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Archive for May, 2009

So . . . I caught part of an interesting program on television last night (television has taken a decidedly back seat since I discovered Second Life) called The Oprah Effect, describing the impact exposure on The Oprah Winfrey Show has had on various products, and one segment really caught my eye.  So . . . (grrr . . . there’s that “so”-logism all my thirty-something friends seem to use, beginning every other sentence with “so”). Anyway, Living Oprah is a blog written by Chicago actress (and now writer J) Robyn Okrant, chronicling a full year of living her life following the advice of Oprah Winfrey.  For one full year, Robyn watched the show, read O Magazine, and kept up with the Oprah website, culling advice about everything from what to eat, what to read, what movies to see to major life revisions and makeovers.  And she wrote about it every day, with humor, self-reflection, and commitment to the project.

The idea of Robyn’s blog (http://www.livingoprah.com) really appealed to me, so I spent a little time this morning reading both recent and early entries.  And, I can see myself going back to it regularly.  It’s well-written and interesting, plus you get some good tips on reading and recipes and all those other lifestyle things that can pull you out of your daily rut.  I’ve been making the same round of recipes for far too long.  You know, the tried and true, that you can make in your sleep.  Really good but really boring after a while.  Sooo . . . long story short, I decided to do a little bit of “Living Robyn” today.

Second Life, which used to be all about relaxing for me, has more recently become more goal-driven.  I try to take classes, from 2-3 every weekend, mostly at NCI.  I’m trying to wrap my brain around scripting, which is akin to the melon surrounding the prosciutto.  And I’m trying to make something new for Minuet, my shop on Symphony, every couple of days.  Then there’s Symphonic Notes.  Seriously, I go into every weekend with a “To Do” list, something I don’t do very often in first life, for heaven’s sake!

One of Robyn’s observations from Oprah hit home: 

“Surrender to the idea that I can’t run myself ragged and I must take time to relax.”

Now, you would think that living on Symphony I would have figured this out long ago.  The sim was built with peace and relaxation in mind, from the rocky beach with little tide pools and cozy beach log fire, to the dreamily realistic coral reef with its melancholy wrecks and myriad sea creatures.  There is the Honkyoku* Bath, with the strain of a Japanese flute (shakuhachi) rising just above the sound of the waterfall and steam rising from what is decidedly a very warm and relaxing tub.  I can almost feel the deep heat easing my knotted muscles, painful from too many hours in front of a computer.  But perhaps best of all for relaxing on Symphony is Serenity Point.  I have to say I think both Robyn and Oprah would love Serenity Point. 

Ando put in a gong that responds to the intermittent SL wind. Bronte added a Tibetan Prayer Wheel and some circling dolphins from Serenity Falls.  There are birds, butterflies, realistic waves, trees, and flowers.  Cushions for meditation or for lazily dangling your hand in the incoming surf beneath a cascading waterfall, one of four on the island.

 

Listening to the Sound of Waves

Listening to the Sound of Waves

 

It’s really a peaceful and serene place to which I have brought my friends when they were having a bad day and needed a getaway that didn’t involve airfare and a rental car.  So . . . without anything further, I’m off to Serenity Point.  I’m going to set my sun to something delicious, using the Advanced Sky settings, and just sit.  No clearing out inventory . . . that would be multitasking and 15,000 items is not too many.  I met a woman yesterday who carts around over 100,000.  I didn’t even think that was possible.  I’ll just sit and relax and dream and revel in the fact that Second Life affords these wonderful resources for taking time to relax and smell the virtual roses.  Thanks, Robyn!  And, as always, thanks, Ando!

 

Serenity Point with Seagull

Serenity Point with Seagull

 

Visit Symphony by typing Symphony into your world map.  The Photo Contest ends June 5th. 

~ Cacie

*Honkyoku (本曲, “original pieces”) are the pieces of shakuhachi or hocchiku music played by mendicant Japanese Zen monks called komusō. Komusō played honkyoku for enlightenment and alms as early as the 13th century.  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

A few notes on some of the creators of Serenity Point and Honkyoky Bath items.  

Waterfalls, Bath House spa, Japanese Garden Lantern: Ando Joubert; Monarch Butterflies, Emerald Forest tree, Emerald Forest Willow:  Straylight; Critters: natural rabbit, seal from Sculpty Creations; Dolphins:  Julia Hathor; Jay, Loon, Seagulls, Hummingbirds:  Animania; Koi Japanese Scroll:  Hosoi Ichiba; Japanese flute:  Max Pitre; flower field: Mikatsuki Matova (forest feast); Stump:  Truth Hawks; Maritime Pine, Broom, Birch, Olive and other trees:  Lilith Heart; Meditation Cushion (free): Acacia Merlin; Old Bench:  Mystery Moonlight; Sounds:  Cardinal and Mourning Doves, SoundBrite; Tibetan Prayer Wheels: Donk Kongo; Chinatown Wind Gong:  Chelsea Malibu; Poses: wade and daydream, TorAn Cruyff; Candles: Naiman Broome.

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Congratulations to the winners of the Twisted Thorn Texture competition!  The winning entries prove that expert texturing is neither for the faint of heart nor the non-detail oriented.  It takes skill, an artistic eye, meticulous attention to detail, time and patience.  Contestants textured a 62 prim scaled down version of the Twisted Thorn Textures main store.

  • 1st Prize ($5,000 Lindens):  Seshat Czeret 
  • 2nd Prize ($1,000 Linden TTT gift certificate):  Indira Lemaire
  • 3rd Prize ($500 Linden TTT gift certificate):  Wyn Nitely

Seshat’s first place entry paid homage to the Twisted Texture build, retaining the hallmark purple windows and using some of the same base stone as the castle that houses Twisted Thorn Textures.  She also retained  the medallions on either side of the build and the gold  trim, although Seshat has applied that to the base rather than the building itself.  What is special about this texture scheme is the choice of trim for the supports under the central tower, and the careful texturing of each face, so that the trim stands out.  The use of copper in the central structure, for the columns and cornice adds character to Seshat’s take on the challenge. 

Seshat Czeret's First Place Entry

Seshat Czeret's First Place Entry

Attention to detail pays off

Attention to detail pays off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seshat commented on her favorite elements, “I think the buttresses. The crosses, then the parallel lines, on the cream background, just add that final finishing touch of detail. It ties the whole thing together. And the same texture is used on the buttresses on the sides – if you cam into the underside of those buttresses, you see the same parallel lines. It’s a re-use of textures. The same texture is used for them and for the curved roofs. There’s all sorts of detail in this. Like, if you look at the gable’s roofs, the edges are using the ‘trim’ version of the Old Stone that forms the roof tiles, and the edges of the curved parts of the windows, and the undersides of the curved part of the windows, and the little ropey bits on the ‘steps’ under the gables, and the edges of the ‘steps’ under the gables.  There is no visible surface I didn’t put the best available texture on.  I like doing things well.” 

Seshat posted a card of the textures she used.  “It’s a way for people to learn,” she said. 

The second prize winner took a darker look at the build,  well in keeping with the Twisted Thorn name.  It has the rich hematite burnish of an Ivan Albright painting.  I asked Indira Lemaire about her inspiration.

“I’ve always loved gothic and medieval styles and architecture.”  However, it was not without challenges, ” The central portion was a problem, since I didn’t have any columns textures from Twisted Thorn, so I did some manipulation of the texture to get a result I was happy with. I offset the texture to make the border appear and make 2 columns look like one large one.” 

Second Prize to Indira Lemaire

Second Prize to Indira Lemaire

Texture manipulation created columns

Texture manipulation created columns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ability to adapt textures to various uses, to make the texture tab options work for you, allows a builder to get more mileage out of each texture in inventory.  As Seshat told me, “repeats and offsets are golden.”

And Indira’s advice for beginning builders?  “Practice. Practice, practice and more practice. I didn’t learn what I know by going to classes, though the classes are good and you should attend them if you can. If you cannot, just sit down build something basic and play with the textures and the build itself. Experiment too! I’ve discovered so much about building and texturing by experimenting. And a few things from my friends too who build. And if you can’t figure something out, just ask someone! Most builders are willing to help novices learn and become better.”

The third prize went to Wyn Nitely, who had a decidedly different take on the Twisted Thorn build.  Wyn’s entry is all light and gold, a sharp contrast to the Gothic darkness of Indira’s. 

“I wanted to do something that would be a totally different feel while still keeping the bones (2 stories – glass roofs).”  Wyn also added something no one else did . . . a clock in the central tower.  “I was lucky that I had the set with it.”

Wyn Nitely's Third Place Winner

Wyn Nitely's Third Place Winner

 

Golden Entry

Golden Entry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wyn derived the greatest satisfaction from  “the entry area because I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time.  The least satisfying were the flying buttresses; I never could get them quite the way I wanted and had to settle for plain sides on them. The buttress and support edges turned out great, just what I wanted.  The door gave the whole entry the flavour that I went with in there.”

Wyn’s initial inspiration, “light colours and not a gingerbread house,” suggested specific texture packs from TTT.  “Age of Innocence and Gold Leaf Manor were the obvious choices for main textures.”  Builders use textures in inventory like painters use a palette. “It’s amazing how you can pull things out of the back of your mind, when you’ve thousands of textures tucked in over a dozen organizers,” she said.

Wyn’s advice for beginning builders is to “start organizing your textures immediately so you can find them when you need them. My biggest problem is that I’ve never kept the TTT textures separate, so it took a full day just to gather them together.  It gets overlooked, but it’s the most basic thing that I regret. I’m still playing catch up.

Then it’s all a matter of proportion and camera controls. Which sounds funny, but without camera control and a sense of proportion you get from being able to put your camera where an avatar would be, you end up with a muddle. When I’m building a house, or other building, I walk around inside it a lot.  Do most of the building standing right inside it.” 

Her parting advice to new builders, “If you can’t build buildings and want to build, keep trying other things until you find the one that you can do.”

Both Seshat and Wyn recommended NCI for beginners.  Their free classes are excellent, and they provide great free resources as part of each class, items that become an indispensable part of your builder’s tool kit.  As Wyn said,  “I’m so grateful that I had NCI from the first day I was in-world.”

Congratulations to the three winners and to all the competitors.  Lesson learned: High quality textures can make a low prim build look very detailed.  

And if photography is your thing, the Symphony Photo Competition still has a bit over a week to run.  Get your entries in.  Submissions are posted in Symphony Square near the landing point.  Stop by and take a look!

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Today seems the perfect day to talk about a wonderful resource for all of us builders in Second Life:  Twisted Thorn Textures . . . and even more importantly, the Twisted Thorn Textures group. 

Perfect because today in the courtyard of TTT, members of the group have displayed photos for a competition offered by Nighty Goodspeed, Twisted’s owner.  Group members were invited to retexture a scale model of the Twisted Thorn Textures main store in whatever style they wished using Twisted Thorn Textures.  To avoid the traditional popularity contest mentality surrounding so many SL competitions, photos were submitted to Nighty who put them on prims arranged around the courtyard.  Members get one vote each and vote by placing a notecard in the entry of their choice.  What a great way to encourage people to choose good design rather than popularity.

A sampling of the texture competition entries

A sampling of the texture competition entries

 

Stop by today to see the photos . . . but you have to be a group member to vote.  The sim is called The Twisted Thorn. 

While you’re there, check out the shops around the courtyard, the main shop, a shop for textiles textures and another for flower and plant textures.

Here’s what I love about Twisted:

  • The weekly half price boards of some of the wonderful textures in the shops
  • Nighty’s willingness to feature the work of other texture artists in her shop
  • The bi-weekly members’ exchange of their works, all free, held in the courtyard
  • The free items Nighty and other members of the group bestow on their fellow Twisties
  • The occasional hunts around the sim for texture sets

But even more, I love the quality of the Twisted Textures and their ingenuity.  This isn’t the largest texture shop in Second Life, but you can count on high quality, and the prices seem more reasonable than others.  Packs are often quite large, offering many color options.  I especially love the exotic woods, which are my go to favorites for furniture.  There are four sets of these with around 30 plus different woods in each.  I’ve learned about wood varieties just by using these textures.  They sell for $500 Lindens each and are well worth the price.  Twisted also carries sculpt packs, which are well worth checking out.

Finally, I love the Twisted group, always so willing to help each other out.  The group chats are a repository of great information about resources for builders, a place to ask for advice in solving a technical problem or finding the best of something whether it’s animations, textures, scripts, vendors or whatever, intelligent conversation about Second Life, and the often witty repartee that gets exchanged on a daily basis with an uptick on weekends.  Group members freely share knowledge and resources with each other.  This is a real community.  Sometimes I just “listen” while I work.  Sometimes I chip in my two cents.  But whatever the case, this is one group I don’t click off, because I continuously learn from them.

With the 25 group limit, I find myself dropping groups as others appear that capture my interest, but I can’t see dropping this group any time soon . . . like never . . . because it’s more than a group, it’s a community.  I give my thanks to Nighty and all the Twisties, Thorne, Seshat, Nissa, Fort, Ludo, and the almost two thousand other members of the group.  If you are a builder or an aspiring builder, you owe it to yourself to check out Twisted Thorn Textures.

And don’t forget the Symphony Photo Competition  is still on.  See the previous entry for details!

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Symphony will be having its grand opening soon, and we’d like to invite you join in the festivities with a photo contest worth L$10,000! Ando Joubert worked hard to bring Symphony to life, now it’s your turn: the goal of this contest is to gather impressions of Symphony from the best photographers in SL to celebrate its grand opening.

RULES & GUIDELINES—————————————-

Entry is free, and the rules are simple:

 1) The photo must be taken on location anywhere on Symphony, and post-production very welcome.

 2) You can enter up to 3 images

 3) There are no restrictions regarding content (though it’s unlikely overly “intimate” portraits will make the final cut 😉

Guidelines: use high resolution pictures to disk, with the smallest dimension at *least* 1024. While excellent work at lower resolution will be considered, high res pics will present both to the judges and to the public much better.

SUBMISSIONS —————————————-

Send a notecard to Ando Joubert inworld, entitled [your name] [Symphony photo]; in the body of the notecard, include a statement about your photograph including picture dimensions in pixels, and include the high-resolution photograph in the notecard.

JUDGING————————————-

The contest will run from now until June 1. Selection will be by a panel of judges, and their decision will be final. We’ll look for all the right notes – composition, originality, creativity, and how well the image captures the essence of this Symphony.

WINNERS————————————

The winners will be announced at the Grand Opening celebration Friday, June 12th, at 4pm SLT

First prize: L$10,000

Second prize: L$5000

Third prize: L$1000

The top 10 entries will be displayed in the Hopper House Gallery on Symphony through June. These 10 artists may choose to set their work for sale, with no commission charged for the duration of the display.  Contest entries will be posted on flickr as they’re received.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andojoubert/sets/72157618018996337/

 

 

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The Emerald City on Wizard

5/5/2009

Wizard is the world of Catalina McCaw, and has seen several incarnations. In this latest one, it is host to the famed Emerald City. As I reimagine Wizard, I will document it from the ground up. Literally!

When Catalina contacted me to create the Emerald City, what I was handed was a Tabula Rasa. A flat, square patch of sand rising a scant meter above sea level! She told me how much space she wanted allocated for the Emerald City, and for all the rest of the sim. I submitted a drawing, and when it was approved, it was time to terraform.

The first draft

The first draft

The first thing I did was carve out the waterways that will course through Wizard. I laid out a grid, whipped out the bulldozer, and dug the interconnected channels that provide each parcel with access to all of Wizard, plus the neighboring sim Paradisos. I made the canals wide enough to allow passage of most SL watercraft, with enough bends to make it look relatively natural. (In all my builds, whether a full sim or a desk lamp, I try to bring a strong sense of realism into play).

Wizard Terraformed

Wizard Terraformed

The next, perhaps most crucial step, was to create the look of the terrain. I raised a couple higher plains and mountains up so I could gauge the effect, and then dove into my frighteningly large texture library. After much trial and error, I found a warmer sand than the SLDefault, a good, rich green for the lowlands, a moss-and-stone middle ground, and a nice gray granite for the peaks. With that step done, it was time to paint the landscape!

Wizard Purple Mountains Majesty

Wizard Purple Mountains Majesty

While the bulldozer is too reminiscent of the old Sim City tool, I tend to think of it more as a paint brush in Photoshop, or the terrain editor in Bryce. I imagine the terrain as a grayscale map, using the various tools such as Raise, Lower, Flatten, Smooth, and the rest to carve my landscape. It’s my hope that someday soon, Lindens will spend a little time improving these tools so that it doesn’t feel like I’m performing brain surgery with a screwdriver!

Wizard reimagined

Wizard reimagined

Update: As of RC 1.23, the bulldozer has taken on much more subtlety – it’s smoothly sizable instead of small/medium/large, and the largest option seems to be about twice as large as the previous “large.” Thanks for the gift, Lindens!

The Yellow Brick Road

5/8/2009

Construction on the Yellow Brick Road commenced, marking the installation of the first prim on Wizard. I tossed in some summer grasses from inventory to get a feel of what it might look like. Next step is to add bridges across the water. Then it’s time for waterfalls!

Ando Joubert - out standing in his field

Ando Joubert - out standing in his field

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Mill House Water Pump and Old Wood Bucket

Mill House Water Pump and Old Wood Bucket

Ando and I both love textures that are a little rough around the edges.  Old brick with patches of moss, crumbling plaster exposing the underlying wood lathes, peeling paint on a wind weathered door – objects that have become venerable with use or have decayed through neglect – a rusty bucket, broken stone path, abandoned rowboat.  There is a name for all of these, an aesthetic.  The Japanese call it wabi sabi, which roughly translated (no pun intended) means ‘rustic beauty.’

Wabi sabi is the unsophisticated and humble beauty we associate with places in the American Southwest, with Provence and Tuscany, and, of course, with rural Japan.  It is applied to the rough-hewn object, strangely beautiful in its simplicity and humility.  Made of natural materials and by hand or by nature, of wood, stone, clay, metal, wabi sabi objects are unpretentious but able to evoke rich aesthetic feelings, a sense of the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of change.  Easily overlooked, wabi sabi objects reward the observant eye with a rich aesthetic feeling.

An oft-quoted poem by William Carlos Williams captures this simplicity and serenity.

 

so much depends

upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chickens

 

Wabi sabi conjures a world that is imperfect and transient, and a meditative acceptance and serene appreciation of that reality.

Honkyoku Bath House with Flute Playing

Honkyoku Bath House with Flute Playing

Ando and I notice we are not alone in this appreciation.  In a world like Second Life that can so easily present objects that look brand spanking new, a surprising number of builds have this very quality, and texture makers like Jewell Lamourfou of Distressed Textures provide ample materials for us to use to recreate the worn, the rustic, the abandoned, both natural and man-made – to recreate, in the timeless world of Second Life, the marks of time’s passage.  (Visit her shop to see an extensive collection of wabi sabi textures.)  This beauty in imperfection is an antidote to the all too perfect world of Second Life.

Detail from Lighthouse Interior

Detail from Lighthouse Interior

Visitors to Symphony will find wabi sabi elements throughout the sim.  The Lighthouse, Mill House and Honkyoku Bath House are all good examples.  Please stop by for a visit sometime soon.  And let me know what you think about wabi sabi.  Arigato.

~Cacie

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