Friday, June 29, 2007

In memoriam

It's been the kind of week in first life that has left me little time for Second Life. When I've been in world, I've generally been occupied—DJ gig at Activ8 on Sunday, DJ gig at the Velvet on Monday. I had that one hour very late on Tuesday when I went to see SpaceJunky. On Wednesday, however, I managed to find some time to take a quick look around the Second Pride sims.

This is Pride Week, and I've barely scratched the surface there. I took a balloon ride, which turns out to be a tour of the rather extensive site (six sims). A lot of the grounds have vendor booths, but there are other things of interest, including an art exhibit. When I saw the memorial quilt garden, however, I immediately jumped off the balloon and went splat on the ground. I had to go see the quilt.

I have known people who died of AIDS. My SO actually did one care-giving volunteer thing for a man who eventually died (SO couldn't face doing another). But I have never lost anyone close to me. Many others have. Some in SL have created little memorials to their missing loved ones, which have been assembled in that garden.

I wandered through the display. Not all of the squares are inspired. Not all are skilfully rendered. Some are even a bit macabre. But many are quite moving. Often, those are among the simplest ones: "He loved cooking and teddy bears," or, "I never got to say goodbye." The best convey, in various ways, the pain of loss and the joy of love for the one lost.

I hope the Second Pride exhibit is around for a while beyond Pride Week. There's a lot more that I'd like to see. But I'd also like to return to the quilt. It's a beautiful spot.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Space invaders

It's always at least 11 p.m. by the time I get home from my first life volunteer thing. Normally, I'll hit the hay around 11, since I get up at 6 a.m. (I work more or less on Eastern time), but after volunteering, I need to wind down, so I usually pour a drink and hang out in Second Life for an hour or so.

Last night, I had a destination: Unity Square on one of the Second Pride sims and a concert by a band called SpaceJunky. I met the lead singer, Shakti Cianci, way back in August of 2006, through M (you remember M, my sort-of ex-boyfriend). We were never close, but we stayed in touch. She's quite babelicious, and I had a bit of a crush on her.

I remember going house shopping with her once in the early days, which was a learning experience, as were most things in those days. Shopping as education! She also started a group called Bodhisattvas of SL, a group for compassionate people, with the member title "Bodhisattva." I really liked that, and she let me join. It's still one of the groups I activate often, and it was a harbinger of my subsequent direction into counselling.

I was also a charter member of the Alpha Crew of SpaceJunky. Shakti has a band in first life called SpaceJunky. She told me way back then that her plan was to get the band in world and play live gigs. There were all kinds of arrangements to be made—avatars to be created, instruments to be found or made, and much more. Every time I'd speak with Shakti, there would have been some delay. Then she would disappear for long periods of time, and when she'd return, I'd learn that her band was too busy in first life to get the SL thing together. Having your band busy in first life is definitely not a bad thing!

Lately, I was seeing Shakti online more frequently, and I had a feeling that something was up. Indeed, she confirmed to me that a gig was in the offing. Then just the other day, I was pleased finally to receive my first notice from the group—not one gig, but three, at Second Pride.

So when I got home, I fired up SL, quickly got changed, ignored IMs, and asked the designated SJ person for a TP. I was a bit late, and I was afraid the sim might be full. However, there weren't nearly as many avatars there as I thought there would be, but maybe the hour kept many away. My boss at PixelPulse Magazine, Cheri Horton, was there, dancing up a storm (as you can see in the photo). She's been writing about the band and posting pictures for a couple of days now.

SpaceJunky are kind of synth-pop. Normally, that's not my kind of thing. But these guys rocked harder than I'd expected from having heard some of their material on their MySpace site, and they have some really good songs. Shakti—Tania Smith in first life—is a very good singer. The only problem for me was that I expected this to be a live show. It was not. Basically, we were listening to the new CD with visuals, which was fine—the CD is obviously good—but not quite what I expected. Shakti explained to me that the band is somewhat geographically separated right now (their drummer lives in Malaysia), so they can't actually play a show at this time.

Still, I think it's worth your while to check these guys out. You have two more chances: 10 p.m. SL time on Thursday, and 5 p.m. on Friday. The Unity Square venue is really colourful and well designed. SpaceJunky are fun to watch, and fun to hear, even if pre-recorded. Don't forget to find that tip jar over to the left of the stage!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Window seat

This is majorly disgraceful. I haven't written anything for days and days! I've been in Second Life, but only briefly. Too much work, too much summer (although not much summer weather yet in this parts), too much other stuff. I'm going to try to get over to the Pride site this week, so hopefully that will be at least a small adventure.

Meanwhile, my friend Eloria LeShelle, of whom I have written several times, got herself her very own island. She runs several Battered Boutique stores, and she says that when she counted up how much she was paying for rent, it only made sense to consolidate on her own sim. So Boutique Isle is now in the process of opening.

I met Eloria in one of those serendipitous SL ways. I had teleported Patrice over to the L.A.M.E. Designs complex on Heron Point so she could take a look at Ana Boogiewoogie's tattoos. I'd modelled for Booga, the first (and only) modelling gig I did for Activ8, and I have several of her tattoos. I thought Patrice might be interested in some.

One of the stores in the L.A.M.E. group was Battered Boutique. When we beamed in, we just happened to find Booga talking to Eloria. I had actually known Eloria's previous avatar, although only to say hi to in clubs, but I didn't yet know about the association. Eloria was very friendly, and after tattoo shopping we went to check out her clothes. That's when I fell for the Rope Dress and bought it immediately, at which point El started giving Patrice and me various outfits for free. Couldn't stop her! We left happy.

After that, Eloria cranked up her operation and started sending notices quite frequently, for outfits that I really liked. Sometimes, she even let me pay for them.

Somewhere around that time, Eloria started seeing my friend Merik, having had a previous association, something else I didn't know about (I never know anything!). I was already pretty close with Merik, so it's not surprising that I got close with Eloria as well. I did some modelling for her, the results of which you can see at Battered Boutique. I generally get an IM greeting from one or both of them when I come online, if they are online as well.

Which leads me to the new sim, and their new house, and the window seat. I love window seats in first life. And this one is also a pleasant place to hang out. On the evening I took this photo, we sat and talked for quite a while. I never did get a tour of the rest of the house! But it was most enjoyable to hang out there, spending time with good friends. The tour will come later.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Naugahyde and a tie-dyed T-shirt

I know, it's just another DJ-at-the-Velvet entry with no pictures, but it was a particularly good night last night. Since it was 40 years ago yesterday that Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire on stage at the Monterey International Pop Festival, and since the summer of 1967 was the Summer of Love, the theme was all things hippie-ish. So out came the tie-dye, bellbottoms, flowers, and really big spliffs.

The previous Monday, we had a hard time getting any kind of quorum at the club. Last night, the place got relatively full (it's a big room, and it was Monday after all). I had a hostess for the first time, the lovely Ms. Prophercy DeCuir, and she made it a lot easier for me to pay attention to the music. See, when I'm hosting as well as DJing, I really want to say hi to everyone who walks in the door. I figure a personal greeting makes people feel welcome. It works that way for me. And I figure it can't hurt tips. I still try to say hi even when there's a host, but at least there's less pressure. Proph was doing a great job.

I dug out a bunch of mouldy oldies to mix in with my more usual fare. Some Jimi, of course, as well as a song by Otis Redding, also from Monterey that year. Jefferson Airplane, Beatles from Sgt. Pepper, Byrds, Kinks, Who, Deep Purple, the Bobby Fuller Four, and at least one song from the Nuggets compilation. I got inspired and ripped something from an old cassette—a very amusing bit called "Radio Moscow" by Nikita the K, a pimp on both the Cold War and on the AM radio of the time.

I'm afraid I fell down on a few requests. Hey, there is no way I'm going to let any Brewer and Shipley into my library, and "Age of Aquarius" by the Fifth Dimension is just too tacky for me even for a theme night. If I'm going to go tacky, it's got to have camp value! But I could definitely have used some Janis Joplin. And for some reason, I didn't play any Cream or Doors.

OK, since as usual I didn't take any photos, being too busy queuing up songs and answering IMs, I'll toss in this gratuitous and rather strange shot. This is Patrice, me, and flopsie on the Enel sim that Patrice and flops are working on, almost ready to open. At some point, both Patrice and flopsie crashed in a kind of weird way, while I didn't crash at all. flopsie went offline, but her avatar was still standing in front of me, and even the radar seemed to register her presence. Yet she wasn't there. When she truly reappeared, I saw that there was some kind of pose ball tucked into her prim skirt. I asked her to move, and it turned out there was a second prim skirt with the pose ball inside it, just floating in the air! I have no idea what was going on, but I'm glad I got a shot of it. It looks like flopsie is doing a magic trick. I think her outfit is really cute too. It's not often that flopsie wears a outfit like this. Another reason to take a picture!

Friday, June 15, 2007

(Almost) nothing to say

Sometimes there's just a lull in Second Life activities, gentle readers. Sometimes I don't do anything blogworthy for days. I know this is a terrible thing, but it happens, especially in summer.

I had a meeting with one of my bosses at Activ8. Is that blogworthy? Probably not. But it was a good meeting, and I'm not resigning from Activ8. For the most part, I will stay on as a substitute DJ. I saw the new pub. I like the Activ8 Club just fine, but the Activ8 Pub is much more my kind of place, except it's still too big.

I had a counselling session, meaning me as counsellor with a client. Is that blogworthy? Not really, even though it was the first in a long time, but I'm certainly glad to be able to practise my skills. I do that with a volunteer gig in first life, but SL sessions are actually more similar to first life face-to-face sessions than first life hotline phone calls are.

I bought two CDs tonight, one really old (The Who Sings My Generation) and one fairly new (Show Your Bones by Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Is that blogworthy? Not in the least! But you should still come to the Velvet on Monday nights to hear me stream tunes. I play good stuff, and sometimes can even fulfill a request!

Here's something at least semi-blogworthy: on Wednesday, Patrice and I celebrated eight months of marriage. I have to admit, it wasn't really a celebration. She's still working like a dog on her terraform project. But we're still together, when we can be, and still committed to each other.

I'll try to do something interesting between now and the next blog entry. Meanwhile at least you know I haven't died or given up on posting. Ciao, babies!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sliding toward summer

A lot of things seem to be changing around me in Second Life. Just had a very slow night DJing at the Velvet. Now, a bad night at the Velvet is better than a good night most anywhere else, but it's still disappointing. It's not even the tips. I just want to get a good crowd into that room. I wonder if I need to do something with my set, get more music (of course, I do), change things up. Or maybe it's the club that needs a kick. Or maybe it's just getting too nice out and no one is sitting in front of their computers.

I'm still a month and a half shy of my first rezday, and I was in a daze for the first month or two, so I have not yet seen a full year of SL. I don't know if there are seasons and cycles. And SL changes so rapidly, maybe this time last year was nothing like now, and this time two years ago might as well have been a thousand years ago. Maybe.

Activ8 seems to be going through a few changes as well. Not long ago, I danced at an event that had so many people on the two sims that they crashed. The last time I DJed, the night never really even got going. I haven't been around there enough to know whether that's a trend or not. Even though I hit the forum at least a couple of times a day, I've never felt all that connected to Activ8. It's been a perfectly good place to work, and I've met nice people there, but I don't really fit in.

SL itself is in an even more changeable period than usual. It's this stuff about age-play and SL's sudden rush toward trying to control content, encouraging residents to narc on each other. That's such a mess. I just hope that some sense is injected soon, because right now things are looking rather grim.

PixelPulse has been a bright spot for me. We've been through changes as well, but good ones. We have some new writers and a lot of energy, always from Cheri but from the rest of the staff as well. PixelPulse has been right at the forefront of all this SL censorship brouhaha, and I'm really proud of Cheri and others for getting the scoops and posting informed opinion pieces. And maybe the story I did on the Gendar Rating Radar is actually more timely than I thought, since that kind of plays into the whole idea of poking your nose into other people's business rather than taking a more live-and-let-live attitude. Although I always see places I need to improve the writing, I'm proud of that story, and I'm glad Cheri was enthusiastic about it.

Patrice and I have been going through changes as well. Every relationship does, in SL or otherwise. She has been flat out working on her terraform projects. We've had to deal with this and with some personal things. But we have not given up. We have continued to talk. And we have continued to love. I think things are getting better, both for her and for us together. I hope so.

I have friends who are doing well. I have friends who are having a rough time. I have friends who were having a rough time but are doing better. That's SL, just like first life, only often more concentrated. I have a good friend who is hurting right now. She's staying away from SL. I hope she finds healing and comes back, because I miss her.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Impulse buying

If there's anything that Second Life is about more than sex, it's shopping, especially clothes shopping. The place is just loaded with shops full of clothes that have been designed and created by SL residents. Some of what I've seen is appalling. Some is just inept, and might improve with time and practice. But I'm amazed at the amount of really high-quality, beautifully designed clothing I've found, and I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface.

This is virtual clothing, of course, to put on our virtual avatars. It's not like we can wear things out in first life, sadly. Oh, shopping is so much easier in SL! And compared to first life, even expensive outfits are really cheap. So if you spend 350 lira on an outfit that turns out to be a mistake, you're only out about one Yanqui dollar.

In spite of this, I'm usually pretty cautious about buying clothes and shoes (not to mention hair and skins, but that would be a different blog entry). I try to keep my inventory small and manageable, and I hate it when I've bought something that I really never wear, and it stares at me every time I open a particular folder. I do move those things into storage eventually, and sometimes even get rid of them. Some pieces seemed like a good idea at the time. Some looked great on the model on the wall but not so much on me. So even though most clothing in SL is really cheap in terms of first life money, I still try to consider carefully before buying.

Every once in a while, though, I see something that I just have to have, even though I might really not have much use for it, even though it's not really me. That's how I'm feeling about this outfit called Go To Girl from Ginny Talmasca of Dazzle at Last Call. Ginny makes great clothing, and lots of it, so much that I'm often overwhelmed by too much choice when I walk into her shop. I'd seen Go To Girl on the Linden Lifestyles blog, and liked the look. I'm kind of in a belted tunic mood at the moment. So even though I'm not quite a match for huge non-denim flares, even though the angular collar and cuffs à la Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction aren't really my style, even though the tunic has this strange semi-rezzed quality (no matter how long I wait), I had to have this outfit. And I even paid retail.

Speaking of Pulp Fiction, I think this is ostensibly some kind of business outfit, but when you're advertising nearly half your bosom, I think it might be only for business in a place like Hollywood. Or Second Life, of course.

I'm just wearing it around today. Will I find a real use for it? Who knows? Hey, it only cost me a buck!

By the way, I had to go searching in my hair collection for the right match. I think that's the ETD style called Ginny. Pure coincidence!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Taking stock

Some people join Second Life either knowing exactly what they want out of it, or soon finding out. There are people in SL who have been designing and selling clothes and accessories, building various objects, scripting, speculating in real estate, and more, ever since they started. They have often become people of some influence, and their skills have shaped what SL has become since its inception.

That's not me. I came into SL not knowing which end was up or what I wanted to do. I was just looking for a second, different, virtual life, whatever that might be. I imagine this is fairly common. Like many, at first I basically wanted to find my way around and have fun. Later, when I looked at my credit card statements and the amount of real currency of the realm I was bringing in world, I realized I wanted a job of some kind.

I have worked as a dancer, a stripper, a hostess, and a model, all pretty much low-skill jobs, none of which earned me many lira. I thought about building, scripting, and terraforming, but I soon realized that there were truly talented people in all those areas (such as my dear wife Patrice, a highly skilled terraformer and landscaper). If I worked hard enough at any of them, especially scripting (since I am a software developer in my first life), I might be able to compete, but they just didn't get me fired up enough to put in the effort. I do like to script from time to time, but it's mainly for my own use, although I have given away a few simple scripts.

Starting my counselling practice was the first step to a more focussed second life for me. Even though I am only a beginning counselling student, I have at least some instinct for it, and I think I've actually helped some people. They paid me anyway! As I've noted previously, it was counselling in SL that led me to becoming a counselling student in first life, which before too long—a test of my patience and persistence—will result in a career change. I'm still intrigued by how Second Life opened up possibilities for my first life that I'd never thought of.

The counselling biz has been rather slow for quite some time now. It might be because there are people in SL who do it for free, as well as trained clinical counsellors who have practices in SL. I get some activity at my notecard dispenser, but very few appointments.

I continued to look for a niche. I started modelling for Activ8, but it turned out that Activ8 wasn't really so much in the modelling business, and now is out entirely. I have ended up sometimes dancing and sometimes DJing at the Activ8 Club, and the pay is fair, but it has not proved to be a very good place for tips, at least not so far.

My modelling these days consists of doing occasional shoots for my friend Eloria LeShelle, who makes and sells cool clothing at her Battered Boutique shops. Those sessions are fun, and it's fun as well to see the results. I don't think I care enough about modelling to chase down the big agencies, although I might change my mind.

I started writing for PixelPulse Magazine. This was basically an outgrowth of my inveterate blogging. I checked out different SL-related publications, and PixelPulse was the one that really intrigued me. I didn't want to write for a joke publication. As well, Cheri Horton, the publisher, is a friend of my friend Cala, so I figured she was good people even before I met her. Writing for PixelPulse takes time and effort, but I'm proud of the results and proud of all the good writing that's around me in that magazine. And Twittering with Cheri and fellow staffers Lienna and Julian is extra fun.

I mentioned DJing at Activ8. I'm genuinely enthusiastic about DJing, and have been for some time. I talked to some people, got the right software, got more of the right software, ripped tons of stuff from our CD collection onto my rapidly shrinking disk, bought more tunes through legitimate channels (honest!), and went in search of gigs. I did some fill-ins at the Velvet, and then Push let me have Mondays. I love that gig! I have so much fun. A month of Mondays usually covers the rent and some shopping, which is really all I need. I did a substitute gig at Activ8, and I'd like to look for more of those. Because of time constraints, I don't want another regular weekly gig, but occasional club dates or parties would be fun.

Just as with counselling, DJing has had an influence on my first life, not quite as profound but interesting nonetheless. I'm now constantly searching for more material, both old and new. It's been especially exciting to discover new (or new-ish) material of which I had been unaware. I'm so happy to have found Bloc Party and the New Pornographers! Boy, I've been asleep for a while. Glad to have awakened.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

True confessions

Tatsuko Hayashida is one of my closest friends in Second Life. I've written about her in this blog. Now she wants me to write again, for a specific reason.

She wants to tell everyone that she's a biological male in first life. I thought I was going to give gender a rest for a bit, and go back to writing about discoveries in SL or fashion or something less weighty, but Tats has a need, and I want to help her.

I've known for a long time that Tats is male in first life. Way back when, she came out to a small number of friends. She says she's coming out to everyone now because she wants to reveal the real her. "I am two-spirited, TG [transgender], and bisexual, and that's not only what I am but also the foundation of who I am," she wrote in her SL profile. "If I'm not accepted or treated fairly because of this, so be it."

People who cross the gender line in SL have to figure out how to navigate the waters while remaining true to themselves. If SL is about imagination and possibilities that cannot be reached in first life, then there should be no problem in a biological female being a male in SL or a biological male being female in SL. SL is not a game. It's an alternate reality, a "metaverse." It is a world of imagination, at least for now (Linden Lab seems to be trying to back off from that, sadly), but it is also a world of real people with real feelings. And there is no general agreement as to what the "right thing" is in cases like this.

T-girls and T-guys feel that they are expressing their real selves in SL. For some at least, confessing to their biological sex would be providing misleading or incomplete information, information that would likely be misinterpreted, because biological sex and gender identity are two different things. Gender identity isn't something chosen. It's something that happens in the brain and the body. It's innate, like sexual orientation, and it's not either/or. Those whose gender identity differs from their biological sex deal with that fact in various ways. One way is by living their ideal life in SL, freed from the constraints of their biological first life reality. In SL, they can be who they feel they really are despite appearances to the contrary.

But no one can or should impose his or her views on others. If someone says that the biological sex of an SL lover matters, it does. For some, it matters a great deal, and there's nothing wrong with that. For others, only SL counts. What you see is what you get. And there's nothing wrong with that.

That's how it works for me. I still see Tatsuko as a beautiful girl. I did before I knew, and I did after. We have made love in the time after I knew her first life biological reality, and it didn't matter to me. Her in-world presence is what counts for me. I find this is true for other cross-gender people I know in SL. I can force myself to think of them as their first life sex, but it's not easy. It seems to come naturally to treat them as they appear in SL.

I love Tatsuko regardless of what is between her first life legs. But then, even though our relationship is between two real persons, it's also expressed entirely through our SL of imagination.

I'm not unique, but I don't know how common my view is. I know many disagree. And Tats herself is feeling that she has been deceptive. I think she might be flogging herself excessively, but she feels the way she does. So she has now chosen the path of being female in SL but publicizing her first life biological sex in her SL profile, right on the first tab. People who know her and people who meet her will have to decide for themselves which is reality for them. Maybe it's both.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The fascist regime

Everybody is weighing in on Daniel Linden's restatement of Second Life community standards, so I might as well put in a cent or two (Cdn, almost at par with the US$).
"The diversity of things to see and do within Second Life is almost unimaginable, but our community has made it clear to us that certain types of content and activity are simply not acceptable in any form."
Right from the get-go, we know we're in for a steaming heap of fewmets. "Our community"? Who is that? How did they gauge what "our community" has made clear? Any critical thinker would rip this sentence to shreds in the absence of even a hint of evidence to back it up.

Now, I'm not an age player. I'm not drawn to that sort of thing. Neither am I into rape fantasies. I'm not even a violence junkie, having grown up when "video games" meant either Pong or Pac-Man in a bar. But "your world, your imagination" is either truly meaningful, or it's a sham. If you're allowed to imagine anything except what you're not allowed to imagine, then everything not allowed is forbidden. And Big Brother is watching you.

"...and other broadly offensive content are never allowed or tolerated within Second Life." This is just chilling. What constitutes "broadly offensive content"? Offensive to whom? How broad is broadly?

It's not a matter of free speech, much as we might want that. Linden Lab is a private company, and Second Life is its service. LL doesn't have to allow anything it doesn't want to. CompuServe has a bunch of forums, and there are all kinds of rules about what you can and cannot post (mostly having to do with ad hominem attacks—unmonitored forums could use some of that). It's only that SL was supposed to be a bit different. It's for adults only (unlike most CompuServe forums), and if you don't like something that's happening at some club or on some sim, you go elsewhere. Live and let live, chacun à son goût.

You protect expression you don't like so that all expression is protected. But if forbidding things is arbitrary, then where will it stop? When SL is Disneyland? What if I find people dressed up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse to be "broadly offensive"?