A Catamount From Spain

I had an intriguing and creative Second Life dream this morning, so in the spirit of Torley’s dream journals (but not so entertaining) here’s what I remember.

It was early morning, and I was still in bed, but had a computer and was looking at Second Life. I stumbled upon a group of costumed actors preparing to perform some kind of Shakespearean play in both Second Life “machinima” but also with live-action scenes. There were images of a bearded man in costume, practicing lines in both close-up and as part of a scene, along with avatars of men and women in abstract, moving in smoothly animated, choreographed scenes to “warm up.” I remember thinking, “These people have been doing some SERIOUS scripting, those are the most lifelike acting anims I’ve ever seen.” I was comparing it in my mind to a recent production of Hamlet that was ambitious, but choppy and un-emotive in performance.

And then it began – a king in his court is receiving gifts and emissaries. A gorgeous quadruped snow leopard is led forward, but it’s a Second Life hybrid boi, with gorgeous pelts hanging down his sides but not completely covering tanned, tattooed skin. He was definitely walking on all fours, and the fur on the pelts was dappled with stripes and spots, and they ruffled in the breeze as he moved. In my minds’ eye the “camera” panned along his side as he walked. He wore the typically disdainful expression of a really expensive kiti boi on his face, with big pointed lynx ears and rock-star dirty blond hair. He did not look happy about being given away as some kind of “pet.”

The dialogue indicated that the hybrid was “a catamount from Spain” being given to the king. A shabby looking character came forward and warned the king – this character carried a battered samurai sword (sheathed) in one hand at all times, and seemed to be called “Cod” or “Coda.” I seemed to have access to program notes and knew that although he was dressed as a peasant, he was actually the king’s most trusted bodyguard. They seemed to have a long history.

People on the screen moved and spoke in very smoothly animated Second Life style, and then the action broke down into more abstract shapes, with several figures twirling and dancing, including a woman with dark hair and a long medieval dress.

There was music, but it was some song I heard on the radio or online yesterday, not what you’d think of “court music.” It was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” in fact. I wonder if it was a clip on NPR’s Saturday Edition this morning? Sometimes my early morning dreams are influenced by whatever the radio is playing. I visited a couple of dancing venues last night in SL and several little details were adapted and given a Shakespearean twist – people dancing, and so on. There seem to be some new dancing anims at Spacejunky Island’s club that are VERY good, very lifelike.

Anyway, the king decided to leave his court and go into exile, and suddenly the dream was in live action, as he walked along a road in a forest covered with snow. Still in costume, he and the Coda character looked like ordinary people, not quite as handsome as their avatars in Second Life – the king was older with shorter hair but still bearded, and his bondsman was younger, slighter, and carrying a REALLY battered wooden practice sword. It had a katana-like hilt wrapped with cordage, and had fabric tape similar to that used on hockey sticks wound around the blade, probably to keep it from splintering.

The catamount paced along after the king, who walked ahead toward a stand of trees. Coda called out that the animal/human was actually communicating with a rival king, and was meant to keep the king under surveillance. There was even a tracking device or bug or phone in its collar… anyway, the catamount was a threat whose actual motivations were as yet unknown, because he was an independent player-character, not just an animal or a robot.

But the king seemed not to think it important and allowed the hybrid to stay with him, telling Coda to remain behind as he had to go on alone. I remember thinking that Coda was very frustrated with his liege’s behavior and, then watched the king and his snow leopard as he walked toward the bend in the road.

The image in my dream of the king walking away was still in live action, but beginning to go back toward Second Life’s beautiful unreality, as the sun backlit the trees with gorgeous golden light and made a very Japanese woodcut-like tableau. Coda was left swinging his sword in great sweeps, forbidden to accompany and protect the king as he wandered away with a potentially dangerous enemy “catamount” padding along at his side. I remember thinking that the lighting and camera angle were breathtakingly beautiful and very cinematic, and wanted to take a still picture. That’s often my reaction inworld when I see something interesting or there’s a pretty particle or lighting effect, but I’ve been somewhat disappointed with my image captures with the new machine, due to the lack of detail on movement shots.

At this point the dream shifted and I was Coda, practicing holding the sword properly. It wasn’t very well balanced for me, as it was heavier and more curved in the “blade,” and the hilt was a bit too broad for my hands in the dream. I tried to chop at some overhanging branches, but the length and weight of the blade were difficult to control and maintain a proper grip. “It was really easier to do this stuff in Second Life,” I remember thinking, and then I woke up.

What does it all mean? I have no idea. But on re-reading, it seems hilariously Freudian.

I’ve been frustrated with my SL experience the last couple of weeks because a brand-new computer I just purchased just can’t handle the heavy-ish 3D display that SL demands of my video card. I’m otherwise very happy with this computer, but it has a small, sleek case that can only accept a low-profile video card as an upgrade. Also, there are power constraints, as this is a very efficient but low-power system. Otherwise, I like it a lot and it’s an improvement over my former system, which died (my partner was able to copy over essential files). It’s very irritating that this computer gets such high marks from reviewers, but they all mentioned the crap Intel onboard video and I should have known better.

I’ve been doing a LOT of research and determined that there’s only one video card that will “fill the bill” on this slick little beast, and will blog further if it’s a successful upgrade.

With any luck, my dream-machinimas will be a lot more detailed and beautifully rendered.

Netroots Nation, Virtually Speaking, Dancing Liberally W00t W00t

I’m not at Netroots Nation, I’m watching a live stream via Dailykos’ live video feed. And then in Second Life, I’m about to watch Kos do an audio streaming appearance (with a typist standing in for him inworld).

Live broadcast from Netroots Nation 09 – Daily Kos TV (beta)

MarkosM Titanium_001

THURSDAY, AUGUST 13

5:45PM: Idella Quandry sings blues, funk and soul, with a little jazz thrown in for kicks. Come to Virtually Speaking and listen to a mixture of original music and favorite covers. Then stay for a conversation between Jay Ackroyd and Markos Moulitsas. Virtually Speaking’s InWorld Amphitheatre

And then I’ll be moving along in my busy social calendar:

7:30PM: Opening party – NNSL 09 Opening Party. Come party with us on Netroots Island, immediately following Virtually Speaking’s interview with Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. Tour the new sim and discuss the days convention event. Zathras Afarensis will be playing a set of live music, and DJ Pb Recreant will close out the night with his superb, eclectic brew. Netroots Nation Ballroom

UPDATE: Change of plan. Some guy sat on me at Virtually Speaking, I tried to move to another seat but got lagged out (this sort of like logged out, except lag is involved. I just made it up).

Then I couldn’t get logged back in, and when I did, I was stuck in my little room. Thanks, Second Life! I’ll play MahJongg now.

Erika Ordinary: Extra Ordinary

ErikaOrdinary_001

Random serendipity seems to be my rule for finding things to do on Second Life, and I happened upon a listing for music in the Search window that looked interesting. Here’s the Community Events listing:

Second Life | Community: Events

Erika is an Austin, Texas based singer/songwriter, with a diverse range of influences from Patty Griffin (another Austinite!) to Nirvana to Etta James to… Come out an join us at Crystal Gardens and hear some amazing new talent to SL music scene

Yeah, astonishing is the word I’d use for Erika’s voice and playlist. And she plays a uke on some tunes, which seems to be her musical attachment of choice for her avatar. Her singing and playing is assured, powerful. Her stage presence needs a little polish – still a bit tentative and cutesy-poo about acknowledging tips and shout-outs in open chat. That’ll probably be overcome fairly quickly as she gets used to SL performance. She’s already awesome as a performer, so I expect she’ll become one of those “name” performers on SL, but she really has chops. It would be interesting to follow her musical career via in RL, too.

I had one of those “ohhhhhhh… I love this song” moments when she played “Mad World” from the Donny Darko soundtrack. I’ll have to keep an ear open for more from the extraordinary Erika Ordinary.

PS… I wish people with hotcha-cha attachments and “naughty” chat sounds and gestures would turn them the frack off in performance venues. Also, the guy that recorded and distributed the annoying “HOOOOOO!” sound effect/chat gesture deserves to be dressed up in badly fitting

Listening to Orcinus

I missed this event on #secondlife last week because I was traveling: Dave Niewert discussed his book The Eliminationists with @JC_Christian, the General.

Jackson Street Books: David Neiwert in Second Life

David Neiwert, founder and award-winning journalist and blogger at Orcinus and of late, at Crooks and Liars discusses his latest book The Eliminationists with Jesus’ General, GenJC Christian. Eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination. Rich in historical and journalistic detail, the book offers a fine overview of the uglier strains in American politics.

The plan was after the interview, our intrepid progressive Residents would dress as clowns and march around a fascist European sim, but that didn’t happen.

Musical Space Odyssey

Space Suited

Sometimes when inworld, I don’t care for whatever music is offered by shopping sites – especially when “on the hunt” for good quality freebies, popping in and out from one location to another. Some time ago I tinkered with various media players that can access Internet radio, and eventually settled on WinAmp (which has some rather annoying features, but it works for me).

I have a fairly long playlist now of “My Stations” that include several favorite Real Life items, some encountered from trips. Recently via BoingBoing I found out about SomaFM’s amazing Mission Control project.

It’s the ultimate in “space music;” lengthy samples of Apollo lunar mission radio feeds mixed on top of ambient (electronic) music. It’s very nice to listen to while working, as it’s both relaxing and “mission focused.” Please toss them a few Lindens/real world ducats if you like it, too.

SomaFM: Recently Played Tracks

Our fundraising for the first half of 2009 has been $30,000 less than we need, and we can only put off the bill collectors for so long. Please support SomaFM today and keep commercial-free radio on the air.
Mission Control: Celebrating NASA and Space Explorers everywhere.

New Things To See and Do

New World Notes: Weekend Open Forum: What SL6B Exhibits Should We Make Sure To Catch?

Next week Second Life celebrates its sixth birthday, and I’ve been painfully slow to follow all the activities and exhibits planned. (Then again, I usually space on real world birthdays too.) There’s over 300 SL6B exhibits listed here, based around the theme of “The Future of Virtual Worlds“. One of them is featured in the machinima above, Loki Eliot’s ambitious time-traveling information kiosk. What others should we make an effort to visit? Post descriptions and SLurls in Comments. (Yes, rampant self-promotion encouraged.)

I really need to get up to speed with this year’s big event, I can’t spend all my time dancing and changing clothes. Or, I could, but there’s more to Second Life than that.

The other day I attended a really nice music event: Jana Kyomoon did an exhibit opening at the Pyramid Gallery – really must make an effort to attend more of her DJ gigs, her electronic music is so great. And ooh hey, she’s on iTunes…!!

The Big Sort

Yeah, yeah, I’ve been hunting treasures again, and now I think it’s time to knock that shit off for a good long while, because I’ve got a ton of stuff to sort through. I also have a lot of pictures to upload from fun events in the last week or so. So I’ll be online a lot, going through boxes and getting rid of unwanted stuff.

Kidnappings, Mayhem, Parties: Just Another Day In Northfarthing

Castle Rave_001

My SL neighbor Mist started a blog for our home sim, and things are already starting to happen over there.

Welcome new people… « Northfarthing

I’ve got a handful of invites sent out, and a few new folks here at the NF blog and on WP. Welcome welcome, make yourself at home. Clean my kitchen. (Can’t blame me for trying…)

Here’s a question, to get some conversation started: what do you like best about NF?

It’s a quiet sim… not much happens there. People peacefully go about their business and nobody bothers anyone else, except for the odd kidnapping, or that time a real red dragon came to the Green Dragon pub. Oh, and Mist turned evil.

Nope, nothing much going on in quiet, peaceful Northfarthing, except when pirates bellow for everybody to come over to the castle for an impromptu party on the roof. It’s kind of hard to ignore the summons when a pirate bellows, of course, and I was more or less dressed for an event or a happening, since I was planning to go to an okiya (Japanese geisha house) for a celebration of Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day, or Boys’ Day).

So I left my simple cell in the Abbey of St Christopher (where I spend my time in contemplation of all the crap in my inventory, incessantly trying on outfits and hairs) and walked over to the castle.

On entry through the open doors, it’s an impressive place… I bumped into furniture for awhile, and then stumbled up the stairs. As it was Rhianon’s birthday, the party was on the roof, according to the shouted instructions… nice place, with a beautiful tree in bloom, an elven drum circle, and a fire. I was relieved that I managed not to crash-land in the middle of the bonfire.

And then something magical happened.

Castle Rave_002

That’s me, somewhere in there, with the wings on, doing the “flying dance” (also known as the “horizon loop” with our pirate host. I usually don’t go in for performance art, but this was exhilarating.

Castle Rave_003

It’s all done with poseballs, animations, particle attachments, yadda yadda blah blah blah.

No… it’s magic.

Castle Rave_004

This is what it looked like with the camera view at maximum distance. Pirate Braveheart’s particles were the rod-shaped ones, and the ones I had were the fuzzy globular once. I had no idea what mine looked like when I found them in my folder; they were a freebie from some hunt or other. Fortunately, the colors were pretty much the same.

Maybe I should really re-think my whole “I’m not a creative person” stance, as this was way more fun than changing outfits all evening in my little cell.

Castle Rave_005

After “sunrise,” everyone started in on the elven drums in earnest. I’ve done this before with friends, but not with such a purpose in mind – to produce dance music for someone. Soon enough, the Pirate and his lady began a couple dance, and the rest of us played on for them for awhile, before drifting away to other events. It was a nice beginning to the evening.

From there, I went on to the geisha event after a quick stop at another birthday party. So many great, fun things to do, but the most colorful event was the impromptu party in my home sim.

Hunting Shamrocks

This is the kind of activity I find pretty relaxing and/or frustrating – treasure hunting in Second Life. Not sure why, except that I enjoy 1)free stuff and 2)figuring out puzzles and looking for free stuff 3)experiencing creative new places that I might like to visit again, that put out free stuff.

Okay, I do actually have some scruples – it’s not actually ALL about the free stuff, because during the sorting-out that I do after a big hunt, I typically delete at least half of the items after trying them on, sometimes without even bothering to open the gift box, if it’s definitely something I don’t want or need.

I started a new hunt the other day and was so taken with the creativity and pleasant scenery I encountered before I had to break off that I decided to go back and try to blog each location. The last few hunts I did were to mostly-forgettable mall-type places, and there were only a few places that I actually remember. This one is shorter, so we’ll see how far I get before pack it in and start taking photos of the best “finds.”

The starting point was helpfully blogged by Rowan Carroll:

She’s So Unusual: NCI St Patty’s Day Hunt!

This is a grid-wide hunt, meaning stores across many sims are participating, and all are owned by NCI members.
The hunt will begin on March 13, and end March 20.
To begin, start at the landmark given from this sign- “Where The Sidewalk Ends”
While there, find the shamrock “NCI Shamrock Hunt #1”- It will give you a gift, as well as a landmark for the next shop- follow the shamrocks till the end of the hunt- there will be 42 in all!

START HERE

NCIStPattyHunt_001

Here I am at the beginning of the hunt, The Brickyard. It’s an outdoor art gallery with a lot of “rooms” that feature sculpture, wall art, garden features, and so on. I wandered around a long time looking for the shamrock item that was… not that hard to find, actually. This all took place months ago, of course, but I realized I had a draft post started, so decided to plunge back in to catch up. This is my “treasure hunter” getup – very low in “prims’ thus very low drag on the servers. The punk hair is pretty minimalist and doesn’t add much to the load.

NCIStPattyHunt_002

Next, on to a sort of gaming place that had a little of everything, Terra a venda! A lot of my time is spent waiting for everything to rezz, but the horses were nice. The shamrocks were not too difficult, and I always appreciate “fair play.”

BoxPortrait_001

On to a Steampunk animal merchant in Ethereal Isle. The gift turned out to be totally cool, a self-motive steam-powered camera! I’ll definitely wear this to parties! And I have to return to this locality and really explore.

NCIStPattyHunt_003

And now I’m at the place I stopped before, a shop called Primwynly. I took a photo here that hasn’t rezzed yet, and I’m standing at some sort of crossroads. This could take a while, but first I have to make sure the gift shamrock isn’t sitting out in plain sight, unrezzed for the moment.

NCIStPattyHunt_004

I’m going to tune in something on Winamp (iTunes not installed on this computer) while I wait. Oh, crap… it’s a furniture store. I hate furniture stores, because I don’t need furniture inworld, and they’re hard to find things in. However, they have medieval stuff, the theme of my home sim, Northfarthing.

NCIStPattyHunt_005

Camera control can be key – it’s handy for looking under and behind things. Also good for looking in a lot of boxes at once.

Whew, got it. Missed it in the area I checked first – there’s a modern area, and then a medieval area.

Now, on to someplace in Blackmount that makes me want to sing show tunes while wearing Arthurian drag…

Whew! Easy one, with the lights on. Thank goodness, I was in the furniture store for almost 10 minutes.

NCIStPattyHunt_006

Now: Pax et Bonum. It’s more scenic, there are trees, and it takes a while for stuff to become visible.

Well, dammit. It’s pretty, and I’ve been outside and inside, and nothing. It’s going to really be embarassing when I find it, because some people came and went already while I was wandering around outside. This is the frustrating part of treasure hunting.

AUGH!! Yes, it was in plain sight. First of all, this is an artist’s shop, so it had to be someplace that wouldn’t mess with the aesthetics of the place. Second of all, this was placed by a person with good color sense, for better camouflage. Third, it didn’t really rezz until I was quite close.

Paperdolls Dress

On to Paperdolls, which seems to be a garden shop… no, it’s a cute little dress shop. Nice freebies set out, too – I like these dresses. Don’t be scared by the hair, it’s this thing I do when treasure hunting.

Yay! Found the shamrock after a minute or two. It was reduced in size and somewhat hidden, but I caught a glimpse while moving the camera (“camming”) around. On to Minkartah.

Ohhhh. Been here before on another hunt, it’s a little marketplace. Fortunately, the sound effect I heard was a clue, and happened to spot the shamrock early (they sometimes rezz before other objects, so it’s a good idea to look around quickly. Good thing I had the music off at that point.

Here we go to something called LYtD. Which seems to stand for “Love You ’til Death.” And they have a little animated hedgehog! Too cute.

However, the shop seems to sell funerary goods – headstones, tasteful urns, and stone plinths. Well, there’s a market for that in the vampire territories, I guess. It’s tasteful, and might be by the same artist as at that art gallery that was so hard, so I have to think like that again.

Grrrrr. Starting to get frustrated; there are two shops – beside the funerary one, there’s a joyful, “love you” type shop. I’m guessing the former shop is for people grieving the death of love, as opposed to the death of a loved one. Meanwhile, there’s an emitter thing here that’s pumping out butterflies and heart shaped bubbles, and the lag is so bad that I can’t physically reach one corner of the plot.

Hmmm. AUGH!!! 20 minutes shot. It was pretty well hidden. It wasn’t in the pretty, lovely, flowery area at all.

I whipped through the next place, Gateaux Boulevard, in a few seconds, it was RIGHT THERE, thank God. So here I am at Mountain Mall.

I notice there’s a landmark notice: “NCI Hunters: Click here to get a landmark to #13,” so maybe I’d better not waste much time – I’m currently on #11, so this probably means the next shop/gift/ongoing landmark is “dead.” There’s nothing in this very small shop, although the landowner does have a very cool “Dancing Waters” fountain outside.

So now we go to GONE COUNTRY. Which was a country and western bar, but fortunately it was just a matter of walking around and looking at everything from the back of the room instead of from the front. So often, that’s where you’ll find what you’re searching for; such as just over the inside of the door, so you have to look BACK and UP or go through the whole shop seeing everything for sale.

And that brings us to Get Framed. Uh, oh, it’s the end of the world as we know it – and it’s decor. But there’s animated cats – one of which is a dance ball! And a money tree… wow, haven’t seen one of those in a while. They’re only available to new AVs, usually less than 30 days old.

So that took us to King Parrot Freebies, and I think I just paid $L2 for a “free” shamrock because I walked toward the type of sign that’s usually near the gift shamrocks, and found it pretty fast. And then a sign rezzed that says “there is a free shamrock hidden here, for those of you who do not wish to search: this one is available for $2L. The waterfountains are all for sale!” The rest of the stuff here is pretty unfinished looking.

Okay, well, at least it was only 2 Lindenbucks. So now we go someplace called Earth Jewel. And whew, it was a quick and easy find in a jewelry store.

Time for a break, clear cache, and open some boxes… also, Compline starts at Epiphany at 6pm SLT so now is a good time to get out of my punk gear and put on something a little more ordinary.

Back. So I’m now at DL’s Dream Designs at a place called Hawaii Ohana… my kind of locality, anyway. This seems to be kind of fun Gothy, with dragon eggs. I eventually got out of there, as the shop was kind of a weird skybox, all in black. Finally “found” behind something.

So: now past Darkly Cute, a furnishings place… yes, it’s sometimes a good idea to take local transport when a shop offers it.. I’m at Blue Ribbon Showcase briefly, an art gallery where I was actually welcomed, and landed at a very colorful arty venue called Azelle’s Spot. Ohh!! Tinies!!! And a dragon!

NCIStPattyHunt_007

I got welcomed there as well, and got a landmark for events. So I had to get tiny for a while, and chat. It was a very pleasant time, I’d like to go back again.

Quick spin through Art of Eiran, Space for Dreams, and off to Cheetah Valley. As I’m currently a small Siamese cat in a kimono, this could be perilous. But it turns out to be a quick grab-and-go, as are Blue Mountain, Fortinbras, M. Blue Coyote, and Cherokee Inc Hollies in Busby.

And that’s where I broke off, because I’d been at it for several hours, and I had completely lost the hunting instinct after becoming tiny.

I really enjoy hunting for stuff, but it’s more of a seasonal thing, and more recently I’ve been more into socializing and spending time talking to friends. I’ll never pass up a good freebie hunt, though. This one sponsored by NCI was better than some, because some of the venues were clearly newer, and the gifts were inventive, creative, and somehow more interesting than the more commercial offerings at the big “mall store” treasure hunt locations. I’d actually return to some of these places, except that in my desire to not give away the clues, I didn’t make note of the links. That’s what Google is for, I suppose.

Here are some photos of some of the St Patrick’s Day themed outfits that I did end up keeping from the main, gridwide hunt.

Stupid St Patty_001

Second Life has this way of messing up or distorting the body animations sometimes. It’ll never fail to make you look stupid now and then. Otherwise, I quite like this Celtic dancer outfit.

St Patty's Bar Wench

This one is amazing – it’s called “Shabby Chic,” but I’d wear it as a barmaid any old time in my local online pub.

Green Satin Fishtail

This last one can also be worn at any formal event (and I do have them to attend in my virtual life). It even has a fishtail and a transparent cowl or hood. Very snazzy.

I have more St Patty stuff but that’s really the high notes. I tended to keep stuff that wasn’t specific to the holiday, and then of course there were later hunts (oh, God, the Bunny Hop) that kind of cured me of the whole hunting thing for a while. Maybe later…