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.

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