Tales of darkness, super humans and summers past

Seanchai Library, Holly Kai Park

It’s time to kick-off another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, August 20th 14:00: Beware! – Lovefest 2017

Seanchai Library brings together gifted storytellers from across the grid to present selected adventures from the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Lovecraftian genre, live in voice at Lovefest 2017.  “The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.” 

Monday, August 21st 19:00: More Than Human

Gyro Muggins reads Theodore Sturgeon’s genre-bending 1953 novel which brings together three of her earlier works   to weave a story about people with extraordinary abilities which can be combined – “bleshed” (itself a blending of “blend” and “mesh”) to make them even more extraordinary.

Take, for example, Lone, the simpleton who can hear other people’s thoughts and make a man blow his brains out just by looking at him; or Janie, who moves things without touching them. Then there are the teleporting twins, who can travel ten feet or ten miles, and Baby, who invented an anti-gravity engine while still in the cradle, and Gerry, who has everything it takes to run the world except for a conscience.

Six people struggling to find who they are and whether they are meant to help humanity, destroy it, or represent the next step in evolution, the final chapter in the history of the human race. Through them, Theodore Sturgeon explores questions of power and morality, individuality and belonging, with suspense, pathos, and a lyricism rarely seen in science fiction.

Tuesday, August 22nd 19:00: One Summer, America 1927

The summer of 1927 was, for the United States, a signature period of the 20th Century. On May 21st, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to make a non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in an aeroplane when The Spirit of St Louis arrived at Le Bourget airfield, near Paris.

Through that summer, Babe Ruth was setting his record for the number of home runs in baseball, while one of the most infamous murder trials in New York’s history took place: that of  Ruth Snyder and her married lover, Henry Judd Gray. They stood accused – and were eventually found guilty of – garrotting of Snyder’s husband in what was a tabloid sensation case.

Meanwhile, in the south the Mississippi burst its banks, leading to widespread flooding and a huge human disaster. Far to the north, Al Capone continued his reign of criminal terror in Chicago, while on the west coast, history was being made with the filming of the world’s first “talking picture” in the form of Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, released in October 1927.

All of this  and more is charted by Bill Bryson, in a book written with his characteristic eye for telling detail, and delicious humour. 1927 was the year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative non-fiction of the highest order. Join Kayden Oconnell for a trip through history as seen by Bryson.

Wednesday, August 23rd 19:00: Secrets of the Divine Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Caledonia Skytower reads Rebecca Wells’ 2014 tale.

When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she’s directed, her mother gets described as a “tap-dancing child abuser.”

Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”

As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.

Also presented in Kitely (hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/108/609/1528).

Thursday, August 24th

19:00: Growth of the House of Usher

With Shandon Loring. Also presented in Kitely (hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/108/609/1528).

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Late-night sci-fi and more.

Saturday August 26th: Into the Unknown! – Lovefest 2017

 Seanchai Library & Friends present even more selected adventures from the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Lovecraftian genre, live in voice from Lovefest 2017. Think you’re safe?

Lovefest 2017: Mr. Lovecraft presides over all events occurring in the coastal town of Kingsport, where Seanchai Library and friends will be presenting dark tales on August 20th and 26th

 


Please check with the Seanchai Library’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The featured charity for August and September is Little Kids Rock, transforming lives by restoring, expanding, and innovating music education in schools.

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AltspaceVR: the return

Courtesy of AltspaceVR

Following the announcement of its closure, Altspace VR is still open. I’d actually been holding off on this since Ciaran Laval first drew my attention to the news on August 16th, in case further details were forthcoming.

As I noted towards the end of July, the company had been planning to close shop on August 3rd. However, following the closure announcement, the company apparently received an outpouring of support – and with it, apparently the means to say open. This prompted an announcement on August 15th that the platform would be continuing:

It has been a roller coaster of a ride for our team and our community since we announced that AltspaceVR was coming to an end. We are elated to follow-up that dismal proclamation with some very good news: AltspaceVR is going to live on…

Thanks to that outpouring of support, we’re now deep in discussions with others who are passionate about AltspaceVR who want to guarantee that our virtual oasis stays open. We feel confident saying to our community that you don’t need to find another place to meet your friends in virtual reality. AltspaceVR is not closing down.

It’s not clear on exactly with whom the company has been in discussion – and that’s primarily the reason I’d been holding back on covering the news, lest further information was forthcoming on this matter. However, speculation following the announcement is the Oculus Rift co-founder Palmer Luckey may be involved in trying to maintain the company’s viability. He tweeted a poll following the news of the company’s intended shut-down, asking followers if he should step in. He then re-tweeted the news that Altspace VR would remain open, which further stoked speculation of his involvement.

AltspaceVR: avatar customisation

Techcrunch were perhaps the first news outlet to cover the evolving situation, with writer Lucas Matney noting:

It’s honestly unclear what to make of the sudden shutdown and un-shutdown announcements and whether they were just efforts to grab attention and put together a last-minute deal, but it is apparent that AltspaceVR still has their work cut out for them as they look to carve out a niche in a crowded social VR space that still has Facebook to compete with. 

He goes on to note that sources close to the company indicated that it had laid off several of its employees and had shut down the majority of its servers. However, the AltspaceVR clients all remain available for download, and the platform can be accessed and used (they’ll be hosting a solar eclipse event on Monday, August 21st as well).

Whatever the future of AltspaceVR, given its high-profile nature, the turmoil surrounding its survival highlights the risks associated with virtual reality when reliant on venture capital – and the benefits of being self-financed, as is the case with platforms such as Sansar – which is not so say there are no other risks involved in building a “social VR environment”.

Selfies and an exhibition in Second Life

Club LA and Gallery: Burke Bode

Club LA and Gallery, curated by Fuyuko ‘冬子’ Amano (Wintergeist) has a new ground-level location, which is still partially under construction. To celebrate the move, the gallery is hosting two exhibitions; the first, Selfies: Some of My Faces, by Burke Bode, has been open since July; the second, An Exhibition by Twain Orfan, opens on Sunday, August 20th.

“Pablo Picasso said ‘Everything you can imagine is real,'” Burke says of his exhibition. “He is right. Living in a world that is completely created from scratch just by the imagination of its residents you experience this. A place where you can invent yourself new every day and for a creative person a place where you MUST create yourself new every single day. [I’m] changing my look constantly as shape shifter. Some of my shapes last for a day, for one picture; and some stay.”

Club LA and Gallery: Burke Bode

He reflects this beautifully with an exhibition of images illustrating many of his various looks. These are presented in an enclosed space within the gallery, the images laid out to present something of a maze visitors walk through. Semi-translucent, the images resemble layers visible one through another so that as you walk through them, each appears to be peeled away, revealing the next, which is in turn peeled back at the next turn, and so on.

It’s both an artistic approach to presenting change and the possibilities to reinvent within the digital medium, and an intriguing means of commenting on the nature of identity and how we present ourselves in the physical world. While we may not be able to change our looks here, we do “change” according to circumstance, situation and those around us: the person we are with a lover is not the same as the person we are with a child; the person we present to colleagues at work is not the same as the one we share with our closest friends, and so on. Thus, Selfies might be seen as a reflection of this.

Club LA and Gallery: Twain Orfan

Twain Orfan his been active in Second Life for over eight years, but only immersed himself in the world of SL photography in 2016. “I enjoy taking photo [the] art of items that are often overlooked when photographers visit various sims,” he says of his work. “Finding pure art in objects such as a chair, a table, a flower-pot, or, perhaps a bicycle. From time to time I also try my hand at Landscapes, or an occasional shot involving my own avatar.”

An Exhibition reflects all of this with a collection of 18 images taken from around second life, all of which also demonstrate Twain’s interest in, and experiment with, angle, light and shadow. What is particularly fascinating with the images is the fact they are all raw: Twain resists the use of GIMP or Photoshop for post-processing, relying instead purely on the viewer and Windlight for his pictures. The result is a fascinating collection of pieces which are individual and collectively eye-catching, offering unique windows into our virtual lives.

Club LA and Gallery: Twain Orfan

Both Selfies: Some of My Faces and An Exhibition make for an engaging visit, with the latter officially opening at 12:00 noon on Sunday, August 20th, with music by Marain Dufaux.

The new gallery space itself offers more room for exhibitions, and includes a landscaped garden visitors can enjoy and an information centre / studio space. Teleport disks are provided to assist visitors in getting around – although in truth, everything at ground level is within easy walking distance of the landing point.

SL Details

High Fidelity reveal currency and IP protection roadmaps

In a pair of blog posts, Philip Rosedale of High Fidelity revealed the company’s plans to use blockchain technology as both a virtual worlds currency and for content protection.

The blockchain is described as “an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value” (Don Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World). It allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure by maintaining a tamper-proof public ledger of value. While it is most recognised for its role in driving Bitcoin, the technology is seen by more than 40 of the world’s top financial institutions as a potential means to provide speedier and more secure currency transactions. However, the technology has the potential to have far wider application.

To understand the basics of the blockchain, think of a database duplicated across the Internet, allowing any part of it to be updated by anyone at any time, and the updates being immediately available across all the duplicates of the database. Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared — and continually reconciled — database existing across multiple nodes. The decentralised blockchain network automatically checks with itself every ten minutes, reconciling every transaction, with each group of transactions checked referred to as a”block”. Within the network, nodes all operate as “administrators” of the entire network, and are encouraged to join it through what is (mistakenly) referred to as “mining”  – competing to “win” currency exchanges, sometimes for financial reward to the node’s operators (High Fidelity indicate that node operators will not gain directly from “mining” activities, but will instead be paid in HFCs for their computing resources used by the network).

Centralised, distributed and de-centralised networks – blockchains utilised decentralised networks

The key points to all this is that the blockchain is both openly transparent – the data is embedded in the network as a whole, not in any single point, and is by definition “public”. The lack of any centralisation also means it cannot be easily hacked – doing so would require huge amounts of computing power; nor is there a single point of data which can be corrupted or reliant on a single point of management for its continued existence – as High Fidelity point out, this means that the service can continue, even if High Fidelity does not. Thus, blockchain networks are considered both highly robust and very secure.

An estimated 700 Bitcoin-like crypto-currencies are already thought to be in operation, although the potential use of blockchains goes far, far beyond this (identity management, data management, record-keeping, stock broking, etc., etc.).

High Fidelity plans, over the coming months, to deploy their own blockchain network which will support both a new crypto-currency, the HFC (presumably “High Fidelity Currency”), which will ultimately operate independently of High Fidelity’s control. In addition, the system will provide a mechanism to protect intellectual property by embedding object certification affirming item ownership into the blockchain. This means that creators of original digital content. As High Fidelity explain:

Digital certificates issued by the High Fidelity marketplace (and likely other marketplaces choosing to use HFC) will serve a similar function as patents or trademarks — creators will register their works to get the initial certificates, and these certificates will be given out only for work that is not infringing on other or earlier works…. Once granted, these durable certificates cannot be revoked and can then be attached to purchases on the blockchain to prove the origin of goods. The absence of an accompanying digital certificate and blockchain entry will make digital forgery more obvious and impactful than in the real world — for example, server operators may choose not to host content without certificates and end-users may choose not to ‘see’ content according to it’s certificate status.

This approach could provide an extremely durable and trusted means of sharing digital content, one which is more durable than other approaches to digital rights management, for the same reasons as the blockchain offers security, transparency and robustness to operating a crypto-currency.

That the HFC blockchain is designed to operate independently of High Fidelity means that it can become self-sustaining, providing a currency environment that can be traded with other crypto-currencies and which can be exchanged for fiat currency through multiple exchanges.

The two blog posts – Roadmap Currency and Content Protection and Roadmap: Protecting Intellectual Property in Virtual Worlds – are very much companion pieces to be read in the order given. The first provides an overview of the HFC blockchain system and currency management, including how High Fidelity hope to establish a stable exchange rate mechanism without running into the issues of speculative dabbling in the system, inflated ICOs, etc., and on the use of digital wallets and personal security. It also outlines the certification mechanism for content protection, which the second article takes a deeper dive into, explaining how the relative strengthen of a blockchain approach as very quickly sketched out above could be used in protecting creator’s IP and controlling how their products / creations are used.

The decentralised approach to currency and digital rights management is something that has been pointed to numerous times during High Fidelity’s development, but this is the first time the plans have been more fully fleshed out and defined in writing. It’s an ambitious approach, one likely to stir debate and discussion – particularly given the current situation regarding the Decentraland / Ethereum and the risk of speculation around ICOs (again, something High Fidelity hope to avoid).

it’s also one which again points to High Fidelity’s founders looking far more towards more of an “open metaverse” approach to virtual environments and goods than others might be considering.