Wednesday, September 30, 2009

living on if and if I tried

How the Lindens fail to deter crime in Second Life. Admire or despise Prokovy Neva, this one's still thought-provoking.

Some context for CopyBot.

I still don't know where I came across this--likely something from the web-wandering Mm. Allen--but it's still rather a stunning image. If you have no experience with BDSM, you're likely wondering why she's kneeling by the side of the bed. If you do have any experience with BDSM, or even Gorean conventions, you know exactly why she's kneeling.

What makes me ponder, about that, is usually ads are more subtle with their subtext. This? This is not subtext. This is a woman clearly serving her husband on her knees. (The implication, of course, being that if you buy this snazzy brand of tie, you too will have a wife willing to serve the powerful man you've become.)

Master of the house? Indubitably. But there's no subtext about it; this is plain text.

Over at Kona Island some days back, checking out an apparent "sex tub"--it just sounded too wild not to get--I got caught up completely by this:

Skydancer in Kona

She's called The SkyDancer. She's just breathtaking.

Skydancer in Kona

Amael Juran of Zensual Sculpture made her. This is what sculpted prims were made for.

Skydancer in Kona

Start to finish.

The Hope Hunt is driving me crazy at speed. I've finally given up; Depoz did me in, honestly, when I hit the first of their three participating locations, and learned they had forty-five roses to find. Good gods.

The hunt itself is simple: you can get a HUD to wear to keep track of things, if you're trying for the grand prize; otherwise, you can just choose the stores you want, go pick up pink roses, and go on with your life.

The problem is, some merchants don't have every rose set for sale. Other merchants don't have all of theirs out. And, if you're not just bopping between stores you like, if you want to win the grand prize, you have to make sure your HUD records every single rose in the hunt.

And there's no way to do that, currently.

Well, I gave up, anyway. I have seven hunt folders now that are complete (as far as I'm concerned), that I haven't even gone through, yet. I'm up over fifty-four thousand items in my inventory again. ENOUGH.

Lastly, there's a new tattoo shop, Heureux, that's having a hunt for three very tiny witch's hats. I still have no idea what they look like, because in a solid hour of searching--even with hints--I couldn't even find one. You're welcome to look, but in the meantime, this charming example of Engrish from the hunt card:

The present is concealed in each store.

It is a black hat that finds.

The following LM is in the present.

They are nine shops in all.
The amount of the present is 1~3.

Prezent name for 1/1.1/2.1/3

It enjoys and it hunts Halloween.


...Okay. Did I mention that, not having found at least one of these little hats, I have no idea who the other eight stores are in this thing?

Yeah.

But go if you want. Maybe you'll have better luck at finding them.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

it's never the amateurs that reckon it's damaging us, it's the major labels saying it's fatal

From the last entry I wrote, and a conversation offline: I'd told been bemoaning that this was likely to get me in trouble. In fact, I'd said to him that "I really want to run with this, but....I really want to keep paying rent."

And I do. Believe me, I do. But I also believe that beginnings must be clean. If you begin in bad faith, if you begin by co-opting others' work, especially if your protest is entirely concerning copying of others' work--it just cannot be done. Fighting fire with fire? Only works if you're willing to set things on fire.

As far as it goes, Dan Bull has an absolutely brilliant song response to Lily Allen on the whole filesharing of songs (do I hear "content theft" again? I believe I do).

People, at heart it's not as simple as "stealing is wrong". Libraries buy books (or get them donated) and then loan them out for free, so that the information, adventures, poetry, songs, and art within them can be preserved for future generations. Like a book? Buy it. If we can't, there's the library. And it was the same with music--new bands frequently played small venues, handed out their music for free, appeared on any radio station that would have them, anything they could think of--and then, there's libraries again. Hear the music and didn't pay for it? Doesn't mean we won't pay for it, if we like the artist. Doesn't mean we won't support the music later, buy concert tickets, buy movie tickets to films they're in, buy the posters, the sheet music, get inspired to play the guitar and become our own stars because of their work...

On the grid it's the same thing. Any hair shop worth its prim count has demos for each hair style so we can see what we look like in the style. After a while, everyone gets a feel for what looks good on them, but still, for the pricier options, I'm dead grateful Adam & Eve see fit to demo out their fantastic frocks, so I can buy the demo and see how that looks on me before I shell out L$1500 to buy the dress. Joining store groups for the freebies, going on scavenger hunts, deciding whom we like by what they put out for free and how it looks...if we like the designer, we will buy what they make. That's the simple equation to all of this. If we're not flush, we'll wait for sales, we'll wait for store clearances, we'll wait for freebies or cheapies on offer--but we'll still be there, putting our money on the line, because we want the dreams those dreamers make real.

The bottom line is--if your textures, your designs, your art is taken--DMCA as soon as you can, as soon as you figure out where to send the complaint, but don't give up. Don't let them stop you. And if you're good, if you get the sim and the big store and the fan base--use them. Make sure they know your design aesthetics, and they'll look out for you. They'll notecard you when they find your designs on some discount sim to make a quick Linden or two on the turnover.

And just hang on until the dust settles. See who wins. It just might be you.

Two years after the need for it is far, far away, more than a year after the advent of sculpted prims emerged from the dank protean Lindenspaces...finally, someone has released a black goat avatar.

Don't get me wrong; I'm still tempted. That would give me, finally, the three main mythical phouka forms--black rabbit, sable goat, ebon horse--but by the same extension, I don't need it anymore. My days of playing phouka for the Unaffiliated Winter Court are long over.

Still...it's there. And he has some very interesting cheetah forms, too.

The difference between scientists and "normal" people. On the other hand, what's really "normal"?

Prad Pravithi weighs in on Linden Labs playing the marketing heavy.

Finally, from a post on the SL blog concerning the economy, London Warden asked "What is your feeling about the SL economy? If you are a big merchant, have sales changed for good or bad?"

And boy, did London get answers:

Clyde Lindman: "If you want to look at land values, I'm still seeing a lot of mainland for L$2/sqm so that's definitely been flushed down the toilet."

Andie Ramona: "Sales for me are down the toilet. True, I had a nice business, and a pretty good run there for a couple years, but things took a huge plummeting dive into the abyss about a year and a half ago..maybe longer, and I seriously, at this point, don't ever see them ever improving for me at least."

Merlynn Draken: "With the state of of the rl economy, the Zindra move and re-settling of things, camping/bot ban, a huge influx of new businesses into the grid... and so much land for sale these days, the map is turning seriously yellow... time's are a'changing... that's all I know."

Ann Otoole: "The tier for next month has been paid so I am still in business. For that I am grateful despite LL's best efforts to steer commerce away from most of the bushiness in Second Life to the select few they have decided to promote with their own secondlife.com domain."

Couldbe You: "I can't really comment on the rest as being a purely adult content provider the fact I'm hidden from search for a lot of people skews my results. The only thing I can say is that my inworld shop sales are as poor as they have been since I was forcibly moved to zindra so I assume that's my new reality. Perhaps being hidden means I'm no longer vulnerable to discretionary spending variations.

I can say that my xsl sales have dropped by around 40% this month. Again whether that's the economy or just the way LL previously kept tinkering with XSL in their attempt to make it as difficult as possible to use is moot."

Alpha Winger: "Adult tends to bounce back first as people begin to spend cash again.

So if it gives u any hope, SexCam Island is popping with new sales and new customers. Get off that PG sim .. thats my advice.. all you have is teenagers with no money setting up fake accounts."

Indeterminate Schism: "I'm seeing fewer and fewer people when I journey around SL but just as many bots. Involvement in SL reduced by 5/6th since March, still feeling more and more pushed-out. Traffic and sales have disappeared this week, but I can live with that."

Gemini Rotaru: "This has been a summer of upheaval and change for many people, and I know for even myself 90% of my Landmarks are out of date. So finding favorite stores, much less shopping there has been difficult. Looking through search is an absolute joke."

Eureka Karu: "Funny you should ask this. I just had to close my club today. So I went to 25 clubs based on search order and here's what I found.

Empty clubs
Clubs full of bots
a few clubs with 3 to 4 starving strippers
landmarks to now empty land."

Lady Sakai: "Land Ive seen / had people either leave or downsize due to economy. I just got a notecard yesterday from a landowner that couldnt afford to own land at the present (he had a hard time finding work in SL - musician)

My sales at the store is avarage its up and down somedays nothing and some days pretty good (note Im a small merchant also)

The club is at a "standstill" its a fanbased / supported club but I still see people comming to hang out and some of the DJs spin a little for the fun of it - no money in it though."

Prokovy Neva: "One very obvious sign of their hiding what is going on is their deliberate, conscious removal of the "statistics" link from the front page. This went without a bang or a whimper. First, they jollied people along telling them that it was just down temporarily for overhauling and bringing it in line with real figures after they cleaned out the dupes and try-mes from the account list. The link to the page was still featured, but only with partial filling of the data. Then they took forever putting it back up, saying that they needed to tinker with the island count after the consolidation of the void sims back into full-prim sims. Tateru Nino would call them out every now and then on her column at Massively, but they didn't return it. Then, they did, kinda sorta, but stuff was missing (like number of premium sign-ups). Then, they finally took it out behind the woodshed and killed it.

Let me repeat this again, for the doubtful: the Lindens have *entirely removed* all links to the economy statistics as a promoted feature of their product. The link is *gone* from the front page or home page of secondlife.com and lindenlab.com It is not accessible through any obvious tab like 'Land' or 'Community'.

You have to dredge it up with Google or search on here, after some tries:

http://secondlife.com/statistics/economy-data.php"

Ela Talaj: "Have owned an exotic club for more than 2 years. Seen traffic dropping like a brick, seen traffic picking up... never made a dime out of it anyways, hardly paid the tier. I think the club business basically died after gambling was prohibited, which of course had to be done to comply with the law."

Elanthius Flagstaff: "I can't comment on product sales but from my perspective the mainland market has been utterly decimated. Mainland prices are now so low that compared to the tier costs they might as well be zero (land can be L$2/sqm or less and tier costs ar L$0.8/sqm/month). So land has no value as a commodity it is merely a service that you pay for monthly, like a cell phone."

madddyyy Schnook: "[I] am 4 years in sl now, heading for my 5th and i think sl has died for those who have been here maybe longer than me and been here over 2 years. Conventional sl the way it was is dead. the sl of now is in transitional mode. so its all messed up."

Chase Quinnell: "My sales have also hit a major slump lately. I have had several days pass without any sales. My limited time discount offers no longer have the same pull they once had; even my 71% off megasale only yielded a minor increase in sales volume. September has been a pathetic month overall for me."

Reading through the original blog post does give small peaks of hope here and there, but mostly by way of smaller merchants who a, don't have as much to lose, and b, don't sell in the same categories as everyone else. Sex is still selling in SL, though it's harder to find; role play items are selling; home decor (and I'd be willing to bet, gardening centers are in the same bracket) seems to be running well, but not expanding, as far as sales.

Land? If it's mainland the best you can hope for is two Lindens per square meter. Estate land seems to be doing better...

Overall, the impression I get? SL is no longer a place to merchant, but, as Elanthius Flagstaff mentioned, just another service you pay for month to month, like cable and cell phone usage. I'd like to see that change, for every designer out there. Maybe, with enough protests, it will.

But the answer still isn't an orange ribbon and a dance.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

working on a morning flight to anywhere but here

(Wherein Your Faithful Correspondent might well find herself fired...Also, this is really long.)

It all started here, and initially, the concept seemed, at least on the surface, to be sound...until the comments began to string out and the real agenda became clear:

* Urging the banning of unpaid accounts, or at least the restriction of unpaid user accounts on uploading anything, and on transferring any monies made out of system;

* Banishing (or at least radically restricting) alt accounts;

* Urging Linden Labs to remove all opensource content from Second Life, and restrict useable viewers only to the current release client and official client.

Mine was not the only voice raised in protest, on that entry or in world, but such is the fervor behind this that it has spawned an official Day of Protest, also called Step Up!; wherein we have new details of things the organizers would like to see done:

* No uploading of textures the day of the protest

Presuming, of course, they mean "all uploads", to increase the strength of the protest. Or, perhaps they only mean textures, in which case, photographs, animations, and sounds could conceivably still be uploaded and make the Lindens ignore the protest entirely.

Though HoneyBear had the best response comment in the "Missing the Point Entirely" contest:
"Yes, but it’s one day. People will be able to upload on the 4th and 6th.

It’s about making a point, not about causing long-term disruption."
And see, there's the heart of the problem. Do we want to make an impact on the Lindens? Remember what happened with the original spread of the CopyBot technology. Stores closed their doors--not for a day, not for a week, but some did for months. Some shop owners took their stores back entirely, and gave up their sims. Some shop owners sold off and left the grid.

That made an impression on the Lindens. But more, it made an impression on the world, and it was residents, not Lindens, who first put forth a solution to the problem. One day of protest--and one day of protest knowing you can upload textures before, or after, no problem--it's not going to make much of a difference.

* Wear an orange ribbon of inconsistent design, it seems only to matter that it's orange (I suppose to fully embrace the creativity involved in making orange ribbons) (which, when offered for free, they say should be accompanied by a fact sheet on what content theft is, and why it's a bad thing)

Of course, they seem to be disregarding that an orange ribbon has been used, or is currently used, in support of:

* Australia's National Harmony Day;

* Singapore's Racial Harmony Day;

* the "Orange is everywhere!" campaigning protesting the evacuation of the Jewish settlements in Gaza (back when there were any);

* an Indiana coalition bound to stop underage drinking;

* Canada's campaign to support those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction;

* an Episcopalian outreach program to stop all violence done to animals for any reason;

* awareness of rare blood cancer awareness, in particular leukemia awareness;

* awareness of world hunger:

* a global effort called Rational Animal to prove that all animals are sentient beings who can feel pain;

* universal human rights, an end to misogyny and an end to human oppression by other humans;

* the campaign to support families with loved ones in prison;

* the campaign to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center;

* the campaign to remember work safety and highway workers who have died as a result of hazardous events;

* and most importantly, the ongoing campaign to free Tibet from Chinese oppressors.

And that's not even a third of the uses of the orange ribbon.

This, from the site:

"Why orange? It’s been used before, but has no overwhelming association (unlike pink or red ribbons). It’s a bright, noticeable colour. It suggests explosions and colour …"

No overwhelming association? It's been tied to the Free Tibet movement since at least the mid-nineties, overseas and in the US; the movement might have declared the orange color of their protest ribbon when the protest first started, in 1991. It's been tied to Australian Aboriginal acceptance efforts since at least 1998. Rational Animal has trademarked their version of the orange ribbon, the one with the pawprint; how's that for "no overwhelming association"??

Again from their site:

"The day ends with parties. Bonfire parties. That means that all around the grid, people have parties."

Bonfire parties. Which brings me to my next point: the group behind Step Up! have decided that the best day to do this is November 5th.

Guy Fawkes Day.

Savor the irony for a moment.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.


In less lyrical vein, if you don't know, Guy Fawkes was the fellow, along with Robert Catesby, Robert Keyes, and other staunch Roman Catholics, who planned to blow up Parliament (with most of England's Protestant ruling force inside) in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. If you're Protestant, you gleefully burn him in effigy every Bonfire Night, the commemoration of the disaster averted; if you're Catholic, you may despise him in public, but you might wistfully admire him in private, and wonder on what England would have been like...had it worked. It was a bitter, divisive time in England's history, and really, in some fashion, it's never stopped.

And the folks behind Step Up! think Guy Fawkes Day would be the perfect day to protest content theft.

Content theft is a problem, grid-wide, world-wide, in all worlds. Content theft is not a victimless crime; depending on the sales people are making in world, at any given time, and the damage done by the copyists who lifted those designs, content theft can easily impact RL rents, RL mortgage payments, health care, day care payments; the ability to buy school supplies and new clothing for children; the ability to buy food or put gas in the family car.

But break it down further. For everyone who reads this: have you ever downloaded a movie, television show, or recording online without paying for it? Ever had a friend toss you an e-book to read if you couldn't buy it? Ever gone hunting for graphics via Google's image search instead of through known, trusted, royalty-free sources? Every tracked down a .pdf file of a comic you wanted to read, but didn't feel the need to buy--or couldn't buy, with your finances at that time?

Even better, ever watched a musician you like on YouTube? If it's not directly released by the record label, or by the artist themselves, if it's from "michaeljfan4evah" or "lilbaby99" or--anyone, actually, who's not Sony, BMG, EMI, or even smaller, independent labels?

Maybe you're in England, or Australia, and you want to see a television show from America, that's not shown in your country yet. Or maybe the reverse is true--you live in America, and you don't have access to the latest Dr. Who and Torchwood episodes. Simple thing to find a torrent file of it, right? Who's really harmed? You'll likely be a fan of the show and buy it when it comes out on DVD, so it's not like it's really hurting anyone, right?

Or take purely in-world transactions. If you buy a texture pack, and you are working with a fellow designer on a project, and they know you have Window14aGiltTrim_frosted, and ask you for it so they can texture their section of the build: that, too, is content theft. Even though you own the textures, you are working with a known fellow designer, and they are helping you texture one of your builds: this is how vague and specious "content theft" is.

Graphics; photographs; digital art; for-pay fonts that you don't pay for; movies and TV shows ripped in other countries and offered for free download, or for sale on eBay; electronic books; electronic music; Windows...It all comes under those two damning words, "content theft".

I do think it's disingenuous in the extreme to release tools that the coders know can be used to ill ends, and say a warning is enough to protect them from the consequences of any artistic loss; that they released it was an ill act in itself. And it is escalating, in terms of SL copying.

But I also know that most of the voices raised loudest in protest were also the voices raised loudest against the Lindens withholding the code for the viewer in the first place. The voices raised loudest to urge the Labs to go opensource, to make the code free, so other people could fix things the Lindens, to us, seemed to have no interest in fixing.

"Left alone with the mysterious casket, Pandora became more and more inquisitive. The box was of such fine workmanship that it seemed to smile and encourage her. Around the box a glittering golden cord was wound, and fastened on top in an intricate knot. Pandora felt sure she could unfasten it, and reasoned that it would not be indiscreet to untie it if she did not raise the lid." (from Hope for Pandora)

So what did they think would happen? We cannot count only on mankind's higher nature for every impulse; to do that is to blind ourselves to the reality of the situation. Of course there would, and will, be problems; because now the code is out there, for anyone who can puzzle it out.

And many, many have, and not all with high and shining aspirations.

More to the point, do I think that a day noted as one of the days where England failed to fall (for good or ill) should be co-opted by a group choosing a ribbon color best noted for support of Aboriginal peoples in Australia, or the steady destruction of the entire culture of Tibet?

Are they serious?? For decades now, Aborigines in Australia have been twice as likely to be the victims of violent crime, and up until the last twenty years or so, crimes against them have gone uninvestigated, due to their being Aborigines in Australia! And in Tibet, dear gods, in Tibet...women have been raped and beaten; men and women slaughtered in singles, pairs and groups; women forced to have abortions, often left to bleed out and die themselves afterwards...It's been cultural genocide on the part of the Chinese. To the point that now, in Tibetan Buddhism, there will be no more female Tibetan monks. Why? Because Tibetan Buddhism, at its heart, is an oral tradition, and must be passed on from teacher to student verbally.

And China knew this, and killed every single female monk they could find. Now, the highest aspiration a woman called to Tibetan Buddhism can receive is the status of nun. And that was done deliberately, that was done with full malicious intent.

I'm sorry, but content theft? It can do harm, it should be guarded against, but stacked against hundreds of years of Protestant/Catholic strife, on the one side, and people in utter despair over their losses in Tibet, lighting themselves on fire as their last plea for clemency on the other...it's just not in the same class, at all.

That having been said, I like Crap Mariner's idea of megaprim ribbons, or even parcel-size megaprim squares of some strong, vibrant color (even if it has to be orange) to show solidarity. Occluding those sections of the map will give the Lindens a sharp idea of just how much of the grid opposes content theft. Combine that occlusion--which will be captured by in-world mapmaking services, many of them only updating once per week, so the effect will last longer than the protest--with the closing of stores, with the removal of XStreetSL delivery boxes from parcels, with refusing to upload anything...that might make a difference.

Especially if it's not just November 5th. If it goes on past that. Or before it. Throughout November. Imagine not just one day of no uploads; imagine a week of no uploads. A month of no uploads. And it doesn't mean we have to stop taking pictures; just take them and download them to our hard drives. For use on blogs; for PhotoShop retouching; for sending via email. Photographers don't have to bring things back into world to make Lindens for taking photographs, after all.

Because the threat is real:

Any object on the grid that possesses a [design], a craftsmanship, self made textures of your work, it is vulnerable to copybot. This means hair, even demo hair, ladies, prim clothing, shoes, whether they are sculpted are not, they are at risk, because copybot DOES in fact copy sculpt maps and it preserves the shape of the stolen item."

And, after all this time, it still does that...just incorporated into a browser, now, instead of a remotely-driven external program.

Then it would be a worthwhile protest. Then it would make a shift in public opinion. Then it would perhaps make a difference in how the grid looks at content theft, and possibly break them out of that "it's on the internet, therefore it's free" mentality.

The digital realm is an entirely different realm, and we should develop new rules for it. These are not physical objects; there is no one who can't do things the old-fashioned way, by buying a frock, looking at the prims, and reproducing them by look, if they can't do it any other way. Do Copybot and other programs make it easier, by delivering the program's worst features to as many people as possible? Absolutely. But did content theft exist before Copybot? Without question.

Holding a single day of protests, a day of dances, a day of wearing co-opted orange ribbons on a co-opted holiday? (Though that at least should surprise no one, considering the first content theft protest on the grid was directly and wholly stolen from PETA's I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur ad campaign. Why should this one be different, really?)

Count me out. If you're going to do something about the problem, then do something. Learn to spot designers' work. Learn their names. Notecard people you think might have stolen from them. Urge them to file DMCAs, which Linden Labs by law must obey--and they do. Read up on DMCA provisions, what a DMCA filing will and won't do. Compare work, contrast, get demos if you can, check out individual prims if you must--but stay alert. Stay active.

People will steal if it's easier; they'll buy when it's not. Banning no-payment-on-file residents and dancing while wearing orange solves nothing. Don't just protest the problem--work on the solution. Viewers like Cryolife, Thuglyfe, NeilLife and any other hacked-Life viewer that may come along next, are out now, they are reality, and we must adapt and evolve--or die.

Getting rid of free accounts won't help. Getting rid of alt accounts won't help. People who really want to steal things will have no problem logging in, hacking a credit card for verification, and paying $9.95 for one month of connection--which is long enough to run around and copy things like mad. It won't stop them. Nothing will stop them.

You can't expect things that work in First Life to work anywhere else. Second Life is not First Life. Art may have started businesses in SL, but it's not that way now. Think of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Monet--they didn't make one good painting and then rest a business on how well that painting sells. While sculptors like Brancusi did endless variations on their sculptural themes, each and every individual variation is a separate variation. They kept creating, driven by the vision, driven by the need to express that vision, whatever it was.

In the virtual realm, there is no physical labor (barring neck strain, eye strain, and carpal tunnel); there is advertising, but all on a relatively equal playing field (at least, until the advent of the Adult category); the only limits, then, seem to be how much you can afford to advertise, and how much you can afford on tier. Prims for construction? Anyone has access to those. Scripting? You can do it yourself (though there is reason and good reason to pay really good scripters if you can't). Sculpted prims? Just about anyone can do simple ones; better sculpting requires better programs to make them (and oh, by the way, did you pay for that copy of PhotoShop, Maya or ZBrush you're using?).

In the virtual realm, "limited edition" merely means you have a set cut-off for sales. Otherwise, you can set up ten copies of that posh frock, or ten thousand; certainly you have no seamstresses or cutting clerks to pay. In fact, you have very little overhead at all; employees only if you choose, upload fees only for advertisements and new products, textures only when you build in the first place, or remodel later on. Remember, our greatest costs in Second Life lie beyond Second Life and always have: electricity, upgrading obsolete computers for newer ones; social interactions beyond the grid that remove us from the world, and from creating in the world.

One day of no uploads solves nothing. One day of dances in SL is just like any other day of dances in SL. One day of wearing orange is just one day of wearing orange.

When stores close; when people remove their XStreet boxes from their sims; when sims close; when creators leave SL...that is what Linden Labs looks for. That is what it will take to make them understand the problem.

Anything else is just a fad. With color coding.

(I would like to add that if this does result in my severance from Radio Riel, please understand I hold Duchess Gabrielle Riel, her Presenters, and her Hosts in the highest regard, always, as well as Miss Saffia Widdershins and Prim Perfect.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the land here is strong, strong beneath my feet

The folks at slapt.me disprove Aristotle. All I have to say is wau. While I did verify--reluctantly--with RL information, including verification of age, I'm very nearly sorry I didn't see that sooner. Not that I would have been Elvisina on the grid, but because if it is that simple to defeat the age verification method that was supposedly so cumbersome because it was so protective...well, really, how can we trust the service, or any Linden who proclaims it's saving us from children in Adult areas?

Also, I do want to mention briefly the discovery of Diarment Creations, makers of creative steampunk innovations for home and office. Thank you, Mm. Allen, your find is timely and appreciated.

But we move on at a brisk pace, to the knighting, yesterday, of Mlle. Kiralette Kelley and Mr. Podruly Peccable. As this is all over the blogsphere by now, I'm restricting--for the most part--the Guv's speech and her Lyonnesse's speech just to their words. For more complete transcripts, ask Miss Ilsa Munro, or likely just pop around the journals of Caledon notables; they will likely have it by now.

[15:19] Desmond Shang: we have had a tradition in Caledon for a long time
[15:19] Desmond Shang: of knighting those who did awesome things, beyond just 'for fun' or for personal gain or whatnot
[15:19] Desmond Shang: and that's what's going to happen here :)
[15:19] Desmond Shang: [to] give an idea of what it takes,
[15:20] Desmond Shang: usually it's countless thankless months of effort, in dedication to a greater service
[15:20] Desmond Shang: that generally isn't recognised any other way, or would have gone unnoticed.
[15:20] Desmond Shang: so this is about Kira, and her taking on the RFL captaincy of 2009
[15:21] Wrath Constantine: Woot!
[15:21] Autopilotpatty Poppy APPLAUDS!!!
[15:21] Desmond Shang: and it is also about Podruly, for great effort behind the scenes
[15:21] Wrath Constantine: ***Wewtwewt ***
[15:21] Roberto Viking: bravo!
[15:21] Garnet Psaltery: ***** APPLAUSE *****
[15:21] Autopilotpatty Poppy APPLAUDS!!!
[15:21] Kiralette Kelley curtseys deeply and grins at Podruly
[15:21] Numinus Quandry: Woot, indeed!
[15:21] Desmond Shang: who should not be forgotten for his efforts, while he expected no recognition at all
[15:21] Podruly Peccable bows and blushes
[15:22] Desmond Shang: a few more words about Kira
[15:22] Desmond Shang: Kira started in knowing this would be tough, it always is
[15:22] Desmond Shang: and especially after the huge success of 2008
[15:23] Desmond Shang: it's not easy to follow that
[15:23] Desmond Shang: anyway, in spite of those odds, and some wondering if she was up to the challenge, she sure came through
[15:23] Desmond Shang: and made a huge difference for those in need, far beyond our silly little world
[15:24] Desmond Shang: so that makes Kira, and Podruly true knights of Caledon inside
[15:24] Desmond Shang: on top of that,
[15:24] Desmond Shang: without getting too personal,
[15:24] Kiralette Kelley blushes
[15:24] Desmond Shang: both of them were literally hospitalised at one point or another
[15:24] Desmond Shang: and STILL carried on
[15:25] Desmond Shang: had it been me, I woulda been cryin' like a baby and thinking of myself
[15:25] Desmond Shang: not these two
[15:25] Desmond Shang: they kept going.
[15:25] Desmond Shang: so I am proud to hand this off to our Vicereine, Kamilah Hauptmann
[15:25] Rudolfo Woodget fights back tears.
[15:25] Desmond Shang: for the actual knighting :)

Dame Kiralette being knighted

[15:26] Kamilah Hauptmann: A [few] words about the Knights of Caledon, a role call.
[15:26] Kamilah Hauptmann: In 2006, Leosanni Somme brought the Relay to Caldon. This was year 2 of the Relay.
[15:27] Kamilah Hauptmann: Ordinal Malaprop programmed the trolley route. A miserable task I assure you as someone who's specialised in motion scripting. The trolleys really took Caledon to a new level.
[15:28] Kamilah Hauptmann: Lapin Paris captained the 2007 Relay Team. I saw first hand just what a taxing job that was, and this was the first use of a knighting poseball set and ceremony just to the south in her beloved Tanglewood.
[15:28] Kamilah Hauptmann: JJ Drinkwater. What hasn't JJ done and done selflessly? O.o
[15:29] Kamilah Hauptmann: Erasmus Margulis, captain of the 2008 Relay team, the year everyone jumped on the bandwagon with roughly twice the population as 2007. How he kept his sense of humour is beyond me.
[15:30] Kamilah Hauptmann: ZenMondo Wormser. Proving that being the programmer for the Relay Commitee and trying to run the systemry of the kiosks behind the scenes is a miserable task. Yet, they worked. And it was a record funds turnout. Well done.
[15:31] Kamilah Hauptmann: Now Kira and Podruly. If 2007 was taxing for one [person], and 2008 nearly impossible. It certainly took a duo this year. You two should play doubles tennis, really.

Dame Kiralette being knighted

[15:32] Kamilah Hauptmann: [Without] further ado, then. Kira, please take a place.
[15:33] Kamilah Hauptmann: For services, then, to the greater world community, no less.
[15:34] Kamilah Hauptmann: Rise, Dame Kiralette Kelley.

Dame Kiralette being knighted

[15:34] Kiralette Kelley brushes away some tears and curtseys deeply
[15:35] Kiralette Kelley: Thank you so much

Dame Kiralette being knighted

[15:35] Eclectric Breitman: Yay!
[15:35] Wrath Constantine: Grats Kira!
[15:35] Kamilah Hauptmann: Congratulations, and more [importantly], thank you.
[15:35] Desmond Shang: thank you!
[15:35] Kamilah Hauptmann: Anything to say, please do so. :)

Sir Podruly Peccable being knighted

[15:36] Kiralette Kelley: I... wow... Well.. I [thought] of writing something down.. then decided that no I could [be] eloquent on the spot.
[15:36] Kiralette Kelley grins crookedly
[15:36] Kiralette Kelley: Turns out I can't... Just.. thank you. Caledon [is] so special to me. I love it here.. Thank [you] everyone who helped with RFL and allowed Caledon to be such a shinin star [of] a [team]

[15:37] Kamilah Hauptmann: Very good then, Mister Peccable the impeccable. :)

Sir Podruly Peccable being knighted

[15:38] Desmond Shang: Podruly, especially, is one of the quietest, most unassuming foxes in Caledon
[15:38] Desmond Shang: which makes this knighting all the more important
[15:39] Desmond Shang: because otherwise, few would even know of his efforts
[15:39] Desmond Shang: (is quiet now so Kami can continue)

Sir Podruly Peccable being knighted

[15:39] Kamilah Hauptmann: Very good then. As the Guvnah says, Mister Peccable just stepped into tall the places where he was needed, unasked, nunthanked, unexpecting of thanks. And so for services to the greater humanity the world over.
[15:40] Podruly Peccable: Thank you
[15:40] Kamilah Hauptmann: Rise, Sir Podruly Peccable.

Sir Podruly Peccable being knighted

[15:40] Desmond Shang: for those unfamiliar, a wrench is used instead of a sword
[15:40] Podruly Peccable smiles
[15:40] Kamilah Hauptmann: Anything to say, the floor is yours. :)

Sir Podruly Peccable being knighted

[15:41] Podruly Peccable: I'd just like to say there was a great team of people helping with RFL, and they all should be knighted
[15:42] Podruly Peccable: But more than that, I was just utterly astounded, again, by just how generous and warm the people of Caledon are
[15:42] Bree Himmel: Mr. Peccable as a RL suvivor of Cancer I thank you
[15:42] Bree Himmel: from the bottom of my heart
[15:42] KateLynn Inglewood: so do I
[15:42] Podruly Peccable: You are all [pretty] extraordinary
[15:43] Podruly Peccable: Thank you all

Screen capture of the crowd

[15:44] Kamilah Hauptmann: And yes, we use a wrench in Caledon, as a sword is a tool of destruction, a wrench is a tool of construction or repair.
[15:45] Kamilah Hauptmann: And a [plowshare] would be too comically large.

Good point. Thank you, Vicereine.

HUZZAH for the new Knights of Caledon!

(Note: the pictures don't *exactly* match up, but I didn't want to move and lose what little rez I had; and here, I wanted to keep the narrative flow of the speeches intact, as much as I could. Clicking for the larger image will, in this case, bring you to larger color versions, wherein the amount of derezzed avatars will clearly tell you why I went with sepia tones for this post. Also, for those who wondered who was there, it's not a complete list by any means, but I captured one screen shot of the main crowd in the Eyre mushroom meadow. May that help photographers with whom was where.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

there's no fight and no flight, disaster leaves your passion overrun

First, Greyworld's Monument to the Unknown Artist in London. Finally, interactive public art--it is made to move into (and mimic the) positions of passersby observing it. And a trailer on an upcoming "documentary" on the proud contributions of America's first mechanical soldier, Boilerplate.

Secondly, Linden Labs sent an email to everyone in Second Life about revisions to the adult content guidelines.

What are "Adult" Regions, groups, events, and classifieds?

The Adult designation applies to Second Life® Regions that host conduct or display content that is sexually explicit or intensely violent, or depicts illicit drug use. Any Region must be designated Adult and therefore require account verification, if it advertises or publicly promotes the following:
  • Representations of intensely violent acts, whether or not photo-realistic (for example, depicting death, torture, dismemberment or other severe bodily harm)
  • Photo-realistic nudity; photo-realistic means that an image either is or cannot be distinguished from a photograph
  • Expressly sexually themed content, spaces or activities (whether or not photo-realistic); we will broadly define what is "sexually themed" to include any sexually oriented activities and conduct
Groups, event listings and classified ads that reference these themes or content must also be designated Adult.


All right, that's what we've heard before, no changes. Including the bit following about how reporting on your neighbors who may be doing Bad Things is Just Good Policy.

Which brings us to the Mature definition:

What are "Mature" Regions, groups, events, and classifieds?

Second Life's Mature Designation is intended to accommodate most of the non-adult activities that are common in Second Life. For instance, social and dance clubs (unless those clubs promote sexual conduct or use adult search tags), bars, stores and malls, galleries, music venues, beaches, parks (and other spaces for socializing, creating, and learning) all support a Mature designation so long as they don't host publicly promoted adult activities or content.

Thus, Residents in these spaces should expect to see a variety of themes and content. For instance, stores that sell a range of content that includes some "sexy" clothing or objects can generally reside in Mature rather than Adult Regions. Dance clubs that feature "burlesque" acts can also generally reside in Mature Regions so long as they don't promote sexual conduct, such as through pose balls (whether in "backrooms" or more visible spaces). However, if any of these businesses uses adult-oriented search tags, it may be categorized as adult and also blocked from appearing in non-adult search.


That's also unchanged, though the question of whether stripping is Mature or Adult is still largely unanswered.

Which brings us to PG, which has this lovely line:

What are "PG" Regions, groups, events, and classifieds?

There are some landowners and Residents who desire a Second Life experience distinct from the activity that occurs in Mature and Adult Regions. Region owners who wish to host this sort of Second Life experience can (but need not) designate their Regions as PG. A Region may be designated PG if it does not advertise or make available content or activity that's sexually explicit, violent or depicts nudity. Likewise, sexually-oriented objects such as "sex beds" or poseballs may not be located or sold in PG regions.

As we've also often said, PG regions are areas where you'd feel free to say and do things that you'd be comfortable saying and doing in front of your grandmother, or a grade school class. Institutions such as universities, conference organizers, and real world businesses, for instance, may wish to designate their Regions as PG. Likewise their users (and others) may wish to employ Second Life's PG search setting to deliver further targeted search results.


Not everyone's grandmother can be assumed to want the same thing. It's somewhat akin to Desmond Shang's gentle question in Caledon about on-theme building:

"Some of you may have noticed I am very gently enforcing theme a little bit more, so as you set up for the holidays, it may be a lovely time to look at your parcel and ask: "Would I enjoy living next door to me?"

Because, you see, most of the time I look at my parcel, and I think, Yes. I would enjoy living next door to me. I could make a blood river that starts in my land, meanders across into my neighbor's, and slides out a little into Morgaine Bay.

Not everyone has the same design aesthetics; just as Do unto others has that staggering flaw in the middle--because, you see, the serial killer with the pick-ax may well be doing unto you as he expects to be done unto.

But we are at least moving into that time of year where my particular design aesthetic, or lack thereof, is at least seasonal. For whatever that's worth.

One last thing I'd leave folks with--especially considering the brash nature of the theft in Woodshed: Jollyjack's comic strip on DeviantArt detailing the average thief mentality. And that's pretty much what we're dealing with--the concept of "free culture". I am all for free things, all for low-cost options when I can: but that doesn't mean copying everything I see. There are some things that will always be wrong.

I've been following the comments on the Prim Perfect blog on this, and after several hours of reflection, I'm beginning to think that even I'm wrong on this, that there's a better solution than the technical.

And it goes back to art.

Think of it--forget the big "names" of SL artists, and there are many, and justifiably well-known for their efforts. But what are we creating when we create, or recreate, objects on the grid? When we make clothing? When we script, when we make homes? When we import our works in pencil, pen, oil, brush?

We are making art. We are creating art. We are makers of art, even if it's just a skirt here, a texture there. We see our world and we see a lack and we want to fill that lack with what we see in our world.

Yes, true, that's not everyone, because as has been amply said elsewhere, some folks don't care in the least about preservation, just destruction; they care not about hard labor, just hurt feelings; and they don't care if someone now balances the virtual cost of what was lost against the very real cost of how they're paying rent and feeding their children, in the world beyond this one.

As long as they made out; as long as they got revenge; as long as they're fine. Because it's all about them, innit?

Forget them. Make it about the art. Make it about the artists. Sure, there may well be no purely technical way to stop people from doing bad things; okay. Fine. Then we're back to choices, and buying options, and it becomes much more about who we like, and why, than it is about how cheaply we can get something. In this light, business groups, shopping clubs, become fan organizations, and in a sense, there's a large part of SL already moving from this model.

I consider myself less a customer at Adam & Eve's, and more a fan of Damen Gorilla's incredible shoes, sachi Vixen's incredible, fanciful frocks. I consider myself less a customer of Bare Rose Tokyo, and more a member of a tight-knit group of supporters of June Dion's amazing, complicated Asian visions. I consider myself less a customer at FallnAngel Designs, and more...well, okay, there I'm sort of hunched in the back behind the bars waiting for the people in the straitjackets to stop feeding each other cherries and lighting things on fire, but you get the point. Plus, Azriel Demain has no equal on the grid; there's simply no one else doing exactly what he does.

In this sense, SL is filled with creativity, SL is filled with art. We choose which artists to support. And we can choose, in this, what not to support: the rippers, the stealers, the Business-in-a-Box fly-by-night alts on XStreetSL, the thieves of art and conscience who don't see the destruction they cause. We can choose not to support them.

In this sense, we aren't buying things just for the things themselves; we are buying things because we like the people behind the objects, the designers, the artists. And their work cannot be so easily set aside.

Support the makers. Support the art. This is not about restriction, this is not about Linden decision, this is not about "no more free accounts", this is not about preventing free accounts from doing the same thing that everyone else on the grid can do. This is not about "no more alts". This is not about turning over responsibility to a higher power.

This is about us, we live on the grid, we work on the grid, we move, we dance, we shop. We need to focus our energies on what really matters.

And in the end, that's each other. In the end, it's valuing those who create. In the end, ultimately, it's about choosing people over pixels. Only then can we be sure that we are not playing the thieves' game, exactly how they want us to play it.

Nothing else matters, in the end.

Monday, September 21, 2009

it's all blackened out, and my bat-lightning heart wants to fly away

T'is the birthday of H. G. Wells today, a master of invention, speculation, and creative adventuring--which just makes the following events that much more deeply tragic.

I speak, of course, of what happened to the sims of Rebel Hope, Nonna Hodges and Susan Ramos.

Now, long-term readers of this blog know, there is no love lost between Rebel Hope and I. She did me a wrong which resulted in a great deal of stress and aggravation for a client of mine, at the time, and a great deal of stress I could ill afford then, either (which, albeit indirectly, led to the mini-stroke/"heart incident", and the barrage of medication I'm now on to try to climb back out of the unhealthy hole my body dropped into, over that time). I want absolute clarity on this point: she and I are not friends. We never will be.

That having been said, what has happened to her is unconscionable, and should never, never have been allowed to happen. And Linden Labs is directly to blame.

Last night, I ran the list of the blogs I read, perusing various stories, and stopped in shock and horror at this entry from the Primgraph. I quote:

"Today some of the most talented creators on the grid have had their entire sims stolen. They include Rebel Hope and RH Engel, Susan Ramos and Nonna Hedges."

If that didn't sink in, let me try and reinforce it for you: not single designs. Not individual outfits. Not individual textures. THEIR SIMS...IN TOTAL...WITH EVERYTHING THAT WAS ON THEM...STOLEN.

This is outrageous. This is unconscionable. This is a blow from which the creative community on SL may not recover.

Let me stress again, so you understand my upset is not due to friendship or even fellow feeling: Miss Nonna Hedges helped me as a new green citizen with a skirt she was working on, in the early days of flexible prims; I might even still have it. Susan Ramos makes some of the most innovative Hallowe'en items I've seen on the grid, and she also helped me track down an open-air pavilion when I was setting up Enigma's ballroom on the roof, three years back.

Rebel Hope has done me nothing but harm, though her creations remain innovative, well-constructed, well-textured bits of fashion art; I cannot state it otherwise.

But I would not wish what happened to her and RH Engel, her partner and fellow designer, on anyone. I would not wish what happened to her, Engel, Ramos and Hedges on Miss Kandace Commons. Just so you understand.

The story continues on Shopping Cart Disco, and what's even more galling on that entry, is Queef Solo's interjections in the comments:

"For one, 3 sims is a bit far fetched I only did Woodshed and yes some demo dresses of rebels skirts! The other furniture is another favorite of mine Ramos! mystery solved.. I figured I would give a nice going away present to my two favorite creators."

"[...] let me tell you I have passed this out to as many groups, resale FP places and random av's as possible. I would say I at least sent it out to 6k of av's actually maybe more one group had 5k of ppl in it. Maybe next time RH will learn not to be such a asshole and Susan will not attack before figuring shit out."

"[...] everything happens for a reason, I gave you my REASON my justification is revenge loll I satisfied me and isn't that who really matters...me me me me"

They mention Queef Solo again in a later entry; mostly because of the unmitigated gall of this individual, taunting Hope and others after stealing their creations, to the mysterious tune of 'karma' coming around.

"Karma". That word was flung around more than once, by Solo--I do not think it means what they think it means. Moreover, taunting someone that 'karma comes around'--after directly stealing what they've done--it's rather akin to demonstrating to your child that fire is bad--by setting their bed ablaze, innit?

The iheartsl blog also has an entry on this massive theft; Hey Girlfriend covers it; the creators of SL Universe weigh in; Angie Mornington has words on the topic; and Queef Solo had to add their whinging protestations on SL Universe again.

And so many, many more.

I won't add much more than that, and encourage folks to read up on what's happened, but I will say this: all of this can be laid at the feet of the Labs. Every bit of it. I'm not on the bandwagon that others are, that banning third-party viewers is the way to go (though the Cryolife viewer scares me, and has already been used to copy items from Show Me on the Doll, Putrid Gloom's business, and her sim Gloomyville), because sometimes, when the official viewer won't work for us, third-party viewers have stepped in and saved the day--or have people forgotten the contributions of Nicolas Beresford and the Nicolas Viewer already?

But what I do insist is that we need better content controls, and now. And the Labs need to find ways to stop this.

Or content creation will stop on the grid, and it's all downhill from there. Content creators stop creating; they stop needing their stores. They stop needing their stores; they sell off their sims. What will be left? Just the BIAB folks, blithely stealing from each other, and the newcomers who know no better buying everything they can.

It will be a wasteland in reverse--lots of activity, little money to pay for it going to the Labs, and everyone who has half a brain who has created original content, gone off to other worlds to see if they can be made profitable.

How well will Linden Labs operate on only 20% of their income now? And that's being generous, I think, if this kind of nonsense keeps up.

For those of you on Plurk, Rebel Hope has also gone into the loss there. This has to stop. This has to stop.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

he rode a blazing saddle, he wore a blazing star

"No one really knows what happened to the founding family of Adora Island. It's rumored that first winter was hard and long. Whatever happened on that ice locked Island, it wasn't discovered until the bodies were found that next spring."

It was an interesting premise. I had to find out more.

The Haunting at Adora starts off like any other haunt on the grid--a bleak terrain, headstones, insanely flashing pentagrams...okay, that last one is not usually seen, and it's beyond annoying. Still, it was a pretty setting. I decided to move away from the flashing thing.

Unfortunately, the path away from the big flashy pentagram is...yep, smaller, non-flashing versions. I don't know about you, but staying on the path of pentagrams floating above the soil? Doesn't ever feel like the safe or rational thing to do. Unfortunately, the haunt owners seemed to want me there. So off I went.

Leaping spider particles, somewhat spooky scrabbling, crunching noises, and a steadily rising clamor of various "ooh, spooky" sound effects led me to the porch. A cordoned-off area with a white-chalk body on the grass and scattered CSI markings was easy to move around to reach the front door. Okay, this might not be as bad as it looked.

The Haunt at Adora's condemned sign

The 'Condemned as Unsafe' poster was a nice touch, and spiders were prevalent throughout. It turned out to be your standard maze, with the expected haunted TV, spiders, webs, sacrificial altar, disturbing art....

The Sacrifice Room

And traps, which sent me to a hidden sub-basement to twitch and claw at the walls. Okay, effective, though the loop of children singing was getting decidedly old.

The Library

The first really effective room for me was the library--the floating books, the giant skull, the objects on the table--with zero explanation and a building soundtrack of doom, I felt the merest chill down my spine.

The Attic

And thence to the attic, where things moved of their own accord, more blood was spattered, another altar replete with flames and floating spectres....nothing we haven't seen before.

And the story of the Adora family, trapped on the island, and what happened there? Well, we're never told. So the first haunt of the year? Seems trite and derivative from go.

Damn. I hope this isn't a premonition of the haunting season to come...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

so if you care to find me, look to the western sky

Portrait of the Artist as an Avatar. While this article is about art in Second Life, and art in general, I'd point your attention towards the end, wherein it mentions that virtual worlds may help to achieve long-desired goals in real worlds. Insecure? Be confident in SL; Shy; be outgoing. Because what we play at being, we become.

S'pose it's good for me, now, that I don't spend quite so much time zombified. Erk.

Japan remains baffling.

Seen at Violent Seduction:

Jinx of the gleaming eyes

Meet Jinx. Jinx is one of the freestanding ornamentia in the Sound of Silence sim. It's a lovely sim, well worth a walkthrough without being the home of Violent Seduction; it's perpetually night, there, and everything (well, nearly everything) is monochrome, in overlapping velvety shades of grey.

Jinx stands out, though.

Speaking of cats...

Levitating Smoke

This is Smoke, a black cat I purchased from Damiani Creations at some point when I was feeling flush and triumphant. (I will not lie; they are ridiculously expensive.)

Sie (I've never been comfortable inquiring as to the sex of my virtual pet) likes to levitate at odd times.

Levitating Smoke

Take this series, f'rinstance. I kept snapping pics, Smoke kept staring at me, seemingly completely unaffected by hir paws not meeting the ground.

Levitating Smoke

To date, I've been more impressed by the purchase of said small Smoke-cat than nearly any other purchase I've made in SL. The scripting is amazing. There are multiple controlling options, but there's a limited AI functioning in there, and the pet will start making its own choices as to what it wants to do. It's been intriguing to watch.

Still, it's moments like these--when sie just casually hangs out, defying expected conventions, because it was born on the grid, and understands implicitly its rules of behavior...that make them joys to own.

Now, if we could just figure out a way to keep hir rainbow ball in my skybox, damn it!

ZOMBIES!!

Yellow Jester's just come out with some LOVELY zombie poseball sets, from L$249 to the gluttonous six-ball set, Feast of Flesh, for $499. Just in time for the holidays, too!

I can't decide if these are cool, or...odd. I think it's the oddly bulbous skirt of the lass on the left of the image.

And finally, we come to the heart of the argument between Eros LLC, and Linden Labs: as mentioned by this article for the Kotaku blog, the sex coffin available on XStreet.

Now, is Alixandre Oleander in violation of Eros LLC's copyrighted, DMCA-protected, SexGen engine and animation sets? Oh, indubitably. But, though that is concerning, what I find slightly more galling? Is the same could be applied to everything they sell. Everything they have listed on XStreet violates someone's intellectual property.

(And yes, I do know, the rules governing such only changed recently, but--they did change. Which means not only did they not comply with the rules as they changed, but they then stole SexGen's animation and engine, somehow--which again, shouldn't be that easy at this point...)

Also, while it mostly covers World of Warcraft, remember Second Skin is now available on DVD, in limited release in theatres, and on Hulu, for the Americans reading along.

Last note--is it copyright infringement, or tribute, for art? To find the Persistence of Memory interactive, and decide for yourself, go for a visit. You can own a copy for yourself...or just observe and interact.

Monday, September 14, 2009

and she says "I've come to set a twisted thing straight"

This so deserved a longer entry.

When I addressed GeoPunk's "definition cloud", for lack of a better term, in this entry, I was primarily writing it from the perspective of the otherkin/goblinkin/otherspecies definitions found there. I addressed further--and believe me, I could have taken it so much farther than I did--on the main page that hosts all the terms.

Was I attacking anyone's personal definition of gender? No, I still don't think so, and yes, I think people are being a tad bit oversensitive on the issue. (On the other hand, I feel the same thing happens in the feminist, lesbian and real vampire communities--there's a certain academic humorlessness that sets in, that seems to remove a large amount of perspective, in all three places).

You want to hate me, hate me. Fine; I'm used to that. But be sure you're hating me for the right reasons. I do not fear transsexual people, intersexed people, crossdressers, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, furs. I do not feel I have internalized prejudices where the gender-flexible community lies.

Now, regarding otherkin? Sure. There's definitely room to talk there, though I doubt I will be improving, because to date, I have not (and this is me, personally, I have not) spoken with one single sane person who identifies as "otherkin", on the net or off. EVER. And yes, I resent the implication that those who identify as vampires are subsumed into the larger "otherkin" group, first, because of the sanity issue, and second because I, personally, believe it's ludicrous to lump people who drink blood--for any of the varying reasons that people drink blood--with people who self-identify as dragons, aliens, angels or fictional characters (and yes, I've talked with people who strongly, personally, believe they have been these things).

I think that's offensive. And I say that having known two people who identified as being dragons--and I believed them--and one who identified as being fae--and I believed him, too.

Want to hate me for that? Feel free. That's a prejudice I'm not ditching any time soon.

But for everything else...well, let's look at some facts.

Costa News article:
"A transsexual man convicted of raping a woman has won a petition to be transferred to the women's unit at the Alhaurín de la Torre prison, despite the strong objection of the prosecutor's office.

"The 40-year-old La Línea de la Concepción man was convicted of rape in 1998, and until now has been held in his own cell in the prison's arrivals section as the facility has no specific area for holding transsexuals. Last year he managed to get himself listed as a woman in the Civil Register in San Fernando, Cádiz, after which he petitioned for transfer to the prison's female unit.

"[...] The prosecutor argued that despite the formality of the prisoner having been listed in the civil register as a woman, he in fact has undergone no sex-change surgery and still has male genitalia, making his transfer to the female unit "contrary to all logic." He noted that the man's criminal history shows his victims have always been women; in addition to the rape, he has prior convictions for an assault and for physically abusing his mother. Further, he has been repeatedly denied sex-change surgery because doctors found he had an impulsive personality disorder in which "the sexual identity disorder is merely one of the symptoms, not true transsexuality," said the prosecutor."
That's the individual Miss Jameson was mentioning--a purported MtF transsexual, who has continually victimized women, including a parent; who has had prior convictions for assault; who has been denied sexual reassignment surgery in the past because of impulsive personality disorder.

This person--whether or not they genuinely believe they are female, not male--is a danger to everyone around them, and has a proven track record of repeated and specific violence against women. This person--again, female, male, or little pink-spotted shrew--should be kept far away from a cloistered female population, because the risks of re-offending in such an environment? Assault, at least, if not rape? I would think would be very high.

Now. Another issue that was raised.

Caster Semenya

This is Caster Semenya. I don't think it's rude, prejudicial, or hate-filled to say that there is masculinization going on in face and body, in her case.

However--

Julia Stamps

This is Julia Stamps (obviously, on the right in this image), a runner from New York City. Note the same stern jaw, the lack of breast tissue, the upper-body muscle bulking.

Aurora Scott

This is Aurora Scott, from Michigan. Note the same jaw line, though not nearly as pronounced; the upper body and leg muscle bulking; the lack of breast tissue.

What do these female runners have in common--what do all female runners have in common? Because of their choice of sport, they have also chosen to sacrifice certain things. Breast mass goes with lots of running; the upper thighs become bulked, along with the upper arms. Many women stop menstruating, and, on occasion, there is masculinization of the features, if the woman has been a runner for long enough. It's not pronounced, in general, but it's there. This is not "transphobia", this is fact.

Miss Semenya was just like any other female runner on the planet--having a body she has made suitable for running long distances, having the body that most other female runners have. But, if the tests are accurate, she might have something else as well, which doesn't mean she entered the race on false pretenses, doesn't mean I'm calling her male, doesn't mean I don't think she didn't deserve the win. I do think the lines of her face, and the speed of her success, caused a great deal of jealousy on the track, and there were protests filed for that reason, before anything else. (There were also wide accusations at the time that she'd used endurance-enhancing drugs to win; this has since been disproven, and was a baseless accusation, I feel, in the first place.) I also think everything would have blown over as a nine-day wonder if her coach hadn't lied to her about the type of test she'd be taking after the run--he told her it was a standard test for steroid use, when in actuality, they were genotyping her.

Whatever it is about peoples' innate wiring, that primitive we/other divide, that makes up for most labeling complications--transsexuals and the intersexed stand in that uneasy divide, much of the time. Not by their will, or choice, and it's not just them--but enough that many people will stare (rudely or not) at those who do not "fit" in some fashion. Prejudice, internal or otherwise, on the part of the viewer? Sure, along with careful parental indoctrination; along with peer pressure from their surrounding humans; along with societal pressure on what looks "right", what looks "normal", what doesn't "stand out". Do I think it's "right" or "normal" to act this way? No. Do I think it happens? Yes.

Anyone who stands beyond the accepted "norm", as narrow and prejudicial as that is at times, runs the risk of being separated into other. Bear a different skin color from the viewer--potentially other. Bear a different fashion style--other. Wear something that signifies a different religion from the viewer--other.

Be something certain minds cannot quantitatively slot into a set label--other. This is not right, this is not good--but it does happen. I know that no less than anyone else; it's happened to me, as well as my friends. How'ver, this, also, I do not believe makes me "transphobic".

What else was there...Oh, right, Luminus said:

"Apparently the irony with which GeoPunk chose to use piles of labels flew over your head. So you had to mock them personally. Believe it or not, apparently you and GeoPunk shared some common impulse to goggle at the myriad ways people choose to selfidentify. But while GeoPunk poked playful fun at the specificity by throwing down a lot of labels to express the fluidity of the self, you prefer a personal attack on someone you don't know. And then continue to mock terms you've never encountered, like pseudohermaphrodite, in ways that just add to the pile of folks calling people like me, born different in the bits, freaks."

Did I ever say "freak" in anything I wrote? And let's go back to the point of the post--it was never about gender in the first place, it was about otherkin definitions, for which I freely admit, I have a strong, unquenchable, bias against.

Now, if GeoPunk meant this playfully, if it was intended to be taken with a large dollop of droll irony--then yes, I missed that. Due to former abusive roommates, having to pretty much rebuild the defenses of myself and my partner afterwards, and the stress of moving out itself into our current home, my reserves of tolerance and grace are beyond exhausted. What drew me to GeoPunk's blog in the first place was the term "cisgender" and "cissexual", which still make me twitch, so I was set and ready for ire on the contradictory set of terms in the definitions cloud.

Ironic? Maybe. Playful? Maybe. Have I met people, who in all goddamn seriousness, introduced themselves to me as "wolfspirit therianthropes", as "alien otherkin", as multiple personality sufferers--where all the "multiple personalities" were anime characters? Yes. So I do apologize to GeoPunk if I didn't get the "playful irony" of the message--right, missed that entirely. But am I ever going to have a rational attitude towards anyone that self-identifies as "otherkin"/"goblinkin" or any variant? No. I admit, that is my "WARE THOU THE MUTANT" call.

So maybe it's me. I'm a tad cranky at the moment. I am phrasing things badly. Hate me for that if you want to, but I'm still missing the irony inherent when there are folks out there, on the grid, on the net, and in real life, who truly, honestly believe that they are these things. How was I to know GeoPunk didn't?

Hells, as far as it goes, I still don't know whether GeoPunk believes or not in all those terms at once.

(Also, unless you're talking the purely medical use of the term? I still don't get pseudohermaphrodite used as a gender term of choice. To me, that's an is/not is statement, and see again--the gender term of CHOICE. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is just one of many ways the syndrome can show up, and it is recognized, real and valid in all its forms; but it is not, and never will be, as easily tossed into the identifying-labels category as "heteroqueer" or "yestergay", to pull terms from the Genderform again.)

Again from Luminus' comment:

"And Rhianon, your comment in particular nauseates me. The simpler world you posit is a reactionary fantasy, and recognizing that intersex people exist [...] is called accepting reality. That you jump immediately into some transphobic rant about MTF rapists trampling the rights of "Real Women" is appalling."

Why is it transphobic to want to protect the rights of any captive population who might be endangered by an individual proven violent to that selfsame captive population? The proscecutor did not want this application turned down sheerly due to reasons of gender; the prosecutor wanted this application turned down due to reasons of extreme, repeated, continual violence against women.

Jails aren't perfect; in large part they are oppressive, frightening, brutalizing places. Many people in jails are innocent. These are facts of the situation. But in this case? The facts also say, gender dysphoria or not, this person has assaulted women, will likely assault women again, and it's not beyond the pale to posit a change of scenery will not stop this person in the least.

How is that transphobic?

Luminis again:

"Emily's post had nothing to do with violence, or even directly wih transgender. She poked fun at multiplying gender identities. You made the illogical leap that implicitly reads, 'If we allow sex/gender diversity, violently perverted men will be able to put on dresses and rape women. I heard a rumor that it's happening.' "

Actually, as I've explained, I was supremely baffled with multiplying bizarre identities, not all of them having anything to do with gender in the least. Miss Jameson made the leap (apparently illogical, to you) of mentioning a specific incident. She didn't cite sources (I've done that); you are the one who is extending it to the oh-no-teh-horror level.

Now. Are there people who genuinely believe that men born men will seek to enter female worlds for the purpose of harming women, alone? I'm sure. I think they're wrong, you think they're wrong, but that's also not what Miss Jameson said.

"Anonymous" again:

"Rhianon, it was impossible to tell it was a joke because plenty of people say exactly the same thing and mean it. Sometimes right to our faces. Usually they don't bother to try and justify it by the flimsy cover of saying 'oh but it's about a bad person so it's ok to say it'. So excuse me if I don't give you the benefit of the doubt."

I don't think she meant it as a joke. I think it's of real concern. And it's still concerning if you look at it the other way--I know more than a few transsexuals who--generally, for the crime of stealing hormones, which is just tragedy compounded on tragedy--get sent to jail and are housed with their assumed biological sex. And thus denied access to hormones, medical treatment for their condition, on top of having to deal day to day with people of the opposite sex using them as a personal punching bag.

Many have died.

For that matter, the incidence of transsexual/transgendered youth committing suicide is now epidemic in this country, and yet the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force did everything they could, in the 1990s, to get gender dysphoria stricken from the DSM-IV as a diagnosis. Take that away, take away all protections that transfolk have now--which includes, in some states, access to medical care, access to hormones, access to spironolactone, access to psychological counseling, and in at least one state (unless Michigan stopped providing this), state-aided gender reassignment surgery.

They didn't win, in large part because many of us chose to put our lives on hold, essentially, and called, wrote, emailed, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly depending on where that bill was at any given time, to anyone who would hear us, on how potentially damaging and life-threatening the removal of that diagnosis would be, to those in transition, and those beginning transition.

But on both sides this is a damaging idea. First, that anyone with any mental defect, who gets the right representation, can shift populations by claiming to be trans; that's something that really needs to stop. Pushed further, I really think there's a heavy bias in the trans community, if not the intersexed, that any talk against those who choose to commit crimes, who happen to be transsexual or intersexed, are then somehow exempt from the repercussions of their bad acts by virtue of being transgendered or intersexed. Crime is still crime. Punishment is still punishment. Assault someone, kill someone, it doesn't matter what sex one is, one has still committed a crime.

"Anonymous" again:

"It's never ok to be hateful. If you want to aspire to the moral high ground then how you talk about the worst of people still counts."

I don't aspire to any moral high ground, I never have. And while you may see the initial post as "hateful" and "meanspirited"--and I'm not discounting that, if that's your view--I do take exception to being made the current poster child for What's Wrong With People Who Can't Accept Transgendered/Intersexed People. I am not that person. I will never be that person.

You want to talk about the conflicts raised, in or out of a virtual world, in being intersexed, transgendered, or hells, some mornings even lesbian, gay, or bisexual--and Miss Magdalena Kamenev has certainly faced prejudice for choosing to be non-white in Second Life, so there are even those prejudices yet to be overcome on the grid--I'm open to the discussion.

But leave the accusations of transphobia at home, unless you can rationally, reasonably, and accurately prove them out. Because they're not there. I have too many trans friends, I have fought too much prejudice on my own, to ever be phobic where trans and intersexed folk are concerned.

Otherkin-phobic, well, that's a different story. Because everyone I've ever met who identifies as that first, and everything else second? Just isn't playing with a full deck.

You are welcome to convince me otherwise. In the meantime, I'm going on with my blog.