Monday, September 28, 2015

Lobby Cam part one

     Before I begin with Lobby Cam I just want to say that yesterday Madpea did their annual auction of Second Life people and their skills to a cause which helps to build Schools in Kenya.  I would like to thank Cassie Parker who donated 15,000 on top of the winning bid for me of 45,000 for a total of 60,000.  The overall event was able to raise enough money for the school so congratulations to all involved.  If you are looking for a good book to read then there is one I have read with parallels related to the need for schools in the refugee camps in kenya called What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng by Dave Eggers.  It is a true story about the lost boys of Sudan who walked endlessly to find shelter from the civil war.

     When you arrive to Lobby Cam you will find yourself inside an art gallery.   On the walls are a variety of oil paintings which I have done over the years and if you look around you will also find a train ticket departing from Saskatoon to Toronto.   There is a person in the gallery looking at the paintings and her name is Fern.  This scene at the start is actually the optimal ending for this story.  It is where the main
character travels to Toronto to have an art exhibit hosted by the mysterious woman who he names Fern.  This room means nothing unless the visitor goes through the story and writes an appropriate letter to Fern which convinces her to offer him an exhibit at her gallery.  And it also requires that person to come again another day to the exhibit and realize that the scene is related to that, as it is natural to forget this first room after leaving it to experience the rest of the story.  To everyone else this gallery setting is the starting point where they obtain a hud to experience the narrative for Lobby Cam.  It illustrates the notion of the evolution of immersion from the painting to the virtual space. 
     Walking down a hallway the visitor will come to an oil painting of a Saskatchewan grain silo with its accompanying railway.  In front of this is a rich field of wheat painted in cadmium yellows, oranges and reds as only an oil painting can truly achieve.  Sorry acrylic painters but your acrylic emulsion binders sadly don't allow for the full range of pigments and their spectrum to show compared to what linseed or safflower oils permit.  I wont rant about that, but I bet you didn't know that artists get snarky with each other over the paints they use.  I am not saying acrylic painters are necessarily bad people, I think that goes without saying, but I do think in general they are morally questionable types, and perhaps if you cross referenced crimes
committed by artists worldwide then I suspect the vast majority would be done by acrylic painters.  Just saying.
     Anyway, if you walk closer to this painting on the wall you will see if break apart and float away revealing the paintings location as a 3D virtual space.  Almost immediately you will discover a torn page on the ground which, when touched, adds a page to the hud which is a recreation of a man's diary.   The
diary itself lays outside the converted grain silo in a torn mess as though someone, in frustration, wanted to be rid of it.  The first page in the diary reads...

July 20th

A European couple came today.  They were quite friendly and it took me a while to realize they had journeyed to see the toys.  It has been so long since people have come now that the train no longer runs this route.

     As we were talking I saw myself through their eyes, how I must appear to them.  A middle aged man living alone in a remote converted grain silo.  To the side a weathered and disused Cafe echoing of better times.  An eccentric who builds toys that nobody comes to see.  I couldn't tell if they pitied me or found me interesting.

Turning over the page (by clicking on the July 20th entry) reveals another entry on the back written a few days later.

July 23rd

Today was much like the others.  I tended my fields and watched the wheat move like waves in the wind, the red winged blackbirds singing and the crickets chirping.  I don't know why I keep this diary really, I seem to write the same thing over and over.  It's routine I guess, as it all is.

This is the introduction to the story and with each page found the narrative begins to unfold.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lobby Cam walkthrough

     Late next month I will be doing a talk for York University on creating virtual art and then I will delete Lobby Cam and hopefully put down something new for November.  Sooo what that means is it's time to start doing a walk-through of the story for Lobby Cam as I do with all my builds as they come down, and I will start that next week I think.  It's been a great success and I hope to create something quite different for the next one.   I am generally most comfortable working in a dark palette for my artwork.. and the Singularity of Kumiko kind of took it to the extreme with the completely dark environment with just a flashlight to see.  I could work endlessly that way as I do really enjoy it, but it is good to challenge oneself with things outside our comfort zone so for Lobby Cam I decided to create something bright and warm.. colours I don't normally work in.  I wanted to fashion something

that depicted a portion of Canada, the country I am from.  When I was a child I loved being in great fields of wheat or playing hide and seek in the cornfield.  I also loved laying under a willow tree and just watching the branches gently sway.  Actually I still enjoy that but perhaps it was from having all the time in the world and nothing pressing to do that imprinted those memories on me.  I think I stood in the fields mostly due to ennui, boredom and the fact that I had nothing else to do some days.  For this build I thought the wheat would create a nice environment so I went in that direction as wheat, especially in Saskatchewan the province the build resembles, is everywhere.  In Ontario we have vast fields of wheat too but in Sask it's like an ocean.   I bet there are some wheat fields in Canada the size of small countries, and while that is kind of a joke I wouldn't at all be surprised if there really are some shockingly huge fields of wheat here.  Anyway, the field had to have one very important element or I didn't want to do it.  It had to blow in the breeze like waves in the sea and the sound of wind had to coincide with its movement.  I didn't want a static field.         Technically, to create this in SL was pretty tricky and the credit really goes to Caer Balogh.  She took my initial stumbling attempts at creating this effect and then perfected it.  I love to just stand in the field using the Occulus Rift and hear the red winged blackbirds sing, the wind and just watch the wheat sometimes gently blow or be violently gusted about.  One of the great things about the field is that it's random... it doesn't follow any pattern of wind strength or direction and the windmill itself blows in the direction of the SL wind too.  Yes SL
has wind if you were not aware of that :)  The field can also be set to work with the SL wind following its pattern.  In the end though the random effect worked better.
     Anyway, so next week I will delve into the story and then eventually get to some of the visitors contributions.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Monarch caterpillar time

    Each year at this time I wander around fairly aimlessly searching for a monarch caterpillar on some milkweed in the woods.  I found this one munching away happily and brought him home in a mason jar.  The picture below this one shows one of the milkweed pods that also grow on the plant.  They will dry out and burst releasing hundreds of pretty seeds that will float around here and there.  If you have been to my region Immersiva you will have seen these seeds periodically appear and drift around.  The milkweed plant gets its name from the milky white liquid that you can find inside if the stem or a leaf is torn.  As a child I remember tasting the milk with the tip of my tongue, hopefully due to a dare but quite possibly because I was just curious.  It tasted horrid which probably makes the caterpillar itself taste terrible as well though I did resist that test.  But it explains why birds generally leave them alone.  My monarch caterpillar has been eating solidly for a few days and has just now turned into a pupa (chrysalis) which you can see in the bottom picture.  All along a ring at the top of the pupa you can see tiny gold spots that are just remarkable.  Their colour is actually more vibrant than real gold.  Can't see it in the picture but gah so cool.

 I decided to name this one Mr bitey and, if all goes well, he/she will emerge in a week or so as a monarch butterfly and after drying off for an hour or two will begin its trek all the way down from where I am in Toronto, Canada to some mountains in Mexico.  I won't know if this one is male or female until it is born.. if it has black spots along the wings then it is male.
   Our particular monarch butterflies will fly south to point Pelee where they will coat the trees there like leaves waiting for a moment to, en masse, fly across the lake into the United States.  They fly between 2,000 and 5,000 kilometers which is the second longest migration of all known insects.   Since each butterfly lives for but a month, then it is only their offspring who eventually reach the mountains in Mexico.
Mr Bitey here is destined to make it half way before dying and being replaced by little ms nibbles his unborn daughter.
     Sadly there habitat is being damaged so there is a current plea for people to leave the milkweed
plants to grow as food (they are considered a nuisance) or if you are like me.. plant some.

Below I am including a short movie I made of "Lego" being hatched and I was so excited to capture him in film just as he flew off to start his journey.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Strange Bedfellows - music on Immersiva

I was speaking to Johannes1977 from Windlight magazine the other day and he asked me why I never had events where I played music on my region Immersiva.  I said "I dunno".  So today at 12 noon SLT Johannes will be playing a selection of 23 songs which are ones which inspires me in some way.  As you can imagine its a fairly melancholy set of songs.  I am a big music fan.  I have always felt that I could have been a music star had it not been for my lack of musical talent, rhythm, grace and charisma.  If my voice didn't sound like two dogs fighting over a broken fire detector and other factors, then I really believe I would have been a superstar.  Alas it was not meant to be.  So instead I will list off the songs I picked and say a few words about why I like them.  The first song to be played is called Keep the streets empty for me by Fever Ray.  I never get tired of this album and I have been listening to it regularly for years.  You know how you get obsessed with a band and listen to them to the point that you finally overdose and don't want to hear them anymore?  This album by Fever Ray is one I really never get sick of.  Actually I am not going to talk about every song as there are 23 so just will pick some randomly.  The third song is called Courtship Dating by Chrystal Castles.  This band is really interesting to me because much of their music is created using an old Atari 8-bit chip.  I also liked the idea that they used a screetch/scream by the lead singer as a catchy repeating sound during the song.  How is a scream catchy?  I don't know but it works for me.  The next song is a beautiful piece by Lykke Li called I know places.  For me there is a very satisfying type of melancholy that makes me wistful, sad and content all at once.  Many of the songs on this list are ones that draw out in me that feeling.  If you are hoping for a lively set then stay away!  It's more of a sit in the wheat and relax set. 
     The next song is werewolf by CocoRosie.  A unique voice for me is also a huge draw.  Combine that with lyrics that actually say something and I am hooked.  Many of the songs on my list are lyric driven in that they tell a story.   The story must be unique and not focused on radio play.  What I mean by that is the song must not actively be written in a formula to be successful.  The radio is filled with relationship songs ad nauseum.  There are a few relationship songs on my list but they all have more going for them beyond the lyrics.   Nouvelle Vague's Guns of Brixton are interesting lyrics, The Decemberists Grace Cathedral hill and actually all their lyrics for as long as I can remember are exceptional.  Pink Bullets by the Shins is,  I am fairly positive, about two people being launched by catapult in medieval times over the walls of a city to their death.  But the most remarkable lyrics for me is in the final song by Nick Cave and the Badseeds called O'Malleys Bar.  It is an epic song at around 15 minutes long (first sign they had no intention of it ever being on the radio) and the topic is murder.  In fact the whole album is called Murder Ballads and I remember the first time I heard it I couldn't believe they would dare write a whole album like this.  It is the bravest album I know of.  O'Malley's Bar is disturbing and ruthless but brilliant.  It is not the glorification of violence as it might at first seem, but rather a depiction of the delusional grandeur and cowardice in which light the lead character sees himself.  Sadly I had to keep the list at a manageable size so I left out my vintage favorites like Vera Lynne, Billie Holiday and picks from the 1920's.  Here is the full list of songs but please come listen to them with me and perhaps you will find some new favorites. 

1 - Fever Ray - Keep the Streets empty for me
2 - I Monster - Heaven
3 - Crystal Castles - Courtship Dating
4 - Lykke Li - I know places
5 - CocoRosie - Werewolf
6 - Hozier - Take me to church
7 - Yamamoto - Bedtime story
8 - Tricky - Christiansands
9 - Gotye - Somebody that I used to know
10 - Saycet - Chromatic Bird
11 - Radiohead - Exit music (for a film)
12 - Nouvelle Vague - Guns of Brixton
13 - Regina Spektor - That time
14 - Decemberists - Grace Cathedral Hill
15 - Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms
16 - The Shins - Pink Bullets
17 - Mirah - The Garden
18 - My Morning Jacket - Hopefully
19 - Mum - The ghosts you draw on my back
20 - iamamiwhoami - u-1
21 - The weeknd - High for this
22 - Leonard Cohen - Famous Blue Raincoat
23 - Nick Cave and the Badseeds - O'Malley's Bar