Sunday, January 31, 2010

I got good news, I got bad news -- life on the Grid

Ordinal Malaprop, from her flicker photostream. Smart, funny, and watch out for that dang hatpin of hers (note what is in her right hand).

Like the title says, I got Good News, I got Bad News. That's pretty much the nature of life in SL isn't it? You get a bunch of nice things come along, and then something happens that utterly kicks you in the south 40. Yeah, like the disneyfied lions would say, "it's the fuckin' circle of life." And then they would sing about it and dance around, while the toddler on your lap watches with that mouth agape, deer-in-the-headlights expression (even though this is the 637th time they have watched the thing), and you find yourself thinking things like...."Bob Fosse would have made a great Muppet," or "Do I have anything left to drink in this house besides NyQuil and mouthwash?"


I digress.

As usual.

OK...let me give you the good news first.

A number of very cool people with connections to the ever-expanding world of Old West roleplay in SL have started up blogs of their own. Each of these have their own unique perspectives and goals, and I think they add some nice depth to the developing (and un-managed) conversation.

First of all, Cici Levenque has had a blog since January 5th called Western Roles. Yeah she's had it going less than a month and already has like 19 posts about--the gal is prolific, AND she has a great concept: it is essentially a news and discussion blog covering ALL the western sims. Cici is the equivalent of the intrepid 19th century lady reporter, wandering from town to town, a combination participant/observer, covering a lot of ground. Her work gives you an idea of how much this aspect of life on the grid is growing in size and complexity. She also is doing features on some of the great folks who are contributing to the expansion and evolution of various Old West rp communities. Yeah I should have mentioned Cici's blog before, but hey, I get to things sooner or later. Doin' the best I can, here.

Next, a very good friend from Deadwood, Blackjack Landar has started up a personal blog--primarily for his main Blackjack character, but also for some of his alts. Blackjack is a dman fine rp'er, and is hands-down the best bad guy the Deadwood sim ever had. He's smart and brutal but businesslike. He makes alliances, he does dirty deals, he kills people--but it's just business. One interesting aspect of this character is that he is in a clandestine business partnership with Dio and Clay (built primarily around a moon-shining operation). I won't go so far as to admitting that they like Blackjack, but they certainly respect and trust him. Blackjack may be a criminal and a murderer, but he is also a common-sense businessman, and he always keeps his word. I think of this blog, Blackjacks Ruminations, as the character's typist sort of thinking out loud, reflecting on how he approaches his characters and roleplaying, and what is going on with them. So far it's been a nice exploration of how one player gives his characters depth, and particularly how he makes his bad guy persona work well and survive.

Blackjack talks with Miss Dio at the Gem.

Finally I would like to make you guys aware of a third new blog, that of Glen Dover (actual avatar name Master Glendover), who currently plays the sheriff in Deadwood. Titled "The Dirty Side," this isn't so much a character or story blog, as it is about the "stuff" of rp. Glen has begun making things in-world, starting with some very low-prim, photorealisitic furnishings that are just really bloody well done. I got an Eastlake style back bar from him that is probably one of the best Victorian saloon furnishings I have seen in SL so far. But it was cheap and very low prim. Now Glen has moved into men's clothing, under the name "Rustic Wares.".

You know, and great deal of the men's clothing that is made in SL for Old West roleplay is really just balls-on godawful. Most of the Native American stuff in particular will make you look like the Indian from the Village People. Glen, on the other had has a Native American warrior outfit that actually looks like a mid-19th century Sioux or Cheyenne of the central and northern Plains. How does he do it? Um..well, he looks at actual pictures of 19th century Plains Indians.

Glen makes stuff for real guys. He packages some of his outfits with accessories like tools (for example his miner's outfit comes with a pick that was crafted by Clay). Glen also makes his outfits with sweat and dirt layers that you can put on and remove. When you wear his stuff you're going to look like some stanky fucker who actually works for a livin'--not one of the extras in the Willie Nelson video "Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other." Mind you, I got nothing against that song--it's poignant and beautiful and funny, and Willie performs it wonderfully--but mostly I am guessin' you boys trying to do authentic Wild West rp really need to find a different look than that. So go check out Glen's outfits. He keeps crankin' out more stuff all the time, and his blog is used not just to make announcements, but also as a discussion of what he's thinking as he makes stuff and why.

Speaking of people who make good stuff, another Deadwood friend, Astolat Dufuax just came out with some new men's outfits of her own--an underground miner (complete with hat with miner's lamp) and a cavalry enlisted uniform of the 1870s. This is different from the uniform that Caed Aldwych has made for Deadwood, which is great because now we can get that authentic 1870s look of mixed old and new styles. The horse soldier on the Western frontier in the 70s--except when on parade--looked like a real hodgepodge: they wore a mix of surplus civil war stuff, (which the government in its frugality insisted be used up before new stuff was issued), civilian items, and new articles such as the M1872 kepi and the M1874 five button "blouse" (sack coat), both of which are among the items that Astolat and her colleague Ernst Osterham have recreated. Visit Astolat's blog, the Victorian Closet, to see the details.


Ok, I've now told you about some great new blogs that you should be reading to see how the discussion of SL's Old West roleplay elements is evolving and expanding. And I also had some good news about how stuff like historical clothing keeps getting better and better in SL.

So what's the bad news, you say?

Well, goddamit, Ordinal Malaprop got fed up yesterday to the point that she deleted her store from Second life, AND pulled the plug on her blog "An Engine Fit for My Proceeding."

Ordinal has been in SL a long time. She's has been a builder and scripter who produced some of the most imaginative and FUNCTIONAL steampunky stuff you ever saw. Below you can see an image of my friend Aldo with his Ordinal Enterprises "gun balloon" (for which he built his own armored cockpit). Ordinal invented this ages ago, but it's still brilliant--as Aldo says it's essentially a steampunk version the A-10 warthog: a simple, sturdy aerial vehicle built around a Gatling-style BFG (big fucking gun). Aldo loves this thing.

Aldo and his adaptation of an Ordinal Enterprises "Gun Balloon"

And I love my Ordinal Enterprises whacking big Hatpin of Doom (that's what I call it, I have forgotten Miss Malaprop's precise nomenclature for the thing). This elegant concoction was built and scripted by Ordinal so you can wear it in your hair or hat, and pull it out when necessary for use as a deadly weapon.

Anyway, I don't know all the details, but I have the impression that Ordinal had been frustrated with issues on the technical side of SL for some time. More importantly, I think she had a larger concern about the direction the platform was going in general, and what she perceived as a growing gulf between the consumers and the content makers in SL. The last straw apparently was the Lab's acquisition of a social networking site, Avatars United , which seems to be..ahem..somewhat flawed, if not downright primitive. Ordinal went into AU and created a batch of accounts, using other people's names, including Desmond Shang and Prokofy Neva, and then made an account with a Linden last name. You can see the results of Ordinal's experiment on her flickr photostream.

This, seems to have simply blown Ordinal's mind, and she started throwing the big knife switches to the "off" position.

And all I can say is...shit. Shit. Shit. And more Shit.

There are lots of people on the grid who are funny, and lots who are brilliant...but not many who are funny AND brilliant. Ordinal was one of the few.

Emilly Orr has said to me she thinks more of those who are the best of the best, like Ordinal, are going to give up soon as well.

So that's my bad news.

At this point can the Lab actually do anything to slow or stop the attrition? Or would it be like trying to turn an aircraft carrier? You could put the helm over hard, but would it turn fast enough before the torpedoes hit?

An Update, 1/31/210, 3:20 PM SLT

Ordinal has turned her blog back on, and included a explanation. It's pretty much what I described above, with a good bit of clarification. I hope that what this becomes for Ordinal is one of those points in life (and that goes for all aspects of of life, not just the elements that occur within a virtual context) where you have to stop what you are doing, look it over and decide what new adventure will come next. It may or may not grow out of the foundation of the activity that you just shut down...but like the goddam dancing/singing lions would tell you, it is part of the fuckin' circle o' life.


  1. Thanks for your mention in the blog there Dio :) Yes the western grunge will continue, muwhaha. (Master Glendevon)

  2. It's times like these that I wish I could swear creatively.

  3. Hey Dio! I think by word count you have kicked my blogging butt, but I thank you for the mention.

    One of the most difficult tasks for me in covering all the sims is staying out of Deadwood. It's great that you write the complete news/stories the way I wish I could. Your home sure has a lot going on and people need to know it. Keep up the excellent work!!

  4. Hey Glen,
    You're welcome. Keep making good stuff, pard.

    Hey Rhia,
    Yeah, this is when cussing would probably help, but I am too disappointed and tired to really put the necessary effort into it.

  5. Hey Cici,

    Thank you for the kind words. As far as issues of word count, it ain't about the volume, it's about what you say, and I think you do a really nice job of communicating your messages. I write a lot because it's fun for me. But I think that it's great we have a growing number of Old West-related blogs--with our variety of different styles and perspectives and priorities--as they all complement one another and help weave an increasingly complex narrative.

  6. Well, the good news, is that apparently it is isn't true as rumored that you can use a name that has already been used before. I made two accounts at AU: one for "Diogenes Kuhr" and all my alts and permutations of my name, and one for a protest account I named "Spartacus Kuhr." When I tried to add Spartacus Kuhr as one of my alts on the main account, the site told me the name was already used.

  7. I am not sure how many virtual worlds or games are represented by AU, but you would have to make an account in your name for EACH of them to ensure nobody could use it. WAY more time and effort than I am going to spend for a time wasting, redundant spam magnet like AU. I put a pointed status message and turned off all email notifications.

  8. Ok Fogwoman, I see what you mean. Thanks for clarifying that. You know, I think I'm not going to bother...there are a lot of games listed there. It's just another waste of bandwidth. By the way, another thing I learned real fast about UA, is that if you do bother with signing on to this pointless concoction, go to "account" then "email notifications" and uncheck EVERYfuckingTHING.

  9. Wonderful post Dio & I look forward to reading the new blogs. I've been at a loss for words about Ordinal's leaving, but some ability is starting to return. Not only did we see the departure of a huge resource for creativity and inspiration this weekend, we lost a voice that consistently spoke deep and carefully considered thoughts about what it means to be part of the Second LIfe community. We need those voices, the careful thinkers and critics and people who cared so deeply about where they were that they were willing to risk censure by speaking out, rather than voicing some pat line of paste and thwacking others for not towing the same line. I too hope there is a return at some point. We need this voice, on all the grids.

  10. Shame about Ordinal - maybe she'll take a break and come back refreshed, maybe she'll leave for the OS grids, I dunno. It's all part of the natual ebb & flow of this world I find. Emily's right, more talent people will leave - but more will join too.

  11. Hey Viv and HB,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, guys. Yeah...the fact of the matter is, no situation is permanent. Life is a series of meetings and partings and all that... The ebb and flow, as HB says.

    That was kind of the point of my piece here---things keep evolving, and some of that is about growth, and some of that is about change and loss.

    Yes, Ordinal has a legacy with us--Ernst Osterham emailed me to talk about it and said that the foundation of the scripting for every gun he has ever made (and Ernie has made some spectacular weapons) is a freebie gun script of Ordinal's.

    That's pretty cool. But at the same time...nothing lasts forever. You know what I would REALLY like to see, would be for Ordinal to take her own personal journey into something that involved more commentary, either on her own or as a featured writer for another blog or web site.

    She may not quite feel the same motivation to make stuff anymore...but I know a lot people would still love to hear what she has to say.

  12. Dio, thank you for the mention. I always enjoy your posts.

  13. you're welcome pard, happy to give you a plug

  14. Yes, thank you for the mention Dio. It was fun creating those outfits!

    I did not get the chance to meet Miss Ordinal, but I feel the loss as I read how many admired her.

    I completely understand the feeling that possesses one -- you come face to face with the LAST STRAW. To other people looking in, it might seem like a trivial moment, but when so many small disappointments add up, they break the camel's back.

    Sadly, her departure won't even be a blip on the Lindens' screen. I honestly don't know what it will take to make the Lindens sit up and take notice of the bodies left in the wake of "progress," whatever that is.

    I do hope she will reconsider her decision to leave. Sometimes it helps simply to take a breath and step away for awhile. I know it has done me good a couple of times since I've been in SL.

    Oh, and I have finally figured out why Blogger comments won't work with Macs. Apparently it's something about comment boxes embedded in the post page. It has no problem with comment pop-up boxes. Go figure.

  15. Hey Asto,

    I suspect Ordinal may already be in the process of reexamining the extent to which she will actually disengage from the platform. The fact is, the grid is an intensely dynamic environment and it's remarkable for anyone or anything to last with the staying power that Ordinal showed.

    But everything does evolve--and as far as the Linden's "taking notice of the bodies left in the wake of progress"...I would imagine some of them do notice, but I'm not sure that is something they actually can do much about, even if they wanted to. They are pushed and pulled by many of the same forces of change that the residents are.

    Ultimately it's up to each of us individually to decide how our relationship with the grid evolves. For most of us, that is not a process that always happens continually and gradually: sometimes there are big bumps or spikes in the re-evaluation process, and I think that is what Ordinal is going through right now.

    That said, the realization that all situations and relationships are dynamic--particularly something like SL, which, as Aldo says, "is not just a product in transition, it also is a transitional product"--ideally will encourage us to be more aware of the uniqueness of each moment and situation as we experience them, rather than after they have changed and we are looking back.