Saturday, October 31, 2009

I saw a Dio replicant, but copybot had nothing to do with it

Last night, the Deadwood 1876 community had its annual Halloween party in the meadow up in the hills above town. Miz Sal from the Bella did a great job putting it together. It was complete with everything you would expect at a Halloween celebration in America during the latter 19th century: bobbing for apples, some fortune telling, a bonfire, and lots of fancy odds and ends to eat. I played my fiddle, and the folks who were so inclined did some dancing. But one unexpected feature of the evening related to the costumes that folks wore. We had some of the usual sorts of things, like witches and a pirate. Rod Eun brought out a great Pumpkin-Head scarecrow outfit, and young Rachel Kungler looked suitably grim as a mini-widow in mourning. But the most unique looks were some costumes that were modeled on characters from our own narrative. Little Elisabeth Vita actually dressed up as our acting mayor, Clay Kungler (complete with droopy mustache and cigar) and Clay...well, I'd best just go ahead and show what Clay wore:

Yeah, it's a seven foot tall, 300 pound version of me. And bless his heart, Clay went whole hog: he cussed and was grumpy with people, and he even took off his regualr AO so he would stand like I do.

He won first prize in the costume contest with this. Are you surprised?

Clay, with Deac as a dead Abe Lincoln and me as a pirate captain. Yeah that's me--I think this is a useful picture for giving you a sense of scale and seeing how much bigger Clay is than the real Dio. Both images are courtesy of Neil Streeter. I actually took a whole bunch of images but they seem to have gotten lost or aufgepoofed to the land of missing socks and textures when I tried to save them to disc. So thank you, Neil! If SL had completely lost the images of this and no one else had some to share, I woulda been mighty goddam pissed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Social ebb and flow -- reflections on the dynamics of a virtual community

Communities, even virtual ones, are organic things that ebb and flow, going through cycles where there may be population growth that is followed by a contraction, or in which "teh drama" builds and subsides, or individual friends and colleagues come and go--and then all these processes repeat themselves. In SL--which my friend Aldo Stern has long described as "a social pressure cooker in which social cycles are intensified and accelerated" (and emotions and social tensions are often likewise sharply focused and intensified)--these cyclic processes can happen very rapidly. Dear old Deadwood goes through these cycles like any place on the grid, and sometimes that is a frustrating and scary thing, and other times it is a delight.

Lately, life in Deadwood has fit both of these descriptions: there have been some of those inevitable "drama" cycles (the kind that make you wish you were a social scientist or a shrink, because you would be wallowing in fodder for some really cool articles); and more personal cycles of the sort that just make you tickled to death that you got be a part of something so unique and human and humane.

I'll skip the drama stuff. Hey, it comes, it goes and every place has it. And don't you be giving me that shit about you have somehow found a little corner of virtual heaven where it does not happen. I think it's like politics--it's just the inevitable, inherently untidy way that people sort things out in a situation where they are pretty much having to make things up as they go along. Yes, for some people drama is a form of recreation. But for most of us, I think SL drama is essentially conflict resolution executed within an anarchical context. At this point we really needn't say more about it.

But that ebb and flow of humanity in and out of our communities--that is something interesting and as I said, to me...ultimately delightful. I have met a lot of really wonderful people in SL, a great many of them in Deadwood, where just like any meatspace community, we have had our fights and fun, we build and tear apart social organizations and personal connections, and we generate shared hopes, and ideas, and stories. A lot of people who I have connected with at some point in Deadwood have come and gone from the community, and lately, quite of few of these folks have been coming back. In some cases, these are people who disappeared completely, or who went off to play in other communities. In other cases it's been people who really didn't leave, or who sort of left, but who just weren't able to be around very much. And recently, a surprising number of these people have come back into the community and become a more regular part of it again, and that's just been a high point of life on the grid for me during the last month or so.

Tonight was one of those really nice occasions. I was able to sit down in the dining room of my hotel and spend quality time with two residents who have gone through their own cycles of being very involved in the community and then having to be less involved or away from Deadwood for one reason or another. Deacon Dryke is actually one of the owners of the sim, and was very engaged in the community in its first year, playing the younger brother of Percy Dryke, the provisioner. You may recall having heard Deac's name before, in the first episode of the "Consequences" story. For much of the last year, however, Deac was unable to spend as much time with us. His in-character role-playing explanation for not being around much was that his brother had sent him off to Denver to get some serious schooling. But tonight he was "back in town" and came to visit me at the hotel.

Deac Dryke

Another player who had been around a great deal early on, then went away and just recently started spending some time with us again is Tim Hax, a resident who plays an orphan boy, just a little younger than Deac. In the past when they were both around more, Tim and Deac had built a nice friendship (both IC and OOC, I think) and had some pretty cool Deadwood adventures together. Tim was explaining his absence from Deadwood for many months with the rp scenario that he had gone off to live and work with a farm family. When he showed up in town again not too long ago (the social ebb and flow process in action), Tim explained that the arrangement with the farm family just hadn't worked out and so he had hiked back to Deadwood (the only place he felt like he had ever had a home). There, Dio had immediately given him a job at the hotel and little cubbyhole-like room under the stairs for him to live in. So, when Tim happened to sign on while I was visiting with his old friend Deac, I immediately IM'ed him and asked him to come on over to Deadwood and get together with us to rp a little reunion.

Tim did so, and I had the best time sitting and chatting with these two young men while they were catching up on what each of them had been doing (among other things, Dio's been teaching Tim to shoot), and laughing about old times and their past adventures. It was that best kind of rp: all improv, very natural, spontaneous and down-to-earth, and based on some very real feelings about friendship and shared good times. It felt very real and genuine, and left me with a big ol' smile on my face all evening.

Visiting with Deac and Tim

Sometimes, the people who come back are not always this congenial. There have also been some old troublemakers coming back (though I haven't seen them for a while). These are guys who were banned long ago for various moronic behavior, but they make alts and return, usually trying to upset people with some kind of variation on the old race-baiting gambit (presented through some really mediocre rp). This is a cycle that has its own benefits: comic relief (their tired old shtick is so very 2006); a common enemy that the town can have fun banding together against; and moving targets that everyone gets to have fun punching or shooting (they're really bad at combat), before finally they've broken enough of the rules for the new alt to be banned like their previous manifestations. Oh yeah, and they get AR'ed too, so maybe LL finally did something about them...

So anyhow, even a virtual roleplaying community has its cycles--it has good days and bad days, days that are fun and days that just kinda fucking weird. The population goes up sometimes, often very rapidly, and then it goes back down again just as quickly. And ultimately, like any organic entity, these communities have life spans. They mature, they age, and eventually they die. But after a good night like tonight, I am hoping not just yet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Deadwood story -- consequences, part 7


It was about the middle of the day when a rider slowly crossed the Main street bridge, mounted on a weary-looking sorrel, and leading an even more weary-looking pack horse. There were some lay-abouts who happened to be taking their ease lounging on the crates that were stacked on the boardwalk outside Miss Addison’s store, and as the little two-horse procession drew closer, they could see that the rider was dressed in buckskins and was wearing a droopy-brimmed brown slouch hat. Before long, they also could tell that the rider was a woman--a woman with a carbine of some sort cradled in front of her. Shortly after that, the more perspicacious among them realized who the person slowly riding towards them was, and one of the men arose and went over to the door of the Saloon No. 10, which was next door to Miss Addi’s.

“Hey Roku!” he shouted into the cool darkness at the back of the bar, “Miz Dio’s back!”

Dio stopped in front of the No. 10, dismounted and stretched, and looped the horses’ reins around the trailing at the edge of the boardwalk.

“Howdy boys, “ she said quietly to the a curious bystanders. “How y’all been?”

They mumbled something about being fine, thank you Ma’am, and and the one who seemed to be possessed of the most fetchums in the group tipped his hat and offered, “Tis a fine thing to see ye back Miz Dio.”

The woman nodded and smiled in a tired sort of way, and went into her saloon. It was empty except for Auggie, the young German man who bar-tended for Dio when she was absent, and Roku, her one-woman security staff. Roku had been sitting in her usual seat--the one in the farthest corner, facing the door--and had been reading the paper. When she looked up and saw it was actually Dio, Roku stood and came out from behind the table, smiling more than was generally her custom.

“Hello Dio. Damn, it’s good to have yah back. Did yah get that sumbtich who killed Al?”

Auggie also said his hellos and offered to take care of Dio’s horses and gear. She suggested that after doing so, he could stop by China Row to get the saloon ledger from Miss Hepzibeth, the dour scottish woman who now managed the laundry and kept the books for both of Dio’s businesses, Auggie readily agreed, as he was quite anxious to show his employer how well he had managed things while she was gone.

After they watched the young man tear out the door of the No. 10, Dio replied, “Yes, Roku, I found him.”

“You kill him?”

“No. But I did get the drop on him an’ shot him in the leg.” And I turned him over to a federal deppity marshal--if he survives transport, he’ll be taken to Yankton for trial...get hung I imagine.”

Roku was now actually grinning a malevolent fashion. “So ye took him alive?! Goddamn that’s perfect! He give evidence that Hearst and Tanner hired him to the do the job?”

Dio smiled an odd little smile and shook her head. “Nope.”

“NO?! Why the hell not? Did yah try shootin’ him in the other leg as well to make him talk? Ah’d a done it for yah if ah’d been there.”

“No Hon. He gave no evidence to that effect bein’ as apparently they hadn’t put him up to it.”

Dio went through the whole story about the young woman in Lead and how she had induced Zed to kill Al. Roku, though slightly crestfallen with the disappointing news that Al’s murder would not be pinned on someone she truly hated, she quickly became philosophical about it.

“Well, at least yah got him, made him suffer some an’ yah have turned him over to the hand o’ justice. Hopefully they won’t fuck it up. So what’s all this ah hear about Al remeberin’ yah in his will?”

Dio laughed, “Word got around about that already?!”

Roku shrugged. “Ain’t that big of a goddamn town. Whereas Pel does have a purty big mouth on him.”

Dio explained about the unexpected connection between Al’s family and her own history, and that when she was at Ft. Pierre during her pursuit of Zed and had telegraphed various people, including Mashal Rau and Mayor Silverspar, to give them an update on the search. While she was still there, the mayor--who also was one of the better lawyers in town--notified her in a return telegram that Al had left the majority of his goods and chattels to Dio out of gratitude for what she and Jack had done for his family.

“So what all did yah end up with?” asked Roku.

“Well, I ain’t sure about exact amounts, but they’s some money, a property in Denver, some shares in Gold Star mines o’’ some shares in Hearst’s company, of all things. Seems him an Al had been friends or at least worked together at some point. Oh, an’ a part ownership of some piss-ant silver mine in Montana, called the Anaconda.”

Roku looked impressed. “Goddamn Dio. Yer all set, ain’t yah?”

“Well Hon, not so much as it would seem at first blush,” Dio answered. “Ye see, Al left most o’ what he had to me cuz he thought he had no livin’ relatives to speak of. But I know fer a fact he has a half-nephew who along with Sepp, did some things on my behalf right after the now he’s a corporal in 10th U.S. Cavalry. So me an’ Sepp think tis only right to give him the shares in Gold Star, along with the Denver property, an’ split the cash with him.”

Roku stared at Dio for a moment as if she were trying to decide if her friend had perhaps been out in the sun too long without a hat. Then she suddenly laughed. “Hah! That is a good one! Ah am sure those fellahs at Gold Star mining are jus’ gonna be tickled shitless to have a colored fer one o’ their stockholders. They din’t realize that Al was jus passin’ fer white did they?”

Dio shruged. “Not that I know of. But main thing is, what’s right is right. An’ besides we’re still keepin’ some o the money--put it away to save fer buyin’ some land when Sepp gets outta the army next year. Also I am keepin’ that piece o the silver mine, jus’ fer shits an’ giggles. An’ I am definitely holdin’ on to the shares in Hearst’s company.” Dio grinned. “I figger he’ll be much more polite to me from now on, bein’ as I’m a investor in his interests.”

“Either that,” Roku scowled, “or he’ll try to have yah killed.”

Dio smiled. “That’s why I got you around, Hon.”

Roku still did not look happy. “Shit. Guess ah better tell Sal ah can’t keep workin’ the side job at the Bella fer a while. Keepin’ you alive is probably gone require mah full-time attention.”

At this point, Auggie came in with Hepzibeth and the ledgers. The scottish laundry manager greeted Dio in her usual matter-of-fact business-like fashion, as if Dio had only been gone for an extended visit to the outhouse, rather than an absence of weeks and weeks to chase down a killer. They were just sitting down to look over the books when US Deputy Marshal Rau came in.

“I heard you were back!” he said with substantial enthusiasm.

“Hello Sand,” replied Dio. “News gets around town fast, don’t it? Well, I expect you want this back.” She reached into her jacket, unpinned the badge from her shirt, and held it out to the deputy marshal.

Sand looked at it for a moment. “You know, I could just let you hang on to that and keep you on the books as D.A. Kuhr, and maybe no one will notice.”

“Special deppity don’t pay anythin’ does it?” Dio asked.


Dio smiled and put the badge in Sand’s big paw of a hand. “Then I may as well pass. But I am greatly obliged to ye for allowin’ me the use o’ the tin star in this circumstance.”

“All right woman,” grunted Sand. “As you wish. But I gotta say you did a fine job of investigatin’ this...findin’ out who the killer was and what direction he was going. I am just real sorry that we didn’t get to talk to him before he got killed.”

Both Dio and Roku looked up with some surprise.

“Um...Sand, just exactly what in the name o’ Satan’s huge red testicles are you talkin’ about?” enquired Dio.

“Oh...well you see I had gotten notice that he was picked up by another Federal deputy marshal in Minnesota, but was shot in the head ‘n killed while tryin’ to escape,” Sand replied, somewhat hurt and puzzled by the tone in Dio’s voice.

Dio and Roku looked at one another for a moment. Then Dio turned back to Sand and said in voice that was now unusually calm and pleasant, “I see. Well Sand, I am gratified to know that justice has been served to some extent, and that I may have contributed in some small way to the process. I thankye fer lettin me know.”

Sand Rau excused himself, saying that he had to get on with his duties for the day, and once again thanked Dio for her service. After he had left, Roku looked questioningly at her friend and employer.

“Ah thought yah said ya’d given Quinnell a bad wound in the leg...woulda kept him from tryin’ to run for it,” she said with only a hint of curiosity in her voice.

Dio was staring out the door after the Deputy Marshal, stroking her chin in a thoughtful manner. “That lawman I turned him over to...“ she said quietly, “seems he decided to become judge, jury, and executioner once he had taken charge o’ the prisoner. The rewards was fer dead or alive, so I reckon he thought twas easier to take him in as a corpse.”

Roku shrugged. “Well, yah did say the boy was dyin’ from the wound yah gave him...maybe that deputy marshal wanted to end his sufferin’? ....Wait a minute...did you say somethin’ about rewards?”

“Yeah,” replied Dio with an ironic little smile, “I found out later there were some substantial bounties on the boy.”

Roku looked like she was about to say something vitriolic, then she paused and nodded. “Figures. Oh well. Yor still comin’ out ahead on this deal, with what Al left yah...the part yah ain’t givin’ away, anyhow.”

Dio nodded.

Hepzibeth had been very quiet during all this, mostly because she was trying to sort things out and comprehend what was going on. Finally she spoke.

“Mrs. Kuhr? Might I be askin’ if I got this straight? You say you shot and caught this lad who tried to kill ye--and then some regular federal lawman comes along and takes him away, claimin’ the credit and the rewards, an’ kills the boy in cold blood as well?”

“Yes Hon, that’s purty much the deal,” Dio replied almost cheerfully.

Hepzibeth arched an eyebrow. “Aren’t you going to do something about this?” she asked in a flat tone.

Dio shook her head. “Nope. I’m done with this. I see no reason to waste any further energy or effort.”

Hepzibeth still looked unconvinced. “Money is money...”

Dio’s face flushed slightly and there was a slight edge in her voice. “Well hon, ain’t . There’s money an’ then there’s blood’ I got no real interest in the latter. Furthermore, the boy’s blood ain’t on my hands now, like it woulda been had he died from the wound I gave him. I think I owe the deppity marshal a heap o’ gratitude fer havin’ lifted that particular burden from m’ soul.”

Roku had sat down with her paper again, and a voice came from behind its pages. “Well, blood on yor hands shouldn’t be any big concern. Never bothered me. But...there is one advantage to most likely, the unknown gal who actually put Zed up to the killin’ doesn’t know that he talked to anyone an’ told ‘em that he shot Al to win her affections. Maybe that means she might get careless and someone can discover her identity...”

“Exactly,” agreed Dio with a wicked little grin. “Now, come on y’all...let’s have a look at them books an’ see percisely how much better things run around here with me gone...”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The fundraiser for Friends of Pine Ridge--Holy Moses, what a time!

A portion of the crowd at the oral auction segment of the Friends
of Pine Ridge fundraiser
-- everyone excited about bidding and
having a good time (image courtesy of September Blaisdale)

The fundraiser held this last Sunday, October 18, was a huge success in every sense of the word. Vendors and content makers contributed plenty of great items, from firearms, to elegant ladies' dresses, to useful furnishings, to houses--even an authentic Norman keep--to be auctioned off. A good crowd turned out and the bidding was enthusiastic. Like many of those in attendance, I got the "auction fever" and found myself bidding like a looney, and having a great time.

And the results far exceeded anyone's expectations.

Clay Kungler and September Blaisdale, the folks who organized this event to benefit the Friends of Pine Ridge (the Oglala Sioux reservation), told me that their original goal was a modest 20,000 to 25,000 linden. Man were they low-balling it. In the course of the afternoon, 74,898 Linden came in from the event--additional donations were then made to bring the total raised up to an even 80,000 Linden (approximately 307.00 USD).

Is that something or what?

The following folks donated items to be auctioned:

Caed Aldwych
Renate Marchionne
Marrant Vita
Diogenes Kuhr
Renate Marchionne
Master Glendevon
Astolat Dufaux
Jasper Kiergarten
Rod Eun:
Skeeter Sabra:
Fatmina U
Reghan Straaf
Addison Leigh
Ernst Osterham
Rynn Dryke
Viv Trafalgar

This list is from Clay's follow-up post on the Deadwood forum, which may be seen here:

Items valued at less than 500L were placed in a silent auction in which bidders could submit an offer all afternoon. The higher-value goods went into an oral auction, in which Clay served admirably as auctioneer, despite his PC dying a horrible death right in the middle of the proceedings (he switched over to his laptop in rapid fashion). Even with the spirited bidding, the folks who attended got some pretty decent bargains.

September is now in the process of buying useful items from a 'shopping list" provided by the Friends of Pine Ridge. Rather than sending the money and having them trying to find a volunteer to go make the purchases (a major commitment as there are no stores terribly close to the reservation), September is hunting for bargains to make the funds go even further--her priority is gloves, boots and hats in children's sizes, as many of the kids on the res have to walk to school, and you can imagine what that is like in a South Dakota winter. The Friends of Pine Ridge organziaton will take care of distributing these items to the folks who need them.

Yeah, I's gonna take us an awful long time to save the world, doing it 80,000 lindens at a time. But it beats the hell outta doing nothin'.

Everyone who who made this happen from organizers to donors to bidders deserves some real credit for thinking outside of themselves in this.

And you know what else?

It proves something that I've known all along. I give my pard Clay a hard time about his in-world persona, which I have described on a number of occasions as being that of "an asshole of epic proportions." You gotta rp with Clay sometime to really appreciate that concept. And mind you, Clay is inordinately proud of his rep. The truth, however, is that he is truly one of the good guys, one of the most decent people I have met in-world. But we'll just keep that as a little secret between us, ok?

At right, Clay Kungler, saloon keeper, politician, gunfighter, headhunter and auctioneer (image courtesy of Neil Streeter)


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Deadwood story -- consequences, part 6


Dio looked down at Zedekiah and sighed. This wasn’t turning out how she had hoped it would.

The doctor had just left to begin his 20 mile trek back to Madison. Dio had told him she was dreadfully sorry having called upon him to come so far, but he said it was fine, he’d see some patients along the way and probably stay the night with one of them. He in turn apologized to her that he could not do more for Zed.

The young man was not getting better. In fact, he was feverish and his leg was hot to the touch. Dio had been reasonably sure for a few days he was going to die before too terribly long, but she she had sent for the doctor nonetheless, just to see if he could do anything.

He had said he really couldn’t, and yes, he agreed with her that in his opinion Zed wasn’t going to last much longer. And much to her frustration, the dying man still showed no inclination to tell Dio what she wanted to know: the name of the woman who had induced Zedekiah Quinnell to kill Al Husar.

Just then, Asa Johanesen came into the room. Asa had by this point firmly established himself as Dio’s assistant in all and sundry matters while she remained in Ortonville. In all honesty, she had come to rely on him for quite a bit--everything from watching Zed while she slept, to fetching herbs for a poultice, to bringing her meals from the kitchen at the drovers’ hotel.

“Miz Dio?”

“Yes, Asa?”

“There is a gentleman outside wishin’ to speak with you--a Federal Dep’ty Marshal in fact.”

“Ah. Will ye oblige me by watchin’ o’er Zed while I do?”

The boy nodded and took up his usual post. He was still armed with his ancient Hall’s carbine, but now he carried it slung. It was pretty unlikely that in his present deteriorating condition, Zed was suddenly going to jump up and try to dash off. Dio went out onto the porch of the small cabin to find a tall man in a black suit waiting. A US deputy marshal’s badge glinted on the man’s lapel.

“Good day t’ ye sir," said Dio. “I am told you wish to speak with me.”

Yes M’am. I’m US Deputy Marshall Everett Wilkins. I have been informed by Mr. Orton that you are holding and looking after a fugitive from the Dakota territory. A man wanted for murder...”

“An’ attempted murder, as well, sir,” Dio added. “The feller killed an acquaintance in my presence and then did his best to kill me.” She pulled down the cloth she still kept wrapped around her neck to prevent chafing on the now mostly healed wound. Mr. Wilkins glanced at the evidence of her close call and nodded.

“This man is one, Zedekiah Quinnell?” he asked.

“Yessir.” Dio replied. “I confirmed the identity o’ the man durin’ my pursuit o’ him. When I was confident twas Quinnell I was after, I had sent tel’graph messages to US Deppity Marshal Sand Rau, and the victim's employer, so I assume that is how you are aware o’ this man’s name an his crime?”

“Yes Ma’am. It was communicated to the various offices in the region by Marshal Rau that this man was wanted, and that a special deputy D.A. Kuhr was in hot pursuit of the miscreant. I’m out of St. Cloud, and just happened to be passin’ through when Mr. Orton told me of the situation you have here.”

“I see,” Dio said quietly. She had a bad feeling about this, but she tried to not let it show. Time for the poker face.

Deputy Marshal Wilkins went on, “Mr. Orton told me that you are that special deputy...I trust he misunderstood something...”

Dio turned down the collar of her buckskin jacket in order to reveal the badge that she had fastened to her shirt, as the pin back did work well on the heavy material of the jacket.

“Nossir, Mr. Orton had things pretty well nailed down. Special US Deppity Marshal, D.A.Kuhr from the Dakota Territory, at yer service, Mr. Wilkins.”

Dio could see something flicker across the man’s face, and she was reasonably sure it wasn’t an expression of any kind of approval of this state of affairs.

After a pause, Wilkins stated dryly, “Well...regardless...I have directed my colleague to obtain a wagon so that we may take charge of the prisoner and transport him back to other more suitable keep him until he is in condition to be sent on for trial, most likely at Yankton, I should think.”

Dio already suspected that this was where the conversation was going. She wasn’t real happy about it, being as she was still hoping Zed might give up the name of the woman who was behind everything. But, having been somewhat expecting a development of this sort, she managed to remain surprisingly calm, determined to still maintain the affect of a disciplined and professionally-minded officer of the law.

“He will not survive transport, sir,” she said in an even, emotionless voice. “The wound I gave him has taken to festerin’, an he runs a high fever.”

The US Deputy Marshal arched an eyebrow. He hadn’t expected Special Deputy Marshal D.A. Kuhr to turn out to be a middle-aged lady in buckskins, and he certainly hadn’t expected to be told that she had shot the wanted killer. But he had been on the frontier a lot of years, going back to the pre-war days, and he had been in Minnesota during the great Sioux uprising back in '62--he was used to seeing a good many strange and unusual sights. At this stage of his career, it took something truly out-of-the-ordinary to leave him gobsmacked. All of this was coming pretty darn close, but Ev Wilkins was a fairly good poker player himself. He was managing to stay as stony-faced as Dio.

“Well Ma’am,” he drawled, “being as the wanted notice I saw on Quinnell indicated that he was armed and dangerous and was to be brought in either dead or alive, the odds of him surviving a trip in a wagon are pretty much irrelevant. If he passes during transport, it will make little difference in the eventual outcome.”

Dio nodded. Truth be told, she really wanted to be done with this. She'd had enough of playing law officer, she worried about her businesses back in Deadwood, and she was reasonably sure that Zed was never going to betray the woman he loved. He might very well die in the night from the wound, without ever saying another word.

“I kind o’ figgered ye’d look at it that way,” Dio commented in a matter-of-fact tone. “If you are insistent on the point...I must say, I shall not grieve at the man’s demise, nor the fact that he will suffer greatly in being jounced an’ jostled as he is driven o’er these roads in the back of a un-sprung farm wagon. I will however, insist on interviewin’ him once more ere you take him.”

Ev Wilkins was about to respond argumentatively to this condition, but he saw something in the woman’s eyes that led him to keep his mouth shut and just nod his assent.

“Very well. I’ll see how my colleague is progressin’ with arrangements for that wagon and team,” he said, and then walked off.

Dio went back in the cabin, and asked Asa Johansens to step outside.. Once he had done so, she picked up the pitcher, poured some water into the wash basin and dashed the water on Zed’s face.

”Quinnell! wake up, goddam you!”

Zed started awake, red-rimmed eyes jerking open and a thin gasp escaping his throat.

“There is a regular US Deputy Marshal here right now, an’ he is fixed upon takin’ you away and out of my hands. This is your last chance to tell me if you will give up the name o’ that woman who set you on this course o' yer own self-destruction. If you will work with me on this, I will do my utmost to stave off this fello’ an’ see if I can preserve ye from his intentions. Will you tell me or no?”

Zed looked at her, not seeming to really understand..but then he coughed and slowly, almost imperceptibly, shook his head.

No sound came from his lips, but his mouth silently formed the single syllable.


Dio scowled. “You do realize it is highly likely this gal ne’er had any intention o’ taking up courtship with ye? It is most probable that you are, as Asa said, the biggest goodam idjit ‘tween here an’ the Sierra Nevadas--that the object o’ yer affections has used you ill, in the most heartless fashion possible, an’ made a great fool o’ ye?”

Zed could only shrug slightly. Dio decided she was over and done with it.

“Very well,” Dio said with more resignation than anger. “I shall leave you then into the the hands of justice that will, I suspect, be far less interested in keepin’ ye alive than I have been.”

Zed feebly raised a hand off the blanket a little way and made a gesture for Dio to come closer. Curious--and slightly hopeful--she leaned in to catch his words.” he breathed.

She straightened and started for the door, then turned.

“Sorry? Sorry fer killin’ a man who never did anythin’ directly to harm ye? Sorry fer tryin ‘to kill a woman who just happened to be inconveniently situated when ye carried out that crime? Or ye jus’ sorry ye got caught?”

Zed said nothing. But he did smile slightly.

Not long afterwards, Asa and Dio helped Everett Wilkins and his special deputy, a man named Jerry, load Zedekiah Quinnell into a bed of straw and blankets in the back of a rented wagon with peeling red paint. As Dio and the boy watched them drive off towards the East, she gave Zed’s Navy Colt to Asa, and told him that she hoped if he ever felt the urge to come visit the Black Hills, he would seek her out in Deadwood. He assured her that he would. After giving a respectable little wad of banknotes to the lady who owned the cabin where she had cared for Zed for almost a week, Dio made her way to Orton’s combined store and post office. She needed to get a few supplies before starting the trip back, as well as wanting to bid farewell to the gentleman.

She found him sorting through some paperwork.

“Ah, Missus Kuhr, fixin’ to head for home?”

“Yessir, Mr. Orton,” she replied, “I have sent Mr.Quinnell on his way with the US Deputy Marshal from St. Cloud, and now I am lookin’ forward to returnin’ to things as a normal biznesswoman.”

Mr. Orton smiled to himself. He rather thought “normal” wasn’t the right term to be applied, but he elected to make no comment to that effect. Instead he busied himself with bundling up jerked beef, coffee and hard crackers for Dio’s journey. When she pulled out some banknotes to pay him, he shook his head and refused to accept them.

As he walked her to the door, he said, “Missus Kuhr, it has been a pleasure and an adventure having you here. I am confident that you have given us a story that folks will be telling their children and grandchildren in years to come. But I am curious about something...”

Dio smiled at him. “You may ask me whatever you wish, Mr. Orton. I owe you an’ yer neighbors an’ immense debt for your consideration an’ support o’ m’ task. What would you care to know?”

Mr. Orton looked slightly uncomfortable. “May I ask how you will be settling the matter of the rewards with Deputy Marshal Wilkins?”

Dio stopped smiling.


“Yes Ma’am. When he came into the store earlier today, and I mentioned that you were holding Quinnell, he took out some handbills he had, looked through them, and then I overheard him telling his associate that there might be some substantial rewards being offered for the killer of Mr. Husar. Something about the territorial government and one or two of the mining companies possibly having put forth a not inconsiderable sum.”

As Dio stared at him, Mr. Orton suddenly had a minor epiphany.

“ didn’t know...and he didn’t think to mention it to you, did he?" he said somewhat sheepishly.

Dio turned and looked eastwards for a moment. Then she turned back to the storekeeper.

“Papaw always used to say that money kin have a detrimental affect on a man’s memory.”

Then she shook Mr. Orton’s hand, tucked her bundle of provisions under her arm, and set off to get her horses and saddle up.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Accoutrements and impedimenta -- a sampling of useful 19th century artifacts made by good people

You know, all along I've wanted to include reviews of historical content made for use in Second Life, but so far, I've moved pretty slow on it. So in order to catch up a little bit, I wanted to start sharing some of my favorites in batches.

My criteria for what I choose to write about is that the objects have to be based on something that people actually used in the past and that can be used effectively in our rp. Furthermore, I kinda insist that they have to actually look like the object they represent. Finally, in addition to being practical, attractive, and historically accurate, the items must also have been made by a non-asshat before I will review them. That's one of my number one rules for "Ephemeral Frontier"--I am only going to write about stuff that is made by folks who are, in my opinion, good people. I don't care to give any press--even negative press--to someone who sucks.

For example, there is one maker of historical garments who is about the most arrogant, unpleasant, self-important sack of buzzard guts who ever laced up a corset. She ain't nearly as goddam smart as she thinks she is, her crap ain't nearly as good as she thinks it is, and her ideas about history and fashion are pretty fucked up. Consequently, I'm never going to mention her by name, nor review any of her shit one way or the other.

Yeah, I know, that's pretty arbitrary, and ultimately, my criteria is ridiculously subjective. But hey, it's my blog and if someone doesn't care for my editorial policy they can jolly well go shit in their hat, pull it down over their ears and call themselves a chocolate bundt cake.

So anyhow, the things I would like to bring to your attention this weekend are:

* Miner's pallet and bed roll by Addison Leigh/Overland Trail
* Austrian Steinbach regulator clock No. 1 by Yrrek Gran
* Camp desk and chair by Astolat Dufaux/Montaigne Noir
* Cast iron stove by Elihu Leominster/Oakwood Lab

First the miner's pallet: Do you really need a bed, or even a cot? Don't you sometimes want to just throw some blankets on the ground and be done with it? This takes care of that. It's a simple low-prim pallet with a coarse blanket texture and a decent sleeping (and tossing and turning) anim that you can plop on the ground by a campfire.

Or you might want to do what some of us did for our miner characters, which is to build a cabin with simple plank bunks and put these pallets down on the planks for sleeping. This thing looks ok on the ground by a fire, but it really looks damn good on a plain wooden bunk. The set also comes with a bed roll (shown at right) that you can sling over your back to rp out actually hittin' the road with your travelin' gear. Best of all, it's only 20L. Come on, you know you've spent much more than that on something that was downright stupid. Like that prim appendix you bought last year (the one that talked to you: "Mary's appendix happily swells and is about to burst"). How long was it before buyers remorse set in with that?

Seriously though, this eminently useful little set-up is made and sold by my friend Addison Leigh (and yes she is my friend and yes, she has given me useful and attractive stuff over the last two years, so you can take this review with a grain of salt if you wish).

Addison has her "Overland Trail stores in Caledon Oxbridge Village and the vendor area of Deadwood 1876, but frankly I'm not sure if these miner's pallets are available in the non-rp stores. I do know it is out for sale in the rp Overland Trail store down in Deadwood itself (look for a little crate with floating text).

Addison also makes some really nice Victorian women's dresses and bonnets that are attractive and incredibly reasonably priced, as well as some other accessories. Plus she's got a bartender's HUD that is simple and effective--but we'll probably talk about that another time.

Ok, so if you want to track this down, just follow the slurl to Deadwood and then if you still have trouble finding it, give me a holler and I'll help you with it.

Next on the list, the Austrian Steinbach Regulator No. 1 wall clock by Yrrek Gran. Here's a shot of me admiring this puppy in Yrrek's shop at Jingyo 213, 180, 54.

It's a very exact recreation of an 1870s-80s long case regulator with beautiful photo texture finishes. Yerrek's clocks work, and they look like the real goddam thing--note the double weights and the pendulum (which moves of course).

I will say that some of Yrrek's clocks tend to be on the primmy side. This one is 26, which, yeah, I know, is a lot. But hey, keep in mind things like the fiddly little finials are not created on one flat face prim with a texture--each is a sculpty. And she does offer lots of other nice 19th and early 20th century clocks that are much less prim-hungry. For example, there is a big cherry case regulator which I have in the hotel, that is only 7 prims. It's probably a bit later historically than what I should have in the 1870s, but for now I'm living with it until I can do some prim-pruning so I can put in one of these Austrian models.

Yrreck Gran clocks also are not cheap. You're going to pay somewhere between 350 and 750L for her more detailed peices. This model I believe is in the 750L range. But frankly, I think most of them are goddam worth it.

Astolat is Dufaux is justly known for her historically authentic and very attractive garments, but now she is also getting into some really good looking, low-prim furniture. I was really excited when I read about her new campaign desk and chair at her blog, The Victorian Closet.

This is a great set. You get the chair and desk for a very reasonable price, and both together are only 11 prims. There's a nice writing anim built into it and this would be great for army officers from the civil war up through World War II (though in a WWII version tinting it OD would be extra authentic). it also works for archaeologists, surveyors, or Big Game Hunters who are writing their memoirs whilst out inthe bush killing things. Oh and yes, in the disclosure department, Astolat is a friend, and she probably has given me stuff over the last year cuz that's the kinda dame she is.

The desk comes with the added detail of maps and documents and an ink bottle on it. Just real nice. It's only 200L AND it's mod, so if you do want to play Patton with it, you could try to tint it OD. Anyhow, I have always thought highly of Asto's clothing line, which is attractive, well researched, and very reasonably priced, but I tell you what, I really think her furniture and accessories line is going to be something to watch closely as it grows. Astolat has shops in a number of locations, but I believe her mains store is is in Caledon Oxbridge Village.

Last but not least, let's talk about the Oakwood lab cast iron stove. And I know, maybe you're saying, "Meh, another stove."

Yeah, you could say that, but when I am done slapping you, I would then ask you how many sl stoves actually look like real life cast iron stoves?

Elihu Leominster is well regarded by other makers for his great texturing, and this thing is no exception. It looks like a goddam real stove. It is scaled like a real stove. I felt a strange compulsion to put a coffee pot on it the first time I saw one.

At 150L I thought this piece was a really good deal. You know what else I like about this stove? It's mod--and it is beautifully suited to being arranged and rearranged in various sizes and configurations to fit the needs and space you have to deal with. Here's how I remade my Oakwood stove for use back in the hotel bar:

And being mod, you can take out some prims from it too. It's not bad off-the-shelf at around 10 prims, but you can do things like pull the legs, and put on a one-prim leg set such as Ernst Osterham made for me here. And sometimes, every prim you save helps, doesn't it? I am just incredibly happy with this stove, as are a number of other Deadwood business folks (I've seen the same stove in some variation or other at both the Gem and Ernst's shop). To see Elihu's stove and other great products look for the Oakwood Lab shop in Port Babbage.

It just continually astonishes me how historically authentic and practical items just keep multiplying, and looking better and better all the time.

So have you guys seen anything lately that has really impressed you?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A worthwhile event -- Auction to benefit Friends of Pine Ridge

Dakota Playhouse--site of the auction on Oct. 18th

Sometimes this pixelated vale of tears seems like it's pretty much a festival of narcissistic self-indulgence, so it's always a refreshing change when some SL residents elect to use the platform as a philanthropic tool. What makes SL special, after all, isn't so much the platform and it's clunky technology, it's the people who inhabit this pile of virtual spaces and what they choose to use it for. A couple of my friends in Deadwood, Clay Kungler and September Blaisdale (also known as Mrs. Kungler), decided to take advantage of SL's potential for positive social interaction, and are putting together an in-world auction to benefit the Friends of Pine Ridge, a charitable organization that seeks to address various needs of folks on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The auction is going to be held this weekend at the Dakota Playhouse theater in the OOC area of the Deadwood 1876 sim. For you non-rp folks, that means it will be in the part of the sim where you don't have to wear period clothing, you don't have to act and talk like it's the 1870s, and you can wear any kind of avie you want. Want to come as a Vampire Chipmunk from New Jersey, or one of the Sanitation Engineers of the Old Republic? That's cool.

Anyhow, Clay and September are still gathering donations and sent me the following note, which I would like to pass on to y'all:

Sunday October 18th starting 3 pm SLT, the town of Deadwood presents a charity auction at the Dakota Playhouse theater in the Deadwood welcome area, with all proceeds going to the RL charity, the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation located in South Dakota.

We thought it would be an interesting choice since it's near the location of our RP town and a very worthy cause. Here's a small write up from the website (

"Pine Ridge Reservation, located in South Dakota, is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and is 2,000,000 acres large with an estimated population of close to 40,000. The reservation is large, and its needs are immense, commensurate with grinding poverty. Unemployment is over 80%, the weather is extreme, and families struggle mightily with crushing financial, housing, health, educational and social issues.

Since it is impossible to provide assistance to individual families on the reservation from a distance and do it equitably, the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation website focuses on specific needs of the many schools and social service organizations such as shelters, children's organizations, and clinics physically located on the reservation. These organizations, always understaffed and under-funded, struggle in turn to serve thousands of children, women and men in dire need. Please do not underestimate the importance of a small donation. Your contribution, sent directly to a reservation organization--even if only a single pair of socks for a child who has none--makes a huge impact when combined with many others."

We already have some great items donated and hope more people will help us out. Donations can be sent to directly to Claytanic Kungler. This is a chance for you to get some great stuff such as guns, clothing, buckboard and covered wagons and much more--join us to support a good cause and have a good time.

Any questions feel free to drop a notecard or IM Claytanic Kungler

*Items Donated so far* (more items being added daily)

From Caed Aldwych:
-Buckboard Wagon
-Colt Army Pistol
-Dual Navy Colt Pistols
-Dual Remington Pistols
-Ladies Pistol
-Le Mat Pistol
-Old Fashioned Spectacles
-Pot Bellied Stove x4
-Stove Pipe Boots

From Marrant Vita:
-Antique Sewing Machine

From Diogenes Kuhr:
-Large Street Lamp
-Rolltop Desk
-Library Chair
-set of six 19th century cigar boxes
-beadboard-sided dry sink

From Bleak House Designs:
-BHD- Eliza's Ascot Dress-Gothed
-BHD- White/Black Bustle Gown
-BHD- *Titanic* Boarding Dress

So anyway, I hope some of y'all out there might want to help. If you can't make it to the auction maybe you can donate something--just give Clay a holler. These are good folks, completely trustworthy and I guarantee that all of the proceeds are going to go to the charity and not to underwrite Clay's ongoing commitment to the health of the brewing and donut-making industries.

If you want to attend, the slurl is:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Deadwood story -- consequences, part 5


Even as the smoke from Dio’s shot was still lingering on the air, people seemed to pour out of every doorway, corner and crevice. What had appeared to be a deserted street only moments before was suddenly buzzing with armed humanity.

“You allright, Ma’am?” asked Mr. Orton, the store owner. He was carrying an old muzzle-loading, cap-lock fowling piece and had an archaic-looking boot pistol tucked in his waistband. His neighbors were all equipped in similarly eclectic fashion: a Henry or a Winchester here and there; a variety of pistols from diverse eras and makers; but mostly older hunting guns and surplus army weapons.

A boy of about 16 or so, toting a Mexican War-vintage Hall carbine, stared intently at Zedekiah. “We had your back, Ma’am, for certain,“ he said quietly. “But you shoulda let us all help you with takin’ him. We’d a been happy to. Folks hereabout are like that.” A ripple of nodding heads and murmurs of assent went through the small crowd of townspeople, indicating their agreement with the boy.

A grimy blacksmith with some kind of military musket that had been cut down into a scatter gun was standing next to the storekeeper. He intoned in a thick Dutchman’s accent, “Yah, Missus, don’ be forgetting vot dem Northfield folks did to dem James boys, couple years ago. Us Minnezota folks, dots vot vee are like.”

Dio was still holding her Walker on Zed, not taking her eyes off him. He was staring back, expressionless, but directly meeting her gaze. After a pause, Dio said, “Folks, I am deeply appreciative of yer support an’ willingness to participate. It was just somethin” I felt like I hadda do m’self. Tho right now, I can say I would be greatly obliged if’n ye would keep the gennelman covered whilst I get outta these duds and then attend to his wound.”

The words were no sooner out of her mouth than there was a flash of gun-metal as nearly two dozen muzzles were instantly brought to bear on Zed, the action accompanied by a chorus of clicks and ka-klock noises as all those weapons were cocked simultaneously.

If Zedekiah Quinnel so much as wiggled a finger, he was going to look like an old sycamore log at a woodpecker convention.

Dio pulled off the bonnet and the dress, which she had been wearing directly over her buckskins, and handed them to an elderly woman who was standing at the forefront of the group. The lady accepted the bundle with her left hand while she used her right to keep a cocked Colt Dragoon pointed square at Zed’s chest.

“Y’all really do remind me of the folks in another town that I know of.” Dio smiled at the old woman with the Dragoon, “Hon, I want to thank ye kindly fer the loan o’ them garments.”

The elderly lady nodded. “Yer welcome Missy. But I cain’t figger how come ye went thru all this folderol to get up close on him like that. How come ye din’t jus bushwhack the lil’ puke from a good distance--shoot ‘im an’ be done with it? They’s mos’ likely jus’ gonna hang ‘im anyhow.”

“Well, Hon, it’s like this,” Dio replied. “I jus’ really hadda be sure I had the right’ also I wanted to be close enough to him--an’ get the drop on him--so I could try to make sure I jus’ incapacitated ‘im. Don’t want him daid yet. Cuz I got some questions to ask him, an I really need him alive fer that.”

Dio was already kneeling by Zed and cutting away his trouser leg so she could bind the wound and hopefully keep him from bleeding out. As Dio was putting a tourniquet on his thigh above the injury, one of the women from the town came over to her.

“Ma’am?” she inquired. “I have a spare bed in my cabin o’er yonder. If’n you think it would be proper, you have my leave to carry this man in there and continue working on his wound in better circumstances than the dust o’ this street.”

Dio nodded and requested of the blacksmith and some of his friends that they carry Zed inside. The boy with the Hall carbine offered to come along and stand guard just in case.

Dio smiled at him. “Thank ye pard. I shall be obliged to ye fer doin so, tho’ in the state this man is in, an’ as much blood as he has lost, I doubt he will pose much of a potential problem. All the same, prudence don’t cost us anythin’ extra, and your assistance will be welcome.”

After Zed had been moved indoors and Dio had cleaned and bandaged his wound, he fell into a fitful sleep.

When he awoke, he found Dio siting in a chair next to his bed, staring at him. His “guard,” the 16 year-old boy, was in a rocker by the fireplace, his head drooped in slumber, his venerable firearm across his knees.

“Ah, yer awake,” Dio commented quietly to Zed. “Ye know, maybe ye won’ get hung.... Kinda depends on what ye tell me when I get around to askin’ ye m’ questions.”

Zed looked thoughtful. “Well, I gotta ask you something, first. I understand you coming after me to kill me, being as I killed your friend...”

"AND tried to kill me too,” Dio added. “I take that kinda thing sorta personally.”

“Zed smiled an odd little smile through his pain. “Yeah, that too, I did try to kill you. So like I say, I understand you coming to kill me, but why bother with patchin’ me up and turnin’ me in, like you’re the law or something?”

Dio chuckled. “Well at the moment, I am law. Made the mistake o’ going ‘n gettin’ myself deputized on the way outta I got a federal special deputy badge right now, an’ the more I pondered on it, I figgered I had best act like someone who’s worthy o’ wearin’ it. Does have some advantages though. It’s one o’ the reasons how come these nice folks were so accomodatin’ in helpin’ me round you up.”

Their conversation must have awoken the guard in the rocking chair, as now he suddenly chimed in. “Yes’m, we were mightily impressed--ain’t never heard tell of a woman territorial dep’ty before, let alone seen one.”

“Well, sir, I reckon ye may as well get an eyeful now,” said Dio, “cuz I suspect they gonna figger out some way to make sure they ain’t another one fer a long time after this. The Deppity Marshal who provided me this tin star warn’t real happy about it when he did so...”

“So what do you want to know?” asked Zed in a calm, quiet voice.

Dio was re-tying some of Zed’s bandages as he said this, and she suddenly stopped, a bit surprised by his cooperative tone, She looked at him a moment and stated flatly, “I wish to know if it was one of Hearst’s lackeys such as Mr. Tanner who set you to this, or whether George Hearst himself saw it as important enough to give ye instructions directly.”


Dio fought back an instinctual desire to cuss and strike the young man as hard as she could. She was trying extremely hard to live up to the expectations these people would have for a federal marshal's special deputy. And on some level, she really did sincerely want to behave in a way that was...well, worthy.

So instead of bringing out the verbal artillery and breaking his nose, she looked him in the eye and said in a low, hard voice, “Do not insult me with feigned ignorance, Zedekiah Quinnell. Yer not exactly in a position to be actin’ the fool with me here.”

A tinge of panic flickered over Zed’s expression for just a moment, and then he looked somewhat indignant. “No M’am! I am in earnest! I have no idea who those men are...”

“Then who was it sent you to put a bullet in Al Husar’s head in answer to his message?”

Zedekiah looked like he was about to say something, and then his face suddenly became very fixed and placid. “I am sorry M’am, but I simply am not willing to reveal that information.”

Dio just looked at him for a moment. This wasn’t what she was expecting at all. Finally she spoke with some exasperation. “Allright, so you don’t know who Tanner and George Hearst are...”

“Oh wait, a moment,” interrupted Zed. “George Hearst? Is that the man associated with the Hearst mining interests? If he is the same, then I have indeed heard of that man, I simply did not know that his Christian name was George. But no, I had not previously heard of your Mr. Tanner you’re speaking of. And neither of them instructed me to kill Mr. Husar....”

“And yer not gonna tell me who did?” added Dio.

Zed sighed. “No Ma’am...just wouldn’t be right for me to do so.”

“Well, then,” Dio suggested, “kin ye at least tell me why ye kilt him an’ tried to put an end to me as well? Bein’ as ye damn near did succeed in that, seems only fair fer me to know.”

Zed thought about this a minute. “I reckon so. Long as you don’t wish to make me tell you the name of the person.” He took a breath and went on. “You see, I had developed affections for a young lady residin’ in Lead. She did not accept me as a suitor however, due to m’ limited means and prospects. Instead, she began seeing Mr. Husar...and in point o’ fact, they became engaged to be wed. He then for some reason sent her a message saying he wished to break it off, asking her forgiveness of him doing so. She was greatly embarrassed and hurt by this, and sent for me...said that if I would take an answer to his message in the form of vengeance, she would be greatly obliged to me as the protector of her’ would be willin’ to enter into courtship.”

Dio frowned. “Ye did this fer love...”


“Nothin’ to do with the mines an all that?”

“No Ma’am, not a thing.”

Dio took off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose in one of those odd little gestures people tend to do when their brains feel like they are gonna burst. She then turned to the young volunteer guard. “Pard, I regret I did not catch yer name.”

“Johansen, Ma’am. Asa Johansen.”

“Well, Asa Johansen,” said Dio, “tell me what’s yer reaction to this news? Here I thought I was hunting a man who carried out a cruel and cowardly assassination for purely mercenary reasons. Now I find that I have been pursiuin’ a love-struck white knight who pulled the trigger in order to gain the hand of his fair maiden, rather than the proverbial 30 pieces o’ silver.”

Asa looked perplexed. “Well Dep’ty Kuhr, that is all well ‘n good, but there is the matter that murderin’ folks is against the laws o’ God an’ man. And from what you told us, the fello’ did also attempt to kill you as well.”

Dio turned back to the wounded man on the bed. “Asa here has a good point. So why try to kill me? Hell, I didn’t break the heart o’ yer lady love. I was jus’ eatin flapjacks.”

“OH, she tol’ me to make sure there were no witnesses,” replied Zed. “She’s a right clever gal, and sad to say, I guess I was willin’ to do anything on earth to win her affections....”

“Clever gal, eh?” Dio could not hide an ironic smile. “An’ rather than give her up an’ possibly save your own life, ye’ll pertect her identity and undoubtedly go on to hang for all this.”

Asa Johansen had come up alongside Dio and was looking down at Zedekiah with a rather unreadable expression. Finally he spoke up. “Dep’ty Kuhr?”

“Yes, Asa?”

“Ma’am, would you think less o’ me for speakin’ somewhat bluntly in the presence o’ one o’ m’ elders?”

“No, o’ course not, pard.”

“Well I ain’t sure if it’s just me...but I have this feelin’ like that man right there on that bed is mebbe one o’ the biggest goddamned idiots to come down the pike in quite a while.”

“Asa Johansen,” said Dio, “it strikes me you are a feller who is remarkable wise beyond his years....”


Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Deadwood story -- consequences, part 4

Zedekiah Quinnell

Zedekiah Quinnell was breathing much easier now that he was into Minnesota. Right after he had shot Al Husar and that woman, he had felt mighty confident about having got away with it. But since he had crossed the big river at Ft. Pierre, he had had started getting nervous. Mostly it was just a quirky, odd feeling--that someone was following him, that he was not alone on this trek. But when he had stayed camped for a couple of days near that trading post, and the store man had told him a woman had been asking questions about him... that was when the level of his anxiety had substantially increased.

Once he was out of the Dakota territory, however, he started feeling better again. He was in some little piss-ant place called Orton or Ortonville--something like that--and had decided to treat himself to a night in a proper bed at a drover’s hotel. The next day, he got up somewhat late-ish, had a decent breakfast of some ham and boiled potatoes from the hotel kitchen, and then strolled over to the combined general goods store and post office at the crossroads. Zed noted that not surprisingly, the store was run by a man named Orton, who was also the postmaster.

The man didn’t seem terribly friendly. Zed bought fixings to roll some smokes, and just for fun, a little bag of hard mint-flavored candies, but the store man hardly said two words to him the whole time. The only other person in the store was an old stooped-over countrywoman in a shawl and rough homespun dress and apron, wearing one of those big old-style slat sunbonnets. Zed sighed, glancing at the venerable lady who was peering intently into a case of sewing notions. It made him think of his grandma back in Indiana--her spine and shoulders permanently bent from all those years of hard-scrabble farm work and child-raising.

The young man paid for his fixin’s and the candies, and set off to collect his horse and gear so he could hit the road once again.

“Damnation,” he thought. “I sure will be glad when things have settled down and I can get back to the Black Hills and be with Mary.”

He stopped to roll himself a cigarette: might as well get the day off to a proper start. As he was doing so, the old woman came out of the store and shuffled along the road towards him, a basket on her arm. A few yards from where he stood, she stopped, and he heard a small voice from inside the huge old-fashioned bonnet.

“Good day to ye, young man.”

*Good day to ya, Ma’am.” he replied. “Pleasant mornin’ ain’t it?”

“Tis that. Young man, might I ask somethin’ of ye?”

A flicker of concern passed over Zed’s face, and then he smiled. “O’ course, Ma’am. What's on your mind?”

“Well, two things, I was wonderin’ actually,” said the small voice in the bonnet. “First off, is that yor hoss in that field o’er yonder, back behind ye?”

Zedekiah Quinnell turned and looked into the field where the old woman was pointing. There was indeed, a rather nice horse grazing in the field, but it was not his, of course,

“No ma’am.” he answered. “That’s a fine lookin animal, but....”

As he turned back to face her, he found the woman’s back had straightened up and an extremely large, older pattern Colt’s revolver was pointed at him. With the woman now standing up straight, he could see her face under the bonnet.

To his credit, Zed didn’t do what you’d expect. He didn’t suddenly shout something silly like, “You! Why aren’t you dead!” Nor did he cuss, or try to run, or feebly put up his hands and piss himself.

He elected to face things like a man, which--from a certain point of view--is about all you can do when the light at the end of the tunnel proves to be an oncoming locomotive. Although it is pretty much a lost cause to try to draw on someone who already has pulled and pointed iron at you, you can always hope that they will be excited and their aim will be off, or perhaps--if Providence is really smiling on you--they might even have a misfire. So he did the one thing he thought he could do under the circumstances, which was to drop his half-rolled cigarette and tobacco and try to draw his Navy.

It worked out about as well as one would expect it to.

The slug from the woman’s Walker hit him in the thigh before his pistol had cleared leather. At that range, taking a .44 soft lead ball that is being pushed along by 60 grains of powder is a lot like being hit with a sledge hammer. Zed was down, in excruciating pain, and clutching at his shattered leg.

His gun was nearby on the ground, but the woman kicked it away so that it was completely out of his reach even if he had been feeling frisky enough to try for it again. Yep. Zedekiah Quinnell knew he was pretty much shit outta luck as he heard the resonant "click" sound of the pistol being cocked again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

SL in transition -- reason for hope?


"What is the end of our revolution? The tranquil enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice, the laws of which are graven, not on marble or stone, but in the hearts of men....

We wish that order of things where all the low and cruel passions are enchained, all the beneficent and generous passions awakened...and the people are governed by a love of justice; where the country secures the comfort of each individual, and where each individual prides himself on the prosperity and glory of his country; where every soul expands by a free communication of republican sentiments...where the arts serve to embellish that liberty which gives them value and support, and commerce is a source of public wealth and not merely of immense riches to a few individuals....

We wish, in a word, to fulfill the intentions of nature and the destiny of man, realize the promises of philosophy, and...become a model to nations, a terror to oppressors, a consolation to the oppressed, an ornament of the universe and that....we may at least witness the dawn of the bright day of universal happiness. This is our ambition - this is the end of our efforts.

- Maximilian Robesbierre, "On the Principles of Political Morality, (1794)

I must confess that I am at heart, an optimist, but one who at this stage of my life gets pretty mean-spirited when I find my hopes being frustrated and disappointed. For example, for quite some time, I have had great hopes for what Second Life could be and how it could make a positive impact in many lives. My hopes, however, did not always seem consistent with the idealistic vision that its creators, lead by Philip Rosedale, had for the platform. As I watched how it was managed, the seeming lack of commitment to the broad range of users, and the utter fecklessness exhibited by the stewards of this experiment, I turned mean-spirited and cynical like many long-time residents. But lately, there are a few odd events and hints that suggest perhaps there is cause to once again regain some level of optimism.

I started thinking like this recently when I heard about the experience of a friend who occasionally roleplays in Deadwood. Christine McAllister (a charming and law-abiding soul if ever there was one), found herself unexpectedly banned from Second Life for no reason that she could fathom. Her situation is described on her blog Lady Adventuress.

My initial reaction was much like that of many of her friends, taking this OUTRAGE as further evidence of LL's descent into corporate dementia. Then I heard the situation was fixed. When I asked her about it, Christine directed me to talk with the person who had approached the Lab on her behalf to attempt to have what was obviously a mistake corrected in a reasonable amount of time.

The heroine in this story is Steelhead's lovely and rational Tensai Hilra, who utilized her access to concierge services to actually talk to a real live LL hooman about what had happened. The real live hooman creature she talked to indicated that it had indeed been a mistake. It seemed that Christine had been banned on the basis of some action the lab was taking against an actual miscreant. Unfortunately, the lab sought to ban said miscreant on the basis of a MAC address that had either been fiddled, or that was targeted in a range of addresses (or something like that which Tensai patiently tried to explain to me for a good 15 minutes while I nodded and went "duh-ok"), and that Christine's MAC address got pinged in the action. And so it got fixed. It took a few days, BUT if it hadn't been for the blessed Tensai's intervention, it probably would have taken longer for them to get around to straightening it out.

Now, here's where my usual mind-set got challenged. I was all set to be off on another of my "someday-I'm-gonna-kick-Phil-Rosedale-square-in-the-balls" rants, but Tensai pointed out that

(A.) they actually fixed the problem, and

(B.) the fact that they were going after miscreants in this way may actually indicate that LL is being more conscientious in going after the kind of troublemakers they have in the past ignored, and in some cases apparently coddled.

Ah, well, you may say, "Hey Dio, you spitdribbling old doxie! That's just one little thing--this is not evidence of a trend!"

And you are right. HOWEVER, I would also point you to the recent series of events in which hundreds of retail content items produced by RH Engle and associated content makers were illegally copied and distributed all over the grid. This was done by some mewling puke who was trying to get revenge on Mr. Engle for some perceived affront. The Lab folks responded by immediately banning the accounts responsible for the theft, and "blacklisting" the illegal copies made and distributed by the thief (ie, the items cannot be rezzed). While not a perfect solution (and arguably not a completely effective one), the Lab did at least take this assault on a business very seriously and responded with quick and relatively severe action--unlike in the past when even something as egregious as this would have been largely left up to the residents themselves to sort out...

This probably isn't entirely fair of me to look at it this way, but in the past, the Lab leadership generally seemed to want to be above all the sordid realities of what actually transpired on the grid, or perhaps to just let it play out as some big jolly social experiment. But now there is something new going on. They suddenly seem to be more willing to get their hands dirty.

What do I mean by this? Well, recently, the lab conducted a sting operation in which they put out some kind of bait that was popular with the smarmy wanks who copy stuff. LL actually caught and banned a significant number of lackwits who fell for it. Yeah, I know, it's a "drop in the ocean," and a less than completely effective solution....BUT this (if it is true) is relatively important. They are not just reacting to some of those realities of life on the grid that have a negative impact on commercial, educational and creative recreational use of the platform--they are showing evidence of a new proactive philosophy. Using tools like sting operations to catch content thieves, or perhaps, maybe even carrying out policies such as hunting down and killing grieftards instead of treating them like pets will make a huge difference in making the grid actually usable by businesses and institutions--not to mention the sizable population of current and potential individual users who can see the platform as something useful for something more than just havin' some yuks at others' expense and pissing away those empty hours in Mom's basement.

Now I know what I have presented here are some random recent events--anecdotal evidence at best. Unfortunately, the activities of the lab lack sufficient transparency to allow us to do more than conjecture based upon that kind of fragmentary evidence. And yeah, I know they're a private company and they can do their business any way they want, even if it means they actually do sit around wearing big fiberglass chipmunk heads--it's just a shame because what is happening on SL is a huge and unique social experiment that somebody should be seriously evaluating...

Anyway, I digress. The intriguing thing is, that there is something else besides this anecdotal evidence that offers a reason for hope. Back in September, LL founder Phil Rosedale made a statement on the SL official site that included the following:

"...we should try and realize that we are working together on a small village that in a few years will be a gigantic metropolis. Everything will change, and needs to. Try not to cling too tightly to what we have now. The design, the UI, the orientation experience, the tools - all these need to change, a LOT, for Second Life to become accessible to hundreds of millions. Those changes are sometimes going to be disruptive and many ways I don't want Second Life to change either. It is magical, and it is cool to feel like you are one of the brave and visionary few who came early. But a bigger part of my heart wants to see it reach everyone, and so we must evolve. Onward!"

In effect, even Philip is acknowledging that the hippy-dippy, wild west days of the big experiment are over and that things are going to have to change. Second life is in fact finally getting into its "second phase," something that Hamlet Au had talked about over a year ago in a post back when Phil stepped down as president of the company. It just seems that now the navigational orders have finally reached the engineering deck and the behemoth is starting to swing onto its new course.

Philip says it must evolve. But that includes not just fixing the "design, the UI, the orientation experience, the tools" as Mr. Rosedale says. It means bringing order and reliability and stability---and not just technical reliability--to the grid. And being the eternal fucking optimist that I am, I am seeing things that suggest to me that the folks at the Lab are trying the shove the elephant off that cliff.

Look, I know I've been kind of an asshole with regards to the Lindens. I know most of them are decent, hard-working people who try their damnedest to make the vision a reality. Like I said earlier, I've just been kind of disappointed by a lot of things--many people have. I promise I'll try to keep a more civil tone. And if I ever actually do meet Phil Rosedale, I promise I will just shake his hand and tell him how much his wacky invention has meant to us all.

No, I will not kick him square in the balls.

I don't envy the Linden folks--it's going to take a lot of hard work and getting their hands dirty, and doing crap that Ain't Fun. And not everybody is going to survive the transition. That's why I included the Robespierre quote at the beginning of this piece--for you non-history freaks, Max Robespierre was one of the great inspirational orators of French liberty, a real idealist and visionary. He subsequently became a dictator, directed the Reign of Terror and was himself ultimately arrested and sent to embrace Madame Guillotine.

Visionaries don't always do well as an organization makes a big transition into a phase where pragmatism is necessary.

But the fact that there seems to be movement towards a more pragmatic course--in which there is a more sustained attempt being made to address the needs and hopes and desires of business people, artists and content creators, educators and storytellers, and lots and lots of everybody else--yeah that is something that gives me hope.

Robespierre and some of his followers being taken to be guillotined in 1794. No, I am not suggesting that this should be done to LL employees who have trouble adapting during the transition that SL is undergoing. However, I would cheerfully do my Madame Dufarge impression if this were treatment meted out to content thieves, scammers and grieftards. And yes, the image is in the public domain.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Deadwood story -- consequences, part 3

First Sergeant Sepp Bogart, reassigned from 3rd US Cavalry, to the cavalry depot at St. Louis, has been a part of a new experiment to provide recruits with some inititial training of a very basic nature before they are sent to their units. On a regualr basis he receives long letters from his lady in the Dakota Territory. He eagerly awaits each new report, which he finds vastly more entertaining than any work of fiction or fantasy.

Since becoming reacquainted with Dio, he has become used to the variety of news she shares with him, much of which would astonish or concern a man who was less comfortable with the philosophical notion that the universe simply makes no sense and is utterly lacking for any form of a practical plan. The following letter, however, stood head and shoulders above the rest in terms of the sheer number and mind-slapping quality of the surprises it contained.

My Dearest Sepp,

First off, allow me to give you my assurances that I am well. But Goddam, Hon, it were a close-run thing this time, as I was in the compny of some one who had made mor than the usual number of enemies & his predeliction to do so cuaght up with him as we were eating breakfast at the Californa.

I know you were ner given the chance to meet Mister Al Husar in person, but I had told you of the man. I did not care grately for him, either for his manner nor his chosen path, as an agent of large business interests of the sort that leeve the littel man in the dust of its progress. But his presens had grown to be mor acceptable to me for his oposition to other interests of a mor ominous nature, and I did eventually find him to be of decent heart as he provided asistance to Miss Adiniah's good works in looking after the town's orphaned & abandonned children.

He is now, however passed on to what I hope to be a Better Place, as a fello did approach us and shoot Mr Husar in the head, leeving him dead almost of an instant. The fello did also tke a shot at me, but missed by small measure, leeving me with but a graze that young Deacon did asist me in looking after.

As shortly before this, Mr. Husar did apprise me of a surprising piece of intelligence, that he was in fact a half nephew of old John Husar, and being thus made awar that he was kin to people for whom I cared, I felt a sense of Blood debt which must be repayd. I established which direction the shooter took, and then prepared to set off after him. The new Mayor, Mr. Silverspar did try to dissuade me from this cours, claiming that other more important matters had to be attended to, I fear I was somewhat rude in my reply to HisHonor & will need to extend to him an apology on my return.

Twas much more of a comfort to go see Ron, who has taken up helping Miss Mahaila in the set up and runing of her Grocry, and when I did request of him rations for the trip to pursue the Killer, he did comply without comment other than quiet encouragment. He gave to me Rounds for the Carbine & jerkd venison & hard biskit for the trail. Ron understands what it means to have a Blood Debt that must be rapayd, and for that I have great appreciation.

So I am making progress in this endevour and trust you will not trubble yorself grately as to consern for my well-being. When I have repayd this debt, I will keep you all apprised of my success, as I have no expectation of any other outcome. At present I am in the visinity of Ft. Pierre, but do not know how long I will be here.

Oh and by the way, you may find amusing to kno that I am at least for now a speciul fedral dep'ty Marshall, having encounterd The Distirict Fedral Dep'ty Marshall Sand Rau in the course of seeking information regarding the Killer of Mr. Husar. Sand says to me that he culd not allow me to be taking the Law into my Own Hands, so I replyed to him, Fine, give me one of yor godammed Tin Stars which you hand out when need be. Says Sand, Oh, but you are a dam woman, cannot give you no goddammed Tin Star, and says I, show me wherein tis written that yor goddammed Tin Stars can only be pinned up on a chest with no bumps. He did think up on this a moment, then sayd he would sign me into the goddammed Book as D.A. Kuhr and be done with it. Sand, God bless him , he tosst to me a tin star and says Do not kill this fello un-less you must and then says to me, I need now to Swear you in. Says I, Hells Briches Sand, I swear at you all most evry goddamm time I see you. and then rode off.

Tho at the time, I laffed about this encounter, up on reflexion I suspect that perhap this Tin Star may pruve of use.

I miss you terrible as always and think of you most waking moments. I send to you all my love an respect & look foreward to next when I will be in yor arms.

OH and Another By The Way--yor intended now seems to be a woman of some means, Mr. Husar having left me his worldly goods in his will, I suppose in considration of the service we did to his kin befor the war. He seemed to think he had no close relations, but I think Old John's Grandson would qualify as such--will you do me the kindness of inquiring if he is still live? Last we had heerd he was in 10th Cav was He not? I would very much like to know, so that we may share with him a fair portion of this favor by his kinsman.

I remain yors forever in faithful love,

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Class Act -- Betty Doyle and her retro designs

Betty Doyle, wearing one of her most recent retro dresses posing in
one of AM Radio's retro-flavored builds
(image courtesy Betty Doyle)

I’m was looking again at Hamlet Au’s blogger challenge where he provided a list of “lesser-known” Second Life personalities and asked for SL bloggers to do profiles of anyone from the list. I’ve noted that as of yet, no one has elected to write about my friend Betty Doyle, creator of the Ingenue line of retro-inspired hair and clothing. Well, I figured I’d best take a stab at rectifying that situation, not only because she is a good friend, but also, being as objective as I can, I think she makes some damned good-looking, well-made, classy stuff.

Betty’s focus, as I said, is “retro-inspired” so naturally, with my ongoing interest in history and all things historical as they manifest themselves in this pixelated vale of tears we call Second Life, I have always found her work intriguing, and more importantly, fun to wear. You put on one of her outfits and you’re gonna feel pretty, but not in the hooker-esque way that characterizes so much of what passes for “fashion” in SL. If your idea of “retro” is looking like you’re working a street corner in Newark in the 1980s you can skip going to Ingenue. But if you think retro, and you think Betty Grable, Vivien Leigh, Ingrid Bergman, Betty Davis, Ann Miller, Bettie Page--hey you’re probably gonna find something you can use in Betty Doyle’s stores.

Shopping at Ingenue--a store designed with the customer in mind.

Betty started out making victorian-inspired dresses for the Caledon crowd in the fall of 2006. And when I say “Victorian-inspired” this is an important distinction. She tried to create outfits that had an authentic feel and look, but were not an attempt to replicate in pixel form the precise construction and elements of actual historical pieces. This was in great part due to the restrictive nature of the tools a designer has to work with in SL, but also because if you try to build a dress the same way you build a garment in real life, it’s just not gonna look exactly right, especially when you try to move in it. There are some people in SL who try to build their dresses in a way that mimics real life: they often are very exacting in the attempt to recreate specific real life historical garments. The result is something that may look ok when you’re standing still, but that really gets funky when you move. Betty Doyle’s outfits are certainly appealing from an historical perspective, but they also will move beautifully with you. You can walk, you can can dance--you can live in them.
Betty names her hair styles after film stars or
of that era who had that general style
(image courtesy Betty Doyle)

After a while of working with a Victorian vocabulary (and having examples of her garments being featured in an early exhibit at the Caledon library), Betty increasingly shifted to creating clothing and hair from the 1930’s through the early 60’s. This is a reflection of her real life enthusiasm for clothing, films, and material culture of that era. If you meet Betty’s typist, you’re going to see someone who fixes her hair and makeup in ways that go for a 40’s-50s look, and chooses to wear clothing that evokes that period. She has translated her real life interest into a continually expanding line of 20th century vintage products at her main store in LoLo. At the same time, some of her original Victorian-inspired clothing can still be found in smaller satellite shops, located in appropriate places such as Caledon Tamrannoch and Deadwood 1876. A lot of the outfits that I wear in old west sims like Deadwood--and even in Hogwarts when I’m working in the library there--are assembled with skirts, tops, aprons, and other elements of Ingenue 19th century outfits. I frequently use some of her hair as well, since a few certain 30’s--40’s hairstyles (especially one design that involves a snood) are evocative of various later 19th century hair-work.

I don't always look Victorian--if I am going to any kind of formal event, or an "out of character" party, I always wear Ingenue hair and clothing, and I generally surprise the folks who are used to seeing me in buckskins and packin' iron--this ensemble is put together with Betty's "Torch Song" hair and "Put the Blame on Mame" dress, FoxLupine Paz's "Alyssa" cigarette and holder, and Caliah Lyon's "Margaux " draped pearl necklace.

Some of you folks out there who follow Betty Doyle’s work and eagerly await the latest offering from Ingenue, probably noted that her rate of production slowed down for a while. The explanation for this is that Betty is one of that elite group of SL ladies who found a guy in-world who wasn’t a flaming goober, met-up in rl, got married and had a baby. Betty tells me that it’s sort of challenging to try to work on a project in Maya with only one hand while holding a small squirming human creature in the other. Now that things have settled and the youngster’s demands can be met through other less labor intensive means, Betty has thrown herself back into generating new content, improving some past work (new enhanced textures for almost all her hair), and shifting a selection of older designs to a discount outlet.

The Ingenue Main store in LoLo--well lit, uncluttered, and elegant:
a great place to shop
(image courtesy Betty Doyle)

Mind you, not that her regular prices are all that terrible to start with. In fact, Ingenue prices are pretty reasonable, considering the quality of the work, and how good you look when you wear it. And you will look good in a lot of different contexts. If I am going to a party or dance where a 19th century look won’t quite fit, I put on one of Betty’s 40s formal dresses and some classic movie star hair, and more often than not, stand out from the crowd. You can use a lot of Ingenue products in futuristic environments as well as historical and contemporary social situations. Remember Rachel's hairstyle in Blade Runner? Yeah, Betty has hair like that. And if you’re interested in going the naughty route, I understand that many of the ladies who do a classic pin-up look, or who are working the tony traditional burlesque venues in sl favor Ingenue hair and lingerie.

Betty’s work has garnered some recognition in SL--including winning the tennis outfit design competition held in conjunction with the Australian Open in January 2008--but I don’t thin she has received the attention she deserves. Everybody in world doesn’t have to have the same look.

There are so many delightful creative building blocks to work with in constructing something unique for yourself. If you want to try working with well thought-out and constructed retro elements in your ongoing effort to look good and knock’em dead, you can visit the Ingenue Main store in LoLo at:

Above, the retro tennis outfit that won the "court coture" contest (image courtesy Betty Doyle)