Signs and portents in Second Life

Escenas / Scenes: El Miedo /The Fear
Escenas / Scenes: El Miedo / The Fear

Now open at MetaLES is the third instalment of Ux Hax and Romy Nayar’s 4-part series of scenes entitled Escenas / Scenes. Taken together, all four parts are apparently intended to tell a story, although they are not necessarily being presented in chronological sequence.

While I missed the first in the series,  EL Tiempo / The Time, which ran from November 1st through to the 14th, I did catch the second element, Decisiones / Decisions, which I wrote about here. This has now been replaced by El Miedo /The Fear, which opened on November 28th, and will remain at MetaLES for the next two weeks. And like the first two in the series, it is an installation on a gigantic scale.

Escenas / Scenes: El Miedo /The Fear
Escenas / Scenes: El Miedo / The Fear

Central to the piece is a woman standing in a room. A tall clock sides to one side, a sideboard to the other alongside an open window. Behind her, the door to the room stands slightly ajar, almost beckoning. Towering over all of this is a truly enormous figure of a crouching man, arms wrapped in a straitjacket, while before the woman – who is arrayed in black – a baby’s crib fades repeatedly in and out of view.

The first thing which tends to spring to mind on seeing the main scene – the woman and crib in the room – is that it reflects the loss of an infant child; but what then of the looming figure of the straitjacketed man? What role does he play? The husband / father, perhaps, driven mad over the loss of the child? The cause of the baby’s death? Or something else entirely?

Both Decisiones / Decisions and EL Tiempo / The Time seemed to me to resonate with elements of the Major Arcana from the tarot – The Hermit appearing in EL Tiempo / The Time; with  Justice, The Chariot and The Hanged Man in Decisiones / Decisions. Within El Miedo /The Fear there is what appears to be at least one reference to the tarot; supported in the woman’s cupped hands is a stone tower, perhaps representative of The Tower from the Major Arcana.

Escenas / Scenes: El Miedo /The Fear
Escenas / Scenes: El Miedo / The Fear

If this indeed the intended symbolism, it fits the broader part of the story: The Tower is associated with sudden, disruptive, and potentially destructive change – and what could be more destructive and disruptive than the death of an infant child? But there is potentially more here as well.

The Fool is another card from the Major Arcana, and is more archaically known as  Le Mat or Il Matto, which as well as meaning “vagabond” – the usual depiction of The Fool in tarot decks -, can also mean “the madman.”   Thus, it’s very hard not to see a degree of further symbolism linking this scene with the tarot through the (mad?) man in the straitjacket.

There are two other symbols event in the piece which also appear in the previous parts: time and the crow. Quite how they fit into things is unclear; but in EL Tiempo / The Time, the clock suggested the subject of death to me – and the wheel of fortune elements of Decisiones / Decisions focused around The Hanged Man may have carried similar connotations; so again, it might be a further thematic flow evident here as well, through the grandfather clock as it presides over the woman’s apparent mourning and the fading crib. The crow’s presence, as he stands upon a table might present a two-fold role: that of our narrator or communicator through the scenes, or possibly as The Trickster.

Escenas / Scenes: El Miedo /The Fear
Escenas / Scenes: El Miedo / The Fear

Once again, I offer no attempt to present a complete interpretation of the story – or even this particular scene. With one more piece still to appear in December, it would be presumptuous to offer commentary on the story as a whole, while the notes I give on this scene are more thoughts rather than any attempt at interpretation. If, like me you have been intrigued by the first two parts of  Escenas / Scenes, then I do urge you to see Part III.

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2015 viewer release summaries: week 48

Updates for the week ending Sunday, November 29th

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version: 3.8.6.305981, October 26 – no change download page, release notes
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Project Azumarill (HTTP updates) RC viewer updated to version 3.8.7.308134 on November 25 – a complete replacement of the under the hood HTTP infrastructure within the viewer (download and release notes)
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V3-style

  • Black Dragon updated to version 2.4.4.4 on November 29th – core updates: incorporation of Lab’s Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) support and Quick Graphics updates (Avatar Complexity and graphics presets) – release notes

V1-style

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

An Everlong stay in Second Life

Everlong; Inara Pey, November 2015, on FlickrEverlong (Flickr) – click any image for full size

ARNICAR India creates beautiful water-themed regions which can mix the natural and the surreal in a perfect blend to produce a lasting memory of a place that’s easy on the eye, heart and mind and where the soul can find peace. Her latest creation, Everlong, is no exception in this.

The landing point features a small stage, the backdrop to which extols visitors to Celebrate (the moments of your) Life, as a little troupe of rabbits perform ballet on bleachers close by, and a piano and cello await their players.

Everlong; Inara Pey, November 2015, on FlickrEverlong (Flickr)

As the sun sets to the west, it falls across a series of small vignettes lying across the ankle-deep water, awaiting exploration. The central, and largest of these features a ruined house with bric-a-brac and mementos within, a huge gnarled tree standing over it and seating amidst the wet grass outside.

Follow the stepping stones through the garden wall and a little yard awaits, Christmas trees partially decorated. Here is another little sitting area, the chairs arranged on an unflooded stone floor, while a watery avenue leads onward between silver birches, to where Bryn Oh’s Milkdrop sits, and a little further beyond her, a boat suspended beneath balloons awaits.
Everlong; Inara Pey, November 2015, on FlickrEverlong (Flickr)

Balloons are something of a theme here; head west and a little north from the ruined house and you’ll find a snowy set of islets amidst more silver birch, connected by a wooden bridge suspended under three hot air balloons, while a little balloon cart sits nearby.

Despite the minimal approach, there is a lot to see within Everlong, and not all of it on the ground – keep an eye out for the ladder to discover another winter’s scene, where you’ll find more to see and places to sit on your own or in the company of another. And don’t miss a ride on the horses or the photo booth behind the house ruins, which offers amusement of its own.

Everlong; Inara Pey, November 2015, on FlickrEverlong (Flickr)

As with ARNICAR’s Imagination, which I wrote about here and here, Everlong presents a water focused peaceful setting, beautiful minimal in approach, yet offering a lot to captivate the eye and camera. Not a placed to be missed by the keen Second life explorer.

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Space Sunday: of rockets, moons, carbon and telescopes

Moments before touchdown: the Blue Origin propulsion module, having lobbed a New Shephard capsule on a sub-orbital flight, powers its way to a historic landing so it can be refurbished and re-used
November 23rd, 2015: moments before touchdown: the Blue Origin propulsion module, having lobbed a New Shephard capsule on a sub-orbital flight, powers its way to a historic landing so it can be refurbished and re-used (image: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin, the private space company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos has become the first company to successfully launch a rocket into space – and return all elements of the vehicle to Earth for re-use.

The flight, carried out in West Texas, took place on Monday, November 23rd. It comprised the company’s New Shephard capsule, being flown in an uncrewed mode, and a single stage, recoverable booster is powered by an engine also developed by the company.

Unlike SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Space corporation, all of whom are directly pursuing rocket and space vehicle designs capable of orbital flight, Blue Origin is taking a more incremental approach, with efforts focused on the sub-orbital market “space tourism” market. The company is looking to build a cost-effective launch system capable of lifting small groups of paying passengers into space on ballistic “hops” which allow them to experience around 4-5 minutes of zero gravity before returning them to Earth.

The November 23rd flight saw the uncrewed New Shephard vehicle hoisted aloft by the booster system which reached a speed of Mach 3.72, sufficient for it to impart enough velocity to the capsule so that it could, following separation, continue upwards to an altitude of 100.5 kilometres (329,839 feet), before starting its descent back to the ground and parachuting to a safe landing.

April 25th: A camera aboard the propulsion module captures the rear of the New Shephard capsule moments after separation in the first test flight intended to recover both capsule and launcher - although the latter was in fact lost on that flight
April 25th: A camera aboard the propulsion module captures the rear of the New Shephard capsule moments after separation in the first test flight intended to recover both capsule and launcher – although the latter was in fact lost on that flight (image: Blue Origin)

Following capsule separation, however, the booster rocket Also made a control descent back to Earth, rather than being discarded and lost. The design of the booster – which Blue Origin call the “propulsion module” to differentiate to from a “simple” rocket – means it is semi-capable of aerodynamic free-fall, and won’t simply topple over and start tumbling back to Earth. At 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) above the ground, a set of eight drag brakes are deployed to slow the vehicle, with fins along the outside of the module allowing it to be steered. At 1.5 kilometres (just under 1 mile) above the landing pad, the unit’s motor reignites, further slowing it to a safe landing speed and allowing it to precisely manoeuvre itself onto the landing pad.

Highlights of the actual test flight, mixed with computer-generated scenes of the New Shephard capsule carrying a group of tourists on their sub-orbital hop was released by Blue Origin on November 25th.

One of the first to congratulate Blue Origin on their flight was Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX, which is also pursuing the goal of building a reusable rocket system, but had yet to achieve a successful recovery of the first stage of their Falcon 9 booster. However, as Musk pointed out, there are significant differences and challenges involved in bringing a sub-orbital launch back to Earth and a booster  which has to reach far higher velocities in order to lob a payload into orbit, as SpaceX is already doing.

Not that Blue Origin doesn’t have orbital aspirations; both the “propulsion module” and New Shephard are designed to be integrated into a larger launch vehicle capable of placing the capsule into orbit.  The November 23rd flight itself marks the second attempt to launch and recover both New Shepard and the propulsion module; in April 2015, the first attempt succeeded in recovering the capsule, but a failure in the drag brake hydraulic system on the propulsion module resulted in its loss.

Martian Moon Starting Slow Breakup?

A Mercator map of Phobos showing the compex system of groves and potential lines of fracture across the little moon. Some of these, notably those located close to it, are thought to be the result of the impact which created Stickney crater (left of centre in the map); however most of them seem to be the first indications that Phobos is starting to slowly break-up
A Mercator map of Phobos showing the complex system of groves and potential lines of fracture across the little moon. Some of these, notably those located close to it, are thought to be the result of the impact which created Stickney crater (left of centre in the map); however most of them seem to be the first indications that Phobos is starting to slowly break-up (image: US Geological Survey)

Mars has two natural moons, Deimos and Phobos. Neither are particularly large; Deimos is only 15 × 12.2 × 11 km in size, and orbits Mars once every 30 hours;  Phobos measures just 27 × 22 × 18 km, and orbits the planet once every 7 hours and 39 minutes. Both exhibit interesting properties, in that Deimos is slowly moving away from Mars, and may even break from Mars’ influence in a few hundred million years.

Phobos, however is doing the reverse; it is gradually closing in on Mars at a rate of about 2 metres (6.6 ft) every 100 years. This means that over time, it is being exposed to greater and greater gravitational forces as it approaches its Roche limit.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: of rockets, moons, carbon and telescopes”