Monday, September 28, 2009

A Deadwood story -- consequences, part 2

~~~
As the assassin galloped towards the Main Street bridge and the route out of town, he was very pleased with himself. He was sure his target was dead, and that he had tied up the loose ends.

Behind him, the California was wreathed in the lingering fragrances of burnt black powder and blood. There was no movement, no sound...except one...

“sonofagoddamBITCH!!!”

No, he had not done a perfect job.

He had, in fact, not succeeded in tying up all the loose ends. He had been instructed to see to it there were no witnesses. He thought he had done so, but actually had failed. There was a witness, and she was utterly, inexpressibly pissed off.

Now, keep in mind, that while this witness’s degree of irritation was arguably in the realm of the inexpressible, she did, nonetheless, make a spirited effort to find words that would serve as a pretty fair approximation of how she felt at that point in time:

“Goddam, no-good, cowardly, cocksuckin’ WEASEL-FUCKER!”

Dio pulled herself up from the floor, her pistol drawn, clutching at the bullet-graze on her neck as blood dripped from between her fingers. She staggered the few steps to where Al’s body was slumped over the counter. Dio looked at Al Husar for only a moment and then lurched towards the door. There was no need to bother with checking for a pulse. The ex-soldier’s Navy had done its work: the entry wound wasn’t too bad, but the exit wound where Al’s right eye used to be was relatively impressive. Blood, and some bits of skull and brains were splattered across the counter and the basket of biscuits.

The interior of the California restaurant,
showing Miz Estwee's lunch counter

There was also no point in trying to find Estwee--she’d be hiding, terrified. Instead, Dio decided to try the closest place that someone was likely to be this time of the morning: the Collier Boarding House, run by her friend Foxy Innis, just up the slight rise at the end of Main Street.

As she headed for the boarding house, she muttered bits and pieces of phrases that made it pretty clear how she felt.

”...no-good cowardly....ah, sonofabitch that hurt....goddammit it to hell an’ back...."

Finally she staggered through the door of the Collier House, calling out, “Hey, anyone here?...Deac?...Foxy?...Goddammit!...DEAC!...FOXY!!"

Deacon Dryke, the 15 year-old younger brother of provisioner Percy Dryke, was upstairs in his room at the Collier House, suffering with a bad head cold, when he heard some kind of noise downstairs. He sat painfully up and shook his head, sneezed, and then began crawling out of bed. “Hello?” he asked stuffily, “why are you yelling like the house is burning?”

“I'm down here, Deac,” answered Dio somewhat weakly. “No, the house ain't burning...but I'm shot...and Al Husar is dead.”

Deac was just in the process of blowing his nose but this news roused him to a better semblance of wakefulness. Nonetheless, “Wha..ahh.. whaat?” was all he could manage to say.

The boy pulled on his trousers and stumbled down the steps to find Dio sitting at the boarding house dining table, a huge hog-leg of a revolver in one hand, while her other hand was pressed to her neck, dark blood oozing out between her fingers.

Deac sneezed one more time, then hurried closer to take a better look. Dio did not seem happy to see him as he pried her sticky fingers away from the wound in her neck.

“Goddammit,” was all she said.

Deac was horrified, “Do ya need something? Is a doc around? What can I do?”

Dio pointed to the stove. “Hot water...towel...”

Deac got the idea and grabbed a towel which he handed Dio so she could press it to her neck. Then he raked up the coals, stoked the fire in the stove, and put water on to boil. While he was doing so, Dio became more talkative.

“We was at the California,...some belly-crawlin’ sonofabitch come up behind us...asked Al something and said he had an answer to his message...an' he shot him in the back o' the head...then took another shot an' grazed me.”

Deac had found another towel and dipped it in the water heating on the stove, and had begun trying to clean up the wound, to see if it was still actively bleeding. His hands were shaking as he did so.

Who was it?” asked Deac as he held the towel to her neck hoping that the bleeding would stop soon.

Dio didn’t seem to have heard the question. “Don't know how the hell the feckless cocksuckin puke missed me at that range, 'cept I was already rollin out of m' seat an pullin’ m' iron...”

“OH my God,” said Deac in a congested but clearly excited voice, “Al is dead...”

Dio looked up at the boy who was now pressing the towel onto her neck harder than was really necessary. “Holy Christ and his horn-blowin' angels...you ever had someone let off a Colt right next t' yer goddam head? Sonofabitch, that was fuckin’ loud...”

Deac nodded, “Yes at the last shooting contest, someone fired when I was right next to them...I was half deaf...”

Dio looked at him a moment and then commented drily, “Well hell, try it with the goddamm piece pointed at ye...fuckin’ deaf ain’t the word to describe the ringin’ I got in m’ ears right now...oh and we’re gonna need to wash all round that wound, get the burnt powder outta m' skin..."


Deac glanced under the towel, and noted with relief that the bleeding seemed to have stopped. He went to the stove and got the pot of water that was now boiling.

“So who do you think did it? One of Hearst’s men maybe?” he asked, as he began cleaning her neck and shoulder

Dio shook her head. “I have no goddam idea....twas some unemployed sojer...a kid I seen around here now an agin, but never talked to him more'n a few words."

“Is he still outside?” said Deac in agitation, “We have to call the sheriff!”

The boy settled into a sneezing fit after he made this exclamation. Dio waited until he was done and then answered calmly, "No, Hon, I think he was most likely long gone by the time I got up an’ looked to see if Al was gonna mebbe make it. Oh, by the way, after we’s done gettin’ this wound bound up, you better go clean up Estwee's lunch counter for her...goddam blood an’ brains an’ bits o’ skull all over that sonofabitch...Estwee ain't got the stomach fer cleanin that up, I reckon...nice gal but..you know, she takes a fright at things quite easily, an’ I fear she won’t have much enthusiasm fer such a task.”

Deac nodded, even though he had gone a bit pale and clearly was lacking enthusiasm for the job himself.

Dio looked thoughtful for a moment. “You know how come this happened like this?...Al was tellin' me the mayor tol’ him he couldn't bring his security men to town with him. He had no guard. Left him him wide open to struck down in this fashion...”

Deac looked confused. “The mayor did what?”

Dio sighed. “Well, ye know, Al had hired fellers from town to guard the Gold Star office an’ the mines...an’ to shadow him in case he got jumped. Mayor said he couldn't do that no more....well, shit...now he's lying at Estwee's with a big fuckin’ hole where part o’ his face used t' be.”

She sighed again. Deac was unsure of what to do next. He had things pretty well cleaned up but was not certain of his next step. As if sensing this, Dio looked up and began instructing him, “Deac, yer gonna need to wash that wound with some whiskey and we'll need to put a poultice and bandage on it. Ye think Foxy has any cheap likker around here?”

“I’ll look," he said, and trotted off to the boarding house pantry to look through the shelves.

As he searched, Dio suddenly realized she was still holding the Walker. She slid it into its holster. She was very calm now, and was starting to make a mental inventory of what she would need.

“I can’t find any here,“ called out Deacon.

“No matter, hon.” Dio repleid, “We’ll go by the Gem. Hell, the sun’s up. They’ll be open fer the early drinkers. Papaw allus tol’ me to wash wounds with whisky...seems to make em get better...got no goddam idea why, but it does....Deac would ye walk with me down to the Gem?”

“No, no,” said Deac in consternation, “you should sit!...and rest! I’ll find some whiskey...”

Dio, however, was already standing up, slowly but steadily. Deac know he had already lost this argument. He nodded and ran upstairs to buckle on his gunbelt, stuff his feet into his boots, and then dashed back down. Next, he rather bravely decided to try taking Dio by the arm, to help her just in case she got wobbly--even though he was fully expecting to get slapped for making the attempt.

Surprisingly, Dio just smiled at him. “You ain’t really gotta do that, Hon,” she said gravely. But she did let the boy take her arm. Truth be told, she was actually quite fond of Deacon Dryke, and thought very highly of the boy.

“Ye shouldn’t fret so, Deac.” She went on, “Ye know I done been hurt worse than this, lots worse. An’ usually I’d just do like a cat, go lie under the kitchen table an look after m' self ‘til I either die or get better...an I ain't a gonna die from a fuckin’ lil’ ol scratch like this...”

Deac was not reassured. “Can’t I take you to the Doc’s or something?"

“Naw, it's allright, Deac. Ye done plenty...ye helped me stop the bleedin’ n all, cleaned me up...now jus walk with me in case he's still out there.”

“He?” asked Deac, “he who?”

Dio was starting to look a little irritated. “The feller what shot Al o’ course...who did ye think I meant? Al? Al's still there I know..he ain't goin’ nowhere."

The walked slowly down the street to the Gem, which, yes, was in fact, already open.

“Jemima,” called out Deac, “whiskey fast!...a whole bottle...I’ll pay ya later!”

Deac took the bottle that Jemima held out to him and then turned to the table where Dio had sunk heavily into a chair. He placed the bottle in front of her, “Here..have a sip,” he suggested.

Dio frowned, “I ain't havin none o’ that pizzen in me. It’s goin’ on the outside o’ this wound, not inside o' me.” She picked up the bottle, pulled the cork out with her teeth and began splashing the liquor onto her handkerchief. As she began washing off the wound with the whisky-soaked cloth, her face was impassive, but she did make a small involuntary hissing noise.

“Does it hurt much?” asked Deac solicitously.

Dio briefly looked at him with a fleeting expression that suggested she just might rip off his head and spit down the gaping hole, as her Papaw used to say. Instead, she composed herself and answered him in a very soft voice.

“Yes, Deac. Yes...it does...indeed...hurt.”

Deac, who now was feeling a renewed sense of panic, tried to help by lifting one of her braids out of the way. Dio responded by slapping away his hand.

“Ow,” he said in a small voice. Actually it was his feelings, rather than his hand that had been injured by her slap, but it did serve to calm him down some.

What’re you going to do now?” he asked.

Dio completed cleaning the wound. “Go back to the laundry, finish bandagin’ this...then grab some ammo fer the carbine and some supplies, an I’ll get hoss...”

Deac and Jemima looked at each other. Deac was now feeling the panic set in again, but Jemima just shrugged.

“Yeah,” Dio went on, “I reckon I got me a job fer a spell...gonna have to find that feller an’ kill him. Oh, and thanks fer the whiskey.”

She was already starting out the door of the Gem.

Deac did not feel good about this. “But isn’t there something I can do?”

“Yeah,” replied Dio in a flat voice as she headed for China Row. “See to it that Al gets taken care of properly. An’ clean up Miz Estwee’s lunch counter, fer chrissakes.”

Deacon Dryke watched Dio disappear around a corner. Then he looked up towards the California restaurant where he knew he had a job to do.

“Oh goddamn,” he moaned plaintively. “Why me?”

Finally, after a pause, he squared his shoulders, sighed, and started up the street towards Estwee’s place.
~~~

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Our first Deadwood exhibit -- roleplay rooted in history

~~~

At 3:00 PM slt today, Saturday September 26, the Deadwood Memorial Library in the non-rp entry area of the Deadwood 1876 Sim will host its first exhibit:

Drawn From the Past: Deadwood Roleplay Characters Inspired by Real History

The exhibit focuses on the concept that just as the Deadwood immersion environment sim was based upon and inspired by an actual historical place and time on the American western frontier, many of the "historically plausible" composite characters that its residents have created to inhabit and interact in that environment were inspired by or based upon actual individuals from the past.

This exhibit features a selection of recurring characters who are part of the ongoing "storytelling roleplay" in the Deadwood sim. The typists who created these characters have contributed reflections upon and information about the actual historical people that inspired their fictional personas.

The exhibit will be on the second floor of the Deadwood Memorial Library in the Yankton area of the Deadwood 1876 sim, from Sept. 26 through December 31, 2009.

The exhibit itself is not a unique design, it essentially follows the pattern established a few years ago by JJ Drinkwater with the Caledon Library, in which exhibits are developed using attractive panels with minimal text, but an embedded notecard-giver that provides substantial interpretive material, as well as web addresses for sources of even more in-depth information about the subject. The style of exhibit is analogous to a real-life museum or library exhibit panel, in which you have a descending order of information in decreasing font sizes--the main title and key concept in few words but the largest font size, followed by slightly more in-depth information in a slightly smaller font size, and then the truly in-depth information for the most committed exhibit visitor, at the bottom of the panel and in an even smaller font size.

While the design of the exhibit is not unusual, the creators of the exhibit are nonetheless rather proud of how this all turned out. Below is an example of one of the exhibit panels:



Each panel features one image of the avatar you may encounter in the sim, and one image of the primary historical inspiration for that character. Background colors of each panel were chosen to reflect something about the persona of the character, such as red backgrounds representing a story of passion and violence.

When the visitor touches one of the panels he or she receives a note card, the initial draft of which was written by the person who plays that particular character--their "typist." This approach resulted in substantial variety in the structure, length and style of each interpretive piece, but it does suggest something of the diverse nature of the "cast" in Deadwood 1876, and the uniqueness of each typist and how they approach their roleplay.

The exhibit was conceptualized and installed by myself, Addison Leigh and Blitzer Renfold. A number of individual resdients contributed their images and stories for the exhibit panels, including myself, Poohneil Streeter, Malachi Boelcke, Cheshire Macarthur, Coodnank Thibedueau, Ernst Osterham, Astolat Dufaux, Baird Bravin and Planter and Elisabeth Leitner.

I think you'll be intrigued by the variety of characters and their sources of inspiration, some of whom are well-known, while others may be completely now to you. We are hoping that during the course of the exhibit, we will be able to add some additional panels from more of our residents, and to present some round-table discussions on creating a roleplay character and using sources like these.

Join us for the opening of the exhibit, starting at 3:00 PM SLT on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, with a reception where you can meet some of the characters featured in the exhibit. Guided tours of the rp area will be available.
~~~

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Deadwood Story -- consequences, part 1

~~~
There's one rule that pretty much always holds true for boomtowns: things are always changing, including the factors that caused the boom in the first place. That was certainly true with Deadwood. In the early days of the town, every small operator had a chance at hitting it big. At first there was plenty of surface gold, wealth that could be found in gravel banks or those natural traps you find in a creek or stream--the places where the water slows, and heavier material--such as flakes and small nuggets of gold--will settle into a crack or under a big rock.

The first stage of a gold rush: placer mining by the "little guys."

This was what drew so many argonauts in the initial months of the Black Hills Gold Rush: the possibility that a man on his own, or with just a couple of his pards, could stake a claim and work it with pick and shovel and pan, or maybe build a little sluice with riffles to catch the gold. These simple tools, a little bit of good fortune, and a lot of backbreaking work could make a down-on-his-luck mechanic or laborer into a big-spending dandy. But of course, that didn’t last long. Those placer deposits dried up pretty fast. There still was a prodigious amount of the yellow metal to be extracted, but more and more it couldn’t be done by a few men using their picks and pans. It took bigger operators, running underground mines with steam engines driving the machinery, a big investment in equipment and workers, and dynamite (known as Giant powder) and timbers for shoring up the tunnels.

Yes, the gold rush continued, and many of the small time boys grimly held on to their claims trying to make it worth the work...but the real winners now were the big boys--large companies, like the fellows who ran the Father DeSmet mine, or George Hearst and his cronies with the Homestake. Middling sized operators tried to break into the action as well...one company that struggled to do so was Gold Star Mining Company, a firm whose Black Hills operations were overseen by a large bearded man, a mining engineer named Al Husar.
Dio didn’t care for any of these big operators. She was mostly indifferent to the gents at the Father de Smet, but she sincerely disliked Al Husar...and she downright loathed George Hearst and his various “lapdogs” as she called them. The idea that the small-time argonauts were being squeezed out, that they were losing their dreams...well, it just sorta pissed her off.

She also didn't like the fact that the competition between these bigger operators was turning into a full-blown conflict. And she wasn’t the only one who felt this way: many of the townspeople were beginning to fear the possibility of a war between some of the firms. Hearst and Gold Star seemed to be particularly close to the precipice. They appeared to be very close to falling into a violent confrontation and most Deadwood folks, Dio included, figured that would be “right bad fer bizness.”
When things seemed to be coming to the boiling point, Mayor Silverspar (yes, the same gent who had been shot in the leg by Hawk while working as a bartender at the Bella) had tried to head things off by issuing a decree that none of the mine company security men from either side were allowed within the town limits. This decision put Gold Star at a distinct disadvantage, and in fact, there proved to be severe consequences... as Dio was to find out one chilly fall morning at the California restaurant.

It was early--just past sunrise--but Dio was up, of course. She was already having her breakfast at the California. Estwee, the proprietor of the restaurant--widely regarded by old hands as the best place to eat in town for the money--was having one of her shy days. Estwee had gotten worse about it lately. Sometimes she would just stay in her kitchen, only bringing out big plates of food now and then for her customers to serve themselves from. The regulars always just tossed the coins for payment into a large coffee tin behind the counter, and if any greenhorn tried to get away with not paying or putting his hand in the till, the regulars would take care of him or her in some artistically violent fashion. The boys all loved Miz Estwee and weren’t about to let any worthless drifter or bowlegged chippie skip out on a meal at the California without paying.

Anyhow, this was one of those mornings. Dio had helped herself to a pile of flapjacks and had shouted a “How do, Estwee” back into the kitchen without expecting or receiving any reply.

As she ate, Al Husar ambled in. Dio looked up from her breakfast, scowled slightly, but still nodded and mumbled “good day to you, sir” through her face-full of flapjacks.

Al pulled up a stool right next to Dio, even though the place was deserted except for her, and he could have sat wherever he liked.

“Good morning, Mrs. Kuhr,” he smiled as he seated himself, tipping his bowler hat.

Dio’s scowl got a little more severe, but after a pause she spoke. “I hear tell that you have closed yer office in town..might I ask what's going on?

Al reached over and pulled a biscuit from the basket on the counter. He stared at it thoughtfully as he replied, “Well Ma’am, the new mayor gave me an ultimatum...he wants me to be ending this conflict with Hearst.”

Dio arched an eyebrow. There recently had been an open letter in the paper from Al addressed to Hearst, calling on him to meet with the Gold Star representative and hash things out in a peaceful way.

Finally she commented drily, “Well sir, judging by that letter o’ your’n in the paper, you was already trying to do that...”

Al Husar sighed. “Yes...and not very successfully. Hearst hasn't responded at all...not even a go-fuck-yourself.”

“So I reckon we're gonna have a mine war then?” asked Dio.

“Well Ma’am,” Al shrugged, “I believe the mayor’s intention was to avoid that very situation. He thought he could force us to sit down...work things out. But he told me I wouldn't be able to bring security guards into town until we did so.”

It suddenly dawned on Dio that the security man who usually accompanied Al everywhere he went was not to be seen. She was pretty sure that this was not a good thing.

Al Husar continued, “I can’t get by without that security. You know we just bought the Grubstake mine: I need to protect that, but it’s entrance is in the town limits. Plus we had the office here in town, and the people who work for me...if I am not allowed to protect them, I can't do business here....not with a bastard like Hearst in the mix.”

Dio took a sip of coffee. “I was starting to think you might actually care about this goddam town, Al. Not long ago you had tol’ me you was tryin to fend Hearst off and keep the mine war from happnin’ ‘cuz ye had the interests o’ the town at heart..”

“I do,” answered Al. “This town is my home now....but these people have elected a megalomaniacal fool for a mayor...”

“A what?”

Al smiled. “A feckless turd,” he explained.

“Oh.”

Al went on, “I have to protect my people and the company's interests. The mayor gave me no choice. I have to give my people a fighting chance, so I had to pull them out of town...”

Dio blinked. “So you in town without no security right now?”

“Yes”

Dio was increasingly having a feeling that this was not a good thing.

“I had to come in and finish up some business,” said Al. “But shortly, I'll be out at our mines in the countryside...out in the hills. Those are a going concern and I gotta look after ‘em. So I won’t be too far away...if you need me.”

Dio looked offended. “Why in the name o’ Beelzebub's bunghole would I... or we need you?

Al Husar laughed. “You still don't like me, do you Mrs. Kuhr?”

“Well,” Dio answered, “the fact that you was opposing Hearst made me reconsider a spell, but no, with this latest development, I reckon yer jus like every other goddam selfish big bug from some large company who's gonna drive out the small operators sooner or later... and I still don't think yer very goddam smart comin’ to town without yer security shadow...”

Al Husar smiled and shrugged. “Well, Mrs. Kuhr, as my half-uncle used to say, life is dangerous."

Dio suddenly looked at the man with a expression of surprise. That particular phrase had rung a bell deep within her memory.

“Yer half-uncle?” she asked.

Al grinned. “Yes Ma’am. My half-uncle indeed. John Husar.”

“I am suddenly thinkin’ we are speakin’ o’ the same gent...the man what m’ fool of a husband accidentally won in a poker game an’ wound up manumittin’....John...I recollect him saying that purty regular, about life is dangerous...an smilin’ as he said it."

Al nodded. “Yes my father's half-brother was quite the philosopher.”

“Yer pa was ol’ John's half-brother?”

“Yes..funny world isn't it?”

Dio thought that was the understatement of the year.

“You see,” said Al, “on our side of the family...well, my father was the offspring of a union between my grandmother and the master.”

Dio suddenly felt the warm light of comprehension flooding the still sleepy recesses of her brain. “So most of y'all further down the line could pass for white...or creole anyway?”

Al nodded with with an ironic little smile.

“Well, I'll be dammed,” said Dio.

“I doubt it,” answered Al.

Any evidence of dislike had faded from her expression. Dio now had a look of genuine concern. “Dammit I shoulda figgered somethin’ was up here...tain’t a common name at all, Husar. So what ye gonna do now, Al? Just gonna hunker down up in the hills and wait them rascals out?”

Al shook his head. “No, I will keep trying to get a hold of George...I keep sending him messages by different means...different mutual acquaintances.”

As Al Husar made this statement, a young man with long sideburns and wearing an old army sack coat walked into the restaurant.

Both Dio and Al looked up at him. Al nodded to the young man, “Mornin’, sir.”

Dio likewise greeted him, “How do, pard.” She had seen this young man, a former soldier, around town before, though she had not spoken to him much.

The young man touched his hat brim in reply to their greeting and walked up to Al. “Excuse me sir, by any chance are you Mr. Al Husar?” he asked.

Al looked him over a moment and then replied, “Yes...yes I am... what can I do for you?”

The young man looked very serious and announced gravely, “I have an answer to your message....”

“Oh?” replied Al. And as he said this, he turned to take another biscuit from the basket.

While he did so, the young man pulled a Colt Navy from under his sack coat and fired, just inches from the back of Al’s head. As Al slumped forward onto Estwee’s counter, Dio--who had been sitting on the far side of Al from the shooter--was already rolling off her stool and clawing out the big Walker Colt from its holster. The young man re-cocked the Navy and fired a round at the woman in buckskins.

In a flash, he turned and was out the door. He had been told to get in, kill Husar quickly--preferably with one shot at close range--then take care of any witnesses and get the hell out of there as rapidly as was possible.

As he untied his horse from the railing of Miz Estwee’s porch and climbed on to gallop up Main Street, he was thinking he had done a pretty good job of following his employer’s instructions.

to be continued...
~~~

Monday, September 21, 2009

I laughed, I cried, it become a part of me: Perceval Dryke and the creation of content that is more than just stuff

~~~
Perceval Dryke and his town--Deadwood 1876

There are an astonishing number of people who make stuff for consumption by SL residents: clothing, weapons, furniture and accessories, shapes and skins, structures vehicles, animal pals, and entire immersion environments, as well as music, cultural activities, art, and even ideas somehow expressed through a virtual manifestation.

That was the real genius of those who created the platform--giving the participants the power to say things like, “hey, I really would like to have a Gatling gun that fires flaming chipmunks as projectiles, but nobody is making one that meets my high standards, so by gum, I shall jolly well fabricate one myself.” And then you can go ahead and do it (alas, poor chipmunks).

So literally ANYBODY can do it. Even cyber luddites like me are capable of making SOMETHING (you should see my late 19th century cigar boxes, woohoo!). While most of us may generate a bit of this or that which is moderately useful or amusing, there are those people who contribute something that is really honest-to-Jehozephat outstanding. Some of these people are well known, while others...eh, not so much so. Recently, Hamlet Au challenged his readers to submit the names of people who have done brilliant things in-world but are relatively unknown for their contributions. Among the lesser known creators and leaders who were nominated for a bit more recognition, was Perceval Dryke, the guy who is primarily responsible for the part of the world that I play in most often--Deadwood 1876.

I have to concur that Percy deserves more recognition. I can be found most often in Deadwood because I have found it to be so thoroughly entertaining and engaging. Yes, it makes me laugh, I have cried there, I have learned a lot, and it has, in fact, become a part of me.

Percy has done a remarkable job in creating and nurturing something that is not just a very cool place with lovely stuff that you go look at and say “Oh isn’t that extraordinary” and then you wander off to passively consume the next bit of lovely stuff. It is a place you can inhabit and live in even as it evolves and encourages learning, creativity and a sense of community. Now lots of you hearing me make that statement will shrug and no doubt say, “oh, but that’s like a lot of other immersion environments and rp communities on the platform.”

And yes, that is true. There are a lot of places that accomplish these things in some form.

But what Perceval Dryke and his co-owners, Estwee Vansant and Rynn Dryke did when they started the Deadwood 1876 sim a couple years ago, was to take a step beyond what had done in previous role -laying immersion environment sims and take it to level where, as my friend Aldo Stern has said, people can begin to develop a new way in which they come to “understand and interact with their own history.”

Percy was the principal builder of an environment that was designed to recreate the look and feel of the historical Black Hills mining town of Deadwood. It was not a mishmash of prefabs and feeble representations of movie-set western structures--it was a gritty collection of false front buildings of weathered wood, rambling barn-like grand saloons and seedy little booze parlors, mixed with tents and shanties. There were both placer and hard rock mining operations represented, along with necessary but unglamorous features like a laundry, a livery stable, an assay office, provision and hardware stores and a seedy lunch tent. It had a look and feel that was different from other western sims at that time..and unlike most museum-like historical builds then and now--it had life. it wasn’t simply some elaborate build that was plopped down in a finished state to be passively viewed and enjoyed--it was designed for the residents to interact with and to reshape as they came to comprehend more aspects of real life on the western frontier in the 1870s

Perceval and the other owners recruited players and admins who developed a community that experimented with continually evolving social and political structures. They initiated a forum that allowed the community to collect and share both narrative elements and actual historical research. The players were encouraged to learn on their own, to discover and discuss how the real west differed from the mythological one we are so familiar with, and to pursue answers to questions that arose out of the roleplay.

Mind you, this verismo representation of a post-Civil War mining settlement that Perceval and his friends and associates invented, with hog pens out back, laundry drying on lines, mud in the streets, snow in the winter, and raw lumber serving as one of the primary interior decor schemes, (and with the larger part of the non-period vendor activity isolated in an OOC entry area, which at the time was something of an innovation for most history themed sims) could have stood very well on its own as it was. But, like the social and political institutions that the residents developed, the sim itself continued to evolve in an organic and authentic way. Time passed and activities in the sim were connected to actual historical events (the time frame in the sim is now 1878). Shanties and tents were taken down and replaced but more substantial buildings. Civic institutions, such as a church, school and library were added. Single story buildings grew a second floor, while interiors and furnishings became a little more polished looking a bit more comfortable.

People who have stuck with this build for a while have seen it change in a fashion that substantially mirrors how a frontier boomtown would change and be transformed over time.

Even though the town has become more "civilized" in its two years of existence, it still offers a gritty and hard-edged context within which disputes are still sometimes settled by the judicious application of lead and black powder. By the way, speaking of authenticity, the guns that Percy has built lately are scripted to produce a substantial quantity of smoke, such as would have appeared when firing black powder-loaded ammunition.

I would also like to point out that an important element of what went into Perceval’s vision for this build was not just authentic structures. He and others worked on clothing weapons, furnishings, and other bits and pieces of 19th century impedimenta that were more consciously authentic in appearance and function than had been seen previously. And eventually folks including co-owners Rynn and Estwee, along with residents such as Addison Leigh, Astolat Dufaux, Bobby Troughton, Lockmort Mortlock, Marrant Vita, Ernst Osterham, Unwound String, Rod Eun and many others were inspired to generate increasingly realistic, usable content that immensely enriched life within the sim. The roleplay literally set in motion a series of both collective and self-directed learning experiences, and creative output that has given many of us new insights into life in a different time and place.

What would a mining community be without a mine or two? Percy included this interactive underground "hard rock" mining environment where players can go to carry out the difficult work of finding gold. And yes, it's dark, gloomy and easy to get lost in. Can you say "Kon-Tiki?"


What set Perceval on the path to create this opportunity? He is a US Navy veteran, now working in private industry (on a wildly unpredictable schedule, I might add, making his efforts in community building even more remarkable), and has been in SL since the later part of 2006 . While he has not had any direct involvement in the history profession, he has a sincere and abiding fascination for the subject of history which he eventually translated into the inspiration for this and other projects (he has produced some pretty impressive medieval fortifications and armor as well as what he has made for Deadwood.

Is Perceval the greatest builder ever? No, bless his heart, he ain’t. He’s damn good, and his skills have evolved along with the town and it’s various accessories, but he’s still not the best in certain specific categories. For example, his recreations of Colt Navy pistols and other firearms are awful nice and fun to use, but they’re not quite museum-quality 3-D working models like Lockmort or Jasper Kiergarten make. But that’s ok, and I know Percy will be the first to admit that he’s not the be-all and end-all in lots of things. But what is truly special about what he creates is the depth and complexity of his content: structures, accessories and landscaping that form a complete environment full of life AND a new level of historic authenticity, fostered by the sim leadership, the information resources of the forum and the creativity of an enthused core group of players. Plus there is the fact that this package keeps evolving (not just physically growing).

In addition to building an environment, Perceval made authentic furnishings to enhance the look and feel of it. At right are examples of items he made for everyday use in the sim: a model 1875 Remington revolver and a copper miners' lamp


I know from direct experience within the build, the social interaction has not always been pretty or idyllic. Builds like this are not for everyone, especially as they evolve over time. There is an interesting parallel between what has happened in the Deadwood sim as it has become more “civilized,” and the social tensions that were felt in the actual towns of the historical West as the boomtown era faded. In an odd sort of way, it also kind of parallels what is going on in Second Life itself, as the “Wild West” times are passing, and new social, political, legal and economic pressures make themselves felt. Not everyone is going to be happy. A lot of the old giddy spontaneity of a population unhindered by the usual limits of polite society--and the riotous entertainments that once predominated--have faded. And pioneers do move on. But by damn, there have been a hell of a lot of interesting experiments, and I think Percy’s unique vision stands out within the category of historical sims. I really hope I get to see what it is going to lead to next.

If you haven't been to Deadwood 1876 and are interested, even if it's just going to the OOC area and looking at the great vendors there, here's the slurl:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/phoenix%20pass/214/153/654/
~~~

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Deadwood Scene -- Dio has a dream

~~~
It had been one helluva rough week. Dio was plain wrung out, feeling like she'd been rode hard and put up wet. Sometimes when she was that tired, the dreams weren't so good: lately they were usually of that man--number six--with his trousers half to his knees, bleeding what seemed like a river from his neck, his eyes full of surprise, and fear....

but last night...last night was different...



"Howdy there Diogenes..."

"Papaw?"

"Yep. It's goddam good to see ye, Hon."

"Papaw...aw hell..."

"C'mon Hon, don't cry. Ain't you glad to see me?"

"O' course I am Papaw...I mean...hellfire an' brimstone, you ol'...I mean...oh, fer christ's....goddammit Papaw, I miss you somethin' turrible."

"I miss you too, Hon. I thought I heard you playin' m' ol fiddle, and I figgered twas time t' check up on ye."

"Yes I was Papaw, they was supposed to be a dance tonite, but it din't happen, so I got some friends to come down to m' saloon, an I played yer fiddle for 'em, an folks danced an' had a good time, an' they was laughing, an talkin', an I give 'em all lager beer on the house..."

"Did they take a shine to yer playin'?"

"I reckon so Papaw, they seemed to...an' they ain't the sort to make no pretense o' enjoyin' somethin' if they ain't...you shoulda' seen 'em, even the Judge he was doin' a jig fer a spell, and Miz Sal--she's the proprietor o' this really nice cat house here in town----lordy, she was dancin' like she warn't a gonna stop. Ye know, I...I was a-thinkin' at the time you woulda liked Sal..."

"Well you had a knack--makes me happy t' know you still got the fool thang an' get it out to play now an' agin. An' I'm mighty glad ye got some good friends there, Diogenes...you got some good enemies too?"

"Satan's huge red testicles, Papaw! I got me a few--includin' the most powerful goddam rascal in town, an' his various lapdogs, and a few others have come an' gone...like one feller what I shot when he took this lil' orphan chile hostage..."

"Orphan eh? Heehee, oh Lord, Hon, you always was one fer takin' in strays."

"Well, actually they gots a fer real orphanage here in town...real nice colored gal name o' Adiniah runs it. Damn she's got more grit than a company o' rangers, an spits fire when need be..I think you'd ha' liked her as well."

"Well mebbe I kin meet her someday when the time comes..."

"Papaw....speaking o' that...what's it like? Are you doin' all right? Are you...are you happy?"

"Oh Hell yes, Hon! Couldn't be happier. I can't thank you enough fer hepin' me die proper. I ain't sayin' a man cain't get here dyin' in his bed, but it sure meant a lot to me that you helped me git m' carcass outta that bed, an' to git m' britches an boots on, and faced me north...."

"So ye could stand with yer face to yer enemies, north to the Comancheria, and sing yer death song, an' shout yer insults at 'em..."

"Yep. I swore I could even see Many Horses in them clouds, shoutin' back at me an wavin' his cou' stick an just makin' a turrible damn fool of hisself like he always did..."

"Heehee, yep, I recollect that...you tol' me ye could see Many Horses up there, an he was challengin' ye t' come an' face him..."

"Say chile, you know what?"

"What, Papaw?"

"He was callin' out to me...an' he is here...an ye know what else?'

"No, what else?"

"He ain't such a bad ol' sonofabitch fer a Comanche. Hell, when I got here we fought somethin' turrible, like a couple o' wild-eyed loonatiks...but after a spell we got tired o' that, so we decided to do a bit o' huntin' together...they got buff'lo here, kin ye imagine that? ...so now we meet up purty reg'lar, an' we still fight some, an sometimes it's serious, an sometimes we jus' kinda wrassle an' laugh alot...but other times we hunt buff'lo together...an' sometimes we sit an' jus' smoke our pipes, an' talk about our kids an gran'kids and sometimes we jus set an' ponder an' don' say nothin' at all."

"Papaw, I'm wonderin'...well, are folks who get there, they all cut up or shot up like when they die?"

"Hmm, well I kin figger I know why yer askin'...no, Hon the Injuns is wrong....don't matter what shape yer in when ye pass: don't matter if they's big ol holes in yer hide, or if'n they took off yer hair or a laig or somethin'...long as you lived well, an' ye die well, with yer face to yer enemies, that's what matters. Tho' let me clarify that--it's about havin' faced up t' yer enemies one way or t'other...you ain't really got to lit'rally be facin' 'em...but Hell, I din't know that, otherwise, I wouldna' trubbled ye to get m' sorry ass outta that bed...

"Oh Papaw, you know I was as happy as I could be to do that...lifted m' heart that you asked me to hep ye then, at yer last, especially after all you done fer me...an I was never so proud as t' be yer granddaughter, with you all shot up from that last Comanche raid, an hurtin' like Hell on Christmas, but you was gonna go like a man with yer boots on..."

"Aw shit, Hon, at that point, I wasn't hurtin' no more. But anyhow, yes, when you get here, if you lived well an' you die well, then ye show up here all of a piece, an' yer young an strong agin, and..."

"Papaw?"

"Yes, Hon?"

"Is Jack there?"

"Of course he is, Hon. An' yes, he looks fine. Ye married well, Diogenes. I had kinda hoped you was gonna get hitched to Jack or Sepp. The three o' y'all was like pease in a pod. Goddam! what a terror y'all were to yer elders the three o' ye. I see him now n' agin, an' we enjoy a visitin'...he's been over with me to Many Horses' lodge an' we done shared a smoke or two...but mostly he seems to enjoy the company o' other hoss sojers....they's a reg'lar bunch o' them he's become fast pards with...some o' them Mongol fellers, an' some Roosian cossacks...oh, an' these frenchies what rode fer Bonaparte...they all camp together, an' go fer headlong rides across the rollin' hills, an set about their campfars at night, singin' an' tellin' stories...an' Jack, God bless'im, damn if he ain't got all them fellers right fond o' his cowboy coffee..."

"Heehee, yep, Jack always did make a fine pot o' sludge, even under the worst o' circumstances...Papaw, when y'all see Jack, tell him...tell him I still miss 'im, an'...well..."

"That you love 'im still? Aw hell, Hon, o' course I'll tell 'im. But he knows. An he's waitin' fer you 'n Sepp. He's got Sepp's ol' hoss Ceasar with him, an' he's lookin' after him until Sepp gets here."

"Papaw? Pa ain't there...is he?"

"ah...well..no, he ain't. Some folks, I reckon it's best to go on to nothin'ness, instead o' keepin' on with the pain."

"What about Harry, is he there Papaw?"

"No chile, matter o' fact, he ain't."

"Oh...then...I reckon..he din't die well, then, did he?"

"An' just what in the name o' Beelzebub's bunghole makes you think Heraclitus Kuhr is dead?"

"But...but..he got took by Comanches, Papaw...we figgered... well, we jus' figgered he was a goner..."

"Hon, Harry was just a sprout, an actually passed fer younger'n he was anyhow..."

"You always did say mebbe some squaw took a shine to 'im an mebbe wanted to do one o' them things where they want to adopt a pris'ner chile an' replace a chile they done lost...but I kinda figgered ye was jus' tryin' to make me feel better 'bout what took place. You sayin' he really did get adopted by some injun folks?"

"I ain't sayin nothin' more... I ain't even 'sposed t' be talkin' t' ye right now. I jus' couldn't hep m' self when I thought I heard you scrapin' at m' ol fiddle."

"You never was very good at followin' rules, was ye, Papaw?"

"Goddammit t' hell an' back, Diogenes, I'm 'bout as good at it as you are."

"Marcus Aurelius Kuhr, goddammit, yer turrible....an I love ye."

"Diogenes Aurelia Kuhr, you ain't no goddam better. An' I love you too, hon."


The rest of night passed dreamlessly.
~~~

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Visiting a literary experiment -- Virtual Macbeth

~~~
Addison and I visit the Macbeth sim.

You know how I am continually fascinated by the experiments that people try out in SL. If it's a different, I'll go look at it. So not surprisingly I got excited when Addison Leigh, a friend from Deadwood, recently told me about the build in the Virtual Macbeth sim, called "Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters - A Second Life Treatment of Macbeth." Tonight she took me to see it, and we had a great time.

According to the project website:

"Virtual Macbeth is an island in Second Life which is dedicated to the exploration, adaptation and performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The island was designed by Angela Thomas (virtual worlds content designer), Kerreen Ely-Harper (director) and Kate Richards (producer). Funding was provided by Literature Board of The Australian Council for the Arts , and investor partner, the New Media Consortium.

The island is designed with target audiences of Shakespeare afficionados, Secondary and Tertiary educators and their students."


So we went, and it took us a while to get the hang of navigating it (which is part of its appeal, I think--you're not going to get this build if you're a dry-humping moron). But once you do get it, and understand how to navigate and you find all the helpful directions and explanations on the wiki that you are given a link to, it's a fascinating exploration of abstract concepts and themes that are key to understanding and enjoying the play.

It's not what I was expecting, which would have been straightforward recreations of scenes and settings from the play. Instead, it was a tour of the inside of Macbeth's head (literally and figuratively) and the different elements of the build trace his journey into madness and ultimately, his destruction. There are choices to make, different paths to follow, and various surrealist manifestations of abstract ideas, such as a maze, ruins, and a "chamber of blood" in which you take on the the part of the increasingly mad king, striking out at anyone who threatens your power (provided you put on the attachment gizmo you were supposed to pick up from the fountain in the entry area).

Here are Addison and I, lashing out at the apparitions in this particular environment:


There is a throne room environment, but it is not meant as a literal representation of a medieval throne room: it is meant to represent "Macbeth's ego" according to the guide on the wiki, and includes various interactive features and ghosts and a heapin' helpin' of symbolism. It's really fun stuff--very engaging, and you can spend quite a while exploring and figuring things out, and trying different elements of the build. I truly recommend that if you choose to make a visit, you do so with a friend (preferably someone who like yourself, is not a dry-humping moron) so you can enjoy discovering the little surprises of the build together, discussing what this or that thing might mean or represent, and every now and then helping each other out with a shove or a well-timed tp when you get stuck or befuddled (there was point in the maze where I was wishing I had just a teensy bit of C4 to expedite making an exit--though I did get it figured out eventually).

Stylistically the look of the sim is very Bayreuth Opera, 1953: lots of German expressionst and surrealist vocabulary, which I found kind of fun. After all, Shakespeare is, in many ways, very operatic in scope and subject matter, so I thought it fit. And although the notecard instructions at the beginning tell you to keep the environment settings on default (which is night time), if you go ahead and put it on sunset, you get a pretty spectacular effect that enhances the surreal affect of the build.


Parts of the build are actually downright gorgeous in sunset lighting--it really reminds me of stuff my uncle did after WWII when he went to art school on the GI Bill: warm lighting washing over ruins and wind swept landscapes, expressing just a touch of melancholy with maybe a little PTSD thrown in for good measure.

So yes, if you're not an idiot, you probably want to go check this out if you haven't already. And, yeah, I know, it apparently has been up since late last year, but hey, I freely admit that I live most of my life under a freakin' rock, OK?

And if maybe you're going "hey, this is old news..." What can I say? Sorry I didn't tell you about this sooner, but I get around only a little at a time in my travels. So sue me.

Seriously, despite some confusing moments (some of which may have been the result of some of the AV stuff or other bits possibly being borked by SL), I think it's worth a visit and spending some time. Addi and I enjoyed ourselves, and we spent a good hour or so looking around and playing with many of the elements. A lot of thought and effort went into this particular experiment, and I could see it inspiring some other interesting stuff in the future.
~~~

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Deadwood story -- burials

~~~

Dio left China Row lugging a huge basket of potatoes and onions that she had obtained in a trade with one of Bu's nephews. The vegetables would go into the stew pot with some venison and a bit of flour for thickener, and that stew would soon be bubbling away on the little iron stove in the Saloon No. 10. The miners and bullwhackers who made up much of her clientele seemed to enjoy having something of substance to ingest along with the lager that Dio was getting from those nice German boys with the little brewery up in Gayville.

As she struggled with the basket past the undertaker's at the corner, the faint perfume of death wafted from its open doors. She stopped to rest a moment, and Eugene, the proprietor of the place, happened to come out just then.

"Mornin' Eugene," said Dio with a slight, tired smile.

"Mornin' Miz Dio," the undertaker replied in his predictably morose monotone. "Powerful big basket o' taters ya got there."

"Yessir, gotta make a new batch o' stew fer the boys."

"Say Miz Dio?"

"Yes, Eugene?"

"Would ye be so kind as to take a look at two fellers who got brought in last night? Got their throats cut, I'm afraid. But no one seems to know 'em. I'd be very much obliged if you'd see if you recognize 'em."

Dio nodded resignedly, and followed the undertaker into his shack. There, in two rough plank coffins were the men, their faces a pallid, pale gray...with ragged openings under their chins where their throats had been slashed. Dio peered at them for a moment and then shook her head.

"Sorry Eugene," she said. "Cain't help ye. Don't know these boys."

Eugene sighed. "Oh well, reckon they can set here a spell until maybe someone claims 'em. Be nice if someone would come along to pay fer a decent burial for em."

Dio nodded and went back out to retrieve her big basket of stew makings. As she lifted up the load, the handles biting into her hands, she started to get mildly irritated. By the time she got the basket back to the 10, she was downright fuming, thinking about the two men. She kept thinking about those ash-colored faces, wondering if there was someone somewhere missing them. Dio also wondered how long they'd have to lay in Eugene's grim little shack before someone saw to it that the decent thing was done. She slumped on her bed in the back room of the saloon, intending to rest for just a moment...

...and her mind drifted back to a hot summer day on a grassy ridge in western Kansas...

Dio was prone, using every bit of cover so the buffaloes wouldn't see her. She was doing a good job of it--they weren't going anywhere right now, just stupidly milling around the victim of her last shot, worrying over their wounded fellow as the big bull bled out into the hot, trampled grass. If they caught even a glimpse of her, or a tiny suggestion of her scent, well, shit, that would be it. She'd have to start stalking and crawling all over again. Nothing made them run like it did when they became aware of a human's presence. But for now, they were staying put.

Laying in the brittle grass, she felt a rivulet of sweat running down her forehead and her nose, making her glasses slip just a touch--there was hardly a breath of wind stirring along the ridge. She vaguely wondered why the dumb wooly bastards didn't somehow associate the sound of her shots with humans. But, oh well--the situation seemed to be offering her the promise of a good run of kills among the small herd.

She levered down the breech block of the massive Sharps .50 caliber rifle and slid another of the big .50/70 cartridges into the chamber. It was about 300 yards--nothing special--a normal shot for the buffalo hunting business, and she set to drawing a bead on a youngish-looking cow just to the right of the dying bull.

Suddenly she became acutely aware of some rustling noises in the weeds behind her. She silently rolled on her back and swung the muzzle of her Sharps towards the sound. A soft voice called gently but with some hint of urgency, "Señora Dio, it is only Miguel, do not be concerned. I beg your pardon for interrupting the business, but Señor Roberto--he is not well at all--he is much worse, in fact."

Goddammit, she thought irritably, if that miserable, worthless old cockchafer is gonna die, I wish he'd dammed well get on with it. At the same time she was pleased with Miguel for having had the good sense to not just come running up the slope shouting for her. More than likely, Bob had told him to go fetch her post haste. But instead of dashing up and scaring off the money-makers, Miguel, bless his heart, had taken the time to crawl up the ridge and to pass on the news of her partner's deteriorating condition without startling either Dio or the buffaloes. But then of course, doing so also might have gotten Miguel shot at, and an onrushing soft-lead fifty propelled by 70 grains of black powder isn't exactly something you can dodge or catch with your teeth.

"All right, Miguel," she whispered. "Lemme just make this one shot here and get one more for us to take t' the bank."

Dio rolled over again, and patiently prepared to line up the cow again. It had barely moved from its spot near the bull, who now seemed to have passed on, judging by the way his heavy, magnificent head had slumped forward. The hunter took a breath, let half out and then relaxed, aimed, paused a moment, and squeezed the trigger.

The Sharps roared like a small cannon, the sound shattering the hot stillness on the ridge. The cow dropped to her knees without a noise, and sank the rest of the way into that sitting position in which the buffaloes so often went to meet the Great Spirit.

"Well done, Señora."

Dio stood and smiled slightly at Miguel.

"Muchas gracias, mi amigo. I would be much obliged if'n ye'd go get Luis and collect those last couple o' hides there"

She and Miguel strolled back down the slope she had so carefully belly-crawled up over an hour before, and hiked over the next slight rise where Laughing Wolf patiently waited with the horses. Miguel took his horse and nodded to the Indian.

"I will find Luis as you ask and bring the wagon to get those hides, Señora."

As the young man rode off, Dio made signs to Laughing Wolf that she would go back to camp. The tall Indian signed an inquiry as to how many buffaloes had been shot. Dio shrugged and held up two fingers. Laughing Wolf shrugged in return and silently handed the reins of Dio's horse to her. The Indian turned to follow Miguel, while Dio rode off back in the direction of their camp.

When she arrived, Bob was weakly cursing at Miguel's sister Maria and Bright Water, Laughing Wolf's wife. They were busying themselves with camp chores and were clearly ignoring the old man's insults and complaints.

Dio swung off her horse and casually took her time unsaddling the animal and setting him out to graze, hobbled to a picket line.

Bob feebly called out, "Woman! you worthless piece o' secessionist white trash! Don't you go saunterin' about, a payin' me no never-mind! These stinkin' lazy whores have been actin' like they's deaf, and I been waitin'..."

She cut him off, "Bob, shut the hell up, you whiny old drink-addled sorry sonofabitch. I was trying t' to keep makin' this party some cash t' live off of, and I don't..."

She abruptly broke off when she looked at him.

Damn, he did look a lot worse
.

Miguel was right. The decaying mess who had been their front man--the one who did the deals in a world that would not have willingly done honest business with a hunting team made up of a middle-aged woman, some Arikaras and a couple of young Mexicans--was obviously on death's doorstep. He had always looked like shit, but as Papaw would say, now he sure as hell looked like week-old shit after the herd had all took turns trampin' over it.

Bob, seated on a trade blanket, propped against a barrel in the shade of one of the hide wagons, was once again cursing her, the other women, Miguel and Luis, and the uncaring world in general, in between coughing dark blood into a dirty cloth.

The party had already discussed what to do when this point arrived as they all knew it would. The business arrangement that had held them all together was at an end. Without the well-known "Buffalo Bob" Harrison as their front man, they could not do business. No one else but the team knew Bob hadn't shot a buffalo in years. But his contacts, his reputation, and his standing in the community of buffalo hunters--as well as his race and gender--had made him a vital part of the team. But the time had come. They would trade or sell this last batch of hides for what they could get, and go their separate ways.

Dio realized that the two other women of the team, Maria and Bright Water, weren't doing normal camp chores. Against a background of Bob's insults and curses--something they had all put up with since first forming the team--they were breaking camp, packing up the last of the hides that had been staked out to dry.

The two women looked up from their work at Dio. She looked at them and nodded. The team had discussed drawing straws for the final duty, but in the end, Dio said she would take care of it. She sighed, and without a word, walked over to where Bob was coughing and cursing.

Miguel, Laughing Wolf and Luis were still a short ways from the camp, bringing in the other hide wagon and the skins from the last animals Dio had just killed, when they heard a single shot from the direction they were heading, and then silence. They continued riding at the same leisurely pace, unconcerned, knowing what they would find. When the men arrived at the campsite, the gear was already packed, the hides bundled, and the women were mounted or seated in their places on the main wagon. For the first time in memory, the air around the team was quiet, the usual barrage of oaths and insults was blissfully absent.

Miguel looked at the solitary, frail figure laying on a blanket in the midst of the trampled grass that marked their last campsite together. Luis crossed himself, while Laughing Wolf sat staring impassively for a moment...and then spat on the ground.

"Señora Dio?" Luis asked somewhat tentatively. He was the youngest of the team.

"Yes, Hon?"

"Should not perhaps we bury Señor Roberto?"

Dio answered in a quiet hard voice, "Hon, I figger the coyotes would just dig him up agin anyhow. And he left plenty o' carcasses, both man and beast, out unburied on the grasslands. One more don't matter."

And then she spat on the ground, in the same manner as Laughing Wolf.

The team turned east, and headed out. None of them looked back at the small, lonely shape on the blanket.

...Someone came into the saloon, and at the sound of the door opening, Dio was shaken out of her thoughts...

She stood up to go see what she could do for the customer. As she was leaving the back room, she noticed a large empty tin she had been saving for some reason or other. She picked it up and took it into the main room of the saloon.

"Howdy Dio," said Old Bill. "What's the can for?"

Dio placed the tin on the bar. "Eugene's got a couple o' unknowns back at his place...gonna take up a collection an' make sure those boys get put to rest in a decent manner 'fore too much time passes."
~~~

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Deadwood scene -- Geoff and Roku, and the crik

~~~
A scene taken from some casual rp in Deadwood:

It was a cool evening, and the air was startlingly clear. Geoff, the boy whose mother had left him in Deadwood and then just disappeared, was siting on the porch of the laundry, next to Dio. They were watching the stars as they came out, quietly talking about...

...nothing, really.

Just talking.

Then a tall shape loomed out of the darkness. Dio saw it, but was not too concerned. She could tell by the way the figure moved it was probably Roku.

It was. in fact, her friend, the part time soiled dove/other-times pistol-packing bodyguard, but wearing her regular street-clothing. In this particular guise, the only thing that set Roku apart from other working women in that scrofulous little boom-town was her height. Dio was continually amazed that Roku had survived this long: not only did she attract attention--and usually the wrong kind of attention--but she was one hell of a magnificent target.

Roku stopped in front of the porch where Geoff and Dio sat, then glanced around, seeking anything suspicious in the shadows. Satisfied, she nodded to Dio and then pointed at the boy.

“Who’s the kid with the crutches?”

Dio smiled and made the introductions. “Roku this is Geoff...Geoff this is Miss Roku...so, Roku, me an' Geoff here was talkin about the stars...”

Geoff gazed up at the tall blonde woman towering over him, and then piped up, “How do, Miss Roku...an' doncha recall? We done met before!

Roku looked unimpressed. “Sorry, kid, don’t remember. But nice meetin’ yah. So why the crutches?” She gestured towards Geoff’s crutches that were leaning against the porch post next to the boy.

“He's on the crutches cuz I shot him in the leg.” explained Dio. “Right Geoff?

Geoff laughed. “Yes'm, Miss Dio! Y'shore did!”

“Were you bein’ naughty, Geoff?” asked Roku, her face perfectly serious.

Dio wasn’t entirely sure if Roku was attempting to be humorous, or actually believed that it was appropriate to shoot a child in the leg as a disciplinary measure. “Hell no!” Dio answered with a certain level of indignation in her voice. “He was bein’ brave an’ gettin’ too close to the dastardly weasel what took him hostage...and when I plugged the sonofabitch, a round ricocheted and hit my lil’ pard here!”

Roku actually looked a little surprised by this story. “Oh my,” she quietly exclaimed.

Geoff quickly got into the sprit of the tale: “ That’s right, Miss Roku! I had jest turned round to say howdy to this man, an’ he stuck a gun straight in my face, ma'am. And then they was a lot o’ shootin’...an yes'm, Miss Dio put a bullet in me an’ saved my life all at the same time!

Dio frowned and added, “Twas that no-good, belly-crawlin’ cocksucker Henry what's-his-name, the feckless rascal what was hanging around with Shay, the woman bank robber. “

Roku seemed to not have heard Dio. Instead she looked appraisingly at Geoff and finally commented, “Well, you be good kid...I throw bad kids in the creek and watch them sink...”

Roku chuckled after saying this, and Dio involuntarily wondered if she was being mirthful because the statement was a joke, or because the idea of tossing badly behaved children into Whitewood Creek was something that Roku actually found rather appealing and amusing.

Geoff however, seemed certain that Roku was absolutely in earnest. “Oh dear!” he said in alarm, “I'll do my best, m'am.”

Roku smiled a grim sort of smile, “Good to hear that,” she replied. “And don't run around with the mischief-maker Addison either. she is borderline bad.”

Now Geoff seemed offended by this accusation regarding one of his playmates. “Addie ain't bad! An’ she a real bright one. She knows a lil bit of everythin”

Roku frowned. “Didn’t say bad. Just borderline bad.”

Dio suddenly felt a sense of assurance that Roku’s kid-tossing statements were in fact, made in jest...mostly....and she now felt like it was time to contribute to this comedy. “Well Roku, jus’ to let you know, Hon,” she said grinning, “if'n ye toss my lil’ pard here in the drink, I will feel obliged to toss you in as well, despite our good relations.”

Geoff smiled sheepishly. “Aw, thank'y Miss Dio!

“So Geoff,” Dio continued, “don't ye go an' irritate Miz Roku, cuz I likes her a heap an’ I don’t wanta be compelled to try to throw her in the crik jus' cuz you made her chuck you in. You comprendo?”

“Yes'm!’ agreed Geoff emphatically, “I dunt try an’ make trouble fer nobody!” Then he visibly deflated and went on in a less self-assured voice, “...tho’ sumtimes I gets in it jest the same.” He looked down at the ground a bit glumly at this admission.

For a moment Roku’s face softened ever so slightly as she looked down at the boy, and the corners of her mouth turned up a bit. “I have a feeling Geoff will be a good boy from now on,” she said quietly. “An’ Dio...I am glad to have yah as a friend. Yah make me laugh.”

Then the hardness returned. “I have to go,” she stated abruptly. “See y’all later.”

Geoff waved and called out, “G'bye, Miss Roku.”

But the tall figure had already disappeared into the darkness and shadows of China Row.
~~~

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

LL hires a new VP of something or other -- and my avatar still can't move

~~~
So let's do an imaginary conversation, you and I...

We happen to slog through the lag in Tamrannoch to meet at the Falling Anvil, and after exchanging the usual pleasantries about people and situations we mutually loathe, I happen to mention that on August 31, I read an article on Reuters which announced that our technological-fuck buddies at Linden Research Inc. have hired a former Adobe principessa to be their VP of...

And you eagerly interrupt, "What? what? Oh, tell me, tell me!"

And I say, "Go ahead, guess."

You look puzzled but thoughtful, and reply, "Ummm. ok. is it something like VP in charge of Making the Goddam Grid Run Reliably and Smoothly?"

"Noooooo."

"Allright." You think some more and ask, "Is it VP of in charge of Kicking Junior Employees in the Ass and Keeping Them on Track?"

I shake my head. "Nopers."

You seem frustrated for a moment and then suddenly brighten up with genuine hopefulness, "Is it VP in charge of Actually Understanding What Goes on Throughout the Grid and Responding to the Customers' Needs and Wants?"

"Hahahahahaha," I laugh.

You look like you are ready to punch me.

Then an expression of enlightenment comes over your face. "Oohhhhh, this is about the shift in focus to a business-slash-educational-slash-non-profit customer base isn't it? Are they assigning this person to work with those potential customers to make sure that the grid actually functions in way that is acceptable to those kinds of users?"

Now I look thoughtful for a moment. "To be honest, I'm not sure."

You look ready to punch me again. "WELL, GODDAMIT WOMAN, WHAT IN THE NAME OF PHIL LINDEN'S BAD SPIKY HAIR IS THE ACTUAL JOB TITLE FOR THIS HAPLESS CREATURE?!!!"

There is a dramatic pause. Then a drum roll. (We both look around in confusion wondering where the fucking drum roll came from) and then a resounding Monty-Pythonesque voice booms out in beatific tones:

"Lo, she shall be called Vice President of Web Development!!"

...and you go, "wtf?"

And I say, "Yeah, Resounding Beatific Voice is dead-on correct. Their new VP is Vice President of Web Development."

You repeat the phrase silently to yourself. You still look like you want to punch me. Then your eyes flash with indignation (you're really cute when you're mad, btw), and you demand an explanation.

So I sigh *sigh* and repeat verbatim what Reuters said:

"Linden Lab, creator of the virtual world Second Life, today announced the appointment of Robin Ducot as Vice President of Web Development. Reporting directly to CEO Mark Kingdon, Ducot will oversee the company`s diverse array of Web properties, sites and services. Specifically, Ducot will work to expand the company`s Web infrastructure and architecture, offering complementary lightweight Web experiences that extend the value of Second Life beyond the virtual world and help Residents more closely integrate Second Life with their daily lives."

This is the point where you actually try to punch me.

"That makes no fucking sense!" you hiss. "You're MAKING THIS SHIT UP! AREN'T YOU??!!!"

I sigh again *sigh*.

"I wish I was, Hon," I say with resignation in my voice. "Actually I was kinda hoping you could tell me what the fuck 'complimentary lightweight Web experiences' are. Is it something like the complimentary beverages on a badly-run airline where ya get that little cup of soda and too much ice and they don't even leave the can with you?"

You look for a moment like you are going to cry...and then you start laughing. "No I think they mean complimentary in the other sense of the word. Ok, so you say this poor woman comes from Adobe. What's the scoop?"

Once again I quote from the Reuters article:

"Ducot brings almost 20 years of engineering, project management and Web interface development expertise to Linden Lab. Prior to joining the company, Ducot served as VP of Web Development at Adobe Systems where she managed Adobe.com, distribution of the Adobe Reader and Flash Player, and Web services for Adobe's SaaS offerings. During her tenure at Adobe, Ducot provided organizational leadership for a team of 240 creative and technology professionals. Prior to joining Adobe, Ducot was VP of Web Development at Macromedia (acquired by Adobe), where she drove the redesign and re-architecture of Macromedia.com, a site that catered to seven million unique users a month. Her career also includes senior management positions at Avolent, and Reuters, as well as senior technical roles AT&T and BGS Systems. Ducot holds a BS in Computer Science and Art History from the University of Massachusetts. Also active in the non-profit sector, Ducot sits on the board of Southern Exposure,an organization that promotes art and art education. "

You shake your head and chuckle. "Well, at least she's a fucking adult. It's probably another waste of resources by the lab, but shit, that's what they seem to do for fun these days."

I am about to ask you how long you think this woman is going to last in the stinky locker room environment at the Lab, when a blue announcement box pops up in the upper corner of our screens, reading:

"Due to asset server issues we suggest you do not, REPEAT, DO NOT try to rez any 'no copy' objects because if you do, you're probably gonna be shit outta luck."

You shake your head and say, "Ok let me get this straight, they've just hired some big hoop-dee-doo, silly-con-valley brainy girl genius to make "complimentary lightweight Web experiences" when they still can't keep the grid from running like a bad septic system at a frat house on the weekends. Don't they understand that they're never going to retain serious business and non-profit customers unless they can promise a product that offers reliability, stability, and improved forms of security? Don't they understand that they have to stop alienating and frustrating the individual customer base?!"

But I don't hear you. My mind has wandered. It's off in some fantasy, picturing that sublime moment when I finally get to meet Philip Rosedale....
~~~