Thursday, February 19, 2009

'tis bitter cold at Elsinore, three Danes await and watch the night

(To the perhaps potential viewing traveler: I apologize, I do. I have no idea what I've done to offend you so, but I'm more than willing to let it end. I was wrong to contact you, I am so sorry I ever did, I did not look far enough on your pages to recognize the changes. It is, of course, a staggering error and I shall forthwith repair to a small room to seal myself away from all civilized society for my grievous crimes against you.

To put it more plainly: enough already, I get it.
Mea culpa, ashes on the forehead, let's have an end to it, all you have to do is lose my address. I made a mistake, it happens, now let it go already.)

On the other hand, the day-plus of wrangling does convince me of one thing: people are very, very passionate about music. More to the point, people are very, very passionate about steampunk music. So where do we go from here?

To start, I want to break down a bit, two videos which can be considered in pro and con ways, each to each--for some, my arguments will be wrong. For others, they'll make sense.

And for a yet more amusing group, they won't understand why either video is on any steampunk music list. The irony.

So let's begin by laying out both songs, and let me point up the essential difference in both music and video appreciation of "Welcome to the Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance and "The Perfect Drug" by Nine Inch Nails. They're both found on the (new and revised, then abandoned in 2007) steampunk video page of Steampunkopedia; I agree with the inclusion of the former.

Why?

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It's not that I dislike "The Perfect Drug". I think it's moody, intense, and moving, and features unsettling and dreamlike imagery to go with the desperate and driven lyrics. It was directed, as was "Closer" before it (a note; that's the uncensored version), by Mark Romanek, who has definitely earned his laurels: both "Closer" and Madonna's "Bedtime Story" have been made part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

But--barring the general gothic Victorian overtones, the hints of absinthe intoxication, and the mix of destroyed aristocracy and exotic pets (none of which, by themselves, are particularly "steampunk")--the only thing in the video, as it stands, is a machine on one wall which shoots out static bolts for no apparent reason.

Just as I turned away from Sanu's steampunk monacles in world--because they were, essentially, rounds of brass-rimmed glass with gears attached for no good reason--I cannot accept that all it takes is one dubious piece of machinery to make an entire video steampunk. Is it a good video? Yes. Does it present the song in a better light than would simply the song itself, playing (always my benchmark for a good video)? Yes.

Is it steampunk? No. Think about it: does one machine (of unknown function) suffice to label the entire "steampunk"? Just because that machine exists in the world presented in that video? The Victorians were not averse to technology; it's not like handing an Amish youth an electric guitar and seeing what he does with it (if anything). They had technology, some old, some new and emergent; that's not the point.

The point is, is there more of gadgetry and the home-built than established structure? Is there more of invention than convention? Is there at least some reference to steam, if nothing else (beyond the stone baths)? And, viewing the video, we have to conclude that there is not. Thus, it is not a steampunk music video.

Now, I also like "Welcome to the Black Parade". And it has its own visionary director, Samuel Bayer, most known for Nirvana's career-launching video, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", David Bowie's "The Heart's Filthy Lesson" (which stands as an intriguing take on 'steampunk music video' on its own), and Sheryl Crow's "Home". He definitely has a gift for images which ensnare--pain and triumph, ennui on faces far too young to understand it, the glittering fall of flour through thick air, vintage technologies rewired for modern uses.

I've even touched briefly on why I think this is a steampunk video, before now, but just for the sake of comparison, I want to touch on those points and expand on them. More than anything else, "Welcome to the Black Parade" is heavily influenced by the spectre of war. World War I, more than any other, provides the main context, but it's that very feel of post-bombing Dresden, London the day after, in the faces and the forms of those who follow that tilts the mind towards steampunk ideas, I think. Also, many characters seem to be as comfortable in the post-war society as in Victorian, or societies established prior.

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I've mentioned Mother War, before, the lady in the gas mask: she is still my perfect example. Her effect over the entire video is subtle, and it may take several viewings to realize, but all the damage to the air, all the thick pollution, comes from her lungs exhaling toxins through the tube. And that very slow, but constant, tainted flow permeates the air, like the fouled air in coal mines that spelled the doom of so many canaries. She may be attired in a mask far beyond the "steampunk years"; but her attire arms her perfectly for such excursions, and when, in all honesty, was nearly any steampunk invention in novels and films not, at some point, turned to warlike ends?

This is the dark side of steampunk, with a rousing chorus and a refusal to back down from chaos: We will not go silently, the lyrics say, even if we die. We will still stand. For part of steampunk, beyond gadgetry, beyond quirk, beyond the allure of steam-powered, human-powered, invention--is conflict. Conflict with governments, with other people, with ourselves, the push to keep creating, the necessity to fight to defend who we are, what we've made, what we value, and as always, the tyranny of our oppressors. The horror of landscapes transformed by battle clockwork between the metal Goliath and whomever is playing David-with-a-spanner this week is perfectly reflected in MCR's subtracted world of the dead: poisoned air, shattered needle-bones of buildings, lowering grey clouds to match the grey road. And the parade of all the other dead, honored and unhonored, marching, eternally, through the middle.

Is this happy steampunk video? Hells, no. But is it steampunk video, despite the modern instruments, the modern sound? I truly think so.

Ultimately, there are many different opinions out there. Obviously. What we need to remember is that no one's an authority on all aspects of steampunk music, or even more narrowly, steampunk music video. Listen to everything. Listen to what you like and why. Then look for the touches of the inventor, the creator, the mad scientist, the construct--the return to politesse with a pipe wrench, so to speak.

Don't take anyone's word without consideration. Test everything. You're creators, after all, if you're inspired by steampunk technology, steampunk 'history'--above all other things, you are inspired and creative. Live that. Be that. Listen and come to your own conclusions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

and now her heart beats time like clockwork

Couple short mentions for this entry, and then on with my day.

First, the Steampunkopedia is now compiling a list of "steampunk music videos" on their site. Note, this is not a list of steampunk music; but I have to admit I'm somewhat perturbed their list doesn't include Abney Park, Vernian Process, or even Dionysos' Tais Toi Mon Coeur.

So I wrote them:

Greetings--I love that you now have a section for steampunk music videos, if not steampunk music, but I'm puzzled that you don't list anything by Abney Park, Vernian Process, or even selections from Dionysos' "La Mecanique Coeur", which was nearly start to finish rife with steampunk-inspired visuals.

Abney Park:

Herr Drosselmeyer's Doll
Sleep Isabella
Airship Pirate (or the first thing that hit the 'net airwaves', their studio version)

Vernian Process:
Behold the Machine
Noir
The Last Express

Dionysos:
Tais Toi Mon Coeur (Shut Up My Heart)
Neige
L'homme sans Trucage

And, in an odd case of life crossing virtual, the Masquerade Project apparently lives and works in Second Life, the online game, making steampunk visuals to go along with their music.

Masquerade Project (I wasn't able to find a good link for them):
Steamed

Keep up the good work!

Emilly

(Now follows my terribly translated Polish:)

Powitaninia kocham co wy teraz macie rozdział dla "steampunk" muzyczny wideomagnetofon, jeżeli nie "steampunk" muzyka, ale JA jestem stropione co wy nie wymieniacie kolejno coś przez "Abney" Zakładać park, Vernian" Proces, albo nawet wybory od Dionysos' "La Mecanique Coeur", który był prawie rozpoczynać wykończenie "rife" z "steampunk-inspired" widoczny. "Abney" Zakładają park: "Herr Drosselmeyer's Doll", Śpią "Isabella", Statek powietrzny Rabują;

"Vernian" Obrabiają: "Behold" Maszyna, "Noir", Ostatni Ekspres;

"Dionysos": "Tais Toi Mon Coeur, "Neige", "L'homme san Trucage";

I, w nieparzystym wypadku kycia przecinający faktyczny, "Masquerade" Projektować: życia i pracuje w Drugim Życiu, operatywna gra, wyrabiający "steampunk" widoczny udawać się razem z ich muzyka. "Masquerade" Projektować: Parował.

Podtrzymują dobrą pracę!


Does anyone know more about the Masquerade Project, while we're on the topic?

Tired of YouTube? Try YouKinescope, instead.

And for the last bit, you'll now notice to the side a list of labels, 'tags' in any other format: it's in alphabetical order, so if you wish in future to find this, or any other post, dealing with "steampunk music", say...scroll down to the S section and it'll be there.

Cheers!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

without you, what's left to believe in?

Heard the last week that Martian Wei's beautiful sim, October Country, was gone. I asked around--because that's one of my favorite places on the grid--and a friend passed me a notecard explaining why.

Martian Wei here.

The October Country has been destroyed.


From anyone else, that would seem absurdly dramatic. But this is Martian Wei. He is a man of few words, a man of silence more than sound, which is all the more surreal because his love in life is audio theatre, old radio broadcasts, live readings of important works. This was the heart of the October Country: the constant audio stream that played readings of the Lord of the Rings, Lights Out, Inner Sanctum, The Price of Fear, Suspense, Dark Venture, Twilight Zone, Flash Gordon, the Shadow...and so, so many more.

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I was told tonight that I like to "trample people under my feet". That in essence, I'm not a good person. I was told a lot of things; here are just a few examples.

I was berated because I did not clear it with my staff before I hired a Roleplay person for Innsmouth. I was berated too, if you can believe it, for the Tuesday Picks contest I just implemented. I was condemned for not communicating enough with them, as if Second Life comes before real life, or your family.

All of this, despite the fact that I'M the one paying hundreds of dollars a month to keep the OC afloat. Not them. But like I told them, I've asked them before if they want to pay for the island equally. The answer was NO. But they somehow think that all decisions should be shared equally, I guess.


It may shock and startle people, but sometimes it must be stated as plain and stark fact: if we do not pay the bills, and we are not invited to make the decisions, then we have no voice. Plain and simple. If we do not help to support the dream, we cannot criticize it when it falters. It is not our place. It was not the place of his staff to store up resentments and frustrations like diamond chips, and throw them by handsful at him as soon as they got the opportunity.

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These people, instead of coming to me when they had an issue with either real or imagined hurts from me, decided to just talk about me behind my back. People who are supposed to be my friends. I have always believed that if your friend does something that bothers you, you should tell them. That way, you get it out in the open, you both talk about it, and it gets dealt with right away.

This was not done.


Anywhere you went in that sim, you constantly heard voices. Speaking, singing, screaming, crying, laughing. In pain, in fear, in anger. Voices. Voices from the past, whispering to the future.

I tried transporting there, and no luck. I just couldn't believe it, even though I'd read the card, even though I'd had no luck going. I kept trying. For two days.

Nothing. It's just gone.

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Instead, they laid months and months of criticisms on me last night. Chief [among] these was that I'm not in SL enough (in the form of "you're never around"). Apparently, dealing with real life is not as important as Second Life is.

Let me be clear. I have a chronic illness, and it's getting worse. I have massive pain constantly. My wife is being stalked. My business is suffering because of the economy and because of my illness. I have a son to raise.

2 of the 3 people criticizing me have no idea what it's like to raise a child. And believe me, until you have a child, you may THINK you know something about it, but you know NOTHING.


One of the larger problems on the grid is the outer world's perception of it as a game. As I've said to people, SL is a game, played with human hearts and minds. Put that way, SL ceases to be in any terms the average game: because there are no quests, no specific goals, no quotas...it's just--life. A different one. A second one, where mistakes can be made, loves and losses can be experienced in full, businesses can succeed, sims can fail...and hard-fought dreams can shatter.

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I am NOT perfect. But I have NEVER been confronted with something that I've done and not said "I'm sorry" -- that is, until tonight, when months and months of supposed iniquities were thrown at me at once.

I asked myself, why do these three people think I'm so evil, and the people in my REAL life know that I'm not? Why do the people in my real life look at me as a good person, as someone who helps people? In fact, ego aside, I'm looked at as an EXAMPLE of someone who helps others. The two main "family slogans" that my 6-year-old knows is: (1) NEVER GIVE UP and (2) FIND A WAY TO HELP OR BE KIND TO SOMEONE EVERY DAY.

Yet, these three people don't see me that way.

Why? Because in the real world, if you're going through something and you're quiet, you can communicate in other ways. If you're quiet in Second Life, that's IT. You're a jerk, because you're not talking. Or you're a jerk, because you're not around. SL is limited because you can't smile, you can't pat someone on the back, you can't wave, you can't do a million other things.

After two and a half years, I have figured something out: Second Life attracts drama. I have never been in a place where not being able to communicate with someone gets them so angry. I mean, when I'm online, I get IM after IM. And if I don't answer them ALL, people get PISSED!


It's so disheartening, but I've seen it happen, over and over. One vision, one heart, one spirit...that draws other people. And if those people see the vision truly, feel the dream correctly, it can be a wonder and a dream of a different kind to share the vision.

But if those people share only part of the vision...or share a different vision entirely...then we come to the place where we are berated for doing what we thought was best to save what we loved. By people we thought understood why we tried.

It is the most brutal sort of personal shock to realize that we think one thing about a certain idea, and others think a separate thing, but we thought it was the same thing all along. Normally, people give hints, drop clues, and over time, our understandings can shift and resettle. Not so with the people who say the right words, encourage in the right ways...and then, to us, mystifyingly seem to turn, enraged, because we did not do what they wanted.

When were we to know?

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I get burnt out from all the emails in my RL business, all the phone calls, all the IMs in Second Life...etc etc etc. But... somehow, it's all supposedly personal with these three people, they thought.

Well, it wasn't. I'm not good at getting back to people in a timely manner because I've got so much on my plate. Because so many people seem to need me. It's not because I'm mean. It's because I'm tired. I'm so tired. This illness makes me so, so tired all the time. It's all I could do to keep going on this sim.

I really wish that these three people would have just come to me and talked to me. They chose not to. Then tonight, one of the others gave me the dressing-down of my life. When he was done, I just sat in my chair and felt lower than low.


Because all this time, Mr. Wei had a vision. Mr. Wei had a dream. And people gathered, he thought to share that dream. Moreover, it hasn't been easy for him and his wife; forget the mention of stalking, let's talk about the fact that last year, they lost their house. It burned to the ground. And at that point the community came together, donated what they could, told their friends, helped to save the sim.

A year later, and no one wanted to save anything; just accuse Martian Wei.

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Can you believe that he even got onto me for the video I made? Of my own island? He said that I should have involved them. On the one hand, they are complaining that they were working too hard, which if I'd known, I would have begged them to stop. But on the other hand, he says I should have had them help with the video. I can't win!

How could he, presented with such opposition? He has people wanting more power. Do they want to pay for the sim? NO, he is told resoundingly. So he makes the decisions for the sim. Because it is HIS SIM.

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Let's talk Caledon for a moment. Des is right when he says it's not him, it's all of us--if all of us, every Caledonian, dropped their properties and walked away, Caledon would die, with nary a whimper.

We don't do that because we see the dream, or at least the parts of it we can--and what we see, we support, by and large. That seems to be the important difference. Mr. Wei's people, they weren't so focused on support. They just wanted their wrongs redressed.

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Have I ever done anything wrong? You bet. In fact I bet more than most people. Sometimes I get pretty down on myself because I feel I could be better. But no one is perfect. And I will NOT apologize for "lack of communication", because I'm always available through my cell and my email, which these people had access to. I will not apologize for putting my wife and my son first. I will not apologize for having a painful illness.

Did they expect him to keep the sim open, or to transfer more power to them? Likely. Did they want the sim to die? Probably not. Did they ever see that their choices--to berate a man already beset with life difficulties, financial woes, above and beyond our grid--would drive him to swift and decisive action? No.

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On another subject, tips have been WAY down lately. I have been very stressed about how to pay for the October Country. Very few people responded to my blog entry about ideas to generate money for the island, so I took that as an omen as well. What happened tonight just kind of seals things.

But they should have. They truly should have. More to the point, they should have known better.

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I really appreciate the time I have been able to spend with all of you. All I wanted to do here was to create a place where people could come, hang out, make friends, and listen to the shows I love so much.

That dream is dead.

If I owe you money for the rest of this month on your rental, or for any other reason, please let me know. It is not my desire to cheat anyone out of anything.

I am never coming back to Second Life. If you want to contact me for any reason, you can do so via email at [his email address].

I will miss all of you, and the campfire, very much.

Your friend always,
Martian Wei


I will miss the October Country. It was a magnificent build and always lovely. I never had a single problem at the campfire, and I went there often just to walk and enjoy the evening air.

These are all the pictures I can find currently of my trips through October Country. For those of you who've never seen it, this is but the merest taste of what excellence it was.

But more than missing the sim, more than regretting his decision to close it, all of this is pointing me directly at one inescapable point: none of our actions here lack consequences. We love, we part, we argue, we rage, we protest, we laugh, we weep--whatever we do here, if we do it in the presence of others, then becomes larger than just us; more than just our own concerns.

Because while the world is imaginary...the residents are not. And it is easy, far too easy, to injure those whom the world has already hurt.

Martian Wei is gone. October Country is gone. And one more brilliant, beautiful thing has left the world, never to be seen again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

you're not a flower of hell, not in that place

Remember Miss SunShine Philly from the previous entry?

Not only did I have to go through the images and put twee little pink hearts over anything potentially offensive, to keep from losing more images, but then, in a discussion with the Baron, I discovered that Caledon at large has a better acquaintance with Miss Philly than I knew previously.

For anyone who doesn't know, some months back, there was a fairly clueless lass who came into Caledon, and immediately began soliciting gentleman for the express purpose of...hrm...I'm not even sure I can say "horizontal adventuring", I think the nearest alley would have sufficed.

We heard tales of her, there were sightings, there were gentlemen--without and with female companions--accosted by this...sumptuously-endowed presence...and offered the bargain-basement price of fifty Lindens to test-drive her.

Look. Here's the thing. I am not the champion for moral rectitude, I b'lieve I've mentioned this before. And I'm not asking anyone to take sides on the sex trade in Second Life--you're for, you're against, by and large, that's fine, as long as you stay away from certain words while I'm listening. I have no other problems. Morality is not precisely my reason for raising this again.

But at my lowest, at my absolute beginning-nearly-free level, with no one knowing who I was or what I could do--I charged five hundred Linden per hour. And that was when I was first starting out.

And friends and neighbors, even at my height of two thousand per thirty minutes? That was still low. I knew ladies in the trade who routinely pulled in five thousand, ten thousand Linden a session, and all far before the advent of voice.

To charge fifty Linden--to brazenly, openly, proclaim that she, as a woman and a free soul, is worth no more to any stranger viewing her than that--that deeply bothers me. That, you see, offends me.

The outfit is just baffling. Not possible in real life? Well, maybe. But trust me, there'd be back strain. And a better regard for fashion, ye gods!

Moving on. In my travels this evening--missing the opening of Giverny, drat it all, but I'd promised myself earlier I would go on the Kissed hunt with the extended group--I found the Village.

Yes. That Village.

We wandered through Yellow Jester, a small cheerful store that seems to specialize in Renaissance furniture, bone ladders, and flesh puppetry.

In the Village.

In a cheerful little lemon-yellow bungalow, leading out onto a lawn bedecked with striped awning-covered carts packed with free things.

You can nearly smell the sea.

I told everyone I was with that, should Rover come around the corner, I was so hitting the panic button for home. Thankfully, that never happened. But still. It's creepily authentic.

If you ever had a love for the Village, you should definitely wander through. Or...maybe not. I mean, who knows--Rover just might be lurking around a corner!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

there's something very wrong about this, I think you knew all along somehow

[Why yes, I did alter all the pictures with cutesy little hearts to appease the idiots over in PhotoBucket censorship. Why do you ask?]

I won't go out on a limb and say every time I go freebie-hunting, something like this happens...but it is becoming a trend.

Miss SunShine Philly, everyone.

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She was born the last week of January, 2009. She's already apparently happily married, and kudos for her; it can be difficult finding your soul mate on the grid.

I have to admit though, my jaw hit the floor once she rezzed in. Maybe it's Caledon mores growing on me, or...

Well, no. For one, I do not understand the backpack-of-holding trend. I just don't.

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Also, I have to be honest, I swiveled the cam because I truly didn't believe what I was seeing. Were those really prim boobs, that badly adjusted?

Why yes. They were. Dear gods.

And the bling shoes. And the bling backpack buckles. And the bear with the heart poofer sticking out of the back flap. And the insane-glow-for-miles collar...

Clearly, I had to know more about her. I opened her profile.

Im your Mistress i am your SunShine Iam your pain-slut you anr my submisve you are my Love you are my BITCH

--and that's where I stopped.

Wau. Just...wau.

She's also been to Caledon:

great place if you like closed mided idiots so if your gay lesbian dom sub or any no white race feel free to stop by for the warm welcome this lesbian got

Well, my dear...if you showed up looking like that?

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I think our citizens can be excused for not welcoming you with open arms...I mean, I like to think, by and large, as a population we are fairly tolerant of others' foibles...but to a point. If one desires free access to the teahouses and the strolling parks of Caledon, and one also desires to do so in fishnet stockings, exposed genitalia (the kitty tattoo slays me...as if there was any doubt), chains wrapped tight enough to indent, and carries a backpack that is so very large, it is quite possibly the only object that could counterbalance those breasts...

...well, one or the other of your desires is in error, isn't it?

The House of Ruin is having a Valentines' Day heart hunt. Find nineteen hearts from House of Ruin (fourteen of theirs) and AET Eyez (five from them); it's not that hard, though there are decoys. Some of the decoys are in very odd places.

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It's worth going to even if one is not interested in the hunt. For one, they have a great many eye giveaways scattered about--from full-on freebies to Linden-only offers. For two, most of their eyes--from both businesses--fall between twenty and thirty Linden to acquire--and most of the time, even single sets of eyes are sent out in pairs, because there's a day version, and a night version. Very interesting.

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Drat, now I can't display eyes on spikes. I'll have to come up with something else. Alas.

All in all, though, for once, the hunt does exactly what it's supposed to--invite people to come see their business, wherein one can investigate eyes, for just about every need save neko, as well as artwork and some amusingly fun details (check behind the fire in the side room, is all I'll say), in a fairly quiet and unusual build. This is never a bad thing.

They even have a subscribe-o-matic. Keen!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

sure, you inspire me, but you've been not getting back, so

So let me tell you a little about Runes of Magic.

Runes is yet another fantasy hack and slash online game, with a few interesting quirks. Friend Winter calls it the game I'm cheating on Second Life for, and I won't say she's wrong, but at the same time, it lacks a great many things that still draw me to SL.

There are a few things I really like about it, so let me go through those quickly. I should also add that by agreement, I can't show you any of the current screenshots I may--or may not--have taken (which, for any level of photographer? Quite frustrating, yes!). So I'm turning to the big guns, the gaming blogs, for my content mentions.

First, dual-classing. You can really change your character depending on how you pair things. There are six official classes: Scout (long-distance shots a specialty); Rogue (can loot anything); Priest (empowered by the gods with healing magics); Knight (using the power of the gods and light itself to protect and defend); Warrior (your average tank); and Mage (your average spellcaster). No class in the secondary position can use its primary-class skills; essentially, this means that really cool thing you do with your Knight in the chain armor won't work with your Rogue when your Rogue's primary (not the least of why because your Rogue can't wear anything above Leather).

Second, crafting. It's not perfect, and it's not creating user content, but it's a lot more fun than you might think to track down the wild deposits of brass in the mountains, the mountain poplar growing in the woods, and take them all to the alchemist's and make your own healing potions that will restore 220 HP at one swallow. Tell me that's not damned cool.

In every colony or city, there are groups of people devoted to whatever craft they're masters in. This picture depicts Alice the Herbalist, who resides in Pioneer's Colony, the first town you come across. There are herbalists, alchemists, blacksmiths and armorsmiths, tailors, cooks, and carpenters--and you can choose to apprentice to all of them until you figure out if one pulls you more than any of the others. It's a wonderful addition to the base game.

Third, it's a restricted-race world. Don't ask me why this is a plus, but it is. You can be any of (a limited set of) heights, weights, you can be muscled or whipcord-thin; male or female, and your hair can be any shade of the rainbow you desire. But all human. Six, seven skin tones, from pale-pale (which looks yellow) to dark almost red-brown (which looks tan), but all human. No one is on any one 'side' or the other; no one speaks a language other people don't understand. It's all us against them, and all the people who play in world are us.

Fourth, it's a surprisingly pretty world. I don't know if that will have an impact to those more used to virtual fantasy worlds than I am; but believe me, for me it's a selling point. I love that it has changing light, changing seasons; that the soundtrack music changes depending on where I am, that I can hear birds, see sunlight shafts through o'erhanging trees, watch water flow over stones. Each cave, each mine, is distinct and different, and I'm surprisingly in love with the terrain already.

They have very pretty magic effects for their monster battles.

They also have weird theme days. Their version of Saint Valentine's Day, f'rinstance, is bizarre to say the least--you must talk to the people on the unicorns, who give you a rose seed, which you then have to find growth medium for, and water, until it sprouts a rose...and did we mention you'll be fighting giant snails, slugs and beetles who want to eat the "flower of your love"?

A young wolf pet in Varanas City.

A group ready to head out in Logar, showing the variety of weaponry and characters.

An average progression from beginner to advanced in Knight for men; a similar progression from beginner to advanced in Mage (or Priest; most likely Mage) for females.

Another mix, this time of typical NPCs seen in cities (the little blonde girl has shown up in Logar and Varanas City so far).

And this is sketchwork, but it's been glowingly realized in 3D, with some of the most beautiful red-purple tattered-wing bats I've ever seen; just gorgeous.

It's in open beta now; this means it's free to sign up (they want as many people as possible play-testing and passing reviews back and forth), but it may not be free later. Already, some things are pay-only--larger backpacks, larger storage spaces, permanent horses to ride, certain house furnishings. You can still get by without paying, but yes, those for-pay items will eventually be what funds the game. They're talking about adding specialty races and weaponry for pay clients only. It's not the worst concept.

So far, there's only two negatives to playing:

First, the cast of characters. Even though the agreement to enter game is eighteen or over, I think there are a surprising number of fourteen-to-sixteen-year-old teenage boys. There's also a larger than average number of "Roleplay? What roleplay?" stickjocks and tanks. My blacklist (similar to muting people in world) is growing by leaps and bounds.

Second, while they may have added more US-based download clients, when I downloaded the game some few weeks back, my fastest option was through Denmark, and it still took five hours. It is an insanely huge game; I think nearly everything is client-side. But because of that, maybe that's why everything else looks so good--the odd it-doesn't-look-flexi-but-it-is manes and tails on horses, hems on garments, the spider-scrabble on all those legs, the flexi hair.

And the breast physics. I've been told some gamers log in and open their female characters just to watch them walk around. Sexist? Maybe. But the breast physics are there.

Thankfully for the rest of us, so is everything else.

Monday, February 9, 2009

you're sweet, wanna hit the street?

Depeche Mode and Tron. It can't go wrong.

I understand there's a problem with child abuse (in any world); I understand people like Starship Troopers. Why, oh why, did someone combine them?

And TwoLumps weighs in with the crippling new ailment that has befallen more than a few of us...

And am I the only one thinking someone really needs to bring these candy bars to Baron Wulfenbach?

Also, did I mention I really hate spammers? Man, they're not even accurate spammers--that was an entry from clear back in August! Of 2007!!

A brief discussion of the Tree of Life, just so I have it for reference.

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The spheres are arranged in three columns; the left column is called the Pillar of Severity; by record it represents the anima, the feminine, and contains three Sephira: Binah, which is Understanding; Geburah, which is Severity; and Hod which is Splendor.

The right column is called the Pillar of Mercy; by record it represents the masculine, and also contains three Sephira: Chokmah, which is Wisdom; Chesed, which is Mercy, and Netzach, which is Victory.

The middle pillar of the Tree of Life is called the Pillar of Equilibrium.

"Reading" the Tree of Life is done starting at the top, then going down and to the right, over to the left, down and to the right again. This is how they are organized reading properly:

Kether is the top of this pillar; it is known as the Crown. It represents the upper level, the higher consciousness, infinite light, infinite wisdom...God, in any other sense. Kether is depicted as a sparkling, shining star at the top of the Tree.

Chokmah is just beneath and to the left of Kether. It is called Wisdom. It represents pure moving spiritual energy, spiritual force, the All-Father, in a sense. It is in Eastern terms pure male yang energy. Chokmah is a glimmering pearl-grey sphere.

Binah is to the left of Chohman. It is called Understanding. It represents compassion, the pure principle of understanding, love, acceptance....the All-Mother in other terms. In Eastern terms, this is the heart and source of all pure female yin energy. Binah is represented by a solid obsidian sphere.

Daath is beneath Binah back on the central pillar. It is called Knowledge, but it is the knowledge of the outer world, and the unexplainable. It is the abyss, the chaos of random expression, it is that which cannot be predicted, that which cannot be understood. The inconceivable, the totality of chaos, rules here. Daath bears no discernable color, and is frequently removed from standard Tree of Life depictions.

Chesed is beneath and slightly to the right of Daath. It is called Mercy. It represents authoritarian designs and desires, proud rulership, just majesty...think the Emperor in Tarot terms. Chesed is a glowing cloud-blue.

Geburah is to the left of Chesed. It is called Severity, or sometimes Judgement. This is the domain of the warrior, the fighting impulse; strength, power, physical might, all covertcy and arts of war. Geburah is gleaming red.

Tiphareth is beneath Geburah, back on the central pillar. It is called Beauty. This is the position of harmony, creation, unity, the power and life of the sun, and the striving towards perfection. Tiphareth is gold, solid and shining.

Nedzach is beneath and to the right of Tiphareth. It is called Victory. It embraces love and lovers, artistic creativity, artistic expression and tantric spirituality. Nedzach is the green of all growing things.

Hod is directly to the left of Nedzach. It is called Splendor. Fleet thought, silver intellect, and all provinces of communication rule here. Hod is pumpkin-orange.

Yesod is beneath Hod and back on the central pillar. It is called Foundation. The moon shines here, visions and deep memories, the cycle and flow of tides and life, the cycle of life and death, and also the principles of truth and illusion. Yesod is royal purple.

Below everything, the last orb of the Tree of Life is called Malkuth, is beneath Yesod. It is called Kingdom. This is the place of physical reality, the realms of death, pain, and healing, all labor of the flesh, all physical experiences. Malkuth is split into four quarter-spheres: one olive green, one mid-range red, one black, one muted purple.

You're welcome to respond, if you like, but this was more for a current commission than anything else. Think of it as a way to take visual notes.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

where all the stars from the nevers and maybes die

I watch you in the distance, the square of your shoulders rounded and bent from worry, from bone-deep despair. I watch the storm clouds gather and I ache to take that worry away. Some hours I can do nothing but observe. But I am there. I observe. I watch, when I can do little else.

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(AKA, Why Tinies Shouldn't Dance...on typical dance balls, at least. Here, Darth Penny stretches to the max to try to groove.)

In all the chaos of whirlwind change, you are the rock, obdurate, seemingly eternal. I know that others think so; I also know what they think matters little to either of us. For rock erodes; the strongest stone gives way for the smallest stream. And you are not in the path of the rill, stitched erratically in silver thread across the expanse of untrammeled green. No, you are the unceasing stubborn cliff-face, turned blind to the torrent of salt and waves.

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(Ex-Duke? Peccable, Mssr. Podruly...made of prims.)

It breaks you down, I see that. Bit by bit, gold veins lacing glassine quartz, strong sturdy hornblende that glitters in its own right. Too much, too quickly, the storm lowering, the rain lashing you along with the beat of the waves, and you disintegrate at a touch. I know this. I see this. I cannot stop it.

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(I admit, I adore this picture [click for the larger version]. Talk about being in the right place at the right time...here, Miss Neome looks over the railing at Solange's Ornament Hunt last December, and shows off Mr. Nix Sands' Caledon Tartan eyes to marvelous advantage.)

In a sense, this is nature's way, and I am ever nature's acolyte, in a diffident sense. The words of Kali Ma, I destroy to create, ring through me, watching. For there is loss, yes; there is pain, yes; there is destruction, yes. But I must believe that for every loss, there is something gained; for every pain, there is pain's relief, waiting; for destruction, there is reconfiguration.

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(I'm not sure I remember who all came to the Australia Day celebration thrown by Sir Edward Pearse and Lady Christine McAllister-Pearse...I think it's [from the left] Roy Smashcan, Dr. Mason's new daughter, Mi...not Minako...Mi...Me...something, argh...then-Mr. Mossaveno Tenk, before he declared rulership over New Babbage, and Dr. Mason behind them; then Mr. Fawkes Allen, testing out the joints on the new Cecil model automaton; then Miss Neome being slothful on the green [and yes, that's the distinctive pattern of moss growing in the sloth's fur]; then a random cockatoo, me in Bare Rose's latest "is it a kimono?" offering, with Edward's cork-bedecked sunhat; and....ack, I can't think, Miss Weatherwax? Miss Davies? I can't remember.)

But no one said it would be easy. And I watch you, enduring, suffering, faltering on occasion, because no one is strong all the time. I do my best to heed your words, I try to keep myself open, I try to let those around me know when I am weak, when I suffer, when I need help. I watch you fighting, I watch you at the same crossroads, over and again, and I admit: I do everything in my power to keep you from giving in.

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(It's too cold to be spring. Besides, I miss my snowmen. I even miss the Vorpal Snow Bunny attacking them.)

It rarely feels like enough. But it is all I can do. And in those rare moments when the stormclouds lift, and the seas calm, and I see you shine...I know I'd do it all again.

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(What the other snowman was shrieking about...Snowthulhu.)

Because I love you, and I do not love only when it's sunny, I do not love only when it's spring. I love through storm and fury, through bitter winter that has forgotten all light and life. I did not choose you because you were comfortable. I did not choose anyone because they were comfortable.

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(Finally, I've meant to mention this for a while now: not in time for the holidays unfortunately, but I do have my House Slippers out and fully functional. They are soft, sturdy, and come equipped with a miniature orange tree, a smokeless fireplace [for warmth], steps up to the carpeted mini-room, and working doors! Only fifty Linden at Kartiny, upstairs from Autogenic in Penzance.)

I admit, I am not easy to love either. As much as I am learning to root, to stand in place and stand fast, I still flitter, I still flit. I no longer give in at a compliment, at an amused glance, at a touch, and I am told this is no bad thing. But even if it's not to others, my attention frequently drifts. I am dazzled by so many things in the vastness of the multiverse, and fascinated by so much...I do not always keep my focus, it is hard for me. But through it all, my distraction, yours, my pain and yours, my joy and yours, I still love. That I love you is the one thing that never changes. My wandering attention always finds you, over and again.

(I have to humbly thank Winter Ventura for her door script assistance and Fawkes Allen and Edward Pearse for building suggestions. I couldn't have done it without you guys.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

from where I stand, you are home free, the planets align, so rare

If you are looking for a safe place for your kids to play online while having fun sans supervision, Freaky Creatures is the game for you. Correct me if I'm wrong--I am profoundly not a parent--but isn't this the kind of thinking that leads to bad things? "Abandon your kids with us, guys, they'll be safe enough!" I'm not saying the opposite is required--keeping kids "safe" to the point that they have chips implanted so their parents know where they are, 24/7, between home (with the bars on the windows) and school (where they're patted down every morning like they were terrorists). But still--doesn't that statement just scream "parental irresponsibility"?

Or maybe just "game irresponsibility".

In other news, steampunk Legos? Because plastic goes so well with brass, steam, copper and wood. But they are fun to peruse. (And thank you, Lady Seraph, for the tip.)

Now then, I've been meaning for some time to discuss Abigail Washburn, as part of the erratically continuing steampunk music series. Her work with the Sparrow Quartet (composed of Béla Fleck's banjo, Ben Sollee's cello, and Casey Driessen's fiddle) could easily be lifted entire and played as the backdrop for any episode of Firefly. But that's only part of the story.

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She plays clawhammer banjo, which describes a particular style (also, amusingly enough, practiced by such notables as Bob Carlin, Steve Martin and Joseph Bethancourt--though, to be fair to Joe, he plays every style on the banjo, and well) of banjo-picking, which essentially transforms the picking hand into a "claw" (hence the name) to only pick the strings in a 'down' motion (as opposed to up and down picking motions). It's certainly not the only way to play banjo, though it is one way that's largely identified with the roots music movement.

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While she had musical interests as a child, as Miss Abigail grew to adulthood, different things called her heart. One of these things was China, and Asian culture at large (in fact, she was the first Asian studies major at Colorado College). Another was the practice and the principles of law. Between one thing and another, she ended up in Beijing on a travel Visa and fell in love with the culture, and the country. She made the decision to return home only long enough to pack, and then go back and finish her work towards her international law degree.

This is where the story gets interesting.

When she came home, friends of hers invited her out to listen to various and sundry, and, without clear intent, she ended up on stage, playing. This eventually led to her joining the Uncle Earl band and recording two albums with them.

She was still intending to go back to China.

Along the way, she entered a songwriting contest in North Carolina, and this brought her to the attention of her current label--and Béla Fleck. Fleck produced one solo album with her, and then, part planned, part simple musical cohesion, ended up as part of the Sparrow Quartet.

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Now, she splits her time between the states, and China, her chosen homeland. Only she returned with a banjo and a backup band, not a law degree. In China, she plays to small packed houses who cheer and stomp when she sings in Mandarin, songs formerly only sung in English.

She hasn't given up; but she says the music fills her heart now, and there's always later for law. We're very grateful the music's there for her, because that means it's there for us.

Listen to Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet perform "Danwei Music" with Hanggai, a Mongolian acoustic band, in China.

Or from another live performance, "A Fuller Wine", a song showcasing her style in English.

Or have a taste of my favorite of hers so far, "Kangding Qingge", in that recording performing live--and yes, that is Miss Abigail singing in Mandarin. She speaks it fluently, which always seems to amaze and delight Chinese people (and a fair number of people in other cultures, considering).

She's also on MySpace.

Now, why do I consider roots music (and not just artists from the American roots movement, but the growing international roots music movement) part and parcel of what's evolving into steampunk music? Because it's not all Abney Park airships and Vernian Process soundscapes; a large part, I firmly believe, of what steampunk music may be, must be, relies on what's near to hand--just as a scattering of tools and some stretched canvas can, in the right hands, be turned into a flying machine so mortalkin can ascend the air, so too must music be made from what's available.

Washboards. Sticks on walls, on pipes, on barrels. Hand-manufactured instruments--steam-powered organs, copper harps strung with pulled steel, pulling arpeggios out of tension wires, tapping out strange code on untested machines. The rarefied shining flutes and elegantly polished violas are not, in this light, steampunk in the least--but the well-worn banjo, the untrammeled variety of vocal expression, and the sheer desire, the need, to make music however we can--that is as vital to steampunk music as the unimaginable devotion to art and craft for the rest of steampunk.

So I add in Abigail Washburn into the growing multifaceted image of what steampunk music, at its heart, is. Give her a listen. You might like it.

you stupid girl, all you had you wasted

Coming across the chatlines tonight, reports of people trying to "buy" nekos at a pet store. Several people were very upset. Here's where the story turns for me, though.

Stephanniyah Sinatra and her partner, Domnick Darkstone, run "Domnant Tats", and at least one of their locations is through Nekorifik's Pounded Flounder Mall. First, she was born in 2006, he in 2007, so they both should know better; second, according to folks on the scene, they couldn't type their ways out of a paper bag, which may be elitist of me, but does to me demonstrate profoundly unintelligent sorts. Third, trying to buy avatars? Any avatars?

Until I know more, Ms. Sinatra and Mr. Darkstone are banned from my properties and I'm not shopping at Nekorifik or any subsidiary until I figure out more of what happened.

I think it goes without saying I don't need to ever spend Lindens in their tattoo store.

Look, forget the neko angle; this was someone just going in to buy a shoulder pet at a pet store. By report, nothing untoward was said by the avatar they were hassling. They just decided to start picking on him, and did not let up.

Some things one expects; go to a free sex area, you're going to get offers to have sex. Go to Jessie, you're going to get attacked.

Go to FurNation sandbox, you're going to get shot in the face. It happens.

But this is new. And annoying.

Around the world, millions have gone on-line to create a virtual life for themselves--a simulated fantasyland where the economy booms, the sun shines and everyone looks gorgeous.

Who are they kidding? I don't know about you, but my SL? Rarely looks that good!

[23:46] Emilly Orr: A note, while you're here--someone really saw the teen grid islands?
[23:46] Sphynx Soleil: that's what scrolled across the aggregate
[23:46] Sphynx Soleil: at the time the grid wasn't cooperating so I couldn't verify for myself
[23:47] Sphynx Soleil: Ohhhh, I think I know what may be going on... lemme check something
[23:50] Sphynx Soleil: Ok, here's what MIGHT be going on... the new map? Shows a slew of "Help Island" regions - which under the old algo, you couldn't SEE, forget getting back to, once you left them
[23:50] Sphynx Soleil: Still can't get TO them, but now, can see them
[23:50] Sphynx Soleil: Might be the case with teen grid islands
[23:50] Emilly Orr: Hmm. Interesting theory.
[23:51] Emilly Orr: Which just leads more to the supposition that grid unification is happening sooner, rather than later.
[23:51] Sphynx Soleil: or they didn't program the map to not show those bits to the unauthorized people


Still haven't found out what's going on with this, either.

[23:59] Emilly Orr: Do you know any of the teen grid island names?
[23:59] Emilly Orr: Though Help Island is showing up a good hundred locations
[23:59] Sphynx Soleil: yea, and it used to only show like 3 or 4
[23:59] Sphynx Soleil: Um... dunno what teen grid region names are, but I might be able to google a few :)
[0:00] Emilly Orr: It might be helpful. If we can prove they come up in search...
[0:01] Sphynx Soleil: found two names, neither come up in search
[0:01] Emilly Orr: Okay, that's something, at least.
[0:03] Sphynx Soleil: Aha, found a Jira ticket :)
[0:04] Sphynx Soleil: and got a third region name, which also does not come up in map search


Now, granted, searching for "help" under the main map? It only pops open forty-five locations, not hundreds. Still, it formerly only popped open one or two, depending.

All and all, still more irked on the neko harassment thing:

[0:04] Cyrus Dallagio: yes. they also said to him 'kids with tails have no rights'.

Really, honestly? This is all we need, for this sort of thickheaded non-thinking to spread. Catch a clue, people. Grow the hell up. Or go play WoW.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'll always see her that way, dressed in the red, white and grey

Change. Change on the wind, change within, change without. I'm left to sort good from bad, meaning from casual chance, and doing my best not to over-analyze.

First, the news that Robin Linden is leaving. Of course, she says it's due to her wanting to experience new things, but I detect power plays behind the stage. We may never know; what I do know is that Robin Linden (who will abandon Linden status February 15th) and Katt Linden (who is also seeking fairer shores) were the two most vocal opponents to a merged grid. In addition, they were two of the most vocal proponents of censorship, age verification, and "sim rating" that the Lindens had. I know this quite well, as Katt Linden and I tangled to some small extent during the chaos surrounding the nigh-daily revisions of what was and was not allowable during SL5B.

Will this turn out to be a good thing? I don't know yet. All I know is by mid-February, they will be gone, and six months from now, we'll see what the changes wrought now will lead to...be that a merged grid, with eighteen-plus age verification, and parental responsibility called down on any minor who misrepresents...or, as I very much fear, a merged grid that is 'dumbed down' to a family friendly rating grid-wide, PG for everyone.

Considering the international situation, I'm not for either of these; the tale of Germany still resonates for the Lindens, whether or not they're an American company on American soil. But I'm closer to accepting of the first scenario; I do not want to live my Second days on a kid-friendly grid where, if it's something a thirteen-year-old can't see, it doesn't exist.

One eye on the horizon, one eye on the grid; it's not a comfortable position to be in. We can only wait, and watch, and see what changes these departures bring. Six months from now, if the adult grid merges with the teen grid, then we'll know.

[UPDATE: This from a friend:

[14:30] Sphynx Soleil: they may already be essentially merged
[14:31] Sphynx Soleil: I saw a note scamper across the blog aggregate that someone saw the teen grid islands appear on the main grid map


Does anyone know if there's truth for this? Who knows the names of the teen islands? Can anyone verify this?]