working with the standard back-end protocols for everything.

Legend City Online's pricing structure and prim allocations are as follows:

Basic Private MiGs (Mini Grids) include 2 Regions for the $500 buy in pricing. Tier fees will remain at $85 per month.

Custom Private MiGs (Mini Grids) include 4 Regions for the $1000 buy in pricing.

Traditional Regions are priced at $100 with $100 a month tier. These regions have 20,000 prims and prims are scaleable to 256x256x256m

Open Space Regions are $25. Prim limit is set at 3750 and only 10x10x10m prims are allowed.

Do all scripts work on your grid? Which ones don't and do you plan to provide support for them soon? How soon?

LaLa: Of the 360+ functions, most have been implemented but not fully. The most notable exception is physics. Physics act somewhat differently and vehicle physics are not implemented yet. However, simple scripts like pose balls, doors and teleporters are very likely to work, with more complex ones needing a bit of a touch-up in places, but to know for sure you just have to try it. That’s what this is all about! Testing to see what works and needs to be tweaked.

Jolly Jedburgh tested particles in the sandbox. No one appears to be using the sandbox to learn how to build. They already know how

What are your policies on content theft, IP protection, etc.?

LaLa: As we continue to grow at such a rapid pace with new people coming to our community at mind boggling speeds, I have been made aware of the issues that other grids are plagued with at this time. It is this that has prompted me to address this issue head on and make public what my protocols for this will be.

Unlike other virtual environments, we have a zero tolerance for Content Theft or Infringement of rights in any way shape or form. With this zero tolerance come a few concerns I have as the owner of Legend City, as well as a person that creates content.

I want to say that we have taken precautions to make sure that the casual bot or copy bot being used on "our" grid is not possible.

This, we know, does not stop the uploading of content that may or may not be stolen from other grids. With this being said the following protocol will take place if the issue arises:

1. The content creator/s, themselves, MUST be the root of ANY complaint or suspicion for questionable items on the matrix of Legend City Online.

Although we appreciate those who want to keep an eye out for content theft, we will NOT respond to nor condone "witch-hunts" or arbitrary cries of theft from overzealous residents - period.

We do not feel it is fair to incite unfair or unjustified "doubt or suspicion" in anyone's products until it can be proven that the questionable content is being distributed improperly.

2. It will further be the responsibility of said content creator to provide proof of ownership and copyright and/or intellectual property registration. Without this information, your content may be unprotected. Watermarking should be kept on file with our administration.

3. An investigation of questionable content will take place for all sources to be discovered. If a justification cannot be made or it is deemed that content was intentionally stolen for ANY purpose, then this content will be banished from the matrix of Legend City Online.

The Eve region, created by Taarna Wells, is attractive.

Humps Place is a region on the westernmost coast of the Legend City continent.

Humps Place

Good to know: Moving your creations from one grid to another

According to Melanie Milland who owns the Xumeo continent, Second Inventory is having some trouble with sculpty transfers into Legend City.

Second Inventory is a 3rd Party Software that allows you to save your creations from one virtual environment directly to your hard drive, and then restore them in other grids. It costs € 29,00.

In conversation, Melanie indicated that you can NOT download a sculptmap from Second Life even if you have it in your inventory as an original, and re-upload it (in Legend City). In her words, "It WILL be broken. You need to take the same file you originally uploaded to SL and upload it. Saving it from your SL inventory to your hard disk is not lossless in itself. It changes the file."

Melanie Milland

See also:

LaLa Xevious' thread on SL Universe

Mana Janus (best known for developing the Hippo Viewer) has already set up a couple of businesses in Legend City, including MJM Lab (it sells a sim-wide teleporter), as well as Christmas trees