Saturday, 31 May 2014

024: tou-Gen-kyo Fashion Show

I got up early this morning for a men's fashion show that started at 6 AM SLT / 10 AM Tokyo time. And I live in the SLT zone, so ... pretty early. But I wanted to see what a Japanese fashion show looks like in Second Life.
Right off the bat, before I describe my experience, I have to say I'm not really a high-fashion kind of guy. In RL I like good clothes, certainly, but I only buy a few good things these days because my wardrobe is already way out of hand. In both RL and SL, I tend to wear the same things over and over again because it's just easier in SL to put on an outfit where you know that everything is fitted properly and you don't have to worry about your feet sticking out of your shoes. Yes, that's my fashion principle: not to impress people with my unique personality, but merely to avoid looking like a doofus as much as possible. Added to which, I am kind of a beefy hairy little guy -- the exact opposite of what I gather everyone's idea of a Second Life fashion model would be, which appears to be someone who is about 16 years old, 2.5 metres tall, weighs about 55 kilos, and has no body hair, bones, or muscles LOL.
So the clothes that these guys are showing on the runway are absolutely not made for my body type or even my design aesthetic. I knew that going in. I wasn't expecting to want to buy a lot of clothes; I wanted to have the experience and write about it.
tou-Gen-kyo is a rather pretty version of a tropical beach with a mall tucked into it. The fashion show was set up so that the models walked a square runway set in the water on pilings, and the audience sat in beach chairs on the shore on three sides of the square. Production by Les Garcons, and featuring fashions from four companies: Gabriel, Shiki, Hotdive, and Vitamen.
Gabriel has been around for a while: they were showing a couple of different styles of clothes today. I've decided to only show one picture from each company and Gabriel will probably suffer from that policy the most, since they had three separate modes that are quite different: street punk style, relaxed traveling clothes (resort wear?), and some slim black suits. Apparently street punk style these days has a lot of fussy closures and detailing, but it did look comfortable, as did the traveling clothes; a pair of soft track pants with a stripe looked very inviting. There were a couple of pairs of artfully stained and slashed jeans. I've chosen to show a slim black suit because there's a little detail of how the shirt peeks out at the bottom of the jacket that I especially liked. I'm not sure if the necktie had quite rezzed before I snapped my picture ... it might look different in the store, to be sure.
Shiki had two different modes, beach wear modelled by guys carrying surfboards and the like, and suits with beach sandals. They claimed to have a Hawaiian influence, which I can certainly attest to; they showed business suits in Easter-egg colours covered with flowers. Non-Canadians will not understand this next bit, but they made me think very strongly of Don Cherry. (Don Cherry is a belligerent nitwit in his late 70s who does hockey commentary on Canadian television. He is famous in Canada for his exquisitely awful taste in clothes, running to antique high stiff collars and screamingly loud jackets made of some ghastly upholstery-like fabrics.) Unfortunately I couldn't get a decent picture of the outfit I preferred, since due to lag the models would only completely rez up in front of my position for a second or two before they moved around the square. But from the fabric of the jacket, you'll get the idea; the pants are much more vivid than you see here. Everyone in the SL men's fashion blogosphere is showing those filigree sandals this week, with SLink feet. Again due to lag, the models' hands and feet were coming in last, making it look like some of them had dipped their extremities in grey paint before walking.
Hotdive is a skin company, and all I can say is that, as above, this stuff is not made for me or any of my friends. Nothing wrong with that; I don't want to look like I'm a 16-year-old ectomorphic waif, but it's very popular and lots of people find this attractive. I gather it's kind of a Japanese thing. There was a certain anime quality that I'm not qualified to understand. Anyway, this guy appears to be a teenage spy who got his head stuck in a fish trap, or something, but this could all be a reference to some anime thing I've never heard of. The skin definition is pretty nice, especially the long quadriceps muscles and knees -- knees are hard to get right in SL skins. Mostly, though, these skins are on shapes that make the models look like scrawny white American suburban twinks with great hair.
The final segment was for Vitamen underwear; apparently they are famous for their bulges, or "buldges" as the announcer had it, but the bulges seem to be built into the garment. I'm used these days to separate bulges that you place as a prim on the front of your pants. My RL experience of men's underwear is that it's pretty much an excuse for the audience to ogle the great bodies on the models. Frankly, these guys I mostly wanted to rush them out to a cafe and buy them a couple of sandwiches before they dropped dead. I personally have muscles in places where these guys don't even have places, so it was hard to imagine what some of this stuff looks like on a guy with a hockey butt like mine. I can't see myself in black lace boxers either, and the outfit I'll call "kitten with a whip" just made me laugh. But the pair I'm showing here is something a reasonable guy would wear, and the model looks healthier than the others were presented.
By the way, I understand that models in SL look like they're told to look, so the selection of body types was up to the production team of Les Garcons, which to the best of my knowledge is Lex Demonista and Apollo Call -- they were two of the models. Like I said, not my type and not my style, but it was consistent and done to a particular aesthetic, and the show worked well, so well done guys. The audience near me was making itself a nuisance with calling out exhortations to the models and not very clever things to each other; I'm willing to bet that they hadn't bothered to cut back upon the burden of their outfits and thus were contributing to the overall lag, because somebody sure was. Kind of a shame; I tend not to wear antlers as street-wear but I actually wanted to see what they looked like fully razzed. 
I confess I don't quite understand why people wear SLink hands and feet; are they prettier than regular hands and feet? I'll say again, when the sim is lagged, it's probably a mistake, because they rez at a different rate and I have a couple of shots with grey hands and feet. I don't think much of the trend this summer for weird sandals. The filigree ones I mentioned above look quite feminine; others are hard-core industrial fitness things, that look like shower sandals crossed with personal computing devices. I'm not going to be rushing out to buy any new clothes or shoes (although I did consider briefly the idea of putting together an outfit with what looked like black electrical tape wrapped around my hands and wrists, like a few of the models were styled; I doubt this was a reference to boxing tape, though). 
What I did get, though, is that SL fashion shows are rather like the ones I've been to in RL. A lot of people trying to draw attention to themselves at the show itself in the open channel, and a few hard-working manufacturers and designers working hard to manufacture and sell interesting clothes to a fickle marketplace. And models wearing antlers, electrical tape and black lace boxer shorts. An interesting experience and it might be fun to see what it's like from the other side.

Friday, 30 May 2014

023: Statues from Maxx

Wouldn't it be nice to find this in your bed? That's what I thought. The naked guy on the bed is Charles -- unfortunately, Charles is a statue. I was out prowling around recently when I came across one of the many little stores where I see interesting goods from my old friend Maxx (DaddyBootz). Maxx is the kind of guy that Second Life was made for; he's not only funny, enthusiastic and sexy, he has the technical skills and the creativity to make full use of the range of creative options that SL makes available. And the range of things that Maxx creates is just mind-boggling. He makes funny gestures, and funny T-shirts, and tattoos, and a full range of things that will help you express your inner werewolf. I've known him to sell animated pornographic GIFs, bunny ears, accessories for ancient Roman living, artwork of zodiac signs ... an amazingly detailed inner-city corner store complete with a sleazy apartment on the second storey, furniture to let you run a bookstore, camo pants, a throne, Bloodlines accessories -- the list is endless. And now he's worked with Krikket Blackheart to produce these really cool mesh statues.
Like, for instance, "Sexy mechanic" to the left. Sexy mechanic is wearing the bottom half of his coveralls as well as a neckerchief and hat, but Gideon, below, is naked as a well-endowed jaybird.
Check out the detail; wonderful facial expressions, a shape that seems like it was made for the skin, complementing the musculature; everything right down to facial freckles and faintly hairy arms. And when you "touch" these guys, they make appropriately sexy sounds. I wanted a "dead boyfriend" as a joke for a friend, but when I started looking at these statues, I just couldn't resist buying all three of them. If you happen to live in a Roman sim, you will want a couple of his detailed centurion statues as door guards, I'm sure. If you check out Maxx's store on Marketplace at (, called Kulgera Creations, you will be amazed at the range of things and utilities, and you'll probably start loading up on inventory!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

022: RARE -- well done!

I was futzing around at home yesterday afternoon, pushing furniture here and there, when I got a group notification from 3Bears. I live in the 3Bears sim and they have the occasional event; all of them are interesting, what with the frequent art exhibitions and the like, so when they send me a notice I pay attention. This one piqued my curiosity so I walked over.
The party was called RARE and the idea was that DJ Revden (immediately below) came in and played a set of music that is rare in SL -- definitely not the usual thing. There were covers of old tunes that I'd never heard before, and there were some really interesting mash-ups. Slow music -- very unusual for a club in SL -- and music that was personal to the DJ that he explained a little bit in the voice channel. Here's how interesting it was; I was so into the set for 90 minutes that I kept putting off a RL bathroom break! When was the last time you got so interested in music in SL that that happened?
The clever guys at 3Bears had built an outdoor event location that seemed temporary but looked great. There were some really interesting lighting effects the likes of which I've never seen before in SL -- any club in the real world would be screaming to get them, I'm sure, but they're probably only available in SL. I don't think my photography does it justice, you kind of have to see it in motion, but it's definitely out of the ordinary. Speaking of the clever guys at 3Bears (which is a set of sims oriented to gay men that does a lot of work curating and presenting works of SL art, as well as providing nice residential space, good neighbours, and no nudity taboos LOL), here's two of them; the host Joseph Nussbaum, immediately below, and my highly helpful landlord Galileo Michalski, next photo after Joe.
Gali also designs T-shirts and when I saw him change into a new Canadian flag shirt, well, I had to snap that! I'll buy it when he comes out unless he gives me a review copy (grin).
Part of the reason why I enjoyed the event so much was -- well, since this was a brand-new event, not huge numbers of people, but for me just the right amount to not create lag but still have lots of eye candy. A handful of friends (Sabor Skytower, well-known DJ Hotboy Lockjaw, Vady Darwin, photographer Mikolish Orion, and of course Gali and Joe) and a handful of interesting strangers. And the nice part for me was that there was actual conversation going on, not just a bunch of people firing off emotes in the open channel. I danced, I chatted, I laughed, I cruised some hot guys, I listened to interesting music, I took some pictures, I had a great time. This is the kind of party I like. RARE will, I'm told, only be on once a month; I like that idea, it makes it a little more exclusive. Now that I've raved about it, we'll probably get more guys next time -- I've never had any lag issues at 3Bears so it will likely be okay. But, guys, not TOO much advertising, okay? ;-)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

021: I've moved

This blog has now moved to this location on Blogger. I'll allow the Wordpress site to remain for a month or two, but please change any pointers you have as soon as you have a moment. Nothing against Wordpress; I like their flexibility and the intuitive nature of their site, and the broad range of available design options, but it's become important to me to keep certain kinds of work separate and this is the result. Your comments, as always, are welcome.

020: What do you do?

21 05 2014 Wolverine with freckles_001

If you've been wondering why I haven't posted lately, I've been thinking and thinking about a big post -- something serious. Like many gay guys in SL, I spend a lot of time out dancing at various clubs. (And occasionally inviting someone back to my place to bump pixels, just like real life -- but not so much of that these days.) So my Second Life is pretty much spent shopping, redecorating, styling, dancing, chatting, and fucking.

In the last while, I had an unfortunate encounter with a gentleman who -- well, he'll certainly remain nameless, and I'll just say that one of the things he enjoys about SL seems to be emotional outbursts and drama. And I'm not interested in that stuff, so I finally did something I very rarely do; I unfriended him and blocked his pixelly ass. I haven't done that very often at all, but I was at an emotional point where if I'd been in RL with this person, I'd've taken him out the back and kicked his ass. It cost me the opportunity to play in what might have been an interesting role-play area, since he's a mainstay there and I'm not going back. So now I know why so many of my friends have declarations in their profiles about "save your drama for your mama" and that sort of thing. Ugh.

But I'm not here to whine about that; it happens to us all and occasionally we just have to kick ass and take names (and block avs). I believe a lot of people share my belief that some people come to SL because they have personal mental issues that nobody can deal with in RL, so they bring those problems to SL and take them out on other avs. SL is anonymous, you can be anybody you want, and there are no consequences for bad behaviour other than the occasional block. And if enough people block you, I suppose there are other MMOs ... but I hope to never need to find out, since I rather like SL and I don't think I have many problems playing well with others. So in the future when I meet someone who is manipulative and aggressive and whiny, well, I suppose I'll be a bit faster to block him next time.

This all got me thinking, though. These days, in any situation online, you have to protect yourself from people for whom there are no consequences for bad behaviour. If it's not trolls in forums, or spammers, it's people who think they're entitled to bully you in SL. I've learned over the years how to protect myself and SL is no exception.

The thing is, though, in RL, I've given many years of my life to helping others. I like helping people and I like to see them reach more of their full potential. Honestly, I rather thought I'd eventually find a way in SL to help others; that's part of the reason I started working on this blog. I've learned some interesting and useful stuff over the years I've been here, and I think people will be looking for it because this is the kind of thing that *I* was looking for online when I first started in SL. I think a crucial part of helping others is communicating with them; I enjoy communicating with people and I hate doing the opposite, which is blocking them. I regard that as a little bit of a failure, but not much; as my grandma used to say, "You can't be civil to every fool." There are plenty of people in SL to have fun with and communicate with, and I intend to keep trying to do that.

I spend a lot of time in gay clubs where the open channel is not filled with interesting interpersonal communication; it's filled with people pressing buttons to squirt a gesture into the public channel that is a sound clip that's only marginally relevant to what's going on. (And, parenthetically, if I hear "Oooh lalalalala I LOVE this tune!" one more time in exactly the same gestural sound clip that sounds like a demented chipmunk, there will be violence done. I already write off clubs if the open channel is more filled with gestures than communication, but that particular one is omnipresent.) So I'm not communicating; I spend a lot of time listening to silly gestures, and I'm starting to think that gestures are like the complete opposite of communication. They're used by people to replace communication, and I suspect that the more of them you use, the less able you are to actually communicate.

So I shop, dance, and fuck. I'm not complaining; all those things are fun and I like doing them. But I feel there must be something more for me to do in SL, and I'm trying to figure out what that might be. I'll have some more to say about this in a while, once I think it through. I have some ideas, they just need a little refinement. But I wanted to throw this open to my (very few but cherished) readers. If you care to respond, perhaps you can tell me. What is it that you think there is to do in Second Life that is useful, and helps others? How can I promote communication? Is there something I'm missing?


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

019: House footprints -- a good idea


I've been out looking at new houses lately and there's one thing I'd like to say to house designers -- please, please, give us free footprints.

For those who haven't encountered this idea before, here's how it works. It doesn't matter if you're looking on Marketplace or out and about in Second Life.  You see a house you like but you're not sure if it will fit on your lot. And, of course, Second Life being what it is, if you buy a house and then discover it won't fit on your lot, you won't be getting a refund in a hurry. Why aren't we sure if it will fit on the lot? Well, even though your "about land" tab will usually tell you how many square feet your land is (mine is 2048); not everyone has a square lot. Mine is long and thin, and one of the thin ends is on the waterline. A long thin house might or might not fit, and it might or might not be possible to have a specific face of the house on the waterline. Some house designers will give you a free "footprint" -- just a large flat prim that's the size and shape of a cross-section of the house. You rez the footprint and put it on the lot and you can easily see if the house fits the lot, and you can spin the footprint to see if you can arrange a specific face to have a specific view.

In the last couple of days, I've found a couple of houses that I liked the look of, but they're far too expensive to buy just on the off chance that they're going to fit my lot. And before you suggest I simply find a lot that fits, well, I like my neighbours and I like my neighbourhood and I like my landlords, and it would be difficult to change the shape of my lot because of houses and landscaping that are already in place. I change houses once or twice a year, and I don't mind spending a few thousand lindens on the right house, but I'm not prepared to buy an expensive house that I can't use.

Some houses will tell you what their "footprint" is -- for instance, it will say "20 x 32" on the sales board. Designers, I know it's hard to imagine since you work so closely with this stuff, but a few SL residents aren't prepared to actually multiply those two numbers to get the square footage of the house, and one or two people I've spoken to didn't realize that that's what's meant. It's also common for a sales board to say that the house you're looking at will fit, say, a 2048 lot. Well, yes, a square 2048 lot. If you have a long thin lot, it might or it might not, and you might also have to place the house on the lot so that the front entrance is right beside your neighbour's bedroom window.

But if you have a footprint, all those issues are clear. The house either fits or it doesn't and, if the designer has put together the footprint properly, you can tell where the entrance has to go, and what face of the lot the balcony will overhang, and things like that.

Yes, there are ways of telling whether your house is likely to fit. (There's a helpful table and information here, among other useful contributions in the forums.) There's a relationship between the size of your lot and the number of prims it allows that gives you a rough-and-ready idea; my 2048 lot should yield about 468 prims, so if you know you are allowed 468 prims, you can work backward. If the house is 800 prims, it's too big, and if it's 60 prims, it's probably too small (which will leave you a lot of room for landscaping and decorating, but most of us like to have as much house space as we can.) Not everyone is mathematically oriented, though. Providing a free footprint in the same location as every house you're trying to sell would short-circuit the whole "will it fit" quandary and leave no doubt in the prospective purchaser's mind, and designers are likely to sell more houses.



Monday, 5 May 2014

018: Setting l'Uomo aside for a while

rusty new redhead _001

It's been on my mind for a while, and now I've done it. I've taken my l'Uomo mesh body off and I'm going to have some fun in SL without it for a while. (And, as you may have noticed, I've gone back to being the redhead as which Rusty started life.)

How did this all come about? Well ... kind of a long story. But it occurred to me that telling the story would be potentially useful for (a) other people trying to make a decision to go with any kind of mesh body or not, and (b) designers who are considering moving into the l'Uomo market. And that's because this started for me with a long conversation with Lion Valentino.

[caption id="attachment_146" align="alignnone" width="300"]Lion Valentino_001 Lion Valentino[/caption]

Mr. Valentino is a long-time SL resident and proprietor of Jungle Wear, a line of clothing I've been wearing for years. His aesthetic is for men who want to look sexy without necessarily looking skanky (not that there's anything wrong with skanky, mind you). A few years ago, he was the only designer I could find who was providing realistic body hair for a guy who wanted to look like he actually HAD body hair. And so I've been making the occasional trip to Jungle Wear over the years because Lion seems to provide clothes that I want to wear.

What brought me to his main store (seen behind him in the photograph; it's a huge layout with many, many nooks and crannies) lately was an announcement in the l'Uomo group that Jungle Wear was opening up a section for the l'Uomo man. And when I popped in to see what was going on, Lion himself was there. And he told me that he'd decided to go with the new HUD system for applying l'Uomo clothes. Or, rather, you buy the HUD, the HUD contains the textures for the clothes, and you rez the layer and ... well, it's all quite complicated. There are many advantages to it, including that the clothes automatically update, and if you want to make your own clothing the pieces are now modifiable.

Now, Lion had kindly provided a helpful and friendly assistant, Gare Claven, to help customers through the process of how to actually put the clothes on. And so I had a conversation with Lion, and a conversation with Gare, and I saved all the conversations to a word processing file. I thought that what I would do is study the instructions off-line, then come in and do a blog post as a how-to for people who were having trouble adjusting to the new system -- I learned that the inventor of l'Uomo, Miro Collas at Animations Rising, had made the same decision as Lion, to henceforth only sell clothes that had the applier.

So I bought a couple of excellent pieces of clothing, I saved the conversations offline, and I determined that I was going to knuckle down to my blog post. And I kept putting it off, and putting it off ... "It's going to take a while to learn this," I thought, "and I don't have enough time to devote to really grasp it today ... maybe tomorrow." And tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow never came, and the documents and pictures have been sitting on my desktop for two weeks staring at me.

I've learned over the years that when I can't find the enthusiasm to do something like this, when I have a clear objective in mind and the tools I need on hand -- it means something in my subconscious is blocking me. And when I finally admitted I had an issue, it was easy to figure out what it was. Essentially, I just didn't want to move a step further into committing myself to l'Uomo. Even though I had been told that the new applier would fix the "holes in the shoulders" problem that's been driving me crazy ever since I bought my l'Uomo mesh -- it was a workaround step that I just couldn't bring myself to take.

I found myself looking longingly at "ordinary" clothes. Clothes that you could just buy, in a shop or on Marketplace, and you put them on and they fit. I was reminded of the old days when I used to go shopping with friends and buy things and be able to wear them, without worrying about holes in the shoulders and being restricted to only a few shops out of all the thousands in SL. (I have to admit, my recollections were coloured with nostalgia ... there are still problems with regular clothes. But I was in the middle of an emotional reaction and not a logical one.)

And all of a sudden last night, I just thought, "The hell with it." And I signed into SL and went back to a stored non-l'Uomo shape from more than a year ago and thought, "Damn it, while I'm changing everything, I'm going back to being a redhead too." With the results you see. I tinkered with the shape for a while, mostly to get the face a little bit more in line with what I've been telling residents about how to make your face distinctive and realistic. (Can you see where I gave people a facial feature to look at that was a bit skewed from perfection?)

rusty new redhead _002

I have to say that I've really, REALLY enjoyed my time wearing my l'Uomo mesh body. I am embarrassed to say that I have said on numerous occasions that I would never go back ... I very much enjoy the sense of being 7'8" and 280# of solid muscle, and it was good for my ego in that a lot of people were attracted to that body. But it was keeping me from enjoying Second Life in the way that almost everybody else does, for the reasons that I got into SL in the first place. I like getting dressed up, I like having fun with other people, I like creating looks and tinkering with clothes and shapes. Nothing was stopping me from exploring SL and having fun with other people, so the restrictions of l'Uomo didn't chafe for a long while (it's hard to be galled by the limitations of your shape when everyone around you is telling you how hot and sexy you look). If there's anyone reading this who is considering getting a l'Uomo mesh body, I would even still recommend it. It's a great experience.

And I have to say that Lion Valentino and Miro Collas are trying very hard to give SL something that the players need. Right now, I think that the l'Uomo mesh body is a kind of intermediate step to something that players in Second Life want to do, and they found a way to make it possible. What I think is that, eventually, every player will be able to set his/her body to a much, much wider range of sizes and shapes than is currently available, without the intermediate step of having to wear a body like a suit of ill-fitting clothes. And then everyone will be able to go into a store and buy a sweater and have it fit. It's a little discouraging, but I think that Linden Labs will eventually devote the resources to make it possible, in order to keep moulding Second Life into an experience that people will continue to want to have.

Even though I'm sad to be setting aside my l'Uomo body, today I'm feeling very good about going back to my "regular" shape. And I think it was the right thing to do because, immediately I made the decision last night, I wanted to get started on a blog post. So, folks, bear with me while I make the adjustment. I'm feeling like it's a time to make changes in how I do things in Second Life, so I'll also probably be re-working my house and furniture completely in the next little while. Because I no longer have to contribute to the fiction that I work out about three hours a day.

And I still have my l'Uomo body on file and it's easy to take it out to play if I want to!

Your comments are welcome; I'd especially like to hear from anyone who's made a decision like this.