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How much is that doggie in the window?

The song made famous by Patti Page in 1953 asks a simple question that serves as an interesting model for describing problems in artificial intelligence. In essence, it is a query about the price of a dog. But how we get there is surprisingly complex. Let us parse…

How much what? How much does it weigh? How much does it fear cats? The construct “how much is” is accepted as a variant of the more grammatical “what is the price of.” It is further understood that the query is likely thinking in terms of monetary exchange — a number in local currency to be given as fair market value for the pooch. She likely has a price range in mind, or at least has a sense of what price would be unreasonably high.

Clearly referring to a specific canine animal, apart from any other dog or thing. “Doggie” is a diminutive form that implies small, young, or innocently attractive (i.e., “cute”). This is reinforced by the next line in the song, apparently to differentiate the specific dog from any others: “The one with the waggly tail.” It is assumed at this point that if there are other dogs in the window, their tails are clearly not waggly, which ipso facto makes them irrelevant to our protagonist, for whatever reason.

This is where it gets more interesting. We know that “in the window” refers to a public display area inside a shop, facing the street, so that passersby can see the products, find them desirable, and come into the shop to buy them. We understand that the dog is not literally “in” the window, but is visible behind the glass. The window forms a sort of frame in which the dog is seen, thus “within” the window frame. Other items within the display such as lighting, furniture, etc., may not be actual merchandise for sale, but is there to enhance the attractiveness of the salable products.

How do we know the question is not about a dog behind the window of a house or in a vehicle? It is implied by the query “how much.” One does not see a dog in a house or in a car and assume it’s for sale unless there is a sign nearby explicitly stating the fact, which is clearly not the case as we learn from the last line of the chorus: “I do hope that doggie’s for sale.” So “how much” and “in the window” work together to likely imply a commercial establishment that has a dog available for a price.

Further, to whom is the query addressed? We have established by the “how much” and “in the window” constructs that the dog is in a shop. But the line, “I do hope that doggie’s for sale,” casts some doubt on the whole scenario. Since there is apparently no definitive evidence that the dog is merchandise available for a price, perhaps this goes further to erode whether the window is in a shop at all. The song never resolves that issue or any other. It simply poses the question and describes why the woman is thinking of purchasing a dog (as opposed to some other pet). But at no point does it go beyond an internal musing. She is not posing the question to anyone other than herself.

So we never know if the dog is in fact for sale, or, if so, what its price might be, or if that price would be deemed acceptable.

Imagine posing such a query to a computer.

Curiously, the song is not about a woman who falls in love with a cute dog on sight, but is in fact about how she is looking for a guard dog to serve as a companion for and to protect her man from robbers while she’s away on a trip to California.


Oculus Rift in SL

Cross posting on UWAinSL Blog:

Yay! First one on my block to use the Oculus Rift in SL. Like most people who got the device, I was waiting for the announcement that LL had their project viewer ready. It’s supposed to be ready “late summer”, but we all know how that goes. In the meantime David Rowe (Second Life: Strachan Ofarrel ), an independent developer, has announced the release of his alpha CtrlAltStudio Viewer with basic support for Rift.

You’ve seen the hype, and it is indeed an exciting technology. But before you run out and plunk down your $300US for the Rift beta device, remember it’s still in development. (I got mine with the assistance of UWA as a research fellow.) There’s very little tech support and it’s really intended for people who want to develop software for the device so they’ll be ready when the thing actually hits Amazon. I’ve heard several casual discussions with people finding the experience a bit disorienting. A number of people experiencing motion sickness. And while I’m not normally sensitive to such things, I have to say that after 15 minutes or so I was definitely feeling a bit queasy. I don’t know if that will improve with use.


The good, the not so good.

Getting the device to work with my PC was a challenge. I have 3 monitors and my first attempt to plug in the Rift in place of one of the secondary monitors (HDMI) failed. After some fiddling, I managed to get it running from the other secondary port (DVI). There are some funky things about setting the viewer to full screen when it’s on a monitor you can’t actually see, but I finally got it running. Don’t ask me for help. I’m no expert.

So what you really want to know is what it’s like, right? Well, it’s… different.. lol. Running the Rift demo was fascinating. The hardest thing there was that your arrow keys (oh, don’t forget you’re still tethered to the keyboard and mouse for navigation) the arrow keys move you in absolute directions. They do not turn you. In the normal SL viewer, you hit the right arrow and the world rotates around your avatar so you’re still facing forward. In Rift, if you want to turn, you have to turn your head. If you want to go south, you have to turn in that direction. (An argument for wireless.) So your inner ears are swinging around and moving, not just your eyes. In the CAS viewer for SL. you still turn with your arrows, but you now have the freedom to move your head to look around, which is very cool.

Not sure if there’s a 3rd person mode on this. When I tried it, I had no visible body. It is profoundly immersive. You walk up to someone and you’re at eye level looking at them in a very natural way. It’s even a bit disconcerting. The sense of really being in a 3D space is amazing.

The biggest disappointment for me was resolution. Even in their demo, the details like leaves in the trees had some odd parallax effect that made them appear to shimmer unnaturally. In SL I had all my settings pushed to max. Advanced lighting, antialiasing, etc., which I often do anyway, especially when taking pictures. But there was a lack of smoothness in the image quality that I am accustomed to. Not sure if it was just parallax adjustment. I may need to adjust the width of the screen spacing in the Rift. I’m pretty significantly farsighted, but focus did not seem to be a problem at all for me. I was worried about that. (The device comes with a couple of other sets of lenses for nearsighted people.)

So anyway, I think it’s very cool, but at this point I wouldn’t call it a game changer. I’ll be  very interested when LL comes out with their project viewer. It could be interesting if the UI is available to do building while wearing it. And I plan to try this out on some of the Unity-based games, which I understand are a bit more fully developed.

Courage and Vision

I know a lot of people will be blogging about the new show by Chuckmatrix Clip titled Inner Prisons, which opened along with another show (Escapes by Dan Freeland – more about that below) Wednesday at Art India Galleries (hosted by VK Navarathna), both curated by Quan Lavender. Quan has clearly learned that the key to a successful show is inviting the right artists. I won’t go into a lot of detail about these shows, mostly because they speak for themselves, both by their content and by the statements provided by the curator and by the artists.

I have known Chuck’s work for several years, since early in my experience in SL, when I started visiting art galleries and spaces like Chilbo, Ars Simulacra, Crescent Moon, and Blackwater. The best artists in those days were doing remarkable things with normal prims. Because that’s what they had. No sculpts, no Windlight, certainly no meshes. Usually unscripted. Just prims (often lots of them), textures, and vision. People like Starax, Cheen Pitney, Madcow Cosmos, Ub Yifu, and Chuckmatrix Clip made prims come alive. (Blackwater Gallery still has an amazing collection of older work by these top artists. It would be a good education for any current artists to visit and see how it all began.) Most who have continued to work in SL have gravitated to sculpts and mesh.

"Grandma's Basement" by Chuckmatrix Clip

“Grandma’s Basement” by Chuckmatrix Clip

And Chuck has used sculpts in his work, but he is clearly most comfortable with the elemental shapes of prims. When Chuck submitted his work “The Scent of Her” to the UWA Centenary 3D Art Challenge, I was impressed as usual by the powerfully expressive form of his work. But reading his note about the piece, describing a  moment of anguish in his real life experience in a mental hospital years ago, the piece takes on a depth that is nearly overwhelming. In the Inner Prisons show, Chuck has expanded greatly on the theme, and given us several insightful and disturbing vignettes of his experience. It is set in a sort of maze that you enter from a hospital waiting room. The sculptural scenes are mostly in padded rooms that have open portals to enter, but are eerily closed when seen from the inside. In addition to these, there are rl 2D artworks on the walls of the hallway. I’d never seen Chuck’s 2D work, and this just served to deepen my respect for him as an artist. I commend him for his courage and vision for exposing this side of himself and for letting us share a profound experience. I strongly encourage you to see the installation.

Untitled by Dan Freeland

Untitled by Dan Freeland

I know Dan Freeland from a previous incarnation. He’s been gone a while and I’m glad to see him back. A fine rl graphic artist, he is beginning to experiment with motion in his SL 2D work. There are images that shift and fade, and some the go in and out of focus. The color forms are somewhat reminiscent of a lavalamp, but are basically abstract shapes derived from pornographic images. Whatever the point of using this source material, it does lend an organic and sensual appeal to his pictures. See the exhibit, also at Art India.

But I rarely shop for shoes….

OK, I admit I’m an unrepentant shopaholic. More significantly, I’m a sucker for a good freebie. I have an astonishing collection of …..stuff.. My inventory is well over 120K (even after some recent housekeeping). I often tell people I’m my own Wal-Mart. If there’s anything I ever really need, odds are pretty high that I already have one somewhere. Yes, finding things can be a challenge, but I do try to organize things into categories and I’m reasonably good at searching.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a lot of really amazing deals over the years and I never tell people about them because, hey, I don’t want everyone walking around with the same outfits, right?… I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about a shopping experience. I’m making a small exception here.

Yesterday I happened across BehaviorBody Animations, a shop owned by Anto (antosperandeo.allen) that sells his high quality poses and animations made primarily for fashion models (both male and female) and photographers. Mostly model poses, runway walks, and the like. People connected with the couture world probably know all about him. As an artist and curator, and certainly as a shopper, I have a passing interest in adventurous and interesting fashion, but I’m no expert in the field. And I also create poses myself fairly often when I need something special, so I don’t normally spend money on them. Well, I saw an ad in a magazine for this shop and on a whim decided to stop by. The first thing to know is that they have a bunch of great freebies near the landing point, including some pose sets with props.

GlamCorner poses prop from BehaviorBody

GlamCorner poses prop from BehaviorBody

I picked up the freebie “GlamCorner” prop, which is an unusual photo scene that is basically a pair of walls with a short hallway between. It comes with a HUD for changing the floor and wall textures, but the prop itself is modifiable (the scripts are not), so you can use your own textures if you want. The freebie version comes with 2 poses (both basically sexy girl standing against a wall), but what is interesting about many of the pose sets sold in the shop is that they come with mirror versions. So this prop actually has the same poses available on the left or right wall. This is obviously important if a photographer is looking for poses to fit a scene. They had the full version on display that actually has 27 poses, both left and right. When I found the vendor for it in the shop I was astounded to find that the cost was a mere L$99. And as with all the prop pose sets, included in the folder is a full set of the copiable animation files to use in other projects. Some of the pose sets come with a HUD that has them preinstalled, which seemed like a real convenience, but none of the things I got had that. (The HUD can also be purchased separately.)

Aside from being astonishingly affordable, these are all usable high quality poses with meticulous attention to detail. (At least they work well with my avatar, which may be a bit taller than average.) Probably the best deal in the shop is the “PhotoShoot Complete Collection”–135 model poses for L$150. The only downside is that the poses are not named descriptively, but the names are modifiable if you want. I’m tempted to put all these and the rest into a big descriptive database that can be searched by various criteria. Some day when I have some free time (ya, right).

I picked up basically all the freebies in the shop, bought several retail items and walked out barely able to carry everything for less than L$400 total.

How to make a particle kaleido-thingy

Here’s a simple object that has a fairly cool effect. This started as a test for one of the recent additions to LSL (Linden Scripting Language). I created the essential particle script using my Porgan by the fabled Jopsy Pendragon of Particle Lab fame. The Porgan is an intuitive real-time development tool for making particle effects, and is much simpler than trying to edit script parameters, though I do usually end up tweaking the scripts. I did, in fact edit the params pretty heavily on this, primarily to introduce random changes.

First point I want to make is that there are a number of new functions in LSL, that affect object links. They’re all basically the same as the old functions except that you can now use one script in (say) the root prim to do the same effect in one or more child prims. These new functions are a sort of expansion of the very useful llSetLinkPrimitiveParams function. For example, in order to set all or other prim alphas with the params function, you would have to use the PRIM_COLOR flag:

[PRIM_COLOR, integer face, vector color, float alpha ]);

But if you didn’t want to set the color, you’d have to use llSetAlpha(float x, integer face) in each prim and use a link_message or some such to communicate (or set object alpha manually in Edit, of course).

With the new functions you can place a script in any prim and then specify which prim(s) in the object for it to affect. Syntax is like llSetLinkPrimitiveParams, but with only one parameter, so in this case you would use llSetLinkAlpha(LINK_SET, float alpha, integer face). You can, of course, specify all the usual link variations (LINK_THIS, LINK_ALL_OTHERS, an individual link number, etc,).

So for this project I simply used the llSetLinkParticleSystem function. The huge advantage this has is that you can create a single script particle effect that will be emitted by all the child prims at once, in perfect sync. In this case I created a central prim and an array of 8 orbiting prims. The central prim has a llTargetOmega rotator, and 5 random number generators: an event timer, the 3 floats for the color vector, and a particle acceleration randomizer that causes the rendered particles to rise or fall slowly. The rotation direction in llTargetOmega uses the random x float from the color randomizer (so in effect,  llFrand(1)-0.5 = some number between 0.5 and minus 0.5 on the spinrate).

While this is in itself a cool gadget, I figured it would be much cooler to have 3 sets in concentric orbits. I just drag-copied the original and made 2 copies, each larger than the last. So this thing has 27 prims altogether (9 x 3) including 24 particle emitters all working with only 3 total scripts. Woot!

The script:

//Particle Kaleidoscope by FreeWee Ling
//Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
//---- (use as you want, but give credit) ----------
//Global variables to be set later:
float x;
float y;
float z;
float accel;

default {
    state_entry() {
        llSetTimerEvent(5);//Start timer
        llLinkParticleSystem(LINK_SET,[]);//Turn off particles that may be running.
//Set random vector components
    accel=llFrand(1)-0.5; //Particles rise or fall slowly (optional)
    llTargetOmega(<0,1,0>,x-.5,1);//Spinrate between 0.5 and -0.5
//The particles:
    //Starts the particles on all linked prims, 
    //but not on the one with the script:
            // texture parameters:
    PSYS_PART_START_SCALE , <0.3,4.0,0.00>, 
    PSYS_PART_END_SCALE , <0.1,1.0,0.00>,
    PSYS_PART_START_COLOR , <x,y,z>,//Here are the random color vectors
    PSYS_PART_END_COLOR , <x,y,z>,
    PSYS_PART_START_ALPHA , (float)1.0, 
    PSYS_PART_END_ALPHA , (float)0.0,
                    // production parameters:
    PSYS_SRC_BURST_RATE , (float)0.05,
    PSYS_PART_MAX_AGE , (float)10.0,
    PSYS_SRC_MAX_AGE , (float)0.00,
                    // placement parameters:
    PSYS_SRC_BURST_SPEED_MIN , (float)z, //Using color floats for motion.
    PSYS_SRC_BURST_SPEED_MAX , (float)y,
    PSYS_SRC_BURST_RADIUS , (float)3.50,
                    // placement parameters (for angles only):
    PSYS_SRC_ANGLE_BEGIN , (float)3.04,
    PSYS_SRC_ANGLE_END , (float)3.04,
    PSYS_SRC_OMEGA , <0.00,0.00,0.00>,
                    // after-effects & influences:
    PSYS_SRC_ACCEL , <0.00,0.00,accel>, //z axis float causes particles to rise or fall
    PSYS_SRC_TARGET_KEY , (key)"",
    PSYS_PART_FLAGS , ( 0 // texture & influence options:
                           | PSYS_PART_INTERP_COLOR_MASK
                           | PSYS_PART_INTERP_SCALE_MASK
                        // | PSYS_PART_BOUNCE_MASK
                        // | PSYS_PART_WIND_MASK
                        // | PSYS_PART_FOLLOW_SRC_MASK
                         | PSYS_PART_FOLLOW_VELOCITY_MASK
                   //      | PSYS_PART_TARGET_POS_MASK
                        // | PSYS_PART_TARGET_LINEAR_MASK
                           | PSYS_PART_EMISSIVE_MASK
                    )] );
 llSetTimerEvent(llFrand(3)+5);//Reset the timer to between 3 and 8 seconds

Artists Dominate SL9B

Update: I’ve added SLURLs to the list of artists below. I will be cross-posting this on the UWAinSL blog site

I was planning to ignore SL9B (the Second Life birthday celebration) this year, but we were asked if UWA wanted a site, so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to put one together. Not like I have anything else to do, right?

As with Burning Life, Linden Lab has decided to let the users make the festivals without their sponsorship. You can argue about whether this is a good or bad thing, but in my experience the post-LL fests have been every bit as good as the former ones, though with noticeable differences. The main one being that the exhibitors feel a lot freer without the Lab overseeing things. They make allowances for the volunteers who run and assist the events that they didn’t before, even though the official LL events were also largely volunteer run and the current events pretty much follow the same policies and procedures as ever. The difference is ownership. I think whatever the results, good or bad, the community feels like it’s our event and if it’s bad it’s our own fault.

I was in the middle of putting the UWA site together, and for grins I thought I’d take a tour of the installations so far. In case anyone needs reminding about the significance of art in SL, I just did a quick survey of sites at SL9B by people who I personally know to be artists (or at least are significantly art related). I did not include music venues or rl artists who are not presenting primarily virtual art (i.e., a painting-on-a-prim). There are likely several more who I’m not familiar with.The total number of art sites I counted is 35 and I’ve added a few already from others. I’m pretty sure there is no other segment at SL9B that is even close to that number and I think this has been typical in both the SLBs and Burning Life/Burn2 festivals.

I made a list and map of the artists I’ve found on the SL9B sims. If you know of any I missed, IM FreeWee Ling. (The list will be updated, but the map will not.)

(click for larger)

Aloisio  Congrejo
Artistide Despres
Asmita  Duranjaya
Thoth Jantzen/AView-TV
Banrion Constantine
barry Richez
Betty  Tureaud
Celestine Ghiardie
ChapTer Kronfeld
Chic Aeon
Chuckmatrix Clip
Crap Mariner
Daco Monday
theDove Rhode
Eliza Weirwight
Eupalinos Ugajin
Ginette Pinazzo
Ginger  Lorakeet
Giovanna Cerise
Huntress Cataneo
L1aura Loire /LEA
London Junkers
Mal Burns
Maya Paris
Mikati Slade
Monroe Snook
Neeks Karu
pallina60 Loon
Pamala Clifft
Pol Jarvinen
Silene Christen
Smile Monument
(collaboration of 4 Japanese artists)
Solkide Auer
Theda Tammas

Treacle Darlandes
Trill Zapatero
Ub Yifu
Yooma Mayo

UWA’S Treasure Chest

N.B. This is an expanded post relating to the construction of UWA’s virtual Winthrop Hall interior, originally announced on the UWA in SL blog and incorporating information provided by JayJay Zifanwe (Jegathesan).

Many of the Univeristy of Western Australia’s “100 treasures” designated by the Centenary celebration committee, are reproduced in beautiful detail on the UWA virtual campus in Second Life. In fact, UWA’s presence in Second Life is itself listed as one of the treasures. As many are aware, these treasures are to form the core of the L$725,000 MachinimUWA V challenge with the theme “Seek Wisdom.”

In perusing the objects in the 100 treasures book, one thing that struck me was the number of them that are in, near, or part of the iconic Winthrop Hall (including, of course, the building itself as a whole). The beautiful and meticulous rendition of the façade and entryway in Second Life (created by Dr Chris Thorne & David Gaze  in 2009 using the SketchLife extension to Google’s Sketchup) with its adjoining reflecting pool is known to anyone who has spent time here or has worked in the nearby sandbox. You can see the busts of Socrates and Diotima, the rose window, the clock tower, the mosaic marble floor in the entryway and wrought iron rail, even the subtle winged lion frieze below the eaves of the building. I’ve come to think of the building as UWA’s treasure chest.

Among the treasures inside Winthrop are the interior ceiling beams with aboriginal-inspired decoration, the use of the venue for the annual student exams, and the rose window once again, but illuminated by the sun and framed by the majestic McGillvray pipe organ that dominates the proscenium. (RL photos by JayJay)


In March we held a UWA Artists’ Choice challenge on the theme “music.” On a lark I thought it would be fun to install the world’s largest pipe organ in the gallery to provide some musical ambiance. I built a pipe rezzer that arranged a set of pipes in more-or-less correct proportion (assuming equal temperament using the 12th root of 2 as a scale parameter), but at an utterly impractical scale that at best might produce subsonic frequencies that would interfere with whale migrations on the other side of the world. Nonetheless it was an appropriately musical backdrop for the exhibition that month.

What I didn’t realize until later, when Jay Jay pointed it out, was that my organ bore an uncanny resemblance to the one in Winthrop Hall at UWA (including the clarion horns), another of the 100 treasures. Having done what I thought was the hard part by building the pipe rezzer, I figured why not go ahead and recreate the Winthrop organ? And of course I couldn’t just build the organ. I had to recreate the entire interior of Winthrop Hall. This project has absorbed much of my spare time in the last month or two and it is now yet another treasure of UWA recreated in SL. Machinimatographers and any other curious people may now enter Winthrop from the foyer. There is a teleport device there. The interior would not fit comfortably within the existing façade, so I had to put it on a platform above. But I think you’ll get a pretty realistic feeling of what it is like in that space and it is appropriate for the MachinimUWA V challenge.

McGillivray organ at Winthrop Hall
Built 1965 J.W. Walker & Sons., Ruislip, Middlesex.
3 manuals, 49 speaking stops, 13 couplers, electro-pneumatic action
Rebuilt by South Island Organ Company Ltd, Timaru, New Zealand 2008
3 manuals, 55 speaking stops, 12 couplers, electro-pneumatic action

I want to thank Jay Jay for taking many pictures of the interior details and long shots. I used his photos for the stone wall textures and doors, as well as the ceiling decorations, the wall medallions, the stained glass windows, and the large wall hanging in the back of the hall above the choir loft.

Construction Notes

The first inspiration came from making the rezzer for the organ pipes for the Artists’ Choice Music show. Each pipe was made of 3 prims: the main resonator pipe, the windway, and the foot. I had plenty of prims to play with for the show, so I didn’t worry about conserving at that point. I built two styles of pipe:  cylindrical metal and square wood. But they rezzed basically the same way.

The rezzer was set to rez 48 pipes. I used the 12th root of 2 = 1.05946309 as a multiplier for both scale and position of the rezzer so that they would be proportionally sized and spaced. (The 12th root of 2 is a commonly understood multiplier for an equal tempered chromatic scale, so the the 13th pipe would be twice the scale of the first, thus sounding an octave lower.) I made the set fairly small, linked them and then rescaled the bunch en masse.

I did a similar operation for a set of simple clarion horns. Clarions are not on all organs because they are rarely used and are an expensive addition. When JayJay mentioned the similarity to the Winthrop Hall organ, I looked at the pictures and this was the obvious feature the stood out on both.

I’m a musicologist by education and I actually know quite a bit about organs, thought I’m no expert. When I decided to try and make a replica of the Winthrop Hall organ, I was fairly certain someone would have published the full details of its construction and ranking. Sure enough, the Organ Historical Trust of Australia has pictures of the console and a full list of the voice ranks. No need to repeat here, though obviously my project would not reproduce every pipe in every detail. The need was only to create verisimilitude–the appearance of similarity–not authenticity. (Not that such is impossible, but the prim cost and construction time would have been significantly greater without obvious benefit.)

The next challenge was to calculate prim cost. I could see this project easily taking a couple thousand prims. Instead, I purchase a Prim Generator gadget that takes a limited number of normal prims and converts them into sculpt maps. With this device I was able to use a single sculpted prim to make:

  • three pipes (instead of 9 prims)
  • pedal board naturals (21)
  • pedal board sharps (15)
  • 3 foot stops (9)
  • 8 hand stops (16)
  • 5 clarion horns (10)
  • 8 chairs (16)

Winthrop Hall Interior

JayJay was enormously helpful in sending me many high resolution photos of the interior, and any details I asked for. One of the obvious problems with creating a space I’ve never actually seen is getting both an accurate scale and a sense of space. The Winthrop exterior was apparently built using architectural specifications, using 1:1 meter scales between rl and SL. There is a well known problem with making such renderings in SL. Someone at Linden Lab in the very early days decided that a standard avatar would be about 2 meters tall. In rl, very few people are actually that tall. Additionally, the camera view angle in SL is above and behind the Avatar, requiring even more head space than normal. Thus, in order to make a space in SL “feel” right, it needs to be anywhere between 20% and 50% larger than 1:1.

I found a floor plan for the interior of Winthrop. The main floor (sand proscenium) is about 18 meters wide and 30 meters long. I rezzed a prim that size and it was clearly not going to work. If I made everything to scale, the doors would be shorter than most people. So I tried going 20% larger and it still wasn’t close to being comfortable. My final rendering is close to 1:1.5, which may be too large, but it definitely feels right.

For head space I had a real problem because the floor plan did not show ceiling height. I had to redo the windows several times, revising the height of the walls to be proportional with clues I could see in the pictures JayJay sent me.

JayJay’s photos were not made in very good lighting conditions, but they were high resolution and at least the light was fairly homogenous, with no extremes of light and dark, so they made reasonably good textures. I used his photos for the stone wall textures, which I Photoshopped extremely to make a seamless repeatable texture. The floor texture I used from a stock texture I had that seemed close.

The wood paneled walls in rl are dimensional, with raised panels over a substrate. I obviously didn’t want to have to use the prims and the photos JayJay sent were not quite adequate. So I built a 3D wall section in SL and simply photographed that.

The medallions around the perimeter of the hall are arms from related colleges around the world. There are about 40 of them and JayJay got reasonably good shots of all of them. At this point I’ve processed about half of them and installed them in the hall. They’re a bit tedious to Photoshop, but I’ll get them done soon.

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La Grande Astrazione Celeste

La Grande Astrazione Celeste

The MiC (Musei di Roma Capitale) in SL is a remarkable place that often has cutting edge work. There are currently two incredible installations. One is a series of remarkable dioramas by nessuno Myoo — tributes to favorite horror writers: Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, R.L. Stevenson. I love nessuno’s work. It’s very expressive, and this show is appropriately dark, but has elements of humor if only because the figures are rendered somewhat abstractly in prims.

The other show is perhaps one of the best things I’ve ever seen in SL. The amazing Merlino Mayo has recreated and interpreted in grand 3D scale a series of paintings from the rl show “La Grande Astrazione Celeste” featuring work by Chinese artists at MACRO Testaccio, a contemporary art museum in Rome. Merlino has not merely duplicated the pieces, but made them into immersive environments, utterly faithful to the originals, yet somehow given even more depth. I won’t describe the pieces here. I just urge everyone to go see this beautiful work.

You Can Rent Land at Cost: Doing my part for arts sustainability

Treehouse at ArtemisiaI inherited the private island of Artemisia about 4 years ago from a patron who had started a community of artists there. After a year or so she had to give the place up for personal rl reasons and offered it to me. I have kept it since then with the firm resolve to use it in service to art. I have a normal job that doesn’t pay a lot of money and it’s a serious challenge to make the payments on the island every month. Any who owns land in SL knows that the initial cost is nothing compared to the burden of supporting it month after month.

I’ve been lucky. Over the years I’ve had people to rent parcels to help pay the costs. I used to have half a dozen long-term residents. For various reasons the situation has evolved now to where I share half the island with one other artist (fiona Blaylock). This has worked very well for both of us over the last year or so. She’s had complete freedom to terraform and build whatever she wants, to run a gallery and have events, and I get to keep the island that I love. She’s been an awesome neighbor, but unfortunately, rl issues are diverting her attention from work here. Fiona is having to give up her half of the island at the end of February.

I’m saddened to see her go, but now I have to consider the future. I’m offering the same deal to some other artist or artists: I’m not trying to make a profit. Rent half of a full island at cost. All you have to do is convince me that you’ll be a good neighbor, that you’ll serve art. and that you can pay the rent. If this sounds attractive please contact me ASAP.

Specifics are as follows:

  • One half of a full sim (the west side of Artemisia)
  • 7500 prims
  • 32768 square meters
  • Estate manager perms (terraforming, parceling, just about anything a sim owner can do except sell the place)
  • Cost: $150 US per month paid via Paypal. This is slightly less than my actual cost for the parcel after fees. (There is no better deal unless someone else is willing to pay for your space.)
  • You may partner with others, but I will not subdivide unless you have a proposal that makes sense to me.

Death and Transfiguration

I hate to think of the loss of an important SL site as a death in the family. Sometimes it feels like that. As with a beloved aunt or cousin who lives far away, perhaps we don’t visit as often as we should or would like to. But those people and places that hold strong memories for us become a painful loss when they are gone. And I feel guilty about not keeping better in touch.

We get busy. And more importantly in a place like SL, we crave novelty. There is so much new happening that it’s sometimes difficult to revisit a place we’ve been to before, even knowing they’ve had changes. The initial experience is often more muted upon repetition. It has been one of my strongest missions in life (both first and Second) to get people to slow down and actually take the time to experience things in depth, not just in breadth. And yet I have to plead guilty myself to neglecting old friends and focusing on the new. But then I hear the news of a friend or relative who is sick or dying or gone and I get a pang of remorse.

In the last year or so we’ve seen the loss of friends and institutions that will all be sorely missed. First was my friend Sabrinaa Nightfire, who passed away after a noble battle with cancer. Her impact on many lives and the SL art community as a whole is well known. We are all poorer for her loss.

More recently, we’ve seen the demise of the UTSA sims, which hosted so many amazing sim-wide art exhibitions including the amazing “Snowcrash”   installation by Igor Ballyhoo and Rebeca Bashly – the last of a string of important activities from the UTSA sims run by Dr. Carmen Fies (SL: constructivIST Solo). Carmen has been a strong advocate and supporter of art in SL. UTSA was a partner in the UWA 3D Open Art Challenges. Not only did they select group awards each month, but they supported those selections by inviting the artists to show their work at UTSA.

And speaking of Igor, I didn’t know him, really. Probably exchanged no more than a few words ever. I certainly have respect for his work and I was saddened that he felt the need to leave SL for whatever his reasons.

Then there is CrossWorlds Gallery, run with such class, grace, and devotion by Fabilene Cortes with the often less overt, but equally essential, owner and patron Nerd Bert (who I’m not certain I’ve ever actually met). When I first visited CW, I was simply astounded at the scope and size of the gallery. Dozens of real artists… and I mean REAL in the sense of not only being rl artists, but also in the sense of being authentically creative…spread across floor after floor of gallery space. I could scarcely imagine a rl gallery of such magnitude.

Both UTSA and CrossWorlds are closed due to the obscene cost of maintaining a sim. I know how this pressure can be. I’m not wealthy by any means. I’ve maintained the sim at Artemisia for nearly 4 years now and it has always been a challenge to come up with the money all this time, primarily by working hard and renting out large portions of the sim to cover the costs.

I just heard that Pop Art Display is closing due to lack of funding for the host sim.  I visited on Sunday and it was still intact and just got an update that is will be open until January 14. I urge you to see it if you can. My first time there, I ended up spending about 3 hours going through the place.

The original group notice from eros Boa was brief and lacking details beyond this quote from Andy Warhol:

“The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Florence is McDonald’s. Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet.”

and a reference to Linden Lab and “goodbye” in a couple dozen languages. I thought the tone of the message was a little bitter, but I can understand the pain of losing something you’ve poured your life’s energy into only to see it go away because it’s unsustainable.

English: Andy Warhol

Image via Wikipedia

For those who haven’t seen it (stop reading this and go NOW), PAD is an extraordinary document of the Pop Art era from the 1950s-1970s. Especially highlighted are Andy Warhol (Merlino Mayo built a fascinating reproduction of Warhol’s Loft studio), David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, and many others. This was a beautifully curated exhibition by the Italian team of Matteus Taurog (coordinator critic), with Zorro Hirvi (who constructed the multi-level building with an ingenious traffic pattern that ensured you would not miss anything), and eros Boa. eros created many wonderful interactive elements, including full 3D dioramas of many of the classic paintings, along with free wearable avatars that you could wear and become a living part of the image. You literally walk into the paintings on the wall. They had some remarkable events there, including an episode of Susa Bubble by Rose Borchovski.  But what excited me about PAD as much as the content was the quality of presentation.  The logic and flow of the massive installation was intuitive and informative. In addition to the participatory dioramas, many objects had links to vetted Wikipedia or YouTube resources for more depth. I often touted this place as a model for museum-like education. It was not merely a gallery. It was a totally engaging experience.

And finally we come to Immersiva. Anyone who is unaware of Bryn Oh’s full sim playground has simply been living in a cave. Arguably one of the more important artists working in SL, Bryn was fortunate to have the generous support of patron Dusan Writer for the last couple of years. If you know the cost of a sim, you know what an incredible boon it is to have someone believe in an artist enough to put up the cash for it every month. But inevitably these things end, and now Bryn is looking for a new home. She has petitioned LL to provide sims for her Immersiva and for Kiana Writer’s MadPea projects (similarly supported until now by Dusan Writer).

Bryn is one of the lucky ones. She’s had incredible opportunities to be freely creative because she is brilliant and people want to support and be a part of her brilliance. And part of her brilliance is being aware of opportunities and taking advantage whenever possible. Most people are not nearly so fortunate, and it’s not because they aren’t as brilliant. It’s because they aren’t connected.

So what will happen to us all? It costs $23.60US to maintain a single 100 prim object inworld for a year. A full sim only gets 15K prims. Simple math indicates that in order for new work to happen, old work must go away. And someone has to pay for it. Cost is the single greatest force driving people from SL to alternative grids, followed closely by prim limits. Most people I know have a presence in at least one other grid. This is not a bad thing. Diversity, decentralization, competition, are all good for virtual worlds in general. Ultimately the balance between cost and value will determine where things happen. At the moment, SL is still the place to be if you want to have your work seen. But that could change as more people–an especially as more institutions–are frustrated by the burdensome costs.

I hate to see these great institutions of art in SL disappear just because LL fails to understand that the artists and educators are the ones who are legitimizing the platform as a viable place to work. That we are pushing the technology. That we are the ones showing the way. It is unfathomable to me that LL raised the prices to education and nonprofit users and has been milking the rest of us for every penny they can, when cost is THE barrier to growth in this industry. We don’t need more features. We need a break.

For my friends in the arts community I’ve begun a project to bring people together to talk about sustainability of the arts in virtual worlds. I’m calling it ArtGyro for the moment until someone comes up with something better (and surely someone will) using as a model a spinning top that creates stability with movement. The project is getting a slow start because of the holidays and needing to get the new series started at UWA. But I’ve been talking with several people about this and I think there are opportunities to leverage what we have as a community. If you’d like to be part of the conversation, please join the ArtGyro group and drop me a note or IM or email.


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