Friday, July 26, 2013

Educational/non profit discounts are back

Some good news for from the Second Life site

"Effective immediately, any accredited educational institution or any organization with a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit tax status (or equivalent) is eligible for a 50% discount on private region set-up costs and a 50% discount on private region maintenance costs."

     Now if only they would give discounts to artists who create content for their users in addition to promoting the potential of the medium.   I won't hold my breath waiting but as Morpheus said in the matrix.. "Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place? Do you think that's air you're breathing now?"  Since there is no air in a virtual world then perhaps I will hold my breath for a bit.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Goodbye Alex

Belsen death camp
      A few days ago Alex Colville, a great Canadian artist, passed away.  You likely will not have heard of him if you live outside of Canada, and you most certainly wont have if you are from Canada.  Ok that is not true but we are pretty terrible about promoting our own talents even to ourselves.
    So polite and unassuming to the extent that on Mr Colvilles website it simply states "Alex Colville died peacefully at home on July 16th, 2013."  I think that is why I wanted to do a blog post, to simply not just let him fade away so quickly.
     I don't normally speak about my real life here too much but I would like to, briefly, to help illustrate why Mr Colville was important to me.   My father was orphaned at 5 years old and one way it shaped him growing up was to instill a strong desire for stability in his life, and ours.  You see he had no stability, nor a loving family so, while he was vaguely aware I was artistic, there really was no option for me to be an artist after I graduated from high school.   Being an artist is not a reliable profession.  There is no salary nor security.   So, having no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I went to university for Psychology.  I found it to be very interesting but my friends always commented on how I was constantly holed up in my unfinished basement apartment, with all the spiders and cobwebs, painting away.  I think I produced 15 paintings while studying at university and one day I determined that I was going to apply to be a student at Canada's top art school, The Ontario College of Art and Design.  I decided that, should I be accepted, I would drop out of university and go there.  I wont drag this out, but I was accepted after a portfolio interview and did precisely that.   My father literally had a heart attack shortly thereafter, though I really don't think there was any connection.
     The interesting thing about OCAD was that it is made up of all the talented kids from schools across Canada.  So you probably had one of the types I am sure, that kid in the school who won all the art competitions and did artwork for various plays and what not.  Well OCAD is full of all those kids who were used to being the best artist in their school, region or province.  But suddenly they arrive at a school where their best is now just mediocre.    You stay up all night working on a project that you are sure will be declared a modern masterpiece.  You carry the painting on the subway fully prepared to give autographs should anyone ask, which they surprisingly don't.  You arrive to your class for critique only to realize that all the artworks around you are far superior, and that your painting appears to be on par with something done by an angry monkey throwing feces at his prison wall.
     At the time I was there the professors were practicing artists, which is not the case anymore.  Now they often just have a masters degree and have never actually had to survive as an artist for any period of time.  The previous professors, in some cases, were very blunt to the students.  Asking publicly how on earth a student was accepted to the school for example.   I recall my friend Rory being told he should drop out and become a labourer as he really had no talent.  This being said while we drew cadavers in pencil and conte at the morgue from the University of Toronto, all amidst the smell of formaldehyde, with a audience of pickled and diced body parts looking on.

      A stressful time no doubt, and so we were given a project whereby we were to study and write about an artist of our choosing.  I picked Alex Colville.  I wanted to step forward and prove that I belonged there.

     I delved into the life of Alex Colville and came up with some ideas in regards to what, I thought, shaped his work.  I wrote a great big essay which I have spent the last hour looking for in my basement, it is elusive so I will summarize it from memory.
   Mr Colville was born in 1920 and moved from Toronto to Nova Scotia on the east coast.  Shortly after arriving at around 9 years old he caught pneumonia and nearly died.  His recovery was very slow, a year I seem to recall, and during that time he became introverted due to his relatively solitary life of sitting in bed drawing or reading.  I wrote that this was the first instance of him becoming aware of life and death, and how instantaneously things can change.  I think he really dwelled on mortality at this time.  Later he went to art school and after graduating in 1942 enlisted in the army to become a war artist.  Things went poorly and he was sent back from training.   Thinking his ambition to be a war artist was over he began living his life and got married.  Suddenly his settled life was uprooted as he was sent to Europe for D-day in 1944.   He painted the war through Holland and Germany with his most affecting experience being sent to Belsen death camp a few days after it had been liberated.  I think

that all these experiences can be seen in many of Colvilles work in that some portray scenes of a moment in time where an outcome is unkown but a collision course is set.  A split second between life and death, stability and upheaval.  I really wish I could find the essay so I could have reprinted it here.  Anyway, I had always wanted to send my paper to Mr Colville to find out if he thought it was all garbage.  I never did though and sadly its too late now.

Goodbye Alex.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thoughts and musings

     As an artist I will often come across things which almost still me.  Imagery or stories that spark an idea that  will slowly morph into something quite different.  Often the ideas will change into concepts which take up residence in the alternate, almost dystopian societies where many of my stories take place.  In a virtual world I like to create subtle alternative social realities that comment on topics that I find meaningful.
       In 2008 for Burning Life (now Burn2) I created a work called Condos in Heaven.  There were two parts to the story.  The idea was that humanity discovered a physical Heaven with a satellite probe launched into the sky.  Below is the poem and a very old machinima I made of the story.

An Astrobot with fame
sent the probes away
now the newspapers proclaim
"We found Heaven today!"

Hadraniel stood at the gates to Heaven
raining death for six days
upon all until day seven
when they brought out the heat rays

I watched it unfold on the Internet
beautiful Cassiel with golden hair
he was captured and sold as a pet 
to a wealthy billionaire

The war is done
the condo's rise
what resources are here to consume?
Sariel appears with tears in his eyes 
at the window to my bedroom.

     The idea was that once we found Heaven we wanted it.  We wanted to harvest it for resources and erect Condos for the wealthy.    Gods and miracles exist only until our technology demystifies them.
     After our victory, in a shop in Heaven a father, in innocence, helps his son pick a set of angel wings.  They don't contemplate how the wings arrived there, and in a secret room in the back of the shop surgeons saw off the wings of an angel.   A businessman wears Galadriels wings as a status symbol, the envy to all around him.
     One other concept within the work was of little Beetlebots which secretly hitched a ride up to Heaven and now multiply there.  The idea behind the Beetlebots was that as we harvested our Earth creatures faltered and became extinct.  Each creature that disappeared fulfilled a role within the food pyramid or food chain.  Removing one potentially could cause a domino effect whereby the pyramid could collapse as each is so intrinsically connected to the others.  The Beetlebot represented a placeholder we devised within the chain which would mimic the role of an extinct organism, thus theoretically preventing the collapse.  So it was interesting the other day when Susanna Luminos posted a video on my facebook timeline.  Robobees.

     There were two things today which made me think.  For me to sit still and contemplate for a while.  Now I should first mention that I never paint an entire society with a broad brush based on an individuals comments or an image.  Sometime the media is a bit lackluster in putting things into context, as their focus really has evolved over time, as print media dies and income sources dry up, to now strive for online "hits" whose numbers can then be used to inflate advertising prices.  So for example here the newspapers are falling over themselves printing articles of children dying from being left in cars alone.
     It is of course a tragedy, and many clicked on the article in horror.  Now I had not seen an article of a child dying in the paper for months before this... but the following day they pronounced that another child died in a car.  Then a day later an article on a child dying in a daycare, then one surviving from a six story fall and so on.  In a country of 35 million there are always tragedies so the media picks and chooses the ones to publish.  The more "hits" of a certain type brings forth more articles on similar ones.  When people reach a point where they can no longer read such sad stories then the hits will drop and they will focus on something else, looking for the new trend.  There is something unsettling to me about this.  I recognize it is a business and they must survive but somehow it seems wrong and manipulative to me.  So according to our papers it would appear children are quite unsafe in Canada, which of course is not the case.  The two things I will relay here are from Thailand and Italy, and I don't for a moment believe they depict the general beliefs of their respective societies.  Every Country has periodic faults with Canada being no exception.
     Today I first read about a graduation ceremony where a mural was created based on Super Heroes.  You can see the Hulk, Batman, some guy with a red costume,  Captain America, Superman and... Hitler.  A student is having her photo taken while doing a "Seig Heil" salute.  The Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok released a statement of apologies stating that the students were "unaware of its significance."  Which leads to the question, how is it possible that University students are so unaware of this history?

     The next article I read was of comments made by an Italian senator named Roberto Calderoli, who states "I love animals - bears and wolves, as everyone knows - but when I see the pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of, even if I'm not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan,"
     That is in reference to the first black minister in Italy, Integration Minister Mrs Cecile Kyenge.  In 2006, he was forced to resign as reform minister after wearing a T-shirt mocking the Prophet Mohammad during a state news broadcast. Later the same year, after Italy won the soccer World Cup, he disparaged the opposing French team, which he said had lost because its players were "niggers, Muslims and communists".   

I am trying to imagine a Canadian politician saying something like this and I just can't.  So I sit and contemplate how it is possible that this person exists in politics.  Two seeds planted and waiting to grow within my dystopian world.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A necessary step

     I was contacted by an excited Lapiscean Liberty yesterday with some potentially useful news for daydreamers like me and, if you are reading this blog, probably you too.

Virginia Alone
     So have you ever teleported away from a region and then looked at your radar afterwords to find that all those avatars from the place you just left are still on your radar? usually at some huge distance away like 98,549 meters or whatever.  They show up on the radar for a minute or so until it refreshes and then shows just those who are close by.

     Well Lapiscean arrived at his new region and chose "zoom in" from the radar to one of those people at the previous region he was  at, which was half way across the Second Life grid by now.  To his surprise he actually zoomed in on them, two people sitting on a bench chatting.  The naughty voyeur!
     You might be thinking to yourself right now that I tell very boring stories.  And you would be correct, but hold on a moment I am not done.
     If we can still essentially be in another place without our avatar present, then I would suppose that we are causing very little lag at that moment at the previous place.  Perhaps none.  You see avatars essentially create the lag in SL.  For my builds I have a general rule where the script time or all the scripts running on my sim combined, range between 3-5 ms.  Then I will limit the number of avatars allowed on the region to something like 15.  Then the artwork generally will run well for everyone, which is necessary for narrative builds like mine.  But add 5-10 more avs and the sim may get crippled by lag.  So for example right now on Immersiva I am looking at a few scripts present here.  A door I see in my script list is costing 0.01ms.  Which is fine.  I have a flying beetle and it tells me that it is costing  0.02ms.  Still fine.  One of the costliest things for script time on my sim currently is a plastic bag in a tree which cycles through a dozen or so sculpty shapes to make it seem like it is fluttering in the wind.  This costs 0.049 ms.  However, there are a few avatars here and they range from 0.342ms to 1.032ms.  So you can imagine how many scripts I can have on the sim before I even catch up to one of those avatars here.

     So I know what you are thinking right now... is Lapiscean really a pervy voyeur?  I am not going to answer that question but yes he may well be.  But lets not get bogged down with wondering who is a perv (Lapiscean) and who isn't, please lets just stick to the topic at hand.  (but I think it is safe to say that he is)

  Now where was I?  If we can keep our camera on a region while being a huge distance away, causing virtually no lag, could we then not allow literally thousands of avatars on a sim to watch an event without the region collapsing?  Isn't this one of the problems that has plagued the growth of second life since its inception?  Would Radiohead have a concert in SL if 10,000 people attended (10k prims/see below) rather than 50? (provided the sim didn't crash with 50)
upcoming work
     Originally Second Life was inspired by the book Snowcrash published in 1992 by Neal Stephenson.  If you have not read that book then you should as it is really interesting to see how closely it describes virtual worlds and Second Life in particular, despite it predating SL by ten years.  In snowcrash he has predicted that residents of the virtual world will have a range of avatars from the highly elaborate to the very basic form.  During events often there would be quite a few of the latter type which acted almost as placeholders for people who didn't come to the event in their high end avatars (in the book).  So presuming  we could leave behind or send forth a low prim/pe unscripted version of ourselves which would act as a camera, then wouldn't it be possible to finally bypass the horrible limitations on large scale events?  Now the problem is that many people love their avatars and want then to be physically at events, so what would be required is to somehow give that low prim representation some character and individuality.  With mesh we can now make pretty impressive things costing a single prim or just a few.  Now I am not a particularly technical person so this is just daydreaming, but I think that there is potential and there are many brilliant residents who might be able to figure this out, perhaps Firestorm developers or Linden Lab themselves.  But one thing is for certain.  If this ever did come to pass then Lapiscean would be very, and I mean veeery, happy. 

 Just saying.

Sorry Lap, unfortunately for you I am in a teasing mood today.