virtual sushi

I’ve been away for awhile, and I apologize for that. Yes, there is another world out there, folks, and I got stuck in it, virtually ‘immersed’ ya might say. I had been working diligently on my memoir until a few weeks ago when I hit a patch of kryptonite and the old cosmic cloud servers went down, the creativity cable short-circuited, brain went on the blink. Thank God, though, cuz I thought for a while there it was me, a mind on the brink.

To while the time away when the words weren’t flowing, I returned to a problem I’ve been trying to solve for a couple of years now. How to make heartbreaking comics of staggering  beauty without working up a sweat and wasting several light years on each panel? I’m not unlike Andy Warhol in that regard; when he was asked why he took up filmmaking he said, “Because all you have to do is push the button.” We’re talking comics based on Second Life avatars and virtual scenery here, though; so it’s no easy task.

Today it all came together for me. Through a series of miracle ingredients I came up with a style that is perfect for my work, and it takes me all the way back to my days as a painter in New York. Yep, I was a Pop artist in Manhattan during the Warhol era, even used to hang out at Max’s Kansas City with the Factory Workers to unwind. Just like comin’ home, baby. Now I can get started on that graphic novel I’ve been writing off and on for a few years, called Chromium and Juliette, a tragicomedy. :-)

Click image to enlarge..

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the endless swagger of kanye west

kanye west








love these new cinegraphs. basically hi-def video loops saved as gifs, they fall somewhere between a photograph and a video, and have been popping up in recent days as a new art form, making their way through the interland. this one features hip-hop icon Kanye West, brimming with swagger, which is part of the job description. gonna dig up some more of these and post ’em now and then.

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a bunny tale

Don’t get around much anymore, either in the real or the virtual worlds; I seem to be  under a kind of self-imposed house arrest (self-induced hypnosis?) til I finish my memoir, which may be at least another month or two. In the meanwhile, virtual life goes on within me and without me. I do miss hanging out with my virtual friends, though, and am determined to break away from writing a bit more often to do that very thing. A man can’t live on words alone.

So I decided to celebrate my fourth rez day recently by dropping in on Help Island Public, the place where it all began for me as an avatar. For the first year or so that was my landing spot whenever I logged in, so I thought I might stop by and chat with old friends. But, alas, I didn’t recognize a single virtual soul. Kind of sad, really, like going back to your home town and discovering everyone you knew had either died or moved on. The transitory nature of existence, I guess.

But while I was there I spotted a most amazing avatar, a big stuffed rabbit with button eyes that apparently had captured everyone else’s attention as well, because the group chat was all about mesh. I suddenly realized that this was the first example of a mesh build I had seen and to be honest, it blew me away. In the photo above, you can see the classic avatar build in the avis to the left, and the amazing detail in the rabbit on the right. Click  photo for closeup view.

Kind of ironic that I happened to witness the future while celebrating the past. I have no doubt after seeing this that mesh will change the landscape in a very short time, so much so that by the time I’m five, I’m sure I’ll have a lot more than a stuffed rabbit to play with. The rabbit avatar is called Flufee, btw, made by Loki Dancer and available from Dirty Lynx, a part of Bytegang in Second Life.

Watch the video trailer from Dirty Lynx:

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angels will be angels

Like humans, avatars have feelings that are not always in sync with their behavior; and when they fall short, both are forgiven by their creators, who understand them all too well. (Click photo to stand next to her fire)

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the streets of paris

By Camille Topaz

I must admit, I had a rocking good time wandering the streets of Paris with my dear friend, Thirza Ember. What made it even more satisfying was the fact that she really knows her way around town (as well she should… her own personal connections to that magical city run very deep). We were there to visit some of the places Chrome had once visited and/or hung out in, and so we went on a kind of virtual tour, following the trail of his wanderings as a young artist and jazz fan. Thirza has since written about our escapades, complete with her own photos, in her latest post, ‘Round Paris. An example of her photographic talent is seen in the photo above, where she and I are seen standing in front of the new Blue Note Cafe. That’s me on the left (bank).

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light and shadow

Wow. Love those light and shadow effects in the new SL viewer. Lots of fun to play around with, and the results are smashing. Just shot a new comic strip using them for the first time, and voila! Vanilla came out looking like a rock star, especially in that new hairdo.

After looking back through my flickr archives at some early photos, I couldn’t believe how far we’ve come. When I say ‘we’ I mean the combined efforts of Linden Lab, skin designers (in this case, Ethan74 Rumpler of Mojo), hair designers (Mirja Mills of Zion), sunglass makers (Rohal Schnyder of Role Optic) and last but not least, myself.

I’ve been tweaking avatars for almost four years now and think it’s safe to say we’ve moved beyond the cartoon stage of SL avatars, and won’t have to worry about passing through the uncanny valley as you might in other MMOs, or as in many 3D rendering programs. It’s now possible to have an avatar that looks and feels ‘real’; that is, alive.

What I’ve learned through all of this is that it’s not so much about realistic detail as it is about subtle and creative nuances: artistic modeling through the appearance mode or  sculpting with numbers; and now, using dynamic lighting effects to bring the life and personality of the avatar out of the shadows, so to speak.

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full circle

My Very First Exhibit in Second Life

By Chrome Underwood

Strange how things happen. I had been asked to move my studio and gallery to make room for a So-Cal college consortium that was about to join the Santa Barbara City College education community inworld, and since I’m an ‘artist-in-residence’, I didn’t have a whole lot of say in the decision. I began looking around the neighborhood for a new location, to be nestled somewhere in between my neighbors Maya Paris, Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield.

In the process of searching the campus, though, I came upon an amazing sight: my very first exhibit in SL, still standing exactly as it had been several years before. It was a selection of photos, the essence of a half year spent wandering the metaverse as a gypsy photographer. Just a few weeks earlier, I had stumbled upon the photos I had taken as it was being built by my old friend Sal Morales. A flood of virtual memories came washing over me. My, how time flies; especially for an avatar.

How long have I been in this world? Almost four years now. Sixteen in Linden Time; four in Earth Time. Hell, that’s how long it took Mick to get his Bachelor’s degree! But what will I have gotten out of my four years in Second Life? A Master of Virtual Arts degree, perhaps, with a major in Virtual Identity and a minor in International Consciousness.

But it does look like a kind of turning point for me; my work has come full circle and I’m now fully engaged in bringing it out into the world. I’ve been working on my half of the upcoming double memoir, The Edge of Everything, which tells the harrowing tale of my better half as he walked the glowing coals of planet earth. My adventures as a wandering gypsy and then a working artist will round out the story and provide a much-needed happy ending. Mick owes me one for that.


Photo, top: Chrome standing at the site of his first exhibit at the Santa Barbara City College campus in Second Life.

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on the road (again)

By Mick Brady

Writing a memoir is like climbing the Matterhorn. It’s a hell of a long haul to get to the top,  but when you do, you get to sit around the campfire and tell all yer wildest of wild tales, with the added bonus of seeing all these crazy things you went through from a completely new angle, as though you were another person when it all happened. Which, of course, you were… if you’re worth your salt at all and maybe grew a little along the way. There were moments, I swear, when I felt like an anthropologist studying the natives of Samoa, I was that foreign to me.

To heighten this dizzying sensation, all the while I’ve been writing this tall tale I’ve been re-reading many of the books that played a role in how I lived it – books that actually got right up in my face and told me what is. Books whose authors and characters whispered in my ear in the dark of night; who woke me from my dreaming and drew me into the unfolding of their own delicious dreams. I followed them willingly into their darkest secrets; they shone their flashlights into mine without a peep or a protest from me. I was a dream traveler.

The book of all these books, though, is the authentic Beat Bible: Kerouac’s On the Road. A crazy mad book that blew the top of my head off when I was but fourteen years old. It catapulted me into the wide open world at breakneck speed. It took my breath away. I had no idea that life could be swallowed in one gulp, that you could careen around the world like a billiard ball; that you could kiss the sky on the fly and leave without saying goodbye. Mad, bad, beautiful, sad, and glad ta know ya Jack Kerouac.

But times have changed. The frenzied young men cast in the amber of this book are now very different creatures to me than when I first encountered them. I see their tragic beauty in a new context; they are lost souls; brave, crazy, damaged; they are self-obsessed beautiful losers, in love with the world and all it has to offer, but with a brutal kind of love, the love of someone who cannot love themselves. In short, they were everything I was at that age, but I lived to tell a very different tale. I wish there could have been happier endings for them as well.

After his days of careening through the Beat scene, Kerouac retreated to the comfort of  his mother’s home and drank himself to death at the age of 47; Cassady died of a possible drug overdose while walking along the railroad tracks in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He was 42 years old. I would likely have met a similar fate had I not turned myself in at the sheriff’s office – that is, rehab – and accepted the truth that turned my life around.

I still cherish their works, though, much as I cherish the Greek tragedies. In fact, I’ve been reading the LoA cloth-bound edition of Kerouac”s road novels (On the Road, Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, et al), complete with a sexy red marker ribbon, just like the King James version of the Bible. Praise be to Kerouac. May he rest in peace.

Photo: Jack Kerouac in Tangiers, by Allen Ginsberg

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start spreading the news

By Quintessential Flux

An exciting moment for me, actually: finally made it into the comic strip, and all it took was a few choice musings on the term “meme”, a word originally coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene to describe the viral spread of ideas throughout human culture. Speaking of viruses, why is it that only harmful effects are spread through the migration of physical viruses in the human species? Think of how much better life would be for humans if only positive viruses were allowed to travel and flood the population with health and well-being? Avatars could provide a model environment for such an enterprise…. any infectious disease specialists out there who could get us started on that project?

Read my new comic strip here.

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in living colour: Fiona Leitner

By Persia Bravin

Dutch artist Fiona Leitner is a woman who glorifies colour in her work. Her exuberant, vivid, and usually massive canvases feature multi-layered composite snapshots of SecondLife™ locations and sculptures which are almost rendered unrecognisable due to heavy post-processing and filter work in Photoshop. The end result is spectacular, eye-catching and most certainly-mood enhancing. Having a bad day in real life? Need an intense shot of feel good factor? Then Fiona’s vibrant work will act as the perfect antidote to the blues.

Her latest exhibition recently went on display at the legendary PRAKA Fine Arts Gallery which has earned itself a solid reputation for displaying the works of pioneering SL artists. “I am happy to be able to show here,” smiles Fiona, as she reveals a freshly created piece. “They offered me 3 huge spaces to fill, so…. that is always a challenge. When I was first asked I thought it would be just one room so I promised to show all new work. But now that I have three to fill, I am working my butt off to keep up to that promise,” she adds, laughing.

Comprising mostly abstract shapes, with sharply defined details set against swathes of intense colour, Fiona’s work has drawn huge praise for her unique style and technical abilities, but what does she enjoy the most about creating art pieces within Second Life? “SL is a great test platform for me,” she admits, as we walk across the huge gallery floor. “I can see how people react to my images and I can make a relatively low resolution image look like it is a giant museum piece – that is a kick for me.”

Like most artists, Fiona is reticent about her own talents and thinks carefully when I ask why people should visit this new exhibit. “I think if you enjoy abstract, colourful images it could be well worth ten minutes of your time,” she says modestly. “Sledge Roffo and Gitu Aura have some great work up in the rooms beside mine too. I feel I show my random, mental landscapes – like I am scanning the unseen and turning them into eye candy to be enjoyed by everyone!” Very delicious they are too, Fiona.

See Fiona Leitner’s latest work at the PRAKA Fine Arts Gallery

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