Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A mild rant.

 My friend, Naxos Loon, sent me this bit of news posted by Linden Labs on their website.

 "MTV’s Catfish is Seeking Second Life Stories by Community Manager Linden Lab on ‎02-26-2013 10:49 AM MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show brings together couples that have online relationships to meet offline for the first time, often with surprising results as the differences between online personas and offline lives are revealed. MTV is now casting the show’s second season, and they’re interested in hearing from Second Life users who have fallen in love inworld, and would now like to meet their love in person. If you’d be interested in being on the show, you can apply online here." 

     Now I am not going to try to encourage or dissuade anyone from signing up for this, but I thought I would put down a few feelings on what this suggested to me in some areas.  Somebody somewhere said that all media coverage was good in the end.. even bad media.  It brings exposure etc.  So I can see why Linden Labs would promote this as a bunch of people will no doubt see the episode(s) and potentially will bring in some new users.  Makes sense.  No problem.  However I am a bit wary of tv shows and the perceived image of Second Life.  First of all it should have been named Avanet, the Grid or something equally cool as the name Second Life suggests to some that people who use this virtual world are not so happy with their "first" life and thus need a second one as a backup.  Kind of similar to the idea that people who use Facebook have no face.

      But anyway,  I think I might be a little jaded with the ethics and intentions of TV.  Here are a few reasons why.  A while back I saw a tv show called Cheaters.  Essentially they would spy on a spouse to find out if they were cheating on their partner.  They would bring the partner to a motel room and expose the cheating in real time while filming the reactions of the hurt partner.  Capturing the moment of nausea and sadness at seeing your partner with another, perhaps if they are lucky its even a friend.  Then they step back and hope there is some fighting because that is also great TV.  Jerry Springer is all about the fighting bit.  On a show like American Idol some of the most popular aspects are when a really bad performer sings and is sliced up by the judges.   Somehow a person with little talent, yet blissfully unaware of this, is brought onto the show.  Their dream seems to be coming true to them and they have attempted to achieve this goal.. which should be applauded despite the lack of talent?.. seems so because you know .. people improve over time.. yet there is no morally responsible person who encourages them yet kindly prevents the inevitable prime time public humiliation that awaits them, because then the networks couldn't count their money.

     Simon Cowell made a name for himself by having little empathy and understood that some in the audience at home secretly were now addicted to the extreme emotions shown on TV.  Reality TV has desensitized many in the population where now we can only really get a deep reaction to emotional extremes.  Watch Dr Phil some day.  Does anyone not cry on that show?  You can see the wheels turning in his head as he prods and pries at his guests in an attempt to make them weep on tv.  That is TV gold.  Watch his body language.. he will often lean back into his chair when someone begins to cry.  He can relax now.  Fighting, crying, humiliation/shame and  betrayal all work well for the voyeur at home.  Networks seem to think its a form of emotional Attention Deficit Disorder we all have.

     I watched a movie this weekend with my Dad called "Marty".  He always makes me watch old movies, and even though I grumble they usually are pretty good.  Marty is a simple character study of a lonely unmarried man working as a butcher, living with his mother in the Bronx.  It was very poignant but nothing really happened in it.  However, I really enjoyed it despite its lack of explosions and special effects.  This leads me to believe that those behind network programming and the movie industry really don't know us at all despite their focus groups.  They just follow a formula that they believe works.  My university friend ended up being a 2nd Assistant director for movies and he was telling me that it is standard for TV networks to have a say in the storylines of their shows.  So they can take the creative work of the person who designed the story and change it should they have enough voting power.  It is crazy to think that some guy in a suit can adjust the story arc as though they knew better than the original creator.  The only exception to this was for the show Simpsons.  Fox could not change anything and look how popular that show became. 

     Pretty much all the reality shows are watching each other to see what is successful, and then editing their shows to try to gain a similar degree of success.  I think it is common knowledge that in a show like Survivor or the Bachelor, where each is filmed over a long period of time, that the editors design "characters" by creatively editing footage.  They design a sweet girl or sneaky guy, the loner and the drama queen etc.  all to fit into a season long narrative.

     Having said all this.. what do you think the odds are that this MTV show will depict a normal couple who met in Second Life?  If they get 20 couples to choose from where one is just a messed up situation involving adultery, vampires, BDSM and hopefully (from their perspective) a complete misrepresentation of body types.. which will they choose?  And how will they edit it? 

Anyway just a few thoughts.  Be careful if you signup for this.  Perhaps they are an ethical program but just remember that how you see your relationship may not be how they wish others to see it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An unshared machinima

I made this machinima about three years ago and I didn't get around to actually ever sharing it with anyone, so I thought I might today as I don't really have much else to talk about. It is perhaps my quietest video and was made at a time when I was a bit overwhelmed by people always wanting something from me, and the desire to put up barriers. I kind of liked the idea of making something very still and quiet that might also be able to capture the imagination and create a distinct emotion. It is housed within a beautiful song by Radiohead. Perhaps my favorite ever done by them. The machinima has only been seen by a handful of people but anyway here it is, hope you like it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

LEA artist in residence and Happy Valentines

 I imagine that in 30 years or so Valentines Day will rival Christmas as an economic powerhouse holiday.  My Father often tells me how Christmas today is barely recognizable to how it was when he was a child.  I tried to listen to his stories but sadly those pretty blinking Prozzak lights on the tree distracted me from his words.
    Ever read about the greatest slogan of the 20th century?  "A diamond is forever".  It's an interesting history of marketing manipulation.  Can read it here if you like.

      So I was reminiscing, as I am wont to do, and thought back to the exciting Valentines days of my youth when we would tape a brown paper bag onto the front of our school desk. Then, at a signal by our teacher, they would (hopefully) be filled by adoring schoolmates.

      I recall one year a Valentines letter was included inside a card which asked me whether I wanted to date the person who wrote it.  And if so I was to check "yes" or "no" in a hand drawn box below the question.  I picked "yes" and we dated for a month or so without ever actually speaking or touching.  We simply made eye contact a few times a day and those glances were like electricity through my body.

Later that year we were both at a birthday party for a boy who lived at a Funeral home (we attempted to get in the morgue), and at one point everyone demanded we go inside a darkened closet to kiss.  We came out after a few minuites and it was assumed we had, but in reality we stood silently in the dark and touched fingertips.

     But well before that were the Puritans who, no doubt, struggled mightily with Valentines day and here are a few humourous cards to mark the occasion.

And in other news...

The LEA is now accepting applications for the fourth round of its Artist-in-Residence (AIR) programme. Complete details and information, time frame and how to apply are available here, deadline February 19th!

The LEA AIR programme seeks to promote and nurture the arts in Second Life, through providing limited term full-sim land grants to be used for creative projects and art installations over the course of a few months. Recipients can be individuals or groups interested in creating or curating art, or proposing cultural projects which would require/utilise a full-sim build and can be completed within the allotted time frame (5 months). The LEA is able to offer land grants through the generosity of Linden Lab.

While many well-known virtual artists have received grants, the LEA has also had the pleasure of hosting ‘younger’ AIRs and hopes to continue in that tradition. You need not have a great deal of experience, just some good ideas. The application is a bit more detailed to help guide you in thinking through your project, which we do expect at this point to be an idea in progress and not necessarily a portrait of the final result - more like a loose sketch! We also welcome applications from across the spectrum of the arts, for example performance groups that might want to embark on a bigger/longer term project than we can support at our performing arts space!

If you still need a little more inspiration, take some time to visit the current artists-in-residence, which will be open until the end of the month.

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Because I am not here" Thesis work on four SL artists

     Recently a thesis work for a doctorate of arts was published by Francisco Gerardo Toledo Ramirez for the University of Western Ontario. Ramirez discusses the work of four Second Life artists, Eva and Franco Mattes, Gazira Babeli, Bryn Oh and China Tracy (Cao Fei).  I am flattered to have been included alongside the other three talented artists.  If you have an interest in the history of virtual art with Second Life as the medium for presentation, or rather of virtual worlds in general, then  you can download the thesis work at the top right side of this webpage listed below.

"Because I am not here"  Selected Second Life-based art case studies: subjectivity, autoempathy and virtual world aesthetics.
AM Radio

Blotto Epsilon
      Artists come and go in Second Life with some leaving a lasting impression, others a legion of artists they have influenced and a few who create a style that stands uniquely on its own spawning new ways to think inside this medium.  One of the very early artists in Second Life was a recluse by the name of Starax who then created a successful alt named Light Waves.  He was known for sims such as Black Swan and Greenies.   Some of his creations are still mind boggling today.   There were mathematicians and scripters such as Seifert Surface and Desdemona Enfield who suddenly found themselves being classified as artists.  There were the predominantly sound based creators like Adam Ramona and Dizzy Banjo, those with talent and personality such as Four Yip and fan favorites like Baron Greyson, Madcow Cosmos and AM Radio.  And finally the unheralded like Cutea Benelli and Blotto Epsilon whose work at the Spencer Museum is still one of my favorites to have ever been created in this medium.
Gazira Babeli observing a work by Starax

Today we have great veteran talents such as Glyph Graves, Selavy Oh, Rose Borchovski, Nessuno Myoo, DB Bailey, Maya Paris and others who are quite active.  The big names in art companies have changed from Rezzables to Madpea, and some of the newer artists on the scene making an impression are those like Claudia222 Jewell, Yooma Myoo, Romy Nayar and quite a few others.  Stellarc has even been working here recently.

     The problem with naming names is that there is always someone annoyed they were not mentioned.  So just to clarify these are only artists I can remember at this particular moment and in an hour I could recall someone who I have forgotten.   Actually to prove that I am going to think of someone right now.  Eupalinos Ugajin.  A very talented and unique artist.  Oh and of course Marcus Inkpen.  See I can keep going, but I have stuff to do dammit.  One thing I have to do is return a tv series to the library, suggested to me by Caer Balogh, called the singing detective.  I had no time to watch it unfortunately and it now also has late charges... grumble.  Those librarians they'll break your knee caps so I better get over there.

spent it
Anyway, yes this is just the history and some artists I remember off the top of my head but someone really should write a definitive one before it is all forgotten.  If this kind of history does interest you then there is a good blog called NPIRL which recalls some of the the active SL artists up until 2009.  Since then there hasn't really been such a prolific virtual art based resource blog on a scale like NPIRL, but info can be discovered as Mr Ramirez has shown us with his fine thesis research and interpretation.

spent it
And finally I would like to say goodbye to our penny here in Canada which will stop being made after today.  This was my favorite penny (the bird above) but I think I only ever came across a few in my whole life.  Was a pretty rare one.  I had a lucky one once that I carried around but I spent it one day by accident.  Then I found a rare nickel with a rabbit on it.  I felt like my luck upgraded from the penny and it was meant to be until I eventually freaking spent it by accident as well.   But yes we are getting rid of our penny today because people generally only ever use them to throw at one another when trying to get each others attention.