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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mesh bird poop not included

I bought some Slink hands. It's weird having attractive SL hands. It makes me want to run around and point at everyone and everything. "Hey you! Yes you. Look at that over there. LOOK AT IT! Who me? You talking to me? Her? Whatever. Look over there!" That kind of thing.

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Skin: Erin in Aurora, Sunkissed by League. (AWESOME name for a skin! *wink*); Eyes: Arcane Eyes in Angel by Buzz at The Seasons Story; Shirt: Criss T-shirt by Kitja Cherie at The Seasons Story; Hair: Blown Away by Exile at Hair Fair 2014.
Anyway.

Check out this Blown Away hair by Exile. It's cool, but if I were a hair creator, I would skip the melodic and poetic hair names and use names like "BIG DAMN RAWWWWWWWKIN' HAIR!" instead.

And speaking of hair, there are only a few more hours left to visit Hair Fair 2014. For a list of all the participating creators and their individual Hair Fair SLURLS, click HERE.

I would sum up this year's theme as "Long hair, more long hair, even more long hair, long layers, some token dreamy braids and ...

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Skin: Celestial Femme Fairy by Al Vulo! from a previous The Dressing Room Fusion (with some random eyelash tattoo I found in my inventory); Eyes: Luminous Eyes in Pacific Blue by OTRHair: Sopha with Tweeters by Ohmai at Hair Fair 2014
"... birds ...

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Skin: Cannes by Essenz from a previous The Dressing Room Fusion (with eyelash tattoo); Eyes: Ancient Eyes in Fern by OTR; Hair: Sue with Nesting Tweeters by Ohmai at Hair Fair 2014

"... birds ...

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Skin: Erin in Aurora, Sunkissed by League (with eyelash tattoo); Eyes: Herbalist Eyes in Rosemarinus by A.S.S.; Hair: The Birdhouse by Bizarre Hair at Hair Fair 2014

"... and MORE BIRDS!"

My thanks to everyone who makes this annual fundraiser for Wigs for Kids possible. Also, thank you to the many creators who generously offer fun Hair Fair gift bags. My favorite freebie this year is Ohmai's Companion Tweeters, available in two sizes, both in wearable and rezzable versions.

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They even sing. :)

("I'm Nr. 1!")

Thursday, July 24, 2014

That. One. Damn. Thing.

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Only the people with crappy computers will understand the sheer agony of standing around for hours waiting for That. One. Damn. Thing. to rez.

I zoomed in and out on it, moused over it, clicked it like I was gonna buy it, slammed my AV up against it, spun around in a circle, cammed somewhere else for a while, danced a jig, backed up, moved forward, scooted left, scooted right, sat on the display for a while, jumped off, sat down in the grass and waited and waited. Nothing. Finally I crashed.

The mystery will probably haunt me until the end of my days.

Oh well.

(I'm Nr. 1!)

Kitja Cherie mesh T-shirts at The Seasons Story, 100L.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Just don't

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Chicks who walk into booths at Hair Fair and then stand there for hours blocking the door with their gigantic asses and booty-swinging, hair-flipping AOs.

(Yeah, it's a sentence fragment. Why waste words.)

At first I thought she wasn't wearing pants. Then I realized her shorts were being devoured by DAT ASS.

I didn't snap her from the front, but dang, she was SPECTACULAR in all her glory.

I will never understand this blangin' thug-life girlfriend look, but then again I'm a boring middle-aged woman trapped in the suburbs, so what the hell do I know? At least she went that extra mile (or more) to give her AV some character.

To her credit, she might have been wearing shoes. SL holds all kinds of wondrous possibilities that never get around to rezzing on my computer.

Go ahead and call me mean names, but damn, I love fug-watching. I don't mind admitting it. Hell, I'm the poster child for fug these days in my 2012 retro wardrobe, so just wave at my glass house when you walk by and let me keep throwing my little rocks once in a while. I miss the fug blogs, too. I feel like I've earned the right to make that statement since I've been featured in them myself a few times. Plus, in better days I would have been the first person to give you the fugly shirt off my own back or lindens or whatever you needed if you were suffering. You can laugh at fug and still be a good person. YES YOU CAN!

Speaking of alms for the poor, much love to Whispers Magic for her gift of Slink feet. (When you gonna blog again, Whispers??) I'm looking forward to trying them out and finally having sophisticated feet like the rest of you.

I'm gonna get back to trying to wade through Hair Fair now. Even on a weekday, I crash about every seven minutes. Some things never change.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Let's be models

This is a bad post for me to be writing, considering the fact that the last folder in my inventory right now is "2012 Clothes" (subdivided, of course) and I'm still running around in system jeans with prim leg attachments, which I'm sure is not that hip these days, but whatever.

Here we go.

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I'll explain this picture in a minute. (And oh hey, I standardized my shape to Medium mesh size and I feel like I look a little thuggish with no neck now. Wah.)

Anyway, so I was logging into SL the other day and I happened to see this "event" in the Events calendar.

--------------

"WE PAY $800/hour HIRING MODELS-no experience need-NEW RESIDENTS WELCOME- event to hire

Time: 07/13/14 12:00 pm
Duration: 2 hours
Location: DreSS To ImpreSS-mODELS~CatWALK-fAShIONS- LiVE mUSIC on Loon
Host: [Name omitted for privacy]
Category: Nightlife/Entertainment
Cover: FREE

~WE PAY $800/hour HIRING MODELS-no experience need-NEW RESIDENTS WELCOME- event to hire- look for blue box at store for instructions -gowns,casual clothes,low prim furniture,body paint,tattoes,bathing suit,costumes,carnaval mask,new avatars look,pretty flexy hair,pretty avatars, models house, fashion clothes,men clothes, men hair, women clothes,women shoes, stilletos, wedges, pijamas,party clothes,land orbit,land security system"

--------------

I'm not living an RL that affords me a steady flow of lindens anymore, so I saw this ad and thought, "Oh REALLLLLY??! 'New residents welcome,' huh? 'No experience need,' even? YEEHAW! Count me in!"

I thought it was a thing, you know? Like, you show up to this place, meet at the aforementioned mysterious blue box, get handed some "pretty flexy hair," "body paint" and "tattoes" and prance around somewhere for two hours at 800L an hour.

Wrong. Oh, so wrong.

I flew into DreSS To ImpreSS-mODELS~CatWALK-fAShIONS and it was a deserted wasteland — a vast, bright blue deserted wasteland. But LO AND BEHOLD! There was a giant display with a blue box over in one corner – right next to a badly textured catwalk – so I wandered over to it. I thought maybe it was "camp modeling," like you log into a spot and stand there posing for two hours until you get paid.

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(WHOA, NELLY! My, what big hair and pink lips you have!)

I clicked the box for "model instructions" and got this notecard:

------------

"FOLLOW THIS INSTRUCTIONS TO APPLY FOR MODEL JOB

TIRED OF APPLYING AND NOT BE SELECTED? HERE IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY.

- WE WILL PAY YOU $800 PER HOUR AS A MODEL-

ALL MODELS THAT APPLY CORRECT FOLLOWING THIS INSTRUCTIONS WILL BE HIRE, GUARANTEE.

- read careful to apply correctly or you will not be selected.

- DO NOT SEND NOTES ASKING QUESTIONS SEND IM - If you send IM asking questions that are clear in this note you will get disqualify for this position. So please read all instructions first before ask.

NOTE: WORK WILL BE FOR FASHION SHOWS AND ALSO EVENTS. WE NEED MANY MODELS

- pictures need to be taken by yourself- professional pictures or pictures taken by friends will be rejected.

-get some clothes you think will look good on you for the picture to apply.

STORE CLOTHES ONLY- if you can't buy clothes you can't apply-if you don't like my clothes enough to buy why should i hire you?- you have to like my clothes and buy them because you liked not just to apply for model. If you don t like my clothes to wear them. Don't get it. I'm not interesting to increase my sells with your purchase. This is not scam i need to increase my models team.

- Take your picture at any place of your preference. make your picture 512x512. full body picture showing the clothes.

- Don't send pictures inside notes. send picture texture only.

- Tittle your picture: ' MODEL SEARCH' and your full SL name-not screen names- (please full rights, modify,copy and transfer). -drop the picture to my profile [NAME OMITTED]

- (please ONLY ONE picture PER DRESS will be accepted. but, you can take and send as many pictures as you want with different clothes from the store. If you send more than one pic with same dress you get disqualify).

- you need to showed the full attire you're wearing (also try to set the light for your picture correct so the picture is not to dark. force midday is good way. you are welcome to edit the picture before you send it).

Note: If you send a picture without correct tittle is going to be rejected sorry.

Please be sure you have mark in your profile 'show on search'- otherwise we are not going to contact you.

-- If you do not get contact between one month. please reapply again with same picture."

------------

Whenever I read "This is not scam," I think, "This is scam."

But whatever. I was curious to see what would happen if I sent one of my legendarily bad pics of myself in a 2008 dress, particularly since "ALL MODELS THAT APPLY CORRECT FOLLOWING THIS INSTRUCTIONS WILL BE HIRE, GUARANTEE."

I figured if I heard back and actually had to DO some type of modeling thing, it would make for an amusing blog post — and if I DIDN'T hear back, it'd at least make for a "Hey, new people, beware this scam" post. So either way, all five of us who still read this blog still win, right?

I wandered around the store looking at the massive collection of oh-so-retro fashions. Many of them reminded me of my old favorite *cough* Lemania Indigo Designs, circa 2008. (Is she still around?)

I considered this White Butterfly Gown, in honor of my now-gone-from-SL (I think) friend Random Calliope:

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That's not hair on my back. It's a lace-back tank top.

WOOOOO! That is SOME GOWN, kids!

And the price?

395L

SERIOUSLY??!! I was expecting 99L, at most. With $395L I could buy a boatload of stuff in The Dressing Room Fusion, including mesh jeans.

With a crushed heart, I kept browsing. NOTHING in that store was less than 395L, although many things were 495L and even 595L.

I cammed up and saw more fashion upstairs, including a "discount fashions" vendor. BINGO! Surely I could find a masterpiece for my career-launching portfolio shot there.

Still on the butterfly theme, I honed in on the "Erotic Goliath Butherfly Body Paint":

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Let's see if Photobucket will let those painted nipples fly.
The hilarious truth is I would have been ORGASMIC over this getup as a noob. I LOVED stuff like this back then.

I got out my 25L, clicked "Pay" on the vendor and stopped in my tracks at the 295L price tag.

Um, I guess I'll pass.

(Hey, remember bellybutton bling? I had some that flashed!)

Plan C was the store's lucky chair. Scroll back up to the top and check out that flirty little red dress. It retails for 395L. But hey, if the store owner is "not interesting to increase my sells with your purchase" through this gig, she won't mind if I apply with a photo of me wearing her lucky chair gown, right?

My AV stood by that chair for two hours. IRL, I read a few chapters in "A Dance With Dragons (Book Five, Game of Thrones)" and goofed around on an app I'm obsessed with called Covet Fashion.

Meanwhile in the virtual world, the chair kept cycling through every letter in the alphabet except mine every five minutes. There were no wildcards. I got bored as hell. The funny thing is, ladies kept TPing in to check on that chair. They were all rocking "pretty flexy hair" and retro clothes. I wanted to ask them if they really WANTED that dress or if they too were dreaming of a modeling gig at Fifth Avenue Fashions / DreSS To ImpreSS / whatever-the-hell-the-place-is-called. But I was too shy.

Finally I gave up and left. Sadly, I doubt I'll keep working on this experiment. It hurts my eyes and makes me feel kind of sad. I'm inclined to chalk it up as a scam to get money out of new people, though. The whole "If you do not get contact between one month. please reapply again with same picture" smells bad to me. It makes me wonder about other ways people try to scam the innocent out of lindens here. When I was new, occasionally people would come up and beg me for 1L, but that was about it.

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"Kimberly Modern Flexy Hair" with "extra shine natural flex" and "resize menu."

Those were the days, huh? When I first joined the SL community, I had hair much like this style — although not as sophisticated — and it was MY FAVORITE. The funny thing is, I'm still too sentimental to delete that hair from my inventory:

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AWWWWWW, YEAH!

That is all.

P.S. So, if I don't have those new-fangled Slink feet, am I screwed? Does ANYBODY make shoes for normal feet anymore? :(

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Little girl lost

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Let's pause for a second while I stand in a field (skybox) and pensively gaze off into the distance, dreaming of what it would be like to have a rockin' graphics card and not one of the first MacBook Pros ever made.

OK, cool. Thanks for indulging me.

Fantasizing aside, wow, I didn't realize Hair Fair started this weekend. No wonder it's so lag-a-licious right now. I'll check it out in a few days. Hair Fair has a weird significance for me: That's where I was when I found out Michael Jackson was dead. I was trying on some hair when someone ran through the pixelated streets yelling, "MICHAEL JACKSON IS DEAD!" It was a little surreal.

But anyway.

An extraordinarily kind person put some lindens in my account with a note that said, "Have fun shopping!" so that's exactly what I did. In the process, I found a new-to-me store that I like. I'm not sure when creators Caresia Adored and SonnetSoleil Resident came on the scene (if I weren't so lazy, I'd ask them) but I wasn't aware of LaNoir Soleil Designs before my two-yearish hiatus.

I discovered LNS Designs at the One Word bi-monthly event (open through July 31), another thing that's new to me. SO MUCH FRESH NEW SMELL around here these days! The 'one word' for this round of the event is "Wonderland" and my eyes got all goggled-out when I saw this mesh Internal Wonderland AV (347L) with a BIPOLAR HUD.

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Yeah, I felt like we needed some sunshine and a handy arrow in this one.

GET OUT! That is BRILLIANT! I've spent my WHOLE LIFE feeling like I have a bipolar HUD attached to my brain. If only I could click it whenever I wanted! That manic side, for instance, comes in SOOOOO handy when you have a bathroom that needs to be cleaned and perhaps a closet or two that needs to be organized and even a whole damn neighborhood of houses that need to be painted ... and all in the middle of the night, too!

In the case of this avie, that "Eat Me!!" slice of cake will get you Alice. But click the "Drink Me!!" bottle and you get magically transformed into ...

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It's Malice, bitch.

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This one's more my style right now.

(Um, yeah, I would totally suggest checking out this girl in world on YOUR OWN computer and not through the strained and struggling eyes of my hoopty laptop. Or you can check her out on the LaNoir Soleil blog HERE.)

Really cool though – hair, dress, eyes, skin, socks, shoes, all of it changes instantly with a mere click. I want more mesh AVs that change with HUDs. Damn, that would make my SLife so much easier. I love buying clothes and hair in SL; I just hate the tedious chore of changing into them. Weird, huh? I haven't had that problem officially diagnosed, but it's most likely an attractive combination of compulsive shopping and hoarding.

I went over to the LNS Designs store to check out the rest of their stuff. Looks good! Lots of cool hair, dreamy clothes and a section full of generous freebies and 12L gifts from past hunts. I ended up standing hypnotized in front of the MAGNIFICENTLY LONG row of lucky chairs until I won all of them, granted most of them on wildcards.

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The 'E's never seem to pop up on lucky chairs. If I could do it all again, I'd give myself an SL name that started with 0-9.

I noticed LNS had another AV for sale at The Co-Op's Nexus Event (theme: space), so I tried out the demo and bought that one too.

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This Eve Seven AV was an awesomely affordable 427L, and I want to again thank my friend Deoridhe for the shopping spree that made the purchase possible. If you haven't checked out her blog Prim Dolls, you must do so now, and I'm not just saying that because she gave me money.

On one final kind of sad note, I always forget that I own a tiny mangled mess of a 512 plot on the mainland. I went over there the other day to check it out, mainly to see if I could ever bear setting up a house there should the day ever come when I can't pay the rent for my beloved parcel on Bluebonnet. (I'm freelancing IRL these days, so every month is filled with suspense when it comes to my ability to pay bills. Kind of like being trapped in a horror movie. That. Never. Ends.)

Anyway, I think the answer to that question is "NO." Back in the day, I named that parcel Emerald's Chicken Wonderland because chickens were the only breedable thing we had going on and I had a little egg stand there. It was kind of a marvelous place to visit because it was surrounded by fug in all its SL glory. Acres and acres of tiny parcels crammed with every kind of eyesore you could imagine, not to mention my own. I tried to terraform it and failed and now it looks like someone threw up a bunch of land in the shape of a square. At least there was a lot of enthusiastic, noobish hustle and bustle going on all around, though.

But now ...

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Holy crikey — everyone's GONE! I flew around and it just said "Abandoned Land," "Abandoned Land," "Abandoned Land" in every direction, as far as I could fly. It was a little heartbreaking. Granted, I knew we'd all have to grow up and leave Neverland eventually – I just never expected a mass exodus.

Speaking of everyone leaving, when I look over at the blog roll on this page, I see that a lot of my favorite bloggers over there haven't blogged in years either.

Damn. I hope everyone's doing OK.

Think I'm gonna go fix a drink now. :-\

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stranger in a barely familiar land

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Just call me Claw Hand.
Wow, kids! How do you even BEGIN to write a blog post about a place after you've been away from it for sooooooo long? IT FEELS WEIRD, Y'ALL, but here it goes!

I logged in the other night and left my parcel for the first time in years. I felt like a stranger in a barely familiar land. I don't even know what the hell's going on in SL anymore. Usually I log in once a month or maybe once every few months just to pay my rent and that's it. I pop in, throw some money at my landlady ("Hi! Here's some money! Sorry it's a little late! *cough* Bye!"), pet the PermaCat, water the plant and then POOF! I'm out.

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I've downsized to an Artilleri trailer these days. Cute pink though! See it in all its glory on the SL Marketplace HERE.

Back when I left, I felt like I needed to pull away from SL for a while so I could concentrate on fixing my mess of a life. (It's STILL kind of a mess of a life, BTW, but at least I OWN it instead of avoiding it.) But a few days ago, I had kind of a rough night. It felt like I had hit an all-time low and I was having a REALLY hard time keeping my demons on their leashes. So I thought, "Hey, I know a place that feels like my NARNIA and makes me happy, so I think I'm gonna push my way through the back of that magic wardrobe and see what's going on." Kind of like a Band-Aid for depression. (Granted, it's more like one of those generic band-aids that doesn't stick very well and just barely covers your raw, oozing sore, but it still takes your mind off the agony for a few minutes.)

Plus, I'm a sucker for the SL birthday celebrations, so the timing was perfect.

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"Hey baby, what's going on? I like your ... ponytails."

I haven't changed out of those jeans and that stylish trench coat since late 2012.

So yeah, it's weird, stumbling around, trying to get my fingers to remember how to work camera controls and stuff. It took me five minutes just to dust off my memories of how to take a PICTURE, let alone more complicated tricks like Debug Settings. Things have changed and there's a lot I feel clueless about — maybe I should swing by one of those centers for noobs and scream, "SOMEBODY HELP ME!"

Some things have stayed exactly the same, though. Like my graphics. They still suck. It still takes FOREVER for things to rez and sometimes things just don't want to cooperate, period. An overload of textures, for instance, will make my computer throw up its imaginary hands and scream, "NO WAY, HONEY."

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GOD HELP US ALL, THAT'S A GIANT CALLIE CLINE HEAD IN THE AIR!

Take that grey shapeless mass, for instance. That's me on an elephant that never completely rezzed. Good times. And hell yeah, that's a cupcake on my face. I got my face painted at a booth at SLB11. If you haven't been over there, you can still go check it out until ... well, um, the end of tonight, I think. (Yay for procrastinators!) You'll have to sprint through all the exhibits, but I think it's worth it. There's a lot of cool stuff to see — as well as a few eyesores. (It's funny that we're celebrating 11 years, yet some people are still using textures from 2003, but whatever. It's all good.)

My heart is a little broken that the SLB11 Linden Bear vendor isn't giving out Birthday Linden Bears anymore, but there are still a lot of great gifts to be had at the various exhibits if you're in a "gimme gimme gimme free stuff" kind of mood.

ALSO, I'll have you SLB11 exhibitors know that I read ALL YOUR NOTECARDS and try to participate in ALL your exhibit activities. I'm that much of an enthusiastic dork at these things. And wow, I had no idea we had such intelligent and productive groups in SL. I'm always shocked to discover that people are actually doing things here besides shopping.

Granted, because of my crappy graphics, there are bound to be some occasional misunderstandings when it comes to reading all the signage at these types of events:

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Where is this enjoyable rice of which you speak and will I need chopsticks with that HUD?

All that aside, I guess this year's theme for SLB11 was "Big Damn Scary Heads on Parade."

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Yep, this is SL through the eyes of my ancient computer, kids. Doesn't it look like a blast? Eventually that thing rezzed. It still made me run the hell away, though. (After I poured myself a tall frosty beer with a lemon in it.)

Let's look at some more.

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I believe this one belongs to a group that helps new avatars. Insert your own joke about eating them afterward here.

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I have a Chia Pet that looks like this, albeit not half as serene.

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KIDDING! She's lovely! (The head, not my Chia Pet.)

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Cool.

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Props for the lip piercings, but not so much for the nightmares I'm going to have for the rest of my life.

That's about it. Those are my deep, meaningful pictures of the SLB11 Celebration, in case anyone wants to use them in the Chronicles of Second Life History someday.

Meanwhile, I made a quick list of personal observations about SL after being inactive for a couple of years.

1. I don't understand mesh boobs or how they work. Or mesh butts, for that matter. Or fake hands. Or fake feet. Clothing vendors say confusing things about tangos and shaders. Belleza has some kind of phat azz vendor thingy. The word "applier" is everywhere and c'mon, seriously WHAT??? SO CONFUSING! So actually, just make this item "mesh bodies in general." What's going on? Is everyone wearing mesh AVs now? Am I, like, old-school Ruth with my normal shape? **sad face**

2. I'm way too poor to be in SL on a regular basis. Times are tight in RL. Buying lindens is a luxury I really can't afford right now. Hey, that $8 could buy five boxes of Lean Pockets OR 1/4 of a tank of gas. Sadly, that's how I think these days.

3. It looks like I've been booted out of most of the blogger groups I once belonged to. WHAT?! You mean you don't want a member who hasn't updated her blog in almost two years? I'M SHOCKED! (My deepest thanks to A.S.S. and The Plastik for keeping me on their love lists though!)

4. Even sadder, many of my friends are gone from my friends list. (Prad? PRAD?!!) Maybe they left, too. Or maybe one day they looked at my name and thought, "Who the hell IS this anyway?" Or maybe they've gotten all New Agey and decided to simplify, simplify, simplify. Sigh.

5. The death of Google Reader played a huge role in the death of my Second Life participation. Even after I stopped logging in regularly, I still used to cruise through my Reader frequently and check out all your blogs. Now that Google Reader is gone, I can't seem to find an RSS feed I like. Damn you, Google. Why'd you have to take a good thing and slaughter it?

6. Despite it all, I can't deny that there's been a huge grin on my face the whole time I've been in world these past few days. It's good to be back. Hell, it feels like home.

I think I'll stop now. Somebody fill me in on what's going on these days. You may see me in world from time to time now and again. It provides a little relief from some personal stuff I'm dealing with. Who knows, I might even start blogging again. [Insert the deafening sound of two, maybe three people clapping here.] I had forgotten how cathartic it can be! :D

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"The kid next door is dying"

I've been popping in and out of Second Life to say hi to friends, but I'm pretty consumed these days with the real world and this new PR job, which is paying me nothing while it's kicking my ass. (Alone, I manage 10 clients, y'all. TEN.)

Meanwhile, also in the real world, the 16-year-old kid who lives next door to me is dying. (Yeah, I didn't really have a smooth segue for that part. Sorry.)

I write it here because I want to talk about it, but nobody in our neighborhood is talking about it anymore. It's the big awkward elephant on the street and we are all gingerly stepping around it. His house has become That House With the Kid Who is Dying. It might as well have a giant flag that says "CANCER LIVES HERE" flying in the front yard.

About eight months ago he was diagnosed with tumors in his liver and lungs. And so it began. As if in a Hallmark Channel movie, the neighborhood rallied. One day everyone showed up with rakes and collectively cleaned up the leaves in the front yard. Another day, people gathered in matching T-shirts, cheering, "We're gonna beat this!" before leaving for a fundraiser walk-a-thon. People bustled in and out of the house with food and good wishes. Everyone put up a brave front.

Then gradually the activity tapered off. Reports came back from the hospital of more and more tumors spreading. The chemotherapy wasn't working. The prognosis got bleaker and bleaker. A big truck came and dropped off a hospital bed. He would spend days on end at a prominent pediatric cancer hospital here and then come home, withered and hairless and nothing at all like the kid who only a year ago was out there shooting hoops in the driveway and talking to girls on his cell phone. He helped me chase my dog once when she managed to get off her leash. When we caught her, we were both laughing so hard we were almost doubled over. Now he has to be carried up the stairs into his house.

We've started to get the vibe from his family that they just want to be left alone. The valiant determination has turned to quiet resolution. They come and go in hushed solemnity. Some weeks, the newspapers pile up at the foot of their driveway. They don't want visitors. Our helpless "Is there anything we can do?" is always met with a polite "No thank you." We leave them alone with their grief and hope we're not being assholes by doing it.

My (temporary, while I pay off some of this $35K in debt, don't get me started) room on the second floor of my family's home would be right next to his if we didn't have the outside world separating us. Sometimes I lie in bed and wonder if he's scared over there, lying in his own bed. Or in pain. Or asleep. Or on a laptop playing video games. Sometimes I lie here and think, "Only a couple of walls stand between me and Death," and I'll try to project thoughts over there, to Death, as if it really were a dark, cloaked reaper standing in a corner of the kid's room with a scythe in hand, silently watching a giant ticking clock. I'll think, "TAKE ME INSTEAD. I'VE HAD A GREAT LIFE. HIS IS JUST BEGINNING" as loud and as and hard as I can. Or I'll put my palm against the wall and imagine sending a blast of white, purifying light over there, like a laser. I'll imagine it engulfing his hospital bed and seeping into his body and burning away all the cancer that's eating him alive. I'll start thinking about how all this stuff about God and the miracle of prayer and the power of positive thinking and manifesting your destiny suddenly seems like bullsh*t, and I'll wonder if he's over there thinking the same thing.

His looming death has become interwoven with our lives. We will inevitably mention him during dinner, we will text updates on his health when we get them, we will become suddenly quiet when we pass his house. Often I'll be cleaning or walking the dog or sitting here messing around on my laptop or getting ready for some big stupid thing at work and suddenly I'll stop and think, "The kid next door is dying" and feel, well, guilty I guess. And sad. And helpless. I would like to say something uplifting, like "his oncoming death is making me appreciate my own life more," but I'm embarrassed to say that's not true. I'm old. I'm jaded. I'm tired. I've been through this so many times with so many people. As cold as it sounds, the unspoken thought that often hangs here is more like, "So this is how his story ends." And if I'm lucky, someday someone will be watching my own story end and, in doing so, at least honor the fact that I had one in the first place. I feel like we are all on this journey with him and I hope he at least feels our silent presence, but besides that, if there is some great lesson to be learned here, it's being wasted on me at this point.

I've noticed that even though his name is Maximillian – and he hates it when people call him Max – we always refer to him as "the kid next door," as if by refusing to use his name we are selfishly putting distance between us and the massive waves of grief coming from that house. Or maybe it's because if we refuse to use his name, it keeps its power – it gets to hold on to an identity that doesn't include dying. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I don't know.

So anyway, I logged in today to screw around with my virtual SL house and, as always, out of the blue, I thought, "The kid next door is over there dying." Then I hoped that God or whoever is running the universe would at least accept that acknowledgment as some kind of a prayer. Because you can only get down on your knees and say, "Please God, don't let that kid die" or "Please God, help him not to feel lonely and scared" or "Please God, give his family strength" so many times before you start feeling like a broken record that nobody's listened to for a while.

The kid next door is dying, and I don't really have a way to end this blog post. Sometimes I still cling to a tiny sliver of hope that his story will have a surprise ending. Until then, I take some small comfort in the fact that the cursor has stopped here, still blinking – that I don't have a sentence to write here yet.

Sheezus this blog is becoming a real downer. Sorry 'bout that.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Did Elisa Lam have a Second Life AV?

(I swear this post will eventually get around to the topic of Second Life. Just bear with it.)


I've been haunted all weekend by the story of Elisa Lam.

You've probably heard this story – or at least part of it – by now.

In a nutshell: Elisa Lam, 21, of Vancouver, B.C., takes a solo trip to California. Her friends and family members say they're not quite sure why. A few friends say she told them she was going to take a job on a farm in Santa Cruz. Some of them find this reason strange and hard to believe – Who hears about a random job on a farm in California and travels from Canada to take it? Other friends say Elisa struggled with sometimes-crippling depression – for a time she had dropped out of school because of it – and had wandered off the grid before. They assumed this trip was another depression-fueled wander.

Regardless of the reason behind it, Elisa mentions the trip on her tumblr. She lists the cities she plans to visit – San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and possibly San Luis Obispo – and invites her tumblr followers to offer travel suggestions or plan a meet-up with her. Finally, she heads off to Cali on Jan. 26.

She starts in San Diego, kicks around for a couple of days and then takes a bus to Los Angeles. She checks in to the unbelievably seedy Cecil Hotel. It's a couple of streets away from Skid Row, where homeless people live in tents on the streets. It's filthy and dismal, with shared bathrooms and public showers. It has several floors of single occupancy residents. In fact, serial killer Richard Ramirez lived there for 14 months. Actually, I could devote a whole post to the hotel's dark past – so many murders there, so many suicides – but this post is about Elisa.

Many of us who are now borderline-obsessed with this case wonder why in the world she would choose such a nasty hotel, particularly since she was traveling alone. Some us think she was misled by the hotel's website, which shows marble floors and ornate decor. Some of us think someone may have suggested it to her. Some of us think she picked it because she was on a budget and it's only $65 a night to stay there and close to a hip, artsy section of downtown L.A.

Meanwhile, she checks in with her family every day of her trip. And then one day she stops checking in. Her family gets concerned. Days go by. Elisa misses her Feb. 1 check-out date. Her parents and sister fly from Vancouver to Los Angeles to hold a Feb. 6 press conference with the Los Angeles Police Department about Elisa's disappearance. More days go by.

And here's where it gets creepy and disturbing as hell.

On Feb. 14, in the hopes that someone will recognize her, police release this Jan. 31 surveillance video footage of Elisa in one of the hotel's elevators. It is, hands down, one of the most chilling things I've watched in a long time:



Is she hiding from someone? High? Hallucinating? In the midst of a mental break? Goofing around with someone? Possessed? Seeing the paranormal? I AM HAUNTED BY THIS VIDEO. I had horrible dreams about this video. I woke up thinking about this video. I will probably think about it every time I get in an elevator now.

On Feb. 19, in response to complaints of low water pressure from guests at the Cecil Hotel, a worker checks the hotel's water tanks on the roof and discovers the decomposing nude body of a woman floating in one of them. It is later identified "by body markings" as the missing Elisa Lam. Authorities later determined the body had been there for at least 19 days.

The subsequent news stories were unfortunately not so much about Elisa as they were about the fact that the Cecil Hotel's residents had been drinking, showering in and brushing their teeth with water in which a decomposing corpse had been floating for weeks. It explained why some guests had complained that their shower water was black and their drinking water had a "sweetly, disgusting" taste to it. . . .

OK, I have to break the serious tone of this post for a minute to say SHEEEEEEEEZUS that could be the grossest thing I've ever heard. I'm sorry, but WOW. I would probably puke for WEEKS if I was one of those people. "We're not well mentally," said British tourist and hotel guest Michael Baugh, 27. YOU THINK?

On Feb. 20, officials issue a "do not drink" order to guests and residents of the hotel. (Um, too late?)

An autopsy on Feb. 21 was frustratingly "inconclusive." Now those of us who are emotionally invested in this story are waiting six to eight weeks for toxicology reports. And wondering. Was she murdered? Was it a drug-induced accident? Was it suicide? Was she in L.A. to meet someone whom she met online – someone who turned out to be a sicko?

Anyway, so here's why I wanted to talk about Elisa and Second Life.

So many people out there on various forums are speculating about this young woman's life, trying to find out who she was and if she'd be prone to suicide, drugs or weird, crazy gestures in elevators.

As for me, one way I really got to know Elisa was by reading her blog Ether Fields. In it, she talks very openly about her struggles with depression and her frequent inability to leave the house or get out of bed. When she did, it was an accomplishment. I know how she feels. She also talks about connecting with people online. A pretentious guy on one conspiracy theory forum described her blog as "boring, not particularly interesting." I wanted to tell that guy that a-holes like him probably contributed a helluva lot to her often-bleak outlook on life.

Some excerpts:

"I spent about two days in bed hating myself.
Why don't I simply do the things that I know will make me feel better?
It isn't rocket science. It isn't that difficult. Get out of bed. Eat. See people. Talk to people. Exercise. Write. Read. "
"Things are going fairly well in that I am leaving the house and got myself a part time job. My room is still a mess. I haven't actually done any school work and I berate myself for being such a lazy person."
"I feel I am wasting my time compared to my fellow peers. I had a relapse at the start of the term and had to drop 2 of the 3 courses I was taking. Now I am down to one course and I have missed 3 weeks of classes since my sleeping pattern is completely reversed." 
"I haven't felt 'fine' in over 3 years. This relapse makes me feel as though I haven't made any progress at all." 
"I'm very disappointed in myself for breaking down during the term forcing me to withdraw from courses. I've been at university for 3 years and I've only managed to complete three courses. That means I've been a first year for three years and this September it will be for the fourth year because I require 30 credits in order for second year status."
"I just wish...someone around me could understand what it really means to be depressed." 
"Bless the internet. All those who wish to find a way to express their sadness can go there and feel less alone. So many of the tumblrs I follow seem to carry the same grief as me in some way or another.  . . . I simply have no motivation to do anything, let alone leave my bed. My computer and the internet is my one lifeline, one link to the world and reminder to look beyond my immediate situation because there is always more. Always. "
"On one hand this helps me deal with the sadness but on the other hand I basically become a potato. On the outside I look like a catatonic hobo on my bed in front of a glowing screen (no sleep schedule whatsoever but this appears to be a norm for the jobless and the people on the internet) and not eating/sleeping/functioning like any "normal" person. And I shout at anyone saying "Maybe.... you should try getting off the computer?" Leave me alone, I'm happy, this makes me feel better, I need this, this is the one thing that makes me sane, I can't deal with people, just leave me alone, this is something I can actually do, nobody is judging me, I feel less lonely because all these people think like me. "
". . . despite the overwhelming majority of tumblr-ers who seem to be your soulmate, the actuality is they are the minority of the world. And perhaps, they only exist on their computers and they are a muted version of their online selves in real life. And maybe I'm looking at them through the rose-coloured glasses (pixelated screens I think there's a funny analogy in there somewhere) and seeing the person they aspire to be."
Does any of this sound familiar? Doesn't it sound like so many of our blogs and conversations? I know it sounds like a lot of mine. Hell, I could have written these things – just substitute "jobs" for "courses" and change "not getting out of bed for days" to "years."

People might disagree with this opinion, but I think she fits the profile of so many people in Second Life: dealing with depression or isolation, connects better with people online than in RL, sees the Internet as somewhere to escape, recognizes the power of expression and reinvention that an online identity can give.

At one point in her blog, she talks about not wanting to blog under her real name:

Why am I writing about issues that I know people f*cking freak out about? What kind of a narcissistic twit am I anyway to think my little voice will add anything useful to the blogosphere? Why do I feel the need to do this at all? What have I already published that people could use against me? What if there are already crazies out there Googling me? 

Oof, if only she knew just how much some of us would be Googling her. :(

And her mysterious trip to California – well, it reminded me of so many of my SL friends who finally took that leap and traveled somewhere in RL to meet an SL friend or partner. You just can't tell most people in RL about a trip like that because many people wouldn't understand and many would think you had lost it.

I think Elisa Lam would have liked Second Life. She was passionate about fashion and loved to express herself visually as well as verbally. It just makes me wonder if she had an AV here. I remember the weird panicky feeling I got when one of my SL friends up and vanished a few years ago. I remember just feeling helpless because I really didn't know who she was in RL. I sat around wondering if she had been in an accident or if she had just decided to make a run for the border.

Do any of you have an SL friend who mentioned a trip to California and vanished? Do any of you know someone who recently went from being regularly active to suddenly gone (besides me, LOL)? If we give her name to Linden Lab, would they check? Probably not.

The problem with forming an online community is when you lose a member, sometimes you never find out why. And vice versa – when something horrible happens out there in the real world, sometimes you never know which, if any, of your virtual friends are affected by it. Sometimes people just disappear, and all the searching in the world never brings any clear answers.

Anyway, I can't get away from the word "haunt" here. Her story haunts me. I am haunted by the sickeningly ironic fact (sing: "Isn't It Ironic?") that when she finally managed to get out of bed and make an effort to get a fresh perspective on life, she came to a horrifying, gruesome end. I am heartbroken for her family – how horrible, not only to lose a daughter and a sister, but to lose her in such a macabre, public way. She's not Elisa anymore – she's a rotting corpse that contaminated a hotel water supply for days. She's a weird girl doing creepy things in an elevator. Depending who you ask, she's on drugs, insane, plain stupid or suicidal. Nobody's talking about the tragedy of a bright life that was suddenly taken. Nobody's talking the fact that she loved "The Great Gatsby" and Harry Potter, that she had a wonderful eye for fashion, that she was often bravely trying to find her way back from the brink and allowing so many people to share that journey, that she rejoiced in the feeling of being madly in love and loved back, that her Instagram album was pretty cool.

She has been reduced to a morbid mystery. :(

Elisa, I wish I would have found your blog while you were alive. I would have told you that so many people can relate to what you were going through. SO MANY. And if you didn't know about SL, maybe I would have told you about it. We take care of our own here. Or at least we try.

Rest in peace.