Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chiaroscuro

Image Description: Woman lit up in the darkness in front of a dimly lit tree.

It's been a little over a week and I feel like I'm finally settling again - though my apartment has become the usual weekly mess. I feel like I'm settling into blogging again, too, after several deliberate and inadvertent gaps. There is something about refocusing on tasks left undone that is like things coming into the light from darkness - like one of my favorite things in art, chiaroscuro. I made my attempt at it again this time, using projectors and a no light setting in Second Life, and while I still think there are some kinks that need to be worked out in how I'm using the light in world, I'm overall very happy with how they turned out - and I have a lot to do to make my projectors more useful in the world.

Image Description: Woman's back, wearing a long black dress with patches of skin showing at the waist and upper back, looking up at floating paper lanterns.

Part of what inspired this second attempt (the first is here, pre-projectors) attempt at chiaroscuro was this amazing dress from Purple Moon Creations, which has a unique shape and uses materials in order to amp up the shine.It catches the light beautifully, shifting the match any hue provided, and the shapes and enormous jewelry are incredibly striking. I paired it with a Ploom hair I've been wanting to show off for a while. As a long style - well past the waist - it requires a slim-cut dress and something dramatic enough to stand up to it's enormous waves, and together they are simply stunning. The large, unusual shapes cradle the large waves, and I love Ploom's ombre offerings - in this case a blond to black fade which emphasized the shadows. Due to the sheer drama of these two pieces together, I kept additional accessories very light - webby wings from Deviance which are my go-to- wings for anything Unseelie, a mask I just picked up from the Seelie Faire, a mesh leaf confections from Chimeric Fashions, and bright red lips courtesy of Madrid Solo.

Image Description: Woman in long dress, lit from shadow in front of a dim sculpture of a woman.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Penumbra

Image Description: Woman in a green, purple, and black dress standing in front of a fountain.

Every now and then I take a left turn in Second Life and am reminded of a place I knew nothing about - in this case the Penumbra Fashion Week, part of a vast and sprawling empire of modeling, pageants, and fashion shows which dot the grid. It seems like usually a modelling school will have associated pageants and events which draw clothing stores and bring them both publicity and sales. In this case, there appear to be a few different events and a sales area out front, with models taking pictures and publishing them on FLickr. The clothing adheres available adheres much more closely to offline fashions, and the outre end of that, replete with odd pleats, puffy bits, and layers where one wouldn't expect them. It's also strikingly difficult to find a landmark to the sim, though I was able to find information about a number of events at their website, in addition to some stills from fashion walks. The vast number of models in Second Life are eight heads tall or more, a sliver of the population offline but readily available with a judicious use of sliders. I find the whole phenomena of fashion shows in a virtual environment completely fascinating, though it's but rarely that I find myself intersecting with it.

Image Description: Close up of feet wearing pale green espadrilles in shadow.

The interesting thing is that unlike offline - where the clothing wouldn't be available to the average person, both because it's shaped for a stark minority of body types and due to cost - here anyone with a few Linden can pick things up, and most of them will modify themselves easily for my much shorter, much rounder form. My Second Life shape is equally unusual, being a nearly perfect hourglass, but it's a different unusual shape from the tall and thin model ideal, and a different size again from the wide hipped set which is also inspired by modelling, but by the alternative, thigh gap standard of thinness. Second Life is a sort of perfect place to express physical cultural values, and so it's unsurprising that paleness, smooth hair, thinness, and various markers of class or money predominate. Unlike offline they are in the majority, however, which shifts the balance of power and leads people to seek social clout in a wide variety of ways rendered all the more transparent by how malleable they are. One of these is the Fashion Show, using the right gestures at the right times, having the right shape and accessories, and typing out the appropriate language to combine humility and gratitude to impress the judges. Another is the Blog, typing out words of analysis and snapping pictures, hoping people will pay attention.

Image Description: Torso shot of a woman in a green, purple, and black dress with her hands up. Devil and Angel Monsters are on either side of her head.

Friday, September 19, 2014

MadPea Hunt: Green Mire II - Journalist Track Guide

Image Description: A drunken man sitting in a chair and a woman in a red jacket stand on a stage over the word 'Start'.

MadPea has finally come out with the second installment of the Green Mire Mystery; the mini-quest (walkthrough) which tells you all about the disappearance of the two boys is still going on. Like their previous hunts, there is a distinct and very enjoyable storyline which goes along with the hunt - always my favorite part. Unlike previous hunts, this one has two tracks: one where you follow the skeptical Drunk Journalist, and the other where you follow the enthusiastic believer Kiki. Each track is 100$L, which is a steal for as much fun is waiting for you. Pay their figures on the Green Mile Stage, and either pick a side or try everything to see what happens. The Journalist Prizes are on their website, if that will help sway you, and you can dress up as a journalist for just 150$L more.

As with previous Guides, my commentary will be in italics and will include additional hints if I feel they are needed, and I usually reply to comments within a day or two if you get stuck. You can also ask for help in the MadPea group, but don't be surprised if people IM you with hints, as they aren't allowed in open chat.  

Having done both paths, I recommend you start with the Believer and take the Journalist track second and so I'm publishing these walkthroughs in that order.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MadPea Hunt: Green Mire II - Believer Track Guide

Image Description: A man in a chair and a standing woman on a stage with 'Start Here' in big letters under them.

MadPea has finally come out with the second installment of the Green Mire Mystery; the mini-quest (walkthrough) which tells you all about the disappearance of the two boys is still going on. Like their previous hunts, there is a distinct and very enjoyable storyline which goes along with the hunt - always my favorite part. Unlike previous hunts, this one has two tracks: one where you follow the enthusiastic believer Kiki, and the other where you follow the skeptical Drunk Journalist. Each track is 100$L, which is a steal; so much fun is waiting for you. Pay their figures on the Green Mile Stage, and either pick a side or try everything to see what happens. The Believer Prizes are on their website, if that will help sway you, and you can dress up as a believer for just 150$L more.

As with previous Guides, my commentary will be in italics and will include additional hints if I feel they are needed, and I usually reply to comments within a day or two if you get stuck. You can also ask for help in the MadPea group, but don't be surprised if people IM you with hints, as they aren't allowed in open chat.

Having done both paths, I recommend you start with the Believer and take the Journalist track second and so I'm publishing these walkthroughs in that order.  

Presented Without Comment

A Soft Breeze

Some days, the best thing to be said is that they ended.

Modelling

Monday, September 15, 2014

Genre: Time with the Elephants

Teal Flamingos

Genre's back again and covering Southeast Asia, which not only encompasses a lot of India, but touches lightly on Indonesia and Thailand with some charming mashups around the edges - all set to the sound of screaming peacocks showing their feathers. My Luminary dress, a lovely calf-length fall of skirt with an empire waistline, is reminiscent of a long Kameez without the accompanying pants and scarf that would make it a Shalwar Kameez, which is found across Southeast Asia as a comfortable and beautiful type of outfit meant for both men and women. This is a more girly cut, though, low in the bodice with an empire waistline, and with a modern, calf length. I love the fullness of the skirt, with big loops of fold which move in an interesting way with various poses. The mesh edges are finished well with the texture going well up under the skirt, high enough even for the most finicky photographer.  One touch I really loved is how seams are included into the texture, giving it a real verisimilitude, and the additional gems set into the front and back make it really unique and fun. For shoes, I really couldn't do better than the toe loop sandal from Bliensen + MaiTai in a variety of bright colors and patterns. I simply adore the textures here - layers of bright, contrasting shades which offer up some real variety in what they can be worn with, and a velvety-seeming base in a variety of shades as well. I also really like the style; many sandals of this style have bare to no coverage on the front of the foot, but in this case there is a wonderful triangle of brightness in the middle of my foot which is quite cheerful. It comes for the SLink mid foot, and also for CMFF and The Mesh Project.

At Cross Patterns

My accessories are numerous and gorgeous, and all pretty much come from Genre this month. Across my brow and set carefully into my hair is a gorgeous, color-change, low-set diadem which can be worn high along the hairline, or lower as I am so that the large jewel in the middle sits right between the brows. It's a new release from Souzou Eien, and combines simple chain with a profusion of beads and the large, central medallion. The color change part is the chain and the gems; the black beads hanging down appear inexorably jet. It matches the additional jewelry from A:S:S nearly seamlessly; both combine circles and dangle in the same charming manner. I'm not normally a nose-ring sort of girl, but with ones this lovely I might well change the habit! I'm also wearing A:S:S nails, though they're part of an older pile of gorgeousness and not a new release. My eyeshadow is dark with bands of bright color across the lids, a release from #adored which adds real drama to any look; I love the smokey edges and solid liner. Added into my hair is a lovely flower from NSP Florals - one of a whole slew of colorful hibiscus flowers set upon delicate gold leaves. My necklace is from yet another choice store, Storybook, and it is a fantastic collar style with large openings and uneven edges which give it a natural, crafted air. The circle of pure metal below the chin is a fantastic touch as well, and echoes the overall "circles in jewelry" theme I have going. Completing the jewelry, on my wrists are the thickly soldered rings of stones from Sad Harlekin, which echo the same colors but offer in more irregular yet still rounded shapes. They are all of a piece with varying sizes up the wrist so that they sit well on my forearms.

Arise!

The main European touch is this fun hair from Asset, shown in blond in complwte defiance of all of Southeast Asia. The large, loose braids over the skull are really fun and work seamlessly into the long braids over the chest and held with metal bands. It doesn't quite fit around my ears, but that's a minor note for such cool hair.

Fit for a Princess: Sakura in the Weeds

Image Description: Girl with pink-tipped blond hair standing next to a stand of short bamboo in front of a lake.

This is my first post on my new computer, and it's amazing the amount of things I had to do to get things pulled together. Somewhere in this apartment is a box with Photoshop in it - but it's no where near findable, and so I cut my teeth, and my photos, on Gimp. I can run shadows much more easily on this new setup, which made taking pictures a dream. I've also not had much in terms of crashes despite running very high graphics so far, which makes things a lot more fun. Having an all but naked computer is always interesting in terms of deciding what one needs for day to day running, and one remains on the archival hard drive, and also seeing what a new setup with different costs in the build period has in store for me. So far I've installed a bunch of other games, a bunch of free programs, and Second Life - and all of them are running splendidly, often at the same time. I've also been in a state of bliss from being able to type exclamation points again; for the past nine months I've had to cut & paste several symbols and numbers, which was tolerable most of the time, but I lamented the loss of my favorite punctuation.

Image Description: Girl in a pink and black dress reaching down toward her shoe.
I'm happy to show off this sweet pink look, though I can only hope I got all of the settings correct - apologies for any errors! I'm decked out in things from the latest Fit for a Princess from literal crown to toes, which is always a fun way to show off the sheer variety and ingenuity in Second Life. My starting point was this adorable dress from Nomi which comes with black and white banding on the bodice, underskirt, and lacing, and a variety of sweet pastel colors for brightness. I went with pink and black, but the purple and white was a very close thing! The narrow ribbon over the shoulders is a delicately sweet touch, and one which highlights the advantage of mesh. The textured equivalent never looked good, cutting jaggedly across the shoulders even int he hands of the best creators. Mesh allows for a smooth line, though, with a delicate bow at the top of the bodice. It's rigged well, keeping close to the body, and the skirt itself only goes a little jagged around the edges with some of the more energetic leg poses.

Image Description: Closeup of black, slip on shoes walking over large bamboo ribs.

It was the hair - an adorable bow style from Sweet Thing - that cemented the pink. I bought the blond set and it came with pastel tipped edges, the pink already in place; I was in love in seconds. There are tiny tendrils along the back of the neck which add verisimilitude, and the curve of the hair around the temples is lovely. It isn't editable, but the included editing script allows for single axis adjustment as well as more universal resizing - useful for me, as my head is wider than most. I perched a delicate crown from Krystal on top of my head, and I haven't loved a tiny crown so much since Kyccie's was open. It's from a gacha, as is the lovely not matching but equally lovely armband, and both the price (25$L) and the variety (at least twenty shades of gem, all set in platinum) made it fun to try to get a matching opal set. I have a few more sets, and may very well go back and try to capture a ton more jewel shades simply because I adore the crown so much. The final touch were these adorable pump shoes from Stargazer Creations, also a gacha prize but again a quite reasonable one. It also had the bonus of giving me a wide variety pretty quickly and easily, including both the black and white ones - which means I'll be able to use them with a bunch of different looks. The flowers are separate from the shoes, so you can wear them either with a simpler band or with a more complicated clip-on; fantastic versatility.
Image Description: Portrait of pink and blond haired girl in front of water with fish swimming in it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bluebeard's Final Wife

He Went Away

The mists came when he went away - as if trying to keep me from looking outside the castle, or wander too far. It echoed wetly through the hallways, and followed me around as I minded the Chatelaine and Seneschal, both too polite to point out their superior knowledge of how things worked. Piles of papers flew in my wake as I walked the long hallways, fingering the many keys he had left me, the smallest of ruby glinting in the light like a secret. He had shown me the door like a dare, and while I had always lept to every challenge as a child, youngest of six and the only girl, something in his manner made my blood run cold. It was easy to remember my father had sold me to discharge his debt, carefully, one summer day while my brothers played courtiers in the city. 

Weeks later, it would be them I hoped would come for me, standing high on the walls and looking through the mists as if my glory might be found there, but in these early days I knew only the chill of father and husband both, and the transaction which sold me between them.

A Small Moment of Sun

Friday, August 29, 2014

Anatomy of a Blogger

Candlelight and Sunset

Nigel Riel has an interesting post on types of bloggers, which got me thinking about my own style. He posits four types of photographers (The Unedited Snapper, The Pop-Out Photographer, The Cleaner, and The Artist), and five types or writers (Wait, I had to write something?, Be Brief, Be Gone!, The Storyteller, The Babbler, and The Complainer), which can mix and match but have some inherent trends. I am an Artist who alternates between Being Brief and Babbler and who often brings my offline experiences, thoughts, and opinions into Second Life because I feel a continuous thread throughout. I do have some additions to make to his categories, though.

Muted Rainbows

I personally think "The Photo Manipulator" can be broken out of "The Artist" into it's own category, since it's possible to do full on artistic setup and yet not process the image - that's what I try to do, though often I feel like I fall rather short of artistic - and processing is it's own set of skills. That would require being able to be in double categories, which I think is possible - I know of a few people who are Snappers and yet use a lot of photo manipulation to clean up and improve an image, though I think that is rarer than full on Artists. Likewise, I think there is a category of "The Critic" which is in between Babbler and Complainer; while it is rare in Second Life's usual slew of loving blogs, including my own, there is deep value to critique both of specifics and of general themes within a given community and set of artists. Granted, a lot of the commentary in Second Life could be seen as drama-mongering, even my own "How NOT to..." series, but I am sensitive to the importance of a community have ways and means of tolerating and assessing dissent or it becomes calcified around a few strong personalities, who grow used to living in a world where they are always in the right. I feel like there can and should be some sort of middle ground, where insults and cruelty are not tolerated, but dissent is.

Tracks

Indeed, one of my friends' responses to my "How NOT to..." series got me thinking about whether it is an appropriate critique of people who approach me and are in the wrong, or if it is my expressing cruelty to a helpless target. In specific, his fear was that if we spoke in world I would turn my admittedly sharp wit and sometimes scalpel of a mind onto him. In the specifics he was inaccurate - all but one of the people I have blogged about in this manner have been complete strangers when they contacted me - but in the general, a fear that what one does toward one target might be aimed at friends is a valid and reasonable one. I don't have much to give as a reassurance. I have a temper, and when I'm riding the edge of it I can be ruthless. I like to think of myself as kind and gentle, but enough friends have told me they're a little scared of me to let me know how close that is to the surface. I can be kind, but I have a cruel streak in me - and it's in my best interest to keep that in mind, even if I do continue to sharpen the scalpel of my mind.

Moment in Time

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Genre: Sweet Tooth

Something Little and Sweet

I'm back with more petite flash from Genre, and this time I'm showing off the sim Genre is set in as well - which had a drop off point on top of a glorious table of treats. It's large for a full sized avatar, and enormous for a petite, which makes fun at every size. One of the fun things about recent Genre events has been how the sim has transformed to match the theme - often in a very photogenic manner. I love the giant treats, the enormous pig in a teacup, and all of the cupcakes I've seen at so many different events recently. Even if you don't have a petite avatar, I'd encourage you to check out this table straight from Alice's stories. If you do have a petite, you can build several completely looks from the offerings on the ground around the table.

Layers of Snax

I'm wearing this adorable hair from Bliensen + MaiTai which makes a hat out of a bottle cap and some matches. One thing I have loved about petites is how virtual "found objects" can get reworked into clothing for the much smaller size, to fit in with a Borrowers aesthetic, and it's wonderful to see that echoed here. The hair itself comes in a number of different shades all with the hat incorporated, and you also get the hat on it's own so you can wander off on your own. I paired it with an adorable caffeine molecule necklace from Squishy Fluff, a new-to-me store (Pins and Needles is Skyler Glasswing's other store; I couldn't find any marketplace or in world presence for Squishy Fluff). I love molecules, being the daughter of a physical chemist, and caffeine is a really fun one. The necklace is color changing via a HUD, which makes it versatile and fun.

For the rest of my look I went very pink. First of all, these completely adorable wings from Distorted Dreams with the flowers spaced in the center, and a ribbon-like underlayer. I love the Flowers in particular - they have a lovely shape and fade. The shape of the wings is also sweet, with shiny and glittering arcs of light curved onto them. And finally, there is my dress. Sent with several skirts, this is a Spyralle classic. The fractal pattern of the dress has rough edges outlined in black, with a flirty cutout on the hip and irregular ends on the pants. This is one of those outfits which couldn't exist outside of Second Life; it needs the stability of artificiality to not end up ribbons on the floor. I love the irregularity and layering, and how ragged the skirt edge is. It's reminiscent of fish fins or ragged leaves, though the color is paler and softer than either tend towards. The skirts are flexible prims, which is rarer these days, but the effect is charming and flowy. I'm showing the knee length skirt, but there is an ankle length and you can also wear it alone as a pants outfit.

Truffles and Trifles