Saturday, May 31, 2008
He finally buried himself into the ground.
Now I have to say, I have nothing against Ziggy. I like him tons. He just wanted to taste the candy.
We accommodated her and found ourselves riding the penises (penii?). Avatars were coming in suddenly as Ina decided she wanted to fill up the wall.
So here we are... (shall you all remain nameless?)
And of course, I brought Botgirl in to share in the fun. It's an odd thing to be riding a huge sculpty cock next to your friend.
Ina insisted this was art. I suggested it was "performance" art (fully intending the double entendre). What do you think? Twenty avatars riding oversized sculpty cocks? IS it art?
Friday, May 30, 2008
I later went back to take photos of the sculpture and guess who rezzed in but Mr. DC himself. We warily circled each other, exchanged pleasantries, and then discussed the sculpture. It was when he complimented my dress and I explained that it was an Eshi Otawara creation, that we found common ground. I was concerned his lovely pink sculpture would not match my dress--he changed it to green.
In return I offered him a humbug with my characteristic sweet smile.
Of course, he had to add his own pyrotechnics. Luckily Eshi made this thing fireproof. But damn, he burned with a lot of smoke! (I think that mohawk is made of plastic!)
Dan was gracious enough to clean up after himself, and I found myself happily flying through his sculpture--still green--on Hung's sim.
He also hasn't been following my blog, apparently, because when I offered him a humbug, he was completely innocent. Heh.
"It had a very unpleasant smoky taste, sort of like month old bacon, as if you had smoked the pig while it was still alive," he muttered.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Lanna commented they had a bit of an aftertaste but she was otherwise unphased. I think the anesthetic from the dentist was still in force.
Monday, May 26, 2008
(Chat reproduced through the permission of Botgirl Questi and Curious George.)
[18:34] Botgirl Questi: another one bites the dust, another one bites the dust
[18:34] You: ha! omg!
[18:34] Botgirl Questi: Blew him right through the wall
[18:34] You: i just blew the head off CURIOUS GEORGE
[18:35] Curious George: There wasn't much in it anyway
[18:35] Curious George: Don't you know what men use for thinking
[18:35] You: ha!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I loved it. I "heard" it. Now I want to fly.
(Harper as butterfly in front of a piece by DanCoyote Antonelli.)
Then I sent my normal good morning to my friend Pecos, whose organization, VAI, I had written about previously. And he told me that a lovely woman who was very active in SL helping people with disabilities had passed away overnight of heart failure after an extended struggle with her health.
"The Sojourner" was a stroke survivor who, among other things, created a sim called Dreams that offers self-help support groups and education for other stroke survivors. Dreams is a supportive and creative environment where people dealing with stroke recovery can keep their minds sharp by engaging in collaborative community events and round-table discussions. Here is what one SL publication said about her:
"A one-woman demonstration of the power of Second Life as a social tool, Ms. Sojourner has been a tireless volunteer and organizer in SL [since 2004] ... [A]s a founder of Shockproof, a support group for stroke survivors, and as an event planner and organizer on the Dreams sim, home to endless building contests and holiday fairs to benefit a good cause." ("second life the official guide" Chapter 11 Real Residents)
I forwarded the song and lyrics to Pecos. It seems the song was most fitting for this memorable woman, who I had not had the opportunity to meet but who helped so many real people in SL.
A memorial for The Sojourner has been set up on Dreams at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Dreams/151/80/25
Saturday, May 24, 2008
First we have Codebastard Redgrave. Yes, that sweet thing lying there on the ground, in characteristic red, is my own friend Codie. She partook of the humbug and paid the price.
Next came Crap Mariner, who needed a good blow up after he disagreed with me about my blog (how dare you!). Screw writing a retort. I just blowed Crap up REAL good!
Finally is my almost-sister Michele Hyacinth. She just couldn't wait to sink her teeth into that humbug. Well, she found out it wasn't nougat in there--it was gunpowder!
Friday, May 23, 2008
Allow me to take a break from blowing up friends to write something…. (Back to blowing people up in the next blog.)
I read my friend Rheta Shan’s blog with interest and great respect. Rheta has a way of winnowing the complex down into the simple. She has brought us back to what it means to have a second life: it’s an escape.
However, I have to say I don't quite agree with her. I consider my deuxième vie more a journey than an escape. “Escape” smacks too much of vacation or video game. SL is not a game to me. It’s a social space for the human sitting at this monitor, an experience I am enjoying alone and with others.
I have disconnected from the disconnect between myself as a person in RL and myself as Harper in SL. Am I escaping my RL? No. This IS my RL. She is me; I am her. She is flawed--as flawed as I am. Does she carry the same burdens that I do? No, she is not married, she does not have a child, she has a LOT more shoes and one heck of a home. And she never seems to gain weight. But she is still me. No one else could be Harper as you know her except me.
As I wander on this journey, I meet up with others. We walk along the path together for a while, we talk, we share our personal lives, première or deuxième, we "break bread." It’s really not much different than what I have experienced in a work place, with a group of friends in school, with neighbors. It’s just we are not in our corporeal bodies. It’s pretty “real.”
I have to digress from this issue of the "real" to discuss this business of manners in this virtuality. It's not really a digression as much as a comment on the disconnect of RL from SL. Everyone places a different status on their RL identity. I have become more open about my RL identity. In fact, I let you all know how old I am in RL. However, I have learned to respect the various boundaries that people have placed in front of me as best I can. These are not tacit boundaries as some would have us believe; they need to be enunciated and reinforced by the individuals requesting them because everyone in this new world has different boundaries, and they often find that their boundaries and needs shift as their journey progresses. I have many friends who have simply said, I am not sharing that information, and that is their right. And I have had many violate my own codes (or simply lie about my identity) but shame on me for not telling them my own rules.
Put it this way: in my RL neighborhood, I have neighbors who wander in and out of each other's houses; they don't expect to do the same in mine as I have made it clear that my house is not open to them. I keep the front door closed and locked. No harm, no foul.
Expect that if you show up in an avatar, share your RL voice, share your RL personal information in even a semi-public sphere, it will be discussed among others. (I know you're all discussing whether I am showing gray--I am not!) Expect also that people/avatars, for the most part, are on their own journey as well. Expect that their intentions are, for the most part, benign. Expect that they are humans too--flawed, not perfect.
Back to my original thought now: We feel happiness here. We feel hurt. We feel limerence (thank you, Botgirl). Whether you know my age, my gender, my marital status or not, I am here. I am not escaping. I am on my journey. I am real.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Pooky Amsterdam looked on distractedly. She was already writing next week's Second Question, I assume.
First, we find Douglas Story blown up after he attempted to discuss the contract about the exhibit in Florence with me. I was not in the mood to discuss contracts. Take that, Douglas!
Then we have Pecos Kidd, customarily helping people but today trying to jam me in a human cannonball. (And yes, I let him do it. It was fun--once--as we agreed.) Blew his cowboy hat right off!
I am sure this next photo will give someone satisfaction...
I just realized that with heads blown off, there is no way for anyone to verify that the burning carcasses you see before me are actually the people I claim they are.
Well, how do I verify THEY are the person they say they are? Hmm...
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I have decided I am going to do a series called, "Friends I blow up." Or something like that.
Today's installment shows Hung Runningbear sampling one of the treats from Ordinal Malaprop's lovely box of Humbugs.
(I was given permission by Hung Runningbear to replay this conversation. Photo by Harper, taken in haste while Hung burned.)
[15:58] You: humbug?
[15:58] Harper Beresford smiles sweetly
[15:59] Hung Runningbear: uh oh
[16:00] Hung Runningbear: it was like, I left my body man, and I was like, floating up above, and I could see myself on the floor man!
[16:00] Hung Runningbear: awesome
[16:00] You: mindblowing, hm?
[16:00] Hung Runningbear: I think I died
[16:00] Hung Runningbear: but then I woke up
[16:00] Hung Runningbear: and now I'm wondering
[16:01] Hung Runningbear: was it a dream? or is this like, a new life, and are all these memories I have, like, manufactured?
[16:01] You: dude..
[16:01] You: that hurts my head
[16:01] Hung Runningbear: mine too
[16:01] Hung Runningbear: but I can't make it stop
[16:01] You: detach
[16:01] You: the humbug
[16:02] Hung Runningbear: I do what the voices in my head tell me too.
[16:02] Hung Runningbear: Well, duh!
[16:02] Hung Runningbear: I am like, so toasted. That was really good shit Harp!
[16:02] Hung Runningbear: Did you bake those yourself?
[16:03] You: nono..
[16:03] You: Ordinal Malaprop
[16:03] Hung Runningbear: Wow, he must be like, so connected.
[16:04] Hung Runningbear: Woah
[16:04] Hung Runningbear: what a weird dream
[16:04] You: (she)
[16:04] You: she is well connected
[16:05] Hung Runningbear: I'm never going to eat anything you offer me again
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I simply offered a Ordinal Malaprop Humbug (TM). Who wouldn't want a sweet holiday candy? *smiles sweetly*
Friday, May 16, 2008
I was delighted to get to know Pecos better in a chance encounter recently. I found out that while I was learning how to adjust my hair and earrings, taking photos, and stuffing my inventory, Pecos was off exploring Second Life and finding something that would have a positive impact on his real life.
One day, a lady came to Help Island seeking help, and Pecos stepped up to the task. It turned out the lady had recently been in an accident and she was unable to use her hands, so she relied on Dragon Talk to do her bidding while she was on the computer and in Second Life. Her Dragon Talk was not working for her.
Pecos persisted in finding an answer for her, and his persistence brought him to the Heron Sanctuary, where Gentle Heron and her group were working on helping people with disabilities. Pecos arrived and he never really left.
Today, Pecos addressed the membership of the group, and he will do so again tomorrow at 11 slt. Below is a slightly shortened version of his speech, which talks about the laudable efforts of this organization better than I could:
Good evening. Thank you for coming! My name is Pecos Kidd, and I am Vice President of Virtual Ability, Inc. Gentle Heron, President and one of the cofounders of our organization, is here this evening as well.
I'd like to start with a modification of the presentation I recently gave at the "Dreams Fair." It will look at how we got started, describe what we do, and then discuss our current projects and future plans.
The presentation should last about 20 minutes, following which Gentle and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have about Virtual Ability (VAI), the Heron Sanctuary, and our groups' work and future plans.
Many people know VAI best by the name of our initial SL project, "The Heron Sanctuary." "Virtual Ability, Inc." is the RL non-profit company that oversees, funds, and grows "The Heron Sanctuary" and other projects.
Virtual Ability, Inc.’s vision is: “To be the leading provider of services for and information about people with disabilities in electronic virtual worlds.” Our mission is to enable people with a wide range of disabilities to enter into electronic virtual worlds, and provide them with a supporting environment once there.
The co-founders of the Heron Sanctuary began from the important concept of community for those who face barriers to participating in their physical communities. They collected medical research about the benefits of operating in virtual reality that accrue to people with different kinds of disabilities. They visited the websites of a half dozen different virtual worlds, and chose Second Life as the one to colonize first, since it seemed to be the richest cultural environment and the most fully developed.
The three co-founders of the organization came into Second Life in early June of 2007. Adopting the name “Heron” from the list of names available at the time, Sodapop, Superquiet and Gentle Heron began to explore, and met many kind and generous people who shared their understanding about how Second Life operated. Eventually they met Lorelei Junot at the Accessibility Center on HealthInfo Island. Lori allowed them to temporarily use a plot of land on EduIsland 4, and "The Heron Sanctuary" project began.
Today, less than a year after starting, The Heron Sanctuary has helped numerous people get “up and running” in Second Life. We have created a community of almost 200 individuals. And we have developed a growing reputation within SL as the leading organization dealing with the support of people with real world disabilities.
As we grew, we reached the point where we needed to create the Real Life structures that are required for us to have legal protections, conduct fundraising, and exhibit the credibility required to talk seriously with advocacy groups, doctors, researchers, the media, and other SL and RL organizations. So, a few months ago we created the RL corporation “Virtual Ability, Inc.” to perform that role. We are a non-profit corporation based in Colorado. We’ve applied for, but have not yet received, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
So – how does Virtual Ability help people here in Second Life?
First, we have a specialized intake process, individualized for the person's needs and capabilities. There are a number of unique challenges a person with disabilities can encounter while learning and using Second Life. Some of our members are not able to use both hands, which not only slows down typing text chat, but creates difficulty for inputs requiring multiple simultaneous keystrokes. Other users are unable to sustain depressing a single key, such as the arrow keys used for walking and flying, due perhaps to tremor or weakness.
Many Second Life functions, including managing inventory, dressing your avatar, and sharing objects and notecards, rely on mouse drag-and-drop function. Users who cannot depress and hold mouse buttons can not perform these basic activities unless they have adaptive equipment such as a tracker ball with single-click locking and unlocking functions. By identifying the need for, and helping with the use of, this type of assistive hardware or software, many of these issues can be alleviated or overcome.
Second, we train people to become regular Second Life citizens, as much as they are able, so that they can have all the benefits of being in a virtual world. We have volunteers who help new group members with makeovers, and who love to go shopping. While almost anyone new to a virtual world like SL would enjoy a little early guidance, we are finding that individualized attention is often critical for the success of those with disabilities.
Finally, we provide a supportive community for people once they are here and trained. We provide an environment where people with disabilities can make friends both with other people with disabilities who "get" what their lives are really like and with non-disabled people who will learn from them, and from whom they will learn also.
We measure the success of Virtual Ability, Inc. not by how many people stay in our group but by how many people use our services to grow into Second Life and other virtual worlds, and become productive members of society once here.
The bottom line is that many people with many different types of disabilities, who are isolated within the real world, find that the social interactions within a virtual world rapidly become crucial to their emotional well-being.
Now, I’d like to turn to our current projects, and then finish up with look at our future plans:
• New Resident Training. We continue to provide assistance to new residents with disabilities as they enter Second Life. Currently, this is done on a one-on-one basis. We have volunteers who are RL experts in assistive technology, and can refer new residents to other services as required to get started.
• Open Gates. Virtual Ability sponsors the Open Gates Peer Support group, run by Namav Abramovic and Kat Klata. Open Gates is a 24x7 peer support service for anyone who is feeling the need to talk, get a comforting word, or get a virtual hug. Open Gates provides peer support and discussion, and makes referrals to other SL or RL services if appropriate.
• Community Housing. One of our volunteers, Stepinwolf Darkstone, has created an experiment in community housing, based on research published as "A Pattern Language." He has built a housing complex on our temporarily donated property on Wolpertinger. The apartment complex focuses on shared public space and interaction of its residents. This project is going very well. There are currently 12 residents in this community, and additional units are being planned.
• Research Group. One of VAI’s goals is to develop our capability to act as a conduit to professional and academic researchers who are studying the impacts of virtual worlds on people with disabilities. To that end, volunteer social work researcher Gabrielli Rossini recently formed a SL group with a charter to establish, promote and support disabilities-related research in SL.
This group is creating guidelines by which we will verify that research requests are legitimate, and a protocol and standards of conduct for any such research projects. This is a very exciting area – please contact Gabrielli Rossini if you would like to find out more or get involved.
• Educational Disabilities Advocacy Group. This new group, run by Lyday Latte, assists college students who have disabilities to better understand the resources available to them, and how to access them.
• Community of Support. Through “The Heron Sanctuary”, we continue to provide an open, broad supportive community for people with disabilities within Second Life. We provide information about SL events to our members, hold dances and parties, and just hang out at the pool and chat.
Turning finally to our future plans. As many of you know, we recently announced our partnership with the Alliance Library System (ALS). This partnership will develop a new island with an orientation, training, and consumer health information center for people with disabilities and chronic illness. The new facilities will dramatically expand our new-resident orientation and training capabilities, allowing us to bring in many more people to the benefits of Second Life.
Funding for the partnership is provided in part by ALS based on its receipt of a grant from the National Library of Medicine called, "Share the Health: Training People with Disabilities and Chronic Medical Conditions on how to Locate Quality Health Information." This project is well under way.
We have purchased an island for this purpose.... in fact, it is the island you are now standing on :) Together with ALS, we developed a Building Requirements document, and sent it out to a dozen builders. Eme Capalini from our group and Carolina Keats from ALS head up this work. A team from VAI and ALS reviewed a half dozen responses, and are now in final negotiations to select the winning builder. We expect construction to begin next week, and our facilities to open in July.
This will include the delivery of health information, and a directory of health- and disability-related services and products, providing links and contact information. Integral to our new Island and its facilities will be the collaboration and partnerships with other organizations - SL and RL - that assist people who have various disabilities and health conditions.
In addition to this expansion of our "public facing" services, we also will be continuing to provide ongoing support and community for SL residents as they become integrated into the virtual world. To this end, we have now acquired a second island, "VAI Sanctuary", that will befocused on this purpose. This second island, and its planned future expansion, will allow us to grow beyond our current borrowed spaces on EduIsland 4 and Wolpertinger. These will eventually provide a permanent home for residential housing, entertainment venues, and a vibrant community center.
VAI will also be sponsoring multiple other projects over the coming months, in whole or with partners. These tentatively include the following:
• Space Destiny, which is a group geared toward enabling all (including people with disabilities) to participate in Space and Scientific Exploration.
• Providing vocational training for in-world jobs, for those who want it.
• Demonstrations of Universal Design principles as they relate to a virtual world.
• Expansion of the provision of Virtual Ability, Inc.’s services to other virtual worlds besides Second Life.
• Working with the Ophoenix Foundation to distribute donated computers and computer equipment to people with disabilities.
• Supporting the formation of a group of medical professionals who would be willing to provide information to our members and support of peer supporters.
In addition, we plan to significantly increase our activities in the “real world”, including:
• Conducting outreach and awareness activities to inform the disabled, their doctors, and their caregivers of the benefits virtual worlds can provide.
• Publishing articles in journals and attending and/or presenting at conferences related to disability issues and on-line virtual worlds.
In summary – Virtual Ability / The Heron Sanctuary has been on a remarkable ride over the past ten months. We have been blessed to have made many new friends in this strange and wonderful new virtual world. And we are so excited to realize how much potential lies directly ahead of us.
For many people with disabilities, Second Life is not a game. It provides a whole new world where they can be free of many of the limitations of their bodies. We at Virtual Ability, Inc. look forward to helping as many people as possible realize the dream of this new world.
For more information about Virtual Ability, Inc., or to make a donation - please visit our website at http://www.VirtualAbility.org
Please feel free to contact Pecos Kidd with any questions about his organization. I am so glad we have made friends again, Pecos. You remind me why Second Life is so magical.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The reason I remark upon it is that I find the friendships I have made through this social network have become personally very meaningful to me. I don't think expression of this is particularly revolutionary or mind-blowing. I think we all know how it applies to us.
Rather than going into a lengthy discourse telling all of you what you are doing wrong socially, I would rather briefly talk about what you are doing right. Following real life social norms, you are remembering to honor an individual for her mere existence and deciding to take the time to acknowledge her.
Thank you to many, many people on SL who have sent me cards, emails, tweets, and gifts. Your generosity of time and spirit means more than you can imagine.
Thank you, my friends here in this world, for making a big difference in my first life on my special day.
Monday, May 5, 2008
I have sent inquiries out looking for artists who work this way, and I have been to several galleries, but it's been frustrating. It is a foreign idea in many people's mind that one could create art from the tools simply available to them in Second Life. Many who I have encountered have said, "Well, you can't do much without textures." And some think the tools in SL are simply not artistic tools. I read an article about one artist, Arahan Claveau, who said, "I don’t see pictures from SL as art in any way. No matter how complex they are, to me they are still just snapshots.”
I was frankly, irritated by this statement, so I spoke to a friend whom I respect. He suggested to me that Mr. Claveau's snapshots are probably just that--snapshots. Mr. Claveau has taken the time to learn other software and other artistic techniques (I went to his exhibition--it was nice), but he has not pushed himself to learn the craft of using the tools in Second Life very extensively. However he remarks, "If you want to do something, you can do it if you have the talent and desire. If you don’t do it, it’s just laziness."
Well, Mr. Claveau, I challenge you to take a good look at the work of some of the artists I have contacted. First, I would not call Random Calliope's work at all lazy. Random spends sometimes months on one piece, torturing prims to the desired shape, building them on his living avatar models (friends or himself in female form), infinitely adjusting glow, transparency, shininess, brightness, etc., finding form and beauty in the outcomes he can achieve with the building tools available to him. They are not "confrontation," as you would like your art to be, Mr. Claveau; they are form and beauty.
Then take a look at the work of Michelle Babii. Michelle admits (as I do) that she is not very skilled with Photoshop. Hence she would rather take a good photo right off using the Second Life tools than mess it up with unskilled manipulation of filters, smudges, and adjustments. Her photography IS a copy of all the textures that others have brought into Second Life. However, she relies only on the tools given to her in Second Life to create photos of incredible beauty, creating the ultimate mash-up of other people's textures within her frame and using her adjustments of light and environment in Second Life. She relies on the moment of her capture, much as a RL photographer would have relied on the tools in her hands to create a photograph. (My aforementioned friend explained to me once that Richard Avedon left the black frame around his photographs to prove that the composition and the spontaneity of the photograph were all captured at the exact right moment and composed in the best way there and then and not altered or cropped later on. Michelle is doing this, sans the black frame.)
I have to say, Mr. Claveau, a well-composed and lit "snapshot" beats an overprocessed "photo" any day. It also takes a lot more skill and artistry to do what both Random and Michelle are doing than taking photo-sourced images and slapping them on a prim.
To other artists on SL: I respect you all and you all have a place here. There is an amazing wealth of art and architecture available on Second Life. Why confine my appreciation of your work to what's not possible in RL (because I am so into Gracie Kendal's paintings at Cetus and Pippistrello Bonetto's and Semiramis Theas' and I could go on and on ) or to the not-possible (cheers, Mr. Douglas Store, because I spend more time at Dynafleur than just about anyone else, I have heard)? I keep poking Frank with suggestions for his part of the exhibit because there are SO many artists doing work in Second Life that is amazing, evocative, beautiful, emotional, so on, so forth. If I were to exhibit all the artists I appreciate on SL, they would need more than the Museo di Storia Naturale to hold them all.
I may or may not personally like your work (because I don't think that art's job is solely to provoke--I think that's manipulative and cliched and one-dimensional). But it doesn't mean I wouldn't call it art, Mr. Claveau.