Monday, July 30, 2012

Curio Obscura

Crap Mariner linked to a post by Miss Pandora Wrigglesworth, proprietress of Curio Obscura, designating today (Saturday, the 28th, as I have no idea at the moment when this will post) and the next four days as "Curio Obscura Appreciation Day."
Miss W. writes:
By the power invested in me as Pandora Wrigglesworth, I declare today Curio Obscura Appreciation Day, also known as Pandora Needs A Little Help Making Rent Day.
On this day, we pay our respects to Pandora Wrigglesworth by traveling to Curio Obscura where we purchase Curio Obscura products for ourselves and our loved ones. Of course, some of our loved ones cannot be with us on this most special of days and so they do their shopping at Curio Obscura on Second Life Marketplace which is also the easier method for purchasing gifts for said loved ones. And the wonderful thing about Curio Obscura Appreciation Day is that it is celebrated for five joyous days, starting now.
No, seriously, I need a little help this month. If there’s something you were thinking about buying but didn’t get around to, now would be a really helpful time to make that purchase.
I had been meaning to look at the store's new location, so what better time than to do so, I thought.

The new spot seems substantially bigger than its predecessor on Rendervisions Isle:

Curio Obscura 001

The house, which appears to have flattened an earlier structure on the site, still displays Miss Wrigglesworth's offbeat sense of humor:

Curio Obscura 002

Curio Obscura 003

Inside, the gears make the magic happen:

Curio Obscura 004

Well, the gears and the boiler:

Curio Obscura 005

The shop is home to the ubiquitous "Anywhere Door" as well as a variety of amusements, including automaton avatars, teleportation arrows, and unusual propulsion devices. Fun stuff.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Travelogue: Caledon Prime

Past Caledon II is the original land of Caledon, sometimes called Caledon Prime. Just over the bridge is the Eastern-influenced home of LadyDawn Starbrook and Sir Thaib Yosuke:

Caledon Prime 7 7 12 001

Much of the area is taken up by the peaceful expanses of Carntaigh Green, Fable Gardens, and the Vannevar Bush Memorial Reading Garden (part of the Caledon Library System). Near the water adjoining Steam Sky City is the remnant of Ordinal Enterprises, where Dame Ordinal continues to sell some of her whimsical and/or dangerous gadgets.

Below is Centre Court, the private home of Miss Victorian Magic:

Caledon Prime 7 7 12 002

Adjacent to Centre Court are the ruins of the Church of the Lost Prim:

Caledon Prime 7 7 12 003

Abutting the church ruins is Centre Court Far North, a stately manor house still under construction.

Caledon Prime 7 7 12 004

Near Port Caledon is the Virtual Kennel Club dog park and Ardentia Ars:

Caledon Prime 7 7 12 005

Last, but not least, Caledon Prime is home to the Caledon Welcome Centre, which is now run by the Caledon Library.

Caledon Prime 7 7 12 006

There we have a quick trip around the most historic of the Caledonian nation!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travelogue: Caledon II

Moving into the heart of Old Caledon, the next stop on our tour is Caledon II. The northeast side is anchored by several establishments, including Chrystin's Emporium (right) and the Dropped Stitch Coffee Shoppe (left), below:

Caledon II 7 7 12 001

Across the path is Miss Terry Lightfoot's To-a-T flagship location:

Caledon II 7 7 12 002

The center of the area features the Caledon Steam Clock, manufactured by Mr. Shaunathan Sprocket:

Caledon II 7 7 12 003
The west end of the area is host to this large industrial complex, the Katachi Locomotive Works and TT Airship Works:

Caledon II 7 7 12 004

The southeast corner is home to Miss Katrina Pugilist's Kat's Meow Costumes:

Caledon II 7 7 12 005

Further west is the House of Light and Joy, a tree-laden tower rising high above Caledon:

Caledon II 7 7 12 006

The unusually-colored trees below are on the grounds of Z! Imports:

Caledon II 7 7 12 007

I hadn't been in Caledon II for some time, and a great deal had changed since my last visit. Nonetheless, the area retains a nice mix of commercial and residential properties.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cafe Jack

(N.B. Published under the wrong the picture below shows, this was a Rhianon post, not a Kathy post. - RJ)

After my brief mention of the map exhibit currently underway, the explorer Mr. Salazar Jack made mention of an account of an early exploration of the Mainland that he was once involved in. The book was on display at Cafe Jack in the Grignano region.

Cafe Jack 001

As promised, there it was, a lovely coffee table book: "Expedition One: A Trip to the Southern Island," detailing the expedition of Ilianexsi Sojourner, Osprey Therian, Salazar Jack, and Hans Valen.

Cafe Jack 002

Time seems to move differently on the Mainland, so I was not entirely surprised when the date of the expedition was given as January 2005.

Cafe Jack 003

I spent an enjoyable time perusing the book and admiring the photography on the walls.

Cafe Jack 004

Still, I was happy to return to my own time line. 2005 indeed!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Virginia Alone

Bryn Oh's latest exhibit is entitled "Virginia Alone," in her sim of Immersiva, and represents something of a departure from her earlier work, such as Anna's Many Murders. Miss Oh's informational notecard describes the exhibit thusly:
Virginia Blakeley is an 80 year old, nearly blind lady who lived alone for 20 years in this house I have reconstructed. She is someone who suffers from Schizophrenia without recognizing that it is her illness. We have psychologists and textbooks to endlessly classify behaviors and symptoms, but this story is not about that. It tells of a lady who struggled her entire life against a mystery which she classified and came to grips with under her own interpretations and personal fortitude. 
Virginia recorded her thoughts on hundreds of cassette tapes over many years and I have used portions of these to give a glimpse into her mind. Some also contain segments of an interview I did with her at a nursing home where she was brought after being discovered by her estranged daughter in this derelict house. 
By clicking on any tapes or cassette players in the artwork you will be taken to a YouTube site to hear a portion of a cassette. You may find them difficult to comprehend, but the more tapes you listen to the greater will be your understanding of Virginia. 
This build opens June 22nd at the Santa Fe new Media Festival and I would like to express my appreciation to the organizers for their interest. Virginia Alone will run three weeks on a ten foot monitor connecting this virtual environment to a real life exhibition.
Bryn Oh  Virginia Alone 001

Bryn Oh  Virginia Alone 002

Bryn Oh  Virginia Alone 003

Bryn Oh  Virginia Alone 004

Bryn Oh  Virginia Alone 005

Bryn Oh  Virginia Alone 006

Bryn Oh  Virginia Alone 007

In truth, one need only go to YouTube and search out the nine videos under VirginiaAlone. Mrs. Blakeley's narrative is alternately touching and unnerving as she describes parts of her life, how she sees the world (her house "vanishes" when she ventures into the yard), her abusive ex-husband, and so on. However, listening to her while standing in the Second Life recreation of her house only adds to the experience.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Review: 50 Shades of Bad Writing

This is my public service for 2012: I read so you don't have to.

After reading Captive of Gor some years ago, I realized I had just finished the worst-written published book I had ever encountered. The combination of preposterous plot, wooden characterizations, and turgid prose managed to make kinky sex simultaneously offensive and boring.

But I come not to bury John Norman's bad writing, but to praise it - at least, in comparison with the new winner in the pantheon of terrible prose, E. L. James's 50 Shades of Grey.*

As everyone doubles knows, the Grey books form a trilogy of erotic novels about college student Anastasia Steele and business tycoon Christian Grey. She's a shy virgin, he likes unusual forms of nookie. Will these crazy kids make it after all?**

In fairness, I'll say that I didn't read the book. I couldn't bring myself to pay ten bucks to read about Ana's "inner goddess" or to find out what happens in the "red room of pain." I just didn't care that much. Fortunately, iBooks provides a free sample of every book, so I found myself with the first 77 pages of 50 Shades of Grey.

Where to start? The first page is entirely devoted to Ana's hair. This is a Bad Sign for a novel. We then have the Preposterous Plot Twist that Sets Things in Motion: Ana's roommate is an editor for the college newspaper and has scored a big interview with Seattle businessman Grey. But the roommate is too sick to make the drive from Vancouver to do the interview, so she asks a well-qualified colleague on the school paper to do it in her stead. Ha! Just kidding! Of course she asks Ana, who is not a journalist, is not on the staff of the paper, and knows nothing whatsoever about the subject of the interview. Okay, I say to myself, science fiction novels ask the reader to assume such things as faster-than-light travel or the existence of alien life forms; I can handle this for the sake of the plot.

Ana travels to Seattle, discarding her well-used VW for her roommate's Mercedes CLK. The Googles suggest that the original sticker price for a 2009 CLK started at $48,100 - not exactly college student car material. But we'll let that one pass, too. Ana makes it to the appointment, whereupon (p. 18)  "Another elegant, flawlessly dressed blonde comes out of a large door to the right. What is it with all the immaculate blondes?" What indeed. Those sentences set the stage for the bad writing to follow.

One of James's stylistic tics is that the characters have trouble "saying" anything. Instead, we have
  • "Yes," I croak. (p. 18)
  • "Thank you," I murmur. (p. 19)
  • she "murmur"s again on 23
  • "S-sorry," I stutter (p. 24)
  • on 31 he "murmur"s
  • page 36 gives us "I murmur, confounded."

Ana blushes, is flustered, can't look at Grey, stutters, and swallows nervously, again all in the space of the first 77 pages. Why? Because he's just so damn good looking. I know this because

  • "…the Adonis who sinks gracefully into one of the white leather chairs opposite me." (p. 23)
  • "His overwhelming good looks maybe?" (p. 27)
  • "He really is beautiful. No one should be this good-looking." (p. 28)
  • "His mouth is very…distracting." (p. 35)
  • "I gasp at the contact." (p. 39) Nope, not a sex scene. He's helping her put on her jacket.

Fear not, however, for there is the promise of that aforementioned nookie. "Oh, I exercise control in all things, Miss Steele" Grey says on p. 27. By page 58 he's in a Vancouver hardware store with our spineless Miss Steele, buying cable ties, masking tape, rope, and coveralls.

The excerpt from the book is entertainingly bad at point, but the bad is not so entertaining that I felt compelled to pay $10 to go on. Other reviews suggest that the series leads to revelations about Grey's past, but little in the way of character development for either lead character. It's a sign of the times that a book like this, which once might have shocked or titillated, is now banal, noteworthy for the slopping writing more than the subject matter.
* Google Search reports that "people also search for" Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy. I'm a little worried that there's a big crossover audience.

** Spoiler: yes. What I didn't know about the series until recently was that it started out life as Twilight fan fiction. Somehow I find that more disturbing than the book.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Travelogue: Tamrannoch

Traveling west from the moors one finds the small town of Tamrannoch. The social hub of the town is the Falling Anvil Pub, where refreshments rub elbows with storytelling:

Caledon Tamrannoch 6 26 12 001

Nearby is the Jane Austen Memorial Park, where one might reflect on whether Pride and Prejudice is better with the zombies.

Caledon Tamrannoch 6 26 12 002

A longstanding landmark of the area is the building for the Royal Society for the Advancement of the Natural Sciences. Alas, my camera malfunctioned while taking that picture.

Another landmark on the edge of town is the Sanitorium. Once filled with patients - most of them screaming in pain, if I recall correctly - the building now stands empty, undergoing renovations, its gates firmly locked.

Caledon Tamrannoch 6 26 12 003

Next to the Sanitorium is a small chapel, perfect for praying for loved ones who might be undergoing the knife wielded by one of the butchers - er, surgeons - across the way.

Caledon Tamrannoch 6 26 12 004

Several small estates comprise the remainder of the town. Beyond the town center, the land has returned to its native state: unruly grass, wildflowers, and gently rolling hills.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


A new exhibit opened at the New Kadath Lighthouse Art Gallery at the end of June. Entitled "Maps of Second Life: the Information and Art of Virtual Cartography," and curated by Professor Juliana Lethdetter, the exhibit displays a number of maps from throughout the history of the grid.

New Kadath Art Gallery  Maps 002

Outside, beside the door to the gallery, is a map of the Second Life Rail Road Traffic, by the Virtual Railway Consortium - real-time display of train locations:
New Kadath Art Gallery  Maps 001

The rest of the exhibit arranges the maps by subject matter, starting with a piece on the explorer Magellan Linden (pictures by Salazar Jack):
New Kadath Art Gallery  Maps 003

The display moves on to The Early Grid, showing the expansion of the Second Life landmasses:
New Kadath Art Gallery  Maps 004

Next are Regional Maps (Bay City, the Steamlands, Nautilus and the Blake Sea, Zindra):
New Kadath Art Gallery  Maps 005

The Historic Grid displays maps by Carl Metropolitan, Jack Linden, and Dyne Telemasca:
New Kadath Art Gallery  Maps 006

Finally, Maps from Groups shows maps from the Protected Route Interest Group, SL Coast Guard, the Railroads of Second Life, the 1920s Berlin Project, and the S.S. Galaxy:
New Kadath Art Gallery  Maps 007

I find maps to be endlessly fascinating, especially older maps, which are often important markers about noteworthy points in time. (My typist enjoyed a Christmas trip to Colonial Williamsburg, where the museum had an extensive exhibit on early maps of the United States, which showed the shifting political boundaries as the nation expanded westward.) Maps of Second Life displays some of the maps of historical significance on our grid, and is well worth a visit.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Travelogue: Caledon Moors, Part 2

The dominating feature of the Moors is surely the old Cavorite mine. (Cavorite, of course, is a mineral that has anti-gravitation properties. Mr. H. G. Wells falsely claims that this is a man-made material.)

Just outside the area of the mines is this piece of technology - it appears to be able to monitor the entire state of Caledon!

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 014

The mine itself is still used, but the features that immediately catch the eye are the remnants of a much older species.

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 015

Below, the modern mine apparatus.

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 016

Automated trams move the cavorite along a purpose-made tunnel.

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 017

Below the operating level of the mine is an older cavern, filled with drawings on the wall of a technology unknown to us.

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 018

 Some of the equipment still works, though its purpose is unknown.

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 020

I took the elevator out of the mine shaft - pressing the button for the top floor takes one to a space ship, docked high above the mines!

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 021

If you visit, do consider a small donation for the continued operation of the mines. With new forms of transportation continually being developed by scientists in the Steamlands, the price of cavorite continues to fall. Keep this historic part of Caledon alive!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Travelogue: Caledon Moors, Part 1

Moving west from Victoria City are the mysterious Moors. Tendrils of fog swirl about one's ankles and then disappear. Faint sounds can be heard in the distance - was that a cry for help, or only the wind? - and it's often hard to remember that Caledon's capital city is only a short walk away.

Fortunately, I arrived on a clear day, and strolled past The Steam Yard, home of Crackpot Steampunk and Mr. Layton Destiny.

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 001
The Steam Yard

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 002
Closeup of the steam engine in the Steam Yard

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Miss Tinker Imako's whimsical house

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 005
Fatum Castle, home to Duchess Pym Sartre

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 013
Fatum Castle interior

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 006
The Moors graveyard

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 008
Miss Victorian Magic's funeral home, conveniently next to the graveyard

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 009
Miss Lenara's vineyards

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 010
The fairy-tale house of Mrs. Aevelle Galicia-Constantine and Mr. Wrath Constantine

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 011
Miss Moonstone Eiren's artMEfashion store

Caledon Moors 6 17 12 012
Ryba Arts Chapel

The dominating feature of the Moors is the Cavorite mines, and this is the subject of the second part of our trip to the Moors.