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Celebrating "Syncretismas" in the land of the shapeshifters

My PhD professor and mentor Roy Ascott, to whom I owe far more than just this one word is the one who coined the term "syncretismas" a few years ago when he sent out a syncretic season's greeting. It fits what goes on here, an essentially non-Christian society, to a tee and I have thus embraced it wholeheartedly in describing the occurrences around this time of year in what I think of (mostly quite fondly but sometimes also critically) as the land of the shapeshifter. Today I went to a cut-price hyper-market to stock up on household utensils, cleaning things and so forth. And then later I took a stroll around Kadikoy market. And since the preparations for "Syncretismas", which is celebrated here on New Year's Eve in the shape of a completely secular, non-religious "Christmas", are well under way I took the opportunity to document some of what I saw, to share with people who do not know my culture.
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I do not know how many people read this blog. To judge by what the wordpress stats give me, not too many at all. 12 today. 5 yesterday, none the few days before that, then 4 and so on. But recently I found out that I do not see all the viewings. And not only the ones via RSS but even regular page viewings. Some of those seem to slip the radar as well. So, really I have no idea.

I also do not know why I keep this blog. It is not really a diary. I have a separate one for that and that is private. And when I look at what I write here - quite frankly I am appalled: It is "me me me" straight through all the way. I cannot write about what I really want to write about. That is forbidden to me. So, I have nothing but my boring self. My alts. My this. My that. My opinions. Me me me. I am very tired of "me."

I travel a lot. Many airports. I board the plane from one which looks almost exactly like the one where I finally leave it. Traveling minstrels we are these days - academics. I walk a lot of streets in the cities that I end up in. Sometimes there is an invisible someone with me. We sit in cafes. We smoke our cigarettes standing on sidewalks. We do not talk very much, we do not need to. It is understood. I miss that companion who has been walking by my side for a quite a while now. Who gets impatient as I insist on buying more shower gels and soaps and curly hair shampoos wherever I go. Who leaves me in front of all the colored flasks and tubes and wanders off in pursuit of other interests. Which is quite perfect. I will delight in all the great new toys when we meet again at the exit.

I no longer wish to talk about things that are stopgaps. Like "me". So, I think I will shut up for a bit. Until I find something to say that isn't altogether about "me". Could be quite some time, that...
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I have been taking photos of the Annex and posting them on Flickr. Venk's photos have finally shamed me into doing it, which meant spending some time there, of course.

The Annex is about death. It may be dark and gloomy below the water but I am realizing that I am looking at death as a good thing. The way I did things over there seems to point at that, although in most cases I did them more or less unawares: The poor old carousel horses who are then finally released as ghosts and the limbs that are pointing up at Arcadia Asylum's globe of the constellations. And even the mortuary is actually very peaceful.

And then, yesterday I observed an encounter. It was a very minor, polite social exchange and had nothing whatsoever to do with me. I just happened to be there really. What I picked up on was so small, so seemingly insignificant that it would take me a very long time to describe what I mean, so I am not going to even attempt it.

A lot of things are going through my head. I keep writing down sentences and deleting them.

A year after I started the job that I have now, the dean called me into his office and said that unless I began to present academic output I would get fired. Meaning, I either had to exhibit art work (in a very substantial way) or I had to write academically - or else I was out. I had been doing neither. I had spent the 10 years before that making things on my computer, terabytes worth probably, but nothing that would even remotely fall into either category. I didn't write anyway. I made stuff: I drew comics. Other stuff. I would spend months building very elaborate stages in 3D software and then take renders. Not even the slightest likelihood of exhibiting it or something. A tiny bit of it is on my RL website. Most of it isn't. I must have made hundreds of website interfaces for my website. Or I would put in little sub sites that talked about flowers or my facial rejuvenation treatments. Countless little videos. A few I have salvaged and posted at vimeo. Most are lost. I have not even stored the stuff properly. None of it is video art or "art" or anything like that. Like I spent one whole winter making illustrations with cats dressed up as historic Istanbul people. A cat selling doner kebap. 3 cats smoking hookahs. A courting, old fashioned cat couple on a sofa, a lot of female cats in a hamam. I am going to have Alpho make t-shirts for one of her outfits out of them in fact.

I knew that the art exhibition route would be the harder one for me. My stuff was fragmented, I did whatever came into my head. Some of what I did may have looked "artsy" but the mindset behind it most definitely was not.

At around this time I was also reading Roy's book and was completely entranced by it. I ended up becoming his student not really because I wanted to get a PhD but because I wanted to be his student. And there I realized that I could write. So, I chose the second route, writing, to retain my job. And to this day, it is the only reason that I continue. I have lost too many jobs in the past. In fact, I have been very cavalier in that regard and I have learned my lesson. It is called being penniless. I was (and still am) scared of that. I like money. I like to spend it.

I am Turkish. And we are nomads. We have been settled for a mere thousand years - and even then have we ever been really settled? Not that I am so very Turkish genetically either, I should say. And not that Turkey is not teeming with people who show duration and take root in one place. Me - I have moved so many times that I have lost count. And I probably will again before I die. I have changed my mind so often, lost careers and started new ones. For reasons which most others would probably laugh at. The job I have now I have had for 8 years and I am amazed. I think the nearest one to this was 3 years? 2? Basically I have run out of options and this is a dream job which I would be mad to lose. I have to stick around or else...

In the Muslim faith the best sort of grave (in the eyes of God) is the one which is unmarked or even completely lost. So, I am quite contented to know that it will not make a blind bit of difference whether I have been around or not. When I die. I make things because I have nothing better to do. And also of course because I have a really good time while I am making them. Including academic papers. And yes, of course I like it when people like what I make. Who wouldn't?

What does all this have to do with the social exchange that I saw yesterday? I could somehow tell from their demeanor (although I am not exactly sure how I did that) that the two people who met and exchanged polite greetings had not spent 10 years drawing terabytes of cats in hamams and weird comic strips and facial rejuvenation web sites and God knows what else. I did and I still do so. For me, alpha.tribe is precisely that. And Syncretia too. There is no master plan. I do not see an aim in it, an illustrious culmination or whatever. It is all virtual anyway. Could crash and be gone any minute.
And that is precisely what I love about it. That is what I love about life itself. And that is why I think that I will welcome death when it finally comes. And I feel very very very alone as I am stating this feeling that life's beautiful fragility gives me. And it is that loneliness that made me write this now.

Quite important note: I just re-read this, the day after I wrote it. And there is something here that needs to be clarified. The people I am talking about  - they have absolutely the right idea! They appeared to have a clarity of purpose in their lives which I seem to lack. I felt very alone, very outcast, and yes - ultimately very jealous as I stood there. But it is my problem, not theirs in any way!
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Ai Weiwei (or the RL day of 2 SL avatars)

I am so glad that I can post this now, right after the last post. After having completely let loose about how I am so fed up with the mediocrity, the banality, the cliche ridden existence of contemporary art in general, it feels so good to be bowled over and wowed by this! Truth be told I am at the point where I no longer even bother, no longer go to art events, avoid biennials and such. I no longer want to be subjected to so much ado about nothing, to endless loops of grainy video with no tangible beginning and no end. I have had it!

And then along comes somebody and grabs you by the scruff of your neck and frog-marches you into the Haus der Kunst in Munich and you stand there gobsmacked, not to mention thoroughly ashamed of your all-encompassing big mouth from just a few days ago!

Well, maybe not straight off the bat, I have to admit. The first piece is gigantic and impressive. As I subsequently find out the massive construct was shown at Documenta where it collapsed during a storm and what I am looking at here is the relic corkscrewing onto itself in gigantic cylindrical segments. A relic assembled out of hundreds of doors and window frames torn out of old Chinese houses. Poignant, shocking. It is really quite stunning and I am duly stunned - and yet, and yet, I cannot help but feel that I am still facing "a problem solved", the spectacular output of a master designer commenting on the "rape" of antique artifacts, in other words. Then come a number of three dimensional Chinese maps, delicately constructed wooden towers that are maps when looked at from above. Truly beautiful, but again, smells very strongly of a designer's mind to me. Not that anything is wrong with that at all - I am one myself after all and have nothing but the deepest respect for my own trade. But art? Hmmm.... I wonder... I mean, I really am trying to co-operate here but at this early stage I am not yet convinced...

And then, we make our way into the central hall of the exhibition where a petrified forest awaits us and there I am totally blown away! This is certainly no master designer but an artist - a genius of an artist, in fact: This is the brink between order and chaos, a visual response to the question with no answer - presenting you with even more questions, even more riddles.

I am difficult by disposition (in the unlikely case that this might have slipped your attention somehow) and so inevitably some few details, such as the photos of the 1000 or so Chinese citizens whom Ai Weiwei brought to Documenta and which provide a background texture to the forest and especially the tent displaying their accommodations next door keep on niggling at me. I really do not want to see them. Why? Because again, they seem to bring in some kind of a "problem solved" thing which is so insignificant next to this sea of gigantic trees. Or to all of those heavy beams driven into those delicate antique tables on display in yet another room. And then there is a single table and a single beam in one other room and suddenly the whole exhibit, tree trunks and all, does a huge perceptual flip for me and I see Eros. Not Eros the cute little cherub equipped with bow and arrow but Eros the primal force. As in Eros the roof beam. But also the table. Many tables. The couplings of roof beams and tables. And then next door, huge chunks of trees, almost fossilized, arranged like the soldiers of the terracotta army. And also neolithic urns, thousands of them, so many in fact, that he has ground them into dust and placed them in glass jars. Some colored with aniline paint. Metaphors I almost understand and yet do not. There is a fight with human culture here - maybe. The insignificance of it - or maybe the significance - or maybe a contradiction grounded in culture. Really, I am not sure. But, am I glad I saw this! And at the height of my hatred of "contemporary art" at that!

So, who was it that dragged me kicking and screaming into the gallery in the first place then? It was none other than the human of Selavy Oh! There are very few people that I really seem to hang out with in SL, and Selavy is one of them. We first became associated while I was writing up the NPIRL blog post last June. Emailed back and forth about the work, met in-world a few times and so forth. After the post went up we made a pact: We would say hi to one another once a week. It seems that we are both very shy (yes, despite my loud mouth I am in fact very very shy and so apparently is Selavy), therefore unless we had had an agreement of this sort we would undoubtedly have gone our separate ways. But we have in fact kept up this pact and have hung out, mostly via email it seems. So, a month or so ago when I knew that I would be going to a conference in Munich, Selavy's home town, we arranged to get together and have a coffee at least. Coffee turned into an almost 5 hour session, during which we first wandered through Ai Weiwei's show and then through various streets and quarters of Munich, in and out of underground trains, punctuated by cups of coffee, a lunch during which I demolished 3 gigantic weisswuerschtl and Selavy's human half a roast duck; more wandering, quite a few cigarettes (turns out we are thoroughly nasty old smoke stacks, both of us). During the entire time, I do not think that we stopped nattering even for one minute - or at least I didn't for sure. And somehow Selavy's human also managed to get a word in edgewise every so often, I guess. Which is highly commendable, of course: Shows persistence!

Not to worry. I am not going to go into any kind of a discourse over RL and SL and their respective merits and shortcomings now, would be very inane to still be doing so after 3 years of full time SL Residency anyway. Only one thing to say really: Human beings can smile. And avatars cannot.

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I am not an artist!

Stelarc has come into Second Life. Hugely significant, I think. He is a breaker of taboos, a master of the art of pulling the cute little rug of complacency out from under people's feet. And, from where I am standing, our little world needs some serious breaking of taboos and a thorough dishevelment of complacency.

Not the many people who unassumingly pursue their individual paths of playful creativity by taking SL photographs to post on Flickr or building their own personal toys. Or the many merchants providing an endless procession of ingenious artifacts for them to utilize in their quest. They most certainly do not need any shaking up and bringing to their senses. Those people, at least in my book, are the persona grata, if not indeed the lifeblood of the metaverse. They are what makes Second Life into a builder's world. They sustain it, and in more ways than one at that. Their combined endeavor is well on its way to creating its own distinctive genre, a type of 21st century folk art, and I have a hunch that in decades to come art historians as well as anthropologists will be writing many a ponderous tome on what they are embroiled in today, under our very noses. Their emergence is something that Roy predicted all the way back in the 1960's when he was building the cybernetic art matrix and spoke of an entirely novel user group of art domains:

"The new leisured class can be expected to swell in numbers as automation becomes more totally applied to society's productive activities. The main body of this class will comprise workers, employed in industry, commerce, and other services on a part-time rotational basis, doing about three five-hour days' of work per week in the short term, and probably even less at a later stage, as W. Gordon has suggested. The opportunity for “creative play” will consequently be considerable, although the demand for it may not be very noticeable initially. We can expect a continuance at first of the present trend towards “recreational buying”—the consumption of goods for the activity and pleasure of buying—and the use of established commercial forms of entertainment. But there will be a growing need for amenities that provide for social and intimate participation in creative activities of new and stimulating kinds." (Ascott, 1966)

So I will take this opportunity to bow to their combined creative endeavor, consumer and merchant alike, and proceed to sink my teeth into the crowd that I think does need some very serious whacking on the head.

Of course it isn't SL, it is actually RL. That is where the original malaise comes from. And slowly but surely it is casting its insalubrious odor into the metaverse as well. Has been doing so ever since I signed up, in fact. Has horrified me from the get-go. And, Stelarc or no Stelarc, it will win anyway (just as it has done in RL) through the sheer fact of there being huge strengths in numbers, in other words the existence of an awful lot of self-important people with remarkably over-inflated estimations of their own abilities combined with a very low opinion of what "art" may actually be all about. Were you to ask them, by the way, of course Art is their God, their one and only raison d'etre or some other such unctuous malarkey. Ask me - they actually have the audacity to think that art is a simple enough endeavor to be tackled by all and sundry - including them! hhh - and I really mean hhh this time...

Art is about asking the question that is unutterable in words, that has no answer, for which there is no outcome. It is about laying bare the horrifying uncertainty of the human condition. It is torturous and tortured by nature in that it is an attempt to articulate the in-articulate. That is what it has always been about. No wonder then that for millennia it placed itself in the service of religion; because religion, at its finest moments addresses the same dilemma. Who are we? Why are we? Where are we?

But somewhere along the line we lost religion. The torture however remained, to be briefly picked up by the avantgarde of the early 20th century. People like Duchamp and Ernst. And yes, also Picasso. Please do not tell me that Demoiselles is about something else? And here we are, still grappling with the same unutterable void - these days on psychiatrist's couches and feel-good seminars. It has become trivialized, it has become banal - but it is still there, nonetheless. How many "artists" over the past 30 years have asked it? Have made it the business of their lives and of their work to ask the unutterable question to which there is no answer?

And how many of those that did, have had the stamina to look things straight in the eye and admit despair? How many have pulled it off without falling into endless pits of banality? With no melodrama, no cheap histrionics? My colleague Selim Birsel (above, 1993) is one of them.

And Stelarc is most certainly one such as well. And like the thoroughbred that he is, his work is hard to take. It is a punch in the gut. It tears into your soul, by tearing into his flesh. I am wondering what he will do here, in SL. Whatever it will be, it will not be predictable. Again, thoroughbred that he is, he sits in a twilight zone of his own creation. Hard to classify, hard to categorize, hard to second-guess, hard to write clever little critiques over. No wonder that he is so well hated.

But again, I am wondering what he will do in SL. "The body is obsolete" he screams on his website. Is SL the place that his agony has brought him? To the place of the non-physical, where there is no more physical pain? Where the flesh can no longer be tormented? Stelarc, for me, is all about the flesh. The utter helplessness of our decaying physical being, of our self inflicted torture, of our endurance in the face of the unknowable.

So, I am not an artist. I do not have the stamina, or the means to ask questions to which there are no answers. I build play islands, like doll's houses they are... And I also make nice little clothes. Weird clothes, but at the end of the day - clothes... I am a designer. I obsess over appearance and function. Or non-function - as the case may be. But my path is defined, it is predictable. I am a very good designer, yes - but this is not to be confused with "art". "Art" is a huge mouthful. My mouth is simply not large enough for the word. Really, it isn't.
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Was it the t-shirt?!?

Grapho is the one who created all the avatars for Burning Life. They really do fall into his domain of expertise: They are dark, textured, evocative of unconscious things. So, he has been spending a lot of time in-world lately. Now, there are some remarkable things to do with his prolonged presence. One is that no matter how often his name gets mentioned in all the note cards and no matter that his name appears on every single prim and inventory item, almost everyone he has encountered refuses to believe that he actually made these avatars. They all think that I (Alpha) made them. Or that I made them as Alpha. Whatever... In fact, when he tried to convince a group of people that he was the designer, all he got for his efforts was a "nice try, Grapho!"... !!! Don't people look at prims anymore? It is how I do all my shopping - by looking at prims! So, what is going on here, I wonder?

Second thing that happens is something that I have actually written about before: Whenever Grapho makes an appearance the women come flocking in! This is the strangest thing and in fact tonight Bettina and I discussed this, how forthright women seem to be in showing their sexual interest - far more so than men, we both concluded. When I (Alpha) log in no one gives me a second glance - which is to be expected, since in the looks department I am really nothing to write home about. However, Amina and Xia who are both really good looking do not seem to fare much better either. (And do good looks really matter? Please read on!) Not so with Grapho: We have female customers making return visits to see the guy. It has happened more than once that I or one of the other girls got asked where he was? He hadn't been around in a while? Did we know why?

But this in not the real reason as to why I am writing this post. At least not directly anyway... What has got me thinking here does not only have to do with Grapho but also with his t-shirt. He got this a while ago; it is just a crusty old freebie with horrible seams but nonetheless he totally loves it:

If you have a tendency to take yourself too seriously the text on this thing could very well insult you, or put you on the defensive I suppose...

And today Grapho did in fact have an encounter where he managed to put another person very much on the defensive - to the extent where things got somewhat out of hand. I saved the chatter and re-examined it carefully afterwards: Nothing that he actually "said" is even remotely offensive. Really it isn't! So why did this happen? Could it be the t-shirt? Worn by a scowling, tall man, towering over the person he was talking with? Bettina also pointed at his long hair when I told her about the encounter later in the day. So maybe that too. And the hawk nose? The crooked face. Slanted small eyes. Grapho is becoming rather good looking. And furthermore he is slowly becoming good looking in a not-conventionally-good-looking sort of a way. He is very tall and thin and long limbed and bends over ever so slightly. Gangly, I guess the word is. So, not a run of the mill, cute baby faced, muscle packed dude but someone who may well be intimidating through his ugly-beautiful presence. And furthermore wearing a t-shirt which has a condescending sort of a message written all over it!

Had it been me, with my ears and tail, would the exchange have developed in the same way? But even more to the point, would I have expressed myself in quite the same way as Grapho did? During his very early days I had Grapho talk in a deliberately uncouth manner. It was a very clumsy act of trying to adopt a different persona. Nowadays I don't do that any more. Grapho talks exactly like I do. Or so at least I think. But does he really? As I was reading the chatter I noticed a different tone. Very subtle, but it is there. More impatient. Again, nothing he said was upsetting in and of itself. But what he said - it comes out ever so slightly differently. A bit more akin to the t-shirt perhaps. Not even that. Very hard to explain... It is this hardly tangible difference which I have noticed in the alts of others but was not aware of where my own alts were concerned. But, nonetheless it is there... Almost impossible to pinpoint what it is and how exactly it manifests - but there.

Nick Yee has conducted a study which he calls The Proteus Effect. And what he proves is that avatar appearance affects behavior and all social interactions and emotional responses. Indeed, so powerful is the impact of appearance on behavior and communication that, according to Yee's findings, the way an avatar looks does not only carry major significance while one is in "the game" itself, but in all subsequent physical/RL interactions between the interacting agents. I had a gut instinct that this was so long before I had ever heard of Yee's paper. Reading it made me yelp out in joy since he was really proving a thing I had always known to be true.

Is this what happened with Grapho today? I am fairly certain that it is. What he said was not anything that would have provoked a hostile response. The way he looked and stood, compounded by the stupid rights t-shirt however could have done so and, I think, did...
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Truthseeker strikes again!

I am really in over my head! Doing too much all at once, for one thing. I am doing Burning Life. I am writing a book chapter for an academic publication which I am supposed to submit for review by the 12th. But, the one that totally terrifies me is this next one coming right up: Solbedoz Janus is a senior designer at Bell Labs as well as being a hardcore SL resident. He contacted me a while ago and asked me to participate in an event, to which back then I merrily said yes!?! !!! Yes??? As in yesss??? I really do need to get my head examined over here, don't I?

So now, as the time approaches I am buried in engineering journals trying to put together a more or less plausible presentation, at least one that will not get me laughed off the lectern halfway through by a room full of telecommunication specialists: I am an invited speaker at Bell Labs in Antwerp on the 20th to give a talk on the impact of virtual worlds on the future of communication strategies... And don't laugh - please! This is sooo not a joking matter from where I am standing - you have no idea!

I logged into SL for a hot minute just now and ended up having a brief conversation with Truthseeker in which all this somehow came out. And here it is folks:

[13:59]  Alpha Auer: and next thing - boing!!! i get this invite
[13:59]  Truthseeker Young: wicked!
[13:59]  Alpha Auer: if it was a regular thing - then yes
[14:00]  Alpha Auer: but apparently they want to discuss methods and strategies to communicate for the future
[14:00]  Truthseeker Young: oh cool!
[14:00]  Alpha Auer: bell labs = telecommunication
[14:00]  Alpha Auer: and they figure that virtual worlds will be a major thing then
[14:01]  Alpha Auer: but this is WAYYYY out of my depth
[14:01]  Alpha Auer: it is hardcore engineering stuff really
[14:01]  Truthseeker Young: yeah but there's always gonna be a social layer
[14:01]  Alpha Auer: *sigh*
[14:01]  Alpha Auer: his words exactly
[14:01]  Alpha Auer: hhhh
[14:01]  Truthseeker Young: hahahaha
[14:02]  Truthseeker Young: I just think of spaces like SL as training grounds for all that augmented reality tech that everyone's promising these days
[14:02]  Alpha Auer: again
[14:02]  Alpha Auer: his words
[14:02]  Alpha Auer: almost verbatim
[14:02]  Truthseeker Young: well, see? totally up your alley as well, then
[14:03]  Alpha Auer: but those engineers are gonna pelt me with rotten eggs and tomatoes
[14:03]  Alpha Auer: if i show up there talking airy fairy stuff
[14:03]  Alpha Auer: so i am reading up like a maniac
[14:04]  Alpha Auer: in fact i need to log off and read!!!
[14:04]  Alpha Auer: like NOW!
[14:04]  Truthseeker Young: heh alrighty
[14:04]  Alpha Auer: so i will see your house ASAP
[14:05]  Alpha Auer: (if i am still alive by then)
[14:05]  Alpha Auer: in fact if you pray or something add me in
[14:05]  Truthseeker Young: you got it
[14:05]  Alpha Auer: i'm an atheist unfortunately
[14:05]  Truthseeker Young: lol
[14:05]  Alpha Auer: so i need to ask others
[14:05]  Truthseeker Young: yeah but all that alchemy stuff actually WORKS
[14:05]  Alpha Auer: it does
[14:06]  Alpha Auer: hey! maybe i will tell them of my rejuvenation spheres!!!
[14:06]  Alpha Auer: now THERES a thought!
[14:06]  Truthseeker Young: there you go. they'll love it
[14:06]  Alpha Auer: ok kiddo
[14:06]  Alpha Auer: byeeeeee!
[14:06]  Alpha Auer: i really gotta scoot
[14:06]  Truthseeker Young: even tho they may express that love in silent, unsmiling stares
[14:06]  Truthseeker Young: ok go read!
[14:06]  Alpha Auer: hhhh
[14:07]  Truthseeker Young: :0
[14:07]  Alpha Auer: i am so gonna save this in a notecard!
[14:07]  Alpha Auer: !!!!
[14:07]  Alpha Auer: bye!!!!
[14:07]  Truthseeker Young: see ya
[14:07]  Alpha Auer: funniest thing i heard in ages!
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The Who (again!) and Queen

Students can be such demanding little critters...

For some unknown reason the nosey parkers are still snooping around in my blog it seems - and this despite my strictest instructions to the contrary! I thought that I had made myself abundantly clear more than a year ago when I pointed them in the direction of the great urban outdoors, of which there really is no lack of at all in this city; rather than sitting at home perched behind their screens reading the ramblings of their boring old instructors!

Alas, absolutely to no avail...They are still in here! So anyway, I was cornered by a few of them on the service shuttle coming back home into the city the other day and they wanted to know what my top 10 favorite songs by The Who are. There is, of course, no easy answer to such a question, so I begged for some time to give the response the utmost attention that it needs. And here it is  - my Top 10 The Who songs list (I think):

1) Who are you?
2) Guitar and pen
3) They're all in love
4) Slip Kid
5) Won't get fooled again
6) New Song
7) Squeeze Box
8) In a hand or a face
9) Empty glass
10) Behind blue eyes

Except here's the problem with this list: First I have had to leave out things like "Eminence Front" and "However much I booze"! Being limited to just 10 that is. Second, I love all these songs equally.

They also wanted to know the same thing with Queen. (I can hardly believe this but apparently they actually listen to these bands! Love them! These songs were written a long long long time before the oldest of them was even born!)

With Queen, the answer is somewhat simpler. I feel that Queen albums need to be listened to in their entirety. Like The Who opera albums in a way. So, it would be very tough to make a list there.

Also, with Queen I love their stage presence almost as much as the music they make and the two things are really more or less welded into one whole in my mind. And again, although when on stage they arranged the flow of the songs into different sequences than the ones of the albums, there still seems to have been a deliberately orchestrated continuity in the way the songs got seamlessly blended into one other. Also visually, I should add. When I listen to them, in my mind's eye I "see" Queen as much as I "hear" them somehow. The most money I have ever spent on a concert ticket was for a Queen concert. And nowadays I love to watch all their concert DVD's over and over again. The cockiness, the humor, the imagination, the sheer unabashed in-your-face drama of the man... But, all that said, if you still want to push me up against a wall with a gun, I will say "We will rock you" (of course), "It's a hard life", "Who wants to live for ever", "Brighton Rock" - and then finally... My all time anthem:

I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now!!!

You couldn't possibly have phrased that any better than you did Freddie... (I know he wasn't the one who wrote the song, Brian May was - but...)

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Every once in a while

You get to a point where you realize that there isn't much of a point to the point to begin with.

I have been building for Burning Life. Could be that totally bleak landscape of those sims. It is the first few days and there is hardly another avatar in sight. A few people have rezzed a few things in some of the neighboring plots but basically, for the past few days it was me, by myself, standing on that cracked up desert ground building a tower. How we kid ourselves, thinking to ourselves that what we do is even remotely relevant to anyone except ourselves. But, right now, it isn't even relevant to me. Whatever it is that I do. Or do not do. And I am not only talking about "making stuff", but the whole nine yards.

Anyway, I am going to be afk for a while. Which is probably just as well.
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My Pantheon

I have been thinking about The Beatles. Small wonder, since I have been listening to them pretty much on a loop during my entire trip last week.

I seem to listen to music only when I am out on the street. Going back and forth from work, wandering around, shopping - that type of stuff. At home, for some weird reason, I forget to do so. So, I am not sure how much of a music connoisseur I really am. Hardly at all, I would say. And quite recently, I admitted that my love of The Beatles might in fact be in dubious taste in that they are somewhat "cute". But, since I said that I have been wondering - are they really so cute after all?
First off, I am not too terribly into cute as far as my other musical favorites are concerned. My big, all time, number one fave are The Who, on whom I already wrote about quite a while ago. Now, them, I really do have on a 7/24 loop whenever I go out on the street! Right next down the line (as a very close follow up in fact) would be Queen. And what comes after them is anybody's guess really and The Beatles are somewhere in there very close to the top.

It is only 3 of their albums that grab me, those being The White Album, Sgt. Peppers and Abbey Road. The earlier stuff, yes yes, very nice and all that but ultimately - yawn!!! And that is of course the time-line wherein the cutsey-putsey stuff, which is usually associated with the Beatles, resides. The later stuff, especially the things which they did when they all went solo? Again, sorry, I do not like any of that either: If anything, double-yawn!!! But these three albums... Yesss!

Not every song on every album, mind you. Things like "While my guitar gently weeps" and "She's leaving home" and "Something" I fast forward so fast you have absolutely no idea. In fact, I have compiled a playlist on my MP3 player where none of these more romantic ballady type things are even to be found - notable exceptions being "blackbird" and "Martha my dear". And to give myself credit, I never cared for the romantic tunes even when I was 16. The ones I adore are the ones in which, over the course of the three albums, there unfolds the whackiest pantheon which I would dare to suggest has ever been imagined at any point in the 20th century:

Polythene Pam and Mean Mr. Mustard! The Sun King! Lovely Rita and Maxwell with his silver hammer! Rocky Raccoon and his fickle lady love whose "name was Magil, and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy". Not to mention Gideon's Bible and the gin reeking doctor who proceeds to lie on the table in the same song. Closely followed by the Piggies, big and small...

And of course Henry the Horse dances the waltz!

That strange negotiation which goes on on the flip side of Abbey Road:

You never give me your money
You only give me your funny paper
and in the middle of negotiations
you break down

I never give you my number
I only give you my situation
and in the middle of investigation
I break down

Out of college, money spent
See no future, pay no rent
All the money's gone, nowhere to go
Any jobber got the sack
Monday morning, turning back
Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go
But oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go

So familiar... Especially when a few songs later we come to that flashback-refrain:

I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitation
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down...

It seems like this has been said to me so many times. In so many different ways. When I was given invitations but was not asked to share a pillow and during the celebrations of which my host broke down... Oh dear...

And then of course, the trip songs: I have done my share and I know exactly what Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or a Day in the Life are all about. And I love them! How could I not?

I read the news today oh, boy
Four thousand holes in blackburn, lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the albert hall


My father is the one who laid the groundwork of my private pantheon. I recently found a story book which he wrote and illustrated for me. It had been lost for many years and when it showed up on one of the upper shelves of my mother's library I cried like a dog. In this story a bear marries a rabbit and they live happily ever after. The book actually starts with the happily ever after and my father takes me in meticulous detail through the everyday activities of the couple, how they go on vacation together, how when the bear gets sick at one point the rabbit nurses him back to health. How the bear has to take all the potted plants in their apartment to his office since his rabbit wife cannot resist eating them. I should probably scan it and post it here so that maybe people can understand why I seem to talk about my father so much.

I was torn out of that world, in which bears and rabbits live together happily ever after, the day when I entered the "grown-up" world, aka. grade school! I loathed it! And it is no exaggeration when I say that starting from age 7, I went through decades of solid loathing, indeed being revolted by "grown-up" life at every turn of the path. In all of its manifestations! A world devoid of people like my father, people that had the sort of imagination that makes magic happen. And I did not - and to this day do not believe that this horrifying "grown-up" world is ultimate, unassailable, irrefutable "reality". The Beatles are one of the few solid rays of hope that I was/am correct in this assessment. The loopy world which they sang about. If there were people like them out there surely I would eventually meet them? And I did. A handful maybe, strewn over decades.

And then...

I got me a Second Life folks... ;-)
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Confronting bogeymen...

Recently I have made two things. And I am realizing that with both of them I am actually confronting fears or in the case of one of them, if not fear itself a very strong repulsion.

Jellyfish. I have loathed them for as long as I can remember. They have managed to totally sour up my childhood holidays by the sea. We used to have these huge deep blue ones along with the smaller white variety and basically whenever they were in evidence I would not go into the water. They never stung me or anything like that but I loathed them anyway. Later, in my twenties, I did some scuba stuff on the Aegis and once when I was underwater I even saw a shark. (He showed no interest in me whatsoever - Thank God!). And even the shark did not give me the same gut reaction that I got from the jellyfish. Of course I was scared witless, but I really did not have that revulsion. He was very beautiful and mixed in with my fear was also a huge admiration for his grace. And why am I saying "he" anyway? For all I know this was a girl-shark. But seemed very masculine somehow?

I have no idea why I made jellyfish at Syncretia when I built the lightbulb basin. Given how much I loathe them, I really shouldn't have done so. When I started thinking about making things for avatars in Second Life a jellyfish outfit was one of the first things that I thought about doing. So, last week finally I made Alpho do one:

I do not know if this will help next time when I am about ready to jump into the sea and I see the monsters floating below me. Chances are very strong that I will still go "yukkkkkk" and run inland as fast as my legs will carry me. But, that said, I am kind of glad I made this.

The second thing is a bit more complicated to explain. I have been building the Annex and almost all of it is sunk into the sea. I really do love the underwater (although I have to admit that I haven't gone scubaing in a very very long time). So, it would not be terribly surprising if I wanted to build an underwater sim for that reason alone. However, my real reason is that I find the lighting conditions underwater far superior to those above. The light in SL leaves much to be desired. For my personal use I almost always have sky presets enabled. I have a special one for when I am building and for all other times I use the Mescaline Tammas presets. But of course, I assume that the bulk of people who come to Syncretia have the regular sky settings. Even though I set a sim time and everything I am never completely satisfied with the result. And there the underwater lighting really comes to the rescue. In short the real reason is the ability to make usage of the light down there.

I could have created something wonderful and colorful like they have over at Blake Sea where we were last week testing the S+R scuba gear with wolfie. Instead I made this space which scares even me! And I built it for God's sakes! How can I possibly be scared by something which I made myself?

There is a carousel and I honestly do not want to hang out there - it totally gives me the creeps...
Why did I do this? And what is that place all about? If I want to get all high falutin' and banal I can say that it is about life and death. Consciousness and the subconscious. Above and below. Eros and Tanathos. Bla bla bla bla... But, it is about none of these or all of them or something else entirely which I cannot even name properly. Something which resides deep in my unconscious mind and which scares me. Something I have no knowledge of whatsoever on a conscious level.

Now one of the things which I do when I am building is that I use things which others have made if I can possibly do so. I see no merit in entirely homemade endeavors in a metanomic system. If I can't find it I make it and of course I make the basic structural bits, but most of the stuff that goes into the structure is acquired. I either purchase the things or I pick them up as freebies. This is of course a kind of three dimensional collage. Max Ernst and André Breton talk about the benefits of collage, "the chance encounter of two distant realities on an unsuitable level", in releasing the images of the unconscious mind. And my guess is that something of the sort happens to me when I bring together the stuff I pick up on the freebie boards at NCI plaza and Yadni's Junkyard. I wrote a paper about all this at one point and then even made a virtual flip-book out of the paper. (No one was too terribly impressed by the paper itself, I have to admit. In fact Roy sent me off with a colossal flea in my ear... hhh. So a flip-book as a final resting place for it is about right, I guess).

I had dug some very deep canyons and used a very dark ground texture for the deepest level of the terrain. So, the place has been dark almost from the day that I got the sim. But that has to do with the fact that underwater, as I remember it, is dark. Or rather a weird admixture of dark coming at you from the depths and light coming from above. But it is eerie as a space - underwater. And it seemed to me that creating a dark ocean floor and a lighter upper level would simulate that RL underwater feeling more or less accurately. Because I did want accuracy of sorts in that. But that is the groundwork. What happened after that is that I started picking up things. I found a strange sculpty horse as a freebie. The textures on it were pretty awful although the shape was really good. So, I blanked out the texture. Too harsh. So, I decreased the opacity. Too wish washy. So, I added glow. Suddenly I had a ghost horse. Hmmm... Suddenly I sunk it into the water to see how it would look against the dark ground. Looked pretty good. So, I duplicated it to see the increased effect. And one more and one more. Suddenly I had a herd of ghost horses galloping underwater. I had had no idea, no intention of doing this. I was going to do fish and stuff. I mean I still have a lot of fish down there, but now there is a herd of ghost horses as well.

Then, next thing, I send Amina off to the gnubie store to get kitted out a bit. She has no clothes to wear and although she does not really go anywhere she should still have something to wear, no? And alpha.tribe designers do not really wear their own designs except for experimental purposes. We have a house policy like that. So while she is there she sees this carousel. Picks it up, passes it onto me. I rezz it. I have no intention whatsoever of using it, I just want to see what it is. However, I happen to rezz it right next to the horses. Next thing the horses are on the carousel. And... I get really really scared by what I just did.

It is all like this, what is down there. How it came together. The horses are just one part. There is other stuff too. Of course, there is this synchronistic encounter theory as well, where you apparently bump into things which somehow end up being what you were looking for inadvertently.
So what is it about? Fear of something for sure. Death? There are objects directly related to death in another part of the sim. And the ghost horses are dead too in a way I suppose. But, I am not at all morbid. Hardly ever think about all that stuff. And also, I was talking to a friend of mine Natasha Vita-More, who is very involved in radical life extension research and while we were mulling about all this it emerged that I really have no interest in living forever. Or for much longer than what people normally do these days. Don't get me wrong: I have no desire or intention to pop my clogs anytime soon, say within the next 4 - 5 decades - hhh. I do want to have a good innings and genetic predisposition on both sides of my parentage would indicate that this is probably likely to happen - unless shit happens, of course. But, if it does it does... So? I am probably about as much scared of death as the next person, but really no more than that. And plus - I firmly believe in reincarnation. They had a case here years ago with all these babies that started blabbing about a location 100s of kilometers away where they claimed to have wives and children. Turns out it it was all correct. And the babies had been conceived within hours if not minutes of the demise of a group of men who had died in a really bad car crash at a young age. Now, that is irrefutable evidence in my book...
Not death then but something. I seem to have spat out a conglomeration of objects which scare me to look at. So, again, as with the jellyfish I must be in the process of confronting something. Except I really have no idea what it might be? Or only a very vague inkling of some sort? And that unsettles me even more somehow?

Ah well, I am sure all will be revealed in due course. For now I have far more pleasant matters on my mind: Frigg Ragu gave me her collection of poses and these have got to be the best ones ever seen in SL! Oh and - Amina picked up a set of maracas which make you "manbo" (not mambo!) when you wear them. And, I have had my heart set on making a sailors outfit for the longest time. So, speaking of "the chance encounter of two distant realities on an unsuitable level", I am frantically busy in photoshop right now making the "manbo sailor" outfit! I am sure it will be the hottest seller yet!
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The avatars of alpha.tribe

 Something I was going to add the other night and then forgot to do. Or rather, I could have done so obviously, even after posting the thing but then chose not to after all. This seems significant enough for a separate entry: My alts.

I am at the point where I am feeling them as completely separate persons. They are standalone entities with different pre-occupations and thoughts. Which is very strange. They originated from some part of me, surely they are me? But, it is definitely not how this all feels, how the game is progressing here. And, funnily enough, meeting with them, hanging out with them, is proving to be yet another incentive to stay in SL. Perhaps maybe even the strongest one?

Grapho, I am in awe of. Xiamara, I do not like. And neither, for that matter, am I too overly fond of Amina. She looks a bit like Priscilla Presley (not at all my reason for not liking her, I should add). But she is this type of flaky, droopy, overly innocent seeming female, the kind who contrary to all appearances of flakiness gets everything done exactly in the way she intends it to. In short, the type for whom I really do not have much time for at all. Devious, the word is, I suppose?

And it is these two, whom I do not like, that I should probably be taking a really good close look at since according to the laws of projection in them would be embedded my deepest personality flaws. So ingrained that I probably have a hard time recognizing them in myself and mirror them onto entities whom I do not like? So, how horrifying is that? But, in all likelihood still very true...

The one that I do like is Alpho. I even like the way she stands around with her goofy chubby girl AO animations and then bursts into that freebie female power walk - so purposeful! hhh... She is the only one that I have given my own shape to amongst my alts (although I have distributed quite a few of them to customers in the shop - but that is another story...). However, Alpho is a furry and so whenever she is not making clothes she is a wolf designed by Leben Schnabel or a panther designed by a really talented furry designer, whose name I cannot remember off the top of my head. But much as I like her, she is someone else entirely. In fact, if anything, her separateness I recognize more readily than all the others. And Grapho too. He intimidates the living daylights out of me I have to admit, but I do like him as well. And I very clearly see him as his own person. A stranger, in fact. The others are separate and yet not strangers. Grapho however, is a stranger whom I have yet get to know.

I guess, this is what it was like to play with dolls? When I was a kid? I really can't remember. grrr... What it is definitely like is hanging out with my animals. Distinctly separate entities.
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It is time to talk some more about alpha.tribe.

I am spending a lot of time working on the output - to the extent where sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep because there is some new thingy floating around in my head and I get up in the middle of the night and fire up photoshop to do things. Wander into the shop in the early hours of the morning and start rezzing prims. It is a full fledged obsession. And not only the work but all of it. Sometimes a few days go by and no one buys anything and I feel low: Instead of checking emails  (as one does), I first look at the transaction histories of the 5 avatars on their SL accounts pages when I get up in the morning. It isn't about money obviously: I would need to be selling thousands of items to talk about any kind of a tangible income. And, of course, I do not. I make enough to cover my day to day SL expenses and a bit above that perhaps. Maybe, in time, it will be enough to cover the fee of the new homestead. Certainly not what I pay for Syncretia as well. Not anytime soon anyway... So, the obsession is about something else.

Bettina asked me the other day about Syncretia, that she was concerned that I was no longer so interested in "building". I have been a multi tasker for as long as I can think; so no, I have not given up building. I will do that as well. But, the thing with Syncretia is that it is finished. And there really is no reason whatsoever for me to hang out there, to go back there even. The new sim, yes... Of course. I will be building that - eventually. It will take a couple of weeks, maybe 3 or 4, but probably not even that and then that too will be done, finished. I will be putting an alpha.tribe store there as well, I should add. I can do that, it is not educational land.

The thing about designing avatar apparel is that you can just keep on doing it, over and over and over again - infinitely. Each outfit is a novel design system which you need to tackle all over again, from scratch. And it is an imaginative process. So, on the one hand it calls all of my previous design know-how into question, but then you can use that design know-how to really take an imaginative leap of fancy. I am my own client in a way, I write my own brief and then I implement it through the 5 avatars. And while on the one hand one does need to pay a lot of attention to inherent design restrictions such as those odious avatar templates for instance, the total nightmare of getting one's head around that little problem right there; on the other hand it is a truly liberating process. You need not worry about RL design issues such as "function" or "usability" or "specifications" or "legibility" (a very big one for the work of a graphic designer, this last one). You can play - really and truly. So, it is a designer's paradise. No wonder I am so enthralled with it. And like I said, it is endless...

But is that it? It is quite a bit of it, true. I really am preoccupied with the creative process. But that is certainly not what makes me run and check my transaction pages every morning. What it is is that alpha.tribe is giving me a purpose. It is giving me the illusion of having a valid reason for carrying on my existence in SL. That I am needed somehow. The illusion that I have clients who look forward to my producing something new. It is, like I said, a huge illusion and of course I know that it is anything but true. No one needs me or particularly wants me or cares if I am around or not. But, when I click on the transactions page and see the names of avatars that have bought this or that, that have valued the stuff that I make enough to actually pay me for it, it gives me that illusion of being needed. And, I need that sense of purpose to carry on. To justify my continued existence in SL. To myself.
And no, even though it may sound like it, I am not sad. Just trying to formulate an explanation to an obsession, that's all.
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Small Update

Just thought I would write down what I am doing these days.

So, summer is here, which means vacations for people in my line of work. Not so this year for me: They have offered us a week in mid-August at the museum which is affiliated with my university and so we are supposed to be exhibiting our student's work there. The fact that Istanbul is dead (and I mean dead!) at that time and that a week is a joke to begin with doesn't seem to faze anyone and so we are all working for that. I have done a lot of this type of stuff in the past and told everyone that I would be keeping clear of the grunt work this time around. But of course, in the event it doesn't quite work out that way and so I have been trecking out to the uni every then and again. grrr...

It was very hot earlier in July, but right now it is actually OK. We somehow seem to be getting a bit of the northerly summer wind which this place was famous for until about 20 years ago when the greenhouse effect put an end to it. But, in any case, the past 10 days it has been very pleasant.

I have a new sim next door to Syncretia called Syncretia Annex. I got it last month when they had that reduced offer for homesteads going and so this is, in fact, a homestead with only 3750 prims. I have not really done anything substantial there yet. I just dug some underwater canyons (the big idea is that almost the entire sim will be underwater) and piled a few things on this underwater plateau where the canyons meet up. I have a few ideas but I am letting them simmer on the back burner for a while, which as I remember, is what I did with Syncretia also. That place too sat around for a couple of months before I really started the big work there.

On the other hand I have been very busy with alpha.tribe. I really enjoying making the stuff. And although we are not breaking the bank or anything like that, for a new business I guess we are doing OK. Obviously, the stuff is mostly totally bizarre and wouldn't be to everyone's taste. In fact, I have gotten some hilarious comments, like people telling me that although our things are quite well made they are totally impractical! What exactly are they thinking of doing whilst wearing them, I wonder? Wash the windows? Do their ironing? Run up some Excel charts? Well, at least they tell me that the clothes are well crafted. Something too I suppose.

Other than that? No, I am not doing the cruise! What was I thinking even? Me and a ship-full of fat-cat types? Thank you, but no thank you! So, I am not really sure what I should be doing in the way of a vacation - if anything... I will be going to a conference to present a paper in England in September. Cyberworlds. Good conference, tough to get in, so I am pleased about that.

Oh and I am getting the house painted. Work is to commence next week. And then I am still dieting my hiny off. Almost all of it is gone at this point but I am not giving up until my favorite jeans are a perfect fit - again! And that is probably another couple of pounds away...
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The chore to end all chores...

I have decided to embark on an absolutely dreaded task - yet again, I might add: Inventory cleanup! However, this time around not only cleanup but also organization and creating some kind of a system to easily identify what I have and where I may find it... A dire necessity at this stage since I am at the point where I am running around in the same pair of cruddy old jeans and t-shirt, not to mention the same old moth-eaten ears and tail, simply because I have so much stuff that I no longer know what I have, where it is or what it looks like.

I am two things: A hardcore builder and a hardcore shopper. So, inevitably I have a lot of stuff which I hang on to because I assume that it will come in handy at some point when I am constructing something. And then I buy other peoples output like it's going out of style: I love the stuff that so many of my fellow designers churn out and so I am keeping an archive of Second Life design output. Anything from hair to avatar attachments to clothes to cars and hoverpods and spaceship. These last I am not even remotely skilled at manipulating, but no matter, I get them anyway.

I have this idea that SL design is a hugely important endeavor which will have considerable ramifications on design output as well as design theory in the future, affecting the design of RL objects and even more importantly the underlying design strategies: I do believe the effects are already felt in fashion design but I am fairly certain that the fundamental tenet of SL design, which, as far as I can make out, is "playful creativity" will find its way into core design strategies regardless of what the thing to be designed may turn out to be.

So, it is isn't (only) blatant, unabashed, shameless, in-your-face consumerism when I rush out and purchase every conceivable object rezzed under the virtual sun, I really do have a professional interest here.

But interest, shminterest - I am stuck here with an inventory that is pretty much unmanageable. The funny thing is this: It turns out that I do not even have that much! I consulted Truthseeker on this little matter, wanted to know how many items were in his/her inventory which led to a general discussion during which I was informed that there were people out there with as many as 30000 items to their name! Me? I only have around 7000? And I am groaning under what I have? What do those people do for goodness sakes!? What do I do? Unless I really like something or think it will be really useful I have no compunction whatsoever at tossing it out on its virtual ear. Regardless of who gave it to me, I might add. I toss most (if not indeed all) notecards after I have read them, keep all LM's in one notecard, do not collect calling cards (I have never understood their purpose or significance anyway?!) and I do periodically stow not-totally-unwanted stuff in boxes which I keep as meta folders so to speak...

Spoke to soon didn't I, back then when I called old Xia anal-retentive? But! I am so going to be teaching her highness how it is really done! I had followed up on Ravenelle's advice on one of her flickr posts about putting an image of the outfit into the folder for easy recall as to what the thing actually looks like. However, it seems to end up taking too long to render the image when one is actually in SL and extremely impatient to see it. And also, in my case, this seems to be a bit of a wasted effort since I usually cannot remember what a particular item was called to begin with and am thus stuck finding the image to look at. So, I have decided to develop this new system based upon spreadsheets (I am not a designer for nothing you know? They teach us this sort of stuff!) which will actually reside in my harddrive where I can access it with an image viewer. So, each spread contains thumbnails/names of the contents of a particular folder and also each spread is exactly 1920x1200 pixels, which is my screen resolution, so I can see the whole thing all at once. Naturally, it will go without saying that not all of the contents of a particular folder will fit into one spread, in which case there will be several named ...01, ...02, etc.

I have started where attention is the most needed: My hair. This is the partial content of my so called "object hair" folder, by which I mean hair which has some kind of an object embedded into it. I am packing away the ones that I am not quite ready to toss yet, but do not like so terribly much and everything that stays immediately accessible gets photographed and named. Once the object hair is cleared up, I will be proceeding to mohawks and so forth... And then to avatar attachments, of which I have tons - the ears and tails alone probably add up to gigabytes! And, needless to say, one does live in total dread of the boots folder(s)...

teeee heeee...

And once I am done in SL, I may even go and tackle my RL closet... Hmmmm, there's a thought... Would spreadsheets help there as well, I wonder?
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The Hong Kong Booty

I must say that I seem to have been remarkably reasonable in what I ended up accumulating on this trip: One reason for that is, of course, the fact that fitting into Chinese clothes would entail a lifetime of starvation and even then would probably not really work - the women here are absolutely tiny! Well yes, of course there are plenty of things for western monsters such as myself as well, but who needs those klutzy things? The outfits that I did like were diminutive...

Two bags: One a silver and black panda with extra long straps so that it can be slung over the shoulder and this utterly amazing grey porcupine thing on the upper right, where I think even the whackiest of neko designers would be hard pushed to come up with something crazier. This one is actually a backpack, which is just as good since I hardly ever use any other kind of bag anyway. 3 t-shirts: 2 Disney t-shirts (and yes, before anyone asks, of course I will be wearing them! What do you think?!?) and one Bruce Lee t-shirt! Love this one! It is huge, so one could even almost wear it as a dress. A belt, which to be honest is nothing too special, I could probably have gotten it back home as well, however it does have a very nice frayed texture - so? Why not? Two "bendy/twisty" segmented metal (sort of reptily) necklaces, which are great! A "white sheep" (as opposed to a "black sheep" (hhh) tie, which I originally bought for my brother in law, but I think I am going to hold onto it in the end since it really is very funny and I might wear it somehow. And then finally 2 pairs of chinese slippers/shoes and one pair of knit boots.

And that is really and truly it!

So yes, I have indeed been a statue of self restraint and am actually returning with a more or less half empty suitcase! Totally remarkable!

Hong Kong: new faces, new insights

I am sure every idiot takes this photo from their hotel window, but no matter. Who says I am no idiot anyway?

I love the place! This despite my having the mother of all jetlags. God knows I travel enough long distances and I should know better. Melatonin makes me queasy so I decided not to take any on this trip and see if I could get to sleep by myself. Result: 2 nights of complete sleep deprivation. Last night I did finally manage to sleep, but woke up this morning with a sore throat and a bad headache. So, although there is a really interesting workshop on meaningful media today, organized by newly met colleague Gino Yu, from the Hong Kong Polytech University here, I have decided to stay in my room. I have my paper presentation at the actual TSC conference tomorrow and I need my wits about me - unlike yesterday (I am ashamed to admit), when I was at a one day conference on Social Approaches to Consciousness to which I had been invited by Charles Whitehead to make a presentation. I was completely out of it from fatigue; in fact, at one point it was so bad that I dozed off altogether. Yet even so, I heard some great stuff:

For one thing the presentation by Charles Whitehead himself on anthropological neuroscience. Nevia Dolcini, a psychologist from Italy (with whom I hit it off immediately over a stolen cigarette during one of the breaks :-), spoke on whether the recognition of the "other mind" was innate. Another really great one by Etzel Cardena on emotion and consciousness and also one by David Craik on cultural distortions of the "self" - some good insights into the shape shifter syndrome there. A paper by Robin Zebrowski on Cog, the MIT robot and Merleau-Ponty and then my favorite at the very end by Imants Barušs, in which he discussed the implications of a scientific study (survey) he had conducted on the meanings of the term consciousness, revealing a correlation between IQ levels and how a person's world view is defined on a scale from materialistic to transcendental values. Seems that the more a person is open to spiritual definitions the more curious and inquisitve/open to experience they seem to be and apparently also their IQ is ever so slightly higher. Not only did I like the contents of his talk but also the delivery of it, which was tongue-in-cheek, funny and mischievous. And indeed, when I got back to my room last night and rushed over to the TSC Ning to befriend all of these lovely new people I was extremely gratified to discover that Dr. Barušs is very kindly introducing us to his "lab-animals" on his photo feed there: A teddy bear, a floppy dog and Peter Rabbit! And then, David Craik also seems to be quite a pro at the game of playful hilarity, when he ended his already brilliant talk with the strict little homily to not to forget for even a nano second that we were nothing but a bunch of uppity apes pretending to be situated above our actual humble primate station in life, painfully apparent nonetheless underneath all our aquired paraphernalia of "culture". Wonderful!

And then, somewhere in there I stumbled through my own presentation on alpha.tribe and multiple creative identities and was gratified to see that they all seemed to think it was ok. In a gaggle of scientists I was not laughed off the lectern at least... Charles Whitehead even patted me on the back! Felt fabulous, I have to say!

I love these kinds of conferences, where one gets exposed to the output of professions like anthropology and psychology; other points of view, other approaches, giving one new insights and inspirations. I was in Tucson in 2006 at the TSC conference, where I presented a poster together with Yacov. And then I absolutely loved the CC07 conference of course - I hope to God I get in this year also...

So, yes, I am very pleased to be here. I grumble to no end before I leave on any trip and more often than not, unfortunately, I hate the whole thing from one end to the other - can't wait to get back home. So far Hong Kong and TSC isn't materializing as one of those experiences. A lot of it does have to do with the contents of the event for which I am here and the city which is the background to the conference is wonderful! Not that I have seen a whole lot of it, mind you. Just a small walk in Kowloon where my hotel is and then the view from my window. But one does get a feel for a place, and this place feels good. My university has an exchange program with HK Polytech and if they ever want me to come over and do something here I will be on the first plane out. In fact, I will try to pick up the nerve and come straight out and ask Gino Yu at some point if he would like me to give a workshop on SL or something like that.

Meanwhile, my old student Sertaç and his wife Melike who live here will be taking me sightseeing later today, so now I need to rest a bit before I set out since despite all positive feelings, I still feel pretty lousy physically...

This totally rockzzzz!

Good job I have the outfit to do justice to the occasion! Made it myself and everything! Even my tail is a perfect match...
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I may just have met my match over here!

Yup! She will most probably be giving me a good run for my money this one...

Pumpkin Tripsa made these really beautiful sculpty avatar parts, from which you can create your own posed avatars. Unfortunately they do not come with texture maps - (which I honestly think they should have done, considering what I have had to pay for them you know?!?)...

Anyway... I want to make some nice old-fashioned, wholesome avatar soup of mixed up body parts, but before I can do that I need to texture the little critters don't I? So, I made this - ahem - very efficient little grid thingy in photoshop which I mapped onto the lady's torso and head and...


I am old enough to know what calamity looks like when I see it coming people. And this right here is a calamity if ever there was one: Days, if not indeed weeks, of really hard graft!
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Grapho's Face

I took photographs of the outfit, Natural Things, v.01, which Grapho has designed, to upload onto Flickr today. And I noticed something quite bewildering: Grapho looks like my father. Well, not my father, as I knew him, obviously. But, as he was as a young man, to judge by the many photographs of his youth that I have seen over the years.

What is bewildering is that I did not notice this during all these past days where I have been Grapho in SL, sometimes 6-7 hours a day, hammering away at the outfit. Maybe I was too busy working , maybe it is the light in there - but the truth of the matter is that I only noticed it when I opened the photos in photoshop to crop them.

Grapho has been working on his appearance quite a bit of late, so we have been popping open the appearance editor every so often. Another thing is that in order to be able to design garments for women, Grapho also had to create a female shape to try them on. This latest manifestation of his is largely the result of my switching back and forth between the sexes, with that radio button down there, trying to create a truly androgynous avatar for the sole purpose of photographing some of the clothes with that. I thought it might be nice to have that ambiguous look for the unisex outfits, as this latest one has turned out to be.  Anyway, at some point in all of that experimentation I sort of liked what happened to Grapho and decided to save the shape as the new Grapho shape.

So, what resistant part of my psyche did not notice that what I had saved was actually a fairly close representation of my own father?

And it is also somehow significant that this all happened while I was switching back and forth between male and female, since the shape that I started out with was the default Alpha shape (who is a more or less plausible lookalike of me in RL). The one that I saved for Grapho was not the immediate mutation that SL gave me of course - that one was rather hideous. I continued to play with that for a very long time, switched back and forth between the sexes with that one as well, even saved some of the interim stages. But, when all is said and done, this male shape is a vastly mutated and transformed regeneration of Alpha. Generations away - but still.

And... my father did look like me.
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Feeling guilty!

Basically I am having a whale of a time furnishing the shop. I have decided to give my old clothes (I mean the ones that I had designed in my newbie days, of course - not my personal old clothes!!! hhh) an airing too and have been photographing them and rezing them on the small platform across the tracks. Aaaah yes! We have the subway there you see... Anyway, I am going to be selling the "old" clothes at vastly discounted prices. Considered dollarbies for a second but then upped up the price a bit. I mean they are perfectly ok, just not appropriate to what we are working on at the moment. In fact I put some on and they don't look at all bad with my tail. Why on earth did I not wear them I wonder?

Oh and today I also rezed a piano. It is a clutzy old freebie - only 16 prims - and I had to really re-work it. Changed all the proportions and everything and even added a prim here and there. And then a bit of spit and polish - and off I was. I have to say they have really extended the sheet music collection at Xstreet SL and I found something really wonderful to play... Nope - won't say what it is!

So that was all of the good news. Here's the bad news then: I am feeling dreadfully guilty about having such a good time playing doll's shop! What the hell is wrong with me? I keep getting this nasty feeling that I should be elseways engaged. Doing something "serious". Now, admittedly, there are a few things that I am procrastinating upon - like the metaverse journal and establishing all of the contacts and bla bla for that. And I want to submit something to the Siggraph art gallery which Grapho is supposed to be working on. I still have almost a month for that one but...

But anyway!!! Where is all this bloody guilt coming from I would really like to know? I am more horrified about my feeling guilty than whatever it is that I am feeling guilty of.

I am playing! And why should I have to justify that to anyone, starting with myself! It was perfectly ok to play before  - so what exactly is it that has changed now? Could it be because I am setting up a shop? Guilty about potential avariciousness or something? Afraid of turning into some kind of a rapacious businesswoman? I have no idea, I really and truly don't. All I know is that I am feeling bloody guilty about... What?


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My many designer person(a)s

Once the alts start interacting within a parameter, such as a joint design venture, it really all starts to happen. No longer are they lost and disjointed entities wandering the grid but suddenly they are, in fact, the diverse parts of me. They now have to learn to live with one another, they have to make up some kind of a psychic Gestalt, whilst still retaining their identities. And what better opportunity than whilst they are engaged in design work, given that they are all parts of a designer to begin with?
One good example would be the actual shop itself: I initially designed it very much along my usual lines - dark shiny surfaces, sort of Syncretia stuff really... It is what comes naturally to me - or should I say the Alpha part of me? Who is, of course, the predominant partner here, the one very much in control. Stuck in her ways with all of that. Tenacious and obstinate!

So along comes Xia, and after hanging out there for a day or so, she starts putting down huge red flowers all over the place. Now, I, Alpha, have yet to put down a huge red flower anywhere - Real or Second Life! And yet... What are all those bright colored Asian shawls that I tirelessly buy and never ever wear, all in aid of then?

Only Xia and I have been designing so far and we are in fact wearing our own outfits in the photo above. Furry and Grapho are still waiting for their turn. Furry's output I am really looking forward to. I was intending to design full Furry avatars but I am now beginning to wonder about that. Working with sculpties, which full Furry avatars really do need, is unbelievably difficult and I have a horrible feeling that my building skills are nowhere near being up to that level. So, what I think Furry will do is design garments and attachments around other designer's Furry avatars, such as the wolves of Leben Schnabel, and then put landmarks of the stores into the purchase box. At least initially, this is how I think it will have to go. And later we will see.

And Grapho? He is wearing more or less normal garb here but actually he has some strange ideas also. Such as designing a biological avatar.

And Xia? Well, she is sticking to the floral theme, as you can see here. She has worked for almost a full week on this one and she has called it "Bonsoir Monsieur Labisse" - after a French surrealist painter whom my mother liked a great deal and who painted women not clad in flowers like Xia did with her skin here but the faces are similar somehow. Well my mother liked him - I, Alpha, cannot stand the guy's paintings. And yet, here is Xia, paying tribute to a painter whom Alpha does not care for at all? How weird is that? But then (thankfully) she has another one in the works and this one she wants to base on Rousseau, who is a favorite of mine as well. So, again, if I am such a dark/shiny surfaces person how come I love Rousseau? Ah... But Rousseau is dark too isn't he? Don't let all of that foliage fool you for a nano second... And so, of course, is Labisse.

So, one way or another I can see one undercurrent of me both in her and myself (Alpha) - but two very different ways in which it materializes. One is the one I already know, that I have worked with all of my life - "my style", if you will. The other one is as yet unfamiliar to me. Highly so, in fact.
Yes, this is beginning to become a very bizarre journey indeed. And a good one too, I think.
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This is quite a steep learning curve...

I am now up to my eyeballs in designing outfits for alpha.tribe. And it is really not very easy.

The skins are based upon a template, so thanks to the generosity of Eloh Eliot, that part has been OK up until now. (I do have a project in the works though, where I believe I will really be up against the wall with the skin layer as well :-\). The Eliot skins have beautifully detailed features as well as subtle shadows and highlights, onto which I have been superimposing my own tattoos. And then I play around with the make-up colors and the skin color and Bob's your uncle pretty much.

When it comes to the garments it is a different proposition altogether. Needless to say, I have been educated through enraptured observation of the output of the likes of June Dion; the mistress of the perfect hem and seam, the utterly aligned texture, where everything is wonderfully crisp and sharp, the colors well defined, the shadows and highlights perfect. Of course I am not presumptuous enough to aspire to that level of quality - at least not without months of hard graft. But I do want to have a modicum of the finesse, which the high caliber clothes designers of SL display in their work, in mine as well.

So, I keep wandering back and forth between AvPainter, Photoshop, and Second Life trying out and trying out and trying out. And I hate to admit this but nothing that I have made so far even comes close to the quality that I would ultimately like to see in my clothes as well. It isn't about ideas here, those I have. It is entirely about craftsmanship.

Point in case: This one here. From a distance it looks more or less acceptable I suppose. Now zoom in. What do you see? Very bad distortion on the upper ends of the boots for one thing. How do the "pros" get this to work I wonder? Where their textures do not become distorted upon the avatar's geometry? Second boo boo? Well, the texture on the prim collar is way too small in comparison to what is right next to it. I did fix that after I saw it in this photo though... Next? Well, the texture on the inner side of the skirt segments is not aligning to the hem, is it? It is off by just a tad, but that was certainly enough to make me run back in and re-align it. I am thankful to be able to say it is now aligned. Phew... So, some of the errors I could fix but the boot tops keep me befuddled still...

And yes. While we are speaking of boots:

These are all perm boots which I purchased at XStreet-SL. The actual designer is called SusieQ Inglewood. So, all I did was add the "spurs" and re-texture them. I think it took me the better part of a day to get this far and looking at them I can see that I still have a ways to go... Big time. I guess if I had had a solid texture it would have been easier, but the ensemble calls for a pattern.

Although it does frustrate me I am enjoying the learning process. I have never really worked with anything this highly detailed before. And it feels really really good to be challenged. To acquire a new skill. More than a skill really - an attribute. Patience, I believe it is called...