Friday, July 31, 2009

Saints and Sinners

One of the prettiest spots I had encountered in some time is Sinner's Paradise. Despite the name - which is not all hyperbole; the castle has the usual assortment of adult poseballs - most of the area is simply gorgeous, and the scattered poseballs tend to be romantic ones for couples. Saints, should one know any, would not be entirely out of place here.

A beautiful sunset.

Quiet contemplation.

A pool of stars.

Waterfalls into the central lagoon.

This pillow seems to be missing something - or someone.

A private island in the lagoon.

I feel like Mary Tyler Moore at Disneyworld in this pose - but it almost has to cheer up anyone.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Witch, the Wardrobe, and the Lion

[Here's a little frivolity for a Thursday. Just because. - RJ]

No, not that one. But this story does have a witch, an honest-to-God witch, some furniture, and a large cat. Such is the way of Caledon.

Our story starts on a fine June day, when Mrs. Greymalkin moved to a secluded plot in Tanglewood. Mrs. Greymalkin was a witch – no one ever knew a Mr. Greymalkin, and all were wise enough not to ask questions – but even witches needed to live somewhere. She purchased a bungalow away from the main traffic flow, one that was badly in need of a good coat of paint or two, and proceeded to set up her stock-in-trade. There was the cauldron, of course, and shelves of herbs and eye-of-newt and all that, along with a bookshelf filled with magical spells. All in Runic, of course, so prying eyes would not learn the arcana of her trade.

She set the cauldron bubbling, and the aroma was enough to make one’s eyes water. Caledonians are fairly tolerant people, of course, but everyone has limits, and soon people started whispering among themselves that the foul stench was not bearable. What to do about it? They could hardly march in and complain about the witch. They instead decided to form a Committee, and the Committee elected Leaders, and the Leaders developed a List of Demands. Such Demands included ceasing all odiferous activities within the area known as Caledon Tanglewood; performing incantations in English only; and requiring all homeowners to maintain their homes in a fully-painted state using only those colors approved by the Committee. These they marched to the witch’s house and presented to the witch.

“We noticed that your house needs painting,” their President said. “Please paint it. Or else.”

“Fools! You dare trifle with me?” Mrs. Greymalkin whipped up a batch of something particularly smelly, chanted in Runic, and, with a wave of her hand, changed her house from a muted blue to a loud pink.

The Leaders looked at one another. They had no contingency plan if the witch refused their Demands. The President of the Committee, though recognizing that he should consult with his fellow Leaders and put the matter to a Vote, took the initiative and repeated the Demands. “If you choose to ignore us, madam, there will be severe Consequences! I can assure you of that.” He looked to his fellow Leaders for affirmation and was pleased to see them nodding. “As you can imagine, the unauthorized color change to your domicile is a most serious offense. Change that back to its original color and we shall be satisfied.”

Mrs. Greymalkin sighed. She wasn’t a mean witch, really she wasn’t. She just wanted to be left alone with her cauldron, her spells, and, perhaps, every full moon or two, a nice game of whist with several of her fellow witches. Whist relaxed her. But no, these do-gooding meddlers had the gall to make Demands of her. What was a witch to do? After further incantations, she pointed her long, bony finger at each Leader in turn.

With a slight pop! each time, the Leaders were transformed, one by one. The man with the cravat shop turned into a dining table; the lady who tinkered with motorized vehicles turned into a wingback chair; the hard-faced housewife in an oversized bustle turned into an ottoman (complete with the Caledon tartan!); and the President, a mousy, middle-aged man with a pompous attitude that attempted to make up for a lack of imagination, turned into a wardrobe.

The witch admired her creations. Her house had needed furnishing anyway, and she had just learned the furniture spell and wondered on whom she could practice it when this opportunity presented itself. No doubt the neighbors would be upset – not so much at the loss of these particular individuals, she thought, as they were hardly worth fussing over, but more at the principle of the thing – but Mrs. Greymalkin couldn’t take their incessant whiny Demands any longer. And it was very handsome furniture indeed.

As she predicted, the townsfolk were not happy about this turn of events. Some visited the furniture, and Mrs. Greymalkin always invited the pleasant ones in for a cup of tea and a biscuit, and showed off the furniture. Some would laugh nervously and make a remark such as, “Mr. Whitcolme was always a bit of a stick, wasn’t he? Now he’s a table – isn’t that appropriate, ha ha?” Yet Mrs. Greymalkin understood sadly that these little bits of humor only served to underscore their distaste at having a witch in their presence who might choose to transform other, more desirable neighbors into furniture at any time.

It was only a matter of time before those same Elements of the town that formed the Committee enlisted the help of a passing Lion. The Lion (as the males are wont to do) swaggered into town, allowing his magnificent mane to flow easily in the breeze. He understood that he was a fine-looking specimen of Lionhood, and was happy to share his magnificence with others. The Elements explained their problem to the Lion, and whispered the promise of a Reward into his ear. The combination of doing a Lionly deed, the satisfaction from the good-will of the townspeople and, of course, the prospect of a Reward were enough to sway the Lion. He agreed to rid the town of the witch and to ensure the safety of her four victims, now prisoners in her house. He traveled to the witch’s cottage in order to eat her.

When the Lion knocked on Mrs. Greymalkin’s door, she understood the purpose behind his visit. She considered her options. She could cast the same spell that she used on the unfortunate Leaders (she glanced at Mrs. Wingback Chair and Mr. Ottoman, the latter now holding a copy of a delightful piece of historical non-fiction that would be published some years in the future (the witch also having the power of manipulating time) involving a young wizard named Potter), but she had no more need of furniture, as her cottage was small, and, in any event, she was not entirely certain how the spell would work with a Lion. Perhaps instead of furniture he would be turned into a teakettle, or an antimacassar, or something entirely useless? She decided instead to apply Reason and appeal to his Good Nature. Though Lions are vain and vicious, they do indeed have a Good Nature, though one must be clever to find it.

“What may I do for you, Mr. Lion?” she called through the door.

“Your house is pink, madam, a color that has not been authorized by my clients, and, therefore, they have retained me to eat you. Please open the door that I may do so.”

One of life’s little ironies is that, despite his name, the Lion is an entirely truthful creature. This is no doubt a result of his vanity and self-image as a heroic protector of his realm. Whatever the reason, he is incapable of a fib, something the witch well knew.

“The house is indeed pink,” she replied. “But that seems a rash response to such a trifling crime.”
“Perhaps it is, but I have agreed to do so.”

“Well, you also transformed four members of the community into pieces of furniture.”

“I did, but let me assure you that they are not harmed, only differently-constructed, and we should not judge whether their current construction is better or worse than their original forms. There is no doubt that they are all more useful as furniture than as people.”

“Perhaps, and yet I repeat: I have agreed to eat you.”

“Consider, Mr. Lion, that I am an old lady, and doubtless taste of such, and am likely tough and stringy as well. As a meal, I would only upset your stomach.”

At this, the Lion paused. He enjoyed a good meal, and he disliked those that upset his stomach which, truth be told, was a little delicate. “Perhaps and perhaps, but –” And now his voice was filled with regret. “– I have given my word.” He paused again. “Unless you have a better suggestion for me.”

“In truth, the people were upset with me because they did not like the smells from my cauldron. They refused to be honest about their concerns – I could have added a little perfume to the mix – and instead chose to complain about my house color. I changed it to this pink color simply to vex them. Their outrageous overreaction is typical of small people given power. Before you arrived, I had thought to leave Tanglewood and find an isolated place where no neighbors could complain about my witchcraft. My plan is simple: instead of eating me, you agree to let me leave. I can pack the entire contents of this house, except for the furniture, into two medium-sized bags. You may take possession of the house, including the furniture. I assure you that the ottoman makes for a comfortable spot to rest your paws at the end of a hard day, though the wardrobe has an attitude problem. You may then assure the people of this shire that you have fulfilled your duty: you have rid the town of me, which you may say truthfully, and if they choose to think you ate me, well, that is their mistake. You will see to the safety of my victims, which, as you will want the furniture to last a long time, you will most surely do.”

The Lion saw the logic of the witch’s proposal. This satisfied his obligations without the danger to himself – and, really, wouldn’t his loss be more than the world could bear? He agreed immediately. The witch left, carrying the two magical bags, and the Lion moved into the cottage. There he lived for many years, with four nice pieces of furniture that he carefully tended. They always gave him excellent service, except for the wardrobe, which tended to have doors that stuck shut, regardless of how much he oiled them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cape Wrath in Twilight

I found myself in Cape Wrath near sunset, when the fading light creates a warm orange hue in the lengthening shadows. It's a wonderful time of the day, particularly this far north, where the cooling breeze off the sea makes a stroll so pleasant.

I paused in Mr. Steed Ballinger's garden, admiring the fountain.

Mr. Ballinger's house is an imposing structure.

Miss Vickie Wunderland, interested in the well-being of Caledon's Youth, had constructed a schoolhouse for the education of the little whippersnappers. When I arrived, school was out of session, so I stepped inside.

"Be Honest, Truthful, and Pure. Keep out of Bad Company." *cough* Yes, well, one tries. Do you hear that, Kathy? May I pick, say, two out of the four and call it good?

I relive my days at the Reade School back in New Alba - from the other side of the podium. It's a little daunting from here!

Miss Wunderland has not neglected the adults, either. She has a quaint tavern near the sea.

I stopped inside for a refreshing Adult Beverage (though I note she also serves coffee).

Thus restored, I took a stroll on the beach in front of the tavern, walking in the fading light.

As an historical note, this is the same site but two months ago. Nothing is constant but change...

As the darkness fell, I bid adieu to Cape Wrath and strolled under the starlight toward Brigadoon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Under Steelhead

After my visit to the Museum of Historical Preservation, I wandered through Steelhead, not yet ready to return home. I must have been looking intently at a building, or distracted by a squirrel, because I did not see the sawhorse and the "Under Construction" sign until it was too late. By then I had fallen through the street...

...and into a large underground chamber. Fortunately I was not harmed. Unfortunately, I appeared trapped.

How to get out? This appeared to be the ruins of an old tunnel system - despite the cracks in the retaining wall (below), or the brick wall that abruptly ended (above), substantial effort had gone into this tunnel, which suggested there was likely a way out.

A storm drain looked promising...but led only to a dead end.

I discovered excitedly that this was an abandoned coal mine! There had to be a way out. I found a pulley system that was cleary used to haul out heavy objects, likely including the coal. As I looked up from the shaft at the great ropes, I saw daylight for the first time since I had fallen. I contemplated shimmying up the rope, but it seemed so far I dared not ask my body to climb that far unless I had no other choice. I resumed walking.

I found train tracks, and correctly inferred that they would lead to more of the mining operation. Several old coal cars remained underground, with their precious cargo still inside.

I was about to give up, and try the rope I had seen earlier before my strength was too badly diminished. Then I saw it: an elevator. Did it still work? There was only one way to find out. I reached out a tired finger and pressed the Call button.
Gears creaked but moved. Slowly the car moved toward the bottom of the shaft. I climbed in, and the car took me directly to the surface. I breathed a sigh of relief - and vowed to spend more time in the future looking where I stepped and less time at the skies.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Victorian Beach Party

On Sunday, Mr. Podruly Peccable hosted a Victorian Beach Party for the second anniversary of the Caledon Early Bird Social Club. I had changed into suitable beach attire but suffered something of a panic attack and never made it past the Botanical House. It was my loss, as the beach-goers appeared to be having a good time, courtesy of Mr. Peccable and Radio Riel DJ Miss Soliel Snook.

On an entirely unrelated note, the Amphibiflyer, constructed by Miss Koshari Mahana of Four Winds fame, is completely captivating. The vehicle may be seen here. If only one could commute to work this way...

Blending the Real and Unreal in Steelhead

One of the things that makes Steelhead unique among the Steamlands is its frequent use of historical buildings, generally from the Pacific Northwest, in the sims. Now Steelhead's Museum of Historical Preservation, curated by Miss Eladrienne Laval, is open in Harborside. As Miss Laval notes, the building itself is a recreation "inspired by the real-life 1897 Antelope Community Church located in Antelope," Oregon.

The many buildings in Steelhead that are recreations of, modeled after, or inspired by, actual buildings, mainly in the Pacific Northwest (Doc Wrangler's shop is modeled after a building in Philadelphia, and the Justice League's headquarters is modeled after Union Station in Cincinnati) are now marked with a "Steelhead in Real Life" stele, which will provide information on the historic structure.

One such example is the Steelhead Post Office, below (also build by Miss Laval).

Inside the museum, photographs of the Steelhead buildings and their counterparts (one hesitates to use the value-laden term "real life," particularly as I maintain that the life in which I happen to exist is the real one) line the walls. Clicking on them provides information about the historical building (often via an Aetherweb link) or the Steelhead counterpart.

One can only wait to see what Steelhead Shangai brings...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dancing in Winterfell Amaranthine

The second of Winterfell's social events on Saturday (I missed the Winter Ball, sadly), Miss Uni Ninetails held an informal dance in her realm of Amaranthine. I made a brief appearance, where the small but enthusiastic crowd appeared to be having a good time.

Below left, Miss Ninetails:

Sir JJ Drinkwater, kilted:

Who knew that Jaegers liked to fish?

Smoking can be deadly:

Tanglewood Faerie Dance

The invitation came from Miss Fogwoman Gray, via the Young Women's Caledon Association: a dance was to be held in Tanglewood - a Midsummer Newcomer's Ball. I took the advice of the sign and followed the stone path.

Various magical folk were found deep in the forest, dancing to an eclectic set of music. Below, Miss Saffia Widdershins (I believe) is the blue dervish, while Mr. Vivito Volare is the faun below, looking eerily like Pan's second cousin.

The magical place:

I do my best to keep up:

Miss Audrey Fotherington narrowly avoids a dancing bear (Mr. Baloo Uriza).

Woodget Botanic Curiosities and Carntaigh Park

Mr. Rudolfo Woodget dedicated his open-air shop today with a small gathering and dance. I arrived a little late, at which point Miss Gabrielle Riel was continuing to play Celtic tunes, with Mr. Woodget, Miss Abigail Raymaker, and Frau Annechin Lowey dancing along.

I wandered the site, admiring the dedication with which Mr. Woodget and Mr. Layleden Miles collected this trove. To quote the proprietor:

I am pleased to announce that, through the industrious explorations of my colleague, Mr. Jayleden Miles, I have recently gained possession of a quantity of rare and exotic items of the botanical variety: various furnishings and conveniences suitable for adorning the gardens on one's country estate, the promendades at one's summer villa or, indeed the modest courtyard of one's townhouse. Many of these unusual decorative items are endowed with certain curious properties: the sounds of birdcall, for example, or the generation of those "fairy lights" which have caused such excitement among the fashionable set. Whether these properties be the result of enchantment or mechanical steampunkery, I am not at liberty to say.

Above the ground, kept aloft through powerful balloons, is a platform filled with most unusual carousels.

Near the end of the event, Mr. Woodget had a Special Announcement, in which he dedicated the park across from his shop as "Carntaigh Green," in honor of the late Caledon Carntaigh, home of Miss Riel until last year. Though Her Grace was driven from her home in Caledon, Mr. Woodget ensured that the name Carntaigh will not be forgotten. Bravo, sir!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Death and Life of Armada Breakaway

We have written about Armada Breakaway before, and I had already decided that it was time to pay another visit to the flotilla when the news came that Armada was for sale. Almost as quickly, the near-death experience was over when Mr. Remington Thursday and Miss Violet Macmoragh purchased the sim. Bravo (and brava, just to keep things more or less grammatical)!

My visit started with an underwater approach, as the experience of others showed the dangers of riding in target-high, so to speak.

Fortunately, no mer-people were in sight.

The great flotilla was firmly anchored to the seabed.

Having made it this far, it was time for some aerial surveillance. The submarine surfaced briefly to release this small, improbable-looking vehicle.

I was rapidly airborne, and was able to observe the large number of airships moored over the surface ships. It was clear that this was the principal source of Armada's defenses.

Returning to the ground, I climbed aboard. At times, it was hard to tell I was not on solid land.

The city was deserted - or at least seemed that way. Had I caught them in a moment of crisis? Perhaps the citizens were in a secret location, plotting away.

Surveillance done, photographic plates in hand, my mission was over, and I quietly returned to the submarine, where we moved through the water and back to Caledon.