Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gary Hazlitt turns the page on 2008 - What happened and what's coming in virtual worlds

Sydney-based Brit and marketing wiz, musician, composer and rich content creator in virtual worlds Gary Hazlitt (aka Gary Hayes), is already done celebrating the incoming year, while we wait for a few more hours in the Western Hemisphere for 2009 to arrive.

Gary, who studied physics, is the director of the Australian Laboratory for Advanced Media Production (LAMP), and also heads up Virtual Worlds for the UK-based The Project Factory, for which he produced the highly successful and eminently revistable (as the traffic numbers indicate) Australian Telstra and ABC Second Life presences.

I welcome Gary's guest blogpost and knowledgeable take on the recent past and the coming adventures of virtual worlds. Happy New Year, everyone! - Bettina Tizzy


by Gary Hazlitt



In the social Virtual Worlds context, 2006 was about hype... another new frontier 'kid-on-the-block,' but became about fast bucks and cheap and cheerful PR. We saw that bubble gently burst in 2007 as the realisation that one world in particular, Second Life® (which is still the leading example of culturally created virtual content), was really about creative communication and artistic expression versus the local shopping mall or a crude business tool.

Last year, 2008, we witnessed a distillation in what Second Life (and by implication other customisable worlds) is really about, leading to a proliferation of new, niche virtual worlds meeting the cultural and entertainment needs of much broader demographics. We effectively saw the 'fat' surgically removed from Second Life and an acceptance that this new medium and form is still in its very early days, but in 2008 there are clearer reasons for being a part of the social web mix:

1. An immersive expression of community - Facebook and MySpace-meets-World of Warcraft. This community can create their own environments or swarm around trusted film, TV or lifestyle brands, too.
2. For business, it is more about a place to meet, present and recruit and far less about brand awareness, product sales or vacuous hype. The business model in 2008 clearly came into focus: the community selling to itself - brands needed to court existing inhabitants very carefully.
3. For education, Second Life is one of the most efficient tools in the learning process. Education becomes democratised, everyone can contribute and learn equally, remote learning is far more compelling, fun and immersive.
4 A creative tool. Second Life, in particular, showed significant maturity as we saw a higher number of serious live performance (CARP, NMC, DanCoyote Antonelli, for example), a record number of in-world 'machinima & TV-like programs' and by far the largest array of creative statements from virtual environment artists, many members of the NPIRL group. The quality of 'experience' creation from talented musicians, designers, photographers, artists, etc., reached new heights.


GROWTH OF WORLDS

Investment across the board - more than $900 million US invested since Oct 2007 - has moved away from generalist worlds like Second Life to more focused niche or user base environments with many starting to exhibit core game elements. These include those with renewed investment after new'ish launches: vSide, Football Superstars, Stardoll, Home, IMVU, Metaplace, Multiverse Places, and Music Mogul.



Towards the end of the year, console social worlds came onto the scene. XBox360 and Wii are very similar in 'cartoon' aesthetic, whereas Sony is far more game focused. All have very similar business models - create a space to hang out and be 'tempted' by games/film/merchandise. Although these are not yet places for community creation, they will soon learn that to keep inhabitants they will need to be or, like Google Lively, have to pull the plug. Embeddable or layered worlds began in 2008 and are likely to be significant in getting people used to real time communication through 'representational' avatars - vs text based 'social network' profiles. Also, Facebook worlds like YoVille or Vivaty, or layered worlds like Rocketon or Weblin that are embedded on the existing 2D web. The dominance of the likes of Club Penguin and Webkinz at the tweens end of the spectrum will be duplicated through teens and gen y's as a series of new, highly focused and targeted social worlds launch next year. This has already begun with Football Superstars and Music Mogul but expect to see many more - including several with user created content as a feature alongside the virtual economy.


HIGHLIGHTS OF 2008

- Graphics in Second Life become teenagers. Still some way from the likes of Crysis, Second Life Windlight turned the world into something far more fantastical for many. It added layers of light, glow and control to a previously very 'flatly lit' world. We still wait for dynamic shadows, better environmental sound and an even more useful scripting language (post Mono), but this was a paradigm shift for environmental artists.
- Some companies got it! There was not a plethora of companies or brands entering Second Life but those that did had continued success as they concentrated on the social (people) rather than 'product' aspects of their business. Although the Pond leads in dwell terms, new entrants like Warner's Gossip Girl have done exceedingly well. Car companies still do well even though Pontiac walked away from Second Life, and Toyota, Fiat and Nissan are always in the top 10 brands.


Click image to see larger

- The quality of machinima across all social and game worlds increased exponentially this year and a growth in communities watching 'documents' of the worlds they spend most of their time in. In addition to some machinima appearing in heritage media ("Molotov Alva and his Search for the Creator" and HBO/Cinemax, for example) there has been a growth in long form game-engine films and notably many more serious issues tackled.
- The New Worlds. A fracturing, as it became obvious that Second Life cannot be all things to all avatars - so nearly 70 other worlds all showed up on the radar. Many are focusing on niche interest or are highly branded. Several of the new 'jack-of-all-trades' entrants will learn that enabling community creativity and an economy is absolutely necessary. There were several walled garden/locked content mirror worlds and builds in 2008, which will learn to be not about 'broadcast' spaces, and realise that their worlds are far more significant than modelling what is around us - "In augmented and online virtual worlds, humanity will exponentially evolve, free from the limiting ghosts of that other virtual world we called reality".

Monday, December 29, 2008

The classy urban warrior goes to Dirty Lynx

Posted by Alpha Auer

OK, time to let you in on a little secret over here: After spending some considerable time (not to mention financial resources) in the pursuit virtual apparel design, I have come to the conclusion that I may have learned enough through sheer power of observation and have consequently decided to join the ranks of metaverse designers. Thus, currently I am working diligently on putting my own collection of NPIRL wearables together. I shall be revealing further info regarding this little venture in due course - however, on my own blog. (I mean there is such a thing as a limit to naked, unashamed self promotion, right?)...

And I have to tell you that I am depressed about the whole thing before I have even made my debut: There is absolutely no way that I can presume to compete with the talent that is already out there! Point in case would be Loki Dancer. Dirty Lynx is a store covering the gamut of avatar needs from clothes and attachments to skin and hair - one item better designed and textured than the next. The theme is urban warrior and neko, however the ware displayed is a far cry from the, at this point, somewhat predictable urban warrior/neko output. There is a finesse, an observation of detail, a balance of color and shape that really puts the design work at Dirty Lynx in a class apart. Subtle! That is the very word that I am groping for... Nothing is overdone, over designed. And then the textures: Beautifully detailed and crisp. (If there is one thing that I cannot abide it has got to be blurry textures! ;-)


Tomcat Urban Warrior


Freerider Urban Warrior


CyberAngel

There is a vast range of attachments available at Dirty Lynx, however I have stuck to one category: Shoulder armor! Again, even in this there is a much wider range that one can indulge in than what I am presenting here. I have limited myself to three - which is not to say that is all that I got while I was out there. Basically, when I finally managed to tear myself away from the place I was laden with all kinds of wonders - and not just shoulder armor either. Oh no sirreee... :-)))

You can teleport to Dirty Lynx directly from here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

the sad intangible who grieve and yearn... Urban Spectre

Posted by Alpha Auer

I have searched for an artist's statement both inside the construct as well as online, particularly on the artist's own website, but have not been able to find one, from which I infer that DB Bailey is leaving the viewer open to come to his/her own conclusions...



So, why is it that when I enter this remarkable structure of DB Bailey's, currently rezed at the Cetus Institute, I am immediately transported into a certain kind of architectural space that I cannot help but love? The opulent lobbies of the commercial enterprises of the 1930's, epitomized of course, inside the Chrysler Building, but countless other breathtakingly beautiful samples of the genre abound throughout Northern America and to a lesser extent in other parts of the world as well. This connection is perpetuated by groupings of masterfully integrated photographs, which too hearken back to that period. And then, the very title "Urban Spectre" as well as the line "the sad intangible who grieve and yearn", placed prominently on the entry level seem to somehow further the association.



It is an era long gone and the remnants of it may well have turned into urban specters since it seems to me that that not only is the era gone but also the entire mindset that surrounded it: These magnificent shrines to mammon were created during the Great Depression. And yet, to judge by the output of its popular culture (such as the Hollywood movie), the period between the two great wars was still one of staunch, unquestioning belief in capitalism, in enterprise, in human endeavor. Do we still believe in these things today with the same optimism and naivete in the way in which our grandparents did back then? Has the whole gilding not been quite severely tarnished in the interim? Do we still believe in a golden future where healthy maidens will dance in a frieze and yet others soar into a golden sky of everlasting affluence?



And sure enough, once we reach the upper levels of the structure, the dancing maidens are replaced by plaintive, sad hands reaching out into the sky... Not to mention that on the level just below them we have the sudden appearance of a quizzical "contemporary" full on portrait, one which to me is quite clearly no longer the glorified face of eternal trust and optimism.

Urban Spectre asks a question. An uneasy question to which the artist does not provide an answer. And in the end, for me, this is what the true artistic process should do: Ask uneasy questions to which there are no easy answers, indeed maybe no answers at all.

You can view Urban Spectre, which has also benefited from the input of Desdemona Enfield, Douglas Story and Dizzy Banjo, at the Cetus Institute by teleporting directly from here.

Note: Although, from what I could gather from comments online, there seems to have been a sound installation with this work, sadly, I missed it: I was there for a very long time but heard nothing.

And finally, there is one small criticism that I feel compelled to make, especially given how very deeply I was impressed by the work. The red typography with which the creators of the piece were credited: Not to put too fine a point on it, this is clumsy. I was so taken by Urban Spectre that in this particular case this typographic mishap has not stopped me from thoroughly becoming immersed in the work. Thankfully it stands somewhat out of harms way, at the very top of the building - but it is very much there nonetheless. I am not sure if a considerable number of artists in Second Life® realize how gravely distracting, indeed obstructive, these big and often completely incongruous typographic additions, usually rendered in strong primary colors for enhanced visibility, are to their work? Wouldn't it be much better to put a notecard with the title and credits of the piece in a small, well designed notecard dispenser, placed at the entrance of the installation?
;-)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

O Tannen Bomb, O Tannen Bomb... A friendly Christmas assault

Merry Christmas, y'all! - Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Jopsy Pendragon cannot resist the impulse to create, and he's had many irons on the fire lately, especially since he expanded the Particle Laboratory and put his ingenious Porgon 1800 (the Particle Organ) on the market.

When it comes to Jopsy, I've come to expect vivid, brilliant particles dancing in the air to music, or self-guided tutorials on how to make them as well as the best particle textures on the grid. But he's not above having a little fun with us!



The Tannen Bomb is a bit of merriment Jopsy started to make on a lark three years ago, and finally got around to finishing on Wednesday. It's a short-lived build, so make your way over there in the next few days, and take advantage of the temporary lift on forced teleports at Teal, too, (teleport directly from here).

In a nutshell... well, nah, I'm not going to tell you exactly what happens. Just go with friends, launch the Tannen Bomb... and let it surprise you.




In this shot, I'm wearing American resident Eshi Otawara's Christmas Edition Smokey Tux dress, and soror Nishi's splendid mistletoe antlers

I am still plagued by that snapshot bug, so I appreciate Jopsy's help with pics.

An Airborne Leviathan?

Posted by Alpha Auer

Half seal, half whale - or maybe some other mythical hybrid creature which emanated from archetypes residing within the imagination of Feri Beckenbauer, looms over the sky of the sim Beckenbach.


This is a really wonderful structure housing a shop of fantasy/cyberpunk apparel beautiful enough to make me drool over most of that I saw on display.


While seeming to be ominously hermetic from the outside, the construct turned out to be surprisingly spacious and un-claustrophobic once inside due to the split ceiling.


Very beautiful, 3D display of merchandise. Why don't more apparel designers do this I wonder?


A gaggle of birdlike annexes follow the creature... Claws made out of giant propellers, a befitting entourage...


Creative output, the roots of which lies in archetypes has always held a particular fascination for me. Indeed, as Joseph Campbell has already shown us in his studies, sometimes I wonder whether our human imagination, bound as it is in a collective subconscious which seems to have spun the same myths over and over again regardless of geographic and chronological dispersion, can ever fully step outside of what is archetypally relevant. And when it comes to the generation of a true act of imagination, as Feri Beckenbauer's wondrous creature shop seems to me to be, I cannot help but start thinking very much along these lines:

Despite its airborne quality this creature has predominantly aquatic attributes, such as fins rather than wings. Consequently it reminds me of Leviathan, the Biblical sea creature which has become synonymous with any large sea monster. In Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick the term Leviathan refers to great whales. Partly due to this influence, Leviathan has come to be associated by many with the sperm whale. There is Walt Disney's depiction of Pinocchio's being swallowed by Monstro, a sperm whale and then of course there is the story of Jonah who is miraculously saved from the consequences of a sea accident by being swallowed by a whale where he spent three days and three nights, at the end of which, following God's orders, the creature vomited him out at the shore. And then of course there are all the numerous references to Leviathan ranging from Milton's Paradise Lost, where the creature is symbolic of Satan, to the words of Puck in Shakespeare's Midsummernights Dream.

For me, humanity bypassed a huge opportunity of self exploration through the means of visual creativity when it took a wrong turning on the path during the mid 20th century, choosing the follow the route of realistic rendition in Surrealist art. True, there did remain the odd hardcore contentual surrealist like Max Ernst, but for the large part the display of craftsmanship took over from the investigation of archetypal subconscious content, resulting in a mass of maudlin and trite, if not borderline sentimental output gathered under the heading of Surrealism. And now, here in Second Life®, I am daring to hope that this past error may be rectified. Maybe not so much in the form of "high art", although there is some hopeful evidence of that as well, but certainly in the emergence of design output that truly seems to be looking at archetypal content which is usable - making the whole self-investigative adventure even more dramatic, even more immediately accessible and powerful. We do not merely look at archetypes, we become immersed, in fact we become archetypal characters ourselves.

Feri Beckenbauer's giant airborne hybrid creature would seem to me to constitute a primary example to this. Unselfconscious imagination, yet ever so subtly evoking a millennia old, ever present, omnipotent archetype?

Wow!

You can teleport to see the creature shop housing Beckenbauer Productions directly from here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Meeeaaann Kittiezzz.....

Posted by Alpha Auer... ;-)

Cats are predators. So, I hope that I am speaking on behalf of the whole species when I come right out and say it like I see it: Enough of all of this hello kitty stuff in the metaverse - pleeaaaasse!

We are not cute little kitties - we are big nasty meeeeaaannn old catzzzzzzzz!

And so, ladies and gentlemen, under the horrified gaze of all present company, off we go to carnivore land... teeeee heeeee....
...


The Demonic Cat avatar comes in both light and dark shades. Of course, one gets the dark one!


The Latex Mew comes with nasty little fangs, a spiky tail creepy enough to put the fear of God into the Devil himself and huge huge huge stomp-over-everything-in-sight paw boots. Oh, and of course it wouldn't do to forget mentioning those utterly lovely boxing glove paws, good enough a size to do justice to any little old altercation...
...


The tail as larder: Sorry folks, I ate the fish... And yup! While I was at it, I also ate Tweety. Odious little fluffball!!!... Oh yes, the mice I am saving for later. I do tend to get somewhat peckish just around bedtime...


And speaking of rodents, I simply cannot emphasize this point strongly or often enough: There is no such thing as having too many mice!
...


It shows a sad state of affairs when you cannot be secure even on your own island! This tomcat came flying out of nowhere and put me into this dreadful state. Even my tail is in a cast! Reason? He seemed to be upset about the contents of this very post, said it was giving us Nekos a bad rep! One of those politically correct cats no doubt.

However... R.I.P. old boy...



... took care of his sanctimonious little derriere pronto pronto! Here's where it actually happened... And of course, I did not leave any trace evidence! Watched my share of CSI episodes as diligently as the next person, haven't I?
...

Credits:
Demonic Cat and Latex Mew avatars: June Dion
Neko tails: selena Chastity, Purrrfect Kitties
Mice Boots: Cyia Kanami at Purrrrfect Kitties
Neko arm sling, casts and collar: Akasha Wachmann
Neko Crime Scene: Cinemaniac Voom
(Please click on names for teleport locations)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Animated Canvas: An installation by Feathers Boa

Posted by Alpha Auer

Feathers Boa's installation entitled the Animated Canvas places us in an environment built out of Real Life artist's supplies, large enough to create a space for us to wander around in: Eraser gum steps lead us into a real life studio painting class, complete with paint splattered chairs, the walls and the floor of which have been created out of stretched canvases, drafting templates and painter's palettes. Turn around and you can cross a bent letter stencil bridge into a gallery made up of ornate but empty painting frames, the entry to which is flanked by two huge inkwells. Placed between the frames however are stretched canvas "paintings" consisting largely (but not entirely) of processed and indeed some layered Second Life® photographs - and I have to admit that some of these are what I liked best about the overall installation. There is a finesse, an observation of craftsmanship, composition and harmony of color in these that I found rather sadly lacking in the overall installation. And even more importantly, there is a definite preponderance of mood and narrative in the paintings; again to me, not present in the 3 dimensional work.





I know from personal experience how very challenging it is to create "3D mood" when working in an environment devoid of the intrinsic "moodmakers" of 3D, i.e., shadows and directional lighting; as Second Life to date still is. However, hard as this may be, it is more than obvious when looking at her paintings that Ms. Boa has the talent, the stamina, as well as the professional expertise to accomplish this and I for one, will certainly be looking forward for her paintings to come alive as 3 dimensional objects in the future.



Feathers Boa's installation, which incidentally can also be participated in through the acquisition of an avatar which turns you into a canvas painting created by Ms. Boa, can be seen at New Carleon, to where you can teleport to directly from here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The pleasure of your company, your deep pockets, and your sense of community are requested!

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Gary Kohime is a kind soul with a BIG heart and an artist, too. Someone he loves very much is ill with cancer, and he has coordinated an auction/fundraiser and party today to benefit cancer research via the American Cancer Society. An ACS donation box will be placed at the auction site by Catt Gable of the American Cancer Society to receive auction monies and any other donations.

In the spirit of the season, and the community we all enjoy, please help Gary to get the word out far and wide... and come to the party with deep pockets :)

The event will take place today, December 20, 2008, between 4 - 6pm SLT at the SS Galaxy - Zodiac Ballroom; teleport directly from here.
Music will be streamed by DJ Gary Kohime; Attire: Formal.

So many people have given so, so generously! You can see many of the items on display at the IBM sandbox by teleporting directly from here and then flying to these coordinates: 223/97/23.

Among the many items:

* Eshi Otawara has donated her entire new Eshi Otawara Winter/Spring Collection, except the one Limited Edition gown which has sold out. You can see the collection in this great video by Osiris Pfalz.


Eshi Otawara Winter / Spring Collection from Osiris Pfalz on Vimeo.

Eshi's clothes are no-trans, so the winning bidder (yes, the entire collection will go to one bidder) will receive the items directly from her. They can be seen on the first floor of her shop, too, by teleporting here.

* Tuna Oddfellow has donated a special two hour Tunaverse show, public or private, but it must take place on his land.


Photo by Trinity Outlander

* Elros Tuominen's gorgeous Mirrors sculpture...



* Aloah Oh's beautiful The BIO ORB, a small Star vase, Undulating Sea vases and a WaterBall sculpture

* Cuwignaka Castaignede's Kajira - Tower with Amphora Donation (tip jar) and the marvelous animated castle guards

* Indra Jun's pretty Universe in Balance sculpture

* Glyph Graves's just-released Jellyfish Bluebell, as well as his Aura of Distraction sculpture.

* Douglas Story's new and never-before-seen-in-SL image of his: Street Lizard.

* Sasun Steinbeck's extraordinary Morph Sculpture v13 & Stand

* Andromede Kamach's lovely Silver Angel and Flight of a Fairy sculptures.

* KK Jewell is donating ten outfits by Acedia.

* CD Benelli has donated three outfits, including the Peta Fur!

* RightasRain Rimbaud and the Rezzable staff have donated one of Unreal McCoy's fabulous and rare When Pigs Fly sculptures

* AM Radio's Winter Scene Car with the tree has made the winter images rotation for Second Life®'s start page. The car that he has donated does not have snow.



Damanios Thetan's brand new sculpture, Dance of the Souls.



Then there is Light Waves' statue of a naughty gnome. To my knowledge, it is the only one of its kind. It has its own history, too, which you can read about here.


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Marionette Avatar

Posted by Alpha Auer

A little treat for yourself for the festive season: The Marionette Avatar by Aja Sinister comes in three variations, these being Sorrow, Magic and Mystery, the one shown in the photo here being Sorrow. All of them have elaborate Victorian Doll costumes and, of course, marionette strings attached to their their limbs and shoulders.



This very pretty avatar for sad little ladies can be obtained at Aja Sinister's shop at The Abyss to where you can teleport to directly from here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My basic OpenSim Travel Kit

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

While living in California, I put together a backpack filled with all kinds of emergency supplies to get me through a bad earthquake. There were Powerbars, a flashlight, a hand-cranked radio, a first-aid kit, some single dollar bills, etc. I tossed it into the trunk of my car and figured it would be with me at most times. In fact, I've given backpacks such as these to all my closest friends and loved ones in California as gifts. I usually tuck in a deck of cards, a pencil and notepad and sometimes a funny book. Even a yoyo!

Most of us have a little travel kit for toiletries, and frequent international travelers take that a few steps further: noise-cancelling headphones, jet lag meds, adapters, converters, a cozy pair of socks... you get my drift.

Nowadays, I am more in need of a kit for the virtual traveler, and these are especially important - and appreciated - if you are not a builder or a scripter.

These are all things I carry with me as I travel from one OpenSim to another...

Bettina's Basic OpenSim Travel Kit:
- One script for personal radar
- Good freebie skin, such as Sezmra Svarog's Splendor skins
- One transparent texture (I forget where I got mine)
- A basic particle script (good for testing), such as Jopsy Pendragon's Barebones Particle script (thanks for posting it, Ordinal!), or Ama Omega's ExampleParticleScript
- Eye textures, such as Vint Falken's pretty, free, and very NPIRL creations for Valentine's day.
- Of course, Torley's funtastic textures!

What else should we pack in our virtual travel kits? Got any good links? What could I be doing better?

On my wish list:
- Portable prim hair
- My fave June Dion bodysuit (ARC friendly!)

Arrival tips:
- Friend a few folks right away
- Ask for LMs, where the sandbox is, and where the freebie area is
- Check out the map right away. Where are you? Make a Landmark!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Miyaoka Hitchcock's Automatic Playing Piano and Morse Code Factory

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Oh, those wacky guys over at the SoftBank sim. Physics are their playthings and they have been playing... a lot!

Molly Montale is one serious explorer and consequently, she is always discovering cool stuff. This morning she pinged me with news of further developments over at Softbank.

Softbank Slim Japan is an amusement park sponsored by Samsung and Softbank, the Japanese mobile phone company. It is also home to that giant avatar-tossing bar-tilting 3-axis accelerometer and robot that Tori Teatime and a couple of others put together.

Now Miyaoka Hitchcock (aka Masaya Kazama) has joined the mix of creators there with several installations. Two among them are the Automatic Playing Piano that hurls balls onto piano keys to play the song Scarborough Fair, and then there is his Morse Code Factory, wherein the visitor uses a light or heavy touch on a small platform to input Morse Code that goes into an extruder and then issues the letters the visitor manufactured. Teleport directly from here.

Music composer, sound designer, machinimator and all-around nice guy Dizzy Banjo created this video to demonstrate what happens. Thank you, as always, Dizzy!


Miyaoka Hitchcock Interactive Installations inSL from Dizzy Banjo on Vimeo.

I first learned about Miyaoka through his involvement with the COM Fun Club. Manbo! With a rez day of 1/27/2007, he is one day younger than I am, which puts me completely to shame. He's accomplished so much!

Miyaoka is also the owner of the School for Tinies, and the creator of Miyaoka HomeElectronics, which must have been founded on a hot day. The two items for sale there are the Tiny Electric Fan avatar (3-speed oscillating fan with ribbons blowing in the wind), and the Tiny Refrigerator avatar, with a door that opens and shuts, and enough food enclosed to get you by over a weekend. You can pick those up by teleporting here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Viva la Vida: A video of AuraKyo Insoo's epic installation on the highs and lows of being human

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

It no longer exists, except in memory, but AuraKyo Insoo's soulful and sculptural Viva la Vida breathed earthy life and passion from every prim. An enormous installation that was truly impregnated with Aura's distinctive and immediately recognizable style, it required a good hour to take in. I shot the footage for this video weeks ago, and it wasn't lack of interest but the usual series of interruptions that held back its completion. I'm afraid I've done a shabby job of capturing the entire story and the enormity of it, but hopefully a glimmer of its effusive spirit is evident. If you missed it, I understand that Aura will have an opportunity to re-rez the show soon.


Shot and edited by Bettina Tizzy
Music: "Between two floors" by Five Star Fall

If you find that it is running slow, you can view it here.

Viva la Vida is a Spanish-language expression that loosely translates as Hurray for Life. The show - sponsored by Rezzable Productions - transported the visitor most elegantly through nearly every phase of life, beginning with a birthing and ending with peaceful and loving human interaction, but also touching on war (never more), cruelty, courage, fame and solitude.

In conversations with Aura, I have come to know her as a woman who embodies and lives by her own mantra, viva la vida. An Argentinian by birth and an artist in Real Life, Aura is also a poet and an activist. Viva Aura! We want more, and more can be had. Aura is currently showing at the Human Rights Festival in Second Life®: Reconstructing Rights; Humans in Process, which you can visit through January 20th by teleporting here.

tis the season to be steampunk....

... fa lala lala la la

Posted by Alpha Auer... ;-)

Although a sizable proportion of virtual worlds Residents (including myself) do not celebrate Christmas in the religious sense of the word, this time of year has nevertheless come to be associated with festivity, merriment and the exchange of presents in a big chunk of the globe. Point in case: In my beloved Istanbul supermarkets and shopping malls are brimming over with "New Year" trees and decorations even as we speak. And what's more we seem to have managed to adapt the tradition to suit our own secular/muslim culture: The biggest seller in tree ornaments for the past few years has been a truly gaudy plastic adaptation of the tip of a minaret that you stick on top of your tree in place of where the angel would normally be put in a Christian household...

So, I have been wracking my brains in the pursuit of suitable seasonal gifts that we can inflict upon our loved ones in the metaverse and this establishment seems to me to fit the bill to perfection: Primtronics, a co-venture by CJoke Oh and Skalli McMillan is a delight of a store specialized in avatar attachments, with a steampunk neko twist but added extras!

OK, let us face it: Is it just me or is everybody beginning to notice the proliferation of truly well designed, meticulously detailed and textured steampunk and neko objects throughout the metaverse? Now, on the one hand this is of course wonderful news. We are obviously entering an era of high sophistication in virtual object design. However, on the flip side, a lot of what I am seeing out there begins to be repetitive in concept. Or I am simply beginning to become an extremely spoilt little neko person who turns up her snooty little whiskers at most of what she stumbles upon? In short, nowadays I am definitely looking for something more - and that something more for me usually ends up being something funny. And these two people are indeed funny! So, let me show you exactly what I mean:


For that incorrigible introvert who inevitably prefers a party of one, why not get them the fully animated Shoulder DJ? Comes with its own charmingly pulsating disco lights border and glow spotlight...


For that special man who likes to cook, the leg holster mixer? Very handy around the virtual kitchen, I am sure...


His 'n Hers Crazy Antigravitation-Experiment V1.1 Backpacks... Perfection itself for that personalized little touch!


And here is another one and oh my goodness! It even has its own little wind turbine: The industrial landscape backpack "MinniKraftwerk" will (hopefully) manage to put a smile on the faces of all of those moaners that you have to get gifts for, the ones who claim to be carrying all the weight of the world upon their shoulders?


A very naughty follow me pet is the Kuhschraubaer (German for cow-bear-heli). Although I did have the little devil firmly leashed it took me forever to get her to fly to heel. Not to put too fine a point on it - she just simply would not oblige! So, this gift would most definitely not be for those authoritarian, "do-as-I-tell you" souls amongst your acquaintance...


Quite a different proposition from the naughty flying cow is the Pilot-Teddy, a lovely great little cuddly guy - obviously the perfect gift for that romantic dreamer...


For that eccentric individual, the mountaineering neko, a rope tail comes complete with its own handy knife...


And finally, for that naughty naughty boy, ear and shoulder laser guns! Zapppppp!!!
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And now onto a wee bit of complication: While I have done all that is in my power to furnish you with tips as to how best to annoy your loved ones with your gifts, the items at Primtronics are copy but no transfer. However, the good news is that they do have gift certificates available at their shop, to where you can teleport directly from here. So, all that remains for you to do, is to present the objects of your bounty with a gift certificate and precise instructions as to what it is that you expect them to get once they land at Primtronics. And then - well, just hope for the best I suppose... I mean, once you let them loose in there with all that cash there is really no saying as to what they will actually be walking out with from that oh so wonderfully imaginative location.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The many elaborate gowns of the Maiden Queen...

Posted by Alpha Auer

Naergilien Wunderlich is a re-creator of historic costumes, based upon gowns from historically famous portraits, in Second Life®. She bases her work on a thorough examination of the original material, and not only just from the paintings themselves but also in extensive research conducted in costume departments of noteworthy museums on styles and specific epoch related characteristics of the garments, telling us about herself that "... at the tender age of six I started to sew, two years later I got a sewing machine as a birthday gift. When I was about twelve, I made many of my clothes myself. In 1987, at the age of sixteen, I started sewing and collecting 1950's clothing. Ten years later I became interested in Edwardian and Victorian clothing, and ever since then, my studies of historical garments went practically further backwards.

By now I am specialized in (English) Elizabethan women's garments, and also Victorian clothing, of which I'm more interested in the crinoline- rather than the bustle area... But, as already mentioned, I'm still studying, and as any serious student, I will probably never be finished studying and learning. I am currently in the process of writing a book on English Elizabethan costuming, my favorite period of fashion. The book will - hopefully - be a guide for studying, dating and re-creating Elizabethan fashions for beginners as well as for advanced seamstresses. The book will contain information about how to correctly date Elizabethan fashion in paintings, movies and on extant garments; how that fashion developed from Tudor to Baroque and, of course, tutorials, tips, tricks & hints on how to create an at least half-way period Elizabethan garment today"
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A true wonder by Naergilien Wunderlich is a very close replica of the red dress from the Maiden Queen Elizabeth's famous Pelican Portrait, c1575, attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, where a number of devices are used to communicate messages about Elizabeth, including pearls in association with her purity, the Tudor rose for unity and the pelican pendant pinned on her chest for love. The pelican brought with it a whole host of associations that Elizabeth adopted for herself and it became one of her favorite symbols since pelicans were believed to pluck their own breasts to feed their starving young, often dying in the process.


In Second Life the Pelican Gown comes in a variety of colors, the red version being of course, the one which is historically accurate. However, I loved the charcoal version so much that I wanted to feature it alongside the red one. The background of the photo is a Vanitas by Franciscus Gysbrechts and the full image can be viewed here

During my lengthy conversation in-world with Ms. Wunderlich she told me that there was considerable debate in the community of costume historians as to whether this gown ever really existed, since from a structural point of view it seems that it would have been impossible to sew this garment in the way depicted in the painting. Ms. Wunderlich has put an end to this side of the debate by reproducing the garment stitch by stitch in Real Life. However, as to whether this makes it a garment possible in Real Life still remains up for debate since the gown weighs a hefty total of 44 pounds and it takes a full hour to put all the pieces on. Ms Wunderlich also tells us that "putting on makeup is not included in that time, though half an hour for getting adjusted to the stays is". Indeed it would seem that there is considerable query within the research community related to the field as to whether the bulk of the costumes worn for official portraits were nothing but wearable props, which the subjects would have merely posed in, but that these garments would not be worn as such, due to their weight and elaborateness which would have seriously hindered locomotion. However, Ms. Wunderlich says that she has worn the garment on occasion and although it would be impossible to drive a car in it due to the voluminous skirt; it is otherwise comfortable - particularly since the garment seems to generate its own climate, keeping the wearer warm in the winter and cool in the summer due to the natural fabrics and the ventilation caused by its various parts.

We are in a day when wearable computing designers such as Thecla Shiphorst and Yacov Sharir are busily designing garments in Real Life that are intelligent, that move based upon input, display visual and textual data sent to them via bluetooth technology, that can indeed whisper subliminally: Thecla Shiphorst's Exhale project shown at Emerging Technologies at Siggraph in 2005 would be one fine example in which the gorgeous skirts were not only softly breathing in and out whilst emitting a subtle light, based upon biological input generated by the heartbeat of the wearer. Furthermore they would also change behavior whenever more than one person wearing one of them gathered in proximity, at which point they would start exhibiting group behavior patterns. True that at this juncture most of these sophisticated computational garments are created with specialized aims to be used in specialized fields such as for instance dance & technology practices and performance arts; but I imagine that we will be seeing them on our own humble Real Life backs soon enough...

So what is possible and impossible in Real Life when it comes to wearables seems to me to be a very thin line indeed - and so again, I would say that ultimately it all boils down to imagination, to intent: If a garment that I put on in Second Life transports me back to the Elizabethan era, makes me the Maiden Queen for a few minutes - that to me is NPIRL. It is obvious that I would be unable to accomplish this here in the material world with any great ease - I do not have the time or indeed the manpower, in the shape of a host of ladies in waiting, to put on and take off a garment that is so complicated (not to mention heavy) that it has a whole scientific community flummoxed as to whether it could have existed as a "garment" in the first place. And the wonderful Ms. Wunderlich gives us the utter joy of being able to indulge in the fantasy, to relive the era in Second Life.



A close-as-possible an SL reproduction of the above shown gown in the Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I., painted in 1603, has been donated by the designer to a fundraising soirée for the SL Shakespeare Company (SLSC).



Says Ms. Wunderlich: "Only three copies of it will exist in SL: One, obviously, belongs to me. Another one will go to the wardrobe of the SLSC, to be used in their plays. The third is actually the ONLY one that will be available to the public; it will be auctioned off at the fundraising soiree. It can be worn in several ways; with/without the loose gown, with / without the jewels; and I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say that this is the most complicated gown I made so far in SL. Others have donated / made items for the auction as well; just to name a few: Alastair Whybrow; Aberdon Enigma and SimplyAmy Iwish".

The auction will be open for one week, ending on Sunday, December the 21st. Bids can be made by dropping a sum in a notecard to either Naergilien Wunderlich or Ina Centaur in world. Ms. Wunderlich will be keeping the current figures updated on her blog here. You can view the dress at Ms. Wunderlich's store to where you can teleport directly from here.
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Although the two Elizabethan gowns above are the main subject of this post, I simply cannot resist showing you just a few more of Nargilien Wunderlich's historically referenced dresses:


The Ophelia Gown has been created after John William Waterhouse's 1910 Pre-Raphaelite painting by the same name . It was then adjusted to match the Elizabethan age. And it is historically correct outside of the shaping restrictions in Second Life, for the period of around 1575 to 1580. The background image is a musical still life by Evaristo Baschenis, c. 1645.


Here I have taken a poetic liberty and placed gowns from two different eras side by side: The Drunken Duchess (on the right) is Roccoco, having been modeled after one of the gowns of "Georgiana" from the movie "The Duchess". It is historically correct outside of the shaping restrictions in Second Life, for the period of around 1780; whereas the Elizabethan Servant's Outfit (on the left), was modeled after several paintings of Tudor/Elizabethan Servants, and again, outside of the shaping restrictions in Second Life this too is historically accurate for the period of around 1500 to 1600. I have placed these against a a painting entitled Still-Life of Flowers, Shells, and Insects by Balthasar van der Alst, c. 1635.
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More on Naergilien Wunderlich's virtual historical costumes practice can be found at her own blog here, whereas her Real Life work in this area is covered here. And finally you can teleport to her store in world directly from here. Larger sizes of the images shown here can be viewed on my Flickr stream here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Catch up: The New York Times on virtual architecture, AM Radio's voice on Arthole Radio, and more

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

It feels like an eternity since I last sat down to blog about the many enchantments and the occasional disappointments that my virtual life affords me. I’ve been caught up for weeks with the physical world of Real Life and moving to Austin from Santa Monica. Last night I unpacked the last box, and may I say… I simply love Austin. It’s good to be home.

Meanwhile, my new co-blogger Alpha Auer has been a miracle of productivity and triumphs. I congratulate myself on my association with her. The metaverse is too eventful so I couldn't very well expect things to stand still during an absence of three weeks, and I’ve especially enjoyed seeing it through her eyes.

Actually, I did do a blogpost about Eshi Otawara’s new Collection, which she unveiled yesterday to instant acclaim. Its immediate success surprised absolutely no one, least of all me. She informs me that all six of the Limited Edition outfits have been snatched up, and sales of everything are so brisk that she has decided to put all of her older styles on sale, 50% off (teleport directly from here).


You simply MUST see the arm pieces on Eshi's Limited Edition Kabuki dress up close, but you will have to know one of the six people who now own it to do so

Anyhow, here's a very quick summary of some of the news items that must be shared asap:


The New York Times eyes virtual architecture

Last Sunday, the New York Times style magazine, known as T, ran one of the most balanced yet favorable articles I've read about content creation in virtual worlds. Original Sim by Sam Lubell delves into architecture in Second Life® - not sex, adultery and MacMansions, for a refreshing change - and several NPIRLers and their works were featured, including Scope Cleaver, Keystone Bouchard and DB Bailey. I was flattered to see the NPIRL blog mentioned as a key source, and took pleasure in seeing Designer Dingson and photographer Lem Skall get their due, as well. Random House has published two beautiful and inspiring books that Sam Lubell authored about architecture in the fair European capitals of London 2000+ and Paris 2000+, and he is the Los Angeles correspondent for Architect's Newspaper.


AM Radio speaks on Arthole Radio

Arthole Radio has launched a one hour weekly program hosted by artist and art history/critical studies professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Amy Freelunch (aka Amy Wilson). For one of her inaugural shows, Amy conducted the first-ever voice interview with none other than fine artist AM Radio. I cannot encourage you enough to listen in, and you can do so here. It takes time to load, so be patient.

AM describes how artworks are capable of social interaction in virtual environments, hence the effort he put into creating his singular avatar; why he believes that he needs to be the best and most influential user of his work; and his views on how he is often compared to Andrew Wyeth.


What to do with a paper moon, by AM Radio

During the interview, Amy said something that has stuck with me: that virtual artists are pushing the medium as far as it can go. I agree. This is certainly one of the most compelling arguments I've heard for why Linden Lab needs to throw much more support behind artists.


Alternatives to Second Life

There are two new virtual worlds that I have yet to visit, one of them being Rezzable Productions’ Opensim foray with a test grid featuring a Greenies build. You too can sign up to be a part of the alpha testing.

Truth be known, so far, I’m less than wowed by the alternatives I’ve discovered to Second Life, and my dissatisfaction isn’t just over physics. Marianne McCann has shared with me that Legend City Online has banned kid avatars, and this after its owner, LaLa Legend, responded to me in writing – yep, I’ve got it in black and white - when I asked her if LCO would be welcoming all communities (child avatars, Gor, BDSM) with these words “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.” Bah! I have heard from a couple of people that LaLa bans folks if they so much as disagree with her on any small thing, too. Is this true? Has this happened to you?


Oh nooooes! Svarga is up for sale

It also broke my heart to learn via Hamlet Au and his New World Notes that Laukosargas Svarog has put Svarga up for sale. The fact that this blog has never covered one of the most NPIRL and extraordinary regions in Second Life is a huge oversight on my part that must be amended.


Yay! Tooter is back



On a happier note, that wicked-good and fun avatar creator Tooter Claxton is back! He’d gone missing since May, save an occasional email, but weeks had gone by since I’d heard from him, so I was overjoyed to see the little blue box pop up, notifying me that my friend was back in-world.


Photographs I take in Second Life still suck



Waaaaa! I'm a blogger, for cripes sake, and photographs are my instruments. Even though I attended Bridie Linden's office hour, blogged about that disappointment here, reopened JIRA #VWR-1641, downloaded the lasted drivers, and tested several clients - both production and RCs, nothing seems to fix this bug that ails all photographs I take in Second Life. Importantly, the same is not true of photographs I take in Legend City Online or Openlife, so I know the problem isn't with my system.

Winner of Koinup's Avatar Art contest - NPIRL category

Koinup's Avatar Art contest has just concluded and the winners have been announced in each of the three categories: surreal/Not Possible in Real Life; post-modern/traditional and kitsch; and realistic-pop art. The contest was open to photography taken in all virtual worlds.

It was my pleasure to judge the surreal/Not Possible in Real Life category, and the winner is Winter Wardhani with this image.



While there were hundreds of photographs to choose from, I selected Winter's image because she strayed away from the "beautiful human" look and did something entirely different, and fun. You can view all of the entries here.

The winning photographs are on display at the Museo del Metaverso.

Paw Boots...

Posted by Alpha Auer... ;-)

Only the other day I was talking about the lamentable absence of paw boots in Real Life, right? In the meantime I have been informed that apparently some enterprising Real Life designer out there seems to have made something along these lines but in my humble view it wouldn't really add up to much beyond being a sad substitute to the "real" thing...

So, here they are - all of my lovely little beauties...


My Ninja Cat boots are somewhat on the cruel side but, I give you my most solemn assurance that I try not to use those nasty little sticks too excessively and then only on the most objectionable avatars!


Admittedly the Grunge Camp Paw kickers are ever so slightly butch but nonetheless a great favorite whenever I need to climb the Black Mountain at Syncretia to check on all those leaky water pipes...


These Hobo Paw boots have a slight flaw around the ankles so I conceal them with some very lovely, not to mention thoroughly elegant, barbed wire neko leg warmers! They really do think of every little eventuality these neko designers don't they? I imagine the barbed wire would come in very handy at keeping those bothersome rodents trying to climb up ones calves at bay! No?



Yeti paw boots! We pose for these together with my furry sister: Two silly school girls in black and white outfits. Mine is a sailor's costume and she is a striped bunny! Teeeee heeeee....


For the more demanding neko, these jewel studded boots come in a range of fur options for toes, all in the same box. A must have for all of those dressier occasions!


Sakuradawn Lei's name is a byword for high quality paw boots in the metaverse, most of them leaving paw prints as you walk! Unfortunately the loveliest ones are designed for feral furries and thus one needs to have the appropriate leg shape to really be able to wear them - which we, vain, silly, fashion victim women obviously do not have. However, necessity is indeed the mother of all invention, so my furry sister was certainly not going to be put off by a minor little hindrance such as a leg shape! She merely replaced the upper part of the Myth boots with another boot part - and Bob's your uncle! My Trailmix ones are actually designed for human legs so all I had to do was walk around leaving some wonderful feline paw prints. Never one to be outdone, Furry Incognita follows suit with her own - and oh what an utterly lovely mess we have made!

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Credits:
Ninja Cat Boots: Emily Lelouch
Grunge Camp Paw Kickers: Thomus Keen
Barbed wire leg warmers: Minde Mills
Hobo Paw Boots: Blume Boucher
LouRoo Yeti Paw Boots: LouRoo Rau
Jewel Neko Boots: 7ommy Gunes
Trailmix and Myth boots: Sakuradawn Lei
(Please click on the names to obtain teleport locations!)