Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Very Special Episode

[N.B. on the title, for those who didn't grow up watching television in the 70s and 80s. Once upon a time, in the 1980s, I believe, when advertisements for television shows had a different character than they do today, it was fashionable to generate interest in a long-running series with A Very Special Episode of [fill in the show - Blossom seemed to enjoy this trope a great deal]. This was usually the episode that dealt with Important Subject Matter: death, jail time, first period. Sometimes the lazy producers took the opportunity to make a clips show. I don't miss that trope. Much. Welcome to our clips show. - RJ]

In one of life's little coincidences, I noticed that the thousandth entry into this little Aetheric Journal more or less coincided with its third anniversary. Of course, that means it's time for a Very Special Episode, including a somewhat random walk down memory lane.

I no longer recall the (doubtless faulty) decision-making process that induced me to start this Journal in the first place. One likely motivation was that all the cool kids were doing it, which is, of course, the worst possible reason to do something. Ego was surely another motivation, and, again, not the best one. However, I suspect that the main reason I did it was to chronicle for my own amusement, and that of anyone who cared to read it, my ongoing explorations of Places I Visited and Things I Did in our corner of the grid.

My rez day was in early February 2008. I picked up some needed skills along the way - I have nightmares about the noob duck walk to this day - and stumbled across the Steamlands, in the form of Caledon, not terribly long thereafter. I lurked for a bit, but eventually persuaded myself that I needed a permanent home, and sent a note to the Guvnah asking him to place me on the land waiting list - a feature of the strong state of Second Life in general and Caledon in particular. I resigned myself to a fairly lengthy wait, but Guvnah Shang responded in fairly short order that he was opening a new area of Caledon relatively soon - Caledon Downs - and I was able to buy one of the first parcels there as soon as the engineers had tamed the once-wild area.

This was also around the time that the Caledon and Winterfell mushrooms began appearing. In my obsessive way, I started collecting the various types, eventually ending up with a complete set, but acquiring many copies of the more common varieties along the way (along with a few repetitive strain problems). Thus, the Journal started with this entry, complete with a typo in the title. Sheesh.

June 10, 2008: Eating mushrooms indiscriminately does not pay

Caledon had a substantial entry at SLB5, Second Life's birthday party for itself. Despite my nervousness, I visited. (I assumed correctly that the build would be filled with Caledonians, so I could hardly do my usual lurking. Of course, nearly everyone in the Steamlands is polite to a fault, even to - or perhaps especially to - the clueless newcomer - but that was of little comfort to my nervous self.) Among other things, I learned how important Relay for Life was to the Guvnah and thus to Caledon.

June 24, 2008: Caledon at SLB5, Part 2

Speaking of Relay for Life, the 2008 relay took place in July. I had no idea what to expect, other than lots of lag, but I went anyway. I am amazed at the dedicated people who battle the lag for hours on end to run. I have low tolerance for lag and a short attention span, and I certainly don't have the energy to be awake and online for that many hours!

July 22, 2008: Relay for Life 2008

I don't know whose idea it was to create a volcanic island filled with clues to hidden sites, a Ceiling Cat and a Basement Cat, and a multitude of lethal things. The cats sound like the Guvnah, the murderous turkeys and such are the brainchild of Mr. Denver Hax, and the combination was the short-lived Caledon colony of Mondserrat. All I can say is that it's a good thing death is not permanent on the grid. As I later came to expect with Caledon, the island came to an explosive end one day, though any number of people seemed willing to keep dancing through it all.

January 24, 2009: Return to Mondserrat

Caledon wasn't the only Steampunk game in town, of course. Steelhead and New Babbage were there and, later, Steeltopia. Other Steampunk sims came and went. Some had a purer role playing focus - something I never managed to get into, largely because I'm too lazy to be in character all the time and partly because I had too many other places to see. At any rate, Rivet Town was one of the best: two sims of a dark Steampunk build with an interesting back story that created "haves" and "have nots" pitted against one another. Alas, it didn't last.

February 24, 2009: Beneath Rivet Town

My older sister Kathy eventually joined me in Caledon and in writing this Journal. I also rekindled my love of writing fiction, and placed several short stories in the stream (something I've neglected of late and, for better or worse, intend to return to). One can't help but hear of Gor and the various Gorean sims in Second Life. I couldn't believe that so many people were willing to role play a horribly misogynistic fantasy world, but I also naively thought that, as with so many adaptations of (particularly science fiction) books, surely the John Norman novels describe a more subtle and palatable version of this universe. I bought the first book in the series, a wretchedly-written, cringe-inducing screed, and realized how wrong I was. Ah well. That experience inspired this little adventure.

March 24, 2009: Jamesons of Gor

One of the things noobies have trouble with is the degree to which Second Life residents take their virtual private property seriously. I can't stand ban lines (which, fortunately, the major Steamlands sims prohibit), but I'll respect a "private property" sign and would never dream of walking into someone's occupied house. Sometimes it's less clear when something is intended to be a private area. Outside of Second Life, no one would consider walking into a laboratory, even if the door happened to be unlocked. Within Second Life, and especially within the Steamlands, a laboratory looks like the sort of thing that lends itself to exploration. Kathy thought so, at least. This led to an amusing set of comments.

April 28, 2009: I Venture into Mason Labs

Speaking of Kathy and Steelhead...

May 20, 2009: Dr. Alter Receives a Package

Kathy also ventured to New Babbage to cover the coup - an ingenious bit of role playing to cover real life exigencies - and the underground movement to oust the new overlord.

June 26, 2009: Obolenskidonia, or New Babbage Changes Hands

Another event for a good cause is the now-annual Boobie Ball, raising money for breast cancer research. (The group tag is the delightful "Saving Second Base," although those outside the U.S. may not have that idiom in their vocabularies.) What's not to love? Dancing, socialization, a good cause, and public nudity! (The link below contains only shots with everyone appropriately clad. I did a follow-up "after dark" that was most definitely not safe for work, assuming that one's workplace considers virtual nudity equivalent to the real thing.)

October 4, 2009: Boobie Ball - The Family-Friendly Edition

I don't recall how I came to know of the Aether Salon, but once I started attending I have made every effort to attend the monthly salons. The organizers - Miss Viv Trafalgar, Miss Sera Puchkina, Miss Jed Dagger, and Mr. Jasper Kiergarten (I hope I didn't inadvertently slight anyone) - get a guest speaker to spend 45 minutes to an hour holding forth on a topic of interest to the Victorian/Steampunk community, and take questions from the sometimes rowdy audience. The organizers have lured an impressive array of luminaries from the Steamlands and elsewhere to give us their thoughts on subjects such as effective use of language in role-playing, submersibles, weapons, and furnishings. The example below involved Mr. Edward Pearse holding forth on the topic of men's clothing in Victorian times. The Salon is steaming toward its third year with no signs of slowing down.

February 22, 2010: Aether Salon: Haberdashery!

One of the things that Second Life brings to the table, or so it seems to me, is that ability to create interactive role-playing scenarios. Each person brings a backstory that is generally consistent with the mythos of a particular area, such as the Steamlands, and the players jointly develop a story line. This has worked very well on occasion: Hotspur O'Toole had a lengthy adventure story that intersected with a number of other storylines - some tangentially, some intimately - and Ryne Beck/Headburro Antfarm set his "Steal Head" story in Steelhead Shanghai, interacting with many regular Steelhead role players, and especially Dr. Mason and his unusual clan. The problem with this approach is that it takes a great deal of coordination, which takes time. My alternative was to make reference to two ongoing story lines: Dr. Beck in Steelhead Shanghai and Dr. Mason hiding out in New Babbage as "The Scientist."

March 29, 2010: The Scientist, Part 1

One of Caledon's most impressive builds is its Steam Sky City, which has long been in the care of Mr. and Mrs. Vivito Volare, well before the happy couple was, in fact, the happy couple. One creation of their inventive minds was the Mad Scientist Convention, now in its third year. For the past two years, part of the convention involved the Manifesto Contest, in which bold Misunderstood Geniuses would step on a soapbox to deliver their proposed agendas as our overlords, should any of their plans for world domination actually succeed.

May 4, 2010: Manifesto Contest

Another favorite activity is Mr. Pearse's more-or-less-monthly Breakfast in Babbage, in which Mr. Pearse spins platters from his eclectic and apparently boundless music collection, organized around a particular theme. For example, in the link below, the theme was Money, a topic of many a song.

August 16, 2010: Breakfast in Babbage - Money

During a lull in the Steal Head story, I wanted to do my part to maintain interest in it, so I inserted myself into the story in a minor way.

October 10, 2010: In Search of Steal Head

A belatedly-discovered pleasure was the annual New Babbage mystery orchestrated by Master Loki. He lays out clues that, if properly followed, lead one to the solution of a crime. They require a fair amount of knowledge of New Babbage and some clever thinking, though occasionally one might find some assistance from Babbagers. I participated in the last two, and look forward to this year's episode.

December 20, 2010: The Adventure of the Black Heart, Part 1

One of the things this Journal has chronicled over the past three years has been the tremendous changes that take place within Second Life and particularly within the Steamlands. As the saying goes, the only constant is change. I miss old friends who have moved on; I've made new friends; I miss some of the wonderful builds that have disappeared; I continue to marvel at new ones. Perhaps I've lost some of the wonder I had when I was new (and so was the world), but I still look forward to my (ever-shrinking) time inworld because it's inherently a place of optimism. Unlike this first life of ours, here each controls her own destiny. I thank you all for reading these scribblings, Dear Readers, and for sharing some of my journey with me.


Fogwoman Gray said...

I was actually initially terrified to read this post based on the title. TMI about one of the Jameson sisters? Did grampa Jameson pass through the veil? But thank heavens it was just a clipshow.

Rhianon Jameson said...

Don't knock clip shows - they give a break to lazy writers!

But I like the image:

Dad Jameson: "Girls, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you."

10 year-old Kathy: "Those Gilbert & Sullivan tickets you bought from that shady character turned out to be bogus?"

[cue laugh track]

Dad: "No. I'm afraid your grandpa...isn't coming back."

8 year-old Rhianon: "Like Mr. Barky?"

Dad: "Yes, just like Mr. Barky."

Kathy: "Grandpa has gone to the farm?"

Dad: "Well, yes, but..."

Rhianon: "Wow, we have a farm? When did grandpa buy it?"

[laugh track]

Hilarity ensues.