25 March 2012

Claudia222 Jewell's Spirit (and How It Intimidated Me) ;)

Forgive me, but this post is probably as much about me as about claudia222 Jewell and her groundbreaking work. ;)

A ton of bloggers have written about claudia222 Jewell's remarkable spirit installation at the Art Screamer sim, which opened last month, and there are dozens of extraordinary photos on flickr (I'm particularly taken with those by my friend PJ Trenton). And yes, first of all: go and go now, because it's really fascinating, and claudia's work is experientially unique in Second Life. It's incredibly rich, texturally dense, with a perspicaciously Hieronymus Bosch-like eye toward minute detail and the larger picture at the same time. It's a tapestry so complex you don't even know where to start, and the more you zoom in on singular objects the more you realize how complex the place really is.

In a curious personal way, though, claudia's work felt confronting. I'd visited a number of times and just couldn't figure out how to take photos of the place. (I even got gently prodded by another resident and photographer, Nathaniel Pevensey, to visit spirit—thanks Nathaniel!)

I had the same experience with claudia's work at The Path. That's not to say I don't appreciate claudia's work—on the contrary, I find it amazing. But rather I simply couldn't figure out how to photograph it, how to do it justice—and for better or worse when I go somewhere nowadays I often see my surroundings through a camera lens. I tried repeatedly to capture the essence of spirit and gave up. And I'm still not sure that I'm convinced by what I'm doing, but finally I went ahead anyway.

If you know me and my work, you know that over the past year I've been experimenting with wide horizontal images. It all began with this photo of AM Radio's The Ferry last May, and really started to click with this photo taken at tram in June. I was trying to capture the sense of distance and horizon so remarkable in AM's work (most now sadly gone from the grid). For a long while I immodestly thought myself a pioneer in this form (now I see others exploring it too, which is lovely), but recently discovered that Alir Flow had been doing the same thing, with spectacular results. But even when breaking away from this format I couldn't figure out, at least not to my satisfaction, how to capture great images of spirit.

Anyway, enough self-reflective babbling from me, and pardon my self-indulgence. Head over to spirit, say hi to claudia (she's often there), and soak in the beauty of that amazing place. Oh, and leave a tip if you can!

23 March 2012

Pravda Core's Terracotta Warriors

I have to admit that when I first saw some photos on flickr depicting a terracotta warrior installation in Second Life I wasn't too interested, despite my fascination with the actual real life archaeological dig. (Or maybe because of it—perhaps I was trying to avoid disappointment.) But I'm really glad I moved past that and went to visit (slurl here). Wow, this is a beautifully created place, and kudos to pravda Core for his work.

On arrival you'll descend into the underground excavation site, and there you can see three of the pits that have been uncovered, filled with about 300 warriors and dozens of horses. Click to zoom in on any of these photos, and I'll be posting some others on my flickr stream.

Now, want your own collection of warriors? They're for sale, either individually or as a set (all copyable), in the nearby shop at the excavation site—there are three versions of warriors, a cavalryman with a war horse, a kneeling archer, a saddled war horse and a bundle of everything. (A couple are hard to notice because they're on the back sides of other vendors.) It's not only a great way to build your own army, but an excellent way to help support projects like this one.

P.S. Make sure your LOD factor is turned all the way up to fully appreciate the detail here.

21 March 2012

Torley Island

We don't seem to see so much of Torley these days, but for ages he was the Linden we always heard from through his seemingly endless stream of lively tutorial videos. (He also has a endearing ability to not take himself too seriously—see this video!) But he's still with the Lab, posts on his profile and maintains a very active flickr stream. [Edit: Of course, no sooner do I post this than I see two new videos by Torley on direct delivery!]

One of the unusual things about Torley (for a Linden, I mean) are his personal island builds, which have changed over the years but have always been open to the public. Right now a visit to Torley Island takes you into a world of ... well, as you could expect for starters, bright pink and watermelon green! And particles, temporary physical objects dropping here and there, media on prims, his own music, pink and green curios, and just sort of lovable chaos—there's motion in every direction. And down on the bottom level you can rez a bumper car and play with your friends, so make sure to bring the gang with you.

20 March 2012

Caisteal and the Blue Galaxy Sandbox

If you were ever to tell me that I'd fall in love with a sandbox, I'd say you had a screw loose. But yesterday I noticed a striking photo on Torley's flickr stream, and it's a ... sandbox! So off I went to the sim Caisteal, quite curious to see it, and it's gorgeous. The Blue Galaxy Sandbox is really there to support the store Blue Galaxy, located overhead, featuring designs by Ash Soyinka, but it's a public space and is a stunning location for photography or just wandering around. (Take the teleport after you arrive at the shop to get down to the sandbox.)

There are some simple rules here: "This sandbox is for avatar work and small builds only, anything bigger than 10x10 will be returned without warning. Please be friendly and respectful at all times or you will be ejected." So thanks to Ash and Blue Galaxy for creating this lovely space—I've already returned several times to take more photos (click to zoom in on these). I'll post images on my flickr stream.

Blue Galaxy itself is a "sci-fi fantasy themed shop and sim, unique clothing, avatars and accessories by Ash Soyinka and friends," and there are a ton of cool avatars and other things located there. And even the store area is pretty cool looking (photo below), so be sure to get some shopping done when you visit!

11 March 2012

Charming and Magical Sewers

I have to admit that when I received a landmark from someone called "Down to the Sewers (most charming and magical sewer in SL)" it roused my curiosity. And what's down in these beautiful sewers are some magical creations indeed: an exhibition of lamps, entitled Fuse, by artist Trill Zapatero. Now, before you yawn and say, "Lamps? You must be kidding, Ziki," be assured these are no ordinary lamps! Trill says she needed to make a lamp for her shop, began to rummage around in her inventory, and built one using all sorts of odd pieces and colors, and that started what became an ongoing project. The lamps are actually for sale, too—mostly around the L$400 mark—and comprise about 30 prims or so. They're beautiful, imaginative, distinctive and fanciful. (Click on the images to zoom in.) Trill says she'd eventually like to "make a crate full of loose parts so people can make their own lamps," which would be loads of fun.

But if you do tire of the lovely sewers there's much more to see in the sim. First off there's BoHo HoBo (same landing point as the sewer), featuring ladies attire by Trill, and all the profits from this venture go to support the Afghan Women's Mission in support of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) to fund schools, orphanages and clinics for refugees of the Afghan war. Inside the shop you'll find a display about RAWA, and if you take the teleport you'll learn even more at the Afghanistan Virtual Museum, located elsewhere in the sim. Additionally you can visit the shop Meena, which features ladies attire ("Afghan inspired Bohemian clothes") and jewelry.

Also in the sim is the Grail Quest, an adventure that takes one on a journey to explore the meaning of life and love. (But that deserves its own blog post!)

Updated links on 31 March 2012 to reflect the new name of the sim.

07 March 2012

Forgotten City

When I first set foot in Forgotten City back in February 2011 I couldn't quite believe my eyes: a stupendous city, astonishing in its complexity and exceedingly beautiful. In fact on seeing that one could rent a house in the city I did so immediately, even though I really had no need for it—I just wanted to be part of this place. (But I eventually came to my senses—I already had more than one home!)

The story goes that it's a city long ago deserted by its original builders, whoever they might have been, and although it's in a state of some decay its mechanical keepers do their best to maintain it. As Jenne Dibou and Mandy Marseille, the sim's designers, put it, Forgotten City is "a once great city where the prosperous residents were served by the miraculous mechanical automatons. The people have long since disappeared, but the automatons remained and still take care of the crumbling stone walls, abandoned halls and rusty fences."

The main entry point is on the citadel at the museum (the top left structure in these first two photos), from which you can fly around to see the city or use a teleport board. But I find it far more satisfying to walk (uncharacteristically for me), soaking in the beauty and little details everywhere. There are ways to get around: elevators, walkways, lifts, row boats and larger boat rides. There are hidden places here and there—for example, if you find the right walkway you can head underground to see what seems to be a huge power plant under the citadel.

You'll also encounter, everywhere, the mechanical automatons. They're harmless, I assure you, but dedicated to their tasks, and some will talk to you. (You may have seen the incredible installation at SL8B featuring some similar characters.)

If you are interested in renting a house or apartment here (and that includes cool places like the windmill, although I bet that's rarely if ever available), walk through the museum to the back side. Forgotten City is not an inexpensive place to live, but what a place!

Not all of the Forgotten City destinations are visible at first glance. To see some locations, such as the Post Office, you need to head down to the Harbor and take a boat. (The Post Office is quite different in appearance, a decaying tropical island.) You have to exercise some patience waiting for the boats, which come by only so often, and there's a schedule (to which the boats don't see to quite adhere) posted at the Harbor. Most of the boats head to the Post Office, but there are special boats called Cat-a-marans that arrive rarely, and they toss fish onto the dock. A circle of cats appears, waiting to eat them, but if you're quick you can grab them first, earning some points in the Gold Fish contest. (There's also supposedly Lord Barracuda's Submarine that comes by, but I've not seen it yet!)

Some external locations are reachable by teleport: the Race Track, Winter Park (which includes a Dance Hall, a Ski Lift and the Forgotten City Saloon), and the MW-537 Space Station, which has been overtaken by aliens.

Now, if the name Jenne Dibou rings a bell but you haven't been to Forgotten City, that's probably because you've purchased something from the "JD" Mechanical Toy Factory. Located overhead the city is the factory, and this place is worth a visit all by itself. (There are teleports throughout the city.) Filled with toys, games, avatars, curios, buildings, vehicles and all sorts of amazing little items, the factory is "where oddity meets quality." I want to buy one of everything here, although then I'd then have to purchase a sim just to rez all the Mechanical Toy Factory items in my inventory. I still remember playing the Shooting Gallery for long hours at the second Flashmans incarnation, where Martin Ren had rezzed a copy.

So become an explorer and head to Forgotten City. You won't be disappointed, I promise! If you get really addicted, you can even join the Forgotten City Explorers group. :)