Poetry and the art of understanding LSL

The llParticleSystem haiku, with particle creation from Catharsis, by Tyrehl Byk
The llParticleSystem haiku, with particle creation from Catharsis, by Tyrehl Byk

Ciaran Laval alerted me to a project which, having been announced on April 1st, might have been considered a joke; it seems, however, that it isn’t.

Posting over on SLU (twice, it seems),  LSL Portal editor and scripter Strife Onizuka, who is spearheading the project, describes matters thus:

Long have we struggled with how to make the documentation more accessible. One of the most common complaints is that is simply too technical and we are hearing this more often than you would believe from one of SL’s more traditional content creators: descriptive writers. So I am proud to announce that after many sleepless nights we have come up with a way to address this. As the core problem is that the documentation relies upon very specific, technical language we have come up with a way to bring more mundane verbiage into the documentation.

To achieve this end we are announcing the LSL Portal Poetry Project! The goal of the LPPP (or LP³ as I like to think of it), is to provide poetry for every LSL Event, Function and Constant. More specifically, the form of poetry we have chosen is Haiku. Screen real estate being at a premium haiku requires the minimum amount of space while packing the greatest metaphorical punch.

It appears that the essential element of the haiku – the five-seven-five syllable arrangement – is key to any submitted verse; the traditional invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons being not quite so important, as with this example for llSetTorque:

Spinning, all a blur…
Small moment of inertia.
They say torque is cheap.

There have already been a number of LSL articles which have gained their own haiku, and people from across SLU (and SL) are being invited to consider putting forward suitable pieces for those articles still lacking a verse.

While haiku is the preferred medium, other forms of poetry are not ruled out. Strike admits the limerick ran the haiku a close second for choice of verse form, and it may be that some LSL functions may be better suited to the limerick or other forms of verse. For example, lSetLinkPrimitiveParamsFast leant itself to this limerick Atasha Toshihiko:

I once had a hair full of scripts,
When I wore it, Estate Owners had fits.
The creator, at long last
Learned llSetLinkPrimParametersFast
Now I can wear hair without getting kicked!

Strife also says of the project:

Programming is a part of life. It doesn’t have a holiday. People don’t think to write songs or poems about it except in jest. We treat it as a second class citizen, something utilitarian to be used and ignored. But culture has to come from somewhere, it can’t all be about, love and dancing and taking selfies. Eventually someone has to write a song about cloth-driers and warm socks (Who doesn’t like warm socks fresh out of the dryer?) …

There is nothing about LSL that will sustain it past SL’s death, except maybe some obscure poetry. How many programming languages after all encourage their users to write poetry? It will tell future anthropologist just who we were. Not just about our preference for indentation.

So, you may not be a coder, but if you have an inner poet, and feel you’d like to help enshrine LSL in words of verse, now is your opportunity to do so!

Paradise Lost: an outstanding masterpiece of performance art in SL

image via Canary Beck
image via Canary Beck

On Saturday March 29th 2014, I was one of a number of people privileged to witness a special preview of The Basilique Performing Arts Company’s production Paradise Lost: The story of Adam and Eve’s original sin, which as I’ve covered in the blog, is an ambitious attempt to visualise Milton’s epic 10,000-word poem Paradise Lost through the medium of dance set to the Süssmayr completion of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor.

By the time of the preview, I’d covered some of the technical complexity of bringing together the production, which features some 43 roles on-stage, plus audience participation as those hosts of both heaven and hell, and Caitlin Tobias had been covering a lot of the behind-the-scenes news on the production. So, needless to say, anticipation was running high as I joined the rest of the audience for the event.

Members of the cast with Harvey and Canary (centred) before the press preview of Paradise Lost
Members of the cast with Harvey and Canary (centred) ready themselves for photos ahead of the press preview of Paradise Lost …

Ahead of time, there was a red carpet moment, with members of the cast available for photographs against the traditional backboards bearing sponsor logos. This made for something of an interesting session, the cast in formal attire – suits and gowns – and a host of angels taking photos…

And the angelic host proclaimed,
… And an angelic host proclaimed, “smile, please!”

I don’t plan to offer a long descriptive review of the production. Really, this can be summed-up in (almost) a single sentence:

This is not something you should risk missing. It’s. That. Good.

The poem has been broadly broken down into three acts, each accompanied by a number of movements from the Süssmayr Requiem. The acts are:

  • Act One: the fall of Satan, the creation of the heavens and the Earth, the creatures of the Earth, Adam, and from Adam, Eve. Featuring Introitus: Requiem, Kyrie Eleison, Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum
  • Act Two: Satan crowned by the hosts of hell, the corruption of Eve, the first sin and expulsion from Eden. Featuring Rex Tremendae, Recordare, Confutatis and Lacrimosa
  • Act Three: the war between the hosts of heaven and hell; Adam and Eve’s despair; Michael’s revelation to Adam of future events leading up to man’s redemption to God through Christ. Adam and Eve venture forth into the world with their baby sons Featuring Domine Jesu, Hostias, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei and Lux Aeterna.
Satan and followers, post fall, amidst the fires of hell
Satan and followers, post fall, amidst the fires of hell

These acts are played out in three stage areas – hell to the right of the audience, Eden to the left, and the world beyond the gates of Eden to the front. Extensive and agile use of scripting is made such that the various sets fade in and out as required, and even the floor of the theatre itself is rendered transparent in order to help visualise the Flood as revealed to Adam by Michael in the third act.

The positioning of the stage areas like this serves two purposes – one obvious, and the other perhaps more subtle. The more subtle aspect is that it places the audience physically between the damned and the divine, precisely as someone of Milton’s mindset might well see humanity. The other aspect is that it places the audience squarely in the middle of events, which unfold to their left and right and even overhead, as well as in front of them, enhancing the sense of immersion in the story.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds … Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind…”

The immersive element is further deepened by the fact the audience has a role to play in the proceedings, a feat achieved through the creative use of the Restrained Love (RLV) API. Each ticket purchased for a performance includes an avatar set, which audience members are asked to wear when attending a performance. Initially the guise of an angel, RLV is used to make the avatar to change to that of a demon and back as the story moves between the two stages representing paradise and hell, without any intervention on the part of the wearer. RLV also enables the audience to effectively become the chorus within the story.

As a visualisation – given the music selected for the intermissions between the acts (a beautiful rendition of McCreary’s Passacaglia, itself preceded by The Shape of Things to Come prior to the performance commencing), I’m almost tempted to say reimagining of Milton’s poem – one of the most striking elements of this production is how well both the elements of the poem presented within the performance sit with Süssmayr’s completion of Mozart’s Requiem. While Becky, Harvey and I discussed something of the complementary nature of the two works when placed together in this way (see the conversation linked to above), it is not until one sees the performance in full that it becomes clear just how apposite the Requiem’s movements are to the unfolding story.

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