Thursday, July 28, 2011

Machinima: Daddy (Venomous Constrictor)

My second machinima; this one of 'Daddy (Venomous Constrictor) - for Sylvia' -a painting I did when I was 16 and remembered and reconstructed in 3D in Second Life. It won the Phi Designs Prize in the University of Western Australia's 3D Open Art Challenge June, 2011 round.

The machinima features the voice of Sylvia Plath reading her poem 'Daddy', written in October 1962 shortly before her suicide and published in her posthumous collection 'Ariel' in 1965.

If the embed doesn't work for you, you can view the machinima on You Tube here (and it's larger @340p)

You Tube: Daddy (Venomous Constrictor) - for Sylvia

PS: Mera Kranfel has written a nice post about 'Down On The Data Farm', my entry for the UWA 3D Open Art Challenge for July.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Defense of SaveMe Oh [a limited-time offer!]

Probably didn't see this post coming did you? Especially if you know anything about my interactions with SaveMe over the past year and a half or so. We've tangled before.

But I logged in to SL today amidst some kind of crapstorm and spent a few hours investigating this polarizing issue.

This is the notecard I received... multiple times from multiple sources:

Hi, friends,

You may have heard that Igor Ballyhoo deleted his account on July 23, 2011 (you can still find his profile, I think it takes about six months for it to be removed). The reason for this was he could no longer endure the persistent bullying and ongoing harassment by SaveMe Oh. She has been attacking him for the past year or so, part of this has been ongoing on her blog, part of it has been at gallery openings and part of it has been via private IM.

Many of the Art groups, and also CARP, discussed earlier tonight what could be done about this. We want Igor back and SaveMe to be removed. While there is still some RL business that needs to be affirmed before any action can be taken, letters from art houses and art groups could greatly contribute and also personal letters from creaters and art lovers like you. Also we will look into steps that can be taken in RL concerning the blog where she writes her lies and harrasses innocent people.

While we realize this is not an easy undertaking, we want to move forward with our plan. SaveMe Oh has terrorized SL long enough and nothing has ever been done about it. We ask you for your support in the form of a Letter of Complaint addressed to Rhett Linden, Director of Experience, Linden Lab. Drop it in his profile. The more people show that the terrorism Saveme Oh is acting out on SL is not longer possible, the more chance there is she will be removed from SL forever.

Thank you.

[emphasis mine]

First... I'd like to address this notecard.


1. The use of the word "terrorism" twice in this note is despicable and unconscionable. It is the ugliest sort of hate speech imaginable given the current world situation and particularly when the Oslo shootings and bombings are still front-page news. It's irresponsible and hysterical, which is what these people accuse SaveMe of; it is pure unadulterated high-school drama.

2. It doesn't take anywhere close to six months to delete a profile.

3. SaveMe has a blog where she is free to write whatever she wants to write. If you speak to a lot of people about her, they generally will tell you "I don't bother to read her" in the same way they don't bother to read Prokofy Neva's Second Thoughts blog/site. I don't happen to like Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin's blogs either, so I just... don't bother to go there.

Mute is there for a reason. I have muted SaveMe before, after telling her I was going to. I've also muted Igor, for reasons that I will explain later.

Igor is not a helpless victim here. He is not tied up, hooded, manacled nor being shocked with bare electric wires. He doesn't have to go read SaveMe and he certainly has Mute available, as he well knows, having muted me before. So I call bullshit on this whole dramatic fashioning of little Igor's helplessness, esp when he takes great pains in this community to pass himself off as some tough-guy and is the rudest male I have yet met in Second Life after Georg the Janitor.

4. Oh, so it's definitely a witch-hunt... going after SaveMe's blog? About a problem in Second Life??? Really? I have read her blog at different times. Yeah, it's offensive sometimes; yes, it's cruel sometimes, as I have made a point of telling SaveMe before when we've had our tussles. But seriously, I have never seen anything close to libel, slander or any legally actionable offense.

5. I really love the campaign to send letters to Rhett Linden, and the thing about "removing her forever from SL." That's simply hysteria; anyone can change their MAC or log in from a dynamic IP. It's also quite as vindictive and dramatic as what these people's "protest" is about.

So this notecard being passed around, duplicated and spammed to every imaginable group just looked like exactly the same kind of crap that's being used as an accusation: pure drama and power politics.


Igor and Me

Now I guess it's time to talk about me and Igor.

The first time I met Igor was at a "tea party" at S&S Galleries with Ally Aeon, Rose Borchovski, me and then Igor dropped in. Among the first things Igor said to me were sexual comments and innuendos that I simply do not stand for in RL or in VL. This is no surprise to people who know me, or know him; it is a common mannerism of his, observed many times by many people. He thinks it's cute or tough or cynical or something. He also made belittling comments about women aimed particularly at me and my work; not critique but patronizing male bullshit and quasi-porn-actor speech.

As is my wont, I began replying wittily/teasingly. Igor didn't seem to be able to take what he dished and it swiftly turned into surliness on Igor's part and hardness on my part to not let someone acting like a high-school emo-goth slap at me repeatedly without talking back.

He also played the "my life has been tougher than your life" card... which was stupid of him, not knowing my life. Many of my friends in SL do know my life and where I have been and what I have seen, including, yes Igor, people dying in front of me (1 by bullet, 2 by OD).

At one point, I told Igor, "Unless you apologize for your rude and sexual comments, I will hear nothing of what you say." Remember, this is all in public chat in a room with other people. So I was certainly conscious of what I was saying.

Igor then decided that I had been "unforgiveable" to him and that unless I apologized to him for not listening to anything he had to say unless he apologized, I was on his shitlist. We went through a little semantic tête-à-tête as to why I blanked him in the first place, but Igor refused to understand that his sexual innuendos and brattly vulgarity were the thing I objected to and blanked him for. I was supposed to apologize to him for finding his verbal bullying offensive and asking him for an apology! So I was like, ok that won't work, Muted him and just put him on the "ignore: wallpaper" list.

However... for months afterward, when we'd be at the same show, Igor made it a point to point out he was ignoring me, and then use this opening tell the story of how I had wounded him by being rude and out-of-the-blue muting him and generally being mean and terrible. A big drama, about how I had wronged him. After that... I decided to keep Igor on Mute. It's adult. I just let him go. I didn't care what he was saying about me. I mean, wtf drama right?

I thought this was the end of it and was determined to just let him shoot his mouth off; people will realize after awhile what someone is about. Unfortunately... I started to notice that a few of the galleries which had been asking me for my work suddenly dropped me off the shelf. I also found a similar thing with certain groups in SL.

Yes, I wondered, but contrary to popular opinion, I am not always paranoid. I let things float until I was approached several months ago by two separate gallery owners, who wanted to know "what's this with you and Igor?" I was kinda baffled, having let the whole thing slide almost 8 months ago.

I learned then that Igor had been talking to at least these two owners, giving them the story of poor Igor and the mean Miso. This was confirmed by a couple other people through chat transcripts... and it fit perfectly Igor's well-known abrasive and "tough-talking" persona. What I learned was that, far from being an adult about it, Igor continued his grudge campaign for over a year.

So let's start with that perspective. I'm upfront about it, as I try to be. I might be crazy, emotional, wrong or overexciteable but I try damned hard to be upfront, to hang with my mistakes and attempt to correct them; to be responsible for my self/avatar in my community.


SaveMe and Me

I'd heard a lot about SaveMe Oh but never really tangled with her until a few things came up where she was interfering with someone else's performance. I understand her position and the debate; I just don't agree with her. But I neither kiss her butt in fear nor get hysterical when confronting her. At times I've Muted her; at times I've supported banning her from an area when she is disrupting someone else's performance. I've gone to see their work, not SaveMe's, and I have taken the trouble to talk with her, debate with her, express my own opinion to her.

She's made posts about me too. In my quest to understand, I read her entire blog back several years to understand her position. To me... this is nothing new; agitprop and such derivative "art movements" are at least a century old; I've participated in some myself (as when I ran all over LA "remixing" Shep Fairey's OBEY glyph, which I happened to dislike as an art work).

So... I quit reading her blog *shrug* SaveMe is completely upfront about her method, which I call the "Tar Baby Principle." The more you react to SaveMe the better she likes it; the more material there is for drama and the easier it is for her to make her point; drama is her stated métier. So I just quit reading and responding to her, in the same way I quit reading Prokofy Neva's Second Thoughts. "It's pointless to attack a Tar Baby" is the moral of that old fable; or in modern internets parlance, "please don't feed the trolls."

So... she was Muted off and on at various times... and I quit reading her blog, and told her why. I wasn't hiding my distaste for her methods or disagreement with her position. However... I was also quite willing and ready to debate with her on the merits of such an approach. When she quit slapping at me (making me part of the performance) and started talking to me (communicating) I was willing to listen; that was the condition I made clear to her.

And one thing I do know about SaveMe: she's upfront about what she's doing. I don't have to like what she's doing; her approach and theory and aim are something she has a right to do and I have the right to not agree with. I don't like her methods, but I do respect upfrontness. There's always Mute, Ban and "don't go here."

And Igor is far from the first and only person who has been treated to the SaveMe Oh Experience.


Not Buying This Pony

Of course, all of that is my opinion (except the verified chats and dialogues involving Igor). And I'm certainly no SaveMe Oh champion or syncophant. Neither do I have a particular axe to grind with Igor other than stated. He's a derp; I muted him; when I happen to run into him at some opening I just keep the Mute on and I am fine with his greyness. I don't go out of my way to be rude or nasty to him; I don't react at all; he's wallpaper. And that's my adult right. If I see something of his I honestly like, I tell people so. I don't confuse my personal distaste for Igor with his work. I don't go around slamming his work or whispering to gallery owners about my own distasteful experiences with Igor... until this point, when Igor is being painted as some kind of angelic being trammeled by the unspeakable evil that is SaveMe.

But this fracas, and particularly this notecard, is way over the line. I understand that two of the galleries pushing this notecard out, the main "organizers" if you will, have already banned SaveMe from their premises. So wtf? She can't go there and harass Igor. IMs can be muted. He can AR her if she really crosses TOS. And he is stupid to keep returning to a honeypot website which tells you right up front that it's purpose is to create drama.

My personal belief is that Igor's persona and romantic dalliances caught up with him finally, as it usually does to noobs who don't have a clue or are unable to stand by their persona, mistakes and all, and attempt to understand, grow and change in exactly the way you have to do in RL. He got his knickers in a twist and took his marbles and went home. That's his choice too. Alizarin Goldflake has been a target of SaveMe's but she hasn't deleted her profile and gone home; neither have I, nor have many other of SaveMe's victims unconsenting cast members.


So neither person in this drama is exactly on my hit parade list. However, this campaign to "get SaveMe permanently banned from SL" using the hysterical, completely-out-of-line and morally-reprehensible "terrorism" label is so much bullshit that I'd have to rent a fleet of trucks to haul it away. The subtle plea "kill SaveMe and Igor will return!" is really pitiful. Add to that the vindictive nature of the "and we'll see about your little dog blog too" and it's just icing on this dramatic poopcake.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NetPolitik: A Primer - CH1 - TCA

Prelude and raison d'être

Responding to a volume of tweets and comments on some of my recent posts swirling around the Google+/#plusgate controversy regarding pseudonyms and mindful of remarks by botgirl questi and soror Nishi as to "some of us don't know this history," I am starting a series of posts that will revolve around the political landscape and battles for the control of this medium (the Internet, particularly the Web). I will be tagging these posts with 'netpolitik' although they are supported by my previous posts tagged "The Politics of Information" which can be searched on this blog using that tag.

These posts will contain many links to information in support of my position, hopefully being a resource and starting point for people to inform themselves on these issues and understand what is behind certain legislation, attitudes and memes regarding the use and abuse of the internet by corporate interests.

I am sure I will get a slew of TL:DR replies or comments about these posts. I am torn between writing small capsule paragraphs in today's micro-byte infostyle and providing an informational nexus and index. My position is that if you don't know the history and political context of the development of the Internet, you're going to be either blithely ignorant of the moves that Facebook, Google and other companies are making and the extent of collusion between government and the media conglomerates in the accessibility of information available on the nets, or you are going to get your butt caught in a slamming door because you aren't watching, and your future "internet" will be merely a one-way broadcast medium to push product at you, keep track of you and rifle through your personal information for the benefit of corporations - just a new television, run by soap companies.



The internet and the world-wide web are the modern equivalent of the printing press in terms of dynamic impact on the way society accesses and distributes information. Just as there were battles for control over the printing press because of its ability to permanently alter the structure of society and make available for wide distribution the thoughts and opinions of the common man, outside the Church and State's control, so there are now battles to contain and control the Internet. These battles have been ongoing and continue to accelerate as the power of this new medium of mass communication begins to show its strengths and weaknesses.

The separate vectors of this assault and campaign of control led by the forces of Corporate and Congress can be traced in the history of the creation and expansion of the internet.



This section/post will give some background to my later posts; terms, issues and focus.

The Web- A Short History

[Wikipedia - World Wide Web]
[Internet Society - A Brief History of the Internet]

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau had published the formal proposal to build a "Hypertext project" in 1990, working off Berners-Lee's original proposal in March 1989 for a system of marrying Hypertext to the then-existing Internet to create the WorldWideWeb [W3].

On August 6, 1991, Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup marking the debut of the Web as a publicly available service on the internet.

ViolaWWW for Unix was the most frequenly used browser for the WWW until April, 1993 when the Mosaic browser was introduced [and yes, it was made possible by funding from the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991 (HPCA), initiated by Senator Al Gore, which is why you hear all the jokes about Gore inventing the internet, although he never actually said nor claimed it]. 1993 also saw the release of several other browsers into wide use, including Cello, Arena and Lynx. Slipknot, released in 1994, was also very popular and there were at least a half-dozen other browsers sharing market space.

The World Wide Web Consortium [W3C] was formed in October, 1994 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by Berners-Lee when he left the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The W3C was to be an international standards organization for the development and distribution of code standards for the W3 (world wide web). Netscape Navigator 0.5.6, a browser using large parts of the Mosaic code, was released at this time.

The Browser Wars

[Wikipedia - Browser Wars]

In mid-1995 the new World Wide Web had begun to penetrate the awareness of the general public. Netscape Navigator was the most widely-used browser at that time, beating out most of the others by virtue of its ease of use, integrated office suite functions (email, calendaring, HTML editor, etc) and its continuing expansion of functions, benefiting from its close relationship with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the original developers for the Mosaic codebase.

Many companies had licensed the Mosaic code for their own browsers. All the browsers at that time had agreed to adopt the standards and code regulations of the 3WC to ensure interoperability and the functional standards that made the web work.

Enter Microsoft. Although MS had released Internet Explorer 1.0 in August 1995 as part of the Windows 95 Plus Pack, it did not see wide distribution, as this was a monetized reworking of the Mosaic code and only available as a paid expansion pack for Windows 95. In November 1995, MS released Internet Explorer 2.0 as a free download.

At this time, Netscape Navigator and the rest of the Mosaic-based browsers were free for personal use, only charging for company and corporate licenses. Internet Explorer lagged behind Netscape and many of the other browsers in functionality and expansion ability; a problem MS will not be able to overcome until the release of Internet Explorer 4.0 in 1997.

The Browser Wars will play a part in later chapters of this material.


The Telecommunications Act of 1996 [TCA]

Signed into law on February 8, 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton, this bill purported to foster competition among companies sharing the underlying infrastructure of networked technologies. Buried in that legislation was an amendment - Title V - The Communications Decency Act of 1996 [CDA] - which proposed to "regulate pornographic material on the Internet". This amendment is the precursor to the Child Online Protection Act [COPA] of 1998; the Children's Internet Protection Act [CIPA] of 2000 and the current pending PROTECT IP Act as well as scores of bills passed in the intervening 15 years, using the specter of pornography (later switched to child pornography), terrorism and fear to push through legislation that favors media cartels and the government's interest in strangling the free flow of information.

[Section 230 of the CDA added protection for online service providers and users from actions against them based on the content of third parties, stating in part that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider". Effectively, this section immunizes both ISPs and Internet users from liability for torts committed by others using their website or online forum, even if the provider fails to take action after receiving actual notice of the harmful or offensive content. We'll return to this important proviso later.]

Promises, promises

The TCA was actually a deregulation of the 1975 FCC cross-ownership rules put in place to limit media concentration and monopolies in the radio and television space, preventing companies from denying accessibility of airspace and broadcast space to other companies through the conglomeration and consolidation of media and denial of the common carrier infrastructure built with US tax dollars as the telegraph and later telephone copper wiring.

The TCA was supposed to foster competition, fairly distribute the use of infrastructure paid for by the public and allow for the collection of a levy handed to the telcos to upgrade and improve the national backbone and fiber-optic cables, requiring "fiber to the curb" by 2006. The Bell companies — SBC, Verizon, BellSouth and Qwest, claimed that they would step up to the plate and rewire homes, schools, libraries, government agencies, businesses and hospitals, with a fiber (and coax) wire capable of at least 45 Mbps in both directions, and could handle 500+ channels... if they received financial incentives. This wiring was to be done in rich and poor neighborhoods, in rural, urban and suburban areas equally and would be open to ALL competitors, not a closed-in network or deployed only where the phone company desired.

[This was not DSL, which travels over the old copper wiring and did not require new regulations. This is not Verizon's FIOS or SBC’s Lightspeed fiber optics, which are slower, can't handle 500 channels, are not open to competition, and are not being deployed equitably. This was NOT fiber somewhere in the network ether or only on the intranets of the telcos but directly to homes. The FCC now defines broadband as 200 kilobytes per second in one direction — 225 times slower than what was promised in 1992]

In exchange for building these networks, the Bell companies ALL received changes in state laws that handed them excessive profits, tax savings, and other perks to be used in building these networks. It is estimated that $300 billion dollars in excess profits and tax deductions has been collected for this purpose.

(not) Built on lies

But there was a problem with this - the networks couldn't be built at the time the commitments were made. TELE-TV and Americast, the Bell companies' fiber optic front groups, spent about $1 billion and were designed to make America believe these deployments were real in order to pass the TCA.

Instead of spending the money on these promised networks, the Bell companies used the money to enter long distance markets, roll out wireless and inferior ADSL services: customers paid for a fiber optic wire and got ADSL over the old copper wiring with old and failing routers, switches and exchanges. Network capacity was lied about and the network was oversold.

[Verizon and SBC are rolling out new fiber optic services but want the laws changed again. These services are crippled, closed networks. FIOS’s top speed is only 35% of the Asian standard, and yet it cost $199 vs $40 for 100 Mbps in many European countries]

What the TCA really was about was deregulation and an open invitation to telcos, media conglomerates and lobbyists to swoop into the vacuum left by the breakup of ATT on antitrust grounds in 1982-1984. On the promises of the telcos, the FCC succumbed to lobbyist cash and sold out the protected common carrier infrastructure to corporations to use as they saw fit.


The Net Speaks Back

Written in outraged response to government's intrusion on the development of the internet through the passage of the TCA, John Perry Barlow, an early and influential voice on the web, published the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace on Feb. 8, 1996. Although anthemic and polemic, Barlow's opinion was shared by many of the top technicals, theorists and legal scholars of that time, who saw in the TCA and the embedded CDA the beginnings of censorship and control over the channels of communication the net was opening. They also saw the first attempts by corporations to use Congress and lobbyists to shape the net for the convenience and profit of the entrenched entertainment industry, who had already begun consolidating companies and muscling out new businesses built around the net with bagsful of cash to attorneys, congressmen and the FCC.

Barlow was not alone in his perception that something underhanded was going on. Articles began appearing online and in print media pointing to something rotten in all this quickly-moving legislation:

The Telecommunications Act of 1996:A Commentary on What Is Really Going on Here

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 - Mauer School of Law

Will The New Telecommunications Act Promote Monopoly? Yes, It Will

Digital Robber Barons?

... and countless others. Search "Telecommunications Act of 1996" for more information and some awareness that these rats were smelled early by many respectable journalists and newspapers.

Those few who protested and claimed the Act would lead to mass media consolidations were surprised by how quickly that consolidation happened. Within just a few years, radio stations, over the air TV stations, cable TV stations and telephone companies were eaten up by the larger, richer companies in a feeding frenzy that has resulted in the limited, false "choices" we are forced into today. Rather than "encouraging competition," the TCA allowed consolidation of the media and control of all information received by people to a small group of sources, all of them incestuously feeding content to their own networks in a war for eyeballs (and click-throughs).

Yes, we were called "paranoid" then too. Read some of those papers and ask yourself how many of those warnings and prophecies have now proven to be a very prescient foresight of the media landscape today.


The TCA still generates an tremendous amount of analysis and debate, being the foundation of the collaboration of media conglomerates with the FCC and Congress which affects us currently. The TCA not only opened the door for the abuses of duopoly/false choice that we have now but is the root of all the other internet regulatory bills and legislation passed in the last 15 years in style, tone, deceptiveness and false or broken promises. Far from being history, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 affects everything you do online today.

Some Further Reading on the TCA:


False Premises, False Promises: A Quantitative History of Ownership Consolidation in the Radio Industry

Lessons from 1996 Telecommunications Act: Deregulation Before Meaningful Competition Spells Consumer Disaster [Consumer Reports]

Fallout from the 1996 Telecommunications Act [PDF file - Common Cause]

Moyers on America . The Internet @ Risk . Resources . Timeline

Com101- Intro to Mass Communication: Media Economics [Cabrini College]

A Little Analytical Honesty Please...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Tale Of Two Worlds-In-A-Browser & Time Travel

Cybertown 2011

I am time-traveling today.

In 1997 I was one of the pioneers in ColonyCity, which later became Cybertown - the second of the big Virtual Worlds at the time (the other was AlphaWorld/ActiveWorlds where I was also a homesteader). This was my introduction to Virtual Worlds and a very exciting time. We had worlds which ran in any browser (with the plugin); could build and chat; send email from inworld; video on surfaces and stereo sound. I spent many hours in these worlds building and chatting with other pioneers.

Fast-forward to today. I have been invited to participate in the beta testing of Unifier from Second Places. I spent some time poking around in there despite the "public opening" being tomorrow...

Because of this experience with Unifier, I decided to do some deep searching and... found the archived site for Cybertown 1998, which still lists my Resident Apartment at Cybertown Colony 16! Wow, 13 years of virtual world exploring... so here begins the Tale of Two Worlds and some ruminations on virtual worlds history and progress.


Unifier 2011

Unifier @ Second Places

I contacted Mark Duffy at Second Places; I wanted to see how far "worlds in a browser" had come since the late 90s and he was kind enough to send me a pre-beta registration. I logged in very late (3am) and did not encounter anyone; after all, the actual opening is not until tomorrow.

Setting Up

I popped inworld without too many problems; I had to authorize a plugin and wait a bit, but the plugin integrated smoothly with Firefox (unlike the problematic Active-X control for Cybertown 2011). I took a few minutes to cycle through the 3 male and 3 female avatars currently offered for beta exploration and chose the Brunette with the tank top (must say, 1 of the male avatars looks rather thuggish). This initial world (area) is an outfitting room; there's a mirror and what we'd think of as a pose stand. It loaded fairly quickly; about 15 seconds for 6MB.

The interface is a combined worldview/chatpane/sidebar that reminded me strongly of the interfaces of Alpha and Cybertown, as well as that of Virtual Places (a 2D web-page-world chat program akin to The Palace) (see pics above).

Rezzing In

I chose to rez in the Castle Hall and immediately noticed the dynamic shadows from the fire flickering on the wall. I spent a few minutes playing with the controls, esp the View and Camera controls. One thing I noticed was that using the arrow keys shifted my view around the compass by 2 points; If I was facing East, one arrow tap would face me South. To get a view inbetween those required me to use the mouse to click on the camera controls.

The camera controls are a bit wonky at this time. There's a Zoom Out and Zoom In button. If I clicked the Zoom In button first, I was able to zoom in. However, once I had clicked Zoom Out, both buttons acted like Zoom Out and I quickly became very far away, looking at the build from outside in a Blue Space (familiar to me from SL); using an arrow key to move luckily reset my camera. There's also a Mouselook mode which makes the world fullscreen and eliminates the chat pane and sidebar. Wandering between rooms in the Castle was instant transporting - when I walked through a door, there was a slight delay and message while the new section loaded.

I rezzed at a third-person viewpoint. Unlike grid-based worlds, my POV was set behind me but slightly down... which meant I had a perfect view of my butt and had to keep using the camera controls to raise the POV. Unfortunately, when I used an arrow key for walk, as opposed to holding the mouse on the Forward camera widget control, my POV would default back to... my butt. This really should be adjusted :D

Moving Around

I decided to become a bit more ambitious and teleported to New York Buildings. This is a big world; probably among the largest at this time. It took about 40 seconds to load and I believe the info said it was 20MB. More of the interesting dynamic shadows. I tried another world, Media City, which also took about 40 seconds to load.

When I walked in both these worlds, I observed the most aliasing I had seen since 16-bit 256-color gaming. Building faces, light poles and fixtures flashed, flickered and looked like seeing a landscape through a fence while driving by. Windows, building ornaments and corners; everything was animated-stripey, like walking towards a moiré pattern.


Future, Meet Past

Here's where I started comparing what I was seeing to the VRML worlds of the late 90s. The Second Places FAQ tells me that these worlds are built in 3D Max (or comparable programs) and imported.This is what started me thinking about VRML (and sent me on the search that ended up finding Cybertown).

I am also curious about the tech being used. Since I had to allow a small download, I assume this is a browser plugin or extension very similar to the plugin Netscape Navigator required for VRML. So is Unifier (and by extension all the Second Places) VRML-based? The lighting is certainly better; the first worlds were flat-lighted (think everything Full Bright) and the shadows I saw in all the worlds (areas) within Unifier gave a nice little immersion/realism.

Memory Lane

I remember that in Cybertown movement was somewhat jerky depending on your modem's speed and the time of day (yes, we used modems then). I remember that you'd pray you didn't crash too much and have to redial in and relog in; thankfully that is no problem in Unifier.

The tools we used to build then were the same, though - 3D Studio Max, Lightwave, Bryce3D, POV Ray Tracer, trueSpace and others. We had some "jaggies" on edges (depending on how good your graphics card was) but nothing like what I observed in Unifier in New York Buildings or Media Center.

I know Unifier is a beta (v0.7) technology for portable browser worlds. Obviously, I have been in very early VWs before and I was also in Unifier before the actual opening, so my observations are quick and not a serious shakedown of the world/tech. I have a lot of patience; to me a beta test is a proof-of-concept and not a grown and polished thing. I also look forward to tomorrow's opening, when there will possibly be people there to chat with and explore. This is not a serious look at Unifier/Second Places. It just got me remembering and thinking...


There's No Place Like Home - Cybertown

Finding Cybertown still operational (though passed through many hands by now) was a chance to go look at a VRML world from approximately 13 years ago. I emailed Support and they pulled my ancient username/password and sent it to me. Unfortunately of course it is very, very out of date. Cybertown is also now a subscription service, and although I dimly remember that I had what we now would call 'developer' status for being a Homesteader and a Builder, that of course did not carry through 13 years and several ownership changes, so I had to go in on a Visitor's permit, which limited my available worlds.

I also had to download the blaxxun plugin (a classic VRML rendering engine). Firefox didn't like it (as my FF is multiple-armored and armed) so I blew the dust of InternetExploiter and let it be the goat. You can access Cybertown in a "2D mode" for simple chatting, but to see the world you must install the browser plugin (an Active-X component which may make people leery, although if I remember correctly this is an MS problem; Netscape didn't handle it through Active-X).

Rezzing In To The Past

The "view my avatar" setting did not work; I was in 1st person/mouselook mode; possibly a problem with the browser. The movement was smooth. Many of the controls, including flying/walking/speed controls (which would be nice in Second Life) and others are accessed by right-clicking the screen; so are setup and other options.

The buildings were all very geometric, much the way I had remembered them. Think Second Life in limited-faces; the Obelisk, for instance, was 8-sided/octagonal with no curving; most things in Cybertown are made up of straight lines/surfaces. However, there was none of the jagged aliasing/flickering I saw in Unifier.

It was a memory lane avalanche as I stood in the City Hall, gazing at the golden plaque with the Cybertown Pledge which first thrilled me in the 90s -

"As a Citizen of Cybertown, I pledge to uphold each of the principles of Cyber-etiquette and to encourage my fellow citizens to do the same. I will strive to maintain a family-oriented community for all fellow citizens and newcomers alike."

[Sadly, my old apartment is unavailable to me as a non-paying member, although I have doubts it would still be there even if I was. I do remember laboring over model replicas of a DEC PDP-10 and a generic desktop computer, which served as clickable inworld-to-external email interface and teleport directories to my self-contained VRML worlds. Yup, we had that then :)]


Progress Report and Musings

Cybertown 2011 had problems, although to be fair it is probably a browser problem; IE was moaning to itself about pop-up windows and crashed-but-refreshed tabs. Obviously a lot of the code is old and this kind of behaviour is expected (an old site of mine that linked many sound files to text-clicks is unable to function today because all the fetch-code has been changed). I did not have this problem in Unifier. Still... I didn't see a very big difference between Cybertown and Unifier. Both had their glitches. Both of them are remarkably alike in the interface. Both of them accept .3ds and other common 3D tool file extensions. Both of them showed more artifacts than SL/Gridworld.

What is sad to me is that I was looking at a world from 1997 and comparing it favorably with one from 2011. I've been eagerly following the "worlds in a browser" action, believing that portable worlds, accessable from any browser, are a key to wide adoption of the 3D format for virtual worlds, just as the HTML spec was the basis of the WWW.

In some ways, Second Life/The Grids have disappointed me. No dynamic shadows, rather flat compared to many 3D games and MMORPGs, mono sound uploads, less camera/avatar control... in some ways more-smoothly integrated, but not really a long way from 1997 and Cybertown. The Unifier demo is in some ways less impressive than the Cybertown operating today (taking into account Unifier is an announced pre-version beta). We still are for the most part tied to programs we must set up on our machines to access today's virtual worlds.


To me, seeing and remembering my old worlds, there has not been a lot of progress at all from 1997. I don't have Second Life circa 2003 to compare it to Cybertown or Alpha/ActiveWorlds, which is why I want to emphasize that my poking about in Unifier was not a serious exploration of that tech and worlds.

It just reminded me of how much was lost when the bickering and warring over trying to lock up the browser/WWW market caused a crashing and fracturing of the rapidly-evolving computer tech at the time. It's hard to explain the sense of exhilaration and progress of the time between 1995-2001 when the web was evolving new things monthly; huge leaps in showing animation, pictures, sounds and videos came at quarterly-or-faster intervals. VRML 2.0 was poised to make a huge change in accessing the web, only to be destroyed in Microsoft's deliberate sabotage and mangling of the WWWC's standards and protocols with illegal "extensions".

I wonder what kind of progress could have been made with the VRML 2.0 spec or further; there were exciting branches and whole areas opening up in the 2.0 spec as compared to VRML 1.0. What we now would term "media on a prim" was beginning to show up, as well as animation, better object rendering and handling and a lot more world-to-web data exchanging routines than I see even now in virtual worlds.

What would be possible in "worlds in a browser" today if the tech had been followed and developed, or if Sun wouldn't have let VRML become sidelined, a casualty of the Browser Wars? Certainly more advanced than Unifier (sorry guys). I'd be willing to bet more advanced than Second Life and all the rest of the extant VWs. It's this experience and knowledge of what was possible 13 years ago and what led to it being lost that worries me about the current Grid platforms and state-of-the-art. I've been waiting a long time to see this revolution in accessing virtual spaces.

[Wizard Gynoid, who tried unsuccessfully to meet me in Cybertown (browser/IE issues) turned up an interesting photo on Cybertown's Help page; look familiar? :D]

Talking to the Hand... in 1997

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Looks like there's gonna be some...
*slips on shades*
monkey business here.


Monday, July 11, 2011

G+ and Beyond - What's Your Target?

Being Prepared like a good Girl Scout

So, so; Google+ is now making noises and hopping on the "no pseudo names" train.

What I have been doing for the last few hours is downloading all my mail from Gmail to make sure I have all my friends' addresses. You know you can do this right? And that you can set up your email program (you DO use one yes?) through POP3 or IMAP to fetch your mail at intervals and remove it from Google's servers? I hope you do; it's a very valuable ability. It's also easy with any number of email programs like Thunderbird or a dozen others.

I never liked the idea of my mail hanging out on someone else's servers, subject to disk crashes, catastrophes or availability of other persons. I have always downloaded my email off a provider's servers... because I was schooled this way for many good reasons. Some of those reasons are becoming more apparent every day...

I've also made sure that anything Google-connected is downloaded, like my You Tube videos, and am researching other hosting providers. I've also downloaded and archived this blog. If Google decides that I am not a valuable person, then I will take my value elsewhere. They, like FaceBook, would like you to believe they are the only ones you can use for these services. I think... if they make a few more moves like these, they will quickly find out how arrogant and myopic that view is.


I just wish to explore one simple question: why, exactly, is my "real name" important?

Miso Susanowa has a growing profile on the net. That name is used to browse Google (which carries ads); to look at web sites with information I am interested in (which serve ads); to comment and post on various blogs (which carry ads); to view news (which carries ads); to view You Tube (which carries ads)... you get the idea.

So, here's a profile attached to "Miso Susanowa." It knows where I go; it knows what I look at and what I click. It knows what my interests are.

Isn't that the purpose of the stated rationalizations for this kind of prying? So I can be served targeted ads by marketeers? So my profile can be sold to other marketeers so they can target me with their ads and sell more stuff? So... what's the problem here? They're reaching me. They're targeting me. They have my eyes and interest. They have a bead on me. I will buy just as much of their stuff as Miso Susanowa as I will as Ms. X.

What is my Real Name anyway?

Let's be open and stop pussyfooting; to the government and to the IRS and various other institutions, I am not Ms. X at all. I am a number. A number associated with a name put on a birth certificate. A name I can legally change (and plan to do so). A name that is not a permanent etching, unlike, say, a Social Security Number, which I cannot change, even if I change my "real name." I can change my "real name" with less effort than I can change my bank account or credit card numbers.

These numbers that follow us around are what Vernor Vinge refered to in his seminal cyberpunk novella "True Names". Don't kid yourself; to Facebook or Google, you aren't a name! You are a number in a database that is attached to a name. You have no "real name"; you have a System Name. To a programmer, "Miso Susanowa" is a meaningless assemblage. It is tagged with a coded number which is your True Name to that system. You aren't anybody at all. You have various flags attached to your number, one of which may be your "real name." But your "real name" is not magic, nor holy... nor really of any significance to a machine.

Snooping on Google's "real names"

Here's a little example: try pinging [directions for Windows here] in a window. Here's what I get:
Reply from

That is the 'real name' of ''. In fact, that's only the IP address of the name '', the front-facing public nameserver; just one 'true name'. Do you know "Google" has about 2000 or so 'real names'? Like its' Public DNS, which actually has two 'true names': and [and this is nice to know if you have filtered DNS from Comcast or Verizon or ATT or anyone- yoiu can use Google's public DNS to skip all the inter-service tossing/ad spam]. So... what's 'Google' then? It's a pseudonymous name for a whole bunch of virtual things.

So, to me, the stated rationalizations and reasons for this creeping movement to "real name up" everyone have a hollow ring. If all they want is my eyeballs to sell me stuff, they have them. I don't change names, especially ones I have invested a great deal of time and effort on over several years, in establishing a basis of trust and accountability to my community. I stand by my name; it is a good name and I have put a lot of effort into promoting it... just like 'Google' did.


An Open Statement to FB, Google+ and anyone else concerned:

I have, over the course of 25+ years online, promoted you; I have brought you eyeballs and purchases through my exploration and recommendation of technical products and issues. I am trusted on the basis of my knowledge, my willingness to discuss technical issues and the incredible amounts of time I put in on field-testing and disseminating your offerings.

I recommended people switch from AltaVista to Google when A-V became mired in the same pathetic crap you seek to push (but with more teeth now). I can honestly say that every single client machine I have ever worked on for the last 10 years I have provided with both a desktop icon to quickly reach Google, reset their "home page" to Google and made sure Internet Explorer or someone else can't hijack it. You don't think that kind of exposure, recommendation or PR is valuable just because I use a different name?

I have switched people from Microsoft products to Linux and OpenOffice (and now that that got polluted, LibreOffice); I have switched them off Photoshop; I have vehemently switched them off Norton products as being shoddy, havok-wreaking products. I have shown them why dumping Adobe's Reader software for much better PDF readers is a lot better for them. I have switched their purchases from Well-Known-Brand-Name laptops (which were crap) to reliable and well-built laptops; I have recommended nVidia over ATI (until nVidia succumbed to some bright-boy MBA's cost-cutting measures).

I have brought you thousands of dollars in trade on my recommendations. I have denied thousands of dollars to companies who's products, service or aims are questionable to the consumer. Under various names.

If you wish to toss all that real purchasing power away on some wet-behind-the-ears baby MBA or bean counter's smoke-and-mirrors idea of how to farm all of my talent, goodwill and reputation just to make a bump in a quarterly... you go right ahead. I'll watch you sink into the tar pits that took all the other tiny-brained dinosaurs while I cheerfully recommend much better alternatives. You have been warned.

[By the way, Google; how's your competition going with duckduckgo or Blekko? Remind you of anything? Reminds me of when everyone started dumping A-V for Google when their search engine became bloated with self-important crap, spammed links, ad-choked boggy pages...]


Names Have Power

I have three names I can "conjure" by on the net. One you see before you. The other two had their time and place. But if you took all the posts created by those three names over 25 years, you'd find a consistent person behind those names. My views and positions have not changed that much in all of that time. You'd know you were reading the same person.

I do not sit down to "craft a false identity;" I speak through an idea; a presentation of myself. That self is consistent. I do not do this for nefarious, illegal or criminal reasons. I do not do it to deceive.

You have my words, my thoughts, my opinions, my dreams, my critiques and my indulgences. You can assemble a pretty good portrait of a human being from those posts. You can see the continuity and the existence of the me I choose to make public.

I can see no reason that makes sense to me on why all that needs to be linked, cross-indexed and tabulated with a governmentally-approved name and number unless it is the desire of some people to know every single thought, action, (bowel) movement or interest of mine at all times.

This is called totalitarianism and I will not conscience it, nor would the men who suffered and died not only for this country's freedoms but for the freedom of men and women everywhere in many times and places. I don't care what you label it; isn't that what this is all about, labels?


This is the Information Revolution: we move outside the established channels because they no longer serve us; we seek our own communities and establish our presence and our reputations by our words and actions; we speak amongst ourselves and we use the tools of a free press to do it, uncontrollable by gatekeepers and sluice-gate operators who seek to stem the flow of community under the guise of commerce. This is the true meaning of "information just wants to be free"; not free as in 'free beer' but free as in 'free to move between people.'

And that scares the Gatekeepers shitless. And now you know why what's happening is happening.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Data Aggregation vs. Stalking: Tough Call

There's this guy you know.

He follows you around all over town. He goes into the bars and dance clubs and tells all the creepy guys who are offering you drinks, cocaine and other dubious lures to get you to go home with them your "real" name and address, because all you gave to those guys is a first name you invented (Trixie from Poughkeepsie) to keep you safe from predators.

He roots through your trash to gather receipts like A.J. Weberman rooting through Dylan's trash, assembling a profile on what you read, your Tampax purchases, ATM receipts, frequency of bowel movements.

He lurks beneath your windows, trying to catch a glimpse of you naked in the shower, or relaxing by the fire. He collects your discarded clothing. He even saves your used Kleenexes.

He badgers your friends, wife or husband for more information. He keeps track of your bank deposits, what movies you watch, what records you listen to. He analyses everything you write for "clues" to your "inner nature."

He does this as some professed "I love you!" thing. He makes up logical reasons for such behaviour and self-justifies it. He explains he just "wants you to be safe" and "he's looking out for you" and "it's all harmless anyway."

In physical life, we call such people stalkers. They are creepy. We are even warned about them over and over by "the authorities." There's laws against this sort of behaviour.

So... what's the difference between aggressive data aggregation and stalking? Tough call...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Identity and Transparency: The politics of information

In physical life, I go out for a walk. I stop at the bank. The bank knows certain things about me; my accounts, my Social Security number, my phone number (one of them), etc. They don't know what breakfast cereal I like; they don't know my health history; they don't know my preferred news sources.

I leave the bank and go to the bookstore. They might know my credit card number (unless I pay in cash). They might have one of my phone numbers if I give it to them. They might keep a list of the books I've bought (if I filled in their "customer survey"). They don't know my bank account number or Social Security number. They don't know a lot about me; I mean... it's only a bookstore. They might not even know my "legal name."

I leave the bookstore and go to the coffee shop. Those people don't know anything more than (perhaps) I like sugar twists, I like double milk for my coffee and I usually come in at a certain time (providing the same person is on shift at the same time daily). They don't know any of the preceeding information. Why do they need it, when all I want is coffee and a doughnut?

No one thinks this is unusual. No one thinks I am "hiding" anything. No one thinks such behaviour is "shifty" or "suspicious." No one thinks I am "concealing my identity behind a first- name-only relationship."


Why should I provide an X-ray and proctoscopic detailed report on everything I do in my life to, basically, shopkeepers? Because that's what a lot of this internet jazz is about, isn't it? A bunch of shopkeeps, who want me to buy stuff. Just... store clerks. Yet they want information I do not give to my bank or my doctor all at one time, let alone some random store owner like K-Mart or the local deli.

It's been shown hundreds of times that these people, who really have no business in my business, are unable to secure their information. Unlike many, I actually investigate and study these breeches of information. Like most who do, the figures are clear: more than 3/4 of these breeches are inside jobs and sheer negligence, as they always have been. Sony got "hacked" not for monetary gain but to demonstrate their failure to meet the requirements of data handling and security to which they are legally responsible.

So, it is somehow "suspicious" of me to be wary of turning over sensitive data, which has no bearing on my purchasing some widget from a store, to people who have shown time and again their inability to protect such information? Don't give me that jazz about "hackers" or I will have to inundate you with links to statistics and charts on the last 100 high-profile data losses. Google them yourself. As an old professor of mine used to say, "do your own homework."


"If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." This seems to be the huge mantra being pushed these days. It is used as a justification to require me to submit to a data examination that would put an IRS audit or OB-GYN exam to shame. This is a classic straw man argument.

Am I "hiding" when I don't tell the bookstore my SSN? Hiding when I don't tell the bank I like Cocoa Crispies? Hiding when I don't tell the coffee shop what I bought yesterday and what medicines I am taking? Sounds ridiculous when you put it that way, yes?

And this vaunted transparency does not work both ways. It is a one-way mirror, which is not transparency at all. When police installed cameras in all their squad cars, they did it with great hoopla. Yet now... those cameras are being quietly removed. Why? Because they showed things the police don't want shown or subpoenaed. Malls can film me; I can't film in a mall. I can't take photos of public buildings, yet those buildings can train cameras on me.

The TSA can stick their fingers in my genitals but I cannot take a photo of them doing it without the threat of my camera being confiscated, my name put on a "hassle list" and the chance of a nice cosy interrogation in some small room. I can't film a cop tasering someone, even if I am standing well out of the "area of conflict."

The proponents of this one-way transparency crap use "violation of civil rights" as a cover for denying the filming of a public servant (police) doing the job I trust them to do and pay for with my taxes. They throw up unnecessary roadblocks and delays to deny information requests they are legally required to answer. In fact, they do everything they can to hide information from me.

So who is it that has "nothing to hide, nothing to fear"? Who is it that wants to stick alien probes into me and suck out and coordinate every single scrap of data I produce in my entire life, and yet will not let me access public information under legal requests? Who is it that fears cameras and accountability? Who is it that pushes "transparency" on me under the cover of fear-mongering (terrorism, 'think of the children') and yet fears transparency on the other side?


I have nothing to hide. But I refuse to get naked and allow the jellied finger to probe me simply because I want to talk or shop. Just because "it's the internet!!!" doesn't make common sense nor common practice suddenly "strange" or "suspicious."

It's a lot more suspicious to me, this push towards "total accountability" and "total transparency" on my part when I can't get the same from public agencies that use my money for funding. When my bank makes me jump through hoops to get my money but has a website "hackable" simply by reading the URL (which is a complete failure on their IT team's design; this "hack" has been known since pre-web days).

When I do not have to hack to get your info; there are many companies that will simply sell me your info in bulk. Don't believe me? Do some quick research. Yep, they'll sell me everything you filled in on their little forms (banks, insurance agencies, you name it) in bulk, for pennies a name.

The only reason that makes sense to me about this "call to transparency" and "accountability" is a bunch of shopkeeps that want to buy and sell me as a commodity. The information they glean from me is not for my benefit; it's for them.

Oh, and there might be one other reason: there are laws pertaining to the gathering of intelligence by the State and the Government. However... when the State and the Government are merely buying information from these companies... they're just another customer. It's only business. See how slick that is? A nice way to route around such unpleasantness as the laws and Constitutions that are held up to us as guidelines.

Transparency? Sure! Quit hiding the backroom negotiations and text of the P.R.O.T.E.C.T.I.P. Act! Stop hiding the deals to turn a public utility (the data transmission lines we paid for) into a private enterprise. Stop seizing domain names without a warrant which I can access. Show me the budget breakdown for the TSA. Quit hiding the medical reports about backscanner radiation exposure levels...


This is not "transparency;" this is an interrogation in a room with one-way glass.

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Time As A Helix" at Split Screen

Time As A Helix of Semiprecious Stones at Split Screen Installation Space

Dividni Shostakovich has asked me to install "Time As A Helix of Semiprecious Stones" at the Split Screen Installation Space as an "interim" work while the featured artists get to building for the next show.

This is a nice offer, because I had to abstract "Time" from its environment for prim and particle considerations at UWA, where it won joint 3rd prize in May as well as the Tornado Gallery prize. The new installation has the sounds and effects that I have set up in Inworldz for this piece.

It is a sketch of midnight walks I did in the deep desert and mountains in California, when I could let my body armor relax and open myself to the vibrant life energies surrounding me.


For the best experience, turn to Midnight in Environmental Settings. This work features an extensive soundscape so please have local sounds turned up. You also want your Particles set to at least 4096. Right-click on the Grid and SIT, then trail your camera behind you as if you were following your avatar.

Because this is an "interim" installation, I cannot say how long it will be at Split Screen.