Saturday, October 31, 2009

Marrowstone Island

Not really a Halloween-themed sim, but plenty disturbing. For example, why is this gentleman burning?

Really, it's nothing to lose your head over!

The sim is, hmm -how to put this politely? - trailer park horror. And here's the trailer:

But a sense of humor is always appreciated. Doom? Certainly. But how can one resist a sign that says "The end is at hand" when there is a large hand in the picture?

Happy Halloween to all...particularly my undead friends.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm Happiest When There's No Reason to Be

I found the decorations in Mr. Spiral Walcher's store to be endlessly fascinating...trees illuminated as though they have thousands of fiber optic lights on them. Below, Spring:

And Autumn, in a blaze of glory:

"Stars light the sky in a galaxy of emptiness tonight..."

Review: Rhys Bowen, Murphy’s Law (2001)

At the turn of the 20th century, Molly Murphy is on the run after accidentally killing the laird of her small village in Ireland, after the man made improper advances toward her. She flees to London, where she secures passage to America by agreeing to deliver two children to their father in New York City. While on Ellis Island, waiting to be processed, she learns that a fellow traveler was murdered. Because Molly had been seen to slap the man and threaten him, Molly becomes a suspect even while falling under the charms of handsome police captain Daniel Sullivan. After Sullivan arrests a man who befriended Molly during the crossing, she decides to hunt for the murderer herself in order to clear her friend’s name, as well as her own. At the same time, she has to find her way in the sprawling and dangerous neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan.

The book – the first in a series of mystery novels now seven strong – is a quick read, short and engaging. I picked up the book because I like mysteries, I like the Victorian era, and I like plucky heroines. What could possibly go wrong?

First, the good news: the prose is well-crafted, the characters are interesting (if heavily Irish) and, better yet, readily distinguished from one another – something with which authors often seem to have trouble – and the action keeps moving.

At the same time, the plot strains credulity all too often. Of course, novels in the mystery genre need a certain degree of implausibility to contain everything in a novel and make the characters interesting. The crime is often unusual, as is the motive. The detective has to uncover key clues in a manner that is often unrealistic. He may have a character flaw, such as drinking until he blacks out, that would cause any ordinary detective to be fired, and he can shoot at least one suspect per book without fear of reprimand. Across a series, readers have to believe the same detective investigates one grisly crime after another – requiring additional suspension of disbelief if the detective is not a police officer, FBI agent, or employed by another law enforcement agency. Readers forgive these tropes as part of the genre.

Within those confines, however, readers expect a reasonable degree of realism and internal consistency. Characters have to respond to events the way a reader might, unless the author has created a personality quirk that would allow the character to respond differently. For example, after witnessing a crime, an ordinary citizen would likely call the police. A trained investigator would not place himself in danger unnecessarily.

Murphy’s Law has too many jarring moments, where a reader might stop and wonder why events are unfolding the way they are. For example:

  • Molly just happens to run across a fellow Irishwoman in London, just as Molly is trying to evade the police. This woman not only lies to the police, but tells Molly she had planned to sail to New York with her two children the very next day, but that she has tuberculosis. She agrees to allow Molly, a complete stranger, to impersonate her and take her children on the ship.
  • She somehow manages to conduct the investigation in a city that is entirely unfamiliar to her.
  • Molly is attractive enough to be nearly raped on three different occasions but continues to allow herself to be alone with men. And despite her substantial education (which the book does explain), she is slow to catch on when offered a job as a prostitute.
  • Speaking of jobs, Molly arrives in New York knowing no one, and understands she needs a job. Despite this, she is repeatedly distracted by her desire to continue investigating a murder. She rejects a low-level job out of hand, and makes only a feeble effort to look for work.

That said, the book is a sprightly read, and fits comfortably in a briefcase for those dull trips to and from work. While that sounds like damning with faint praise, one could do considerably worse.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lady Disdain

Lady Disdain, Miss Emilly Orr's shop in the Black Sand Beach sim, is having a hunt, in honor of what I would hazard a guess is Miss Orr's favorite season.

I have written unflatteringly about hunts in the past, and have personally sworn off them. (As with the weather, this determination is subject to change Without Prior Notice.) Indeed, I must spend some time in the not-too-distant future trying to extract dear Sister from the insane asylum, to which she was taken after suffering a breakdown somewhere beneath the surface in Octoberville. She was muttering, "Must find...teleport maze...tiny condom...lag, lag everywhere" over and over. But I digress.

Miss Orr created bats as the object of the hunt, placed them in a relatively confined area, and made them large enough to spot with the naked eye. If that were not enough, the bats glow slightly. (One bat may be seen above my head in the picture above.) The prizes - mainly eyes and animations - may be purchased for extremely modest sums.

Other items available for purchase are displayed along the walls, as is an assortment of Victorian erotica. I look forward to seeing what Miss Orr ultimately displays on the other walls.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Silent Sparrow Maze

The revamped Silent Sparrow location also has an underground maze for one's amusement. Down into the stygian darkness I went.

Some passages are merely dead ends. Others have charming little rooms, such as this one, seemingly taken from a Dali painting:

Or this one:

What are we to make of this forbidding sign? Ignore it, walk right through it, and find...

...a little work area.

Do mazes appeal to the frightened child in us, the delicious fear of getting lost (but safely so)? One wonders.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The New Silent Sparrow

Having not been to Silent Sparrow in some time, I decided to visit and see what Miss Hyasynth Tiramisu had been doing in my absence.

I found the store completely redesigned. Gone was the melting-ice-palace look; in its place was a rustic building, walled off by design section.

I ventured outside, where winter still held sway:

Further along the old train tracks stood several ramshackle stores, some of which contained the work of Miss Tiramisu's partner, Miss Jessica Ornitz:

Miss Ornitz had a small art gallery, and she thoughtfully provided seating for patrons:

It's difficult not to smile when one sits upon a large milkshake cup.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Lazy Saturday Afternoon

I have been in-world little of late, as the typist is consumed with an annoying problem at her place of business. (Sister Kathy, meanwhile, appears consumed with finishing Octoberville. Compulsive personalities should really not do hunts.)

Today was a warm morning, followed by a downpour and an October thundershower. Most unusual. It was a good day to grab a blanket, and easy chair, a cup of tea, and a remote control.

Meanwhile, Kathy sent the following picture. This is what happens when one becomes obsessed with finding tiny objects in a laggy sim:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween at Perenelle

I took the steam launch about the isle of Perenelle, as I heard the Spirit world might have paid a visit in the, er, spirit of the season. The large skull and crossbones was a reassuring sight, in that regard.

This big guy was all smoke and no fire, so to speak:

I tried to race an automobile around the track, but spent more time hauling my vehicle out of the water than I did driving it. Perhaps airships are more to my ability. I did find some lovely cobwebs, however:

A girl tries to take a little rest on a headstone and the spirit world seems to take offense. Gracious!

This story is more to my liking. "Once upon a time there lived a Princess..." Add a little gunfire, and we have the makings of a blockbuster.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A New Direction for Kintyre

The Duchy of Kintyre has changed hands (again, one might add), with Miss Autopilotpatty Poppy ceding the duchy to Mr. Planter Leitner and his wife, Elisabeth.

The Leitners are artistic people, as one can see from the bust below:

(That's Sting, isn't it? :) )

His Grace Kintyre had provided a letter of introduction on the Steamlander Forums, and describes the interests of the Leitners as:

"- 18th and 19th Century interpretations of Shakepeare. It was during this period that accounts of his life went completely out of control, and he became the legend he is today
- The Shakespeare identity question
- The Fact and Truth about the American frontier and whether anyone even knows the difference any more"

(Ah, so perhaps the bust is not of Sting. Who knew?)

And what good duchy would be complete without some scandal in the family? His Grace described his disgraced younger brother, "Giordano Chrome, [who] will be exploring themes of fact and fiction related to alchemy in the basement of the summer cottage."

Prior to coming to Caledon, the Leitners were (and are) very involved in Deadwood, including the Deadwood libraries. See here for a description of the Deadwood OOC library and its current exhibit on the real-life counterparts to Deadwood characters - including the Leitners.

I do so love the theater. Perhaps I could suggest putting Shakespeare to music. Those Gilbert and Sullivan chaps are quite popular, and perhaps this would help the Bard of Avon's reputation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On the Winterfell Border

Nearly straddling the Caledon/Winterfell border is a small island - Kanto Isle - with sandy soil, tufts of grass, water that ripples in the moonlight...

...and a splendid view of Winterfell.

Any closer, and the residents of Kanto Isle would be obligated to ask the Seneschelf in for tea!

During my explorations, I met Mr. Dan Gervasi, chairman of the Caledon Air Transport Company, who was on his way to Winterfell and was equally curious about the new island so close to the border.

Ah, Vanity!

Having realized a little belatedly that I neglected a Journal entry this morning, I decided to succumb to my vanity and create something on the fly, rambling on about random topics. (The pictures are from the beautiful sim Unintended Water.)

Item 1: Sister Kathy wasn't exaggerating when she said how hard the Octoberville hunt is. Of course, it helped considerably when I learned that objects could be found off the ground. I still haven't found something, or done something, that will activate the names of twenty or so objects in the HUD that are still just a series of question marks. And I'm guessing that this is related to the fact that I've found at least a dozen objects that I cannot pick up. It's fascinating, but frustrating as well.

Item 2: My typist is in the middle of reading Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan. It's a reworking of the Snow White/Rose Red fairy tale (not to be confused with the Snow White that has a bunch of cheerful short people whistling "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go!") The book is fabulously well-written, but it's appalling that the book is marketed to young teens, as it begins with a sex-in-the-haystacks scene, moves on to a description of incest between a father and his pubescent daughter, then features a gang rape scene. (If any teens are reading this, I realize I might have set off a small stampede to the bookstore. It's not as titillating as all that, though.) I'm not a book banner, by any means, but it does strike me that a well-informed book buying populace is a good thing, as it allows parents to make those kind of choices for their children. Labeling the book as Young Adult might not have been the wisest of publishing decisions.

Item 3: All indications are that my typist's place of business will be relocating shortly, to a part of the city that will increase almost everyone's commute and is less desirable in terms of amenities. I trust that whoever made that decision understands that our compensation went down and will not be surprised when, for example, the agency has trouble hiring people of the caliber it has become used to. Ah well, as the saying goes, nothing is permanent except change. Now how many more days until retirement?

Someone left this lovely piano out in the middle of nowhere. I hope it doesn't rain!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Autumn Walking Tours

As part of the Caledon Harvest Festival, Miss Eleanor Anderton arranged two walking tours to celebrate the season: a "Painted by Nature" tour, highlighting the lovely colors one finds in nature this time of year; and a "Drawn by Spirits" tour, highlighting the spookier aspects of the season. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Far too many citizens participated than I could do justice to, so I shall highlight a few sites I particularly enjoyed, starting with St. Blaine Church, in Brigadoon:

In my own area of the Downs, we have Grandma's Graphics, featuring the ghosts of Victoria and Albert, and a looming Cheshire Cat.

Mr. Tryst Doune's property in Caledon Downs has the most unusual-colored pumpkins:

I wandered the maze on Mr. Carl Metropolitan's Mayfair property:

Here is a lovely autumn setting at PIENSL Information Competencies (I don't know what that is, either), also in Mayfair:

Still in Mayfair, Mr. Xeriko Melnick's Thirteen is a lovely spooky, swampy treat:

Dean Fogwoman Gray has her own maze - complete with her own special bunny - in the Moors. The door below might not appear to lead anywhere, but appearances can be deceiving:

The latest Rothesay duke, Mr. Thadicus Caligari, shows off a nice patch of autumn:

Finally, in Wellsian, I stretch out on a blanket at Adocentyn Tower. I'm not sure I want to bob for apples in the green goop inside that cauldron.

As I noted above, these are only a sampling of the properties on the tour, and already my feet are tired!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Steampunk Building Contest

High above Oxbridge Village, there was a steampunk scarecrow and pumpkin building contest, conducted as part of the Harvest Festival.

Mr. Balpien Hammerer had a highliy explosive entry:

Entries from Mr. Garth Goode (left) andMiss Martini Discovolante (right):

A suave, smoking pumpkin from Mr. Bodhisatva Paperclip:

Another view of Mr. Goode's scarecow.

This creature was so scary that I neglected to get its creator's name.

Best of all, the votes (in Linden $) went to the benefit of the Caledon Library. A fittingly Caledonian end to the Harvest Festival!

Aether Salon: Whimsy!

As I try to do every month, I traveled to Babbage to attend the Aether Salon. This month was special in several respects. First, the Salon moved to new, more spacious quarters straddling the Babbage Palisades/Academy of Industry sims, so twice as many can attend the monthly discussions. In addition, the Salon celebrated its first-year anniversary - a full year of fascinating and entertaining discussions, always punctuated with an exclamation point.

This month, the Salon had a discussion of Whimsy - what it is, and why it is necessary in our lives. Miss Serafina Puchkina, back from her travels abroad, and Miss Viv Trafalgar, provided a recap of the previous year's Salons and speakers, and introduced the day's speakers: Silent Sparrow designer Miss Hyasynth Tiramisu, and Caledon Mathamatrix Miss Ordinal Malaprop.
Though no Salon ever features a quietly attentive audience, this discussion was more free-wheeling than most, an interactive meeting of the minds.

Miss Malaprop noted that Second Life is particularly useful for developing whimsical ideas, as creation is easy [author's note: easy for *her*, perhaps] and has few, if any, serious consequences. Further, as she put it, "novelty is the primary characteristic that distinguishes the artist from the thief" in a world where copying is easy. She added, "And, really, there are few things that can be done routinely that are worth paying for in SL," and thus whimsical devices can also be a profitable business model.

Miss Tiramisu noted that "Whimsy isn't a technical aspect of design. It just happens....You can't plan whimsy." Referring to some of her own recent creations, she said, "There is no serious reason for Cuttlefish costumes and bird-themed Lolita dresses," yet these items seem to spark the imagination of her loyal customers.

The discussion, as noted above, was quite spirited, delving into such subjects as the need of hedgehogs to protect themselves against abuse (probably) and whether those hedgehogs would make good devices with which to stir tea (probably not). Some limericks were recited. Also among the unexpected events: in an act of desperation, Miss Elleon Bergamasco kissed Master Bob on the mouth, an event doubtless unpleasant to both participants, but entertaining for everyone else.

At the end of the presentations, and the enthusiastic applause for our speakers, each lady presented a gift box, highlighting their own particular whimiscal notions: a tiny tophat, adorned with a cuttlefish, from Miss Tiramisu; and a combat weapon from Miss Malaprop.

As the session came to a close, Miss Trafalgar noted that next month's Salon would be on Furnishings, featuring Miss Canolli Capalini.

Miss Serafina Puchkina addresses the audience

Miss Viv Trafalgar makes her opening remarks

Miss Hyasynth Tiramisu

Dame Ordinal Malaprop

An especially large turnout came to hear our two speakers, and provided a little more color than usual

Left to right, front row: Miss Obedience Mactavish, Cap'n Redgrrl Llewellyn, Miss Breezy Carver. I sit behind Cap'n Red.

From overhead: a shot of the crowd, which included at least 57 souls

I wear my cuttlefish hat and contemplate Dame Ordinal's weapon of destruction