Fantasy Faire: to dream in the Lotus Valley

It was by boat – a junk in fact – that I came at last to my destination: the fabled Lotus Valley Dream; a magnificent palace high on a rock face, overlooking a sheltered bay. Here my long journey at last came to an end, and as the junk steered a course between sea-worn rocks and into the bay, I knew I could rest for a time before starting my homeward trek.

Lotus Valley Dream
Lotus Valley Dream

Leaving the wooden junk at the quayside, I wandered among the wood-built houses and shops built on the green shores of the bay, the wind carrying the heady aroma summer pines through the air, mixing it with sweet fragrances from stores and homes and the scent of fish being simmered and cooked. Finding a place to stay, I set down my pack and changed clothes; a temple visit was not for the rugged travelling garments I’d been wearing. When satisfied with my appearance, I set out once more.

The temple lay beside a small stream which bubbled the last short distance to the waters of the bay over moss-covered rocks. A delicate bridge arched over the stream and I paused there a moment before removing my shoes and entering the shine, josticks in hand.

Afterwards, I wandered through the streets some more, admiring the wares on display in the many shops, pausing here and there to buy this or that. Those who have visited Lotus Valley Dream will know how strangely time passes there; while the rest of the world seems to hurry onwards, life there is altogether calmer and more gentle. So it was that while an age may well have passed in the wider world, a languid afternoon brought me at last to the stone steps climbing up to the great palace.

Lotus Valley Dream
Lotus Valley Dream

Here, longer still seemed to pass as I walked through the great halls and along the paved street, the sun slow dipping towards the horizon in a graceful bow. There was simply no need to hurry now; my heart was at peace matched only by those around me, with whom I shared smiles and quiet, gentle words as we passed one another; linked by the same magical spirit which made Lotus Valley Dream both mystical and mysterious.

As I arrived at length at my lodgings, I knew that the time would come when I must make my return home; but for now, I was content to stay yet a while. Perhaps I might even retrace my steps; for these lands, from Lumenaria to Lotus Valley Dream were all wonderful to behold and explore, and it might a long while before I might see their like again once I leave.   

Region design by: Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee

Sponsored by: The Looking Glass; featuring: Hoof It!; ezura Xue; Quest for the Golden Prim; FALCONROSE; Raven’s Heart; Demons & Angels; and with themed stores: SAKIDE; Pin Me Down; Caverna Obscura; Kouse’s Sanctum; Affinity Boutique; Ari’s Neko Retreat; NAMINOKE; 2Xtreme; Star Journey; Flecha Creations; TRU Textures.

Total raised to date: L$6,840,284 (approx: $27,361 USD)

Note: The Fantasy Faire regions will apparently remain open an extra day: Monday April 29th (with thanks to Ziki Questi for the info).

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Marketplace: incorrect listings – LL offers “clean-up process”

In March 2012, merchants started noticing issues with some (or even many, in a number of cases) SL Marketplace listings. Key issues included:

  • Listings on Marketplace stores do not match the actual items
  • Incorrect merchant attribution (products from Merchant X listed as belonging to Merchant Y, despite appearing in Merchant X’s store)
  • Products from one merchant appearing in stores belonging to other merchants
  • Items incorrectly priced
  • Incorrect ratings assigned to products (G-rated items appearing as Adult, etc.).
An exmaple of the listing errors, supplied courtesy of Lillou Merlin
An example of the listing errors, supplied courtesy of Lillou Merlin

A JIRA –WEB-4587 – was raised on the matter, and extensive forum thread also reported the matter, and merchants were assured the matter was being looked into as a “top priority”, and in May 2012, an updated was issued by the Commerce Team noting that:

(WEB-4587) Listings show up with images from other Merchants listings:Current status: we have identified the problem and are working on testing the fix.

The fix apparently didn’t work, as the issue was subsequently reported as one the Commerce Team would address “after the next Marketplace update“. This only problem here being that subsequent updates failed to address the majority of JIRA relating to Marketplace issues, including WEB-4587 – and then stopped altogether – something with prompted me to comment on the continuing erosion of merchant trust.

On April 24th 2013, just over a year since it was first reported, the Commerce Team published an update on the listings issues and WEB-4587, which reads:

For those of you who have had an incorrect image appearing on your listings–or have seen your image on someone else’s listings, we have come up with a supported process to get these listings cleaned up.

Someone Else’s Image on My Listing
If you are seeing someone else’s image on your listing, you should be receiving an email with a link for you to go remove those images from your listings. These images will be returned to the listing we have identified as correct. Any listings not reviewed by May 15, 2013 will be unlisted until the Merchant has a chance to remove the image manually and reactivate the listing. We will provide a summarized list of these and notify all Merchants whose listings have been deactivated.

My Image on Someone Else’s Listing
If your image is appearing on another Merchant’s listing, the following will happen:

  1. The Merchant will be notified to review their listing and confirm that the image does not belong with their listing.
  2. The image will be returned to your listing. At this point, you will be able to review your updated listing here (link). This may occur after the review period for step 1 has already completed.

If the listing your image is appearing on is not reviewed in step 1, the listing will be unlisted to prevent your image from appearing on the incorrect listing.

We appreciate your help in getting this cleaned up.

So the good news is, there is actually movement on the matter. Admittedly, in reading the forum post, I cannot help but conjure a mental image of some poor sod (or three) at the Lab having been tasked with spending the last 12 months digging through the Marketplace and manually checking images against project descriptions / links – but movement is movement, and is, on the whole, to be welcomed.

There are some issues being reported with the process, however, as noted in the thread following the announcement. Some of these issues appear to be related to items which, in lieu of any communications from the Commerce Team, merchants opted to previously manually remove from their listings, and other appear to indicate that not all incorrect listing items have actually been captured by whatever process was used at the Lab. Others are reporting mixed outcomes simply as a result of following the given instructions.

It’s not clear how widespread issues are in following the instructions; certainly the problems being noted appear limited going on the amount of feedback on the thread. Not that this is any comfort to those affected, but it perhaps indicates that for most people who were blighted by the issue, things are now being put right.

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Ascension: rising through very mixed feelings

Update: An alternative viewpoint as to the reason for the music venues has been posted in the comments, which is also worth reading. Ziki Questi has also posted on the installation as well.

Ascension
Ascension

Ascension is a full sim art installation by Mantis Oh (Cari Lekebusch in real life) as a part of the 2013 Artist in Residence series at the Linden Endowment for the Arts.

Mantis Oh is well-know is SL art circles, and his work tends to fuse ancient and futuristic elements into his builds – and this is much in evidence here, as the visitor is invited to explore a tall tower sitting to one side of a region filled with strange plants, hovering buildings and structures (from Mantis Oh’s Hybrid Productions range) and a huge and very futuristic Sphinx, and which features ancient-looking symbols scattered throughout.

It is  – to be clear on this point – a very impressive build and very photogenic. Whether it  qualifies as a full sim art installation as a part of the LEA’s Artist-in-Residence series, however, is a matter of personal interpretation.

Ascension: the root level
Ascension: the root level

The LEA’s blog piece on the installation reads:

 Ascension is a combined art installation and sound experience that encourages the visitor to explore the seven levels of a cubic, tower like structure. Loosely based on the seven chakras (energy centres) of the human body, visitors begin the journey by stepping down twelve steps that each release a musical note underfoot, before entering the base level room which is bathed in deepest crimson red. Music and sound are intrinsic to this build, and you can create your own unique musical compositions by stepping onto the trigger objects on each of the levels. If you explore the sim with friends, together you can create sound patterns in a truly social and fun environment.

So far, so good – and it has to be said that a trip through the tower is an interesting diversion (you’ll need sound and particles, etc., enabled and be prepared to poke and prod at things).  You start at the base level, as the description notes – analogous to the root chakra, and work your way up via teleporters to the uppermost crown (or “spirit” in this case) level. Each level presents a different environment in which you are encouraged to walk on things, touch things and play with things to create sound and light, either on your own or in the company of whoever is with you, be they friend or fellow visitor.

Ascension
Ascension

This is all fine, and very much in keeping with the idea of an art installation. What troubles me is that it isn’t actually something which requires the provisioning of a full region. The tower takes up less than a quarter region area. The rest of the region, while undoubtedly visually stunning and photogenic, came across – and I’m simply being honest here – as being more about using the provided space as a promotional opportunity than as a medium for expressive art.

Alongside the tower there are no fewer than three dance venues in the region – the “Beach Club”, the “Ultra Club” and the “Sphinx Club”. According to the LEA’s blog post on the installation these are “designed to host seven Techno music and DJ events that will take place during the lifetime of the build and well-known Techno DJ’s from real life record label H-Productions will be performing in-world.”

Now there is absolutely no reason why music and art cannot mix, or for music to be used as an art form in and of itself. As such, were these “clubs” to be used as an extension of the main exhibit itself, one could understand their inclusion. However, from the given description in the LEA blog, this appears not to be the case; the implication is that the venues will be used to host techno parties promoting Mantis Oh’s real-life record label, and this leads me to very mixed feelings on the installation.

Ascension
Ascension

It might be argued that the dance venues offer a means of presenting techno as a progressive form of art, and are therefore in keeping with the aims and ideals of the LEA. However – and I’ve wrestled with this exact issue for a considerable time in writing this article – I cannot escape the feeling that such an argument is perhaps hollow. Certainly, given the immersive nature of SL, I would suggest that if the intent is to demonstrate “techno rock as an art form”, then it could perhaps be achieved more immersively and interactively than slipping it a few dance floors and inviting people to come boogie down.

As mentioned, I came away from Ascension with very mixed views. The trip through the tower is an interesting diversion, and as a photographic, set the entire build is impressive. Both of these points can make a visit worthwhile. However, I cannot escape the feeling that the three dance venues are less about any expression of art and more about the promotion of a specific genre of music for the sake of entertainment – and that as such, there are better venues outside of the LEA where this could be achieved.

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