Sensual wings and written reflections in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre: Lika Cameo – One Thousand Wings

November 25th marked the opening of a new exhibition at the Kondor Art Centre, curated by Hermes Kondor, of a themed selection of images and words by Lika Cameo (LikaCameo) that is utterly extraordinary in its presentation of art, introspection / reflection and in its presentation style.

One Thousand Wings takes as its foundation, the major part of a quote from Virginia Woolf:

[Lock up your libraries if you like;] but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

– Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Within that essay – the result of two lectures she delivered in October 1928 to the women’s constituent colleges of Newnham and Girton at Cambridge University, England – Woolf sought to explore social injustices and comment on women’s lack of free expression that existed at the time. This quote is joined by a verse by artist Erin Hanson:

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?

– Erin Hanson

Kondor Art Centre: Lika Cameo – One Thousand Wings

While there are some core against various views Woolf expresses within that essay, Lika uses the quote from her essay, and the words by Hanson to explore what it means to freely express emotions in a century that has started to feel as if our freedoms are being increasingly being constrained by intolerance and when life has been constrained by a global pandemic, complete with a layering of what freedom means to her.

In doing this, Lika presents trios of avatar studies, all utilising the same pose and with a motif of wings, each piece finished individual to its partners. This approach leads to three images that, whilst all identical in terms of posing and motif, offer three pieces that offer a vastly different sense of depth, focus and emotions.

Accompanying them is a piece of prose  / blank verse (by either Lika or possibly Zakk Bifrandt, it’s not entirely clear) that offers an outlook / sense of emotion or thought that works to both complement and compliment the images.

Kondor Art Centre: Lika Cameo – One Thousand Wings

Complement, because the text can be taken as a whole with each version of the image and the trio as a whole, forming pairings with each image, working with the subtle differences in presentation and finish to tell a unique story of reflection / emotion. Compliment, because whether taken as pairings or as set of four panels, they together form a whole, works balancing image(s).  Each set of images is further reflected in animated double-sided panels that offer a further, changing take on the sets.

As expressions of freedom, these image carry a powerful metaphor in the use of birds and butterflies to express the freedom of thought taking flight, as captured in Erin Hanson’s words. As reflections of emotion and release in a time when were are under pressure to conform or keep our feelings under wraps, this is an incredibly powerful series of images. More particularly they stand as insightful, emotive reminders that it is so easy to become trapped within ourselves  – something that Lika expresses beautifully through her own words:

Often our thoughts tangle around the soul, forging our prisons, never grasping that we are always the key to our infinite free will.

Lika Cameo

Kondor Art Centre: Lika Cameo – One Thousand Wings

As demonstrations of art and how to use lighting, colour, tone and other post-processing techniques to impart a range of emotional responses to a single image, One Thousand Wings is equally as powerful an exhibition; and while I’ve oft said this – it is an exhibition that should be seen and appreciated.

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A Winter Solstice in Second Life

Winter Solstice, November 2021 – click any image for full size

Winter Solstice is another region that offers a mix of public spaces and private residential parcels that I recently had occasion to visit. As a Full region, it offers to the north and south – the later separated from the rest of the region by a body of water that cuts deep into the landscape, leaving the centre of the region open as a public spaces built at the foot of a tall mountain.

Held and designed by JasmineSnow (jasminesnow333), it is the home for her estate’s main rental office, but offers a lot of opportunities for photography throughout the public spaces whilst also containing a subtle nod towards Christmas through the presence of a Santa or two, whilst a number of static mannequins give further level of life to the setting.

Winter Solstice, November 2021

Most of this can be found along the region’s “main street” that runs south-to-south along the foot of the central mountain, with shops, places to grab a hot drink and even a small stables where horses can be found. Behind the street, the mountain rises, from which a single track railway track emerges to mark the edge of the water that cuts into the region to the south, before running up to the north and then back to around to re-enter the mountain, marking an informal boundary between the public spaces and the rental properties along north side of the region.

There are also opportunities for activities such as ice skating an horse riding to be found within the region – again, allowing for the private residences. As well as the main street, the eastern end of the region provides plenty of open space for wandering, sitting, whilst to the west there is a music and event space.

Winter Solstice, November 2021

Beyond this, there is not a lot more to say – simply because the region, simply because it genuinely speaks for itself. It is photogenic, both thing the built-up area and in the open spaces. And with this in mind, rather than prattle on, I’ll leave you with further images and encourage you take a visit.

Winter Solstice, November 2021
Winter Solstice, November 2021
Winter Solstice, November 2021

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Sisi’s cityscapes and shorelines in Second Life

Raging Graphix Gallery: Sisi Biedermann

It’s no secret that I’m a huge admirer of Sisi Biedermann and her art. The way she is constantly shifting her style and focus means that she offers one of the broadest and most engaging ranges of art to be found in Second Life, and her exhibitions invariably offer something new to appreciate and admire.

This is certainly the case with her exhibition at Raging Graphix Gallery, operated and curated by Liv (RagingBellls). Occupying the upper floor of the gallery, this is selection of art that comes in two parts: within the main are of the exhibition floor are thirteen pieces collected under the title Dusk & Dawn, with five further pieces located at the top of the stairwell leading into the exhibition space.

As the name suggests, Dusk & Dawn presents a mix of images between them representing early mornings and sunsets – although such a simple description does not do these pieces any justice at all. This is a gourmet selection of digital art pieces that mix city skylines and coastal scenes that have a richness of colour and depth that is extraordinary.

Raging Graphix Gallery: Sisi Biedermann

The skylines concerns are pretty much instantly recognisable, with those of New York offering unique takes on some familiar landmarks, whilst the Golden Gate is perfectly framed in a hazy, misty morning sky that many will be familiar with  from film, television and photographs but which is here given a new twist through the use of colour that gives a warmth of colour whilst suggestion of a cool morning.

Meanwhile, within the coastal scenes are views filled with the warmth of sunset that carry the imagination to exotic places with warm seas and long, cool cocktails waiting to be enjoyed before a sunset walk along the beach. There are also images that bring to mind early mornings and times when motor fishing boats might be passing on their way to make their catch, or when we might walk the banks of a river or along the shoreline of a lake as the Sun is just high enough to start burning away the morning mist.

With some of the images finished with a touch of vignette, the use of soft tones and layered to offer an etching-like sense of texture and physical depth, these are genuinely captivating pieces.

Etched finishes are also much in evidence in the five pieces at the top of the stairway. These are taken from Sisi’s collection of digital art capturing the world of garden nature. Each features a central colour – pink, white, green, red and black – all joined by the word Magic. Each is an exquisite collage of colour, beautifully finished and presented.

Raging Graphix Gallery: Sisi Biedermann

It is hard to see Sisi’s art and not become caught up within it, such is the beauty to be found within each and every piece she produces. Miss this exhibition at your peril!

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Winter’s Echo Ridge in Second Life

Echo Ridge, November 2021 – click any image for full size

For me, one of the somewhat difficult aspects in writing about regions in Second Life is how to deal with those locations that offer a mix of public spaces and private residences.

I say this because while many of these regions try to strike a balance between public / private, there is always a risk that I’m encouraging a degree of possible trespass / invasion of people’s personal space by suggesting people go and visit. As someone who appreciates her own home spaces and the retreat they offer, I’m possibly being overly sensitive in this, but it is something I can’t shake. There’s also the fact that there are regions that have a bias towards rentals that makes writing about their public spaces difficult, simply because of the volume of homes and the limitations they place on exploration and discovery.

Echo Ridge, November 2021

Such is not the case with Echo Ridge, a Homestead region that forms a part of Elvira Kytori’s White Dunes Estate, some of which I have covered in the past in these travelogue pieces.

What drew me to Echo Ridge is its layout and current wintery setting. Comprising a single large northern landmass, surrounded by high peaks that in turn encompass a scattering of smaller islands, it has only four rental properties within it. These are placed far enough apart within the setting that, with the intervening waters being frozen, allows for exploration without huge risk of trespass. Add the overall winter dressing the region has, and this layout also allows for numerous opportunities for photography and also for some winter pursuits such as sledding and skating.

Echo Ridge, November 2021

The landing point for the setting is tucked into a southern island that offers plenty of room for wandering, places to sit and views across the rest of the region. From here it is easy to see the surrounding rental properties, and perform a quick check on parcel boundaries (right-click on the ground each house stands on) to spot the extent of private areas.

Beyond this, it is a simple matter of setting out to explore as you will; there are no set path other than the ice-coated waters, and they will lead you where you wish. The northern landmass additionally offers a snowy path that arcs around it, skirting one of the rental properties as it does so, to offer more views and opportunities for photography.

Echo Ridge, November 2021

The magic here, however, is in the combination of small details, considered landscaping and the region’s EEP setting which is simply perfect. With the Sun hanging lower in the sky, it gives the region a very wintery feel that makes you want to done clothing that’s going to keep you warm as you wander across the snow or slide / skate over the ice.

These details come in many forms, but for me the most notable is the wildlife to be found right across the region – herons and egrets keeping a regal eye on all that is going on, Arctic foxes playing on the ice, deer wandering the snow, doves trying to work out what the slidey stuff they are skating on might be and sandpipers ignoring the snow as they prance the water’s edge looking for food under the cold white blanket while song birds await visitors to the region’s gazebo, so they might serenade them.

Echo Ridge, November 2021

Really, there is not too much more to be said about Echo Ridge, simply because the region design speaks entirely for itself. It’s clear that a considerable amount of thought has gone into making this an attractive winter setting without going overboard on things. This makes the region beautifully understated when first seen, and increasingly attractive the longer one spends within it.

My thanks, as always, to Shawn Shakespeare for the point and landmark.

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2021 SUG meeting week #47 summary

LANA, September 2021 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021 Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting. The meeting was recorded by Pantera Północy, and the video is embedded at the end of this summary. Note this summary focuses on the key points of the meeting, where there is something to report; the video video should be referred to should full details of the meeting wish to be reviewed.

Server Deployments

  • There are no deployments for week #47, this being Thanksgiving week in the US. However, all simhosts will be restarted.
  • On Monday, November 29th, all simulators on the SLS Main channel will be restarted to allow for a hardware upgrade.
  • On Wednesday, December 1st, the simulator version using the new toolset will be deployed to a further RC channel, and the other two will get a different simulator version.

Available Viewers

This list reflects those viewers available via Linden Lab

  • Release viewer: version version 6.5.0.565607, formerly the Maintenance RC and dated November 10, promoted November 15 – this viewer now contains a fix for the media issues caused by the Apple Notarisation viewer.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • The Tracy Integration RC viewer version 6.4.23.563771 (dated Friday, November 5) issued Tuesday, November 9.
    • 360 Snapshot RC viewer, version 6.5.0.564863, issued October 21.
    • Simplified Cache RC viewer, version 6.4.23.562623, dated September 17, issued September 20.
  • Project viewers:
    • Performance Improvements project viewer updated to version 6.4.24.565672 (dated November 17) November 22.
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version 6.4.23.562625, issued September 2.
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version 6.4.23.562614, issued September 1.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.4.11.550519, dated October 26, 2020.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, dated December 9, 2019.

In Brief

  • There was an extensive discussion on options for Linden water in Second Life, together with a more generic discussion on hardware. As no work is currently planed for water (or environment) controls, please refer to the video for more.

Looking at the Second Life Search facelift

Second life Search home page

On Monday, November 22nd, 2021, and following on from comments made by Reed Linden at the November Web User Group meeting, Linden Lab launched the new look for Second Life Search (as seen both via the web and in the viewer). The launch was accompanied by a blog post – New Look for Search – that outlined the update, with several screen shots of various aspects of search return displays, etc., and a resident-launched forum thread discusses the changes.

Before going any further, it is important to note a couple of points, even though in general terms they have been noted:

  • This is an update to the web pages / style sheets defining how search and search results are displayed. It does not mark any changes in how the actual search algorithm works – so things like relevancy in search results, etc., will not be altered or improved as a result of this facelift.
  • However, a further overhaul of search which does include tightening the algorithm and improving results / relevancy and general performance will be initiated in 2022. This will apparently utilise third-party Search tool development expertise external to LL in an attempt to get a “first class” search implementation.

I’ll admit my first reaction on seeing the new search home page, both in the viewer and on the web page was, “ugh!” It was a shock to see the minimalism of Flat Design, even though this has been common to operating systems for a good while now, and has been something LL has started pushing towards. Frankly, it is not something I personally like as I find it bland and, in some executions, not particularly intuitive. However, if LL do want to make their product more in-line with current aesthetics with operating system and application design, and if they are serious about making SL more accessible through mobile / portable devices as well as modern desktop operating systems, then the move is understandable.

I’m not going to comment too much on functionality here, simply because this is a makeover, not a change in quality of returns of searches, etc. I’ll save such comments until after the complete overhaul of Search has been completed. So here are some fairly basic thoughts on the visuals.

Search in the Viewer benefits from not displaying the Classifieds (unless scrolled to via the bottom bar), but suffers from a lack of immediately-visible results

Home Page

Pros:

  • Looks clean, options easy to identify, and the colour change when and option is selected is good approach for those who may have visual impairments that make seeing checks in boxes difficult.
  • The left-side tabulation for high-level search categories is better than the old drop-downs, with the tailored options for each category are a further good moves.

Cons:

  • A terrible waste of space in the banner area, which is particularly noticeable when viewing Search within the viewer. Frankly, the SL logo looks as if it is about to be swallowed by the Great Charcoal Void.
  • Do the left sidebar tabs really need to be so broad, given the font size and the depth of each tab?

Results Listings

Pros:

  • Much better listing layout and improved readability. The left-side tabs are useful to have, together with Maturity ratings.
  • Changes impacting the list of results (such as changing the Maturity rating) are responsive and obvious.
  • As a largely legacy search user when it comes to search places, I’m not sure if the linking to Place Pages for additional information is new or not, but if it is, then it’s a good move even if Place Pages are drastically under-utilised and in need of Lab TLC.
  • Tucking thumbnails into the result title helps to compress the amount of space taken by individual results.
Search page responsiveness on actions appears good

Cons:

  • The last point made, the number of results displayed before scrolling is required is an annoyance, and something of a step back. Yes, individual items in a set of returns are a lot more readable, thanks to a larger, cleaner font, but this does come at a price.
  • In this, the fixed column width with two sidebars also doesn’t help. Why not make Classified part of the left sidebar below the items already there? Or make them a toggle off / on option so the display area for results could expand sideways and allow for a few more results to be displayed before scrolling becomes necessary?
  • There are also some informational elements lacking (such as traffic); should they return, this could further impact the number of returns.

General Thoughts

At the end of the day, any UI change is going to cause consternation of varying degrees and for a variety of reasons: most of us are prone to react negatively to changes we perhaps hadn’t been expecting; plus we all tend to consider ourselves armchair UI experts. Search is a particularly emotive subject as it is a tool that is especially important to some for their business, etc., and thus doubly hard to balance out to satisfy all needs. As a more “casual” user of Search, and spending a good portion of the day playing with it, I can live with the shortfalls and can appreciate the improvements, and will await further changes to see how things fair.