A Drop of Vanity

Have you ever had a bad haircut?  I mean really bad?  Nothing that will work itself out in a week or with some styling tricks, but something that will require either an even more drastic haircut to fix, or 6 months until it’s back to where you started?  I just did.  Sucksalot.  I never thought I was this vain. I’m a pretty low maintenance kind of gal, my avatar actually owns way more shoes and makeup than I do. However, I gotta admit, staring at my hair, running my fingers through and having them come up short of where they should, I realized that I just may be.  Comfort food would have been my first go to, but I can’t really eat my way through the next six months, so retail therapy is required.

The fastest, most convenient, and cheapest form of retail therapy for me is Second Life, and this weekend did not disappoint.  Sales and Specials and Events oh my!  I’m drowning in happy, until I reach up to play with my hair that is… but, hands on the keyboard and I’ll make it through this just fine.

I was browsing The Dressing Room’s 4th Birthday event and then a notice came in, Spring Sn@tch Sale.  If you are reading this, and if it’s still Monday, stop now and head over to the Sn@tch Mainstore for 50% to 75% off everything except new releases through until Monday April 28th.  I’ll wait for you.

Drop of Vanity

Back?  Ok good.  Sn@tch has an interesting way to price things doesn’t it?  Sales aside, unlike other stores where you pick a color, and get all sizes when you buy, at Sn@tch you pick a size and get all colors.  See those pants up there, nice aren’t they?  Checkered or plaid aren’t usually my thing, but once I saw how my ass looked in the demo, I had to have them.  I got 8 colors in the pack for 135L.  Expect to be seeing me in them, a lot.

I’ve written about Sn@tch before, not just because of the deals, but it’s actually a fun place to hang out.  Shopping aside, if you are the kind of person who prefers to shop in world than the marketplace, this will hit all the high notes, from the VIP lounge to lucky boards, riot vendors to fishing.  That’s right, you can fish for an outfit, takes maybe a couple hours and you can catch all the pieces.  If you don’t, no problem, the Sn@tch group is a great resource to find people to trade with, or to call everyone down to flash mob the riot vendors.  Even just sitting in the store, there is always people around, you are bound to start up a conversation and help each other out by trading missing pieces.

There are other fun details, like a dressing room, a catwalk, even a photostudio, and if you wander the outside, the rest of the mall, you’ll see the theme carries on.  That’s where I took that picture above actually, out front of the store.  I can spend an entire online session at Sn@tch, no need to go anywhere else, chatting, music, prizes, what else could I need?  It’s also great place to tackle my embarrassingly out of control inventory, I can lounge on one of the couches while I wait for my letter to come up or keep an eye out on the riots.  That’s actually what I was doing, rummaging around my inventory picking out items to put together for this look, and what better inspiration than these messages behind me?

Don't Give a Damn

See the necklace I’m wearing, I got that today at Sn@tch too, when my letter came up on the lucky board.  Guess what it’s called?  Drops of Vanity.  Welcome back Serendipity, I’ve missed you.

Credits:

Shirt:  Bad News Crop Top :::Sn@tch::: Spring Sale
Pants:  Lulu Leggings :::Sn@tch::: Spring Sale
Neck Lace:  Drop of Vanity :::Sn@tch::: Lucky Board
Sn@tch Main Store  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Snatch%20City/136/101/29
Skin:  Celestial glow milk -al vulo- available at The Dressing Room 4th Birthday
Poses Label Motion Love Set at The Dressing Room 4th Birthday
The Dressing Room 4th Birthday until May 9th http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Imogen/200/153/27
Hair:  Lory Mesh Hair Aquatic /Wasabi Pills/ former Arcade Gatcha Prize
Makeup:  Bleeding Eyes – Goth Black  ::Para Desings:: free gift
Face Piercings:  Fire In The Water Midnight – .HoD. – former hunt prize
Lashes:  Mesh Eye Lashes – Maitreya V.I.P. Group Gift (old gift)
Eyes:  Ellis-Lavender [LeLutka]
Slink Casual Hands and Mid-Height Bare Feet

Souvenirs of Other Worlds

I’ve been reading a book lately called “Other Worlds Than These”, it’s a collection of short stories about parallel universes from authors like George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Carrie Vaughn, Orson Scott Card and many others. As a book it’s ok, some stories better than others, but it’s this forward by Lev Grossman that I can’t get out of my head.

“When I read The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, it didn’t so much as introduce me to the idea that there was another world as confirm my already grave suspicions on the subject. Even at the tender age of eight I was – as I suspect you were, and are, if you’re reading this book – one of reality’s natural critics. Oh, I knew that the real world had it’s good points. One must be charitable after all. Candy, for example, and cats, and hot baths. But by and large the material was just a bit thin. The jokes weren’t funny, the catering was uneven, and the less said about one’s fellow players the better. I had a powerful urge to see what was on in the next theater over”.

If that quote didn’t strike you as familiar, as something that’s rattled about your brain unspoken until just now, the rest of my post probably won’t make sense. You see, it feels like he’s talking as much about the 8 year old me as he is himself. There weren’t enough stories to fill me, my appetite for elves, magic, space, time travel, anything new, anything different, seemed insatiable. It wasn’t just books either, soon I didn’t need others’ words to feed me, the stories came from inside me. The tree in the backyard hosted a mysterious race of fae when I looked at it out my window at night, that cardboard box from the time we got a new fridge became a time portal that took me, more than once, to Camelot.

Fast forward several decades, and I sign up for Second Life. I see now that it was just another new adventure, new experience, new world. Some might say new escape, but I don’t always like to use the word escape because I don’t mean it to imply that there is something wrong with one’s current life or world or experiences. It’s not so much about getting away from anything, it’s really more about getting to something more.

Getting to my point here, in an unusually round about way even for me, when I discovered Second Life it wasn’t just the concept of an alternate world that held the appeal so much as the people in it. Why? Because it seemed to be filled with others like me. People who had read the same books as me, liked the same movies as me. People who knew what a Drow was, who were fascinated with Steampunk, who saw beauty in Cybernetics, others who could rattle on about the history and characters of Star Trek, or Middle Earth, or Narnia. I met people with the same sense of humour, who understood the same references, who spoke the same language in a sense. I discovered that there were others out there with the same larger than life imaginations, insatiable appetites for words, and the ability, ultimately, to suspend disbelief.

To this day, I’ve yet to find any community or group that has so many people who enjoy what I enjoy, who are fascinated with the same wild ideas, who like to talk about the strange, mysterious, and magical. There are people who get me in ways that are hard for me to find in a coffee shop, family reunion, or work place. I wonder now if it’s not coincidence that I found so many kindred spirits in Second Life. I wonder if there is something about it that appeals to that part of us. Probably, I mean I don’t think that’s any kind of radical theory, so the question is… what is that part of us that draws some to Second Life? Imagination?

bohopancake

If you’ve read some of these stories about alternate universes, parallel worlds, time travel, you know many are sprinkled with warnings. There is the danger that by simply being part of them, we could bring about change. Not only is there a risk of changing the people we encounter in those worlds, change the society itself, but we must also consider that by even being a guest in those worlds we are forever changed upon our return.

Another common thread in these types of stories is the warning about bringing something back from those worlds into ours. Luckily there is less risk of bringing something back from a Virtual world into our real space than there is say, if we time travelled to ancient Rome… or is there?

My theories on that were blown completely out of the water when I first came across the work of Aemeth “Cake” Lysette. She does drawings of Second Life avatars, she did the one of me shown above, and you can see more of her work on her Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/aemeth/ and her blog http://aemysays.wordpress.com/ or her store https://gumroad.com/ashurcollective.

On the surface perhaps you might just admire her artistic vision, her skills, her style, but if you know me at all, you know what I’m like, I had to toss the idea around my mind until it was coated in cinnamon and sugar and tickled all those taste buds that live along the moist edges of my imagination. I chose those words on purpose you know, the food references, because this idea is really just that delicious. A real life drawing of a virtual world avatar. Doesn’t that give you goose bumps? The walls are crumbling, the rules are broken, we’ve not just crossed into an alternate world, put our mark on it, but we can bring something back with us.

When I read that she was taking commissions, I had to have one. It’s not often I say that, although there are many things I own virtually that I enjoy, that are fun, that I use often, that I admire, I can’t say that I’ve ever needed something the way I needed this. Perhaps it’s because my time in SL is waning, it’s possible that I needed something tangible in my day to day life to remind me of that place, those times, the person I am when I’m there. Whatever the reason, I wanted, needed one of Aemeth’s works, a drawing of my avatar.

psypancake

There was one problem, which look to ask her to draw? I have so many avatar looks, and I don’t even mean alts although I have those too, but as you can see from my pictures I change everything about my avatar, from hair to skin to clothes on a pretty regular basis. I change it for my mood, for the event I’m attending, for the company I’m with, but mostly for the photoshoot or blog post I’m trying to do. If I could have just one piece of art, just one image to represent who I am virtually, what I do in Second Life, what it means to me, which would it be?

I shared this struggle with a friend, asking his opinion on which I should chose, and he helped me narrow it down to two that are most commonly “me” when I’m not working on a photoshoot or blog post. The looks I most commonly choose to represent myself as when I’m on my time. Two wasn’t very helpful though, because as much as I wanted this portrait, I am still sort of frugal and would only treat myself to one. That’s when he stepped in and offered to commission two, so I could have both.

It seemed indulgent to have two, selfish, of not just his money but also Aemeth’s time, but in the end both agreed this was the best way. If a portrait would be that special thing, that artifact, that magical token I can take back to my world with me on the days or weeks when I’m not in this virtual one, my portal to alternate worlds, it had to capture all facets of me.

They are perfect. They are me in ways I don’t have words for, although, now that I look up, I apparently tried to use them all just to be safe.

The Calm Before The Burn

Can you guess where I am?

Burn2 2013 Geometry

Where geometric shapes are found next to haunted mushroom forests?

Burn2 2013 Haunted Shrooms

Where artful guardians welcome the sunrise alongside stages with electronic music and light shows?

Burn2 2013 Sunrise

Where people from every walk of life and background gather to dance, drum and celebrate fire?

Burn2 2013 Temple

In Second Life, it’s called Burn2.  It not only embraces all the principals of the real life Burning Man Festival, but it brings it’s own unique twist.  Where else could you set up your tent next to an alien crash site?  Where else could you hop on a hot air balloon guided tour?  Where else could you stroll casually along, and as the music stream changes with each camp you meet what will become your future family.

If you’ve followed my blog and project the last few years you may remember my first year at Burn2  where I met Gypsy and the Happy Clams and then when I   became a Lamplighter.  I can’t believe it’s been two years, in a way it’s an anniversary of sorts.  A benchmark in this blog, in my relationships, and in my Second Life.

The one thing I notice about both my first year at Burn2 and my second is that each came at time when I was often absent from SL or having a lull in my creative energy.  However, both year’s events were followed by a flurry of activity, new adventures, and friendships that have stood the test of time.  I have a great deal of faith the same will hold true again this year after getting a sneak peek at the build tonight.

It wasn’t just that chaotic perfection that is the hallmark of Burn2.  It wasn’t the fond memories, the chance to see new works and take new pictures.  It was when I walked up to the lamplighter’s camp.

Burn2 2013 Lamplighter Camp

I caught my breath when I saw it. My fingers tingled, my heart raced, I had that crazy expression that was half smile yet my vision was blurred from tears. My friends know how much Burn2 has meant to me over the years, that being a lamplighter has been the highlight of my Second Life, but truly it’s been of the most difficult thing to describe or write about.

How do you describe the wind?  How to you explain water?  How do you help someone understand sound when they can’t hear you, or write about a flavour they’ve never tasted?  I know what Burn2 means to me, but it won’t be that for you, it can’t be and I realized why tonight when I read the notecard at the Lamplighters camp.

We don’t require volunteers, or any structured commitments. Anyone who wishes to contribute time, talents, or resources is welcome to do so, but not required. All we ask for is simply this: when you are at one of our events, participate! Cheer us on, get a drum, dance with us, even walk with us in our processions. This is, after all, the true spirit of the Burn.

Yes!  That’s it.  That’s what Burn2 is, that’s why it’s different for every person, because it’s about participation.  Whether you come to try out some of the fun vehicles, or listen to your favorite DJ, or see some new art, YOU are as much part of the experience you will have as the camps and entertainers are.

In cooperation with the BURN2 core we set a schedule and route for our nightly lamplighting processions. As you know, Burning Man is not a spectator event. It’s about participation! And so, in Second Life too, all are welcome to join in with us in the processions. In a very real sense, we bring the Burning Man/BURN2 community together.

I wish I had thought to describe it that way.  Burn2 is not a spectator event, not at all.  You can come, walk around and see things, that’s of course welcome and encouraged, but to truly experience Burn2, to understand what I’m trying to convey, you can’t just watch, you have to talk to people, to try things, to dance… you have to Burn.

Following the procession, we assemble with all who care to participate; at The Temple, The Village, Center Camp or elsewhere, and spend the hours of darkness, dancing, drumming, socializing and celebrating fire and community.

We love to inspire the sense of community that the Burn brings, through our drumming, dancing and welcoming others to simply share in our joy of being and doing together – this is the very essence of the Burning Culture.

We invite you to join with us in our processions and drumming events, to celebrate the spirit and fire of Burning culture.

The lamplighters gather every night at 7 pm SLT at their camp http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Burning%20Man-%20Deep%20Hole/1/21/24 and the procession will drum and dance it’s way across the playa lighting lamps.  If you’ve never experienced this, and I don’t mean just watching, if you’ve never tried to dance or walk as a group in Second Life towards a common purpose,  laughing until your cheeks hurt, being part of community with this much joy, please do come.  You won’t find another experience like it.

How do I know?  Well, once again, I’ll defer to the excellent wording in the Lamplighters package.

There are no bystanders at BURN2 – Welcome Home!

More information about Burn2 can be found on their website http://www.burn2.org/

Be sure to check the calendar of events http://www.burn2.org/calendar

Happy Mood Hunting

It’s been an unusually difficult and stressful few weeks recently for me, both online and off. It’s rare and unfortunate when that’s the case in both venues because I can’t use one to escape the other. Frying pan or fire? Not the most tempting of choices.

I opted for door number three, a distraction from my regular virtual life and so I started attending the Virtual Artist Alliance’s Photohunts again. I’ve only been to two so far, but I was reminded how much I enjoyed them.

Beneath the Surface

Last week’s theme was Soft and we were given a landmark for Happy Mood. It’s been a while since I’d been there, but what a pleasant rediscovery it was. I was so preoccupied with exploring every hidden corner and sitting on every swing and stump I could find that I forgot to take any pictures until the hour was half over. The picture above and below are some of the many shots I ended up saving to my desktop; they didn’t represent the theme very well so I didn’t enter them, but I’m really pleased with the surreal and abstract nature Happy Mood inspired in me.

Roots

In the end it was this bunny that said soft to me. Perhaps a bit cliché but I couldn’t help myself. Something about the way he is peeking around the corner of books just made me smile.

Soft

The Virtual Artist Alliance hosts two Photohunts each week. The Wednesday night event is at 6pm SLT which is the one I have been trying to attend when I’m able, but there is another on Monday mornings at 11:30 am. If you haven’t been to one before, they are very easy to get involved in. Just show up at the Virtual Artists gallery about 10 minutes before the start time and ask the host to register your name on the board.

Once everyone is gathered we are given a landmark and usually a theme and one hour to take pictures and submit our best, unedited, to the contest board. Then we vote. There are prizes for first, second and third, the amount of the prize comes from donations. For me though, it’s not about the prize, in fact last week I had to log out before I even heard who won. I find it an excellent way to explore the grid, meet new people, and challenge myself to take pictures I might not normally take.

PhotoHunting

Virtual Artist Alliance Gallery http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Afar/179/173/2667

Happy Mood is also a business, much of what you see there is for sale and I picked up some grasses and plants to decorate my beach parcel so I can keep some of that feeling with me at all times.  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/HappyMood/112/156/22%20HPMD

Here’s my song this week, I had it on constant repeat while taking the pictures. Maybe that explains how colorful they are but I must confess, that big white tree at Happy Mood was speaking to me much in the way it’s described starting at about 3:50 to 4:30.

Unified Heart: A Leonard Cohen Art Exhibition in Second Life

I have a confession to make, well maybe two depending how you see things.  The first is that I haven’t spent a lot of time visiting Art Galleries in Second Life.  I’m not sure why, I love looking at images created in Second Life.  I spend hours browsing Flickr, Blogs and Koinup and have several favorite artists but I guess I didn’t really feel that viewing this type of 2d art in Second Life with my avatar would add to that experience.

My next confession is that I’m a big Leonard Cohen fan, always have been, both as a singer and a poet.  It was in fact my love of all things Cohen that actually prompted me to visit the Unified Heart Art Exhibit in Second Life more than my enjoyment of galleries.

Unified Heart 2013

Unified Heart 2013 is the second iteration of this project that challenges Second Life artists to create and image inspired by Cohen’s lyrics.

You can read more about it and the Organizer Morgana Nagorski here http://drhguy.com/2013/01/04/unified-heart-2013-second-life-leonard-cohen-art/.  You can view a selection of the works here http://fashionfeed.thebestofsl.com/2013/01/unified-heart-2013-a-homage-to-leonard-cohen/

I spent a good portion of my afternoon yesterday wandering this gallery and realized that I was wrong.  As much as I do enjoy and will continue to browse various image hosting services to look at SL art, there is something that added to the experience by seeing it in world.  I took the time to wander through the other galleries on the same site and I think I might start adding this to my list of things to do in SL.

I’ve taken pictures of two of my favorite pieces, and to be doubly clear these are NOT my works, these are just images I captured of the Art as it appears at the Exhibit along with the lyrics.

Ballad Of The Absent Mare by Lily Laufer ~ Original SL Art
Ballad Of The Absent Mare by Lily Laufer

In My Secret Life by Petra Messioptra ~ Original SL Art
In My Secret Life by Petra Messioptra

Petra is an artist I already follow on Flickr so it was quite a treat to see her work like this.

If you have a bit of time, I highly recommend stopping by Unified Heart which runs until April 21.

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Gardenia%20Islands/110/28/2502

You might want to play some of your favorite Cohen works while you visit, it definitely adds to the imagery.

Courting My Muse at Ukulhas Island

Twice this week I logged in, no small feat in itself lately, and I had not only an inspiration, but a plan.  I wanted to finish the photoshoot and story that I gave of hint of in my Create a Character Challenge.  Location, check.  Outfit, check.  Poses, check.  Inspiration, check.  Then it happened.  Distraction.

Those are the moments I wish I had more experience being in touch with my creative side, a stronger bond with my muse, but alas when I pause to deal with the distraction I look back and she’s gone.  A fickle thing she is, possessive too, she refuses to share me anyone or anything.  If I even momentarily give my attention to something else she leaves me, sometimes for days.  The harder I chase or the tighter I hold, the more fleeting she becomes.

Fleeting

Both times I logged off because there isn’t much point lingering, once she leaves she won’t be back and her sudden departures tend to make me sullen and snarky.  It feels a lot like being stood up.  Sure you could do something else, but who wants to?  I can’t, I won’t, blame anyone else but myself.  I’m sure that most people can multitask, create and socialize at the same time, but I’m not one of them.

Second Life viewers gives us tools like marking ourselves as busy or autoresponse, but those don’t work well for me.  Much like a ringing phone, I have to answer it.  Even if I decide not to answer, to let it go to voice mail, two minutes later I’m checking messages anyway.  Same thing for IMs, notices and group chat; it’s just not possible for me to just ignore them.  For the thousandth time I find myself wishing Second Life was like so many other programs out there and gave you the ability to log in but appear offline.  To be invisible for a time.

Muses in the Night Sky

I love my friends and the people in my virtual world, but my own inability to multitask means I sometimes have to revert to plan B, the non entity.  I don’t call it my alt, though I do have several of those, my non entity is a shell account created solely for those times I need to get something done.  It has no friend list, no profile, no inventory.

A downside of my non-entity is that I can’t photograph my avatar, not unless I want to show off the latest library items, but it gives me the freedom to explore locations and get ideas to use in future posts.  This time, rather than stockpile those ideas and return with my regular avatar, I let the environment itself be the subject.

Muses in the Wild

These were taken at Ukulhas Island, a wonderful build filled with whimsy and inspiration.  I particularly like that it has poseballs and dances hidden here and there.  Locations with things to click and opportunities to be part of environment always make me feel more comfortable.  Like a bench at museum I guess, it invites the viewer to make themselves at home instead of just standing there looking at the art.

As usual, I’ve taken a considerable amount of liberty with windlight, angles and draw distance so I encourage you to visit and see it yourself.  You never know what you might glimpse out of the corner of your eye.

Ukulhas Island  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ukulhas%20Island/47/132/34