Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Deadwood story -- post partum

This short story -- originally posted on the Road to Deadwood forum -- was based on a conversation that happened after Dio helped deliver a baby (remember, Dio has had experience with various medical situations). The child was born to Pel Silverspar and his wife Kate. They happened to be near the Bella when labor started in earnest, so Katie was brought inside what was at that time a fancy cathouse to have her baby.

The fun part of this rp was that she was one of those mothers-in-labor who decides that it is all the husband's fault that she has to go through this crap. She heaped verbal abuse on poor Pel, and at one point announced that she was done and was just going to leave and forget about the whole thing, thank you very much. Meanwhile we also had a Greek chorus made up of the drunken idiots downstairs, chatting about things like what the baby should be named and commiserating with Taj (one of the Bella girls) that her bed had been chosen as the one to have the mess made in it.

In the discussion afterwards, Dio is talking with her friend Roku, an interesting character who divided her time between working sometimes as an upstairs girl and sometimes as a lady gunslinger. Roku had been hired by Dio for security at the No. 10.

Dio slouched in the big comfy chair downstairs at the Bella. She was dog-tired, and that fact really kind of puzzled her--after all Katie was the one who had done all the real work. But Dio was happy nonetheless, having helped bring a healthy little boy into this wretched vale of tears. She sighed as her eyelids drooped.

"Sure hope Katie didn't realize it's been a while since I helped with birthin a chile," she thought, as she drifted off, oblivious to the noise of revelry and celebration. Damn, you would think these feckless rascals had shit the watermellon themselves, the way they were carrying on. But it had all been that girl upstairs, now resting and drinking Dio's god-awful willow bark tea, who had been the herioine in this story. In many years of looking after people, this had certainly been one of the easiest, quickest deliveries Dio could remember. That gal Katie was just one of the fortunate ones, somehow designed by Providence to pop one on out with remarkably little trouble and drama.

The exhausted widow had dozed off for some time in the huge, smelly, overstuffed chair, when she felt something brush her arm, gently, tentatively, and she was startled awake. It was Katie, standing somewhat wobbily, smiling and glowing, and saying something that didn't quite register, but from the look on her beaming face, Dio guessed it was something happy and positive and she responded with a tired smile and nodded as she said what was hopefully an appropriate positive response. As she became more aware of what was goin on around her, Roku's tall form came into focus, leaning back against a post, ever watchful, seemingly unaffected and unconnected to all the celebratory hoo-hah that was swirling around the tacky splendor of the Bella's main bar-room. Dio could see Roku's gaze fix on her, their eyes met, and Dio could see what was running through her protective shadow's mind.

"Roku, shall we pull up stakes and head back to the 10?"

The tall figure nodded and followed as Dio creakily rose from the big chair, and saying her collective goodnights, pushed out through the big polished doors into the night. Dio strode silently down the street and wordlessly, instinctively stopped outside the No. 10's door. In concordance with their now well-established patterns of life, Roku slid past her without pausing, and went into the semi-dark saloon to check the corners, behind the bar and in the back room.

When Roku looked at Dio and nodded, the No.10's tired owner entered her establishment, lit another oil lamp, and sat at the lone card table.

Dio briefly pondered on how it really was a pathetic little shithole of a saloon. The proprietor of such a penny-ante, piss-ant little tin-plated operation shouldn't need to have "protection." It just seemed kind of silly and out of proportion to the relative importance of the place or it's owner.

Oh well, welcome to goddamm Deadwood.

Roku seemed quieter than usual. Finally, she dryly commented, "Kate was lucky you were around. Where the hell are all the goddammed doctors when you need them?"

"Hell if I know," the older woman replied. "We got more of 'em around here than ticks on a short legged hound in tall grass. You would think folks could find one when the need arose."

Roku snorted derisively. ""Specially at night. None of 'em around at night. And that's when folks get hurt most."

Dio smiled slightly. "Well to tell the truth I kinda think that some folks hereabouts don't really trust the bastards all that much. Seems like a fair number of em would rather have me lookin after 'em than trust one o' the fancy-ass book-reading docs. Hell, mostly they seem to be good fer nothin' but bleedin', purgin' and pushin' pills o' dubious quality. Or pumpin' folks full o' laudanum."

Roku looked directly into Dio's eyes, her poker-faced expression unchanging.

"Don't flatter yourself. They only come to you because they don't have anyone else to turn to. You ever really been trained in medicine? No, they all just come to you because there is no other goddammed choice."

From anyone else, Dio would have taken this as an insult. Some people she might even have called out on such a comment. But coming from Roku, it was a gift, the gift of hard-headed realism. Roku, as far as Dio could tell, didn't have a romantic bone left in her body. Every ounce of pretense, every atom of bullshit had been scoured and burned away from this woman's heart and soul.

Dio nodded and smiled.

"Yep, yer probbly right Hon. Well, hopefully someday they'll have some better choices."

She yawned and stared out towards the street. "Roku, I'm beat. I need to get some rest...I'm gonna hit the hay."

Roku nodded. "yep. It's gettin mighty late for ye. Good night Dio."

"Good night, Roku. Be careful out there."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A story from Dio's childhood -- a gift from my father


This story is an edited and improved version of my contribution to the summer storytelling session that was held at the Falling Anvil Pub in Caledon the other night. It is the tale of how Dio came to be raised by her grandfather, Marcus Aurelius Kuhr, a former mountain man. I think it explains a lot about how she became who she is.

At right is a painting of actor Sam Elliott by artist Don Marco. ( if you care to learn more about Mr. Marco's excellent and interesting work, all of which is done in crayon, please visit his website).

I have put this picture here because when I imagine Papaw Marcus, the image in my head, more often than not, is pretty much Sam Elliott. I really hope that if someday someone does a cinematic version of these stories, they manage to get Mr. Elliott to play Dio's grandfather.

My name is Diogenes Aurelia Kuhr, and I was raised on the border of the Comancheria, in west central Texas, back well before the war of the Rebellion. I lived in a ranch house with my ma 'n well as my older sis, an’ my younger brother Heraclitus, who we called "Harry." He was about three years younger'n me.

But m' favorite person in the whole world was m' grandpa: Marcus Aurelius Kuhr. Papaw Marcus, he lived in a lil' shanty on the edge o' the family ranchera. He'd been a mountain man in his day, an’ by the time I was five, he was tryin’ to teach me to understand the kind o’ things that he understood -- things like stalkin’ an trackin’ an’ all.

Well, ye see, one day -- ‘bout a year after the Texican republic was formed -- I had gone a gatherin’ berries with Harry an' the hired woman, Cleo. Cleo was this real nice colored gal who had been manumitted, an’ she was paid somethin' t' help Ma with the cookin' an' housework, an' lookin' after us young'uns.

We was pickin’ the berries not all that far from the house, when all of a sudden, we heard this whoop! an’ the rush o’’ I look t’ see some Comanche jumpin’ up from the grass an dashin’ towards us...

Well, hell, twas on the edge o their stompin’ grounds, after all....we got raided sometimes twice a year...

Anyhow, Cleo shouts fer me to run like hell, whilst she scoops up Harry an’ takes to runnin’ herself. Now mind ye, I had been larnin’ about stalkin’ an' huntin from Papaw, so I figgered gettin’ away from someone huntin’ you was likely to be somethin’ simlar.

So I dodged 'n dashed like a rabbit, an’ then I found some brambles I could shimmy under, an’ I hid right well. It was much like the stalkin’ as papaw had taught me: they was a big rock in the brambles a'n I made sure I was lookin’ out from the side o’ the rock instead o’ over it; I was bein’ all quiet, not breakin' twigs nor rustlin' leaves about, an' breathin’ slow an soft.

Well, in a while I heard’ then shots...’ several Comanches rode by... of ‘em was wavin’ some cloth what looked like Cleo's dress...’ a’other was holdin’ Harry. Now mind ye, he was holdin the boy tight, right in front o’ hisself on the' it was tight but not like he was hurtin’ him. More like jus keepin’ him steady an’ they all rode off.

So I’ waited...

...’til I was sure twas quiet. Then I crawled from beneath them brambles an’run as fast as I could...back t’ the ranch house, where I tol' m' pa 'n grandpa what had happened. They already had their rifles out, and I took ‘em to where the Comanche had jumped us...

We found Cleo.

They’d shot her an' took her clothes, an’ then shot her so full o’ arrows she looked like a pincushion. At least, they din't take her hair. Papaw tol’ me they din’t like takin’ colored folks’ hair, bein’ as it reminded ‘em too much ‘o bufflo fur.

But they was no sign o’ Harry.

Papaw later assured me they probbly would take him into one o’ their know, one what had lost a chile. An’ they would raise him up as a commanche warrior.

An’ I reckon they's worse things.

But Pa...he was heartsick. That boy had been all to him, the very light o' his life. Now Papaw was rarin’ t’ go after the raiders, so he got his hoss, an’ fetched Cap Johnson from the next ranch over to go with him, an' they set off trackin’...followin’ them Comanche. Pa, however, he was too broken up to go. He just stood a while, watchin’ em ride' then we walked back to the ranch house.

An’ on the porch he turned t’ me an’ said:

"Goddamn you chile, why dint they take you instead?”

As he turned away from me, he added:

“Yer the one who oughtta be daid, not Harry"

An’ then he went inside.

An’ I sat on the porch.

When Papaw an’ Cap Johnson come back emty handed some time later, I was still settin’ thar.

Papaw said, "Why you settin’ here, Chile?"

So I tol’ him what Pa had said to me. Papaw din’t say nothin’ -- he jus’ picked me up an’ set me on his hoss, an took me o'er to his cabin. An’ from then on, I was raised by m' grandpa, Marcus Aurelius Kuhr.

Grandpa never said much to m' folks after that day. Pa took to his’ to drink. Ma and sis was busy takin’ care o’ him....they had no interest in the likes o’ me. So I was brought up by m' Papaw Marcus. I larned to shoot by the time I was 7. He taught me to ride, an’ track ‘n hunt. I larned to kill ‘n dress-out game. He taught me to play the fiddle, an’ to read the books that he had, which was a part of a Bible, some Shakespeare, an’ his copy o’ the meditations o’ Marcus Aurelius, the ancient Roman gent for whom he was named. Papaw 'n Cap Johnson also taught me how to fight from hossback, an’ how to patch folks up when they git shot or stabbed, an’ how to look after ‘em when they git sick, usin’ herbal remedies 'n poultices jus’ like the injuns do...

My Papaw Marcus taught me how to cuss 'n spit, an’ t' take no shit from any man alive.

An’ I consider m'self to be as fortunate as a woman kin be.

M' pa gave me a gift by leavin’ me into Papaw Marcus's hands...whether he meant to or not.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good stuff -- Kiergarten Armoury model 1874 Sharps rifle

I love getting a new toy, especially when it turns out that the item is as decidedly nice as this one. So many things in SL prove to be a real disappointment. To be honest, a lot of what is made in-world outright sucks. It's fun to get to review something like this that most definitely Does Not Suck.

It's my latest acquisition -- a model 1874 Sharps rifle, in caliber .50-90 (the "Big 50" favored by buffalo hunters), made by Kiergarten Armoury in New Babbage.

Kiergarten Armoury products are the work of Mr. Jasper Kiergarten. The vendor identifies this particular item as the "1874 Sharps Creedmore Rifle."

The use of the term "Creedmore" refers to the style of vernier tang sight that this weapon has mounted on the wrist of the stock, as well as being a reference to the fact that historically, the model 74 Sharps was used both as a hunting weapon and as a target competition piece at places such as the famous Creedmore range on Long Island.

Anyhow, back to the review: I gotta tell ya, this example of Mr. Kiergarten's work goes way beyond the "Does Not Suck" category, and is well into the realm of what is generally known as:


You know, most attempts at recreated historic firearms in SL range from fucking dreadful mutant travesties, to the occasional act of brilliance. There are not too many of the brilliant gun makers who really care about authenticity and detail, though Lock Mortlock and Caed Aldwych leap to mind. Well kids, I now have another gunmaker to look up to with starry-eyed admiration: Jasper Kiergarten.

Even the better gunmakers have things they struggle with. The shapes of pistol grips and rifle butt-stocks seem to frustrate many: they may get close but they are not quite on the money. Others struggle with shaping hammers and lock plates correctly. Well, holy shit on whole wheat toast, I want you to look closely at the action on this Sharps that Mr. Kiergarten has made. This is in the realm of museum quality 3-D modeling.

The shapes are correct. The proportions are correct. It's a fucking work of art.

And it shoots well. Nice flat trajectory--the sumbitch hits what you point it at, and does so over decent distances. I was shooting deer targets in the hills above Deadwood and was taking them down at 70 meters, which ain't bad for SL shooting. But the real joy of this piece is the look of it. The detail is super: octagonal barrel, tang rear sight, and double set triggers. At the same time, I will confess there are a few details I wish were different. One is that the trigger guard/loading lever on this version is brass, and I'm just not sure about that -- it seems most of the rl Sharps rifles I have seen have a steel lever. Also the color of the metal parts is a dull grey...I would kind of like it if they were blued (or on some parts, colored to represent case hardening) like the originals. But then I also realize that doing so would probably hide some of the detail and outlines of component parts.

The poses and anims with the piece are basic, but appropriate. Like many SL firearms, this weapon comes with two guns in the set: the one you attach to your hand and which is used in holding/firing mode; and a "slung" version. Something that I really like about the Kiergarten Sharps is that the latter version of the piece is attached so that it looks like it is actually slung over your shoulder -- not stuck in one of these goofy-ass-looking back scabbards that so many SL gun makers give you with their rifles.

For a woman sharpshooter, some serious adjusting is necessary to get it to look as right as possible when you are holding it and firing the piece. But Mr. Kiergarten states in his vendor information that he is well aware that there is an issue there, and that he is considering a version adjusted for female avies. So updates may be expected, and in fact, the rifle comes with an updater gizmo that will enable the buyer to get improvments as they are introduced, or fixes for when LL does another goddam dumbass update to the software that will inevitably break things like gun scripts.

There is one other thing about the weapon that I hope Mr. Kiergarten will change at some point: it would be nice if he were to offer a version with the Deadwood combat bullet in it. The version sold now has a bullet that works fine for target shooting (which is all I am likely to use it for) but will not interact with the Deadwood combat system. Mind you, I'm happy as a pig in poop with the gun the way it is, but I know there are people out there who would like to have a good-looking firearm like this that is set up for their particular rp community's mutual killing fun.

Jasper also makes two models of Martini-Henrys and a whole slew of revolvers. I gather he is also in the business of making artillery and other implements of extreme diplomacy, which I shall have to check out.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Headburro's reading list challenge

My friend Headburro Antfarm has tagged me in a challenge involving a list of books that are considered great, or maybe pretty darn good, or at least classic (which means some tinplated poofed-up goober in a baggy sweater with a doctorate in English lit thinks you should read it).

Headburro was challenged to go through the below list and and see which ones he had read, and which of those he loved. Then he picked five friends and called them out to do the same. I was tickled to see he picked me, though it seems one of the big criteria is having a blog, which I believe I have successfully proven is something any knuckle-dragger can do.

Anyhow, then I am supposed to hit up five people to do the same, and it becomes like one of those letters where if you break the chain, Something Awful will happen to your grandmother. Even though both my grannies have long since departed this vale of tears, I'm not one to risk pissing off the chain-letter gods. So here goes--keep in mind that if I read the book I will put it in bold print. If I read it and it made my nipples hard and changed my life, it will be in bold print and italics (and if they are RED then they are extra special to me: I just now decided to make the ones I am really super-duper fond of RED!):

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible (New Testament, anyway)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Phillip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (almost complete anyway -- I can't remember if read Coriolanus or not)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (I did read The Brothers Karamozov)
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce (I read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man then tried this one. Failed after the first few pages.)
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare (isn’t this redundant with the Complete Works?)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (abriged)

In reflection, many of these were things that I read, because I had to, or because you are supposed to have read them in order to be considered generally non-moronic. Some of the things I HAD to read for freshman english were, in fact, pretty damn spectacular. Others--meh, not so much, but at least I can say I read them. In general, I think I realzied that I hadn't read a lot of books that many people think are hot stuff. Sorry about that. I did mention something about actually being something of a knuckle-dragger didn't I?

Now here's the thing that really got me-- the books that were not on this list that I think should be:

The Decameron -- Giovanni Boccaccio
All Quiet on the Western Front -- Erich Maria Remarque
The Horatiao Hornblower series -- C.S. Forester
The Martian Chronicles -- Ray Bradbury
The Illiad and the Odyssey -- Homer
The Once and Future King -- T.H. White
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court -- Mark Twain
The Egyptian -- Mika Waltari
I, Claudius -- Robert Graves
The Foundation Trilogy -- Isaac Asimov
Dead Souls -- Nikolai Gogol
Spring Snow -- Yukio Mishima
The Trial -- Franz Kafka
The Last of the Mohicans -- James Fenimore Cooper
For Whom the Bell Tolls -- Ernest Hemingway
The Epic of Gilgamesh -- some ancient dude

And yes, I really really wanted to include "Bored of the Rings" as one of my books that should have been on the list, but then you would know what an absolute knuckle-dragger I actually, truthfully am.

Now then, for the five smart people I am going saddle with this task -- I call on O'Toole, Lason Hassanov, Klaus Von Wulfenbach, Zoe Connely, and Viv Trafalger to give it a shot.

Friday, August 21, 2009

RIP, USS Gage, APA 168

The USS Gage, 1944-2009

I'm probably one of about a half dozen people who gives a shit about this, but I was saddened to learn today that the USS Gage, APA 168, the last of the Haskell-class attack transport ships still in its original WWII configuration, was towed off to be scrapped on July 23, 2009.

So what, you may ask.

Well, the thing is, arguably WWII was the conflict that prevented humanity from turning down a path to a future that would have been utterly horrific and evil. Civilization was saved by a bizarre alliance that included the United States as a key player, and much of what the US provided was excellent technology--and not just fast planes, big bombs, and huge aircraft carriers, but prosaic yet necessary items: unglamorous things like reliable and sturdy two-and a-half ton GM trucks, a really good semi-auto battle rifle, and fleets of cargo and transport ships, some of which were built in a matter of days. The Gage was an important artifact of that struggle.

Attack transports like the USS Gage carried the troops and smaller landing craft to the staging points for numerous amphibious assaults. They got the men there, they put them in the water and sent them on their way. 117 of the particular version of transport ship represented by the Gage were built. As of this year, only the Gage still survived, essentially unchanged from her WWII appearance. A few others may still be out there, but they have been so altered as to no longer be the same ships that took part in the amphibious assaults of WWII.

The USS Gage was built under a United States Maritime Commission contract by the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation of Portland, Oregon in 1944. She was commissioned in November of that year, and then carried support units to a variety of destination in the south Pacific and took part in the invasion of Okinawa in March 1945. At Okinawa, the Gage sent ashore elements of the 4th Marine regiment and a Seabees unit. After the Japanese capitulation she was involved in duties related to the occupation and also the "Magic Carpet" operation in which she was one of the many US Navy ships that brought thousands of GI's back to the Untied Sates.

While battleships and aircraft carriers were rebuilt for ongoing service, and eventually many were saved as museum ships, ugly ducklings like transport ships were used up, sold off and scrapped. As for the Gage, by the 1950s she was transferred to the reserve fleet and sat there, rusting away and awaiting disposal.

At one point there was a group trying to save her as a museum ship. The Feds tried to accommodate these guys and assigned the Gage status as a potential museum ship and held off sinking or scrapping her. But the preservation group couldn't get their shit together to raise the money for the project.

Not many other people even got the importance of this. At one point a friend of mine tried talking to some people involved with a maritime museum in Oregon where the Gage was actually built. He hoped they might show some interest in trying to save her, but they were apparently too stupid for words and could barely comprehend what the fuck he was talking about. So he gave up. And everyone else has given up. The ship apparently got to the point that it was determined she was past saving. And on July 23rd, the USS Gage was towed down to Texas to be broken up for scrap. The only good part of the story is that some of her bits and pieces are being saved and will be used in the ongoing restoration of the venerable battleship USS Texas.

All I can say is I hope that the people of this country do a better job of remembering the men and women who built and crewed and sailed on ships like the Gage, even if they throw away the tangible artifacts of that generation's effort to fucking save civilization.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Deadwood story -- the dangers of cards

This is a new story, that hopefully will serve as an instructive lesson on why playing cards will lead you astray and get you into situations you didn't expect...

So ye say yer wonderin’ about how I became the proprietor o’ the famous Saloon Number 10 in Deadwood City, the place made notorious by the cowardly assassination of Mr. Hickok.

Well it was like this...

I was doin’ all right with the laundry. Actually more than allright. There are those who say that in a mining boom, the majority of the gold is found “from the grass roots up.” It ain’t far from the truth: actually diggin’ the yellow metal is hard, unpleasant and uncertain work. But providin' services 'n food, an' entertainment to them who are doin the diggin’ is a pretty sure bet. Yeah, it’s still had work, but ye stand a better chance o’ findin’ yer fortune.

So with what was comin’ in, I’d paid m’ debts an had enough resources to take on a couple helpers, a Celestial and a Irish gal, and then together we could do even more baskets o' soiled shirts an' whorehouse linens in the course of a day, an' that made us even more money.

So I had me a little bit extra to spend on a luxury or two. I got a wash stand fer m’ lil’ room in the back o’ the laundry: a real nice cabinet o’ light-colored wood, with a bar on which to hang my towel an’ face cloth, an’ a basin ‘n pitcher fer t’ carry out m’ mornin’ ablutions. Well sir, even after that, I still had some extra coin burnin’ a hole in m’ pocket, so I went to see m’ pard, Ron the gunsmith.

I mean, hell’s britches, a gal needs to spend a little bit on herself now an agin, right?

Git herself somethin’ pretty?

You bet.

Well, Ron had in his display case this damn fine lookin’ Griswold--a rebel-made copy of a Colt Navy. This one not only had the brass frame, which Ron had polished up real nice, it had bone grips, an' there was this fancy silver-washed engravin’ o’ lil’ flourishes 'n curly-cues on the metal. Twas obvious this had been an officer’s side-arm and somethin’ that had been greatly treasured by someone.

I jus’ HAD to have the piece.

Almost directly after I had made the deal and was standin’ there admiring that iron with Ron, along comes Carl, the remainin’ owner o the Saloon Number 10. I say “remainin” as his other partner had done took off an’ left him with the saloon, which was not doin’ well in the months after Mr. Hickok’s killin’. Folks would come in to look at the table where Bill was slain, but they warn’t inclined to pass an idle hour in the place. Bad feelin’s I reckon.

Anyhow, Carl from the 10 sees me cuddlin’ the Griswold, an he starts waxinelequent on what a fine piece it is, an’ inquires if he might buy it. Ron o’ course says no sir, it’s already been sold to this here lady, an’ Carl gets adamant with me that I should sell it to him. I get equally adamant that I shall not part with it fer any price, and one thing leads to another an’ Carl--who may have already been test samplin’ his wares that mornin’--says he would like t’ challenge me at cards fer the pistol. An’ I ask what will he put up against the firearm fer me to take should I win, an’ he thinks a' he up an decalres he will put his saloon up against it.

I look at Ron an' Ron looks at me. An’ I nods an’ says ok. Carl then says, allright missy, be at my saloon in half an hour, an’ then we shake hands an' he stumbles out.

So I turn to Ron an’ say, “Pard, would ye mind accompanyin’ me on this? I got a feelin’ this could turn out more ugly than I care to deal with on m’ own. An' Ron replies, “I would be glad to, Miz Dio, bein as ol’ Carl there, he is known to be an occasional cheat at cards...I was figgerin' I should observe 'n make sure he plays honest.”

At the appointed time we head on down to the Number 10, an' I tell ye what, the place was even more of a shithole than I had recalled. Dirty, grim, an’ cheerless. Carl had boarded up the back door that the assassin had used to sneak up on Wild Bill, an it was quite dark inside. The bar had no rail, the glasses 'n mugs was chipped an’ fly-specked, an’ the whole place smelt o’ blood, piss, puke, an’ stale tobacca smoke.

Carl, he steps up an' greets us most cordial-like, smiling at me though a set o’ irregular brown teeth. I return his salutation an’ I says, “what’s the game?” He says, “what do ye wish?” An’ I replies, "oh hell, Carl, I got things to do, let’s just cut fer it."

He shrugs an' says ok, an' then he hands the deck to Ron to shuffle it. Ron shuffles an’ slaps it on the center o’ the very table where Bill Hickok's brains 'n blood darkened the wood. Then Ron steps back to a advantageous position where he can observe the process, casual-like, but with good effect.

Carl nods an’ says, “After you Ma’am.” So I pull off a part o' the stack and show the bottom one, which proves to be a Jack o’ Hearts. Carl nods and pulls his part o’ the stack...’ he shows a deuce o’ clubs.

He looks at me an says, “Oh well, I woulda liked to own that iron. Tis’ a truly nice piece.” He tosses me the key to the front door an’ grins a bit. “The landlord likes the rent by the first o’ the month. He ain’t azactly overflowin’ with the milk o' Christian generosity, so if’n yer a gonna be late with it, I suggest ya hide well, an’ then claim later on ya was kidnapped or carried off by injuns or somethin.”

An’ he walks out the door, justa-whistlin’ like a man who ain't got a single goddam care in the world.

So I’m lookin around at this depressinlilshithole of a booze parlor, startin’ already to be thinkin’ on how I kin clean it up an’ make it look nicer with some more coal oil lamps an' some chromolithographs on the walls, an a decent’ I was already formulatin’ a plan to make it jus’ a lager beer saloon like I seen in Cincinnati in the German district, so respectable wimmen 'n young’uns could come in t' enjoy the place without fear o’ bein’ given offense by some whisky-soaked drunken idjit...

An’ I turn to Ron an’ say, “Pard, I am greatly obligated to ye fer bein’ here to ensure that he din’t cheat with the cards there...

Ron smiles a funny lil’ smile, looks around that wretched rat hole of a saloon, an' says to me, “Well Miz Dio, fact is, he did cheat...I saw him plain as day: he had that deuce ready in his palm an’ slipped it on the bottom of his stack when he cut.

I laughed, “You mean that wily ol’ cockchafer done cheated me into takin’ this piss-pot waterin’ hole off’n his hands?”

Ron jus’ grins an' says, “I shall ask Mr. Bu to send o’er some o’ his ‘nephews’ with buckets an’ scrub brushes, and I’ll fetch m’ carpentry tools. We may as well git started. Ya need to be bringin’ in some money right quick, if yer gonna be ready to pay that rent on the first o’ the month.”

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The intersection of storytelling and RP

There obviously is a growing element of the RP community that is focusing on their play as a context within which they can develop, advance and tell stories. I saw evidence that other elements of themed-sim society is acknowledging and even promoting this trend when I saw on the Caledon Library blog that JJ Drinkwater from the library and Aldo Stern -- pub owner and founder of the Clan of Seafarers and Storytellers -- is going to host a storytelling session featuring key elements of rp backtories. This will take place on August 24th at the legendary Falling Anvil pub in Tamrannoch, Caledon.

Storyteller and publican Aldo Stern in his establishment, the Falling Anvil Pub, which is, as far as I know, is the longest-continuously operating cultural venue in Caledon.

I have had the pleasure of being permitted to oversee some of Aldo's storytelling sessions when he has been unable to do so personally because of rl crap, and I always enjoy them. But this one particularly intrigues me as it is the first such session I am aware of where the emphasis is on encouraging rp folks to share key stories from their background narratives. It should be interesting and I sure as hell plan to be there.

Here is what was posted on the Library Militant blog:

"The Heart of the Tale: Key Moments from Your SL Roleplaying Stories
Summer Storytelling Session at the Falling Anvil, Caledon Tamrannoch
August 24, 2009 at 5:00 PM SLT

Sponsored by the Clan of Seafarers and Storytellers, The Falling Anvil Public House, and the Caledon Library.

If you create and tell stories utilizing the tools of roleplaying (RP) in Second Life, do you have a favorite character you have developed? Can you tell a tale that would help us understand who that character is and what motivates them?

A growing element of roleplaying community in Second Life is involved in “RP Storytelling” -- the use of rp to develop or advance plot lines for stories that cross over into written stories, to explore character interactions and relationships for these stories, and in many cases, to act out scenes from stories to be recorded visually. At the heart of a successful RP storytelling project are well developed, engaging characters, and in most cases, what makes a character work is their backstory. And at the core of that backstory there often lies a seminal moment -- a key story -- that provides essential insights into who the character is, and how they became who and what they are.

RP storytellers from throughout Second Life are invited to come to the Falling Anvil to tell a short tale that encompasses a seminal moment from their favorite character’s backstory.

Each tale should take no more than ten minutes to present, and will be presented in text form (no voice). If you wish to take part, please contact JJ Drinkwater or Aldo Stern to be be included in the lineup of storytellers. While pre-registering is encouraged, drop-ins are still welcome the night of the session and will not be turned away: you’ll just get added on to the end of the list and go in order you sign up"

Some of my favorite western images


Poker game at Lawman's Hall, Deadwood

Women wading in a stream in Nevada on a Sunday afternoon, 1880s

The three graces, me, Astolat and Sal in the Bella

Sadie Austin, daughter of a Nebraska rancher in the 1880s-90s (Nebraska Historical Society)


Friday, August 14, 2009

Hogwarts United: well organized immersion

Newly hired assistant librarian Diogenes Penthesileia Kuhr and Head Librarian Siorai Timeless in the library at Hogwarts castle.

Mind you, my heart will always belong to Deadwood, but I do like to go exploring. And do you remember how I was telling you about being intrigued by the application and orientation system being used at Hogwarts United, a Harry Potter-themed immersion rp environment? And I told you how I had gone through the process, applying to be a staff member, and I would let you know how it turned out?

Well, boys and girls, I got hired!

I am an assistant librarian working in the school library, with a special emphasis on looking after the restricted and "dangerous" collections, although I also have been called on to take the front reference desk and help students with their research needs. This was my first week and it's been a blast, as well as an interesting and enlightening experience.

I have been switching back and forth between Deadwood and Hogwarts, and so far it's worked out pretty well. I'm pretty much just wearing my formal Victorian ensemble, but without the over-skirt and bustle, so the changeover doesn't involve a lot of extra effort to switch wardrobes. Fortunately, wizards and witches being sort of eccentric folks to start with, this look seems to fit in pretty well. But I'll say a bit more about costuming later on.

First, back to the admission process. You may recall that I had to do a lengthy written application that included a well developed backstory (retired Auror with PTSD, looking for something useful to do). Then I went to an Out of Character (OOC) interview with one of the admissions people (a charming young lady who mostly focused on asking questions designed to determine if I had a clue about the canon or not). After that I went to an OOC orientation class with a group of other new folks, and we got a good review of how things work in this community.

Then I had to wait for my face-to-face interview.

After a few days I heard from Deputy Headmisstress Anastasja Barbasz, who set up and conducted the meeting in her lovely office in the castle. The interview was done in character, and was a fascinating melding of roleplaying and a serious examination of me, the candidate. With us both in character, Deputy Headmisstress Barbasz was fun to interact with: I assume part of the exercise here was to make sure that (A.) I can actually roleplay effectively, and (B.) I'm not some kind of mega tap-dancing douche. But I genuinely enjoyed it.

I seemed to have managed to convince Ms. Barbasz about the mega tap-dancing douche issue, because lo and behold, a week or so later (Headmaster was on vacation and so the process was a bit slower than it most likely usually is) I was informed I had been hired and was told to report to the Head Librarian.

This brought me into contact with Head Librarian Siorai Timeless, who was just an absolute delight as she got me squared away on how the library functions, and what would be expected of me. In this process, there were a couple of surprises, the most interesting of which was being informed that I would be working the front desk and helping the students. This shows that these folks had a lot of faith in me, thinking that I am in any way of a temperament or otherwise appropriately suited to work with impressionable young people. Either that, or there is a serious flaw in their interview system that let me slip through.

But one of the key things I learned from Sio is that if there is no actual notecard or flip-style"book" available from the library's shelves covering the topic that a student is studying, then I would get to roleplay finding them the book. AND if I so chose, I could make up some plausible title and related details about the imaginary volume.

WOOHOO! This was real fun as I chattered away at the students about books I invented such as "The Idiot's Guide to Quidditch," "Treasures of Transfiguration." and "Great Duels I Witnessed: or How in Baal's name did he do that?" I got a bit carried away on the dueling book, explaining in detail about how it had been written by a man named McKromsky who had been Europe's best known referee of magical duels in the last century. However, being as he was pretty thoroughly drunk at almost every wizards' duel he ever refereed, there were holes in his memory and a lot of what was in the book was simply shit that he had made up. I did however, tell the students that it was really fun to read. At first I just rp'd giving the kids a book to sign out, but then I found an old freebie volume with a reading anim in the inventory, so I started giving them that.

After a few days of this kind of book duty and just observing and reacting, I began to initiate a few minor situations, and soon had some pretty full blown rp conversations of a philosophical and dramatic nature going. I had a lot of fun with some students (including my old friends from Deadwood, Tallulah and Guru) and several of the staff, including Professor Diesel (one of the charms instructors) and Nyx Carnell, the arithmancy and transfiguration professor. Nyx was a really good sport, putting up with my rambling and pontificating long after he should have gone to bed, and he is, like many of the folks in this environment, really damn good at the art of rp.

One of the most interesting interactions I had was with the guy in charge, Headmaster Nikolaidis. Now, be honest: when you think headmaster of a wizard school, you think some old Goodgulf Grayteeth character, right? A benevolent, grandfatherly old sod with twinkling eyes, a beard the size of Honduras, and shuffling around in a grubby old bathrobe with stars glued to it, right?

This ain't that kind of headmaster.

He's younger than me, slim and all dressed in leather, sporting a neatly trimmed goatee, and dude! ...about as benevolent and jolly as Genghis Khan. This man is serious, hard as nails, and ready for any shit that might come down the pike. He had combat blades strapped to his legs and an attitude that was...well....let me put it this way: when I offered that I had heard that he had something of a sense of humor (not sure where I got THAT from) he stared at me for a minute and then said flatly that he "was not aware of having anything like that."

Damn. If Dio wasn't a tough ol' kakootza herself, I think she'd have crawled under a rock and waited for dark to fall so she could escape unnoticed.

But don't get me wrong -- I thought this was really appealing and engaging. You have to keep in mind that this version of Hogwarts is set about 10 years after the last of the Harry Potter books ends. It is a new world, and still certainly dangerous. I have heard from several people, including the headmaster, that there have been bad things happening, people getting attacked, and that many of the students--being the children of the deatheater generation--have some pretty intolerant tendencies going. It really struck me that this was a headmaster who would NOT put up with any nonsense or folderol, and who would kick asses and take names if he had to.

And yet, at the same time, he told me his main goal was to encourage "the students to learn from one another."

Fucking fascinating...

Canon is there, it is respected--but it is just a starting point. What is being done here feels like "Potter: The Next Generation." Hell, I seem to be oldest person in the goddam castle, at least so far as I can tell (though I am still meeting folks). Most of the staff are in their 20's and 30's. Look at the picture of Sio, the head Librarian: she's a very attractive young lady, dressed in a sleek but practical pants suit, nicely coiffed and with cool glasses. Lots of the other folks are a bit more traditional in gowns and pointy hats, but's not your granddaddy's Hogwarts. The castle itself has the elements you would expect--great hall, towers, moving staircase, cloisters, dungeon like classrooms--but it also has a clean and slightly modernized feel to it. It's not all dark and cluttered, which in reality is probably a function of keeping prims under control, but mentally, it's easy to think that it's all an aspect of this "new Hogwarts" way of doing things. You can also imagine it is perhaps the result of the general clean-up and repairs that had to be done after the big battle that happens in the last book and which undoubtedly did a good deal of damage to the castle.

The approach that is taken by the players is admirable. There are classes that the students attend, uniforms are worn, and points given and taken from the various houses. Intrigue and rivalries abound. The teachers have to make syllabi, recommend books, and present lectures and demonstrations. The students are given homework, and come into the library complaining about it. The school administration clearly has planned out what they need and what they can manage from a practical standpoint, and when they had all their staff slots filled, they sent out an announcement saying that no more new staff would be hired until next term.

This is really well thought out and people have made a commitment that is impressive.

Is this for everyone?

No, of course not. It is rather demanding of time and energy. I imagine a lot of people burn out pretty quickly. Casual guests cannot wander in and ramble about the castle (though they can in the adjoining Hogsmeade village). And it takes awhile to get into this. I think of myself as a pretty experienced and adaptable roleplayer, but when I first got in, I felt constrained to quietly go about my assigned tasks and at most, give or respond to polite greetings. I observed and listened, and people pretty much left me alone until I was ready to begin getting to know them a bit and engaging them a little. It all felt very very real in terms of how people adjust to new situations.

My guess is that you need to be one of those in-between personalities. If you're really shy, you might get into this and go for weeks or months without talking to anyone very much. Or if you're a rampaging psychotic attention whore, you're probably going to bump up against the wall of the existing community culture, and burst into a mass of flaming farts, after which you'll go back to your usual haunts and whine about how insular and "cliquish" those people in Hogwarts are.

But hey, that's life on the grid, right? Me, I'm going to keep at this and see where it goes. Like I said, I love exploring, but sometimes, you really can't learn much by just visiting a culture for an hour or two, and then hope to come away saying you understand it. When it is this complex, you have to live in it and try to be a part of it. And so far, I am really enjoying living in this environment, and I am grateful to the Hogwarts United folks for opportunity to try to be a small part of it and understand their rp community a little better.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Deadwood story: a scar to be proud of

This is a story that comes out of an impromptu RP situation that happened in the sim's early days. I told the tale on the fly at the founder's day storytelling session at Miss Addison's boarding house this last Saturday night, and got a kick out of telling it, so I thought I would polish it up a bit as a first-person story and tell it here. Once I committed it to text, I suddenly realized that combined with the previous story, it might give you the impression that I was responsible for accidentally shooting many of my friends and acquaintances. While that is not entirely untrue, I would like to point out that none of them ever died from it.

I jus wanted to tell y'all a story from when I reckon most o’ ye warn't here yet...somethin’ what would kinda give ye an ideer o’ what town used to be like back in the early days.

Now mind o’ the things what set Deadwood apart from other towns was how when somethin happened, it warn't just up to lawmen to take care care of it

Well, fer that matter, we din't have too many lawmen around back in those days...some times none at all.

But even so they was this one gang leader...a feller who terrorized other towns somethin' turrible...but he said one time he hated tryin to raid in Deadwood, cuz he said "when ye raid some other place, the folks stay inside peeking out their curtains waitin’ fer the lawmen to fix things. But in Deadwood, when ye make trouble, every man, woman, chile, dog an’ cat with a gun comes running tryin to kill ye."

Anyhow this is a story o’ that kind o thing, which made us sorta famous:

One day -- I’m thinkin’ twas in early November o’ 76 -- I’m on the street a’ talkin with m’ friend Lockmort...big bear of a man, ye know, an’ usually a peaceable feller. But as we was talkin’ we heard this commotion: "Some rascal is tryin’ to rob the bank!" somebody shouted.

"An’ they has taken a hostage!" someone else yelled.

"Who's the hostage?" says Lock.

An’ the feller who was tellin us this says, “Tis lil’ Geoff the orphan the feller has dragged him up to the second floor of the store next to the Red Bird, sayin’ he's gonna kill the boy if'n we don't give him the money out of the bank!!"

Now Lil’ Geoff was a young’un, mebbe 7 or 8 year old, whose Ma had abandoned him in town an' went off. Funny, good natured lil’ feller, he was. Matter o’ fact, Me an' Sepp done took him in later on, though we ne’er officially sought to adopt him as he had great confidence his Ma would be back fer him someday, an’..well...we jus’ couldn’t see fit to disabuse him of his faith in the woman what had brought him into this sorry, sad world.”

Well...anyhow, when we hear this about him bein’ the hostage, oh, you shoulda seen the look what come over Lock! His face went from its normal sunny an’ cheerful affect to looking like a sky with a thunderstorm a’coming! An’ he growled like a bear, an’ then roared, "I don't take kindly to no one harmin’ no young'uns!!!"

He right up and tears off like a mad bull buffalo, across the street to that store. Well, the bankrobber feller had locked the door, but o’ course that didn't stop Lock. Hell, it barely slowed him down. He threw hisself at the door like a big hairy cannonball an' smashed right thru it! He barreled towards the stairs in back and was startin’ up, when the robber popped around to the landing...then some shots rung out an’ Lock grunted an’ fell back clutchin’ at his leg! Now I had been not far behind Lock, plus there was this other feller who had gone into store right with us. This other gent went next, leapin’ o’er Lock’s sizable frame, an’ as he was rushin’ up the stairs then HE got shot an’ tumbled back...

Well, now I was mad. Not jus’ cuz o' this peckerhead holdin’ a lil’ orphan boy hostage an' settin’ to kill him, but cuz he shot Lock, who I really goddam liked. Real good gunsmith too. Cain’t tell ye how many enjoyable hours I have passed in the company o’ that gentleman talkin’ about firearms an’ studyin’ his various projects. So ye should understand I was sorta seein' red

I proceeded to jump o'er Lock an’ the other feller who’d been shot, an’ I started goin’ up them stairs m’self, firin’ as fast as I could. Now ye see, I had this Spencer carbine, which I had got, man number six: the miner, ye might recall. An’ with a Spencer, ye kin chamber an’ fire a round in mebbe 3’ ye got seven shots. So I commenced by lettin' off a couple o’ rounds as I was goin up towards the first landing, just to make him stay back. An’ when I got the landin’ an' could aim up at him, I used another four rounds as fast as I could lever ’em into the chamber an’ fire.

I shouted fer Geoff to get down, an' hoped he could do so. But I had no idea if he heard, cuz there was smoke an’ splinters an’ muzzle flash goin’...hell of a noisy mess.

Then with the one last round in the gun, I charged the rest o’ the way up the stairs... found I din't need it.

A couple o’ the shots I had fired in goin' up the stairs had found their mark, an’ the robber feller was a lyin’ dead as a goddam doornail...which made number 9.

Anyhow, there I was, jus’ all pleased with m'self, an’ I looked aroun’ fer Geoff, an’ there the boy was looking like a cat what ate the canary, a big ol’ grin on his face, all happy like...

...but a’holdin’ his leg...' he says with great enthusiasm, "Oh Miz Dio! You saved my life!!!”

...then adds somewhat plaintive-like, "but how come you shot me doin’ it?"

"Oh hell," says I, "let me look..."

Well, the boy had been hit fairly bad by a ricochet, so I bound it up an’ got him to Doc Alcott as quick as I could. As I was carryin' him o'er to the Doc's I tol' him he waa gonna have a dandy scar on his leg...

"REALLY?!!" he says, all excited like.

"Yep," says I. "Yer a gonna have a good story an' a scar to go with it, t' share with yer gran'kids."

Oh, and Lock an’ the other feller who got shot tryin' to help, we patched up as well, an’ they made it, I’m sure you will be pleased to know...

...but from that time on, lil’ Geoff loved to tell the story about "when Miz Dio saved my life an’ shot me all in the same day!!"

An' I have every confidence that some day, many years from now, he's gonna be settin' with a passle o' grandchillun' an' shall be happily showin 'em that scar an' tellin' the tale o' how I give it to him.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Retro Deals!!!

So you say you like retro?

Holy Moses in his Bathrobe, you are in luck! Betty Doyle of Ingenue, a good friend and well-known maker of first-class clothing and hair from the 1930s to the 1950s, has a lot of her way cool stuff on sale until the 14th of this month. Visit for the deals.

Pondering a purchase in the Ingenue main store on the Lo Lo sim:
Note that there is a "50%" off sign on the top of the vendor frame --
please keep in mind that not everything is on sale, so as you shop you
must look for this sign on each item to see if it is marked down or not.

Actually, Betty's sale is part of a sim-wide festival of savings on the Lo Lo sim where she has her main store. It isn't all retro on Lo Lo, but there are some great stores besides Betty's, including Carolyn's Jewelry, Mela's Skins and Shapes, Rose Petal Creations, A Piece of Candy, FD Decor, and My Precious Agnes Finney. Everybody is doing 50% off on selected items. And remember kids, that means NOT EVERTHING IS ON SALE.

So if you are a feckless goober and you don't see a 50% off sign on the item you want, but you buy it expecting a discount anyway thinking, "hey, maybe they forgot to put a sign on it," Do Not Come Crying to Me, cuz I will just tell you that you are in fact a feckless goober and I will have no sympathy for you. And don't go whinin' to the store owners either, cuz life is hard enough for those folks without you making big bambi eyes at them and all that.

So you want to see what I got for a grand total of 137 lindens?

Here it is at right.

And yes, you heard me correctly. Only 137 lindens for the hair and really cute 1940s dress (not including the shoes and glasses -- those I already owned). The dress is called the "Miss Lizzy" in royal blue (87 linden). That kick-ass hair is called "The Grable" and cost me a whopping 50 linden.

Yeah. I know...50 linden for some super hair.

How often have you given someone more than 50 linden as a tip for some really marginal service, or bought a second rate product for more than that, just because you felt sorry for them and simply wanted to help save them from a life of degradation as a virtual escort working at Blingtard Bob's Lag-Storm Mega-club?

Seriously, I hope you guys will go check this out. Remember the sale is going on right now, until August 14.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

3-D modelling and the future of virtual museums

Wandering through a 3-D representation of "Fallingwater"
in the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum of SL

I am intrigued by SL's potential as a means for creating and presenting innovative exhibits: the platform offers opportunities for museums and individuals to experiment with concepts that someday could contribute to the evolution of new approaches to presenting exhibitions. I have hopes that these new approaches could enable museums to engage expanded audiences and perhaps even avoid descending further along the path to irrelevance. So far, some interesting steps have been taken, including a recent new arrival on the SL museum landscape, the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum of SL in Dilemma City.

Whenever I hear about some new museum or exhibition popping up in SL, sooner or later, I drag myself over to have a look. I had been reading about the FLW installation for a little while and finally decided to go see it. Mind you, I have a love-hate relationship with museums, both in meatspace and in-world. I love the idea of what museums can be and what they can do. And I usually hate actually going to them and wading through the poor execution of what a museum can be.

In fact, I am a terrible museum goer. I always refuse to follow the path that the exhibit designer was trying to make me follow, I don't like reading labels, and most attempts at high-tech interactives just irritate the fuck out of me.

I like a museum that lets you get a close look at great artifacts or art within a context, that tells stories well, that transports or immerses you in another time and place, and/or that has well-trained friendly, intelligent, LIVE people for you to interact with.

Cats are good too (although the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West is the only museum I've seen that really pulled that one off successfully).

Anyhow, ever since JJ Drinkwater at the Caledon Library pioneered the 2-D panel/notecard-and-link giver style of SL exhibition, various groups and individuals have taken small steps in advancing the concept of virtual exhibits further. An area that holds perhaps some of the greatest potential, of course, is immersion exhibits. You can try telling your story with 2-D panels and text on the walls of your virtual exhibit space, but it lacks the impact of telling that story within a three-dimensional recreation of a structure, an historical or literary environment, or even another world.

There are some immersion environments in SL that work pretty well. I think Deadwood is one, of course, although it is more or less "inspired" by the historical town, rather than being an accurate, literal recreation of the actual historical built environment. With its people and the detail it encompasses, it can give you a certain "feel" of the historical environment. But the realities of sim size, prim limits, accommodating vendors and residents, and the limited availability of detailed information about the actual historical environment necessarily impose limitations on detail, scale, and appearance.

Consequently, I was interested in seeing the FLW museum, because I understood it included some good three-dimensional recreations of some of his most important designs. I wanted to see how it worked. And once I got there, and found my way past the initial conventional exhibit elements with big pictures and some relatively uninformative notecards, I thought it worked ok.

There a number of structures including Fallingwater (pictured above) and the wonderful Robie House. These recreations appear to be based very closely on the actual structures in terms of scale, detail and layout. It would seem that the actual plans were used in creating the representations of the structures. And other than feeling like you are standing in a series of sterile models, rather than walking through living architectural environments, it was kind of cool being able to stroll about the Robie House and peek in the closets (which were empty of course) and explore the various levels of Fallingwater. I tried to imagine people living in these houses -- cooking breakfast and dressing for cocktails with elegant friends -- but it was kind of hard to do so. They just lacked life. There was no story being told.

And that's ok, because after all, this was an experiment. Everything we are doing in this silly world is still an experiment, and each experiment is usually just one piece of the puzzle. But I will say that I think the curators of this three-dimensional show certainly succeeded in taking the plans of these architectural masterpieces and translating them into a more engaging form than the 2-D plans would have been.

I won't even get into the issue of whether or not the creators of this exhibition covered the necessary bases in getting permission to reproduce FLW's buildings, or if they even really had to do so. I have no idea what they did in the legal department and it's not really something I give a rat's ass about one way or the other right now. Nor will I get into some of the issues about scale -- I assume they made the buildings to a realistic scale, which of course leads to some problems with SL avatars (most of whom, if transposed to rl, would be over seven feet tall and possessed of shoulders, breasts and other body parts of outsized dimensions that won't fit through accurately scaled doorways). But I will say that I believe that the folks who built this installation took an interesting step here.

Now the next step is to take this accurate recreation of structures and environments, and marry it to the lively storytelling and detailed furnishings and accessories of a Deadwood. Then I think we're going to see something in-world that will genuinely advance the cause of virtual museums.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Yeah, I shot the sheriff" -- conclusion


At right, the key figure in this story: Hawk Auebach. This image was taken some time after this story takes place. You can tell that because ol' Hawk is really cleaned up at this point. No kidding. You shoulda seen him when he first came to town!

Old Bill’s eyes narrowed. “That Hawk feller, he’s outside?”

Dio looked up from bandaging Pel’s leg. “Goddammit. Me an Bill shoulda kilt him that last time...woulda saved ever’one a whole lotta grief...”

“What’s that?” Sheriff Dazar Perun looked confused. “What last time? What did he do that you shoulda killed him for, Miss Dio?”

Mahaila was now visibly upset. She turned to the sheriff, hoping she could clarify the situation without making it worse: “You see Daz, Hawk was just...”

As Mahaila’s voice trailed off, the ever helpful Mrs. Kuhr interjected, “That goddam rascal Hawk was bein rude to Mahaila, tryin’ to take liberties with her.”

“WHAT?!!” yelled Daz. His face turned bright red, and the others in the room could tell he was ready to explode. On the frontier, even in a primitive mining camp like Deadwood, society at large generally took a very dim view of any man who tried to force his attentions on a respectable woman such as Mahaila. In this case, Daz Perun’s reaction was understandably ten times worse, being as Mahaila Bertrand was his sister.

“It ain’t jus’ a problem with Miz Mah, Sheriff,” said Jesse. “He be rude to all the women!”

Mahaila began trying to explain, “He came into my office...”

Daz looked at her with a fierce expression. "Why in hell was he in there?"

“Oh he was probably drunk,” offered Old Bill. “He gets drunk n’ causes all sorts of problems...but only with the women, he don’t fool with the men.”

Dio could see where this was going. “Pel, I suspect I am gonna have to be steppin’ outside in a minute or so.” She handed him another bottle of whiskey. “Here...if the pain starts troublin’ ye, have a swig o’ this an’ jus’ hold on ‘til I get back.”

Pel gratefully accepted the bottle, and looked at it for just a moment. He then pulled out the cork with his teeth, spat it on the floor, and commenced drinking.

Meahwhile, Daz was getting even angrier. “That son of a bitch! Insulting my SISTER! Where the hell is he?!!”

Old Bill glanced out the Bella’s door. “He’s still out in the street there by the Gem, Sheriff. He don’t seem to be in no hurry to go anywhere...”

Daz Perun charged into the street, followed by his sister, who was now truly concerned that she had set in motion a chain of events that would end in violence.

“You comin’ along too, Dio?” asked Old Bill.

“Reckon I’ll be there presently, Bill.” Dio answered. Old Bill nodded and went out into the sunlit street.

Dio was retrieving her new double-barreled shotgun from behind the Bella’s bar when she heard Marshal Rau shouting for her and Sal to come out. They looked at one another and without a word, they proceeded from the Bella’s dark interior into the windy street. Cold weather was already setting in, and the frozen ground and stones of the street crunched beneath their feet. The two women walked over to the area in front of the Gem’s broad front porch. There, they found a small crowd gathered in a circle around Hawk Auebach and Dazar Perun.

Daz was not a terribly big man. He was muscular, but somewhat slightly built and like his sister, not especially tall. This made his antagonist, Hawk, look even bigger than he actually was. And Hawk was, in fact, a hugely imposing creature to start with. He stood at least a head taller than most of the men present. He was broad-shouldered, with massively muscled arms, and huge, grimy hands. And he definitely was not a thing of beauty to behold, His clothing was rumpled and stained, and he exuded a ripe stench of someone who had not bathed in a very, very long time: a miasma of stale sweat, old tobacco and rotten teeth. His hair and beard were a long, tangled mass that framed a ruddy, filth-spattered face, with burning dark eyes and a bulbous, pock-marked nose.

He was laughing at Daz.

“Yer a skinny-looking lil’ feller t’ be accostin’ me,“ he chortled. “What did I do now?”

Marshal Rau motioned for Dio and Sal to come over and explained why he had called for them: “Miz Dio, I figure we’re gonna need ya to be doctoring somebody or other here before long. Sal, is that the fellah who shot your bartender?”

“Sure as hell is,” a replied Sal quietly.

“AND you made the mistake of insultin’ my sister, ya miserable sonfofabitch!” hissed Daz. The Sheriff drew back his fist and let fly with a punch to Hawk’s face. The big man took the blow to his chin with barely a flinch.

Everyone in the crowd looked on, visibly impressed.

After a moment, Sand broke the silence.


That one word pretty much summed up everyone’s reaction. It was a good punch, thrown with everything Daz could put behind it. Mahaila commented later that she had never, ever seen her brother hit a man like that without the recipient of the blow going down.

Dio moved over next to the marshal and made a quiet suggestion. “Sand, I do believe ye might wish to simply go ahead an' shoot the big ol’ cockchafer an’ be done with it...though there may be a risk it’ll only serve t’ irritate him further.

Meanwhile, Hawk looked Daz in the eye and laughed again. “That all ye got, sissy?”

Daz was holding his hand, which obviously hurt a great deal. "Jesus, you’re ugly...and I think your face is made of stone...”

Hawk grinned, “This face been thru more than you can ever think about giving me...”

Sand turned to Dio and noted dryly, “If I try to arrest him, I don’t think he’s likely to come any suggestions?"

Although Dio had no particular wish to see anyone get killed -- even Hawk -- she figured that the threat of being shot might make him more cooperative. Therefore, Dio loudly responded to the marshal, “Well ye kin always say ye shot him whilst he was escapin’ or somethin’...or do I gotta shoot him for ye? After all, he done shot Pel the bartender at the Bella...he’s a violent cuss, an’ he’s more’n likely gonna get plugged sooner or later. Might as well save ourselves some trouble an’ get it over with.”

Sand seemed surprised by this suggestion: “Ok, woman, settle down now.”

Dazar sighed and drew his gun. He was quite seriously debating whether or not he should just shoot the man where he stood.

Suddenly, Mahaila stepped in between Hawk and her brother.

“Wait, please,” said Mah. The crowd was dead silent, except for Jesse from the Bella who was quietly praying for everyone involved.

Hawk, smiled at Daz through the undergrowth of his beard. “Go ahead and shoot me. I got no gun on me to defend m’self. But yer never gonna find m’ gold.”

Mahaila ignored Hawk’s odd statement and went on: "Nobody should be getting shot right now. This is a perfect time to use our actions to show we are serious about law in Deadwood.”

“I’m not going to be shooting him, Miss Bertrand,” replied Sand.

“They’s a better than even chance that I won’t either, Mah,” added Dio.

Mahaila looked over her shoulder at Hawk and went on. “We’ve been talking about making this a more civilized place. Well, let’s act like it. Why not a trial? Sure it would be makeshift, as we don’t really have a justice system set up yet......but couldn't we do some sort of bail or something?"

Dazar's eyes traveled up and down the big man's form, and he concluded that indeed, Hawk seemed to have no weapon on him -- he must have tossed away the gun he had used to shoot Pel. And Daz wasn’t about to gun down an unarmed man. “Mahaila, you can step aside. I ain’t gonna shoot a man when he’s not carrying.”

Mah smiled and did as Daz had asked. As soon as she had done so, her brother turned his pistol in his hand and swung it at the side of Hawk’s head, striking the troublemaker on the temple with the butt. Hawk staggered back several steps and dropped to one knee.

“I don't need your goddamn gold,” hissed Daz. "And if you ever go after my sister I’ll kill you...”

The look in Hawk’s eyes was one of pure murder. He stood up, his fists clenched and he took a step towards the Sheriff. Mahaila gasped and retreated back towards Sand.

“Oh satan's huge red testicles,” hissed Dio. She wasn’t about to kill an unarmed man either, but she figured a warning shot might give him pause and keep him from ripping the sheriff into small pieces. She pointed her new shotgun at the ground in between Daz and Hawk, thumbed back a hammer and let go with a blast to the frozen ground.

A ten-bore shotgun with a three-and-a-half inch chamber holds one hell of a load. And when that load is discharged, it makes one hell of a noise. It certainly got Hawk’s attention, and Dio was pleased to see him stop in his tracks and look at her with astonishment. She was much less pleased as Sheriff Dazar Perun made an odd grunting noise and fell to the ground clutching at his leg.

“Wrong man, dammit,” noted Sand.

“Thanks, Sand. I mighta not realized that if ye hadna pointed it out,” answered Dio.

Jess had dropped to her knees and was praying harder than ever. Mahaila looked to be in shock, and then she screeched, “DAZ! Oh my GOD Daz is shot!”

Old Bill, like many of those present had not realized what had happened. He looked at Sand and said with disgust, “Damn marshal, that wasn’t too good o’ shootin’ there.”

Sand was deeply offended: “Hey! I didn’t shoot him.”

“No, I did, goddammit,“ said Dio.

Hawk shrugged and commented in a toneless voice, “I guess I’ll get the blame fer that too.”

All of sudden, Dio found herself starting to like the big man.

Mahaila was frantic: “DAZAR!!!!!!!!!! DAZ...Daz..Dio..why?” She crouched next to her brother, who was doing a good bit of cussing. She pulled off her cloak and pressed it against Dazar’s wounded leg to staunch the bleeding.

Sand glared at Dio. “Dammit woman, How in the hell did you miss a huge, ugly-ass man like that one? I mean, how in the world...”

Dio cut him off, “Oh hush up, Sand, I stopped him from tearin’ Dazar limb from limb, din’t I?”

She stepped over to the fallen Sheriff and looked at his wound. “Dammit Daz, yer just nicked in the leg. Don't be a big goddam baby about it. I seen people hurt worse playin’ checkers.”

Dazar was still not mollified. Holding his leg, he snarled at Dio, “Goddammit! You shot me!” He pointed at the hulking figure of Hawk and said incredulously, “How the hell could you miss THAT?!!"

Dio, cradled her shotgun like a beloved child. “I was TRYIN’ to miss him, goddamit. I wasn't tryin to hit him...jus’ make him shit his trousers an’ pause a moment before he tore yer fool head off an' spit down the gapin’ hole. I ain’t about to shoot a feller what ain’t armed. So I was aimin’ in betwixt the two o’ y’all. But it hit the frozen ground an’ a pellet done ricocheted up an’ nicked yer leg.”

Mahaila shook her head and tore off a piece of her cloak to wrap the injury. She was still worried beyond words. “Daz, you need to get to a doctor...this could be worse than it looks...”

Dazar Perun sighed and told his sister, “I ain’t seeing no Doc -- not fer something like this." As his sister frowned and glared at him, Daz pushed her hands away and unwrapped his wound to look at it. “Jeezus Dio, what you got in that thing? Sounded like a damn cannon going off!”

Dio smiled. “10 bore, 3 and-a-half-inch shell with double-aught buck.” she replied proudly.

Dazar looked impressed. “Shit,” was pretty much all he could say.

While Dio and Mah looked after Daz, U.S. Deputy Marshal Sand Rau turned his attention to the large bearded man who was still standing there, watching with interest as the scene played out.

“Hawk,” asked Sand, “did you shoot a man tonight? Yes or no?

Sal answered for him, “Yes he did! Right in front of me!”

Hawk shook his head in assent: “Yeah..I sure did. He accused me of stealing.”

“Stealing what?” asked Sand.

“A cigar,” replied Hawk.

Now Sal was just livid. “He asked you to pay for cigars -- two cigars! Not one, but two! And you shot him for it!”

Jesse stopped her praying and looked up at the big man. “You don't got to go shootin' someone over seegars, mister!”

Now it was Hawk's turn to get indignant. “Hey, he called me a thief. I’da paid fer them seegars sooner or later...”

Before he could continue Mahaila walked up to him and struck him in the face as hard as she could. Hawk simply gazd at her blankly, but Mah stood there looking at him, her face burning with anger. And then she turned around, gripping her hand, gasping in pain.

"Man has a face just like rock, don't he, sis?" commented Daz in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.

Hawk turned back to the marshal. “Listen, if I wanted that man in the Bella to be dead, he would be dead right now. He just needed a lesson.”

Sand nodded. “Well I tell you say you got gold pay Miz Sal here for the damage to the Bella and for the medical care to look after her bartender...” He paused and looked at Sal for a moment before he continued, ”AND for the two seegars...and I shall let you off with a warnin’ this time.”

Hawk grunted and pulled a leather bag out of his pocket and tossed it to Sal, who caught it. “Oughtta cover it,” said Hawk. Sal weighed it in her hand and nodded.

Hawk yawned and commented to no one in particular, “Well hell, I need me a whiskey.”

Daz swore and shouted, “Auebach! you get the hell out of town right now!”

Old Bill added his two cents worth as well. “Hawk! You bother Miss Bertrand again an’ I am comin’ for you!”

Hawk looked at them both for a moment...then shrugged, and went in to the Gem.

Dio began helping Daz to his feet. “Hey Sheriff, sorry I shot ye, pard.”

Dar Perun smiled at Dio. "No big deal, m’am. As often as I been shot, it’s kind of a nice for a change gettin’ shot by a friend.

“Oh, and I am sorry I called ye a big baby,” Dio went on. “You ain't nothin’ o’ the kind.”

Dazar laughed, "Been called worse, Miss Dio...much worse"

Jesse looked towards the Gem. “Well, that's done I guess.. he gone to the Gem fer some more whiskey...probbly Miss Foxy'll take care of him. If’n he ask her fer a kiss, she'll give him a bullet. I expect to hear a gunshot any minute now.”

But no gunshot rang out. Hawk was going to keep making trouble in Deadwood for some time to come...and then...well, that's another story for another time.