Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Daddy Is An 8-Bit Whore

What do you buy the man who has everything?
I am talking about my Dad.
“Nothing” would be my preferred reply. Unfortunately that isn’t a permissible answer in the rules of engagement that is Christmas.
So I have to buy him *something* irrespective whether he wants it or not and irrespective I can afford it or not.
Such is the Joy of Christmas.
Last year my brother & I chipped in together to buy him an Atari Flashback 3.
When I say “chipped in together” I of course mean my brother paid for it, and I wrapped it.
The Atari Flashback 3 is a dedicated video games console which you plug into your TV set. It has sixty games built-in including classics like Asteroids, Centipede, Human Cannonball, Chess and Pinball.
And two joysticks.
Which is proving quite a problem because, frankly, no one other than my dad wants to play the damned thing!
“Who wants to play the Atari with me!” he shouts up the stairs, enthusiastically.
A stunning silence follows.
“I’ll pay!” he adds optimistically. What a whore!
Ruffling of covers and sheets. Minute tension releases on bed springs.
“How much?” Could be me. Could be my brother. But the question *has* to be asked. Terms and conditions, contractual clauses, small print all need to be negotiated and agreed in advance.
Hourly rates work best.
Paid in advance. Of course.
Eventually one or the other of us will agree to play. If only to keep Dad happy and feign we actually care about his interests.
“Sure,” he’ll say, “the graphics are not as good as Gears of War 3, but…the *game play*, Pixie! It’s the *game play* that counts!” as I beat him for fifth time in a row at Pong.
After twenty minutes of Centipede I am crawling up the walls!
Another ten minutes of Combat 2 and I am ready to punch someone’s lights out!
Fortunately though, I think there is solution! A sim called “Electrobit City” – an 8-Bit and Retro-Pixel utopia.
Jei SCR-16, Kris Spade, Mikati Slade (whom we recently blogged here) and their colleagues have created a wonderful replica of ‘80’s console gaming for the Kids of the Nintendo generation.
The lovingly crafted textures, shapes and colours are such to fun look at. Although I personally do not recognise all of the original inspirations for many of the objects, I do recognise the authenticity of the designs and object placement.
Even more - the sounds! You really must have your stream and sounds on to get the full effect of this sim!
As 8-Bit Nintendo Chiptune streams its way through your speakers, your movements and interactions with the various objects cause other recognisable blip and blop sounds. It is a delight.
But as good as the sounds and the textures are, it is the *game play* that makes this creation special! Because this is a full region-sized playable game, totally built around 8-bit culture!
Whereas the newly opened Linden Realms might be getting all the recent publicity, it is important we do not neglect the hard work and charming equivalent creations of the residents. I hope that this blog-post will start to redress the balance, if only in some small part.
Soon after arrival at Electrobit City, you are invited to take a tutorial to learn how best to manoeuvre around the various levels. It is advisable to do so. Although the game play itself is intuitive enough, the SL viewer equivalents of the Nintendo joystick are not and need to be learnt.
The tutorial is straightforward enough; a Pacman-like buddy appears and you follow his simple directions and instructions.
Soon enough you have learnt the basics and are on your way!
Not all the levels and zones are totally built yet but those that are provide, well, exactly what you expect for a 1980’s Nintendo console game - platforms and coin-collection and jumping, sliding, blips and blops and all the rest!
I have been back a dozen times, each time trying to get just a little further than before. The game play is not without its frustrations and idiosyncrasies – just as the original Atari and Nintendo games were. But that doesn’t stop it from being fun. Again, just like the 1980’s console games.
In 2012 it will be interesting to see how Electrobit City evolves, especially after Rodvik Linden’s recent ‘State of the Nation’ address which announced new pathfinding abilities, artificial life and people functionality and other advanced content creation tools.
My gut-feeling is Kris, Jei, Mikati and all are ambitious enough, talented enough and - dare I say it - obsessed enough to want the very highest level of authenticity for their labour of love. If that means incorporating the new 2012 tools, I have no doubt that they will.
I would like to suggest some form of HUD which records the number of artefacts collected (score), a high score board and a mechanism to re-start at previously completed levels.
Would my Dad like Electrobit City? Sure, I think he would. He would definitely appreciate the hard work and talent that these aficionado creators have quite obviously put into this project.
Not so sure he could cope with the Second Life viewer through! But that is a different subject entirely!

Pixie xx

Monday, 26 December 2011

"Xmas" Is A Four-Letter Word

[01:54] Pixie Rain: What would you like for Christmas, Orwell?
[01:54] Orwell Rain: /me smiles
[01:54] Orwell Rain: Good question, Little One.
[01:54] Orwell Rain: I want to sit on the pile of asphalt in front of The Creature
[01:54] Orwell Rain: And tease and torment him all day
[01:54] Orwell Rain: /me grins
[01:55] Pixie Rain: That is just so nasty!
[01:55] Pixie Rain: In Heaven’s name, Orwell, where on Earth do you get these awful ideas
[01:55] Pixie Rain: on Christmas Day too?
[01:55] Orwell Rain: /me grins
[01:55] Orwell Rain: Jerusalem
[01:56] Pixie Rain: ffs, Orwell
[01:56] Pixie Rain: Simon and Vellhi were happy with a chocolate-carrot cake
[01:56] Pixie Rain: Why can’t you be more like them?
[01:56] Orwell Rain: /me smiles down at His Baby Girl
[01:56] Orwell Rain: There is no other like Me
[01:56] Orwell Rain: All those others are fakes, pretenders and wannabes
[01:57] Orwell Rain: Y/you will find comfort if Y/you submit to My Collar
[01:59] Orwell Rain: /me smiles
[02:04] Orwell Rain: ?????
[02:07] Pixie Rain: Why the hell are you talking like an SL BDSM Master?
[02:07] Pixie Rain: You sound like a fucking retard
[02:07] Pixie Rain: Stop it
[02:07] Orwell Rain: /me frowns
[02:07] Pixie Rain: Right now!
[02:18] Orwell Rain: Is there any chocolate-carrot cake left, please?
[02:18] Pixie Rain: Yeah, over next to the bin bags
[02:18] Pixie Rain: Help yourself
[02:20] Orwell Rain: I love you, Pixie Rain
[02:20] Pixie Rain: I know you do, Orwell
[02:20] Pixie Rain: I love you too

Sunday, 25 December 2011

'Tis Sometimes Better to Receive Than Give

Dream Worm Shoulder Pet by Madcow Cosmos

I was brought up in a secular family.
Hitchens and Dawkins were, and still are, discussed far more than, for example, Mohammed and Christ. It is not that anyone in the family is particularly disrespectful of religious figures, not at all – it’s simply that they are not considered important enough to warrant any serious discussion outside of mythological or other academic studies. In our house, Mohammed and Christ are considered in similar vain as, say, Osiris or Mithras. 
As such, I am rarely motivated by religious festivals.
Dali clock & baked beans by Dave Vellhi
Hand drawn sketch  & Xmas tree by Tutsy Navaratha
Yesterday and today I watched a 20min film shot by a close personal friend of his meeting with the Dalai Lama, (or to use the official title ‘His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet’).
I found the film to be deeply moving in a strange and quite unexpected way.
'The Creature' by Markus Inkpen
Asphalt & Shovel by Dave Vellhi
'The Watcher' from Tutsy Navarathna
It seemed to me that the Dalai Lama radiated humanity and warmth, a natural love and empathy for his fellow man which is often spoken about in religious circles, but sadly rarely ever seen in my, admittedly limited, experience.
Today, for possibly the first time, I seriously wondered if there may actually be “Holy Men” on this crazy planet that orbits a rather ordinary and nondescript G-type star.
Stilts by Heb Dexler
My only other exposure to such ideas as “Holy Men” was an in-depth documentary about the Hindu Kumbh Mela pilgrimage held every 12 years on the banks of the Ganges. Although fascinating for many reasons, proof of the authenticity of “Holy Men” was certainly not one of them.
Ground mist/fog from Bazz Soulstar
So did my friend’s film of his meeting with the Dalia Lama cause me a personal epiphany of sorts? No, I don’t think so. But it was nevertheless emotionally beautiful - causing bodily streamings from the crown of my head to the base of my spine, as mentioned in traditional yogic texts describing the ‘Chakras’.
Violin from Lar Jun
I am at home from University for Christmas, staying with my parents. The best thing about being home for Christmas? Central heating. Oh, and on-demand hot water. Seriously.
We have a Xmas Tree in the corner of the living room. It is really pretty with delicate blue lights playing against the silver tinsel. But there is neither star nor an angel or any other symbolism remotely religious on it.
Latrine by Dave Vellhi
Shopping Trolley by Bryn Oh
I am sitting here wondering if that is a deliberate policy of my parents. If so, how much influence has it had on my professed atheism, if any?
On Christmas Day, while my mum and I cook dinner, dad and my brother will go to the local pub for a few pints.
Ciggy by Squonk Levenque
We exchange gifts on Christmas morning and that is the subject of this blog-post. Or rather, *receiving* gifts is the subject matter.
This last year I have been blessed to have been given some extraordinary special gifts in Second Life from some extraordinarily talented people.
Comic book speech bubbles by BobE Schism
Some of these gifts, like Madcow Cosmo’s ‘Dream Worm’ shoulder pet or Lucia Genesis’s beautiful outfits are free to anyone who visits their sims.
Others, like Byrn Oh’s shopping trolley or BobE Schism’s comic-book speech bubbles are props they have used their in installations or films and have generously given me a copy of.
TV slideshow by Lollie Razor
Portrait by Jinx Jiersen
Other gifts have been made especially for me - like the pile of asphalt, baked bin tin, latrine, Dali clock and lots of other things by Dave Vellhi. Or the hand drawn RL sketch from Tutsy Navarathna.
Shopping trolley by Bryn Oh
Squonk Levenque and Miuccia Klarr of Kamikaze generously gifted me items from their store; Lisa, owner of Warm Animations, overwhelmed me by giving me a copy of her whole store’s stock after noticing one of her animations being used in ‘Rapture’.
Cello from Lar Jun
'The Watcher' from Tutsy Navarathna
Ciggy by Squonk Levenque
Other gifts have been purchased for me – Lar Jun brought me my violin and cello, for example; Tutsy ‘The Watcher’.
I have been extraordinarily lucky.
Not only to have received the gifts themselves, although that as well of course, but to have found myself in the right place at the right time.
2012 Machinima calendar by Glasz Decuir
In almost all cases, I could not make these gifts as well as the Creators have. And, even if I could, they would not have the same meaning to me or be as special as they are.
These gifts make my Second Life special and meaningful to me.
I am incredibly grateful.
Rocking chair by Dave Vellhi
The biggest single gift is that Debbie Trilling and Adec Alexandra so generously let me live on and share their beautiful island. It is such a privilege that I hardly know where to start. As I student, I could never afford to live on a sim like this with no prim policing forced upon me.

Debbie & Adec
I love my corner of the Metaverse; I love my existence in the Metaverse.
I am so, so thankful to all the people who have helped me. I wish I could return more than just my thanks and my love. But I, being poor, have only my dreams…and you are helping me realise them.
The gifts that people have given me are special. They help me feel good about myself, my work and my life.
And, because of that, ‘tis sometimes better to receive than give.
Happy Christmas to you all, regardless of your beliefs, religion, timezone, skin colour, mental health records or any of the rest!
Pixie xx

Saturday, 24 December 2011

There's Not Enough Boobs in the World for Peris Ashton!

DJ Peris Ashton - "I'm a Boob Man, myself"

Yesterday, ever-popular rock and blues DJ Peris Ashton decided to throw a spontaneous “Best Boobs” contest at Old Lar’s House.
Much to Solok’s Puddlegum's disgust - but everybody else's relief - Peris made it a “Ladies Only” competition.
The Gentleman of Old Lar’s (and I use the word “gentleman” both loosely and under advisement of a lawyer) chipped together to form a linden prize pool of 2000 Space Bux!
(click to images to enlarge)
It was seriously good fun with lots of jolly laughter, light-hearted banter and bouncing boobies!
Sadly however, in a competition of this sort there can only be two winners....and those winners belonged to the lovely Xio Nyoki!
Enjoy these pictures of Xio and her prize winning assets - Peris did!

DJ Peris entertains Old Lar's patrons weekdays and Saturday at 5am SLT onwards. Come see & listen!
Pixie xx

Thursday, 22 December 2011

THE SEXIEST® - The Judging Panel & Process

I have been asked to organise the judging of this year’s THE SEXIEST® adult machinima competition and am very happy to do so.
Needless to say, none of my own films will be entered into the competition.
This blog-post describes the judging process itself and gives a little information about the Judging Panel.
The Judging Panel
The judging panel comprises thirteen experienced SL residents – myself and twelve others.
There are five females and eight males on the panel. Invites were sent to four other females - two who politely declined and two who did not respond.
The Panel is made up of an array of digital artists, web designers, film makers, content creators, club owners, photographers and fans/users of adult content.
Each judge is experienced within their own field as well as being experienced and knowledgeable about Second Life in general.
I have personally picked and invited each of the other twelve judges. At no time has anyone “suggested” the names of potential judges to me, nor would I have taken any notice if anyone had. The choice of judges has been mine and mine alone.
As Chair of the Judging Panel, under the normal course of events I do not vote.
Having formed the judging panel, my role now is simply to correlate the other judges’ votes and determine the eventual winners. The only circumstances where I might be required to cast a vote are described below.
Furthermore, only I know who is on the Judging Panel – no one else. Even the judges themselves do not know who else is on the Panel!
The judges’ names will be publically announced the day before the Award Ceremony.
The judges & I are committed to providing a fair contest where each film has an equal hearing and chance of winning.
The Judging Process
The judging process is divided into two rounds.
·                    In Round 1, we determine the five “nominees” from all entrants in each film category. These nominees go forward to Round 2.
·                    In Round 2, we determine which of the five nominated films wins the category.
-         Round 1
THE SEXIEST® contest is divided into twelve categories: “Best Film”, “Best Director”, “Best Oral” and so on.
In Round 1, each of the judges assesses the “Best Film” plus four other categories.
Each category has *at least* four (but usually more) judges assigned to it and “Best Film” obviously has twelve.
Each judge watches all the films that have been entered into the categories they have been assigned and reports the five that they wish to go through to Round 2, in order #1 to #5.
I will then determine the five nominees per category as follows:
A 1st placed film is awarded 6 points, a 2nd placed 4 points, a 3rd 3 points, 4th 2 and 5th placed 1 point.
All the marks from all the judges assessing that particular category are added up and the highest scoring five films go through to Round 2. These five films become the categories’  “nominees”.
If there is a tie for the 5th placed film in any given category then I have a casting vote to decide which of the drawn films goes through to Round 2.
-         Round 2
In Round 2, we introduce a marking/scorecard system.
Each judge is assigned the “Best Film” category plus four other. The four categories they are given will be different to the four they were assigned in Round 1.
Again, each category has *at least* four (but usually more) judges assigned to it. “Best Film” has all twelve judges scoring it.
The judges watch the five nominated films in the categories they have been assigned and score each film in the following areas:
·                    Technique – scores the films on factors which include camera control, lag control, pose ball editing, hair and clothes clipping etc.
·                    Composition – scores the films on factors which include how the film looks overall, how the shot is framed, colour management, Windlight, set and scenery design etc.
·                    Post-Production – scores the films on factors which include editing, transitions, titles and introductions, sound management and synchronisation etc.
·                    Category – scores the film based on the appropriateness of the category under which it is entered. For example, “My Lesbian Gangbang” is unlikely to score well here if you entered it into the “Best Male” category!
·                    THE SEXIEST® - simply scores the film on its overall sexiness.
The judges report back the order in which they rank each film #1 to #5 in these areas for each category.
I will then calculate the results as follows:
6 points will be awarded to a judges’ top ranked film in a specific area, 4 points for the 2nd ranked, 3 for the 3rd ranked and 1 point for the 4th ranked. No consideration is given for their last placed film in a given area.
As such, each judge awards a total of 14 points per area (6 + 4 + 3 + 1), a total of 70 points per category (14 x 5). A judge can award a maximum of 30 points to a single film per category (Five 1st place rankings, 6 x 5).
The total number of points each of the nominated films has been awarded by all the judges assigned to that category is converted into a percentage score.
The film with the highest percentage is pronounced the winner of the category.In the unlikely event that there is a tie for 1st place, I will cast a deciding vote.
In actuality, the process is not as complex as it sounds when put into written words. A handy spreadsheet does all the hard work!
This is a “winner takes all” contest. There is no runner up places, nor will the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th placed nominees be announced or made public.
The judges are putting a lot of their own time in to this without any personal reward. Their integrity is unquestioned. I wish to thank them all sincerely.
It remains only to say, good luck to all and may the Best Pornstar win!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Being Bobo Puddlegum

"The reason I will not exhibit this picture is

that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul."

Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
(click to enlarge images)

For at least a year Bobo Puddlegum and I have been kicking around ideas for a machinima loosely based on the 1999 black comedy-fantasy ‘Being John Malkovich’ – a film which, seriously, if you haven’t already seen you really should make the effort to track down and watch.
It is brilliantly original, funny and, in parts, really quite bizarre.
Just like Bobo himself in fact!
However due to schedule conflicts, other project commitments and RL generally, none of these ideas have managed to come to fruition.
Three nights ago though, I had a dream!

Usually my dreams involve giving finite but infinitely-expanding blowjobs to respected UK physicist Brian Cox – a name which has more Freudian connotations and psychoanalytic comedy-value than anyone truly deserves, no matter how bad their karma. Whenever I dream of Cox, I always wake suddenly when, just as I approach the event horizon, Brian prematurely ejaculates down my throat at the speed of light.

I dream some weird shit sometimes.

But this particular dream, which dear reader I assure you I have no intention of boring you with, managed to combine elements from Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’* with ‘Being John Malkovich’, Bobo Puddlegum and, significantly, the forthcoming 2012 MachinimaUWA V machinima contest.
Like I said, I dream weird shit sometimes.
Because of encouragement from Iono Allen, Glasz Decuir and Tutsy Navarathna, last month I finally committed to entering a machinima into the UWA 5 contest.
The dream of three nights ago provided the broad conceptual subject matter for my MachinimaUWA V entry. No! It doesn’t star Brian Cox (although I am sure I could find an opening or two for him!) but rather a film which is to be entitled “Being Bobo Puddlegum”.
Bobo & I will need to work out the details and finalise a script. We’ll also need to know what the MachinimaUWA V theme will be. However, there are some things which are already clear:
1)    It will not be disrespectful to other peoples’ art work. Although, most likely it *will* be irreverent this will be done in a respectful and humorous way.
One day I intend writing about the work of SaveMe Oh who frequently walks the precarious tightrope between irreverence and disrespect. The debate rages which side of this equation she most often falls!
2)    It will not be a porn movie. I cannot rule out nakedness – Bobo’s natural state – but it most certainly will not be pornographic and very unlikely to have any sex scenes.
I understand and accept the fact that this almost certainly means that this particular film will be of no interest in certain circles. This is fine.
3)    It will essentially be a comedy. We hope. Or light-hearted, at least.

With all that settled, Bobo & I thought it only right to give Jayjay Zifanwe fair notice to organise a Plague Doctor,  because that pandemic pestilence that is the Puddlegum’s are about to befall the previous piety and purity that is MachinimaUWA.


Bobo & Pixie Puddlegum xx

* 'The Importance of Being Earnest' is subtitled 'A Trivial Comedy for Serious People'
The 'Being Bobo Puddlegum' poster created by Bobo Puddlegum.
All other images by Pixie Puddlegum.
The 'Plague Doctor' performed by Tutsy Navarathna at Innsmouth region

Monday, 19 December 2011

Comedy and Machinima

It’s not true unless it makes you laugh,
but you don’t understand it until it makes you weep.

Comedy is difficult to do.
More precisely, *good* comedy is difficult to do. Shit comedy is perfectly easy to do!
Leaving aside the fact that most comedic events seem to centre around clown-like slapstick laughter at other peoples’ expense, creating good quality (and by that I mean *real* “laughing out loud” belly laughter) is actually very hard to do.
How much more so then in Second Life where avatar facial expressions are, at very best, basic and unconvincing, and most of the resident population do not use voice chat.
In a single stroke, two of the primarily mainstays of comedy – face making and voice intonation (which includes imitationary and onomatopoeic sounds) – are severely hampered when using SL.
Now, that’s not to say that there is not humour and laughter in SL – far, far from it.
I spend a goodly chunk of my time in SL sharing laughter with others. I know numerous people who are adept at using Second Life for “comedy” – a skilful combination of role playing, method acting, quick wit and fast typing; the Puddlegum Family being exemplary examples.
There are also Second Life “comedy clubs” which are almost always conducted in voice and try, as much as possible, to emulate the RL versions of such venues. They are popular and manage to create a fun atmosphere. The comedian could be a professional, semi-pro and there are even amateur “pass the mic” nights. It’s all good.  
But these are not quite what I want to address in this blog-post.
Today I am considering Second Life being used as a platform for the production of a comedy machinima, or perhaps even a sit-com.
And here it gets sticky. If comedy is difficult to do even under the best of conditions then how much more so in…well, let’s just say, “in Second Life”.
It ain’t gonna be easy!
But it can be done! And it *has* been done.
Although I have seen quite a few SL machinima which have made me smile or amused me, a number that have made me giggle or chuckle, I can only think of four off the top of my head which have given me a hearty-healthy belly laugh (happy to be advised of others!):
·        Man Vs Second Life’ by Sean Krueger
·        Man Vs Second Life Part 2’ by Sean Krueger
·        My Online Girlfriend’ by Scooby Mode
The fourth film 2nd Place Winner of MachinimUWA IV - is the subject of the remainder of this blog-post.
‘Artwashers’ (embedded blow) by Friday Siamendes is a very funny feel-good film. I am sure you’ll enjoy it.
But, I would be dishonest if I neglected to point out certain things about these four films.
The fact is none of them are particularly special or impressive cinemagraphically. There. I said it.
But the fact is most RL comedy films are not especially impressive cinemagraphically either – and they don’t need to be! What they need, above all else, is a bloody funny script! And these four films provide that aplenty.
I am trying to think of a film specifically billed as a “comedy” that *is* cinemagraphically impressive...’Time Bandits’ maybe? The Bill and Ted franchise perhaps? Woody Allen films are always funny and impressive but not quite what we are talking about here.
I am sure that there must be cinemagraphically impressive comedies. Tutsy is almost certainly going to supply me with a long list of impressive French-speaking comedies to watch to prove the point (but I haven’t even finished watching ‘Blue Angel’ with Marlene Dietrich yet!)
But what I am trying to say is that a good comedy script can easily make up for any perceived weakness in the technical quality of the filmmaking – in bucket loads, in fact!
‘Artwashers’ was awarded 2nd Place at MachinimUWA IV and I think this surprised quite a number of people, including me. In my MachinimUWA IV Top 10, I had it ranked at #7 (which is still bloody high, in a field of 80 entries!).
But it is a good film. A fun film. With a great script.
And these elements were strong enough to carry it to such a high ranking at a prestigious machinima award ceremony.
I hope to see more SL machinima comedies being created in the future – there is clearly a desire and a market for them – just look at the impressive view figures for the four films I have listed.
Please now enjoy Friday Siamendes’ ‘Artwashers’: