Friday, October 29, 2010

Impromptu Second Life Musical Magic

It was relatively late last night (almost 8:00 pm SLT) when I checked twitter and saw a tweet that said some Nashville musicians were having a jam session inworld. So I logged in and teleported to Nowhereville and enjoyed one of those special times that remind us of all the good in Second Life. :)

Kristine Kristan is the owner of Mad Wax Records ( an in-world resource to listen to and learn about the live live original music scene in Second Life, built in the style of a neighborhood record shop) and has a parcel in the Five Islands - luckily for those of us there she's also a friend of Lance Rembrandt.

Last night Lance was with a group of friends at the home of Jackie Peters (widow of songwriter Ben Peters) and they decided to make some music and share it with people inworld.

Although only two avies were on the stage there was a staggering array of talent sharing the microphones. In addition to Lance we heard:

It was a fantastic evening of fun and music and jokes and listening to good friends enjoy each other's company and talent.

One avatar on the stage was, of course, Lance's. The other is a newbie to Second Life but not to the music scene. Introducing SL's brand new resident OrrinBolton Serenity.

If the name rings a bell you might know him as a fine singer/performer who just happens to be Michael Bolton's big brother. Last night's session was his second toe-dip in the Second Life waters.

Dear Reader, if you ever get a chance to hear him inworld (and encourage him to stick around) take it! He's going to be a fabulous addition to our music scene. And if we can persuade the others to join him we should take every opportunity to do just that.

Thank you to Kristine and Lance for setting this up. I wish more had been around to enjoy it - unfortunately most of my friends were asleep. I'm very glad I checked twitter when I did. :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Second Life V2 & Photos with Shadows

Note: I'm told that these tips etc., don't work on Macs. Raul Crimson has had some success though and if I find out any more I'll let you know!

I'm hardly an expert Sl photographer - I think of myself as a determined amateur, but I've been experimenting with shadows lately and thought I'd share a few of the things I've learned.

The first thing I encourage you to remember, because I always forget, is to check all your settings when you change viewers. I'm using the new V2.3 Beta today and obviously forgot a few of them (like high rez snapshots).

I love experimenting with shadows in V2 and the new Beta seems to perform well. I don't have a high end gaming computer - I mean she's not bad, but until recently I couldn't make shadows work at all so the new V2 is a lot of fun to play with.

The first lesson I learned when I was using shadows at Burn2 is to disable anti-aliasing. The difference is huge - whereas before I could barely operate when shadows were turned on, I can now actually walk around with them enabled without crashing (not a real high fps mind you, but at least it doesn't freeze on me).

To turn on shadows in V2:

Open the "Develop" menu, then go to rendering and click on FramebufferObjects. Go back in and select Lighting and Shadows and repeat the steps for Shadows from Sun/Moon and SSAO and Shadow Smoothing. Play with Global Illumination as well but note that it is experimental. I found that if I turned FramebufferObjects off it disabled the rest as well (much faster way to regain control than unclicking them all individually).

I went to the redesigned Alpha Point (gorgeous) to do a few test shots.

If you're doing a portrait it will be much easier to set up the shot if you use poses (and I rely on Gesticulate for mine). You'll be playing with settings and, if you don't have to keep adjusting your subject as well, your life will be much easier.

Now you've set up your model and have your shadows turned on - go into your windlight settings and get the light that you want. Then to adjust the shadows use the East Angle slider to move the sun around until you get the effect you want.

The only change I made in the first two photos was to move the angle of the sun. It's a lot of fun to do (then experiment with all the other settings if you've never tried them).

Another tip, and I got this one from Torley - go to the Clouds tab in the Advanced Sky Editor and unclick Draw Classic Clouds. This will help performance as well and I don't think you'll miss them.

I learned a couple of more things at Burn2 which may or may not help you:

  1. Adjusting your draw distance not only changes your background but also the shape of shadows in a landscape. If it's a performance issue try extending your view distance once the rest of the settings are where you want them - then adjust back down if necessary. This also helps if you're getting partially rezzed sculpties (like the ones above) appearing in your shot. :)
  2. Totally unrelated to photos - if you go to Develop/UI you can choose Double Click Teleport. Then double click on land you can see and you'll teleport there. This is really handy in high lag situations!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Evolution of "Truthiness" in the Second Life Blogosphere

awesome  ur doin it rite

Truthiness is a "truth" that a person claims to know intuitively "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. Wikipedia

Writing a blog is a lot like thinking out loud when you're drunk. In many cases the words spill forth without filters or editing or the apparent application of even a limited amount of reasoned logic. It isn't necessary to be any good at it (however "good" is defined), we all have the freedom and ability to blog; to put forth our pearls (or dung balls) of so called wisdom for the pleasure/edification or bewilderment of the rest of the interweb.

Some blog writers strike a chord in a few readers and these hardy followers visit with regularity to see what the latest missive might tell them. There are other blog writers who manage to acquire a large following ..... sometimes because what they write is agreeable, sometimes because what they write is akin to a traffic accident that others just have to watch.

It is my own personal belief that occasionally we bloggers spend so much time in what amounts to talking to ourselves (with varying numbers of eavesdroppers) that we start to develop a subconscious belief that we are "wise". That we know what we are talking about. Our blogposts start to feel like sermons to the faithful (and to the unbelievers who simply need to be shown the righteous path).

The notion of "truthiness" I think should be self evident if you read more than one or two Second Life related blogs. Certainly the impending demise of Second Life announced with regularity would seem to be a great example. I don't know what's really going on - but then I doubt any of my fellow bloggers do either. Some just have enough confidence in their "gut" to publish speculation and consider it wisdom. This is all relatively harmless - opinion, speculation and conclusion jumping is basically entertainment for the reader and one would hope a pinch of salt is consumed with each post viewed.

For at least one blogger though, the concept of "truthiness" has moved into a new sphere.

"Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality." Stephen Colbert

This individual is so convinced of their own infallibility that something is not the truth unless they say it is. This is beyond exercising the right to add your own voice to a debate. This is arrogating the right to decide what is and is not fact.

I think it's fair to say that we all know that there are lies told on the internet. Virtual Worlds are neither immune to nor the only locations where individuals will fabricate tales - particularly concerning their physical world selves and lives. Each of us decides how much to take at avatar-face value and how much judgement to reserve. On some occasions we're wrong and learn a lesson about trust and the amount of weight to give to the words of others. This is just part of the reality in virtual worlds (and yes that may be an oxymoron).

Recently there were reports of the death of metaversal resident. This particular blogger expressed severe doubts about the validity of these reports, apparently because they didn't like the person in question, and felt justified in telling the rest of the world not to believe it either. This individual went further and explained that real world obituaries could not be trusted and then phoned a funeral parlour to get the "facts".

Ignoring the level of obsession and potentially disordered mind this behaviour might demonstrate - my outrage (and yes I was/am outraged) stemmed from the thought of the friends and loved ones of this individual who must deal with not only the pain of their loss but the insult of this blogger's actions.

This blogger has demonstrated not only a belief in their own omniscience but a completely callous disregard for personal privacy and the feelings of others. It brought to mind the actions of George Kennedy in the funeral scene from Charade and I for one, although not particularly wise, am appalled.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Burn2 - A Personal AfterBurn

Burn2 is over ..... well except that everything is still there for you to visit through Saturday, October 30. The events are finished ..... well except for impromptu parties all week and the Skin Burn next Saturday. But Burn2 2010 is mostly done and that means that my posts about the event are mostly done. I'd like to wrap up this series with a few personal thoughts and comments.

It was very flattering to have people walk up to me on the playa and say they'd read my blog and were going to visit something I had mentioned. It was disconcerting, however, when people asked me why I would write so much about this festival. I'm not sure there's a short answer but I'll make it as brief as I can:

  • I'm a big believer in Community - the big C community - encompassing all of us Second Life. Those who know me well know that I have a huge appreciation for grid-wide events. The opportunities for everybody inworld to share the same experience and find something they enjoy are very limited. I'm thinking of things analogous to World Fairs that attract people from countries all over the world for a specific period of time not tourist destinations such as Hawaii.

    The annual SL Birthday celebrations and the Burn are the only two I can think of that could/should have mass appeal. If my blogging about it can persuade my two readers to go visit either of these events then I'm happy.

  • The amount of effort required to organize these events is enormous and, I think, deserves some payback in the form of awareness (again my two readers now know more than they might have wanted to know but they're aware).

  • The talent, vision, skill, artistry and effort put in by the builders sharing themselves and their work with the entire Community deserves recognition. I couldn't include everything and every build in my series of blog posts but I tried to acknowledge and recognize the efforts of as many as possible and included as broad a range of installations (e.g., first time builders, well known artists, volunteers etc.) as possible so that some sense of the size of the gift being offered to the rest of us was conveyed.

  • I'm not a critic. It's not my job to say what is good and what is not. I'm also not inclined to shill for somebody. I'm more of a travel diarist. Everything I say about my reaction to what I see is true. If I saw something I didn't like then I won't include it but if I rhapsodize about something you can be sure that's how I really feel.

Burn2 was exceptionally well organized. The breadth as well as the depth of planning and preparation which was done was very impressive. There were things I missed from previous Burning Life experiences but nothing that limited my appreciation for and enjoyment of this festival.

I'd like to personally congratulate everybody associated with Burn2 2010 - their warmth, enthusiasm, and sheer unadulterated pleasure in what they were doing and presenting made this something I'm very very pleased to have experienced.

There was one installation I had a lot of difficulty visiting and it's hard to share this particular photo but I need to because he's deserves the acknowledgement. Adric Antfarm had built his campsite before his death - his friend put an In Memoriam prim on the site and left the rest as if he had just stepped out for a bit. I think he would have loved Burn2.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Burn2 - I Go Up & the Temple Burns

Yesterday I went to the Man Burn with an arc of 100 - luckily I have those alpha.tribe skins which allow me to go naked without feeling naked. :) It turns out their mohawks are low prim so I was able to feel dressed today while having an arc of about 700. I was still virtuous however and wore absolutely nothing scripted .... who needs an ao to watch something right?

I had time before the Temple Burn to do two quick trips I've been meaning to experience. The first is a ride in a Montgolfier Balloon brought to us by Aamira Aeon at the build where I found my glider - Experience the First Manned Flights. What a great ride!

For something with more speed I went to the Society for the Advancement of Human Powered Space Flight exhibit by Lauston Oh. I had seen this big red spaceship parked on the playa and finally had time to go inside. Um, there was a launch button.

The Spaceship headed upwards very very fast and eventually docked at this platform way up in the sky. I got off to explore and the ship left me there ........ all I could find was this diving board. I'll spare you the gruesome details but I will say it's a good thing pixels are hardy little buggers.

I finally got back to the Temple in time for the Burn (and before the sim filled up). Wizard Gynoid and scripter Nur Ophuls (with contributors / collaborators Artistide Depres, Soror Nishi, Brinda Allen, Miso Susanowa and Desdemona Enfield) gifted us with a 30 minute display of art and colour and the most amazing pyrotechnics I've ever seen inworld.

I took dozens and dozens of photos but concluded that nothing I can show you will adquately convey the wonder of what we saw.

I can't help but show you some and wish you had all been there to share this experience.

The flames and breaking glass and fireworks with flower particles were jaw droppingly amazing.

At its conclusion the LampLighters and Drummers came out and much dancing and celebration ensued. Congratulations to both Burn Teams - they did a fabulous job.

I will have some concluding comments about Burn2 tomorrow but it is important to note that the playa will be open to visitors for the next 6 days. So if you haven't gone, or haven't seen everything you wanted to, you still have that opportunity. Right now there's more dancing to be done. :)

Burn2 - Charcoal & A Treat

I have spent more than a week exploring and trying to understand this festival that suddenly appeared in my desert and last night was to be the event from which the "Burn" gets its name. I took the organizers' advice and stripped myself of all unnecessary prims and huds and headed back to watch the big show (choosing Ub Yifu's Puppet Masters as my vantage point). I can't say that I'm now an expert on the subject but I did enjoy myself.

The Man Burn team of Debbie Trilling, Elfod Nemeth, Gypsy Paz and Lorin Tone made magic last night. Flames crept in from the surrounding sims in a beautiful dance and lit the Man with drama and a hunger you could feel.

Burning timbers crashed to the ground as the fire consumed him and fireworks joined the flames.

After the Man had collapsed, the spectators raced onto the sim and added logs to the fire so it would keep going. It was a superbly executed event!

Today is the last day of official events at Burn2 2010 (although the playa will be open until the Skin Burn on Oct 30 if you missed a build and wish to visit). The climax will be the Temple Burn at 12:00 noon and 8:00 pm SLT with one more at 4:00 am Monday SLT. Based on my experience today I strongly suggest you show up early before the sims become full!

Debbie Trilling (she of The Man team) has made a fabulous video of the Burn. So, for all of you who couldn't make it, there's no need to rely on my pitiful photos of the event. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Burn2 - People, Cities & A Burning Man

Only in Second Life could you stand on a playa at dusk and ask directions from a Tasmanian Devil. Luckily for me you can and Leia Cale was not only cute but charming and knowledgeable and saved my aching bunions considerable pain by knowing exactly where I needed to go to find my next destination.

Miso Susanowa's House of Cards is fun and a wonderful trip down memory lane ..... for me at least. For many younger people it will be an education. :)

Miso explains the inspiration for her build on her blog:

The theme and inspiration of this build is based on personal experience in the growth stages of the social networking scene leading up to Second Life and the present virtual worlds.

Beginning with the earliest BBS and MUD environments, through the VRML and 2D progenitors of the mid-90s to the current VWs, the birth and growth of virtual worlds and communities is imagined as a tenuous structure: a house of cards.

An Avatar has climbed these shaky and transitive platforms and is reaching for the future hypergrid/worlds.

Allow yourself some time to linger in this build - it's a fabulous experience.

Given the Burn2 theme of Metropolis - Civilization in the Desert it's no surprise that cityscapes pop up frequently. One of the most interesting is Big Towns - Growing Up by Maryva Mayo.

As Maryva explains, her build links the Burn2 theme to the movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang:

A sentence of the protagonist gave me the inspiration ... from the desert, from cave with fire ... through subsequent steps, ... we arrived at today's metropolis; but let's not forget ourself, ... the feelings ... and fantasy, if not, it will all end in nothing ... like the Burning Man.

In addition to concrete, cards, light and sound there is a cityscape made primarily from cardboard. The Inner Child Camp 2010 - A Child's Metropolis is the ultimate box fort. Not only is it huge and complex but there are hidden surprises inside that any age will find intriguing.

Built by Marianne McCann (with Pygar Bu and Robin Howe) this "city" has taken whimsy to a level few achieve. I enjoyed it thoroughly (and my poor feet appreciated the lawn chairs).

This is the second to the last official day of Burn2 and the big event involves setting the Man on fire. He will actually burn three times - today at noon and 8:00 pm and then 4:00 am Sunday the 24th (all times SLT).

The first year I was in Second Life I went to the Man Burn with what seemed like hundreds of others - robots and snails and furries and hunks and witches and warriors and more. A couple of the sims crashed of course and the rest of us watched while a helicopter slowly dove nose first into what suddenly became ocean. The procession was joyous and using a dragon to light the fire was inspired. I don't know what is planned for this Burn but I intend to enjoy it.

Check out the Burn2 Calendar to see what else is on and go experience it for yourself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Burn2 - Flying Mortars, Privilege and A Chat With "Philip"

It's been an exhausting couple of days at Burn2 and, since I am once again reduced to walking around the playa, I was looking for builds that didn't require as much energy on my part. :)

I left off yesterday back at the Stilt Bitches' Flying Circus which gives me a chance to show you their performance "tent". Built by Paramparamm Papp it is filled with not only their unique brand of insanity but lots of very cool freebies.

As I wandered around I saw a flying mortar. No really! A flying mortar.

This is the type of creation that makes me just stand there and stare in envy. The West Nest of Baba Yaga is a collaboration by Eisie Etchegaray, Sohma Dix and Jupiter Vale. In addition to the gorgeous build you can acquire a free ride on a pestle to complement the flying mortar. If you haven't visited this corner of the playa make sure you do - it's something you need to remind yourself how fabulous we can make this world.

From wonder at the talents of inworld builders I then moved to the wonder inspired by Raven Haalan's Bell Tower of Privilege. Again a great build, created after a discussion with friends. He explains it clearly in the notecard provided but to paraphrase, we don't know what the purpose is but we are clearly privileged that in a universe filled with stars and planets and more there is also a place for us.

Make sure your sounds are turned up and explore and enjoy the bells and the texture changes as the light shifts. His gift is a wonderful version of his build. Truly worth your time!

My final destination today was the latest from Ub Yifu. Puppet Masters is scary and wonderful and funny and really really well done! You are going to have to visit to get a full appreciation for this work but ....

.... if your conversation with a beautifully animated Philip Linden goes half as well as mine did you will thank me. :)

There are still a few days of events at Burn 2 (including the big Man and Temple burns, but lots of concerts and more) so check out the calendar. I'm going to get some new sneakers with orthotic insoles and keep wandering around. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Burn2 - Racing, Road Hazards and Rangers

Allow me to begin by stating that "It was not my fault!". It was an accident and it would have happened to anybody trying to avoid that furry speed demon on a bicycle.

It was a long day, and it's a long blog post, but it started when I took my trusty Big Wheel to go see a build I was interested in .

You may know mobile homes but they are nothing compared to The Behemoth by Huntress Catteneo. This creation is both functional and gorgeous and I didn't want to wait around fussing about a stupid car accident so I left the scene and went for a tour.

The inside is as impressive as the exterior and on the top level is this amazing greenhouse/garden/rest area. Peaceful and useful at the same time.

Unfortunately when I came back out I discovered that I still had a problem with my vehicle.

A Ranger appeared (more about them later) and gave me a lecture about looking where I was going (he should so go talk to that reckless cyclist) and removed the car suggesting I walk instead. Seriously, if I see that little two wheeled furry menace again he'll be sorry!

I fumed for a while and then saw a notice about Ant Races and thought I should check it out. After all, if I'm sitting on an Ant I'm not torturing my bunions!

Ant Vegas is this bizarre delightful build by the Aeonia Artist Group: Ally Aeon, lala Lightfoot, Miki Bizet, Moeuhane Sandalwood, Nik Gandt, Penelope Parx, Solkide Auer, Visceral Dreamscape and Pete Jiminy. There are more of their Ants all over the playa - you'll fall in love with them and start seeking them out!

The group purchased the Ants from Matilda Milena and made them move and race with the help of inventor, builder, scripter, and artist Jil Rodenberger. It's a wonderfully quirky, and somehow not creepy, experience everybody should try.

You sit on an Ant at the Start Line, the race begins and you ride your Ant around the course and back to the Finish Line. The first one back wins the trophy. The Ant animations must be seen - they are truly superb!

Unfortunately I seem to have gotten a really really far sighted Ant. He kept blundering into things, including the late lamented street sign on the corner.

I'm not to blame, right? I mean it's not like Ants have been domesticated for very long - they are unpredictable.

Try explaining that to the Ranger who so conveniently arrived just as the street sign was falling over. Even as I protested my innocence I could see it was having no effect on him. Maybe if I had bigger boobs?

The Burn2 Rangers are a group of volunteers headed by Ronan Carver. They are NOT the police. I kept reminding myself of that as he led me to their headquarters (just because they have a headquarters does not make them a police force). And it wasn't like I was nervous - because after all, none of it was my fault!

I admired their building and I explained that I also admired the job they were doing. After all Burn2 has appeared to be remarkably peaceful and I've seen no signs of griefing or intolerance.

Then he started fiddling with this big bank of buttons and controls. When I asked him what he was doing he muttered something about determining the best mode of transport for me on the playa.

I'm guessing they think this is really funny.

Do go check out the Burn2 Calendar. I'm going to go hunt a hairy two wheeled road hog and introduce him to a mutant Ant.



I should just put a note at the bottom of all of my posts which says that if I don't look like a dorky avatar then I must be using a Gesticulate pose. :)