Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Does Second Life's hood ornament need a new avatar?

Tog Frog saw "a horrible photograph" of Philip Linden - aka Philip Rosedale and Linden Lab's CEO - in a Real Life German newspaper yesterday. To add insult to injury, Tog's RL friend commented, "This is your Second Life? Looks like a bad cartoon," and Tog took this to heart.

Together with Petronilla Paperdoll, Tog has founded a group called "NAFPL - New Avi for Philip L," expressly for the purpose of creating a new look for our Commander-in-Chief. "I think it's time to do it... and it should be fun. It doesn't look good for Second Life's #1 figurehead to be wearing such an old avi," said Tog who, by the way, is a very new Resident in Second Life. This little critter was created, it's typist tells me, specifically for the Philip mission.

Some time ago, AngryBeth Shortbread poked fun at Philip's avatar with her Bootleg Phil Machinima. Looking at this vid again, I had to agree with Tog, so I paid up the $25L to join.

Content creation in the service of LOVE - Gwen Carillon's sphere for "Breath"

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I created a group in Flickr called NPIRL <3 - Content creation in the service of LOVE, and invited Flickrites to share their photographs and stories about content creation in the service of love... especially if it has a Not Possible IRL twist to it. Here was the first one I published. Even though we have over a hundred members now, contributions have been few and far between... Happily, I keep stumbling upon stories that fit in their own way.

Sometimes, by taking a moment to nurture yourself, you plant a seed that spreads and is cultivated by others. Such was the case of Gwen Carillon's "Breath" sculpture. Gwen owns and fills Elements in Design, Elemental Muse Jewelry and Dreamscapes Gallery of Art with celestial creations that often strike me as the sort of things one might find in heaven. Teleport directly from here.

I like to read the notecards that Gwen adds to each item she places for sale. They say a lot about her thinking as she crafted the piece. Gwen describes Breath as follows:

"Imagine a wisp of air... ethereal, insubstantial and fleeting. Imagine glass... fragile and crystalline. When life is challenging, we can sometimes feel disconnected from those we love and even from the world around us. We feel fragile... as insubstantial as breath. So fragile that we could blow away if we don't make a concerted effort to hang on to ourselves."

It seems that I am not the only one to read her notecards. Gwen reports that she often receives responses to them. Here is one by Moonglow Bouchard who kindly agreed to allow its publication.

Hello Gwen,

I was wandering in your shop and found this note which inspired the following. I thought I'd share. Hope you don't mind.

Moonglow (Bouchard)

And yet, breath is life
Without this seemingly insubstantial thing
there would be no other valuables
that could not be held in the hand:


for without love there is no breath

Even as we love those around us
we must also love ourselves
For without love of self
we cannot truly
love another
So we breath
And help others
do the same

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Josh Sommers: smoke and mirrors will get you... a wide grin

A few days ago I announced that I am creating the Not Possible IRL hit list... yep, it's a campaign of sorts to recruit Real Life artists and interesting folk to Second Life. They will be here at some point anyway, so why not start now and help us to shape the metaverse?

I thought one early response was "impossibly" appropriate and delightful. Thank you, Josh Sommers. Now come on in and get your feet wet. We'll round up a welcoming committee.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dear Colgate-Palmolive...

Oh, the ruckus that ensued over your promotion in Second Life! I for one would like to congratulate you for taking the leap and having a presence here. The typists behind all these pixelated people need to brush, too. However, I would like to suggest that you consider taking a more... erm... "virtual worlds" approach. Let's not forget that Second Life is about entertaining its Residents, too.

I happened upon Madcow Cosmos today while he was working away in a sandbox and was delighted with his new-to-me avatar. He calls it the "Brush your teeth Fairy." I immediately thought of you! I suspect that people would respond more... um... enthusiastically to this fairy than any corporate booth.

However, when I took the liberty of dropping a snapshot of it to your marketing company representative, the only responses I got were two "lols." Oh well. Catch ya next time. :P

GM Kurosawa and his avatar(s)

GM Kurosawa has created many unique avatars, but this one is the closest to his Real Life self. If you ask nicely, or maybe if you get lucky, you'll see him spawn miniatures of his avatar that follow him around as he walks. I guess he's in good company.

SynaesthAsia: a realtime jam that spans the globe, with visuals to knock your socks off

As backgrounds go, Tokyo-based Komuso Tokugawa's is rather unusual. For openers, this fellow received the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 in recognition of his contributions to the sport of parachuting. :o

He has a Masters in Music, a Masters in Technology Management, and a BSc in Mathematics/Computer Science. Komuso also practices Tai Chi, in addtion to skiing and rollerblading.

Somewhere in between all of this - and a boatload of other novel and significant activities we'll look into sometime soon - he finds the time to come in-world and, together with MoShang Zhao, put on the chillest events I'd never imagined possible.

Performing in real time for thirty lucky test subjects (thanks for the invite Jurin Juran!) from points all over the Eastern and Western spheres, with Komuso in Tokyo and MoShang in Taiwan, and utilizing the music collaboration software NINJAM, these two put on a landmark show.

Lumiere Noir made it in just in time to hear the first few chords... and that's when you know that your entire week is going to melt away and the journey has begun.

Jessica Qin, moi and Fau Ferdinand dissolve into the moment...

Beyond the dreamtrance sounds, Komuso's particles take center stage. It's all "delivered in a custom setting I designed along with my prototype Generative Visuals System I developed up from my bio/neuro feedback," Komuso explained. I'll be telling you more about that soon :D

Komuso invites you to get in the particles, and Hotspur O'Toole, who blogged about this event and even made his own Machinima there, dove straight in.

Guess who slipped in for the last couple of tunes?

This just in: Osprey Therian's machinima of that event...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Looking to Real Life for NPIRL inspiration: Warning! Real life peeps... you might be on my hit list

If I had to point to one phrase that will instantly cause me to lose respect for a person, it is to hear them utter the words "I'm bored." Whether in the metaverse or in Real Life, creativity is buzzing and I cannot comprehend not wanting to be a part of it. The people who are the least bored fascinate me, and there are plenty out there... everywhere.

In our excitement over what is taking place in virtual worlds, we can sometimes take on a patronizing air and completely disregard what is taking place elsewhere. Not any more. Be it known, I'm making a list. Yes, it's a hit list. Some people had just better hurry up and get in-world 'cause oh, the things that will happen then... and I'm going after 'em.

I might add that my own pixelated friends keep sharing their finds, not realizing that they are becoming my co-conspirators, aiding and abetting me in my spree.

Douglas Story , co-creator of the DynaFleur, gave me an ultimatum. Either I attend the Murakami show at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles or... Oh, I know I'm safe and he'll still be speaking with me long after the exhibit is dismantled on February 12th, whether I get myself over there or not, but I welcome his impassioned determination. Quite frankly, he's right. What we are doing in virtual worlds is not the be all, end all, even though it's damn hot.

Dear Takashi Murakami... What is taking you so long? Kindly introduce yourself when you take the plunge into virtual worlds. I'm here to assist you in any way I can.

Earlier this week, thomtrance O'toole , NPIRL's OpenSim champion, slipped me the link to Jared Tarbell's Complexification Flash art site.

Object cell by Jared Tarbell

The Sand dollar images are the artist's personal favorites.

Substrate by Jared Tarbell

Dear Jared Tarbell: The 3D Internet will soon be the standard for communications and creativity. Why wait? We are here to welcome you in your next life.

My friends know that je suis tellement fatigué of 2D images, and that I would be among the first to hop up the tower to ring the death knoll for flat, but there are exceptions to the rule and Josh Sommers' photography falls under that category.

Purple flower Droste by Josh Sommers

Spare parts by Josh Sommers

Desperation by Josh Sommers

Dear Josh Sommers: Allow me to repeat what I have already said to you... With your talent, you would simply rock and rule in a world where there are literally hundreds of thousands of content creators.

...and this is just the beginning.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Forget Snow White's apple. For righteously grim fruit, turn to Nomasha Syaka

In addition to making highly detailed guitars that would have made Stevie Ray Vaughan or Hendrix proud, Nomasha Syaka famously creates things of classic or natural beauty. There's his first-rate take on Michelangelo's David, and the sculpted prim horses we now all have in our inventories by default, and of course, his life-like animated tigers.

But it turns out that his endlessly inventive mind can take some interesting detours... To begin this five minute stop-over, teleport directly from here, and follow the trail of apples.

Select "eat me" on the last apple and enjoy the ride.

I won't show you what happens next 'cause it would spoil your fun. Suffice it to say that Nomasha's morbidly playful creation forces you to become both the observer and the victim as you watch yourself being blended and broken up into bloody bits, all the while blithely scoring the cinematic experience with the cheerful tune, "I'm sitting on top of the world..."

Here, White Lebed is in for a surprise.

Nomasha thoughtfully provides a hospital bed for you to rest and recuperate after the joy ride.

Thanks to my sis, Tayzia Abattoir, for sharing this delightful horror with me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Madcow Cosmos gets orbital

My appreciation of Madcow Cosmos' retrotech and always whimsical creations keeps growing and growing, but took a leap forward when I laid eyes on his newest: a baroque planetary - and orbiting - Lovecraft-ish system he's called Worlds of Industry.

Incidentally, Madcow whips out wildly imaginative avatars, creatures, and steampunk things at a blistering speed, all the while maintaining lively conversations via IM. His builds are rarely textured, and are hardly ever under 1,000 prims a piece... so I was shocked when I rezzed this baby and discovered it was only 569 prims. A frugal Madcow! I've lived to see the day... heh.

The Far Away

That landscape of a straight line
We return because the emptiness is immense
Words echo against grey skies
Twilight in an afternoon coat

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's bloomin' sculpties at Seifert Surface's "xyz" sim

This is Seifert Surface's new tree. In fact, he exclaimed just one word as I arrived: "tree!" And so it is! All 273 sculpty prims of it (with 4096 ends at the top).

It thrills me to see someone as cerebral as Seifert - a postdoctoral mathematician - take such pleasure in creating new, and often dazzlingly beautiful things. He just took possession of his new sim "xyz," and is still unpacking stuff, but the sculpture garden and the tesseract house are already in place.

He's still waiting on the sculpty implementation to get fixed. "This one with the tree seems stable-ish, but there are other, more complex ones (he has planned) that don't work reliably... the texture doesn't download properly all the time," he added.

He rezzed a poster-type board and asked me to tell him what it said. This item... I mean all of it, is just one prim. The letters are distinctly different from the base board. Etched, raised, finely sculpted, shadowed.

Seifert then asked me to zoom my camera away and tell him what the same poster said. "It tells you what your LOD (level of detail) is. It changes based on your distance from it," he explained. Ha!

Click to see large.

Teleport directly from here.

Light vacation packing: NPIRL "resort wear"

I was invited to a clothing-optional beach party so I thought I'd surprise everyone and actually strip down.

Pick up one of Tooter Claxton's nude Synthia Picassole avatars and join us! Teleport directly from here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A vacation postcard - visiting Spiral Walcher

Dropped in to take a peek at what Spiral Walcher is up to... it's blue!

No landmark yet, but he's got his own, brand new Rezzable sim.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Strawberry Holiday gets Seussian

Strawberry Holiday, who once gave us The Journey Begins upped and made this last night. Teleport directly from here.

Greetings from Planet Mongo! - Sneak peek at Lumiere Noir's new sim

"Howdy, howdy!" That's the signature 'hello' you can expect to hear from Lumiere Noir, creator of the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives (teleport directly from here), and the man most responsible for enabling all of you Second Life peeps to learn how to build. The set of choppers standing on the stairs there is me, and I'm just being a show-off, 'cause not only did he give me this snappy avatar - which he made some time ago and calls a "very old thing" - but last week he also invited NPIRLers to a super special 24-hour preview of his new island... Planet Mongo!

I realize my avatar is out of place on this Flash-Gordon inspired sim, but I somehow doubt Alex Raymond (he created the FG character for the original comic strip) would have minded. Like Lumiere, Mr. Raymond loved fast vehicles and drove around in this little Bandini sports number and like Lumiere, he was also known for pioneering a technique, manifested in his soft feathering pen style to produce one of the campiest, glitziest sci-fi stories ever. There've been about a bazillion versions of Flash Gordon since those depression-era days, and now we have the newest... conceived and hand-built by one of the most venerated creators on the grid.

His strength is a legend, his skill conquers all. On with his power we never will fall. Lothar. Defenders of the Earth!
As some of you know, I don't build - I just look at builds - and one of the first things I do when I rez at a new construction is look up. At the ceilings. A truly great builder generally can't resist making a detailed ceiling - prim count be damned. And nowhere else on the grid have I seen finer ceilings than at Planet Mongo. Just look at this chandelier!

The shimmering layers rotate, producing an elegant, mesmerizing effect. It turns out that Lumiere loves making ceilings, but "a lot of the time people never look, though," he said. Still, it's evident that building is a creative outlet for him, and he does it for himself, as well as taking pleasure in sharing it with others. "Paolo Portoghesi is my biggest hero. He brings the organic into modern architecture, and uses so many beautiful geometrical forms. He really reaches back into antiquity... the Roman and Greek forms, and makes them modern. When I saw this I freaked. This is the kind of building I'm doing now."

Decorative mouldings and architectural ornamentation abound here, as can be seen in yet another ceiling.

Like me, Lumiere is rapt about glow rendering, now possible because it has been added to the Second Life client viewer. He's used it to great effect throughout. "I've been drinking a lot of art deco," he said. The architecture and style of the 30's is a fave period for him... which also happens to be when Alexander Raymond introduced Flash Gordon.

"It's very minimal, but on a big scale," said Lumiere. "I like to keep it simple. Less lag and more unified." He's planning a big ballroom, which he will call UFOria.

Not surprisingly, Lumiere is an avid science fiction reader... "especially what other ages thought the future would be like. I'm a huge fan of kitsch." He reads Stanislaw Lem, who wrote Solaris, and Cordwainer Smith.

Planet Mongo - which will also serve as a retail location - is slated to officially open to the public in approximately two weeks. In the meantime, you can still enjoy the architecture and much more. Teleport directly from here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Content creation in the service of LOVE - Eshi Otawara's Taj Mahal

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I created a new group in Flickr called NPIRL <3 - Content creation in the service of LOVE, and invited Flickrites to share their photographs and stories about their own personal experiences. Here is one of the first entries and I think you'll agree it, it's smashing.

by Eshi Otawara

I was about 4 months old and still seeking self - sort to speak. At that point, most of my 'SLife' was socializing and hopping from place to place trying desperately to distract myself from grieving the passing of my (RL) husband. One day, at a club I used to frequent, there stood a man with long hair and purple sparkling eyes. I thought he had a rather funny mustache which turned out to be an excellent conversation starter.

As if we have known each other for years prior, we stayed there and talked, laughed, cried, and before we knew it some 8 hours have gone by. For the next couple of months we spent many more hours learning from each other about each other in a beautiful platonic relationship. I don't think I ever felt so deeply understood and connected to a human being and even though we were cultures and miles apart (I am Croatian living in USA, he is Hindu living in Australia) and our bond was strong. His wisdom was rare, his kindness to me was disarming and his way of showing me he cared for me was indeed the thing that prompted the first steps out of the most sickening depression I ever experienced.

One day we were both obviously very tired and we got into an argument. I hurt his feeling so deeply that he left saying he'd never speak to me again. I was shattered after I realized what I've done and It haunted me so badly that the only thing I could feel and think of was the desire to make him happy again.

I went to a sandbox to try to distract myself by taking a shot at building a 'house'. I threw out a prim and remembered one of our first conversations when he said only true Love can give life to most beautiful and miraculous things... like the Taj Mahal, the world's most beautiful monument to Love...adding he always wanted to see that building in Second Life.

At that point, I was not a builder - all I have ever built was an over sized ice cream cone and my building skills were truly nowhere near good enough to undertake something like the Taj Mahal, but I wasn't focusing on my insecurity of being judged for a bad build. I focused on his words about Love and great things, and thought about his happiness...

The prims kept flowing for hours... building on as I duplicated, shaped, rotated and textured them in white marble. One minaret was done, then another... and another... The sensation of gratitude for his presence in my life regardless of the outcome, the desire to fulfill his wish which was not his expectation of me by any means, all of that kept me going for 3 days. And after 3 days- there it was. I stared at the Taj not believing how it got built. I have secretly dreamed of being a builder since I got to Second Life, but before this I never had the courage... In all actuality, I am still not comfortable taking the credit for this build. Vajra's Taj was built by pure Love which only used me as a vessel.

I took a snapshot of it and sent it to him without saying anything else but - "Thank You." And I am still thankful, and always will be thankful.

Without this man's love, I would never have gotten the courage to create in Second Life.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Virtual friendships are jewels in the hands of Random Calliope

Ever wonder how your relationships in Second Life stack up against your Real Life ones? How meaningful are they, really? It seems you are in good shape if you are friends with virtual jeweler extraordinaire, Random Calliope.

I attended the gala unveiling of Pretty in Prims - a retrospective of his work - at Tayzia Abattoir's Crescent Moon Museum last Sunday. A master of micro-prim manipulation, Random's jewelry is the most coveted and prized in virtual worlds; his limited edition sets often selling at auction for $50,000L or more. Every piece of jewelry is 100% prim work. No textures, no scripts... just hundreds of beautiful prims placed with precision and an artful eye.

While Random's jewelry is, more often than not, Possible in Real Life (PIRL), it's how he goes about releasing it into the world that makes it Not Possible in Real Life (NPIRL). Consider how his fan-base obsessively attends Random's butterfly hunts, where hundreds of the butterflies - not all! - contain pieces of jewelry from the Ode Collection. And there was his Winter Solstice release of the Amandote! collection, costing exactly one hug, a price everyone can afford.

For the retrospective at the Crescent Moon, and as a memento, Random gave each attendee a set of his newest collection, The Pearl. I eagerly unpacked my set and then stopped in my tracks when I read the accompanying notecard. I invite you to share this with every friend on that list of yours whom you value. It's a gem.

===The Pearl===
by Random Calliope

Sometimes I'm a idiot.

One of my best friends, whose time I can't seem to get enough of, is Italia Villota. Tali is an energetic DJ seeking opportunities to do what she loves. She and I have grown closer as friends over the months, and I thank Jacks, her boyfriend, for being both understanding and trusting about that.

In early December 2007 Tali came to me excited with some news. She said she was SL pregnant! She said it in such a way that I knew she was very excited, but also tentative. Her friends began giving her a hard time about it. Tali has never been a mother in RL, although she has dedicated her profession to children.

Just like everyone else in SL, I have been in groups where SL fetuses announce to the world that they are pressing on their mommy's bladder, or want apple juice, and I found it as annoying as the next guy or gal.

My reaction to Italia's news was exactly what she didn't need. It was not the reaction of a friend who understands her excitement, rather one who prepared to be annoyed by chat messages from her belly.

Tali was understandably upset with me. She had already become very sensitive as one after another she received the same reaction from her "friends". She stopped communicating with me. I mean she stopped really communicating, although she would speak with me she stopped sharing her thoughts like we had come to do.

I knew I had some growing up to do.

Why, I asked myself, would a young lady want to be SL pregnant? What is it about the experience that is so important to them that they'd risk snide comments from friends and strangers? The moment I asked myself the question the answer was obvious.

A woman's entire body is dedicated to the creation and nurturing of children, of course their mind and instincts would be also. SL is a place to try what you haven't ever experienced in RL.

I immediately made my apologies to Tali and let her know that I not only understood, but also deeply respect her decision. Of course she accepted my apology, but it didn't go far in helping me make amends to myself for my immaturity that caused a friend discomfort.

Although I realize that as a man I can never quite fully comprehend the pregnancy experience (nor would I want the reality of it wreaking havoc on my body), I began talking with my friends who have young RL children about what it's like to make a life.

Harper Beresford gave me an outstanding explanation I listened to intently and thought about for hours.

Alanna Vantelli created an experience on the posing stand as we talked about the instincts and feelings she has for her son, and what it was like for her to be pregnant with him. How the work connected to itself took shape.

My main goal was to try to capture the glow that women have when they are building a life. As Alanna stood there she mentioned that her mother knew she was pregnant before she did by the glow in her eyes.

To me, the glow is pearlesque, which shines from within and only appears through the surface. As I built the piece, I tried to describe both men and women, the emergence of matriarchy from novice motherhood as love matures into pride, the constant evolution of generations, the glow of the woman whose entire being is made to create what she is creating.

The necklace was modeled to exactly match the dip of the collar in front of the neck where the heat from the body lights up the face as if it were an uplight. Over the shoulders where in the piece individuals become anticipating couples, I draped the necklace to highlight the shoulders there.

In the back the necklace ends with two more glorious pregnant bodies laying down across the back of the shoulders at such an angle as to bring attention to the curves of the back. In this way hoping to explain that a woman's entire body - front, back, top, bottom, mind and soul, are dedicated to the task of creating life for us all.

And they glow naturally, even when there's a tiny elbow pressing on their bladder. There is no ring or bracelet. She would only have to take them off because of the swelling.

Tali, I understand and not only respect your decision and your new experience, but I also hope your SL pregnancy has given you the experience you are looking for.

Thank you for clearing my mind up on the topic of SL pregnancy. I think now I understand better.

You can see The Pearl, as well as Random Calliope's entire collection - every single prim beautifully displayed - at the Crescent Moon Museum now through Sunday, January 20, by teleporting directly from here.

Random Calliope's Worthwhile Gallery can be visited by teleporting from here.

Synthetic University's cinema gets a face lift

The University of Applied Arts and Science in Zurich (ZHDK) has its own sim in Second Life (Synthetic University), and there's a whole lot of interesting experimentation going on there. In particular, I become transfixed every time I visit by an enormous animated sculptie. This vid gives us a look at their new cinema, reconstructed by Tobias Baumann, a game design student. Teleport directly from here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Visions of the Future by the BBC - More reasons to take your vitamins and live longer

If you read this blog, then it is a given that you embrace technology and are more than likely both a futurist and a lover of art. That said, I think you are going to like this. I discovered it on Dusan Writer's great read of a blog. Go fix yourself a meal or a drink, sit down and get comfy. Here's some television you are going to enjoy watching. The good news is, it is just the first in a three part documentary by the BBC guided by theoretical physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku. Some Second Life sequences, too...

Lainy Voom - A consummate storyteller

This superb piece of Machinima by Lainy Voom is based on the The Dumb Man by Sherwood Anderson.

Anderson wrote, "There is a story.--I cannot tell it.--I have no words. The story is almost forgotten but sometimes I remember." Well, Lainy Voom has told the story in ways that are only possible in the metaverse. In my opinion, this is the zenith of NPIRLism.

The Dumb Man from Lainy Voom on Vimeo.

January 16 update: Lainy took an interview from Hamlet Au of New World Notes that you'll be wanting to read after you watch this. In fact, it was Hamlet who introduced me to Lainy... just one more reason to appreciate that man. Thanks, Hamlet!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Aley's Privateer Island - Part II

I welcome this two part story by guest author Lauren Weyland because it sheds new light on both the work and its creator, Aley Arai. In Part I, (see the previous blogpost) Lauren has not yet met Aley, and provides an interesting rationale for all that she sees and learns... Now, in Part II, Lauren has spoken extensively with Aley, which both confirms and dramatically alters her initial speculations. Since this was an entirely different take on Privateer, I thought the photography should be, too, so I appealed to Flickr-fave Stephen Venkman who produced these exceptional captures of the sim. Altogether, I think we have one helluva story. - Bettina

By Lauren Weyland
all photography by Stephen Venkman

"i developed this sim like a sci-fi disneyland. Everything must serve a usable purpose to visitors. Every prim has to earn the right to be here.”

Soon after drafting Aley's Privateer Island - Part I, I spent nearly three and a half hours talking with Aley Arai. The first of the two conversations started out of the blue with Aley stating, “Planet Bob is developing nicely.”

Although she had accomplished so much with the build - a work of art in progress - she was still dreaming of the challenges that lay ahead with completing this sim. She had determined that Privateer would be leveled “if i discover a new way to create a deep vast space; the whole sim will be ripped out and redeveloped from scratch.” (sic) Aley used the term ‘procrastinate’ in regards to her building out some of the unfinished parts of the sim, as well as her lack of knowledge in how to make a future industrialized city based on New Detroit.

“I live for sillies,” said Aley, referring to her idea of making the truck stop floor phantom (at 600m altitude)

I showed her my draft for the first blogpost and she laughed saying she has dozens of close friends at NCI. She felt that her leaving the sim open to the public during all stages of development indicated that she was hardly reclusive. However, “I'm old, slow and cautious with people… with building I'm faster than a whole army.” “Should I change the blogpiece?” I asked. She replied in the negative, because, “stories must evolve!’

“So what is Privateer about?” I asked. The sim gets its name from “Wing Commander: Privateer.” She enlightened me on some old game genre called, ‘Space Traders,’ which apparently started with Elite and moved on to BBS’s, Tradewars 2000, and finally became Privateer. Privateer got a big boost with freelancers leading to the “behemoth of Eve Online.”

“The sim exists as a kind of a honorarium to the old space trader games,” which she plans to fully script in time. “This sim is to *moon* other SL developers who just make crap to get payed and don’t care about the art” (sic), something she compared to static content on the Internet being death.

I think many of us in Second Life realize that SL is probably the browser of the future, which will both do away with static content and also produce some of the horrid builds. We talked about the corporate sims which Aley finds have done something right in hiring experienced in-world developers. But, “unfortunately those developers got greedy and gave them mostly crap product knowing they wouldn't know crap from good.”

Many times during our conversations I found myself laughing at her Aley-isms, such as ‘bling=stupid,” and, “i have a psychiatrist, but really go to my house-cat for meaningful life advice.” She dislikes the default plywood even more the bling.

I wish I could paraphrase what comes next so I will just recant what Aley said:

"What happens when you set the material definitions is the prim, or root prim in a connected object, takes on some properties of it, like sound on collision, and minor ways it behaves in physics. If you bump into any object and it's textured to NOT be wood, if it sounds like wood it means the builder is a lazy poohead :).

Yes I'm mean, but only about professional builders. When you create in a virtual world you control every aspect, every last atom, to a degree that will show you why God is now on a long vacation. You control the sounds and physics of all objects, you control the ambiance and energies that fill the virtual air. Lights and shadows, colors and motion, if you ignore any one of the details you have a kind of half finished feel. When you find a sim where all the details have carefully been catered too, you will have a strange instinctual reaction. The *something is missing* feeling will vanish."
She is also dismayed with the Lindens, saying they have now gone against all they once stood for. She said, “I openly challenged them several times over the fact that the whole entire reason for creating mainland sims was public access and transport, yet they don’t even make the gesture now of setting aside areas for roadways when earlier they actually did public works.” (sic)

According to Aley, a town is ‘official’ with a population of about 10,000 people (see my blog on civilization and society), and you need one civil employee for every 50 people, but SL has only 9 Lindens for 50,000 people on line. She feels the system itself can only really handle 30,000 regular users and that all the original developers of SL are now gone.

Aley further believes that “evolution only works when the animal needs to fit its environment. Mankind changes its environment to fit its need. This is a big reason why animals are inherently saner then any human.” It seems her cat is always happy, always cheerful and that anyone seeking true happiness must learn from her cat. I concur. In my opinion, humanity could gain a lot from napping-a-lot therapy, and chasing plastic bags around really can give you an adrenaline high.

Getting back to Privateer, I mentioned that the cave tunnels remind me of Myst and Star Wars and Doom... all games Aley has played. She cited Pot Healers Adventures as another source of inspiration. Mars on Privateer is Aley’s rendition of Robinson Crusoe, and she challenged me to look around and explain to her where the food, water, oxygen came from on such a planet as Mars.

Although I didn’t get the soap - Borax can be found on Mars - she did posit for me my idea that the earth had been destroyed and the spaceship was first marooned in space and then had crashed below. The oxygen came from the rusted iron ore… Mars being red because of the vast amounts of iron ore, and looking pink from earth because of the CO2 in the upper atmosphere which reflects back the ground colors. So, to get oxygen you select the most rust and heat it in the electric oven (see windmill generating electricity). This releases 02 and you bottle it. There’s plenty of wind on Mars to turn the windmill, and the water is in the air but you need to condense it out. “Mars is about survival and what happens if a civilization can’t make it,” said Aley.

Apparently Aley watched a half season of ‘Survivors’ and threw her TV out saying, “those guys are total morons.” We talked about global warming and the environment and she echoed the same beliefs I have on the subject saying, “global warming is big time scape goat. And forest fires and/or a single active volcano puts out many many many more times the Co2 then human industry does. It’s just more of the human need to sound like there bigger then the earth,” Aley quipped. Aley also stated that she has given up on the real world and makes her world in Second Life. Speaking for myself, I’ve often said that if Descartes were alive today, he would say, “I think, therefore I digitize.”

You may have noticed the green outlined box in several locations. One of these is in the racetrack area. This box is three dimensional showing where each person in the sim is. Aley watches the movement of the visitors and notes that so many never descend but instead congregate on about 10% of the overall sim, high up at the truck stop. Many leave never knowing, “there is a whole universe here.”

Another Aley-ism: “If you live and breathe only for the art, you’re happy and nothing else matters.”

If you have visited Privateer, in-depth, you know the upper part (the landing zone) is a “Truck Stop.” Below is the ‘Hotel California’ playing the Eagles song. There are Spaceships. There are the planets (Planet Bob, New Detroit, DaMoooon). The Borg station. An empty city, a satire on SL. Mars, the tunnels, the command center where the Jellyfish lives and so much more.

Aley reduces lag in the sim by using ‘distance and occlusion.’ Auto return has been set to 256 seconds since she ‘likes binary numbers.’ I mention this because in my prior piece I said I believed Aley doesn’t do or build without a purpose. This one act I can hang my hat on.

Some may have discovered another feature of Privateer, the SL Kessel Run. (See Millennium Falcon and Hans Solo). Aley has made the SL Kessel about 50 times in a ship she has built. Her fastest time was nineteen minutes. It’s the longest straight away (before the two new mainlands were connected) that you can possibly fly in a physics vehicle.

Per Aley, “It's fraught with terrible dangers and if your a stubborn pilot it's the biggest challenge you can get in SL. This sort of challenge is like walking along a fence post over a sewer, you will fall in and have to restart dozens of times. It's boring and frustrating. The challenge is in your self belief and self reliance that it has been done before and you can do now. People complain that there are no challenges in SL to make it give the fun interests of a game. But thats because they’re to lazy to try and make the games themselves in SL. And SL is what the users make of it. Sadly that means miles and miles of garbage and mediocrity.” (sic)

Aley's Privateer Island - Part I

There are umpteen posts already on the blogosphere about one of Second Life’s hottest builds, Privateer Island; no less than three, that I am aware of, that have been authored by NPIRLers. There's Hamlet Au of New World Notes' round-up, Hotspur O'Toole's thoughtful adventure and Lem Skall's appreciative and illustrated review. Why on earth - or Mars, in this case - would we add ourselves to the mix? I welcome this two part story by guest author Lauren Weyland because it sheds light on both the work and its creator, one of the newest builders on the grid. In Part I, Lauren has not yet met Aley, and provides an interesting rationale for all that she sees and learns... Later, in Part II (coming right up), Lauren has spoken extensively with Aley, which both confirms and dramatically alters her initial speculations.

By Lauren Weyland

Aley Arai is a reclusive woman who created a sim that narrates a story. Neither of these things are immediately apparent to the casual visitor. Like Emily Dickinson – one of the greatest American poets - Aley lives an “unusual life of self imposed social seclusion." And, like Dickinson, Aley's work "has an undeniable capacity to move and provoke."

Privateer Island – Aley’s place – seems to represent how she feels isolated and alone in her skin. Aptly named Privateer, the build is set in the future. The earth has been almost completely destroyed and there is just an outpost in the desert where one survivor lives with a twisting tornado swirling dust in the distance. Aley’s puzzle is here.

At the very highest point, we find ourselves in a space station. The detail throughout the sim and her extraordinary textures combine to form digital art and fundamental communication.

Fly off the upper deck into the galaxies and then down to the Hotel California. Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place…

Listen to the Eagle's entire song and what they are saying, "…and I was thinking to myself, this could be heaven or this could be hell." Aley's Hotel California sits empty waiting for guests (don't forget to ring the bell at the front desk).

Plenty of room at the Hotel California. Any time of year, you can find it here…

Down below the earth are portals which are not yet working but apparently will require an understanding of Aley's mind to navigate. And even though she is reclusive, she invites us to discover her world… even enticing us with a space suit which has a smiley face on it. "Aley doesn't do anything without a reason," my friend Sloan exclaimed as we explored.

There's a racetrack with a portal which leads to tunnels which lead to even more portals. Above the racetrack is an empty city with only a large work station… apparently both a satirical comment on Second Life and another life form. Walk into the miniature Second Life (Aley invites us without actually telling us) and see our metaverse with a macabre view.

Aley is brilliant. I'd be a fool not to wonder about her mind. As Sloan said, “to spend a day with her should be mandatory for sentient beings,” and I replied, “We are here spending time with her. So many clues she has left.”

And like Dickinson, although a recluse, she invites us into her mind. Emily Dickinson did it with words in the form of poetry. Aley does it with the poetry of the day, virtual reality telling.

Teleport directly from here.