Sunday, October 9, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

     As a Canadian I have been watching the odd and disturbing presidential race going on with our neighbours in the USA.  Strangely though I am not completely surprised at Trumps popularity.  Here in Toronto we had a Mayor named Rob Ford who you likely have never heard of.. or perhaps you have due to him being on US talk shows and news media outlets because, well, even they heard of his odd behaviour.  Essentially he was a football coach who became a politician.  He was caught on, what felt like, a weekly basis saying or doing something way out of line for an elected official.  He was filmed drunk wandering the streets, smoking crack at a party, saying racist things, talking about women in a demeaning fashion and many other things.  It was bizarre and completely new... it was entertainment to many as people would often wonder what he would do each week.  It was a conversation piece.  His popularity, I feel, was due to a large portion of the population imagining him as just another average  "guy" who was a breath of fresh air from the recognizable politician who we saw as a wolf in sheep's clothing.  Someone who lies during the campaign knowing that the population will forget those lies in four years.  Rob was also recognizable and similar to a TV character or personality.  The others were non descript and bland.
     After watching Trump and Clinton it seems almost as if a decade of reality shows has confused people into thinking they are voting for entertainment rather than who you want to hold the immense power of a nuclear country.  It disturbs me to imagine what kind of knee jerk reactions Trump would have to the behaviour of North Korea's Kim Jong-un or President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.  There would be no tact nor measured response.  It seems almost as though Americans have the choice between two candidates which nobody wants.  I get the feeling that Clinton could never win against any other opponent .. except Trump, and just barely despite all the gaffes that Trump has done.  It is all very mystifying and surreal.
     Anyway, it is Canadian thanksgiving and I thought I would write a little thanksgiving warning which also will apply to Christmas and any event that has a bunch of people coming to your house for dinner.  I have a small table which has a "leaf" that can be inserted into the middle of the table to extend it.  So you get under the table and release a hook that keeps the two sides together and then pull them apart.  Mine has a track that the two parts slide along opening a space for you to put in the leaf which is just a middle part of the table.  You then close it and get under the table to hook the parts together again so there is no crack.  I have a rather old table and which needs a bit of encouragement to close after the leaf has been put in.  My encouragement begins with pushing the table together then realizing i can't close the hooks underneath.  So then I grab the middle part and pull it towards me while my tummy is used to push them together.  When that doesn't quite do it I begin to use my hip and give it some good hard jolts.  So my warning is.... don't leave your phone in your front pocket when you do this.  My screen is shattered and the actual phone is even bent a little... sigh.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Keynote speaker for International Art Education Association

 On Saturday September 24th I will be doing a talk on creating virtual art for the International Art
Presqu'ile park
Education Association.  And then once the talk is complete I am going camping!  Yes camping in late September in Canada.  At this time of year you never really know what kind of weather you will get, was hot last week but could be chilly at night.  Anyway cool weather is good for a camp fire and smores.  The campsite itself is right off of a stony beach and oh so beautiful.  I am excited!  But yes I am also doing a keynote talk for InAEA which is connected to the University of British Columbia.  The talk will focus on the unique traits of the virtual medium in art creation. 


 Date/ Time: September 24, 2016 (Saturday)/8:00 am PDT to 3:30 pm PDT

There are some talks all through the day and they sound really interesting have a look at the site to read up on them, also the slurl is there.

     I would like to stay and listen to them all but did I mention I was going camping?!  I wish I could take them all with me and hear their talks while eating a hot dog on a stick around a campfire.  You know I can only eat hot dogs when I go camping.  It's a sad story.  I used to like them until one day I made a hot dog and sat down in front of the tv to watch something while I was eating.  It had mustard, ketchup and sliced pickles on it I seem to recall.  As luck would have it when I turned on the tv a show was already running which was on how processed food was made, and the segment I happened to pop into was specifically on hot dogs.  I won't go into details in case you, fine reader, are a fan of hot dogs.. I wouldn't want to take that away from you, but it broke me and my love of the occasional fast and easy hot dog.  It was never high cuisine to me but rather a quick food when I was really lazy.  You need a food like that and I lost mine.  Well one of mine (high five peanut butter and jam sandwich!) Strangely though, when camping I can eat hot dogs.  What kind of science is this!?  Stephen Hawkins stop worrying about aliens and tell me!  I digress.  Anyway so yes I am doing a talk tomorrow (then I am going camping!) and you are welcome to come if it sounds interesting to you.  Not camping but to the talk.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

High Fidelity creators program

     I spoke with Lemondrop Serendipity here in Second life about a month ago and she invited me to create something for Philip Rosedale's (ex ceo of Linden Lab) High Fidelity virtual world.  And they pay you! whaaat? all the artists reading this blog say at once.  An artist being paid for their time and effort?!  preposterous!  Yes it's true you didn't read that wrong.  I spoke to them about Cica Ghost and she is going to make something there now too.  I also have heard Glyph Graves is coming.
   I think the world is probably a bit buggy right now but from watching the video above it looks like it might be interesting to create something there using its strengths.  I am not quite sure what its strengths and weaknesses are right now but they have a support staff who are eager to help.
     In other news I am busy building a new work on Immersiva which I am calling "Hand" right now but its coming along pretty good and hope to have it done in a month or two.  I will keep you informed for both projects as they progress,  I know the High Fidelity one needs to be completed by November so its not much time but will be fun.

Here is the beta download for High Fidelity which came out August 25th.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Last days of Singularity of Kumiko

Now that I have completed the machinima for The Singularity of Kumiko it is time to take it down and begin work on something new.  For those of you interested in stats and juxtaposing a real life gallery exhibit vs a virtual world one then here are a few things related to this one.  In my first life a gallery exhibit of my paintings would have an opening night reception of approximately 300 people and then would run a month with visitors each day dropping to around 30-40 at the start of the month to probably 20 by the end.  I am going to be generous and say perhaps 1500 people will visit a first life gallery exhibit of my paintings over the course of a month.  I would get one or possible two such exhibits a year and the majority of people who are exposed to my work this way are local to Toronto. 
     In contrast the Singularity of Kumiko has exhibited twice and combined has hosted just under 80,000 visitors.  These visitors are from around the world as opposed to local.  Second Life has often
been described as a "walled garden" with limited exposure for those within... I would disagree.

     I am thinking I will remove the build on Saturday the 6th and begin the process of building something new which should take at least a few months.  I will keep Immersiva open during this time for those who like to watch things evolve and grow.

The new work is tentatively called "Hand" right now though that might change.  To the right is a bit of brainstorming from my sketchbook.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Singularity of Kumiko machinima OAC grant

     Earlier this year I received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to do a variety of things ranging from a gallery exhibit to filming a 30 minute machinima of my artwork called the Singularity of Kumiko.  I have just finished the machinima! yay me.  It has taken me quite a while and during the filming I realized that I had to build new scenes to help transition the story in different ways than the virtual environment.  So there are some little parts not in the virtual environment portion of the story.  I hope you will enjoy it and feel free to share as I am not particularly good at doing that.
   This story is the prequel to Imogen and the pigeons which also won an OAC grant a few years ago. You can watch it below if you want to see how they are tied together.  I also would like to thank the Ontario Arts Council for their continued support over the years with three grants for my work in Second Life.  It is very rewarding and encouraging for me to know that such an establishment sees the virtual space as a powerful and unique tool for creating art.  I also want to thank all of you who faithfully watch or explore my virtual ramblings in art.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Film screening for the Singularity of Kumiko at Indie Teepee Sunday, 2pm SLT

     A few months back I received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to do a variety of things
including to make a 30 minute machinima for the Singularity of Kumiko.  If you have not seen the Singularity of Kumiko it will be up for a few more weeks at Immersiva

 I have now finished the film and will show it for the first time at Indie Teepee this Sunday at 2pm SLT.  Here is the inworld slurl
Bring popcorn.

The Singularity of Kumiko is a prequel to an earlier work called Imogen and the pigeons.  If you would like to watch that first so that the narrative is more clear then please watch the machinima below.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

PTSD for United States Military - AVESS

Bridge up to the sandbox
Imogen makes an appearance
 Close to two years ago I was approached by Virtual Ability to create a four region build on Open sim for the US military.  The work was to help soldiers with Post Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) learn how to deal with various issues and to kind of integrate them back into society.
Orientation and presentation area
     So imagine this scenario.  And I should start by saying these are just my musings and don't reflect the views of the US military or Virtual Ability.  So a young man joins the army and spends four years or so in an atmosphere of brotherhood, an atmosphere that anyone outside this life can't really understand.  It is testosterone, but also they are indoctrinated into a way of life that creates the best type of soldier.  A soldier who will never let those around them down, who is reliable and pliable.  They are shaped physically and psychologically into a tool.  It sounds negative but for the Army and their goals it is essential.
      In nature the vast majority of creatures never fight to the death.   They fight to show superiority and dominance with the challenger slinking off after defeat.  Much of it is posturing in the form of threatening actions or roaring and if that fails then there is a physical confrontation that very very rarely results in death.  It is just not part of nature for the overwhelming majority creatures on this planet.  I think human nature is similar, that we instinctively resist killing another human.  We can be trained to overcome this though through various ways that dehumanize the opponent.  A good test is to find the cutest 4 year old child you know and then watch tv or play a video game with them.  We are desensitized to the violence, but when you have a child with you it makes you actually see it again through fresh eyes.  What happens is you become very familiar with the pause button as you anticipate the endless violence that we are so used to but would be shocking for a child to see.  Children are so innocent and beautiful, and it is the progress through society and its current culture that, over time, shapes them as adults.  Personally I kind of prefer to spend my time around children and animals over the average adult.  I remember reading all the negative stuff around Michael Jackson.  How the papers would insinuate or blatantly characterize him as a weirdo for using some of his vast wealth to build a theme park for children.  To have monkeys and things.  I would read those and at the time I wouldn't really know what to make of it, but now I am like... yes I totally get that.  To watch children freaking out with excitement and pure joy rather than deal with the human snakes that probably surrounded him in his business life.  The media and everything.  Anyway I digress.

Fish from fishing game
The statistics from wars in the past ranging from the Civil war in the USA to World War Two show some interesting statistics.  Generally 15-20% of soldiers shot at the enemy when they saw them.  There were war cries and posturing, which, similar to the animal kingdom, seemed instinctive, yet few really would attempt to kill another human being.  In Korea and then Vietnam this rate increased, but it is suggested that the increased shooting was meant to "scare" the enemy.  It took around 52 thousand bullets to kill one enemy soldier.  I imagine a lot of time and money went into research for overcoming our natural barriers to kill one another.          
     Hollywood and movies in general makes killing look easy, the more indifferent a hero is when he kills a bad guy the better.  Some even have witty comments to make after they kill someone.  My favorite was Arnold Swartzenegger holding someone by the ankle over a cliff in some movie.  He comes back to another character who asks "What did you do with him?"  And Arnold replies "I let him go".  The truth is that the directors, screenwriters and so forth who show us how easy it is to kill in a movie is much like a virgin writing a book on how to have great sex.  Holding a 220 pound bad guy over a cliff by the ankle?... seems plausible.  And we would say.. oh it's just entertainment nobody actually believes that stuff.  Sadly, the truth is it still shapes us.  Probably very minimally and gradually but it adds up.  Hey I like games that blow things up and movies that blow things up too.  That doesn't mean I have to blindly defend them rather than recognize the possibility that they shape our society along with many other things.  Shaping and then the task of unshaping which is much more difficult.

     In a fighting environment being killed and killing are both fears, and so there are various ways to look at the trauma of war for a soldier.  I spoke to various soldiers during the creation of this work and some of the things they wanted was pretty interesting.  One, for example, wanted to simply be able to write things down that happened to him and to place them in a stream so they would float away.  Some notes he said he would like others to be able to read.. while others he wished would sink and disappear never to be read by another soul.

     Ok back to my scenario.  So this young soldier, from a small town of 3000 in Idaho, loses his legs to a roadside bomb.  He survives and spends a year in hospital in Boston.  He has a psychologist and eventually goes home to stay with his parents.  His high school friends come to visit but that slowly dwindles because neither are the same anymore.  Nobody around him, including his parents, understand completely what he went through or how he was shaped.  The brotherhood or team is gone and everything is completely different.  His mind is conditioned and breaking out of the conditioning is quite difficult for some.

     The idea behind this work was to help the soldiers learn how to do things we take for granted, but can be difficult for them just from inexperience or effects of PTSD.  Things like planning a camping trip.. to go to a few different stores in the virtual environment to buy a sleeping bag, a tent, a fishing rod, bait, a hat and so on.  A hud tracks the objectives and goals and sends the information to the professionals he is working with.  Another objective might be to follow a shopping list for food.. and instead of plain white rice there is just brown rice on the shelf.  Simple? well no.  Or perhaps the list of food has been collected in a shopping cart, and then upon arriving to the cash register to pay there is suddenly a spill of milk on the floor and an employee blocks the way while mopping it up.  Ways to deal with frustrations.  The psychologist from Boston can now meet up with the soldiers in the virtual space.  There is no distance to overcome.

     The first environment is made up of an orientation sim that teaches the user how to navigate and do various things.  There is a quaint little village with various stores brimming with products to buy.  There is a lake where they can ride boats and we even created a fishing game from scratch with various rare ones to catch etc.  There is also a sandbox region where I have made a bunch of things to assemble like a giant robot spider or go carts.  There are presentation areas with seating and so on and so on.

Bryn avatar on left and Cica on right
Will this all work?  I have no idea.  I really hope so and it was an honour for me to be involved with this project and to use my skills to try to help others.  I brought in Cica Ghost and Caer Balogh to help and both were instrumental in getting the work completed.  Scripting in open sim is .. challenging.  So Caer deserves a lot of credit for overcoming some unexpected glitches.  It was, and is, a massive project that has taken years and both Eme Capalini and Gentle Heron at Virtual Ability deserve a great deal of credit for getting this project started.  And it is a credit to the United States military for their vision and determination to help those affected with PTSD, by imagining new and unique ways to help treat their soldiers.