Saturday, 29 October 2011

Guy Fawkes Is Dead, My Dear

Remember, remember
The Fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason and plot
Should ever be forgot...
Anon, approx 17th Century 
(click to enlarge images)
Halloween is a relatively new festival in England. By that I mean that, although it has been around for yonks, it has only recently been promoted heavily as an "event", as something to be celebrated.

Trick and Treat is commonplace now but even only 10 or 15 years ago I don't think that was the case. It was definitely frowned upon as an activity when I was young and shops certainly did not sell "Trick and Treat Fun Packs"! 
Instead of Halloween, the equivalent festival I was brought up with was "Guy Fawkes Night".

Nowadays, only small traditional English villages tend to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night and, even then, the name of the festival is usually sanitised to "Bonfire Night".
The history of Guy Fawkes is fascinating because, in some respects, it is like a cautionary tale of the history of England itself.

And as much as I am proud to be English, it has to be said that our history is somewhat jaded, to say the least.

In fact, it is downright psychopathic.
Whereas Halloween is essentially a Celtic religious festival, Guy Fawkes Night essentially commemorates a *political* event, albeit with strong religious overtones.

On 5th November 1605 a catholic political activist, Guy Fawkes, was caught red handed placing explosive gunpowder under the House of Lords.

He had intended to blow up the then Protestant king, James I - but failed miserably.

Fawkes was tortured until he made a full confession and named his co-conspirators; a conviction of High Treason quickly followed which carried a mandatory sentence of being hung, drawn and quartered.

Although he actually escaped from the hangman's noose by jumping off the gallows scaffolding, he broke his neck doing so. Nonetheless, justice has to be *seen* to be done, so they drew and quartered him anyway, broken neck and all.

Sadly, as a result of his injuries, he died of natural causes.
Lest any other fool should take it into their head to try and blow up the House of Lords again, legislation was passed to make 5th November a "free day" - which actually amounted to an *enforced* celebration of Fawkes' failure every year.

That celebration took the form of burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.

Every year, up and down the country, massive bonfires were built by the whole community...and on top sat a raggedly effigy of a man wearing a mask - "Guy Fawkes" (usually simply known as "a guy" or "the guy").

On the 5th November, it was set alight.

Now, make no mistake...although these events originally took place over 400 years ago, the commemoration of Guy Fawkes Night still takes place today!

Every year, all over England, numerous country villages still burn an effigy of a 17th century catholic activist on 5th November!

In fairness, the number of places doing this lessens every year as Guy Fawkes Night is steadily and irreversibly replaced by Halloween. But children are still taught the "Remember, remember" nursery rhyme mnemonic quoted at the head of this blog-post.

Although it is Halloween that is associated with ghouls and ghosts and monsters and the like, it is Guy Fawkes Night that is the true horror. Halloween is and has always been tame compared against the actual historical facts of Guy Fawkes Night.

And now, some 8 or 9 years later, I finally understand my father's reply after I asked him if we could "make a guy for Bonfire Night".

"No," he said, "Guy Fawkes is dead, my dear."

Hugz and thanks to Sharni Azalee (of 'Looking Glass' fame) for the wonderful Halloween 'Crashed Witch' sculpture gift used in the pictures above; to Cienega Soon for the drum gift from Burn2 and to DomDaddy Genesis for the outfit gift.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

When Good Tits Go Bad

Angry Tits
The new avatar body physics layers, discussed here by Serenity, are a good improvement on the Emerald/Phoenix hack used in v1-based third party viewers.

At least now you yourself can can control how your avatar appears to others rather than them dictate how you appear. Also, the physics layers allow for much more accurate fine tuning.

However, the layers are not without significant problems of their own.

Firstly, they are mostly designed for v2 or v3 based viewers. Those still using v1 based viewers - and that is a lot of people - do not always render the physics movements correctly. I am told it can look really quite freakish.

Secondly, the physics layers can look terrible in heavily populated or laggy areas regardless of what viewer version is being used. I always have to remove mine when there are more than a handful people around, which kinda defeats the purpose!

But, when they are working they do look good!

I cannot find the link at the moment, but Serenity or Emmanuelle (or both!) posted about a free pack of 24 body physics layers being given away by Jeanette Doobie

I have been using one of the twenty-four layers for a few months now, only removing in laggy or heavily populated areas. I am very very happy with the look.

However, because of environmental circumstances...and this  is absolutely not a reflection on Jeanette's kind and generous efforts..., the look isn't always quite what one would have hoped.

While preparing my blog-post for 'The Path', I saw this and just had to film it!

Hope it makes you smile....

Monday, 24 October 2011

In Paradisum - The World's End Garden

Its the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine!
                                                                                      - R.E.M, 2003

Today I hope to write a blog-post which you'll find interesting and intriguing enough to actually go visit yourself  - The World's End Garden on the Dernier Lamento region of Second Life (SL).

However, after some thought, I have decided not to reveal all the secrets I found on this region nor include all the pictures I took. Some things are best left for you to discover for yourself!
(click images to enlarge)
Normally at this point I would introduce the Creator but for the time being we will forego this formality and instead talk only about the region.

The reason for this is because only by first understanding something of the nature of The World's End Garden can we even have a chance of appreciating the seeming paradoxes and contradictions of the Creator and the remarkable achievement that results.
The World's End Garden is an intriguing story - a detective story, perhaps. Or maybe a horror.

The only clues we have to decipher the story are those which we can find in the Garden; the only verdict is that we ourselves decide upon.
On arrival on the region you are invited to have your Windlight settings changed to 'AvatarOpt'. This is a good choice for a nice compromise between making the prims look good and to flatter the avatar.
However, on my screen at least, the default AvatarOpt settings have the disadvantage of making patches of "glow" look almost nuclear at a distance.

I found that by lowering the sun glow size, the sun glow focus and the haze density a touch that this "nuclear glow" effect was largely negated.
On the surface of things, the layout of the Garden is very similar to the HuMaNoiD region which we explored and blogged only last month.
Both are whole region installations which have small isolated islands separated by shallow ankle-height sea.
However, whereas on HuMaNoiD it appears that the islands are somewhat ad-hoc and only vaguely themed, at the World's End Garden the theme is consistent and unswerving - albeit not easily and immediately apparent.
In amongst the Windlight created light pinks and tranquil textured pastel colours, we hear the delicate sounds of bird song, the harpiscord and harp.
But occasionally, hear a thumping heartbeat, the ringing of a nearby church bell.....

And soon enough you will discover the coffin.
"In Paradisium" translates from Latin to English as "Into Paradise". The phrase is specifically used to describe the part of a Requiem Mass of the Western Christian Church where the choir sings as the body is carried from the church.

To get a better sense of the feel of the World's End Garden - after the discovery of the coffin - press <Play> on this video and simply have the music playing quietly in the background while you continue to read this blog-post.
The suspicion that what you believed was just another lazy Sunday afternoon on a tranquil pastoral sim is actually not a true and faithful representation of the facts increases further when you notice the empty chair looking outwards over the ocean.

The nearby caged miner's canary is still breathing, yes, but is unmoving, paralysed and unfed.
That disconcerting feeling is similarly provoked when you notice the perfectly serviceable row boat standing ready, complete with oar.

Could this be Charon's ferry across the Styx to Hades?
A ghostly ephemeral-white grand piano sits in a bed of English roses. Candles blow in the wind.

We finally become aware of a feeling of grief, of loss. The feeling is tangible and emanates from the Creators sensitivity with prims, with textures and with their precise placement.
This is not some sort of vague generalised sense of grief and loss

No, this is specific; it is unambiguous and explicit... is a widow's grief.
Her loss was sudden. And recent. Possibly violent. 
But her grieving process can only properly begin after the funeral has ended.
The Christian symbolism and iconography on this sim is handled with great delicacy, respect and a sense of the sacred.
For myself personally, I have little time for any religious doctrine or its watered-down cousin, "spirituality".

The wisdom of Feynman is far more meaningful to me than the Wisdom Of Solomon; Dawkins more intelligent than any Deacon; Hitchens more honest than Hiram.

My position is firmly in the atheist camp rather than the agnostic or religious.
But none of that means I am so crass as to not appreciate the beauty, the immersion and the dedication that many artists have since time immemorial been motivated to create due to a religious impulse.
It is clear to me that this space is at least as equally profound and sacred as any other religious space I have yet encountered in SL.

Only the Monastery of St. Michael the Arc at Taliesin Shores (sadly now gone, I believe) even comes close in my experience.

SuicideGirl Evermore & I visited many churches when we were researching 'Personal Jesus' but for me only a small handful could I consider to have a genuinely sacred or profound feel about them.
However, in my opinion, the Creator of the World's End Garden has done precisely that - created a space with a genuinely sacred and profound atmosphere.
And because of that, the widow can grieve...
By joining the World's End Garden group on the sim, you can get as free gifts all of the outfits that you see me wearing in the pictures on this blog-post.

All of them were free, all totally appropriate to the theme of the region.
And it occurs to me just as I near the end of this blog-post that coincidentally all this is very reminiscent of Serenity and Arwen Juneberry's gothic adult machinima, The Widow.  These outfits would have worked well there too, at least in the clothed scenes!

There is only one thing remaining for this blog-post - to reveal the name of the Creator of these lovely clothes, these great prims and textures, this authentic religious space. Her name is Lucia Genesis and she is a Japanese Bloodline Vampire.

I have never met Lucia nor know anything about her other than what is in her profile and her World's End Garden blog.

Regardless - and seemingly against all odds - Lucia has created something really quite remarkable and I urge you to experience it for yourself.
Pixie xxx

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Addicted to Lars

Regular readers will know that one of my first friends in Second Life was Lar Jun - owner of one of SL's most popular adult-themed venues, Old Lar's House (which, incidentally, is now listed by Linden Lab in their "Destinations" guide!).

As a noob to SL, Lar kindly took me under his wing - actually, he first took me under a bus shelter, but that's a slightly different story - and taught me many things.

If it wasn't for Lar, ZooZoo Mayne, Debbie Trilling, Dave Vellhi, Marcy Palmer-Baxton, Ferdy and a handful of others - all of whom I met at Lar's - then Pixie Rain Productions may well have never been. 

So now you know who to blame!

Last weekend I was asked by Lar, ZooZoo and Marcy to join along with the DJs in a Robert Palmer tribute night.

Lar's tribute nights are always a big laff!

I pressed <F9>, inserted a few default cross-transitions and released this footage under my "Not For The CV" production company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pixie Rain Productions but with plausible deniability!

Smile, enjoy. We did.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Path

'The Path' is an inspiring new Second Life exhibition showcasing some of the Metaverse's most talented 3D immersive artists.
Tutsy & Pixie
Tutsy Navarathna & I have visited a number of times since the exhibition opened on the 14th October - me to take the 70-odd pictures that comprise this blog-post, Tutsy to shoot many gigabyte of raw footage which is sure to make an appearance in some future machinima project.
(Click images to enlarge)
The artists invited to install work are:
  • Bryn Oh
  • Colin Fizgig
  • Marcus Inkpen
  • Desdemona Enfield and Douglas Story
  • Maya Paris
  • Claudia222 Jewell
  • Scottius Polke
  • Rose Borchovski

Bryn Oh
The artists have fortunately avoided the stereotypical and well-worn "hippy spiritual" connotation all too often associated with the phrase "The Path". Instead, a far more darker - and richer - narrative emerges.

Bryn Oh
The Path, taken as a collection of eight individual installations, was composed using the art technique often referred to as 'the exquisite corpse' and usually ascribed to the Surrealist movement.
Bryn Oh
One artist - in this case Bryn Oh - starts the narrative and composes the beginning of a story. The batten, as it were, is passed to the second artist - Colin Fizgig - who continues developing the story before then passing over to the following artist, and so on.

What evolves from this process is always unpredictable but, given the artistic talent of the respondents in this particular exhibition, the result is of singular and wonderful beauty.
Bryn Oh

Bryn Oh, it often seems to me, is to virtual world art what Philip K Dick is to novels.

Her work has dark undercurrents minutely explored in fine detail.

It is always exquisite.

But even as you start to recognise an object - be it inanimate or organic - you realise that it has its own skewed reality; it resides in a universe that you are only barely familiar with - one that is at right-angles or perpendicular to your own.

There is always a hint of madness, a definite sense of sadness, of loneliness and abandonment in Bryn Oh's work.

Bryn Oh
One wonders, does Bryn Oh dream of electric sheep?
Colin Fizgig
The Path advances from the watery-confined space of Bryn Oh's abandoned domestic living to a vast expansive hall created by Colin Fizgig.
Markus Inkpen

A large, beautifully detailed bust of "The Inventor" by Markus Inkpen is surrounded by numerous 3D vignettes.
Markus Inkpen/Colin Fizgig
Fizgig's vignettes are fabulously done and need to be seen in-world to really appreciate the 3D depth that they manage to convey.
Colin Fizgig
Colin Fizgig
Colin Fizgig
As you explore each of the vignettes in the vast hall, you are casually and subtly introduced to some of those elements which will recur time and again as you travel The Path.
Markus Inkpen/Colin Fizgig
But at this still early stage of your journey, what exactly these might be is still far from clear.
Colin Fizgig

Once you have located the secret teleport, you progress from Colin's installation to Markus Inkpen's.
Markus Inkpen
Regular readers of this humble blog will know that I adore 'The Looking Glass' - a whole sim installation created by Markus himself along with his partner Sharni Azalee - I wrote an extensive blog-post about it in July 2011. 
Markus Inkpen
You arrive at Markus Inkpen's Path installation to be greeted by the most glorious red-wood textures - and confronted by a daunting array of slightly misshaped doorways.
Markus Inkpen
Visually, it looks magnificent and you know enough by now to intuit that your progress along The Path lies behind one of these many doors.
Markus Inkpen
And herein would be my only criticism of this particular work: although there are many doors and you know the exit lies behind one of them, that exit door is the only door which is actually interactive. The rest do not open or in any other way interact with the audience. 

I know because I clicked almost every single one "just in case"!

It occurred to me that it would be fun if a number of the doors  had some simple form of interaction - even if only opening and closing - just to introduce some "game" element to the work.


Of the eight installations of The Path, I found this installation had the hardest of all the hidden teleports to find. So I offer this clue...
Markus Inkpen
Desdemona Enfield and Douglas Story's installation uses standard media streaming (not media-on-a-prim) so ensure that it is enabled to be able to see their work.

For that matter, it should be noted that all eight of the installations supplement their visual components with sounds, so be sure to have your stream on and volume up.
Desdemona Enfield & Douglas Story
The installation comprises numerous metallic-like spheres - each with differing but now familiar textures - which approach, surround and batter you.

With the sound especially, the effect is really quite claustrophobic - deliberately so.
Desdemona Enfield & Douglas Story
You need to swipe at the spheres, sweep and hit them to pummel them away.

It is really quite a fun game to play but unfortunately, in doing so, both Tutsy & I accidently brushed against the exit-tp and was prematurely catapulted to the next installation before we had really had the opportunity to take it all in.

Suddenly and unexpectedly we landed at Maya Paris's super monochromic installation. 
Maya Paris
I have seen Maya's name appearing on various Group Notices lots of times. In fact, I have even seen her work at Burn2 2010 and 2011.

However, The Path was the first time I had seen her work in and of itself, in its own right.
Maya Paris
I cannot tell you just how much I enjoyed this installation. I spent hours here!
Maya Paris
A bass or oboe soundtrack plays a repetitive "breathing" pattern in the background and this is overlain with different vocal refrains repeating the phrase "Are we there yet?"

This phrase has particular significance to me as it is the one I choose to use to close my 'Personal Jesusmachinima with.

The total effect is pretty eerie.
Maya Paris
But that is really only half of the story because other elements of the installation, especially the interactive parts, are fun and quirky!
Maya Paris
This peculiar delicate balance of eerie and quirky blend perfectly together, as does the simple black, grey and white colouring of the work.
Maya Paris
In fact, Tutsy said that the colouring of the installation worked wonderfully with the 'General Corruption' outfit I was wearing!

That man is such a Smooth Operator!
Maya Paris
Maya Paris
As with the previous installations upon The Path, we are re-acquainted to concepts we have already learnt to recognise but also introduced to new ideas - predominantly the spider and its web.
Maya Paris
I have to say that I enjoyed this installation so much - particularly the interactive parts - that I will be watching out for future exhibitions by Maya and will be first in the queue for tickets!
Maya Paris
Following Maya's ladder paths naturally leads to the hidden teleport-exit from this installation to the next  - by Claudia222 Jewell.
Claudia222 Jewell
It has to be said...Tutsy and I are both huge fans of Claudia's work.

I have written an extensive blog-post on her work before and voiced there my admiration for her talent.
Claudia222 Jewell

Her contribution to The Path only reinforces that feeling.
Claudia222 Jewell

Claudia herself is modest and unassuming and has an attractive air of vulnerability about her.

She is adorable.
Claudia222 Jewell
However, she clearly has a much darker side too.
Claudia222 Jewell
I left Claudia and Tutsy to chat about their native France and shared interest in all-things-India and went exploring her latest work.
Claudia222 Jewell
Claudia222 Jewell
Claudia222 Jewell
In this installation, "The Path" is realised quite literally - you walk along a designated pathway to the nearby towering village.
Claudia222 Jewell
Around you and below you are the fauna and foliage and other dark weirdness and beauty you associate with Claudia's work.
Claudia222 Jewell
And, as always, it is beautifully executed.
Claudia222 Jewell
Claudia222 Jewell
Claudia222 Jewell
If you need a clue to find the secret teleport from this installation to the next, all I can suggest is you remember your Lovecraftian lore and think of Dagon.
Scottius Polke
The transition from the dark but tranquil village life of Claudia's installation to the Mad Scientist laboratory of Scottius Polke is like some metaversal evolutionary punctuated equilibrium.
Scottius Polke
Scottius develops the now familiar memes we have come to associate with The Path but treats them like a deadly virus or better still, a micro-organism, that needs to be investigated, experimented upon - and changed.
Scottius Polke
Or perhaps sedated, hypnotized and overcome.
Scottius Polke
Scottius Polke
Scottius Polke
The truth is, however, that you will need to completely immerse yourself in his experiments if you are to escape his clutches and find your way to Rose Borchovski's installation for The Path.
Rose Borchovski
Rose's installation brings Susa Bubble to The Path.
Rose Borchovski
The story of Susa Bubble is an on-going epic of darkness, sadness, loneliness and vulnerability. And of gradual growth, development and evolution.

Ultimately, to me anyway, the Susa Bubble tale is one of personal Awakening.

As such, Susa's story melds perfectly with the narrative that the previous artists have developed on The Path.
Rose Borchovski
Susa Bubble is no stranger to controversy.

In July 2010, an installation by Rose called 'The Kiss' was removed from the Linden-owned SL7B sims because Susa was naked, apparently breaking the Community Standards.

It really was a bizarre decision from the Lindens.

However, in fairness, my art-machinima called 'The Kiss' probably breaks the Linden's Community Standards too...but for more obvious reasons!
Rose Borchovski
In recent times there have been numerous discussions throughout the blogsphere as to whether the Linden Game Gods should or should not become involved with in-world activities, other than in matters of governance.

They have been accused of manipulating both the rental market and in-world purchases via. the Linden Assisted Living scheme and the web-based Marketplace, respectively.

Personally, I have no rabbit in this race and do not have any strong feelings either way although, by nature, I subscribe to the philosophy that "the Government that governs best of all is the Government the governs least of all".
Rose Borchovski
However, that said, if the Lindens *are* to get involved in-world, then I believe The Path and other similar Linden Endowment for the Arts  (LEA) projects are precisely the sort of thing they should be doing.

My concern, I think, and the reason I mention it here and now, is that Susa is depicted as clothed for The Path whereas Rose has previously said that "When I hide Susa's nakedness, I have stopped telling her story".

I hope that Rose decided to have Susa clothed here because she felt that that best told Susa's story for The Path, rather than some self-censorship because the installation is on Linden land.

Since writing this, Bryn Oh has contacted me to confirm that Rose was under no influence to clothe Susa and, further, that the Lindens do not have an influence over LEA projects as it is run by residents.

Rose Borchovski further clarifies the actual situation in the comments below.
Rose Borchovski
This eighth and final installation for The Path encompasses seven beds; each one provides a teleport to one of the previous installations.
Rose Borchovski
Rose Borchovski
Rose Borchovski
Rose Borchovski
Rose Borchovski
Rose Borchovski
Rose Borchovski
Although The Path is designed to be travelled in a circuit, the fact remains that each one is strong enough to be explored and enjoyed in its own right.
Rose Borchovski
The curator has conveniently provided landmarks for those who only want to visit specific installations - or who cannot find the hidden teleports!

I am therefore not giving anything away to provide the following links:

Official Start of The Path

Rose Borchovski

Tutsy & I did journey the circuit of The Path, as well as visiting each individually numerous times.

I found the experience to be inspiring and joyful; thought provoking and meaningful.

The Path represents some of the very best that virtual world art currently has to offer. It sets a high benchmark.

My only suggestion would be that we virtual world artists need to think more about increasing the level of audience participation in our work - a game element, if you will.

Platforms such as Second Life provide scripting/coding which is mostly unavailable in other artistic mediums. In one sense, the use of interactive scripts is what differentiates - or at least *could* differentiate - virtual world art from other mediums. Virtual world art can *change* and *respond*; it can interact and give the feeling of participation rather than simply observing.

I believe the next step in virtual world art is to exploit this possibility and that this exhibit of eight installations will be recognised as a significant and important milestone on that Path.
Pixie & Tutsy
Pixie xx