Monochrome portraits and landscapes in Second Life

Kultivate The Edge, August 2019

Now open at Kultivate Magazine’s The Edge Gallery is the August-September exhibition of black-and-white / monochrome art and photography.

The featured artists for the exhibition are Tatjab, MTH63, Wintergeist, Chic Aeon, Belua Broadfoot, Illrya Chardin, Sophie Congrego, Roxaane Fyanucci, Euridice Qork, and someone called Inara Pey, who is really just along for the ride. The artists offer a rich mix of portraiture and landscape images in their selections, as well as a mix of styles that make for an engaging exhibition.

Kultivate The Edge, August 2019 – Tatjab

While the range of images is both deep and broad, I admit to finding myself repeatedly gravitating towards two of the artists in particular. The first is Tatjab – also known as tattoo artist (hence his SL and Twitter handle of “Tatjab”), painter, and pencil portrait artist, Jesse Boren. Located on the upper mezzanine level of the gallery and facing the entrance, he presents fourteen pencil portraits taken from the physical world that are utterly stunning.

Ranging from fantasy pieces (such as portraits of Cthulhu) through personal pieces (Blaze, Leland and Pam’s Grandpa, for example) to those of famous individuals such as Barrack Obama, Sir Anthony Hopkins (as Hannibal Lecter) and Clint Eastwood (as Josey Wales), these are truly marvellous pieces, one and all; the manner in which the very essence and life force of Hopkins, Eastwood (a picture I could barely take my eyes off of!) and guitarist Justin Furstienfled has been captured is just amazing – as is true of all the other pieces Tatjab offers here.

The Edge, August 2019 – Euridice Qork

Just to the left of Tatjab’s area in the gallery are nine pieces by Euridice Qork. All are avatar portraits and studies, but again I found myself repeatedly drawn to them because each and every one is powerfully evocative in its own very individual way. Within them all, one can find a sense of the subject’s self or can feel an emotional response or been drawn to thinking about a certain era – or perhaps all three, and more.

Take, for example the rightmost image of the woman at the microphone. While her style of dress might be a little more risqué than would likely have been the case at the time, the pose, the soft-focus background, the poise of the fingers of her left hand – all evoke a sense of 1940-1950s America, and a time when both jazz groups and big bands fronted by a vocalist where the means of a Saturday evening’s entertainment. Indeed, each time I look at this particular image, I cannot help but hear the words of Blue Moon, accompanied by a lone trumpet playing in the background.

Two other artists exhibiting here to and to whom I was drawn are Chic Aeon and MTH63 each  of whom can be found on the lower floor of the gallery.

Chic opts for a series of close-up images of items in-world. In this, I found the images to carry an echo of a technique that has become a signature of Melusina Parkin, and which I find particularly engaging: close-ups that suggest they are part of a large scene or story. In their presentation, be they focused on suitcases stacked one upon another or an oar in an aged and damaged rowing boat or the partially open drawers of a dresser, they drawer us to them, encouraging us into them in an attempt to peek beyond their borders, so to speak, and discern the wider story that may be just out of sight.

MTH63 offers a series of images of locations within Second Life, but rather than present them as “simple” monochrome pieces, he offers all but one of them as “negatives”, or perhaps reverse processed images (as used in the motion picture industry). Thus we’re presented with five unique views of settings within Second Life, with the one “positive” image sitting within them as the focal “glue” to MTH63’s “album”.

Kultivate The Edge, August 2019 – Chic Aeon (l) and MTH63

Truth be told, all of the artists featured in this exhibition offer a unique perspective on SL photography, be their work focused on avatars or landscapes or a mix of the two. The only potential exception is yours truly – and I say this not out of any sense of false modesty or to seek praise, but simply because I do not consider myself an artist. My images are purely intended for illustrative purposes within this blog; they are not posed, nor do they share depth of creative nuance evident in the other images, be it with framing, lighting, post-processing, and so on. As such, I count myself fortunate to be included  in an exhibition where there are some genuinely breath-taking pieces.

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Second Life Hair Fair 2019

via Hair Fair

The 2019 Second Life Hair Fair is currently open, and runs through until Sunday, September 1st, 2019. As with previous years, is being run to raise money for Wigs for Kids, with every purchase seeing a percentage donated to the cause, with the Bandana booths and Donation kiosks donating 100% of all proceeds received.

The event this year comprises six regions, three of which – Noirette, Redhead and Blonde – contain participating vendor stores. The remaining three, Foils, Perms and Streaks, are designed for those who prefer to shop by camera rather than walking (and are thus referred to as the “cam sims”).

The shopping regions are (wisely) lightly decorated in order to minimise viewer-side lag that might otherwise be created by having a significant amount of extra object and texture rendering.  Stores are easily identified by the large signs located on the paths leading around the regions.

The list of participating merchants can be found on the Hair Fair website. This year as well as hairstylists, the event features a selection of accessory creators that have also made items to adorn hair purchases. Further, there is a demo group so people can try the styles at home before venturing to the event. Simply paste the link below into local chat in your viewer and click the link to open the group’s information panel (you’ll also be invited to join the demo group on arrival at any of the event’s landing points):

  • secondlife:///app/group/2e30d166-f3e5-e2de-ff72-b3da2d06ded2/about.
via Hair Fair

About Wigs for Kids

For more than thirty years Wigs for Kids has been providing hair replacement systems and support for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, Alopecia, Trichotillomania, burns and other medical issues at no cost to children or their families. The effects of hair loss go deeper than just a change in a child’s outward appearance. Hair loss can erode a child’s self-confidence and limit them from experiencing life the way children should. With an injured self-image, a child’s attitude toward treatment and their physical response to it can be negatively affected also.

Wigs for Kids helps children suffering with hair loss look themselves and live their lives. Families are never charged for the hair replacements provided for their children; Wigs for Kids rely completely on both the donation of hair and / or money to help meet their goals.

Read more about Wigs for Kids mission, and discover how hair can be donated.

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Broken’s summer beauty in Second Life

Broken, August 2019 – click on any image to enlarge

We first visited Broken, the homestead region designed and held by Natalia Corvale, at the start of 2019. At that time, it offered a winter’s setting: a place lightly dusted in snow (see The beauty of Broken in Second Life for more). Now, eight months later, things have moved on and in keeping with the northern hemisphere seasons, Broken presents a landscape caught in the bloom of summer and caught under twilight’s full gleaming.

The land lies split into a number of islands, some connected by bridges, others perhaps best visited by the little swan boats that can be found a short walk to the north from the landing point. The latter sits within the largest island in the group, a low-lying, grassy location marked by the presence of a barn and several horses that stand idly around.

Broken, August 2019

Examination of the horses will reveal they are in fact Water Horse Animesh animals available for visitors to ride; just click a horse to mount it (you’ll be offered a riding HUD – not a vital requirement – and removable stirrups). Use the Arrow or WASD keys for movement, with a double tap of W or Up to cycle through the walk, trot, canter and gallop options (and a quick tap on the D or Down arrow to cycle back down).

The HUD, for those who want to try it offers an option to dismount and lead the horse around, whilst standing from it de-rez the horse – don’t forget to remove the stirrups from your feet! (you can also find out more about the horses in my review The Animesh Water Horse in Second Life). I should also note using the horses can make it easier to cross to those islands in the group that are not linked by bridges to their neighbours.

Broken, August 2019

When writing about Broken in January, I noted that the region has the feel of being a personal design for Natalia. This still feels the case now; the dedication offered in the About Land description  – “for anyone who’s ever lost someone” – remains the same, and it continues to resonate with aspects of Natalia’s profile information. Further the very setting, with the twilight sky under its painter’s clouds, invites a mood of remembrance and / or contemplation.

Also as I noted in January, “lost” doesn’t necessarily refer to having suffered the passing of someone close. Rather, it encompasses the separation born of a relationship – be it as lovers or friends – that has run its course and which now lies behind us. Thus Broken perhaps offers a place where memories can be recalled, although this doesn’t necessarily make it a place purely for the melancholy of heart. Far from it; there are plenty of places where couples can spend time to be found scattered across the island, both indoors and out.

Broken, August 2019

These, and the very nature and placement of the islands one to the next, mean Broken ripe for exploration and photography. Some of the locations to be enjoyed are easy to find – such as the Hideaway cabin  tucked away to the south and west of the region and that offers a cosy little place to share and o perhaps ruminate. Others are a little harder to find, and often pop out at you unexpectedly, presenting a smile of delight on being discovered.

Large among the latter is the hilltop open-air theatre; more subtle are the swings beneath stout boughs or the raft floating quietly in the shadow of shoreline bushes.  Travel east and you might unexpectedly come across a little fish’n’chips bar; go north beyond the camper trailer visible from the landing point, and over the low hills beyond it, and you’ll come across another cabin, this one squatting above the open sea, its exterior careworn by the elements, its interior a cosy little retreat.

Broken, August 2019

All of this is just scratching the surface of Broken’s delight, much of which extends into the very landscaping of the region, particularly in the use of grasses and flowers across the ground. There is a natural beauty that shines throughout the region from grass to flowers to trees and buildings and individual locations, that make it instantly attractive, and that encourages the visitor to stay.

With thanks to all who suggested a re-visit to Broken: Max, Miro, Morgana and Shawn!

Broken, August 2019

SLurl Details

  • Broken (Farron, rated: Moderate)

2019 viewer release summaries week #33

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, August 18th

This summary is generally 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.
  • Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version 6.2.4.529638, formerly the Love Me Render RC viewer dated August 5, promoted August 12th – NEW.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Bakes on Mesh RC viewer updated to version 6.3.0.530037 on August 16th.
    • Umeshu Maintenance RC viewer updated to version 6.2.5.530030 dated August 15th.
  • Project viewers:
    • No change.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V5/V6-style

  • Kokua 64-bit non-RLV updated to version 6.2.4.45881 and RLV/FTRLV to version 6.2.4.45882, both on August 16th (release notes).

V1-style

  • Cool VL Viewer Stable Branch updated to version 1.26.22.57 and Experimental Branch to version 1.26.23.10, both on August 17th (release notes).

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: Pluto’s names, Jupiter’s core

The 14 new surface feature names (in yellow) approved for Pluto by the International Astronomical Union on August 8th, 2019. The names in white were approved by the IAU in 2017. Credit: NASA / JHU/APL

On August 8th, 2019, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) approved the names for 14 more significant features on the surface of Pluto, imaged by the New Horizons space vehicle as it flew past the Pluto-Charon system in 2015.

The IAU claimed the authority to officially name or approve the name of planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids and planetary features in our solar system during its inaugural General Assembly, held in Rome in May 1922, 3 years after it had been formed by the founding nations of Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Greece, Japan, and the United States, and by which point its membership had grown to 19 nations around the world (today membership stands at 82 nations).

As the sole authority, it means that any names given to things like planetary surface features  – such as “Mount Sharp” on the surface of Mars are entirely unofficial, hence why they are referred to in quotes in these Space Sunday articles. The IAU may determine names on things like surface features entirely by itself (as is the case with “Mount Sharp”, which is officially designated Aeolis Mons), or they may take recommendations from other organisations or groups.

In the case of the 14 names first assigned to features on Pluto by the IAU in 2017, the organisation ratified the suggestions made by the New Horizons mission team. Keeping with this “tradition”, the August 8th, 2019 announcement of the 14 “new” names for surface features first employed by the mission team.

The first 14 names to be approved by the IAU (2017) for features on Pluto include the Tombaugh Regio, named for Clyde Tombaugh, who first identified Pluto as a planetary body; the great frozen nitrogen lake of Sputnik Planitia, and the Hillary and Tenzing mountains, named for the two men formally recorded as the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Credit: NASA / JHU/APL

All 14 represent people and missions that contributed to the understanding of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, as well as drawing on figures from mythology and aerospace exploration in general. They cover a range of surface features on Pluto images by the New Horizons vehicle as it dashed through the Pluto-Charon system that include entire regions of the planet and items such as mountain ranges, plains, valleys and craters. They comprise (in alphabetically order):

  • Alcyonia Lacus, possibly a frozen nitrogen lake, it is named for the “bottomless” lake in the vicinity of Lerna, Greece, and regarded as one of the entrances to the underworld in Greek mythology.
  • Elcano Montes, a mountain range named for Juan Sebastián Elcano (1476–1526), the Spanish explorer who in 1522 completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth (a voyage started in 1519 by Magellan).
  • Hunahpu Valles, a system of canyons named for after one of the Mayan Hero Twins who defeated the lords of the underworld in a ball game.
  • Khare crater honours planetary scientist Bishun Khare (1933–2013), who specialised in the chemistry of planetary atmospheres and who published several seminal papers on tholins, the organic molecules that probably account for the darkest and reddest regions on Pluto.
  • Kiladze crater is named for Rolan Il’ich Kiladze (1931–2010), who made pioneering early investigations the dynamics, astrometry and photometry of Pluto.
  • Lowell Regio, is a large region honouring Percival Lowell (1855–1916), founder of the Lowell Observatory and organiser of the search that eventually led Clyde Tombaugh to locate Pluto.
  • Mwindo Fossae, a network of long, narrow depressions named for the Mwindo Epic of the Nyanga people.
  • Piccard Mons, a mountain and suspected cryovolcano named for Swiss inventor and physicist and high altitude balloon pioneer, Auguste Piccard (1884–1962).
  • Pigafetta Montes, a mountain range honouring Antonio Pigafetta (c. 1491–c. 1531), the Italian scholar and explorer who chronicled the discoveries made during the first circumnavigation of the Earth, aboard Magellan’s ships.
  • Piri Rupes, a range of cliffs named for Piri Reis (also Ahmed Muhiddin Piri c. 1470–1553), an Ottoman navigator and cartographer known for his world map. He also drew some of the earliest existing maps of North and Central America.
  • Simonelli crater, name after astronomer Damon Simonelli (1959–2004), whose wide-ranging research included the formation history of Pluto.
  • Wright Mons, a mountain named for powered flight pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright.
  • Vega Terra, a large land mass named after the Soviet Vega 1 and 2 missions, the first spacecraft to fly balloons on another planet (Venus) and to image the nucleus of a comet (1P/Halley).
  • Venera Terra, named for the Venera missions sent to Venus by the Soviet Union from 1961–1984; they included the first human-made device to enter the atmosphere of another planet, to make a soft landing on another planet and to return images from another planetary surface.
A computer-generated image showing New Horizons’ location in our solar system on August 10, 2019. The green line shows where the vehicle has travelled since its 2006 launch, the red indicates its future path. This perspective is from above the Sun and “north” of Earth’s orbit. Credit: JHU/APl

Since its flyby of the Pluto-Charon system, the New Horizons vehicle has continued its voyage out through the Kuiper Belt. Most of this has been with the vehicle in a state of hibernation to conserve power, however, in January 2019, the craft encountered  Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) Ultima Thule, aka 2014 MU69 (see my January 28th 2019 Space Sunday article), and data from that encounter is still being transmitted back to Earth.

Currently, the New Horizons mission is funded until April 2021, and may well be extended beyond that date. The vehicle’s radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which uses the heat from the radioactive decay of plutonium 238 to provide it with electrical power, is expected to provide sufficient energy for its science instruments until the mid-to-late 2030s. So the science team responsible for the mission at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory are currently seeking potential KBO targets the craft could fly by in the mid or late 2020s.

Ultima Thule from a distance of 6,700 km, January 1st, 2019. Credit: NASA / JHU/APL / SwRI

Should the vehicle retain sufficient power for some of its instruments, it may be able to study the outer heliosphere (the “bubble” of space surrounding our solar system and created by the outward flow of energise particles from the Sun) in the late 2030s. If it does, it will add to the data gathered on that distant region of space, 100+ AU from Earth (1 AU = the average distance of the Earth from the Sun) by the Voyager spacecraft.

Parker Solar Probe: One Year In

August 12th, 2019, marked the first anniversary of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. As I reported in Space Sunday: to touch the face of the Sun, this is an ambitious mission to repeatedly fly through the Sun’s corona – the hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation in the Sun’s atmosphere that is visible during an eclipse – to gather data that could help answer questions about solar physics that have puzzled scientists for decades.

Named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorised the solar wind, the constant outflow of particles and magnetic fields from the sun, the mission is now into its third orbit of the Sun, and due to make a further close solar approach on September 1st, 2019.

The spacecraft carries four suites of scientific instruments to gather data on the particles, solar wind plasma, electric and magnetic fields, solar radio emission, and structures in the Sun’s corona. This information will help scientists unravel the physics driving the extreme temperatures that make the corona hotter than the “surface” of the Sun – and the mechanisms that drive particles and plasma out into the solar system.

So much information has been gathered by the probe during its first two orbits of the Sun that the mission team on Earth is still analysing it. They hope to have the first results available before the end of the year – not that they are complaining!

We’re very happy. We’ve managed to bring down at least twice as much data as we originally suspected we’d get from those first two perihelion passes.

– Nicky Fox, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division

An artist’s impression of the Parker Solar Probe swinging around the Sun at a distance of 6.2 million km (3.85 million mi) . Credit: NASA

Nor is that all; the probe’s elliptical 170-188 day orbit means that it has just 11 days per orbit in which to gather data – and these coincide with perihelion, when the craft must withstand temperatures of around 1,370ºC (2,500ºF). To achieve this, the probe is equipped with a 2.3m hexagonal solar shadow-shield that performs three tasks: it absorbs and reflects sunlight away from the vehicle whilst also preventing radiation penetrating its instrument bay and burning-out its circuits and instruments (incident solar radiation at perihelion is approximately 475 times the intensity at low Earth orbit) and also casting a long shadow in which the rest of the vehicle can remain relatively “cool”. Data on the shadow-shield and from within the vehicle as it passes through the corona reveal the shield is working better than anticipated.

So, with another six years of its planned 7-year primary mission, the Parker Solar Probe is set to revolutionise our understanding of the Sun’s corona and the mechanisms powering it.

The data we’re seeing is showing us details about solar structures and processes that we have never seen before. Flying close to the sun—a very dangerous environment—is the only way to obtain this data, and the spacecraft is performing with flying colours.

– Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist, JHU/APL

Continue reading “Space Sunday: Pluto’s names, Jupiter’s core”

A touch of supernatural role-play in Second Life

Clifton Forge, August 2019 – click any image for full size

Clifton Forge is a half Full region offering “modern supernatural para role-playing,” featuring humans, witches, vampires, and werewolves.

Supported by its own website, the setting is distinctly urban, representing a small city nestled within a mountain environment. It is intended to offer a place where, “blissful everyday living masks a darker and more turbulent truth”, the website setting-up a place where normalcy forms a blanket over a range of strange activities which those interested in role-playing within the environment can then take-up:

All manner of depravity conceals itself behind a flawless veneer here; the Hotel’s façade is cracked by stories of staff suicides, the Church here asks for alms – but whether it intends to divert these funds to charitable causes or fill its own coffers is unknown. A harried city cop turns Sheriff in what some might see as a peaceful retirement plan, while others wonder why she has escaped to a more pastoral clime. Everyone has a secret – what is yours?

Clifton Forge, August 2019

Like many RP environments in Second Life, the official landing point sits in the sky over the parcel in the sumptuous setting of a grand hall. Here visitors can contact the Clifton Forge administrators, and follow browser links to the RP back-story, rules and apply to join the group to participate in local role-play. Those arriving at the landing point will also be asked to join the local Out Of Character (OCC) group prior to making a visit down to the city proper. The group is free to join and helps mark visitors as non-playing characters during a visit, and you can always leave it following a visit if you have no interest in remaining a member.

Taking the main teleport to group level will deliver visitors to the east side of the parcel, and a further teleport board ready to take people onwards to some of the principal points of interest in the city which might conceivably be leaping-off points for role-play opportunities. These include some typical locations for any city setting: the local church, the hotel, the medical centre, the police station, places to sit and eat or find entertainment, and so on. However, the setting is far better seen by exploring on foot or by using the local bicycles available from the rezzer located close by.

Clifton forge, august 2019

The town is split into two, with the portion that contains the landing point also offering the main square, the city hall, the emergency facilities, various businesses and paths to some of the local residencies (note that some or all of the latter are available for rent, so do be aware of the potential to trespass into someone’s home when exploring). The second of the city’s districts – reached via a single tunnel – is home to the church and the hotel, together with further local businesses, before giving way to a more rural setting, of rocky bluffs and woodlands in which sit shacks and cabins.

Given the city only occupies a half region, attempts have been made to make use of elevation in places – notably the woodland area mentioned above, and with some of the rental properties and the church. This, together with at least one underground parking area both adds literal depth to the setting as well as making role-play more interesting by providing a sense of greater space than had things been kept more-or-less on the one level across the parcel.

Clifton Forge, August 2019

When exploring, notes that there are NPCs dotted around. some of these – such as the bouncer outside of the Castle House – will provide note cards when touched, and these cards contain game play information and local rules (e.g. such as player being frisked and fully disarmed before entering an establishment).

One or two aspects of the setting look like they might still be under development – I noted a couple of floating pieces of vegetation in the sky above the town, and the ground around Castle House looks like it might be awaiting further landscaping. However, the setting is, overall, as it is presented in the description: an urban environment representative of a small city; one that is awaiting a cast of role-players.  If you’re into the supernatural and are looking for a role-play environment that offers in in a modern setting, might be interested in taking a look – just note that for the purposes of this article, I did adjust my windlight settings away from the local default.

Clifton Forge, August 2019

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